Don Allen; 4th FG crew chief, artist, waist gunner, passes away

  • Published
  • By Roy Heidicker, PhD
  • 4th Fighter Wing Historian
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 92-year-old Donald Allen passed away quietly in his sleep in Cleveland, Ohio.

Allen was born on Oct. 14, 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1941, he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Shortly thereafter, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was given a series of aptitude tests at Fort Hayes in Columbus Ohio. Not only did these tests reveal Allen was highly intelligent, but he also possessed tremendous mechanical ability.

Next stop was Sheppard Field, Texas, for basic military training and mechanics school. Upon completion, Allen was assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, at Debden Field, England.

Initially Allen worked as a P-47 Thunderbolt crew chief until the group transitioned to the P-51 Mustang. His artistic talents were soon discovered and Allen was called upon to paint nose art on the fuselage of the aircraft. Allen's beautiful and distinctive work was in demand throughout the 4th FG.

Before he was through, the magnificent artwork of Allen adorned 65 aircraft in the group; each image reflecting hometowns, nicknames, girlfriends, wives or other themes requested by pilots. The talent, originality and humor of Allen were also reflected in each of these nose art creations. Amidst the war, sacrifice and death, Allen's work lifted the morale and inspired pride and inspiration throughout the group's squadrons.

As if he had not contributed enough, Allen volunteered to take part in the famous Russian Shuttle Mission (England - Russia - Italy - England) in June or July, 1944. Serving as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber waist gunner, Allen made the trip so he could mechanically service the fighters at each stop along the way. He survived the enemy flak and fighters to return to Debden.

By the end of World War II, the men of the 4th FG destroyed an astonishing 1,016 enemy aircraft, more than any other group, before or since.

After returning to the United States, Allen married in 1946, resulting in two children and two grandchildren. His wife Betty passed away in 1993.

Allen worked for the same company in Cleveland, Ohio, Ad Art, for fifty years. He worked in a variety of positions including his least favorite, according to Allen, being president of the company.