Donald D. Litchfield

COMPLETES BASIC
Aviation Cadet Donald D. Litchfield, son of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, Sr., 1411 South Farwell Street, has completed his basic flying training at Gardner Field, CA and sent to an advanced flying school to finish his pilot training.  He attended the University of Wisconsin, where he served in the ROTC, was awarded a letter in college football, and became a member of Delta Upsilon, social fraternity.  His brother is a flier, a First Lieutenant in the Air Corps stationed in England.  He was accepted as an Aviation Cadet in October 1943 at Santa Ana, CA.

Fortress Pilot Gets Promotion

AN 8TH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, England—The promotion of Donald D. Litchfield, son of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, Sr., 1411 South Farwell Street, from Second to First Lieutenant, has been announced by the Headquarters, Eighth Air Force.

Lieutenant Litchfield is serving as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the 401st Bomb Group, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Seawell, Pine Bluff, AR.  He has been awarded the Air Medal and two Oak Leaf Clusters for “meritorious achievement” while [**data missing**]


Brothers in Service

LT. DONALD LITCHFIELD

CAPT. THOMAS LITCHFIELD

Donald D. Litchfield, son of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, 1411 South Farwell Street, was commissioned Second Lieutenant and awarded silver pilot's wings in graduation exercises at the Army Air Forces Pilot School at Stockton, CA on June 27. 

Lieutenant Litchfield entered the service on February 23, 1943. He received his college training at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. From there, he was transferred to Santa Ana, CA for classification. He took his primary training at Tulare, CA and his basic training at Gardner Field, Taft, CA. His advanced training was taken at Stockton. 

He was graduated from the Eau Claire High School and attended the University of Wisconsin. Lieutenant Litchfield will report to Las Vegas, NV on July 9 for B-17 pilot training.  

Captain Thomas R. Litchfield, his brother, is serving as Flight Commander in a fighter bomber squadron in England. He is the pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt. 

Captain Litchfield, who has been overseas since March of this year, was promoted to that rank from the rank of First Lieutenant on Invasion Day. 

He wrote that he saw Lieutenant Commander R. J. Lewis in London recently and had lunch with him and Flight Officer Richard Ganther. He said that one of the flying bombs narrowly missed hitting his hotel. Commander Lewis also had a narrow escape, according to Litchfield. 

Captain Litchfield has been awarded the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters. His wife resides at 1415 South Farwell Street.


Brothers Together After 30 Months
1ST LT. DONALD AND CAPT. THOMAS LITCHFIELD
Captain Thomas and First Lieutenant Donald Litchfield, sons of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, 1411 South Farwell Street, are together again for the first time in over two and a half years. They arrived in Eau Claire last Friday. Previously, they had met in Boston on June 11, when Captain Litchfield arrived from Europe by boat and Lieutenant Litchfield arrived by plane.

For Captain Litchfield, it is the first leave at home in a year and a half. A wearer of the Air Medal and six Oak Leaf Clusters and the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with three Battle Stars, he entered the service in November 1941. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant at Foster Field, Victoria, Texas on July 3, 1942.

He went overseas in March 1944 and was promoted to the rank of Captain on June 1, 1944, although he did not receive the promotion until D-Day. He was stationed in England and France while he made 48 missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt over enemy territory before being shot down. 

He was interned at the prison camp for Air Force officers and personnel at Sagan for several months, where conditions were decent and food was good, he said. He was transferred to a camp near Mossberg, Germany, which was an international camp, holding Russians, Serbians, Poles, and other captives. Here, the food was poor and short, Captain Litchfield said. Due to an acute shortage of cigarettes, they became the medium of exchange. He was liberated on April 29 by American forces.

His wife and small daughter reside at 1411 South Farwell Street.

Lieutenant Litchfield, who wears the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with one Battle Star, the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Presidential Unit Citation, entered service in February 1943 and was commissioned at the Army Air Forces Training School at Stockton, CA on June 27, 1944.

He went overseas in February of this year, where he was located at a bomber base in England. A pilot of a B-17, he flew 20 missions before returning to the United States on a 30-day leave.

A graduate of the Eau Claire Senior High School, Lieutenant Litchfield attended the University of Wisconsin, where he became affiliated with Delta Upsilon, before entering the service.


Ferries Liberated Yanks to England
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, England—Although he was able to get in but 20 combat missions over Germany before the end of the war, First Lieutenant Donald D. Litchfield, Eau Claire, B-17 Flying Fortress pilot, is now spending his time ferrying American, French, and English prisoners of war out of Germany and Austria to France and England.

One of these days, he is hoping to run across his brother, Captain Thomas R. Litchfield, former fighter pilot who went down on his 53rd mission and was a German prisoner for many months.

The men are sons of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, Sr., 1411 South Farwell Street, Eau Claire. Lieutenant Litchfield is a member of the veteran 401st Bomb Group, commanded by Colonel W. T. Seawell, Pine Bluff, AR, a unit of the First Air Division cited by the President for its skillful attack on German fighter plane factories at Ochersleben in January 1944, when one of the great air battles of World War II took place. His targets have included war plants, marshalling yards, oil refineries, military installations, and troop positions.

