Gentile, Salvatore Dominic
Fighter PilotEnshrined 1995 1920-1951
Dominic Salvatore Gentile was born in Piqua, Ohio on December 6, 1920. He was obsessed with the idea of flying since childhood. In high school he entertained his fellow townspeople with stunts in his Aerosport biplane. He managed to log 300 hours flight time before entering the Royal Air Force in July of 1941.
In 1942, he joined Number 133, one of the legendary Eagle squadrons in England. It was in the British Spitfire, one of the finest planes in the world at that time, that he began to make a name for himself. On August 1, 1942, Gentile destroyed two German aircraft within ten minutes of each other. For this remarkable feat he was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross.
He then transferred into the United States Army, 336th Fighter Squadron, which destroyed over one thousand German aircraft by the end of the war. On April 5th, 1944, at age 23, Gentile shot down his twenty-seventh plane and made a place for himself in the record books by breaking the past record of twenty-six kills by World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Three Days later Gentile destroyed three more enemy planes, bringing his total to thirty. He and his wing man, Captain John T. Godfrey, made a lethal air combat duo whose impressive teamwork destroyed more enemy planes than any other partnership of American fighter pilots.
After the war, Gentile came to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio as a test pilot. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and British Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the British Star, and the Eagle Squadron Crest.
In 1951, Don Gentile made his last flight. He and a passenger were killed when his T-33 trainer crashed. The man known as the “Ace of Aces” was given a posthumous promotion to major and the Defense Electronic Supply Center in Dayton, Ohio was named Gentile Air Station.