Donald Edwin Shaw, 79, a decorated World War II veteran and a retired senior program analyst at the Energy Department, died of a stroke May 14 while on a cruise with his wife in the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and Madeira, Portugal. He lived in Bethesda.
He joined the Army Air Forces in 1943 and a year later was piloting a B-26 Marauder over occupied France and Italy. During World War II, he flew 42 missions in the European theater with the 319th Bomb Group, 438th Squadron. Later, he was redeployed with his unit, known as the Flying Circus, to Okinawa, where he piloted seven missions over China and Japan.
Col. Shaw's unit carried out operations in central Italy to aid the Allied advance to Rome. He made precision bombing runs of rail yards in Rome and Florence.
Flying Circus pilots took off and landed six abreast. In his memoirs, Col. Shaw wrote: "Our runway was six lanes wide which allowed us to get 36 planes in the air in 6 minutes. We saved gasoline because we were already in formation; we used the fuel we saved to extend our missions into southern France and Yugoslavia."
He also recalled one of his more daring landings, as the unit flew west and set down in Okinawa at the new Naha airfield, which was under a mortar attack. "At the signal we cut our engines, turned into the wind and dived out of the plane and slid down a 60 foot slope to safety."
On his 21st birthday on Aug. 6, 1945, he was in the skies over southern Japan when he saw the atomic bomb explosion. "Before we left Naha airfield we were told not to go above a certain latitude. We were at 10,000 feet and one of our group suddenly said over the radio 'what's that cloud in the North?' We all saw a cloud rising to several miles and were amazed," he wrote.
He also served a tour of duty stateside in the Air Force Reserves during the Korean War and retired in 1984 from the Air Force Reserves as a lieutenant colonel. His decorations included five awards of the Bronze Star and the Air Medal.
Col. Shaw was born in Great Barrington, Mass. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
In 1956, he joined the Atomic Energy Commission. He retired from its successor, the Energy Department, in 1986 as a senior program analyst.
He enjoyed hiking with the Potomac Appalachian Club and was a member of the C&O Canal Association. He twice walked the 184 miles of the C&O Canal towpath. He also was a member of the Izaak Walton League of America and former treasurer of the Bradley Boulevard Citizens Association. He was a cross-country skier and an amateur geologist.
Hs first wife, Mary Bell Steadman Shaw, died in 1979.
Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Helen Lessin Shaw of Bethesda; a son from his first marriage, David F. Shaw of West Chester, Pa.; three stepchildren, Lizabeth Fludzinski of Garrett Park, Michael Lessin of Silver Spring and Victoria Lessin of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and five grandchildren.