Douglas W. Thompson of Dover flew combat in three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He also figured in the space program that took us to the moon.
When World War II broke out, Thompson went to Canada to win his wings, then to England where he flew in the RAF for two years. When America joined the fray, he transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps and piloted heavy bombers over Europe. He became a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also earned four Air Medals and 20 other decorations for both his British and American service.
Thompson commanded a B-24 on the most courageous aerial mission ever—the low-level raid on the Nazi oilfield/refinery complex at Ploesti, Romania in 1943.
In a later action, he achieved the impossible: he pulled his B-24 out of a turbulence-induced spin, saving aircraft and crew, bomb load—and mission. All 26 of his missions over Europe were subjected to fierce anti-aircraft fire.
When Korea erupted, he transitioned into jet fighters and flew numerous combat missions. Major Thompson wrapped up his military career lifting troops, supplies and equipment during the early stages of the Vietnam war.
Qualified in 22 Aircraft Types
In 1964, after 22 years, he retired from the Air Force. He had qualified in 22 aircraft types and was a certified instructor in nine. Home in Dover, he entered the age of aerospace. An industrial and chemical engineer, he played a key role in ILC Industries' development of space gear, including the Apollo astronauts' attire.
Doug's wife Jean died three years ago in an auto accident. He lives with son Douglas, Jr.