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Donald W. Douglas

His 11,000 Attack Aircraft Helped Win World War II

Few have contributed more to the development of aviation and the aircraft industry than Donald W. Douglas. ■ An aircraft designer and engineer, he founded Douglas Aircraft, which eventually merged with the firm of James McDonnell, another Scottish-American aviation pioneer, to form the McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Corporation. ■ Donald Willis Douglas was born April 6, 1892, in Brooklyn, New York. He traced his ancestry to Duncan Douglas who arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1801. He settled in Albany, New York. Eventually Douglas' grandfather, Edward Douglas, a goldsmith, moved from Albany to New York City. In correspondence with Donald's son Donald Douglas, Jr., he told us, "Yes, we were truly Scottish." ■ Douglas was an aviation pioneer. He built the first wind tunnel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as chief engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company. He organized his own firm in 1920. He designed and built the DC-3 in 1935. The DC stood for Douglas Commercial. This high-quality airplane was in use for many years and it is said that it revolutionized the aircraft industry because it made commercial aviation economically feasible. ■ Douglas contributed mightily to the winning of World War II. More than 11,000 attack aircraft, including the B-19 bomber, poured from his factories and did much to assure an Allied victory. Following the war, he switched to commercial aircraft with the famous line that included the DC-4 through DC-9. ■ He merged his company with that of the giant aerospace McDonnell operation, served as honorary Chairman of the Board, and retired to Palm Springs, California. Douglas died there on February 1, 1981.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546