World War II Flight Logbook

Honoring our veterans

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

On September 11, 1944, Don Pierini, a P-51 Mustang pilot stationed in Debden, England, flew a mission over Leipzig, Germany. He took out two Nazi FW-190s on a German airfield, but he lost three fellow pilots that day. Pierini recorded the mission in the flight logbook seen here. “I clobbered two FW-190s on an Airdrome. Lost: Patterson & Ingalls & Lane. Landed in Ghent, Belgium.” Roy Patterson was killed in action. Hank Ingalls and “Jockey” Lane were taken prisoner.

Don Pierini was a career soldier who served in the military for 33 years. He joined the Army Air Corps in September 1942, three months after his high school graduation. During WWII he flew the P-51 Mustang, a single-seat fighter and bomber escort capable of reaching speeds of 437 MPH. During his 10 months of active duty, Pierini flew 72 combat missions across the English Channel.

Faced with the reality of war every day, he was determined to be a survivor. His son Donald Pierini remembers, “His view on life back then was that he’d make it through. ‛It’s not going to be me, it’s going to be someone else.’ He told me that if anyone ever told you they weren’t scared, they were lying.”

After WWII, Pierini transitioned to flying jet fighters. Stationed in Suwon, Korea during the Korean War, he flew the F-94B to patrol the demilitarized zone, a strip of land between North and South Korea that provided a buffer between the two countries. During the Vietnam War, Pierini served as Commander of the Airlift Control Element of the 834th Air Division during the Tet Offensive (1968).

“He was kind of a quiet guy, very unassuming. To him and his buddies, their service was no big deal.” But his service left a lasting impression on his children.

“I was 12 years old when my dad was in Vietnam. I vividly remember the TV news showing a map of Vietnam with the color red indicating where the fighting was going on. During the Tet Offensive on January 1, 1968 the map just blew up in red. I thought that if he got killed, it was just my mom and six kids. We were living in Austin and there was a lot of anti-war demonstrations going on. It was confusing to me, especially with my dad being over there.”

After the war, Pierini and his family moved to Spain where he served as Chief of Operational Plans until 1972. He was then stationed in Austin, ultimately settling there upon his retirement from the military in 1975.

“He did not like to talk about his experiences. He'd say things like ‛I got a bronze star in Vietnam for attendance,’ or ‛they [the military] were handing out purple hearts like candy.’”

Don Pierini was laid to rest with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on April 25, 2016. “It was very impressive. Very precise, everything on time. The old man would have been proud.” 

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World War II Flight Logbook Artifact from Austin
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