He has been over Berlin three times and on a mission to Rheine, where flak was intense, all of the electrical equipment; the oxygen system and instruments were knocked out of commission. One fragment lodged in the parachute just behind the pilot but, outside of being "plenty scared," Lieutenant Litchfield was unhurt. Some of his other, more difficult missions were to Munich, Regensburg, and Dresden.

Bringing back 30 French officers, who had been prisoners for five years, from a prison camp near Linz to an airfield near Paris was an interesting experience for Lieutenant Litchfield and his crew.

"Soon after we took off," he said, "one of the Frenchmen kept looking at the tiny American flag we  wear on our sleeves as identification insignias. He finally asked me for it and, when I gave it to him, he put it on at once. In return, he presented me with a new German Luger pistol he had picked up after his liberation. When we crossed the Rhine River and entered France, I never saw anyone get so excited as my passengers. They started to salute, shouted 'Vive la France,' sang, and a few shed tears."

Lieutenant Litchfield was commissioned at Stockton Field, CA in June 1944 and took further training at McDill Field, FL, before flying overseas late in January 1945. He wears the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

He is a graduate of Eau Claire Senior High School and attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, where he won his letter in football. He is a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity


This article was published in the Leader Telegram 4 April 2004

Left: This family photo shows Tom Litchfield's plane, The Blond Angel, as it appeared during World War II.

Captain Tom Litchfield was an accomplished pilot who flew roughly 50 missions in his P-47 before being shot down over German-occupied France in 1944.

P-47D Facts
Nickname  Thunderbolt, Jug
Wingspan   40 feet, 9 inches
Length   36 feet, 2 inches
Height  14 feet, 8 inches
Weight   17,500 lbs. maximum
Armament   Six or eight .50 
caliber machine guns and either 
10 rockets or 2,500 lbs of bombs
Engine  
One Pratt & Whitney, 
2, 430 horsepower
Maximum Speed   433 mph
Cruising Speed   350 mph
Range  1,030 miles
Service Ceiling  42,000 feet
Source: U.S. Air Force Museum

by Tom Giffey Leader-Telegram Staff

Don Litchfield wasn't sure what to make of the mysterious box that arrived at his home around Christmas. He wasn't expecting anything, and he certainly didn't know anyone in Massachusetts who would send him such a large, unsolicited package.

So Litchfield let the box sit in the garage awhile, not guessing that what was inside would bring his family a flood of memories about his brother, Tom, who died 20 years ago.

Eventually Litchfield became sufficiently curious to track down the man who had sent the package, John Bohn.

He called Bohn, who offered assurance that  what was inside the box, indeed, was intended for Litchfield. Satisfied, Litchfield opened the box and was taken back in time 60 years.

Inside was a model of a P-47D Thunderbolt fighter like the one his older brother Tom had flown in Europe during World War II.

However, the 1:18 scale plastic model wasn't a generic P-47 made to resemble the nearly 16,000 built for the war. Instead, it was an exact replica of Tom's plane, from the zebra-striped paint on the wings to the tail number to the name Captain Thomas Litchfield stenciled beneath the cockpit.

Perhaps most surprisingly, though, was the elaborate image that graced the side of the fuselage, a profile of a woman with streaming yellow hair next to the words The Blond Angel.

This angel, who had accompanied Tom Litchfield on more than 50 missions over German-held territory, was his wife Harriet.

Somehow this long-forgotten plane, which had crashed in France in 1944, had formed the basis of a model mass-produced by California-based 21st Century Toys.

Don Litchfield, who like his brother was a pilot during the war, showed the model to his three sisters, Lorraine Wilson, Doris Herrick and Lois Bodeau, at a Sunday dinner in January.

"We were quite amazed," he said. "It brought back memories of my brother, the way he was shot down and spent time in the prison camp....It was quite emotional, actually."

Gift from afar
Litchfield owes the unexpected gift to Bohn, a Massachusetts airplane enthusiast who was headed to the automotive department of his local Wal-Mart one day late last year. As he passed through the toy department, Bohn was distracted by The Blond Angel model.

"I was kind of intrigued because there's such great detail on the plane," he said. Bohn decided the model would be a perfect gift for his nine-year-old niece, whose father is an airline pilot. Bohn said he has nicknamed the girl and her six-year-old sister the blond angels."

Bohn grabbed the last two models from the shelf—one for his niece, one for himself—and fended off several other interested shoppers on his way to the checkout.

At home, Bohn researched the plane's history on the Internet. He spent several hours searching the web, tracing references to Litchfield and his plane. Eventually, from an archive of 1940's Leader-Telegram clippings on the Memorial High School web page, Bohn read about the wartime experiences of Tom Litchfield and his younger brother, Don.

