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Rjel
08-12-2007, 02:38 PM
Look here for some great shots of Don Gentile. I've seen a lot of them before but never in as good a quality as these pictures are.

http://www.eaglesquadrons.com/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=142&pos=0

Rjel
08-12-2007, 02:38 PM
Look here for some great shots of Don Gentile. I've seen a lot of them before but never in as good a quality as these pictures are.

http://www.eaglesquadrons.com/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=142&pos=0

Taylortony
08-12-2007, 05:31 PM
cool http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

John_Wayne_
08-12-2007, 05:49 PM
Mighty fine. Thanks for sharing.

woofiedog
08-13-2007, 03:39 AM
Rjel... Excellent find and Thank's for posting.

Links:
http://wademeyersart.tripod.com/id40.html

http://wademeyersart.tripod.com/id21.html

Don Gentile's 1944 Logbook

Final Logbook Summary for April 1944 and Don's combat career: Total operational time - 333:35; Total operational sorties - 184; Total P-47 time - 281:10; Total P-51 time - 96:30. Don had a grand total of 3036:10 hours of logged flight time as of April 13, 1944. This is a heck of a lot more than your average WWII pilot plucked off the streets and run through the USAAF training mill. As most of you know, Don did a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of civilian flying in Piqua, Ohio before he went overseas with the RAF and the Eagle Squadrons

The Shangri-La crash sequence was filmed, according to witness Grover C. Hall, Jr., Group PRO and historian. Where is this film/pictures?! Some sources say it was confiscated and destroyed.

At about 1635 hours on April 13, as the group was landing after the Schweinfurt mission, Gentile decided to give the 336 FS dispersal area a real treat by "cutting their hair" with a couple of real low passes. There was a large crowd gathered around his parking spot in front of the dispersal shacks. The press was there as well - this was to be his last mission before a short break back to the States, and everybody was out in full force to watch him come back. He gave the dispersal a real rattling on his first pass, but after spotting the rather large crowd, he decided to make his next one something nobody would forget. Circling around, he set up his second pass by diving down from the eastern side of the field. Don lined up, put his nose down and leveled off just feet off the ground. He would have crossed just north of 334's hangar as he leveled off from his shallow dive. He was seen flying extremely low on a southwesterly heading driving straight for the cameras set up around his parking spot. At this point, Debden has a considerable "rise" or "hump" effect in the middle of the field due to the sloping southern portions of the airfield (the area is surprisingly hilly as I found out in July 2002), and Don was so low at the beginning of his run that he disappeared from view to those at the 336 dispersal at the southwest corner of the field - he reappeared just before he crossed the southern part of the N-S runway. He crossed the runway right on the deck, and then, witnesses said, the plane seemed to settle and Shangri-La's prop struck the grassy area about 100 yards in front of the 336 dispersal. They later found numerous "chop" marks where the prop had dug into the ground.

I've studied the site myself, and my semi-educated opinion is that as he tried to "fly down" the other side of the airfield's "hump" to maintain the same relative altitude above the ground, Don was going so fast that he didn't allow for the ground's gentle "rise" as it gradually leveled off again. In other words, he flew into the ground as it rose to meet him. Maybe in a moment of looking at the blur of the crowd and cameras . . . just a second's lapse in awareness would be all it took at his blistering speed.

After he felt those first unmistakable jolts, Don immediately pulled the kite up, and sailed right over the heads of the assembled crowd and the squadron's dispersal shacks, nearly hitting them. Witnesses recalled that the plane seemed to "bounce", which can be explained by Gentile's reflexive "jerk" back on the stick. His prop was slowly windmilling, they say, and horribly bent as he flew/glided west-southwesterly for about half a mile, gently arcing slightly right (more westward) as he spotted and aimed for Debden Common - a good flat set of open fields. Not quite making the Common, he did manage to squeak his glide just barely over the pork chop-shaped Howe Wood, a large stand of trees, then hit hard and slid to a stop in the northwest corner of one of Mr. Tetlow's Brick House Farm fields - see Then and Now pictures of the crash site here. Shangri-La broke her back when she "landed", and was a total write-off as pictures show. In addition to a bruised ego, Don survived with only a few minor kinks, further cementing the belief many held that "The Publicity Kid" was indeed leading a charmed life.

