Donald LaBarre was born on December 31, 1942, in New Jersey. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on June 23, 1961, completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in August 1961, and Aerospace Ground Equipment training at Chanute AFB, Illinois, in March 1962. His first assignment was as an Aerospace Ground Equipment mechanic with the 81st Consolidated Maintenance Squadron at RAF Bentwaters, England, from March 1962 to May 1964, followed by service as an Aerospace Ground Equipment mechanic with the 99th Field Maintenance Squadron at Westover AFB, Massachusetts, from May 1964 to January 1965. Sgt LaBarre attended Helicopter Maintenance School at Sheppard AFB, Texas, from January to June 1965, and then served as a helicopter mechanic with the 4756th Air Defense Wing at Tyndall AFB, Florida, from June 1965 to September 1966. His next assignment was as a helicopter mechanic and then as an HH-43B Huskie helicopter flight engineer with Detachment 2 of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from September 1966 to October 1967. He served as a helicopter flight engineer with Detachment 8 of the Eastern Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Center at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, from October 1967 to February 1969, and then as an HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant flight engineer with the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from February 1969 to January 1970. Sgt LaBarre's next assignment was as an instructor with the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Training Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, from January 1970 to July 1971, and during this time he served as flight engineer aboard the HH-53 "Apple Four" during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. He served as an instructor with the 1550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, from July 1971 to October 1972, and then as an HH-3E maintenance technician at Howard AFB, Panama, from October 1972 to March 1975. MSgt LaBarre's next assignment was as an Air Force Flight Mechanic Advisor to the 106th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group with the New York Air National Guard at Suffolk County Airport in Westhampton Beach, New York, from April 1975 to August 1976, followed by service as the Heavy Lift Helicopter Stand/Eval Flight Mechanic with the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, from August 1976 to August 1978. SMSgt LaBarre served as NCOIC of Flight Engineers and First Sergeant of the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at RAF Woodbridge, England, from September 1978 to June 1982, and then with 21st Air Force at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, from June 1982 to June 1983. His final assignment was at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from June 1983 until his retirement from the Air Force on December 1, 1985.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Staff Sergeant Donald LaBarre distinguished himself by gallantry as a volunteer in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States during the Prisoner of War search and rescue operation at Son Tay, North Vietnam, on 21 November 1970. On that date, Sergeant LaBarre, flying as a Flight Engineer-Gunner in a helicopter prepared to carry out the ground rescue party and freed prisoners, flew deep into the heart of enemy territory in a bold night attempt to rescue American Prisoners of War. Throughout the entire mission, he manned his position with bravery and aggressiveness while maintaining the critical fire discipline necessary for properly conducting this humanitarian operation. During the return, he was a vital crew member in the pickup of a downed fighter pilot. The personal skill and extreme courage displayed by Sergeant LaBarre in this very hazardous rescue attempt contributed immeasurably to the ultimate effectiveness and success of the mission. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant LaBarre has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.