Born in Kansas City, Kansas, December 31, 1907, he was later All-City halfback and reporter for the Kansas City newspaper. Attending the University of Kansas from 1925–27, he was editor of the K.U. newspaper as a sophomore.
Entering West Point with the Class of ’31, he was on the boxing team for 4 years and was the president of the Y.M.C.A. before graduation and commissioning into the Field Artillery.
Don was one of a group of classmates who ushered in Randolph Field, San Antonio, as the primary training school for the Army Air Corps. The first one to solo in his group of 4, he also was the first to wash out, there being a girl in San Antonio, Kelley Watson, to whom he had become engaged, and later married in September 1932. He served there 3 years with the 15th Field Artillery Battalion of the 2d Division. His older son, Donald Jr., was born at Ft. Sam Houston in 1933.
After 3 years at the Artillery School, Ft. Sill, where daughter Myra was born in 1935, he was detailed to the Math Department, USMA, teaching plebes for 3 years and commanding the motorized battery of the Field Artillery Detachment his fourth year. In 1939, he went to Ft. Bragg to be a Battery Commander and, later, Regimental Adjutant, in the 17th Field Artillery. Son Bill was born there in 1941.
Also in 1941, he went to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where there were beach parties and good times before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He served as Battery Commander and boxing coach for the 11th Field Artillery. After 7 Dec, he was Battalion Executive and, later, was 24th Infantry Division Tank Defense Officer until that job was abolished.
Returning to the mainland in November 1942, he went to Ft. Sam Houston as Commanding Officer of the 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2d Infantry Division, commanding it through the end of hostilities in Europe. His unit went to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, for winter maneuvers on skis and snowshoes and then to North Ireland in 1943.
He led his unit across Omaha Beach on D+1. This was followed by fighting in the hedgerows, the capture of Brest, the repulse of German armor at Elsenborn in the Bulge, crossing the Rhine at Remagen, and advancing as far as Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, by VE Day.
Following redeployment to the U.S. in 1945, he served as Division Artillery Executive Officer and then as a member of the Integration Board at Ft. Logan, CO. Then he rejoined the 2d Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis as Commanding Officer, 12th Field Artillery Battalion. Following that, he went to the Command & General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth.
In 1947, he began a two-year assignment to G-3 Plans and Operations, Headquarters, Department of the Army, followed, in 1949, by a 3-year tour as a student and, then, as a member of the faculty at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk. In 1952, he went to Korea as Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Zone for one year and then Commanding Officer of the first exchange of wounded prisoners of war at Panmunjom. He then went to J-3 Plans, Far East Command, Tokyo. In 1954, he was again assigned to G-3 Plans in the Pentagon.
Following graduation from the National War College in 1956, Don went to the Joint Staff as Deputy Army Assistant Director, J-3. In 1958, he moved to Atlanta to be Professor of Military Science at Georgia Tech, from which he retired as a colonel in 1961. His Army career decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit (2 awards), and Bronze Star (2 awards).
Don entered the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1961, graduated in 1964, and was ordained into the Episcopal priesthood in 1965. Assigned to Macon, GA, he served as vicar of a mission church and as assistant rector of a parish.
In 1983, he retired from the priesthood and moved to Fairfax County, VA, where his wife Kelley died of cancer in 1986. Don married Virginia Otey Ward, the sister of a classmate, in Lynchburg, VA, in 1987. He died on December 8, 1996 at the Fairfax Retirement Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Don is survived by wife Virginia; children Donald Jr. ’56, Myra, and Bill ’64; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
A man of action, Don was sometimes referred to by his children as “immediate Little,” reflecting his ability to size up a situation and make a quick decision. He was a man of dignity, impeccable honor, concern for others, and generosity. He held his own on the golf course, shooting a 78 on his 78th birthday and twice making a hole-in-one.
He had a splendid sense of humor, delighted in the works of O. Henry, and entertained others with his many stories. A friend describes him as “a wonderful model of civility, courage, and gentleness” whose almost 89 years “were about service and sacrifice.”
A classmate of Don’s said, “He was an honest, faithful servant of the Lord.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard