Dominic S. Gentile
Ohioan Dominic (Don) Salvatore Gentile shot down more enemy planes in World War II than any other pilot from Ohio.
Born on December 6, 1920, in Piqua, Ohio, Gentile learned to fly while still in high school. With World War II raging in Europe, he enlisted in the British Royal Air Force in 1941, serving in the 133 Eagle Squadron. In 1942, the 133 Eagle Squadron became the 4th Fighter Group in the United States of America's Army Air Force (AAF). At this time, Gentile was promoted to Second Lieutenant.
By April 1944, Gentile emerged as the AAF's leading fighter pilot, having shot down 27.88 enemy planes, although the AAF credited him with only 21.88 air victories and six ground kills. Fearing that Gentile, an American hero, would be shot down, the AAF refused to let him fly into combat following April 1944. After a one-month leave, the AAF reassigned him to Wright Field, in Dayton, Ohio, where he served as a test pilot. Eventually other pilots surpassed his kill total, unseating Gentile as the leading ace of World War II. In 1942, Gentile received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his exemplary record. When General Dwight D. Eisenhower presented Gentile with the award, the general referred to the pilot as, "One man Air Force."
In 1947, Gentile became a captain in the United States Air Force. He continued to serve as a test pilot. On January 23, 1951, Gentile died in a training crash at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The United States Air Force posthumously appointed him to the rank of major.
Gentile illustrates the important role that Ohioans have played in aviation. With such important names as the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, and numerous others, Ohioans have been at the forefront of aviation history.
- Crouch, Tom D. The Giant Leap: A Chronology of Ohio Aerospace Events and Personalities, 1815-1969. Columbus: The Ohio History Connection, 1971.