Last Known Activity
Major Donald A. Larson was born, with identical twin brother Ronald, in Yakima, WA on April 2, 1915. He was reared in that area, and educated in the schools at Yakima. He took flying lessons at McAllister Field in 1928.
He enlisted as an Air Cadet in April, 1941, at McChord USAAFB, Tacoma, WA. He took his flight training there, and after graduation, became a flight instructor. He was assigned to the 339th Fighter Group in 1943, and went with the group to Fowlmere, England in April, 1944. Later, he was posted to the 505th Fighter Squadron as a combat pilot.
Combat missions, including ground strafing attacks, transportation interdiction, and bomber escort began after familiarity with the newly-assigned P-51 aircraft was acquired. Records show that Captain Larson destroyed an enemy aircraft on May 13, 1944, and then as a newly-promoted Major, scored three kills 11 days later on May 24. He added to his score on July 25, 1944 by downing his fifth kill, becoming an ace. On August 4, 1944, while on a fighter sweep, he attacked and downed a sixth enemy aircraft, but in turn, was shot down and crashed. This was his 57th combat mission.
His body was recovered by the enemy and buried near Ulzen, Germany. His grave was discovered some years later, and his remains were moved to the U.S. Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, 9 miles west of Liege, Belgium.
He was flying P-51D #44-13881, nicknamed " Mary, Queen of Scots" when he crashed. There is a discrepancy in some records, one of which states he flew 57 missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. Eighth Air Force records are quite clear that the 505th Fighter Squadron never utilized P-47s, but were always equipped with P-51s while in England.
In May, 1950, Moses Lake Army Air Base, that had been activated in 1942, in the state of Washington was re-designated Larson AFB in honor of the native son killed while performing his duty.
NOTE: The 339th Fighter Group had a varied and diverse history. Activated at Hunter Army Air Field, GA in August, 1942, it was designated the 339th Bomb Group, and utilized the attack aircraft A-24 and A-25 dive bombers. This name was changed in July 1943, and the unit was transferred to Walterboro Army Air Field, SC where they were equipped with reconfigured P-39s in fighter-bomber roles. The unit was officially named the 339th Fighter Group as it moved overseas in April 1944 to Fowlmere, England. There, it was equipped with P-51s. Most personnel had never seen a P-51, so there was a transitional period before combat missions were flown.
Major Larson had quite a history with his aircraft.
He was assigned P-51B #42-1066646, but Lt. Harold M. Everett was flying it on May 24, 1944 when he was shot down and taken prisoner. MACR 5278 applies.
The replacement aircraft was a P-51D #42-106819, named "Mary, Queen of Scotts" for Larson's girl friend Mary Scott. But it was flown by Lt. William R. Opitz on June 13, 1944 when he had to bail out over England after a mechanical malfunction. Lt. Opitz was injured and returned to the U.S.
Major Larson's last aircraft, P-51D #13889, also named "Mary, Queen of Scotts," was the aircraft he was flying on August 4, 1944 when he was shot down and killed in action. MACR 7519 applies.