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Lieutenant Donald E. Wright, Comanche County, Kansas. Colorized digital image derived from  a  halftone reproduction of a continuous tone B&W print. Image manipulation by Jerry Ferrin. Thanks to Shirley Brier for the scan of the newspaper picture.

 CLICK ON IMAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DONALD E. WRIGHT.

Lieutenant Donald E. Wright, USAAF

Missing In Action, December 15, 1943.

 


"No man was ever honored for what he received.
Honor has been the reward for what he gave."

-- Calvin Coolidge



 

   

 

Donald E. Wright

Donald E. Wright, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces, 0-684660, 27th Bomber Squadron, 30th Bomber Group, Heavy , Entered the Service from Kansas. Died: November 10, 1945. Missing in Action or Buried at Sea. Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart.     (ABMC, CCVM, DJHSP)


The Western Star, "Boys In Service", June 18, 1942

Donald Wright, son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Wright, formerly of Wilmore, enlisted May 26 at Fort Riley as a cadet in the air corps and is waiting his call to the service. His brother, Pvt. Earl R. Wright Jr. is with the Coast Artillery, Jungle Division, at Fort Randolph (Canal Zone).


Donald E. Wright, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Force, Serial 0-730689, 339th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group., Lost In Action, newsclipping from the collection of Ollie Hackney, courtesy of Bobbi (Hackney) Huck.

WICHITA YOUTH LOST IN ACTION
Lieut. Donald Wright Has Been Missing Since December 15

      Lieut. Donald E. Wright, son of Mrs. Bessie Wright, 4210 East Steele, is reported missing in action in the Central Pacific area since December 15.
      Lieutenant Wright received his bomardier wings at Childress, Tex., and took his heavy combat training at March Field, Calif. He has been overseas on active duty since the last of September.
      He was graduated from East High School in 1940.
      His brother, Earle, has been in service with the coast artillery for the past 24 months, two years of which he has been stationed in the Panama Canal Zone.

-- Undated newsclipping from the collection of Ollie Hackney, courtesy of Bobbi (Hackney) Huck.


The Western Star, December 8, 1944.
LT. DONALD E. WRIGHT STILL MISSING IN ACTION.
His Plane Shot Down in Tarawa Battle December 15, 1943;
a Brother Sgt. Earle Wright, at El Paso, After 30 Months Overseas.

Lieutenant Donald E. Wright Word has been received from the War Department by Earle R. Wright of Wichita and Mrs. Bessie Wright, of Wichita, that their son, Second Lieut. Donald E. Wright who has been missing since December 15, 1943, is still carried on the missing list.

Lieut. Wright is a grandson of Mrs. Ella Hodges of this city and a brother of Sgt. Earle R. Wright Jr., now of Fort Bliss, Texas.

Lieut. Wright was born in Woodward, Okla., and attended the Wilmore High School. He was graduated from Wichita East High School with the class of 1940 and was very popular with his classmates. Prior to entering the Army, Donald was employed as a truck driver for the Mid-Continent Butane Gas Co.

On April 4, 1942, at the age of 21, Donald enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force at Fort Riley, Kans., and was called for training August 28 of that year. He was sent to a Headquarters Classification Center at Nashville, Tenn., where he was classified as a bombardier trainee.

From there he was sent to Ellington Field, Texas, for a 12 weeks pre-flight course. Next he went to Childress, Texas, A. A. F. school for bombadier-navigators. While there he had an excellent record as a bombardier and was chosen to represent the Childress school in the Bombing Olympics held at Roswell, New Mexico. At Roswell he was awarded a trophy and at his graduation a special certificate for his participation in the Olympics.

He was honorably discharged June 24, 1943, to accept his commission as a Second Lieutenant and his silver bombardier's wings.

On July 7, Lieut. Wright began heavy combat duty training at March Field, Calif., and after three months of training was sent overseas for combat duty. The crew of his B24 Liberator bomber was formed at March Field and they flew their plane to the Hawaiian Islands, where they were stationed with the 17th Bombardment Air Force.

He was a member of a bomber group cited for outstanding performance of duty in combat from their base in Hawaii. Lieut. Wright was head bombardier navigator and leader of the 30th Bomb Group (H). He participated in and completed several successful missions on Jap installations or bases and scored a number of divert hits before being shot down by anti-aircraft fire in the battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, having been sent there to help cover the ground forces. He had been overseas since September 27, 1943 and was qualified to serve in a dual capacity. While in the States he turned down the offer of instructor as he wanted to go across to get a lick at the Japs.

