Don Bloomer (1923 - 2018)
U.S.M.C. PBJ Pilot
Donald Bloomer was born in New York City in 1923. The only boy in a family with three children, he was raised in the Corona section of Queens.
He was a high school student at the Dwight School when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. After graduation he entered the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and stayed until the Navy opened up flight training after the Battle of Midway to replace the pilots who were being lost in combat in the Pacific.
Don and six of his friends enlisted in the Navy to get the chance to fly. His flight training began in the spring of 1943. Don was a member of Naval Reserve Pilot Training Program Class 43-1 at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina. While studying at Lenoir-Rhyne he received flight instruction in a Piper J-3 Cub at Cannon Aviation Company’s facility at the Hickory Municipal Airport.
His next duty station was Naval Air Station Glenview, Illinois where he flew the Naval Aircraft Factory’s N3N. Frequently confused with the Stearman, the N3N is a biplane that was manufactured by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
During a production run that began in 1935 and ended in January 1942, the Naval Aircraft Factory produced 977 N3N’s that were used as primary trainers by the Navy and Coast Guard. (By comparison, Boeing produced more than 8,500 Stearmans, plus sufficient parts to assemble an additional 2,000 Stearmans).
After the war, some N3N’s were sold as surplus and became cropdusters. A few N3N’s equipped with floats served at the Naval Academy until the early 1960’s.
USMC N3N Primary Trainer
After completing primary at Glenview, he went to Corpus Christi where he began multi-engine training in the twin engine SNB-2, the Navy’s version of the civilian Beech 18. After successfully completing multi-engine training he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
By August 1944, he was flying PBJ’s (the Marine Corp’s designation for the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber) with MTS-811, MOTG-81 out of Marine Corps air station at Edenton, North Carolina. He also flew R4D-1 (Marine version of the civilian DC-3) and the SNB-1.
He was next sent to Newport, Arkansas where he joined Marine Bombing Squadron 611, which was part of Marine Aircraft Group 61.
He still flew PBJ’s, but also flew the R4D and the R5C (Curtis C-46 Commando).
Don Bloomer’s PBJ (B-25) Class at Edenton, North Carolina
Don later flew patrols out of Hawaii, as well as transport flights to Borneo in support of Dutch troops. He also saw action in the Philippines and nearby islands where he provided support for the Philippine Scouts.
After the Japanese surrender ended the war, he continued to fly missions into China and Japan, and later supported American troops during the Korean conflict in 1950.
After he returned from Korea, Don was stationed at Camp Pendleton and MCAS El Toro in California.
He was transferred to Pensacola in the mid-1950’s and served as a flight instructor at NAS Pensacola, Saufley Field and Whiting Field. The photo to the right shows him congratulating one of his flight students after a successful flight in an SNJ advanced trainer.
His last Marine Corps duty station was at Quantico, Virginia before he retired in the early 1960s.
After Don retired from the Marine Corps he worked for the State of Florida as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for 20 years before retiring to become a cattle farmer in Baldwin County, Alabama. While working for the State of Florida he remained active in aviation by instructing with the Pensacola Navy Flying Club.
Don’s daughter Donna, a successful CPA in Pensacola, says many of her family’s memorable moments (Don had 7 children) occurred during family flights. Her father often flew groups of kids to visit relatives in New York and around the country.
Donna vividly remembers a trip when her father flew her and “a bunch kids” into New York’s La Guardia Airport during one of the last years before LaGuardia closed to small plane traffic. She now appreciates her father’s piloting skills, but as an 8 year-old found it thrilling when their small airplane popped out of a cloud deck and seemed to narrowly miss some huge skyscrapers before landing at the biggest airport she had ever seen.
Donna and I had a wonderful talk discussing her father and mine, who was also a World War II Marine, and was born and raised in New York City very close to where Don Bloomer grew up. Like many of their generation, they immediately answered their country’s call for help after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Those who survived the war gave up the prime of their youth to preserve our freedom. They did their jobs to the best of their abilities and, when the war was over, came home, got on with their lives and built the great nation we enjoy today.
As has often happens with family members of the veterans who fly with us, my request for information about her father's service resulted in Donna gaining new insights into her father’s experiences during World War II. Shortly before Don flew with us in 2017, she sent me a note in which she said,
“Don is just as you describe, Roy, one of those veterans who did his job, did it to his best ability and came home after two conflicts to get on with the next job. I learned more about his experiences looking at log books with him last night than I ever heard before. He has some funny stories about a bar in China and racing in rickshaws back to the boat and a stiff neck Navy officer who had a “run in” with some Marines and my dad overseas……He’s looking forward to the flight this summer. It’s been fun watching him read your updates and check out all your photos……”
We were honored Don Bloomer was able to fly with us during Veterans Flight 2017 and again during Veterans Flight 2018.
Don passed away 14 August 2018 at age 95.
Semper Fi !
Don Bloomer and Fellow Marine Jim "Cap'n Jimbo" Wilson During Veterans Flight 2018