Pratt, Don Forester, BG

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Last Rank
Brigadier General
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
00GD-Commanding General (Deputy)
Last MOS Group
General Officer
Primary Unit
1942-1944, 101st Airborne Division
Service Years
1917 - 1944


Brigadier General

Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
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Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Haute-Normandie, France

Casualty Date
Jun 06, 1944
Non Hostile- Died Other Causes
Air Loss, Crash - Land
World War II
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 11, Site 707-SH

 Official Badges 

Infantry Shoulder Cord

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
World War II Fallen
  1944, World War II Fallen [Verified]

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 Ribbon Bar

Airborne Glider Badge

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
U.S. Army2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry Infantry Center and School (Staff) Fort Benning, GA43rd Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division
  1917-1919, American Expeditionary Force
  1932-1932, 15th Infantry Regiment Chinese Language Course
  1932-1936, 2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry
  1937-1941, Infantry Center and School (Staff) Fort Benning, GA
  1941-1942, 43rd Infantry Division
  1942-1944, 101st Airborne Division
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1918-1918 World War I/Aisne Campaign/World War I/The Battle of Cantigny
  1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Normandy Campaign (1944)/Operation Overlord/D-Day Beach Landings - Operation Neptune
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Don Forrester Pratt (July 12, 1892 - June 6, 1944) was a United States Army general in World War II. He was Assistant Division Commander of the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day and was the highest ranking casualty of the battle on either side for the Normandy Landings.


Early life

Born in Brookfield, Missouri, received his military commission after he enlisted for World War I, in August 1917, as Second Lieutenant.

From 1932 to 1936 he served as Adjutant, 15th Infantry Regiment, in Tientsin, China. Next he was an instructor, for the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, from 1937 unit 1941. Upon the United States entry into World War II, he was named Chief-of-Staff, 43rd Infantry Division, 1941-1942. His next assignment, in August 1942, was as the Deputy Commander, for the newly formed 101st Airborne Division, at the rank of Brigadier General. Pratt was named the Assistant Division Commander on September 15, 1943, under Major General William C. Lee. Stationed near the town of Newbury, England, on February 9, 1944, Lee suffered a major heart attack. Pratt thought the he would be chosen to succeed Lee, but Maxwell D. Taylor, then 82nd Airborne Artillery Commander, was given command of the 101st Airborne.

Invasion of Normandy

For the American airborne landings as part of the Invasion of Normandy General Pratt, originally assigned to command the division train and reserve troops of the 101st to be landed by sea, received permission to land with a force of CG-4A Waco gliders assigned to Mission Chicago, the first U.S. glider assault during the invasion.

Pratt flew as a passenger (along with his aide 1st Lieutenant John L. May), in the lead glider, a quickly substituted CG-4A with a bolt-on Griswold nose protection device, painted to represent The Fighting Falcon. The original "Fighting Falcon" was moved to position #45 in the flight serial. It was a CG-4A paid for by War Bond funds raised by Greenville, Michigan students who intended to raise the $17,000 cost of one glider, but ended up raising over $72,000.[2] Piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Mike Murphy, senior glider pilot of IX Troop Carrier Command (and Second Lieutenant John M. Butler), the #1 glider came down into its designated landing zone, LZ "E", two miles west of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Manche, Normandy, between 0345 and 0400 hours on June 6, 1944.

The Waco glider landed successfully but when Lt. Col. Murphy applied the brakes, the tall wet grass caused the glider to skid without significant slowing and it overran the landing zone, crashing into a hedgerow line of 40-foot tall poplar trees. Lt. Col. Murphy suffered severe injuries, with both legs broken, one a compound fracture. Pratt and Butler were killed. A tree limb came through the co-pilot side of the cockpit, killing Butler. Pratt, sitting in the Jeep, died from a broken neck resulting from whiplash. The Jeep was not chained, but was tied down with nylon rope and did not break loose. Lt. May was riding on the jump seat behind the Jeep and survived the crash.

He was first buried, wrapped in a parachute, in Normandy until the end of the war, then reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery July 26, 1948.


The incident was fictionalized as a scene in the film Saving Private Ryan, with Pratt becoming Brigadier General Amend..

Don Forester Pratt was born at Brookfield, Missouri, July 12, 1892, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, United States Infantry, August 1917; he advanced through the ranks to Brigadier General, August 1942.

He served as Adjutant, 15th Infantry, Tientsin, China, 1932-36; Instructor, Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, 1937-41; Chief-of-Staff, 43rd Infantry Division, 41-42; Deputy Commander, 101st Airborne Division, Aug 1942. He was the Deputy Commander, under Maxwell Taylor, of the 101st Airborne and killed while taking part in Allied invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 11) July 26, 1948. He was first buried in France until the wars end. 

Lee's (Major General William Lee) Screaming Eagles were billeted in villages and towns in the counties (shires) of Berkshire and Wiltshire in the south of England. Lee and his Assistant Division Commander, the diminutive 51-year-old Brigadier General Donald F. Pratt, opened a command post just outside Newbury. Now fate dealt a cruel blow to Bill Lee. Command of a crack airborne Division in a major combat operation had been his dream for four years. While with his troops in field, however, on February 9, the Screaming Eagles Commander suffered a major heart attack and was rushed to the hosp. Ten days later, Lee's doctors gave him crushing news. He would have to be sent to US for treatment. His dream would never be fulfilled.

No doubt as Assistant Division Commander, Pratt felt that he was the heir apparent to succeed Lee. For whatever their reasons, Eisenhower and Bradley turned thumbs down on Pratt and brought in highly regarded Brigadier General Maxwell Taylor, the 82nd Airborne Artillery Commander, to lead the Screaming Eagles. Taylor flew to England from Italy, and on March 14, he formally took over.

With all of 101st Airborne's paratroopers on the ground, dead or alive, the Division's 52 gliders making the initial assault were winging through the moonlight toward landing zone E, two miles west of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. Piloting the lead glider (named for the Fighting Falcon) was Lieutenant Colonel Mike Murphy, who had been one the nation's best-known stunt pilots before the war. Had been asked by Henry "Hap" Arnold to reorganize the training of glider pilots, whose development had been bogged down in red tape and incompetency. Seated beside Murphy was Pratt, Assistant Division Commander. Pratt had been designated to command the Division's tail -a water lift - which was an ignominious fate for an airborne soldier. So he had been elated when it was decided to permit him to go into combat in a glider.

At 4:00 am, Mike Murphy spotted landing zone, which Screaming Eagle pathfinders had marked with light patterns. Zooming down, Murphy had perfect text book landing, locking the brakes, and the glider skidded across the wet pasture for more than 700 feet, then smashed with enormous impact into tall poplar trees. If a glider pilot were to survive the Russian-roulette chances involved in landing, his body usually paid a heavy price. Murphy broke both legs. Pratt was crushed to death when a chained jeep broke loose on collision with the sturdy trees. Pratt became the second US airborne General to be killed in action (Charles Keerans of 82nd Airborne had lost his life in Sicily).

On hearing of Pratt's death, Max Taylor would bypass two regimental commanders senior in age and grade, Bob Sink and Howard Johnson, and name his 34-year-old Chief-of-Staff, Gerry Higgins to be 101st Airborne's Assistant Commander. Elsewhere in the airhead, a small group of airborne officers gathered solemnly around a fresh, deep excavation in a pasture. Wrapped in a parachute, Screaming Eagle Pratt was buried. There was no official salute of guns, it was not necessary. All during the service, artillery pounded away and rifles cracked in background.

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