Don Kilgus was born on June 10, 1937, in Detroit, Michigan. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Wayne State University on June 14, 1960, and went on active duty beginning June 23, 1960. After completing pilot training and F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training, Lt Kilgus served as an F-100 pilot with the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Misawa AB, Japan; at England AFB, Louisiana; and at Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam, from September 1962 to June 1966. During this time, he flew combat in Southeast Asia with several deployments between September 1964 and June 1966, and he was credited with 1 probable air victory on April 5, 1965. His next assignment was as an F-100 instructor pilot with the 4514th and then 4511th Combat Crew Training Squadrons at Luke AFB, Arizona, from June 1966 to December 1969, and during this time he flew as an F-100F Misty Fast Forward Air Controller at Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam, from March to June 1968. Maj Kilgus served as an F-105F Thunderchief Wild Weasel pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from January to October 1970, and then with the 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron (later renamed the 6010th Wild Weasel Squadron) at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from October 1970 to January 1971. During this time he served as pilot of the F-105F "Firebird Five" during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War held in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. Maj Kilgus was forced to eject from his aircraft after being hit by a surface-to-air missile, but was rescued by one of the HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters participating in the raid. His next assignment was as an F-105G Wild Weasel pilot with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from January 1971 to May 1973, having deployed to Korat Royal Thai AFB from April to September 1972, followed by service as an Assistant for Career Motivation and then Chief of the Career Progression Division in the Directorate of Personnel Programs with Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from May 1973 to December 1976. LtCol Kilgus served as Inspector General of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, from December 1976 to November 1977, and then as an F-4 Phantom II and F-15 Eagle pilot and Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Holloman from December 1977 to January 1980. He next served as Commander of the 49th Civil Engineering Squadron at Holloman AFB from January to July 1980, and then as an Inspector General with the Office of the Inspector General with Headquarters U.S. Air Force and then as Chief of the Office of Safety and Nuclear Surety in the Pentagon from July 1980 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 1, 1985. Don Kilgus died in an automobile accident on July 16, 1988, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Don Kilgus was Misty 47.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Major Donald W. Kilgus distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the Prisoner of War Search and Rescue Operation at Son Tay, North Vietnam, on 21 November 1970. On that date, as a member of a flight of fighter aircraft providing cover for the rescue mission, Major Kilgus, in complete disregard for his personal safety, led his flight deep into enemy territory against enemy surface-to-air missile installations. Major Kilgus repeatedly exposed himself to the enemy in an attempt to draw attention and fire away from the slower, more vulnerable rescue aircraft. Consequently, he was forced to take violent action to evade the many surface-to-air missiles fired at him. Despite the danger to his safety, Major Kilgus continued to engage a high threat surface-to-air missile site until he finally silenced it. As a result of his heroic efforts, the enemy missile crews were unable to engage the rescue force. This courageous and aggressive action enabled the rescue forces to complete their mission and successfully withdraw from the objective area. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Major Kilgus has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.