Donald Vaughn Black

Donald Vaughn Black

October 20, 1923 - December 29, 2020
Laguna Beach California

Donald Vaughn Black

October 20, 1923 - December 29, 2020
Laguna Beach California


Donald Vaughn Black lives in Laguna Beach California, passed away at the age of 97.
Born on October 20, 1923 and passed away on December 29, 2020.

Funeral Mass

  • Date & Time: March 25, 2021 (10:00 AM)
  • Venue: St. Catherine Of Siena Catholic Church
  • Location: 1042 Temple Terrace Laguna Beach, CA 92651 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (949) 497-9701

Graveside Service

  • Date & Time: March 25, 2021 (12:00 PM)
  • Venue: Ascension Cemetery
  • Location: 24754 Trabuco Road Lake Forest, CA 92630 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (949) 837-1331

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4 responses to Donald Vaughn Black

  1. Kim Black says:

    Kim Black

    Eulogy delivered by Colonel Charles J. Quilter II USMC(Ret)
    at St Catherine’s Church, Laguna Beach, California
    on March 25, 2021

    Good morning. My name is Charlie Quilter. Many people here know that I am a retired Marine Corps colonel and an aviator. Some of you might well wonder why a Marine is honoring an Air Force officer today. So if it may help you to understand, I’d like to tell you something of Don’s military career. He is in my pantheon of flying heroes.

    Donald Vaughn Black was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1923. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Don enlisted in the then Army Air Corps at the age of only 18. After completing basic training at the Santa Ana Army Air Base”•now the site of the Orange County Fair Grounds”•he underwent flight training up in Chico and then at Luke Field near Phoenix. He won his pilot wings in December 1942.

    After a brief tour as a multi-engine flight instructor in Roswell, New Mexico, Lieutenant Black was ordered to the China-Burma-India Theater in April 1943. The CBI is probably the least known combat theater of the Second World War. But in one particular respect, it was the most dangerous. By 1943, most of eastern China had been brutally occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. China and the Allies’ ability to fight depended on an aerial lifeline over the treacherous Himalaya Mountains”the highest in the world. In the annals of air transport flying, no operation has been more hazardous than the one Don flew from Assam in India to southwest China from 1943 to 1945.

    Pilots dubbed it the “Hump.” And after the Japanese seized Burma”now Myanmar”in 1942, it was the only way of getting vital supplies to the forces of the Allies into China. When I say hazardous, I mean that it was a virtual catalog of dangers to flight: truly awful weather, icing on airframes and engines, extraordinarily high terrain, enemy fighters, and terribly inexperienced pilots who had to be thrown into the breach because they were all we had. All these factors exacted a fearsome toll on the crews and their machines that flew the Hump. Over 1,600 airmen died in the Hump operation. Nearly 600 aircraft were lost.

    A standard tour for Hump pilots was 650 flying hours, which was about 60 to 80 round trips. That of course assumes that one survived. Don Black flew over twice that number of hours. And he completed an amazing total of 250 missions over the Hump. He set squadron records both for monthly hours and missions. And he did it in relatively small twin-engine Douglas C-47 and Curtiss C-46 transports, not the big four-engine transports that were beginning to come into service.

    Captain Black not only flew the Hump. He also flew numerous search-and-rescue missions over occupied Burma and participated in the daring re-capture of Myitkyina Airfield in upper Burma in 1944. He became his base’s chief check pilot. And all this the age of only 21 ! I think this distinction speaks to his character, great intelligence, coolness under stress, and skills as an aviator. He was personally awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals. His units were awarded three Presidential Unit Citations. I must tell you, these are not decorations usually awarded to transport pilots.

    After surviving the Hump, Don was ordered home in early 1945. He then qualified on four-engine aircraft including the B-17, B-24, and C-54. Don finished out the war flying them on the south Atlantic routes to North Africa and into the European Theater of Operations.

    In some ways, the rest of his life might have seemed anticlimactic. But his professional life was also distinguished. Using his GI Bill benefits”which was one of this nation’s greatest feats of social engineering”he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan. He joined Douglas Aircraft in 1952 and completed a 36-year career there as a vice-president. He also kept flying and maintained a commercial pilot license for many years.

    Don and Joan were also very active in service to our community. I will tell you for sure he was the most organized president of our annual Patriots Day Parade in its 50 plus year history!

    Today, I honor Don Black as a hero and friend. But, there are other heroes in this story. To me, watching Joan care for Don so tenderly and patiently as Alzheimer’s robbed him of his fundamental spirit was both inspiring and heartbreaking. She is no less a hero.

    Now, Don has made his final flight” “flown west” as we pilots often say. At times like this, it is traditional for a much-loved poem to be read. Its title is “High Flight.” It was written by a young American pilot who was serving in combat during World War II with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was Don’s age when he was killed in late 1941. He was Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and his words capture the world of flying better than any I know.

    High Flight

    “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    of sun-split clouds, ” and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air….
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew ”
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
    —John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    Godspeed, Don. Thank you.

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