By May 1, 1944, his group had become the first in the European theater to record 500 kills, the most in American fighter group history. The group destroyed 207 German planes in one month alone. By the end of the war, Col. Blakeslee and his men had destroyed 1,020 enemy aircraft, 550 shot out of the air and 470 hit while on the ground….
By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 13, 2008; Page B06
Donald J.M. Blakeslee, 90, commander of the first American fighter squadrons to reach Berlin during World War II and one of the most successful combat fighter commanders in the history of the Air Force, died Sept. 3 of congestive heart failure at his home in Miami.
Over the years, he shunned would-be biographers and publicity of any kind, said his daughter, Dawn Blakeslee of Miami, his only immediate survivor. She said she did not announce her father’s death last month because of his reluctance to call attention to his wartime heroics.
On Jan. 1, 1944, the Ohio native was named commander of the 4th Fighter Group of the 8th Fighter Command. He assumed command at a time when the German Luftwaffe ruled the skies over Europe.
Roy Heidicker, the 4th Fighter Group historian, recalled that Col. Blakeslee’s message to his pilots was simple and straightforward: “We are here to destroy the Luftwaffe and shoot the Germans out of the sky, and that’s what we’re going to do.”