Charles H. MacDonald

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Charles Henry "Mac" MacDonald
Col. Charles H. MacDonald
Col. Charles H. MacDonald
Born(1914-11-23)November 23, 1914
Dubois, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMarch 3, 2002(2002-03-03) (aged 87)
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force
Years of service1938–1961
Unit55th Pursuit Group
18th Pursuit Group
326th Fighter Group
348th Fighter Group
Commands held340th Pursuit Squadron
475th Fighter Group
33rd Fighter Group
23rd Fighter Wing
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross (2)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross (6)
Air Medal (11)

Colonel Charles Henry "Mac" MacDonald (November 23, 1914 – March 3, 2002) was a United States Air Force officer and a fighter ace of World War II.[1][2] MacDonald commanded the 475th Fighter Group for 20 months in his P-38 Lightning, "Putt Putt Maru", and become the third ranking fighter ace in the Pacific during World War II.

Early life[edit]

MacDonald was born in Dubois, Pennsylvania on November 23, 1914. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps pilot training program after graduating from Louisiana State University in 1938.

He received his flight wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant at Kelly Field, Texas on May 25, 1939. His first assignment was to the 55th Pursuit Group, he later transferred to the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Hawaii on February 9, 1941 and was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

During the attack, he managed to get airborne, although only after the attack was over. After flying patrol for an hour and a half, MacDonald and his small group of planes headed back to Hawaii, but encountered a fierce hail of flak from nervous and shaken gunners. MacDonald had to run the gauntlet in order to land his aircraft.

He remained in Hawaii until early 1943, and was sent back to the United States to help train a P-47 Thunderbolt squadron in Massachusetts.

World War II[edit]

MacDonald and Al Nelson in the Pacific with MacDonald's P-38J Lightning "Putt Putt Maru".

MacDonald then served in the United States with the 326th Fighter Group before transferring to the 348th Fighter Group to command the 340th Pursuit Squadron at Westover Field, Maine.

On October 1, 1943, then a major, joined the 475th Fighter Group at Dobodura, New Guinea as the group executive officer. He scored his first four victories that month and became an ace on November 9, 1943 when he downed two Zekes near Alexishafen Airdrome. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel the following day on November 10, 1943 and became the group commander.

While he was CO of the 432nd Squadron, MacDonald demonstrated his leadership on an October 25th mission to Rabaul. While leading a formation of P-38's flying escort for some B-24 Liberators on a Rabaul strike, heavy weather closed in, and all P-38's except MacDonald's flight turned back. Suddenly, the weather cleared and the formation of B-24's, with hardly an escort, was attacked by A6M Zeros.

MacDonald and his flight darted in and out of the bomber formation, clearing the Zeros from the bombers tails. They couldn't spend time finishing off damaged enemy aircraft nor confirming kills. Through their skill and diligence, they prevented many bombers from being shot down. But another pilot could confirm one kill by MacDonald, a Zero, his fourth aerial victory overall. For his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

MacDonald moved up to Group Commander in Nov. 1943, replacing George Prentice who was rotated home. Leading the group for 20 months, Colonel "Mac" flew his P-38, Putt-Putt-Maru, with the unit number "100."

During early April, he led the 475th on missions over the Japanese stronghold of Hollandia, in northwest Guinea; by the end of the month, it had fallen.

In mid 1944, General George Kenney arranged for Charles A. Lindbergh to visit and fly with the 475th. He was able to teach the P-38 pilots to increase their operational range by 50%. During his stay with the 475th, he and MacDonald became good friends, and earned MacDonald's respect as an excellent pilot.

On one interesting mission on July 28, 1944, he flew on an apparent milk run with MacDonald. However, this "uneventful" mission became a sticky situation. A Japanese fighter broke through their formation and set his sights on Lindbergh's P-38. They were on a collision course, guns blazing from both airplanes, when at the last moment, Lindbergh pulled up. The wounded Japanese fighter could not follow and dove into the sea.

General Paul Wurtsmith put MacDonald on a one-month "punitive leave" for allowing the national hero to get into a dangerous situation. MacDonald returned to the 475th in time to lead the group during the momentous events surrounding the liberation of the Philippines.

He flew several sorties over Philippine Islands and shot down thirteen of his kills in the seven weeks between Nov. 10, 1944 and Jan. 1, 1945. One of his most memorable missions occurred on 25 December 1944 when he destroyed three Japanese fighters over Clark Field in the Philippines. He scored his last aerial victory on 13 March 1945, bringing his total to 27.

He finished the war with 27 confirmed victories, making him the third highest ranking U.S. Army fighter pilot of the Pacific Theater.

Later life[edit]

MacDonald returned to the United States in July 1945 where he served in various staff and command assignments, including the 33rd Fighter Group and 23rd Fighter Wing commander, Air Attaché to Sweden, and instructor at the US War College in Washington, D.C. before retiring from the Air Force as a colonel in July 1961.

Colonel MacDonald's retirement ceremony at McChord AFB near Tacoma, Washington included a performance by the USAF Thunderbirds and a declaration of 'Col. Charles MacDonald Day'. He then moved to Anacortes, Washington where he opened a real estate business selling island properties in Puget Sound (an excuse to pursue his love of sailing) and his four children finished High School.

In 1971 he closed the real estate business, sailed to Mexico, and in 1973 returned to San Diego, California where he and his wife sold the boat that he had first purchased while in Sweden. They spent the next year building a new boat then Colonel MacDonald and his wife spent their time sailing the Pacific and the Caribbean until her death in 1978. He then came ashore and settled back to where he grew up in Mobile, Alabama.

He died in March 3, 2002 at the age of 87.


P-38 Lightning Putt Putt Maru at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston.

His awards and decorations include:

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png  Command Pilot
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit
Silver oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross with silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with two silver oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Presidential Unit Citation with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal with one service star
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver and three bronze campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with one service star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with four bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze star
Bronze star
Philippine Liberation Medal with two service stars
Philippine Independence Medal
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tony Holmes (20 January 2013). ‘Twelve to One’ V Fighter Command Aces of the Pacific. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 170–. ISBN 978-1-4728-0048-0.
  2. ^ "Charles H. MacDonald". Veteran Tributes. Retrieved 2018-05-17.



  • Crocker, H.W. (2006). Don't Tread on me: A 400-year history of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting. Crown Forum. ISBN 1-4000-5363-3.


Further reading[edit]

  • Stanaway, John (1993). Possum, Clover & Hades: The 475th Fighter Group in World War II. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-88740-518-5.
  • Stanaway, John (2007). 475th Fighter Group. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84603-043-9.
  • Stanaway, John (1997). P-38 Lightning Aces of the Pacific and CBI. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-633-7.