Don Merril Beerbower
|Born||August 26, 1921|
Davidson, Saskatchewan, Canada
|Died||August 9, 1944 (aged 22)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/|| United States Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1942–1944|
|Unit||353rd Fighter Squadron|
354th Fighter Group
|Commands held||353rd Fighter Squadron|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross|
Silver Star (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (26)
Beerbower was born on August 26, 1921 to Clarence W. Beerbower and Josephine F. (Carson) Beerbower in Davidson, Saskatchewan. He had two siblings, a sister named Lavaun and a brother named Darrel.
World War II
On October 21, 1943, Beerbower left with his unit for England. They were initially stationed at RAF Greenham Common in November 1943, before moving to RAF Boxted where they flew their missions from. They flew the North American P-51B Mustangs. Beerbower flew his first combat mission on December 1st, 1943 and scored his first victory, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on January 5, 1944. Beerbower named his P-51B 'Bonnie B', in honor of his daughter, Bonnie.
Beerbower began scoring additional victories on January 1944 and was promoted to Captain on January 15, 1944. He finally achieved the flying ace status on February 20, 1944 by shooting down a Bf 109, his fifth victory. On April 8, 1944, Beerbower destroyed three German planes and damaged two others out of a numerically superior force which attacked the bomber formation he was escorting.
The 354th FG moved to RAF Lashenden on April 17, 1944. Following the Invasion of Normandy on June 1944, the unit moved to Cricqueville Airfield, an Advanced Landing Ground in the Normandy region of northern France. Beerbower became a double ace on August 8, 1944 by scoring his tenth victory. He was awarded the Silver Star by Lewis H. Brereton, the commanding officer of the Ninth Air Force in ceremonies in France. Though fellow pilots were transitioning to the newer P-51D, Beerbower chose to retain his B-model as it had 4 50 cal machine guns and was lighter as a result, with better speed, climb and maneuver characteristics.
Beerbower scored his final victory, a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 on July 7, 1944, bringing his total aerial victories to 15 and 2 aircraft destroyed on ground.
Beerbower destroyed one enemy plane, gun emplacement and aimed for a second. On their second pass, his plane took hits in the wing and fuselage, then went into a straight vertical climb, stalled and dove straight down into the ground. Beerbower jettisoned the canopy during these maneuvers and managed to get out of the aircraft, only to hit the tail. He never opened his chute. The plane crashed and he was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his final mission and the Silver Star for his April 8th mission.
A memorial plate/marker in English and French honoring Beerbower was placed near the entrance to the village’s 12th Century church, Mont d’Hor in Saint-Thierry, France on 2014. He was also inducted to the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 2000.
Awards and Decorations
Beerbower's decorations include:
|Army Air Forces Pilot Badge|
|Distinguished Service Cross||Silver Star|
w/ 1 bronze oak leaf cluster
|Distinguished Flying Cross
w/ 2 bronze oak leaf cluster
|Purple Heart||Air Medal|
w/ 4 silver oak leaf clusters
w/ 4 bronze oak leaf clusters
(second ribbon required for accouterment spacing)
|American Campaign Medal||European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal|
w/ 4 bronze campaign stars
|World War II Victory Medal||Distinguished Flying Cross
|Croix de Guerre with Palm|
|Army Presidential Unit Citation|
Distinguished Service Cross citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Major (Air Corps) Don Merril Beerbower, United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-51 Fighter Airplane in the 353rd Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 9 August 1944, while leading his squadron on an armed reconnaissance mission in the European Theater of Operations. On that date, Major Beerbower located an enemy airfield on which many aircraft were parked. In order to test the ground defenses, Major Beerbower made an experimental pass at the field destroying an enemy plane and a gun emplacement. Then, while his squadron swept over the field from one direction, he fearlessly attacked from another quarter, boldly exposing himself to concentrated fire from all sides of the field and effectively screening his comrades from the intense ground fire. Major Beerbower's airplane was struck repeatedly and crashed into the ground. The outstanding heroism and devotion to duty displayed by Major Beerbower on this occasion reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.
- "Iowa State University's Gold Star Ceremony honors fallen World War II pilot from Hill City". Iowa State University. 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
- Gardner N. Hatch; Winter Frank H. (1993). P-51 Mustang. Turner Publishing Company. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-1-56311-080-1.
- William N Hess (20 December 2012). 354th Fighter Group. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 221–. ISBN 978-1-78200-858-3.
- "Major Don Beerbower rememebered in France".
- "Don Beerbower - Recipient - Military Times Hall Of Valor". valor.militarytimes.com.
- Don M. Beerbower at Find a Grave
- "Don Merrill Beerbower". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
- "Saskatchewan-born WWII pilot remembered in France". paNOW. 2014-09-26. Retrieved 2018-06-16.