BLAKESLEE SPEAKS

Excerpts from talks with Col. Don Blakeslee at the 4th FG reunion in Knoxville, TN

June 17-21, 1999




Many stories have circulated about Don Blakeslee over the years. Some true. Some not. We'd like to allow his own words to set the story straight.

From a story told to me by Lt. Jim Ayers

I'd heard a story from Jim Ayers about Don Blakeslee that I asked the Col. about. The story went like this:

During a mission one of the pilots in the Group was hit by enemy fire. He started yelling over the radio, in a panic, that he'd been hit and was going down and what should he do. Blakeslee came over the radio and said: "what do you want me to do, call your mother?"

The pilot immediately was quiet and then bailed. Col. Blakeslee's response? He smiled and said: "That's close".

The truth about the mission of January 7, 1944 in which Don Blakeslee had a forced landing at Manston Airdrome.

On this mission Col. Blakeslee had picked up 3 FW-190s on his tail and was shot up pretty good. Jim Goodson dove down to get the 190s off his tail and did. Blakeslee then made a forced landing at Manston with multiple bullet holes in his plane. I'd heard that he chewed out the two pilots that saved him for leaving the bombers. Blakeslee response was: "That's not true. We'd already left the bombers."

About Jim Clark

"I'll tell you who doesn't get nearly enough recognition for what he did is Jim Clark. He did a tremendous job for me and I was extremely fortunate to have him as my deputy."

About the Don Gentile affair

..."It's like that thing with Don Gentile. I've been accused of ruining his chances to be the top ace because I kicked him out of the Group. Well, it was SOP that no one would buzz up the field or do victory rolls because of the possibility of battle damage. Gentile knew that but did it anyway. People say that I knew it was Gentile when it happened. That's not true. I was over by my plane when I saw this plane coming in low. He bounced and hit the ground directly in front of the photographers who were there to film the buzz just missing them and the Operations Hut, breaking the back of the plane. They say that I said 'Gentile will never fly for me again' right at that point. I had no idea who it was. What I actually said was 'that pilot will never fly for me again'. I only found out it was Gentile later."