Lt. Dan Eastman Memories (contributed by Marjorie Cortez)
Lt Dan Eastman, 671st Pilot
Dan Eastman was born on Christmas Day, 1920. Mr. Eastman
is not just an old guy who walks the halls at the rest home, he is a
WWII Hero and we honor his contribution to our freedom.
Mr. Eastman grew up in Tooele, Utah. Initially he worked as a purchasing
and contracting clerk at the airfield in Wendover. All that came to an
end after completing the mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, in the fall of 1941.
Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 for love of
country he enlisted in the military. No one had to explain to him how
lucky he was to live in the United States and how important her freedom was.
"I didn't know if I wanted to be in the Army, the Air Force, or the
Navy," said Eastman, so he "put in" for all of them.
Lt. Eastman gained entry into the 9th Army as a pilot and was stationed
in Wendover and California while he trained to become a pilot in A-20s.
He flew both A-20 and A-26 bombers, including missions on D-Day that
knocked out bridges, German Torpedo boats and supply lines.
After serving in another Bomb Group, he and his crew, Cpl. A.B. Eaton
and and Cpl. R.J. Johnson were assigned to the 416th Bomber Group, 671st
Squadron in the early part of August, 1944. (671st Bomb Squadron History)
Their first bombing mission on 1944-08-25 in an A-20 43-9956.
Lt. Eastman's last mission combat mission to take out a bridge in France
with SSgt Robert J. Johnson as gunner. Six planes from the 671st Bomb
Group went out that day. One, his, came back.
"Gunners were shooting at us," he said. "So I turned, best turn I ever
made because my plane, the nose of it, was headed straight into the
Seine River crossing."
"You blew up the bridge?"
"I blew up the bridge."
Without a navigator, he was able to find his way back to familiar
territory in England, and land his plane.
Calm and cool in the cockpit, he was shaking at the end of the flight.
It would be his last combat mission.
His last mission # 229, to Lippe, Germany Landing Grounds was on Sunday
March, 3 1945 in an A-26, 43-22419 with SSgt Robert J. Johnson as
gunner. Solid cloud cover made it necessary to attack with PPF, (Path
Finder) equipment. 268, 500 pound demolition bombs were dropped. Capt
Stebbins, Lts Calloway and McQuade, B&N, and Capt Rooney, Lts Kerns and
Muir, B&N, were box leaders.
"I'm just one of the many who accomplished the things that are almost
impossible." Eastman has honored his friends who died on his final bombing run his
entire retirement from the Army Air Corps.
Upon honorable discharge he joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve and also
the Utah National Guard.
After the service, he married Lavelle Mortensen. They had met when she
sold him a movie ticket at the Ritz Theater on Main Street in Tooele. He
and Lavelle moved to San Francisco, where he studied mortuary science.
The union blessed them with four children, Alan, Julie, Scott and Kelly.
He returned to Utah with designs on attending medical school, but he had
to scrub those plans after his son, Alan, contracted polio.
The couple later divorced.
After shelving his medical school plans, Eastman returned to working as
a funeral service director. He conducted his last funeral service in
2006, Alan Eastman said. The elder Eastman said although funeral homes
are private businesses, he viewed handling people's funeral arrangements
as a form of service, too.
"The reason I'm so proud of that part of my life is I went from serving
some of the people to serving a lot people," he said. "The funeral
service business is a great gift to our country, not because of me
particularly, but all the funeral directors I know spend all of their
time helping other people."
He remarried. His second wife died a few years ago.
He has macular degeneration and he is legally blind. His participation
in a trial at the University of Utah's Moran Eye Center gave him some
hope, but unfortunately it was too late for him," said his son.
For his 90th birthday, his children throw him a nice birthday party. It
was only the second birthday party of his entire life.
At 96, Mr. Eastman, a resident of Olympus Ranch Retirement Community,
still dances the jitterbug, tells a good joke and maintains a 180
average in a Wii bowling league.
Article by Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News Utah