Donald Emerson was born on May 17, 1923, in Joliette Township, North Dakota. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces on June 30, 1942, and was trained as an armorer at Lowry Field, Colorado, before entering the Aviation Cadet Program in December 1942. Emerson was commissioned a 2nd Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Craig Field, Alabama, on October 1, 1943, and then completed fighter combat training in the P-51 Mustang in December 1943. Lt Emerson joined the 336th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group in England in March 1944, and flew 89 combat missions before being killed in action on Christmas Day, December 25, 1944. Capt Emerson was credited with destroying 4.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 1 probable, and another 2.5 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. He is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.
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.