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DONALD DIXON

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DIXON, DONALD CDR, USN (RET.) April 17, 1914 to May 15, 2012 Another of "America's Greatest Generation" left us on May 15 at 0615 when CDR Donald R. Dixon USN (Ret.) and a proud holder of the Wings of Gold passed away in the company of his two loving sons Donald and Mike Dixon at his home for 53 years on Avenorra Drive in La Mesa. CDR Dixon was born in a rural Menard, Idaho, where his dad was the railroad depot manager and his mom ran the depot café. After graduating from Cokeville Wyoming High School Don joined the Navy in Salt Lake City, UT, in 1932 and was sent to the Naval Training Center in San Diego for basic. His first sea duty was on the cruiser USS Raleigh. In 1935 then Seaman 2nd Class Dixon qualified as one of the US Navy's elite hard hat deep sea divers. While stationed at the Coco Solo Naval Base in the Panama Canal Zone, young Mr. Dixon met a woman who was managing a visiting troop of showgirls and was also a dancer in the show. Mary Dixon (aka "Tiny Delmar") was indeed a knockout and stole the young sailor's heart. Within six weeks of meeting, Don and Mary were married and stayed so until her passing in 2009 at the age of 95. At the urging of his wife, Don first applied for Aviation Machinist School and was accepted and passed the course and was then transferred to Dahlgren, VA. Soon after arriving in Virginia, he again followed Mary's urgings and applied for Naval Flight Training in Pensacola and was once again accepted. Don and Mary started flight training in 1939 and he won his wings of gold as an enlisted pilot (NAP) in 1940. His first squadron was PATRON 26 in San Diego, which was transferred to Pearl Harbor in June of 1940. In Dec of 1940 the PBY squadron was shipped to Cavite in the Philippine Islands. By the time WWII started on December 7, Don's squadron had been re-designated PATRON102 part of Patrol Wing 10. During the early months of the war, Don was listed as missing in action three times and after all of his squadron's planes were destroyed he was able to get out of the Philippines on a captured Vichy French ocean liner the Marechal Joffre which he and 25 other Navy pilots and airmen sailed her to Java, Australia and New Zealand. The Marechal Joffre was renamed the USS Rochambeau and was the ship that took JFK to the Solomon Islands. After escaping the Philippines newly promoted LT (j.g.) Dixon flew patrol, bombing and rescue missions from Perth Australia. Don was finally reunited with his wife Mary in March of 1943 and embarked upon the remainder of his Navy career which took he and his family to duty stations in Recife Brazil, New York City, Pensacola Florida, and of course, San Diego. CDR Dixon retired from the Navy in 1958 with decorations such as the Presidential Unit Citation and the Philippine Defense Medal and was nominated for the Dutch Flying Cross for a daring nighttime rescue of Dutch nurses from a lake in Java. Don also was credited with shooting down a Japanese Zero fighter from the waist of a PBY. CDR Dixon was also involved in an incident that was chronicled in Len Deighton's Blood Sweat and Folly, which haunted him his entire life. On December 4, 1941, Don was navigator and waist gun a PBY patrol flight that caught the Japanese fleet heading to the Philippines off the Indo-China coast. They were threatened by several Zeros and Don was about to shoot at them when his aircraft commander - the future Admiral John Hyland told Don to "don't shoot or you'll start the war!" Don believed that there was a good chance that had he shot down the enemy plane the Zeros would have fired on the their PBY immediately starting hostilities and the Pearl Harbor disaster might never have happened. After retiring from the Navy Don undertook a short stint as head of sales for an airplane electronics firm in Scottsdale, AZ but in 1958 he moved back to National City and opened "Dick's Gulf" service station at 40th and University. There he provided a great place to work for all of his son's friends and the business was a prominent fixture at the top of the Wabash Freeway for over 20 years. In 1981, Don "retired" again and started work at Navajo Golf Course where he worked in the pro shop until he was 80. Don also found time to teach some aviation related courses at Grossmont Junior College. In 1998, Don retired for the third time and focused his attention on having daily "spirited discussions" with his still beautiful wife Mary as well as following and supporting the careers of his sons and the progress of his grandchildren Chaucy, Mavrik and Amy. With the passing of his beloved Mary in 2009, Don took to staying around the house sitting out front in the driveway sipping a Budweiser and yelling at the kids driving by to "slow the hell down!" Don's last big adventure was a solo-driving trip to Utah, Idaho, Las Vegas and Wyoming at the age of 97 where he received his first speeding ticket. Rumor has it Jon Lucas and Scott Moore saw CDR Dixon in action in Vegas and immediately penned The Hangover. The most endearing image many of CDR Dixon's friends had of him through the years was when Don would dance the Irish Jig with a shot glass full of Johnny Walker on his head and never spill a drop! CDR Dixon is survived by his son Donald, his wife Maureen, and their two children Chaucy and Mavrik; his youngest son Mike and his stepdaughter Amy as well as his son in spirit, naval aviator CPT Daniel Hacker USN Retired. Services and interment for CDR Dixon will be held at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, June 6, 2012 at 12:00 Noon.

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Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on May 27, 2012
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