Donald Davenport Engen was born in Pomona, California, on May 28, 1924, son of Sydney M. and Dorothy (Davenport) Engen. He attended Pasadena (California) Junior College, prior to enlisting on June 9,1942 in the US Naval Reserve. Appointed Aviation Cadet, USNR, he completed flight training and on June 9,1943 was designated Naval Aviator. Commissioned Ensign USNR on the same date, he subsequently advanced in rank, attaining that of Rear Admiral, to date from July 1,1970, having transferred to the Regular Navy on September 5,1946.
After receiving his commission in 1943, he had operational training until August of that year, then Joined Bombing Squadron NINETEEN, which was based on the carrier Lexington during the period June to December 1944. While attached to that squadron he took park in the first aerial strikes on the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa and participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He was awarded the Air Medal, the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross and was cited as follows:
Air Medal: “For meritorious achievement... during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Marianas, Palau, Kazan, Bonin and Philippine Islands, from July 18 to September 24,1944. While participating in numerous strikes against enemy installations and shipping during this period, (he) pressed home his attacks in the face of anti-aircraft Fireland enemy air opposition thereby contributing to the heavy inflicted on the Japanese…”
Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism… in operations against enemy Japanese forces during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, October 25, 1944. Courageous and Skillful in the face of enemy air opposition and extremely intense and continuous fire from hostile anti-aircraft batteries, (he) boldly pressed home a hazardous dive-bombing attack on a Japanese aircraft carrier, and accurately placing his bomb scored a direct hit upon his target, despite desperate evasive tactics. A superb and intrepid airman, he contributed directly to the sinking of the enemy aircraft carrier and played a gallant part in strenuous aerial operations during this critical period of the Pacific War…”
Distinguished Flying Cross: “For heroism and extraordinary achievement… in action against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of the Philippines Islands on November 5,1944. Defying anti-aircraft fire and aerial opposition during a daring strike against enemy shipping, (he) flew in over his target at a perilously low altitude and, perilously low altitude and, pressing home his attack, succeed in inflicting severe damage on an enemy heavy cruiser, thereby contributing materially to its subsequent sinking…”
He is also entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of the Presidential Unit Citation awarded USS Lexington.
In December 1944 he joined Bomber-Fighting Squadron NINETEEN, and in December 1945, after the cessation of hostilities, was detached to return to the United States and was released from active service on February 1,1946.
After his transfer to the Regular Navy in 1946, he was ordered to return to active naval service and in October reported as Project Pilot with the Pilotless Aircraft Unit, Chincoteague, Virginia. He remained there until January 1947, after which he had similar duty at the Naval Air Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, California. While in those assignments he was a pioneer in the development of missiles. From June 1947 to September 1948 he was student( five term college program) at the University of California at Los Angeles, and following an assignment as Operations Officer with Fighter Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWLEVE (night all weather fighter squadron), he reported in April 1949 as Flight Officer of Fighter Squadron FIFTY-ONE. While attached to that squadron he flew the first offensive mission for the US Navy in Korea. He was awarded Gold Stars in lieu of the Second and Third Air Medals and was cited as follows:
Gold Star in lieu of the Second Air Medal: “For meritorious achievement… as Pilot and Section Leader of a jet Fighter in Fight Squadron FIFTY_ONE, attached to USS Valley Forge, in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from July 31 to August 12, 1950. Repeatedly subjected to the hostile antiaircraft fire during this period, Lieutenant Engen pressed home numerous attacks against hostile targets, destroying two aircraft on the ground and damaging two others at Pyongyang airfield, setting fire to a large junk and destroying a tank car at Wonsan, and destroying two grounded aircraft with additional damage to two large oil tanks at Hamburg. In other armed reconnaissance missions, against the North Korean invaders, he destroyed a locomotive and inflicted damage on two others and six railroad cars....”
Gold Star in lieu of the Third Air Medal: “For meritorious achievement. As Pilot of a fighter plane in Flight Squadron FIFTY-ONE… during operations against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from August 13 to September 16, 1950. Completing ten missions during the period, (he) carried out destructive attacks against vital enemy targets, including transportation facilities, air installations and power stations…”
He is also entitled to the Ribbon for and facsimile of the Navy Unit Commendation awarded the USS Valley Forge.
He has instruction at the general Line School, Monterey, California, between January and December 1951, when he became Flight Test Officer in the Office of the Bureau of Aeronautics Representative, Dallas, Texas. As an Exchange Officer, he attended the Empire Test Pilots School, Farnborough, England, for a year, December 1952-December 1953, and in January joined Experimental Squadron THREE as Project Pilot and Type Leader and was engaged in air refueling and new fight aircraft projects. In July 1955 he was assigned to Fighter Squadron TWENTY-ONE as Executive Officer and from August 1957 to October 1959 was attached to the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.
He next joined Fighter Squadron ONE HUNGRED TWENTY-ONE, and from October 1959 to March 1960 command Fighter Squadron TWENTY-ONE. Detached from the latter in October 1961, he assigned to the Air Group eleven in January 1962. A year later he was assigned to USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), as Operations officer, and in April 1964 assumed command of USS Mt. Katmai (AE-16), which under his command, participated in operations in the Vietnam area. In August 1965 he reported for instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and in July 1966 became Commanding Officer of USS America (CVA-66)., which operated in far eastern Mediterranean waters during the Middle East Crisis.
In September 1967 he reported for instruction at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Assigned in September 1968 to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he headed the Aviation Plans Branch until February 1970, served as Assistant Director. He was awarded the Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious service from March 1970 to May 1971.” The citation further states in part: “... During this period, (he) made major contributions to the formulation of plans and policies affecting the security of the United States. His understanding of the role of naval forces as a component of the national strength enabled him to make significant contributions to the revision of the Joint Strategic Objectives Plans…”
In July 1971 he assumed command of Carrier Division FOUR and “for exceptionally meritorious conduct…. March 9 to July 23,1972 as Commander Task Force sixty/ Commander Task Force five hundred two and as Commander Carrier Division FOUR… “he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Legion of Merit. The citation continues in apart: “With innovative planning, imagination execution and brilliant leadership, Rear Admiral Engen contributed substantially and significantly to the development of advanced warfare tactics, improved fleet readiness and strengthened United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ties….”
In June 1973 he became Deputy Commander in Chief, US Naval Forces, Europe and Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.
In Addition to the Navy Cross, the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two Gold Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Rear Admiral Engen has the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four engagement stars: the World War II Victory Medal; the China Service Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; the Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; the Vietnam Service Medal with one star; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one star. He also has the Korean Presidential Unit Citation Badge, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Badge and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device.
He died July 13, 1999.