Those who witnessed the event then sped to the scene were shocked and surprised, but of course very happy, to find Gentile still alive. TSgt. Dorn Painter, a 336 FS maintenance flight chief, was in his jeep and the first one to arrive on the scene. He found Don leaning against the fuselage. "What did Gentile say?", I asked Dorn at the 2001 4th Fighter Group reunion. "Don said, 'I think I farbed up!'".

This forever ended Don's combat days - Blakeslee almost literally kicked him out of the 4th Fighter Group, and he never again saw combat. Don was banned from flying with the 4th until he left for the States - even practice flights. Col. Blakeslee had his unbreakable rule that anybody who bent a kite "flat hatting" was out of the group for good. I asked the Colonel about this at the October 2001 4th FG reunion, and he told me that after Gentile ". . . broke the rules", either he or Blakeslee would have to leave, and, as he told me while looking straight through me with those famous gray-blue eyes, ". . . it wasn't going to be me!" Don was reportedly planning to bring Shangri-La with him to the States as a publicity tool (wouldn't it be great to be able to go to the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum and see it today?). Col. Blakeslee has commented on the matter:

. . . 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.

It was time for Gentile to go home anyway. He had been flying combat missions practically nonstop for almost two years - his first combat mission, after RAF "Clobber College" training, was in June 1942 with the RAF's 133 (Eagle) Squadron. He had requested and received time-extensions to his combat tour three times already. The wreck was carted off to the blister hangars of the 4th's 45th Air Engineering "Heavy Maintenance" Squadron, located immediately south of the base and over approximately a three week period was slowly stripped of all usable parts.



http://wademeyersart.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/slarmorers.jpg

http://www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com/graphics/Blakeslee2_FourthFighterGroupcom.jpg
Col Don Blakesless

http://www.cebudanderson.com/images/dx13.jpg
Lt Col Don Blakesless; Lt Col Bob Goebel; Lt Col Lee 'Buddy' Archer; and Col Clarence 'Bud' Anderson. Between them, these four aces accounted for nearly 50 victories during WWII.

Bo_Nidle
08-13-2007, 04:52 AM
Nice site. I always considered Gentile one of the more interesting USAAF aces, a bit of a character.

For me his P-51B, "Shangri-La" was the nicest looking USAAF plane in the ETO.

Rumour has it that after he pranged it it was bulldozed into a farmers pond close to Debden airfield and its still there! I always thought it would be nice if it could be found and its remains displayed at the American Air museum at Duxford.

woofiedog
08-13-2007, 05:02 AM
Rumour has it that after he pranged it it was bulldozed into a farmers pond close to Debden airfield and its still there!

From above article... The Heavy Maintenance hangars were where they did major repair work and refitting. Nobody remembers or knows for sure if there was anything tangible left of Shangri-La after the stripping. <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">Rumors have circulated for years that the remains were bulldozed into a pond or ravine, but there is absolutely no evidence of this.</span>
In fact, at the 2001 4th Fighter Group reunion in Savannah, Georgia, I personally talked to several mechanics who worked in the 45th Air Engineering "Heavy Maintenance" Squadron about this very subject, and they remembered Shangri-La well - and how she was stripped of all usable parts, but none of them recall any kind of pond or ravine or anywhere where the 4th dumped their "junk" - and these men would be the ones to know!
They don't recall throwing anything away. Their recollection is that their Sergeant in charge kept everything for possible use in aircraft repair work. Finally, I talked to Edward Tetlow, former owner of "the pond in question", and he left no doubt that, ". . . there's nothing here." I'm sure the rumors will continue, though!

Bo_Nidle
08-13-2007, 04:08 PM
I'd better put my shovel back in the shed then!!!! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif
I wonder what happened to the nose art panels? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-indifferent.gif

Rjel
08-13-2007, 05:07 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Bo_Nidle:
I'd better put my shovel back in the shed then!!!! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif
I wonder what happened to the nose art panels? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-indifferent.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

You'd think even with all those groundcrew had to do, someone would've thought the artwork was worth keeping. It would seem that Gentile would've wanted them too. But from the stories I've read, he was sweating the whole incident, fearing fines and even being brought up on charges. So maybe he just wanted to stay as far away as possible. It would be cool if those panels showed up someday in some dark corner.

Even more interesting to me is what happened to the newsreel film of Gentile's buzz job? I'd bet it exists somewhere.