Colonel Donald M. Griffin, 91, USAF (retired)
Another WWII U.S. Army-trained “farmer/pilot” has left us. Donald Melvin Griffin, 91, passed away on July 27, 2017, at his home in Wilton, Calif., with his wife by his side. Don was born Oct. 6, 1925, on his Grandfather Manley’s homestead farm in Kirk, Colo., to George Melvin Griffin and Berniece Manley Griffin. He graduated from Natoma High School in Natoma, Kan., in 1943.
Don is survived by his wife of 22 years, Marsha Griffin; a brother, David Griffin of Natoma; two sisters: Evelyn Kee and Berneita Schneider, also of Natoma; four children: Jennifer Schock, Constance Griffin, Penny Griffin and Julie Davis, all of Phoenix; a stepdaughter; a stepson; and 20 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his former wife, Virginia Heffner, and daughter Ruth Voelker; and by his brother Lowell Griffin and sister Barbara Deschner.
Initially, he began his military career at Walker AFB in 1943, which led up to his becoming a veteran military Regular Officer and career pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Don retired in 1983 as a full Colonel after 38 years of combined service to his country. After WWII, he became a commercial flight instructor and worked in civil aviation. He flew with the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve and transitioned to the U.S. Air Force when it became an entity. Don returned to active duty in May 1953. He was a Strategic Reconnaissance pilot during the Cold War; a Standardization/Evaluation Instructor Pilot; and one of the original RB-66 reconnaissance pilots. He flew the RB-47H and the RC-135C in Cold War Sino-Soviet peripheral reconnaissance areas and in the Vietnam combat zone.
Don was stationed around the United States and the world, including airfields in Texas, California, Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Alaska, Korea, Japan and Spain. He also served in England, Turkey, Okinawa and the Philippines on extended temporary duty. He was a Strategic Air Command Wing Commander of two separate wings and was continuously associated with Reconnaissance and Task Force Operations. A highly decorated officer, Don’s medals include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, and more. He accumulated more than 10,000 flying hours. Don was a loving father and enjoyed his family and grandkids. His passing leaves a big hole in our hearts. He leaves this earth having already made his mark in history as a great pilot, commander of men, and one of those who proudly defended the United States with every fiber of their being.
A memorial is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Friday, October 6, 2017, at the Natoma Community Center, in Natoma. Inurnment will follow in Natoma Lutheran Cemetery. Military honors will be performed by the Russell V.F.W. Post 6240. Guests are invited to return to the Community Center for lunch. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Wounded Warriors Foundation. Pohlman-Varner-Peeler Mortuary of Natoma, Kansas, is in charge of the memorial service.