Don Strait was born on April 28, 1918, in East Orange, New Jersey. He enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard on January 14, 1940, and served with the 119th Observation Squadron from January 1940, through Federal Activation on September 16, 1940, until he was selected for the Aviation Cadet Program in March 1942. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army Air Forces and was awarded his pilot wings on January 14, 1943, followed by P-47 Thunderbolt transition training from January to March 1943. Lt Strait then joined the 361st Fighter Squadron of the 356th Fighter Group, deploying with his unit to England in August 1943. He was credited with the destruction of 3 enemy aircraft in aerial combat flying P-47's, and 10.5 more after the squadron transitioned to P-51 Mustangs in November 1944, for a total of 13.5 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air during World War II. Maj Strait served as Operations Officer and later Commander of the 361st Fighter Squadron, returning to the U.S. in March 1945. After returning to the U.S., he served in the Office of Flying Safety at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from June 1945 until he left active duty on November 18, 1945. Maj Strait joined the New Jersey Air National Guard in October 1946, and served as Operations Officer of the 108th Fighter Group from October 1946 to October 1947, followed by service as Commander of the 119th Fighter Squadron from November 1947 to May 1948. Col Strait's next assignment was as Deputy Commander of the 108th Fighter Group from June 1948 to January 1950, and then as Commander of the 108th Fighter Group and then the 108th Fighter Wing from February 1950 until he was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Air Force on March 1, 1951. Col Strait served as Director of Operations for the 108th Fighter-Bomber Wing from March 1951 to January 1952, and then as Commanding Officer of the 108th Fighter-Bomber Group from January 1952 until he left active duty and returned to the New Jersey Air National Guard on December 1, 1952. Gen Strait next served as Commander of the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing and Commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard from December 1952 to June 1965, during which time he was activated for the Berlin Crisis from October 1, 1961, to August 20, 1962, and for the Cuban Missile Crisis from October 28 to December 15, 1962. His final assignment was as Assistant Chief of Staff for Air with the New Jersey Department of Defense from June 1965 until his retirement on January 1, 1976. Don married Louise Lyon in May 1945, and they have three children. Donald Strait was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action while escorting heavy bombers on three (3) missions over Germany, 19 May 1944, 26 November 1944, and 5 December 1944. On the first mission, Captain Strait, with a flight of four (4) P-47's, attacked approximately forty (40) enemy fighters preparing to intercept the bombers. During the ensuing battle he destroyed one (1) ME-109 while his Flight accounted for two (2) more. The mission dispatched 26 November 1944 was carried out with the same high degree of success when Captain Strait and his Squadron frustrated an assault by approximately one hundred and fifty (150) enemy aircraft. Twelve (12) enemy planes were destroyed, one (1) probably destroyed, and three (3) were damaged. Captain Strait personally destroyed one plane and shared in the destruction of another. While leading a flight of fighters on the 5 December 1944 operation, approximately forty (40) FW-190's were encountered. Four (4) of them were shot down, two (2) by Captain Strait, and the enemy was dispersed. The superb leadership and dauntless courage displayed by Captain Strait in attacking a vastly superior force on each of these occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.