While Tom was deceased, Don Litchfield still was living in Eau Claire. Though he'd never done anything like it before, Bohn made a snap decision to send the model to Litchfield.

"I'm usually quite sane," he quipped.

Bohn's affinity for World War II veterans and their aircraft overcame any apprehensions he may have had about sending the gift. As a photographer for the Boston Globe, Bohn sometimes covers professional sports, but he speaks most enthusiastically about taking pictures of a restored B-17 bomber. His own grandfather, now deceased, was an anti-aircraft artilleryman throughout Africa and Europe during World War II.

"That's grounded in me an awfully deep amount of respect for guys who did what Don Litchfield did," he said.

Brothers in arms 
Captain Thomas R. Litchfield—his middle initial appears to be the only mistake the model's manufacturer made—enlisted in the Army Air Corps around Thanksgiving 1941, just before World War II began. He spent several years training other pilots in the United States before heading to Europe, where he was part of the 506th Squadron of the 404th Fighter Group.

He flew a P-47, a powerful single-engine plane used to escort high-altitude bombers as well as fly low-level fighter-bomber missions.

Don Litchfield reports that his older brother flew many missions on and after D-Day—June 6, 1944—when the Allied invasion of German-occupied France began.

The next month Tom Litchfield's luck ran out when flak from German anti-aircraft guns tore into his engine. As The Blond Angel plunged to Earth, Litchfield bailed out. He barely had enough time to open his parachute before hitting the ground. He soon was captured by the Germans.

Lois Bodeau, 71, the Litchfields' youngest sister, remembered following news of the war closely at the family's Farwell Street home. In the window hung a flag with three stars—one for Don, one for Tom, and one for her brother-in-law, Milton Larson, who was in the Navy.

She vividly remembers learning of her brother's capture from a telegram.

"I can remember my mother going to the door and seeing that little telegraph boy there, a twelve-year-old kid, and she went white," Bodeau recalled. "He said, 'That's OK, lady. He's just a prisoner of war.'"

Tom Litchfield spent the next 10 months as a prisoner of war, first at a camp in Sagan, Poland, and then in Moosberg, Germany, until the war ended in April 1945.

Meanwhile, Don Litchfield, who was two years younger than Tom, also enlisted in the Air Corps. He rose to the rank of First Lieutenant, became the left-seat pilot of a B-17 bomber, and flew 20 missions over Europe.

After 2 1/2 years of separation, the brothers had an emotional, unexpected reunion at a military base in Boston after the war ended.

Tom Litchfield didn't talk much about his wartime experience, his brother said.

The model, sold nationwide in Wal-Mart stores, resembles Tom Litchfield's plane in great detail, including his name stenciled in tiny letters under the cockpit.

However, Litchfield,s middle initial was "R," not "B."

Don Litchfield, 80, received this model of a P-47D Thunderbolt from a stranger last December. The model is identical to the plane Litchfield's late brother, Tom, flew in World War II. 

Don Litchfield was also a pilot during the war.

Behind him are images of B-17s like the one he flew. Staff photo By Dan Reiland

Plane/Model stirs emotions
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"He was pretty subdued when he got out of that prison camp," Don said. "He was pretty doggone thin and skimpy." 

(Don is reluctant to talk about his own military service, stressing that few people know or care about a war that happened 60 years ago.)

The family resumed their lives after the war. Don and Tom carried on in the automobile business their father, Tom Sr., had started. Don helped run the family car dealership in downtown Eau Claire, while Tom sold trucks near what is the intersection of Clairemont Avenue and Hastings Way. Don still runs a small used car dealership from the building.

Tom's wife Harriet — the inspiration for The Blond Angel— died in 1963 at the age of 43. Tom married Dolores Rozmenoski two years later, and he died on November 2, 1984. 

Model mystery 
While the unexpected arrival of The Blond Angel has been explained, how it became the basis of a mass-produced model remains unclear. 

Repeated attempts to reach the California headquarters of 21st Century Toys were unsuccessful. The company specializes in highly detailed military models and action figures. Its web site features several other P-47 models, including planes nicknamed Jabo, Peg O' My Heart, and Donnie Boy.

Nevertheless, Tom Litchfield's family is proud his military service has been memorialized.

Lois Bodeau of Chippewa Falls said the model arrived like an unexpected apparition.

"It's kind of brought (Tom) back to us," she said. "We were all very excited about it."

"It was all almost orchestrated by who-knows-who," she said.

Her two sons both bought copies of  The Blond Angel, and family members sent models to Tom's three daughters as well.

While Tom wasn't a boastful man, Bodeau said her brother would have been pleased to know a model of his Blond Angel would stir interest six decades after it took to the air. "I think he'd be thrilled to death," she said. "I think it would bring a lot of stories about."

Giffey can be reached at 833-9205, (800) 236-7077 or tom.giffey @ ecpc.com

 Don Litchfield, left, and his older brother Tom enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Don reached the rank of First Lieutenant, while Tom was a Captain.