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Stories of Honor: Don Kent, an Air Corps pilot, recalls 'December 1941 ... that was the start of it all'
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Stories of Honor: Don Kent, an Air Corps pilot, recalls 'December 1941 ... that was the start of it all'


Don Kent remembers exactly where he was when he got the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

A sophomore at Cornell College, Kent knew a war was coming and he was likely to be drafted. 

"In December 1941, everything started. That was the start of it all," he said. "All of us who were alive at that time remembers exactly where we were at that time."

A few months later, he joined the Air Corps with the goal of being a pilot. In the winter of 1943, Kent went to Army basic training.

He was one of the few soldiers in basic training who knew how to type, so he served as a typist in the basic training office. "I had a real good thing," Kent said. 

In June 1943, headed to San Antonio for cadet basic training, where he went through grueling training that was specific to the Air Corps. He then moved to Cuero, Texas, for primary flight training with civilian instructors. 

"The army, in all of its wisdom, removed my four wisdom teeth. Fine, except I was flying, and they were still bleeding," he said. "I, of course, was in the front cockpit, and I could not spit out the blood to avoid spraying the instructor, so I had to swallow it."

Cuero was where he had his first solo flight. He was then assigned to advanced flight training, and he was sent to single-engine training — his preferred method of combat.

In the fall of 1944, he was shipped overseas, eventually landing in Karachi, India (now Pakistan). He soon contracted malaria and spent a month in the Army hospital in Karachi. 

A few months later, he moved to the Burma (now Myanmar) jungle, where he lived in tents and landed on a rocky landing strip carved out of the jungle.

"The food was terrible," Kent said. "We had canned, mixed fruit one day and crushed pineapple the next. I still can't stand that combo now."

By the time he landed in Burma, the Japanese Air Force was mostly gone, so the bulk of his combat involved strafing with machine guns and dive-bombing. 

In all, he went on more than 100 combat missions. 

Kent was born in Monmouth and moved to Grand Mound in 1939. He still lives in Grand Mound today.