One of the things much desired by parents of our boys missing or killed in action are the details concerning the last known missions of the lads. This information is supplied in the following letter to Mrs. Wright by one of Lieut. Wright's commanding officers:

"Dear Mrs. Wright,
      Under date of January 4, 1944, The Adjutant General notified you that your son, Second Lieutenant Donald E. Wright, had been reported missing in action in the Central Pacific Area since December 15, 1943.
      Further information has been received that Lieut. Wright was a crew member of a B24 Liberator bomber which departed from the Ellice Islands on a bombardment mission to the Gilbert Islands on December 15, 1943. Full details are not available, but the report indicates that during this mission your son's plane was seen to sustain damage from enemy ant-aircraft fire, and to fall to the water. The presence of enemy fighter planes in the area prevented further observation of his plane. The report further states that this occurred at about 9:15 a.m. over Gilbert Islands.
      Due to necessity for military security, it is regretted that the names of those who were in the plane, and the names and addresses of their next of kin may not be furnished at the present time.
      The above facts constitute all of the information presently available. The great anxiety caused you by failure to receive more details concerning your son's disappearance is fully realized. Please be assured that any additional information will be conveyed immediately to you by the Adjutant General or this headquarters. Very Sincerely, T. A. Fitzpatrick, Colonel, A. G. D. Air Adjutant General."


Additional information is given in the following letter written by a squadron member of Donald:
Dear Mrs. Wright,
      Your letter of January 17th received, asking for further information concerning your son, Lieut. Donald E. Wright, I knew Donald well. He would frequently come by my tent and I would drop by his. It is for him that I am writing this letter to you. I work in the Intelligence section and had an opportunity to get a fairly accurate picture of what happened.
      The raid was on an important and well defended Japanese island base. While over the target, the lead plane, which Lieut. Garrett and your son were in, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and started losing altitude immediately. Lieut. Trautner and Lieut. Pullman were flying on Lieut. Garrett's wings.
      They stayed with him, giving him protection as he went down, in the descent, Lieut. Garrett's crew were seen taking all measures required for a water landing. The ship went down about ten miles from the enemy island. Lieut. Trautner and Lieut. Pullman, of course, had to leave. They did not see anyone leave the plane but it did not burn or explode. Enemy fighters were seen circling, but were not seen strafing the area. It is possible that some of the men escaped and were taken prisoner. We cannot know. We do have information, obtained from Missionaries who, lived on the islands during enemy occupation that prisoners in this area had not been mistreated.
      I have written to Mrs. Garrett and also sent her a letter written by Lieut. Pullman two days after it happened. Lieut. Pullman's plane was seen to explode after being hit on -------. All his crew were of course killed instantly.
      Your son's person effects were packed by me and sent to you through the Army Quartermaster Department. If there are any more questions please write to me. A picture of Lieut. Garrett's crew is enclosed.
Sincerely,
Lieut. Wash Strom, Jr."

Lieut. Wright's brother, Sgt. Earle R. Wright Jr. was born in Coldwater and attended the Wilmore schools. lacking only four months of graduating when he moved with his parents to Wichita.

He was employed in Wichita by the Mid-Continent Butane Gas Co., as a transport truck driver before being inducted into the army at the age of 21. he was placed in the Coast Guard Anti-aircraft Artillery October 13, 1941 at Fort Leavenworth, Kans. He received his basic training at Camp Wallace, Texas.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Earle was shipped to the Panama Canal Zone, arriving there the first week of January 1942.

While there he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and assumed the duties of a gun commander with an anti-aircraft unit of Coast Artillery in the Caribbean defense area.

Sgt. Wright was returned to the States in June 1944, for reassignment, having served 30 months overseas. He was assigned similar duties at Fort Bliss, Texas where he is now stationed. Earle saw his 27 month old daughter for the first time when he was home in June on delayed orders enroute to reassignment center at Houston, Texas. His wife and daughter are making their home in El Paso now to be near Earle.

Sgt. Wright could not tell much of his work or his observations.(SB)


The Western Star, February 15, 1946
LT. DONALD E. WRIGHT NOW DECLARED DEAD
Was Last Seen Alive December 17, 1943, as Japanese Prisoner.

Earle R. Wright and Mrs. Bessie Wright of Wichita have received word that their son, Second Lieutenant Donald E. Wright, who had been missing in action since December 15, 1943, has been officially declared dead by the War Department.

