Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: WWII Decorated Flying Ace Donald Blakeslee featured at Fairport Harbor Program Tonight

The sixth installment of Fairport's Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will be held tonight at 7pm at Harding High Auditorium.  Three profiles will be presented. Each presenter will be a community member with ties to this featured personality.  N.W. Rasmussen and Dr. Amy Kaukonen will be two of the three histories presented.  Rasmussen, a USLSS Chief and Kaukonen, Ohio's first women mayor and county prohibitionist have been featured in previous blogs.  Today, we highlight the story of Fairport's Donald Blakeslee.

                                                     Donald Blakeslee

Blakeslee was born in Fairport Harbor in 1917 and passed away at the the age of 90 in October 2008.  As a child, Donald became fascinated in airplanes while attending the Cleveland National Air Shows of the 30's.  Before the decade was over he even bought a Piper Cub.  By 1940 Blakeslee ventured to Canada where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Sent to Britain, he fought combat missions.  In 1942, he was transferred to the US Army Air Forces and assigned to the Fourth Fighter Group.  In time, he became Commander of the Squadron.

By war's end, Donald was credited with 500 missions and over 1000 hours of combat flight time. Both facts are believed to be the most credited to any fighter pilot in aviation history. On March 6, 1944 his command dropped 4000 pounds of bombs on Berlin.  On April 8, 1944 his group downed a record number 31 Luftwaffe planes in a day.  In a ceremony in England on April 11, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European theater, awarded Colonel Blakeslee the Distinguished Service Cross.  His award was the result of his destroying 30 German planes to date. Additionally, Donald also was instrumental in escorting shuttle bombers to Russia, an arduous task in that era.   Blakeslee's career continued through 1965 when he retired.

Tonight's program is being sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.  The Village Bicentennial Committee, High School Principal Tom Fazekas, and keynote speakers Jim Rasmussen, Lasse Hiltunen, and Craig Blakeslee invite the public to this unique look back into Fairport's place in history.

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