A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Master Sergeant Don Dougherty, U.S.A.F. (1941-1962)

Donald Dougherty


Delbert Donald Dougherty was born in Ohio County, West Virginia, on 4th December 1916, son of Nellie Pearl Doman Dougherty and William Elvie Dougherty, a dairy farmer.

The 1940 census return reveals that Don was aged twenty-three-years and living at home in Laidley Run Road, Triadelphia, with his parents. Both he and his father were working a seventy-eight-hour week on the farm.

When Don enlisted as a Private in the Air Corps at Fort Hayes, Columbus, on 7th June 1941, he was described as a semi-skilled mechanic and repairer of motor vehicles.  At the close of World War II, Don was released from war service on 8th January 1946 but he re-enlisted in the U.S.A.F. on 22nd January 1946 and eventually retired on 31st January 1962. Don reached the rank of Master Sergeant and was involved with logistics and maintenance.

Don married Virginia Martha Knutsen (1915-2001), of Martins Ferry, Ohio, on 2nd March 1944 at Dallas. She was the daughter of Andrew Knutsen who was born on 1 October 1889, his father, Andreas, was 35 and his mother, Mette, was 31. He married Lucia Rebecca Finney on 6th September 1911 in Belmont, Ohio. They had four children during their marriage. He died on 28 February 1961 in Martins Ferry, at the age of 71, and was buried there.

After the close of the war we know that Don and Virginia were stationed in Austria and/or Germany.

City directories for 1952 and 1954 list Don and Virginia as living at Apartment 3, 22 North Willard Avenue, Hampton, Virginia, close to the Langley Air Force Base. On 25 May 1946 the headquarters of the newly formed Tactical Air Command was established at Langley. The command’s mission was to organise, train, equip and maintain combat-ready forces capable of rapid deployment to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defence. The arrival of Tactical Air Command and jet aircraft marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the field, and in January 1948 Langley Field officially became Langley Air Force Base.

By the year 1957 Don was stationed at Big Spring, Howard County, Texas and he and Virginia were living at 405 Aylford. Big Spring was the home of the Webb Air Force Base and in 1956, the Air Defence Command’s 331st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was transferred to Webb AGB from Stewart AFB, New York to defend the southern United States border on air intercept missions as part of the Central Air Defence Force. Originally flying the F-86D Sabre, the squadron upgraded to the F-102 Delta Dagger in 1960.

We know that during the spring of 1959 Don was stationed near to Swindon in Wiltshire, probably at the U.S.A.F. Base at Fairford in Gloucestershire. In 1950, as a result of the beginning of the Cold War, the airfield at R.A.F. Fairford in Gloucestershire was transferred to the U.S.A.F. for strategic bomber operations. A 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway was constructed for long-range bomber operations. This runway was completed in 1953, and served as a forward airbase for the first Convair B-36 Peacemaker aircraft from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. This airfield later received B-47s. It seems highly likely that Don was stationed at Fairford Air Base but it is possible too that he may have spent time at the R.A.F. General Hospital at Wroughton in Wiltshire.

Around late 1959-60, Don was stationed at Scott Air Force base and lived in Belleville, Illinois, which is quite close to St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1957, Military Air Transport Service (MATS) had moved to Scott AFB to help facilitate management of its east and west coast. As part of the air mobility transition, ATC’s 3310th Technical Training Wing was re-designated on 1 October 1957, as the 1405th Air Base Wing, a MATS organization. With the transition complete, Scott’s new primary mission became air mobility. Bill wrote: ‘I don’t know how long we were there, but we moved three more times, to and in the state of Ohio, after leaving Illinois.  all of which went on before I turned five years old, I think.’

After his retirement from the U.S.A.F. Don, Virginia and Bill lived in the State of Ohio for a number of years, where he was employed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health. Don was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, and, as a veteran of World War II, he belonged to the VFW Liberty Union Post 3761 of Baltimore, Ohio.

Delbert Donald Dougherty died on 17th July 1982 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base Hospital after a lengthy illness. Wright Patterson is situated at Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio. His funeral was conducted by his elder brother, the Reverend William Winters Dougherty, and his body was interred at Mount View Cemetery, Dallas, West Virginia.

Don and his brother had two sisters, namely, Mrs Decima Leathe Currence and Mrs Lucy Amanda Erwin. Virginia died on 29th June 1991 at Altus, Oklahoma and was buried with Don at Mount View Cemetery.

Further details about Don’s career in the U.S.A.F. would be much appreciated.

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