KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — The veteran for the month of August was honored today at the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Don Locke was born at 729. N. Lake St., Warsaw, on March 6, 1921. He graduated from North Webster High School and when he was 21 began working in Speedway at Allison Division of General Motors.
Don was drafted into military service in August 1942 and inducted into the Army Air Corps. After his orientation and several tests, he was sent to Wichita, Texas, to airplane mechanics school.
Don wanted to fly, but didn’t qualify because he didn’t have a college education. However, while in mechanic school the law was changed, which allowed him to take the test for flight school. He passed and was sent to pre-flight school to enter flying training in Stamford, Texas. The first aircraft he trained in was an old PT-19 open air cockpit.
After having successfully qualified, he was then sent to Greenville, Texas, to fly BT-13’s and was commissioned to 2nd Lt. “With flying wings in my hand and my Army Air Corps jacket, I thought I was ready to be a fighter pilot,” Don said. However, the Army Air Corps powers-that-be decided he should become a flight trainer.
Don was sent to the headquarters at Randolph Field, Texas, but was sent back to his old basic flight school to be an instructor there. He was not there for very long and received orders to head for the East Coast to train new pilots on the Republic P-47 Fighter Plane.
After being on the East Coast for a while, he was then shipped by train to Seattle, Wash., where he boarded a ship headed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He became a member of the 15th Fighter group and was assigned to Squadron 47 of the Flying P-47s in August 1944.
“In January 1945 we were to go to Iwo Jima where the Marines would invade,” Don recalled. The Air Corps command decided they should fly P-51 Mustangs. “We put only five hours of flight time on them before heading to war,” he continued.
On Don’s 24th birthday, March 6, 1945, they landed in Iwo Jima. Don stated his job was to, “Fly to Japan, 750 miles away, 1500 miles round trip, and shoot up everything on the ground as well the air.”
Don was credited with 22 missions and stayed in Iwo Jima until the war was over. When he was discharged in the end of September 1945, as a 1st Lt., and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, he came back to Indiana.
Don bounced around working various jobs and married the love of this life, Terry, in 1965. They have three children: John and Sarah, who both live in California and Jennifer who lives in New York, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, who are are married.