Donald Welch was born on September 17, 1919, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 8, 1938, and completed basic training and advanced training at NTS Newport, Rhode Island, in November 1938. Sea2c Welch then completed Ordnance School at NTS Norfolk, Virginia, in June 1939, followed by service as a Fire Controlman and Gun Range-finder Operator aboard the light cruiser USS Nashville (CL-43) from July 1939 to February 1942. FC2c Welch then transferred to the submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) during her fitting out from February to April 1942, and then through her commissioning until he was killed in action during a confrontation with the armed Japanese freighter Kano Maru on July 30, 1942. On August 22, 2007, a search team organized by the three sons of CDR Mannert Abele (the Captain of the Grunion when she was sunk) used a remotely operated vehicle to find a sunken vessel 3,000 feet down in the Bering Sea north of Kiska Island at the tip of the Aleutian Islands. On October 1, 2008, the U.S. Navy announced that the sunken vessel is the World War II submarine USS Grunion (SS-216).
His Navy Commendation Medal Citation reads:
For meritorious conduct as a member of the crew of the U.S.S. GRUNION which destroyed three enemy destroyers while engaged in a war patrol in enemy controlled waters. Despite severe and persistent anti-submarine measures resulting from these three successful attacks, the GRUNION was brought safely through the counter attacks and continued an aggressive war patrol. As a member of the crew of the GRUNION, your performance of duty was an important and material contribution to the prosecution of this war.