|Donald L. Rodewald
CAHS Honored in 1986
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Lt. Colonel (Retired) Donald Rodewald is a citizen of Lake City, Colorado. He was born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on September 7, 1918. "Rode" started early in the flying business by soloing his father's J-2 Cub on skis from a strip in Spring Green, Wisconsin, in February 1936. He won his license in the same year.
He served as an aircraft armorer for the first Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan after which he was sent to China to serve with the Flying Tigers, the American Volunteer Group (AVG). He served there also as an enlisted armorer, but in July 1942 he received a field commission and became the armament officer for his group.
In December 1942, he returned to the United States to enter pilot training, receiving his wings in September of 1943. He went assigned to Eglin Field, Florida, as a flight test pilot in armament, working with P-5ls that were to be used as fighter escorts for B-29 flights to Japan. After another tour in China he returned to Air Proving Grounds at Eglin as chief of the weapons branch. After the war, he attended military schools and worked with the rocket firing systems of jet fighters.
"Rode" was assigned to the Korean War initially to troubleshoot F-8 gunsights, and when then to fly combat flights over the lines. He shot down a MiG 15. Later, on a second combat tour in Korea, he completed another 15 missions, receiving holes in his aircraft, but downing no more MiGs.
After returning to the United States, "Rode" was assigned to the Research and Development program on the century series jet fighters. On a return flight from Wright-Patterson to Washington in a T-33, he crashed on a night instrument approach. This resulted in nine months hospitalization, after which, he was discharged from the hospital as a paraplegic. Shortly after that, he inaugurated a long and successful term of employment with Lockheed Aircraft Corp. as a Customer Relations Representative. His personality and devotion to duty made him most valuable in that job.
Not to be kept down, "Rode" learned to fly again in a specially equipped Comanche 260. In 1984 he made a solos flight around the world in his Comanche. During this trip, he flew 232 flying hours, 31,350 nautical miles, 34 landings, and 24 countries, all of which was done with only his wheelchair for company. For this accomplishment, "Rode" has received many well-deserved honors from flying groups and government agencies. These included the Daedalians Distinguished Achievement Award, the first time it had been given; and awards from the Air Force Association, Flying Tigers, Wheel Chair Flyers Association, the Colorado General Assembly, and other organizations.
His home in Lake City is the "Tiger's Lair", named for the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group (AVG).