|Obituary from the online edition of the
San Diego Union-Tribune
Col. Donald Becher; decorated aviator, veteran of three wars
By Jack Williams
September 12, 2002
Early in Col. Donald F. Becher's 36-year military career, he made the transition from the cavalry to the cockpit.
By the time he retired from the Air Force in 1978, he had flown more than 20 types of aircraft and had earned such awards as the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star.
Col. Becher, a veteran of three wars who became a specialist in missile defense, died Sunday at Kaiser Foundation Hospital-San Diego. He was 80.
The cause of death was heart failure, said son James Becher.
After graduating in 1940 from Culver Military Academy in Indiana, Col. Becher was a reservist until being activated in September 1942.
As a second lieutenant in the cavalry, he taught equestrian skills to recruits at Fort Riley, Kan. But in February 1943, when he was accepted for pilot training in San Antonio, his career took a new direction.
During World War II, Col. Becher flew 14 types of aircraft in missions involving the defense of the Panama Canal and patrols in Central and South America.
Recalled to active duty during the Korean War, he served two 90-day tours in England. As a flight-line maintenance officer, he was responsible for 15 aircraft that set a Strategic Air Command record by flying 96 hours each in one month.
In 1956, he was assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he earned an aeronautical engineering degree with a specialty in aircraft damage repair. He received a master of science degree in 1962 from Purdue University, then developed the reliability program for the Atlas and Titan I missiles in San Bernardino.
Col. Becher was assigned in 1967 to the 459th Tactical Airlift Squadron in Vietnam. Flying the C-7 Caribou, a twin-engine military transport, he supported combat operations, including the campaign against the 1968 Tet offensive.
Because of its short takeoff and landing capability, the Caribou proved a valuable resource in delivering troops and supplies to isolated outposts.
Col. Becher's squadron set records for flying time and cargo tonnage, reporting no accidents or injuries. The achievement led to a Bronze Star.
He won a Legion of Merit for his role in missile management from 1968 to 1972. He oversaw depot repair for the Minuteman III and was responsible for procurement and maintenance of munitions for the Air Force during the last years of the Vietnam War.
From October 1974 until retiring from active duty, Col. Becher served in the intercontinental ballistic missile program office at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. He was honored with a second Legion of Merit.
During his military career, he also received the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Col. Becher, a Chicago native, lived in La Mesa for the past 22 years.
As a civilian, he worked from 1981 to 1986 at the Convair Division of General Dynamics, where he was a logistics engineer.
His hobby was following horse racing, and he was a Turf Club regular at Del Mar Racetrack. His memberships included Order of the Daedalians, a fraternal organization of military pilots; and the C-7A Caribou Association.
Survivors include his wife, Eleanor; daughters, Debbie Douglas of Waterford, Mich., Carolyn Tackett of Stow, Ohio, and Karen Debold of Casa Grande, Ariz.; a son, James Becher of Los Angeles; a brother, S.W. Becher of Bellbrook, Ohio; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, San Diego. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, Oct 8 at 9:00am.
Donations are suggested to the Col. Don Becher Memorial Scholarship Fund, Order of Daedalians, San Diego Flight No. 13, in care of treasurer, P.O. Box 45217, San Diego, CA 92145-0217, or to St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Attn: Col. Don Becher Memorial Fund, 8530 Lake Murray Blvd., San Diego, CA 92119-3499.