Don Forester Pratt was born at Brookfield, Missouri, July 12, 1892, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, United States Infantry, August 1917; he advanced through the ranks to Brigadier General, August 1942.
He served as Adjutant, 15th Infantry, Tientsin, China, 1932-36; Instructor, Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, 1937-41; Chief-of-Staff, 43rd Infantry Division, 41-42; Deputy Commander, 101st Airborne Division, Aug 1942. He was the Deputy Commander, under Maxwell Taylor, of the 101st Airborne and killed while taking part in Allied invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 11) July 26, 1948. He was first buried in France until the wars end.
Lee's (Major General William Lee) Screaming Eagles were billeted in villages and towns in the counties (shires) of Berkshire and Wiltshire in the south of England. Lee and his Assistant Division Commander, the diminutive 51-year-old Brigadier General Donald F. Pratt, opened a command post just outside Newbury. Now fate dealt a cruel blow to Bill Lee. Command of a crack airborne Division in a major combat operation had been his dream for four years. While with his troops in field, however, on February 9, the Screaming Eagles Commander suffered a major heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Ten days later, Lee's doctors gave him crushing news. He would have to be sent to the U.S. for treatment. His dream would never be fulfilled.
No doubt as Assistant Division Commander, Pratt felt that he was the heir apparent to succeed Lee. For whatever their reasons, Eisenhower and Bradley turned thumbs down on Pratt and brought in highly regarded Brigadier General Maxwell Taylor, the 82nd Airborne Artillery Commander, to lead the Screaming Eagles. Taylor flew to England from Italy, and on March 14, he formally took over.
With all of 101st Airborne's paratroopers on the ground, dead or alive, the Division's 52 gliders making the initial assault were winging through the moonlight toward landing zone E, two miles west of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. Piloting the lead glider (named for the Fighting Falcon) was Lieutenant Colonel Mike Murphy, who had been one the nation's best-known stunt pilots before the war. Had been asked by Henry “Hap” Arnold to reorganize the training of glider pilots, whose development had been bogged down in red tape and incompetency. Seated beside Murphy was Pratt, Assistant Division Commander. Pratt had been designated to command the Division's tail -a water lift – which was an ignominious fate for an airborne soldier. So he had been elated when it was decided to permit him to go into combat in a glider.
At 4:00 am, Mike Murphy spotted landing zone, which Screaming Eagle pathfinders had marked with light patterns. Zooming down, Murphy had perfect text book landing, locking the brakes, and the glider skidded across the wet pasture for more than 700 feet, then smashed with enormous impact into tall poplar trees. If a glider pilot were to survive the Russian-roulette chances involved in landing, his body usually paid a heavy price. Murphy broke both legs. Pratt was crushed to death when a chained jeep broke loose on collision with the sturdy trees. Pratt became the second US airborne General to be killed in action (Charles Keerans of 82nd Airborne had lost his life in Sicily). On hearing of Pratt's death, Max Taylor would bypass two regimental commanders senior in age and grade, Bob Sink and Howard Johnson, and name his 34-year-old Chief-of-Staff, Gerry Higgins to be 101st Airborne's Assistant Commander. Elsewhere in the airhead, a small group of airborne officers gathered solemnly around a fresh, deep excavation in a pasture. Wrapped in a parachute, Screaming Eagle Pratt was buried. There was no official salute of guns, it was not necessary. All during the service, artillery pounded away and rifles cracked in background.
PRATT, DON F
BRIG GEN AG
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
- DATE OF DEATH: 06/06/1944
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 07/26/1948
- BURIED AT: SECTION 11 SITE 707 S H
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
PRATT, MARTHA M W/O DON P
- DATE OF BIRTH: 01/11/1895
- DATE OF DEATH: 03/29/1968
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/25/1968
- BURIED AT: SECTION 11 SITE 707 NH
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
- WIFE OF DON F. PRATT BG USA
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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