Donald's mother is in receipt of the following letter:

Dear Mrs. Wright,
      Since your son, Second Lieutenant Donald E. Wright, Air Corps, was reported missing in action 15 December, 1943, the War Department has entertained the hope that he survived and that information would be revealed dispelling the uncertainty surrounding his absence. However, as in many cases, the conditions of warfare deny us such information.
      Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, provides for a review and determination of the status of each person who has been missing in action for 12 months. Accordingly, your son's case was reviewed and he was continued in the status of missing in action as of 17 December, 1944. The law further provides that a subsequent review shall be made whenever warranted. Upon such subsequent review the making of a finding of death is authorized.
      All available records and reports concerning the absence of your son have been carefully investigated and are deemed to warrant a subsequent review of his case. Information in the hands of the War Department indicate that your son was a crew member on a B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed in the Pacific Ocean while on a bombing mission to Malaelop Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. The records indicate that your son with six other crew members were picked up from a life raft by the Japanese and were for a time unreported prisoners of war. It is believed that he lost his life either at the hands of the Japanese, or as a result of the bombing of our planes.
      Since no information has been received which would support a presumption of his continued survival the War Department must now terminate your son's absence by a presumptive finding of death. Accordingly, an official finding of death has been recorded. The finding does not establish an actual or probable date of death; however, as required by law, it includes a presumptive date of death for the purpose of termination of pay and allowances, settlements of accounts and payment of death gratuities. In the case of your son, this date has been set as 10 November 1945.
      I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending of a long period of uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation, an appraisal of the sacrifice made by your son in the service of his country compels in us feelings of humility and respect. May Providence grant a measure of relief from the anguish and anxiety you have experienced during these many months.

Sincerely yours,
EDWARD F. WITSELL

Further word concerning Lieut. Wright and other crew members come from Capt. Fred Barrett of Norman, Okla. In an International News Service dispatch from Manila Last September, Capt. Barrett, who has just been released from a Japanese prison camp where he nearly died from starvation, beatings and inhumanities, told of his plane, which had been shot down by Jap anti aircraft fire, plunging into the sea and all of his men climbing into a life raft. The Jap fliers circled low and strafed the raft. After nine hours a Jap tugboat picked up the Americans and took them to an unknown island. Capt. Barrett and another officer were taken to Kwajalein Island two days later. When Capt. Barrett left, Lieut. Wright was uninjured. No word has since come regarding Donald, and he has now been declared dead.

Donald Elvest Wright was born April 3, 1921, in Woodward, Okla., and at the time of his death on December 17, 1943, was 22 years, 8 months and 14 days of age. He was reared in New Eden community and attended the New Eden school and Wilmore R.H.S. before moving to Wichita with his parents. He was graduated from Wichita East High School with the class of 1940 and was very popular with his classmates. Prior to entering the army Donald was employed as a transport truck driver for the Mid-Continent Butane Gas Co.

On April 4, 1942, at the age of 21, Donald enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force at Fort Riley, Kans., and was called for training August 28 of that year. He was sent to a Headquarters Classification Center at Nashville, Tenn., where he was classified as a bombardier trainee.

From here he was sent to Ellington Field, Texas, for a 12 weeks pre-flight course. Next he went to the Childress, Texas, A. A. F. school for bombardier navigators. While there he had an excellent record as a bombardier and was chosen to represent the Childress school in the Bombing Olympic held at Roswell, New Mexico, ranking first among 196 men. At Roswell he was awarded a trophy and at his graduation, a special certificate for his participation in the Olympic.

He was honorably discharged June 24, 1943, to accept his commission as a Second Lieutenant and his silver bombardier's wings.

On July 7 Lieut. Wright began heavy combat duty training at March Field, Calif., and after three months of training was sent overseas for combat duty. The crew of his B-24 Liberator bomber was formed at March Field and they flew their plane to the Hawaiian Islands, where they were stationed with the 27th Bombardment Air Force.

He was a member of a bomber group cited for outstanding performance of duty in combat from their base in Hawaii. Lieut. Wright was head bombardier navigator and leader of the 30th Bomb Group (H).

After leaving Hawaii his group was based on the Ellice Island in the Gilberts. He participated in and completed several successful missions on Jap installations and scored a number of direct hits before being shot down on his 11th long range mission. He had been overseas since September 27, 1943. He turned down an offer to be an instructor in the States as he wanted to get into action against the Japs as soon as possible.

Lieut. Wright is survived by his parents, by one brother, Earle R. Wright Jr., of Wichita, two half sisters, Yvonne E. and Janice Irene Wright and one niece, Elizabeth Ann Wright, of Wichita, and by his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. P. Hodges of Coldwater, and other relatives.

For achievement in flight with distinction above and beyond that normally expected, Lieut. Wright, as a crew member of a bombardment type craft, was awarded a citation with an Air Medal and one Oak Leaf Cluster, the decorations having been given last year to his mother in a formal presentation by Col. Frank Cawthorn at the Wichita municipal airport by order of the President last year.

In the death of Lieut. Wright Comanche County loses another of her fine young aviators with a brilliant record. The sorrowing relatives have the sincere sympathy of all. (SB)


The above news articles were transcribed for this site by Shirley Brier.

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