Donald Umphfres was born on July 1, 1921, in Nowata, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on July 7, 1941, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Navy on October 29, 1941. He was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and designated a Naval Aviator on April 23, 1942, and then remained at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, as a flight instructor until November 1942. LtJg Umphfres served as a flight instructor at NAS Grosse Ile, Michigan, from November 1942 to February 1944, followed by carrier flight training, F6F Hellcat transition training, and Night Fighter training from February to August 1944. He served as an F6F-5N pilot with VF(N)-110 and Night Attack Combat Training Unit Atlantic from August to December 1944, and with Night Attack Combat Training Unit Pacific from December 1944 to February 1945. Lt Umphres next served as an F6F-5N pilot with VF-83 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) in the Pacific from February to September 1945, and during this time he was credited with the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. His final assignment was as a test pilot at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, from September 1945 until he was killed in a flying accident while flying a P-80 Shooting Star on June 4, 1947.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.