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Civilian Test Pilot for Navy
1943-1945 | Alameda Naval Air Station, CA
Don H. Kirkman was a civilian attached to the Navy as a test pilot. His flight crew worked on the PV2 Torpedo Bomber and he helped develop better landing gear for carrier-based airplanes. He also helped in the development of radar for use by the Navy. Because of the secrecy necessary, he was unable to tell his family or friends about his work with radar until 1995. However, his high security clearance remained in effect and was useful as he was the requested driver from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Sun Valley, Idaho, for the Kennedy family in the 1960's and 1970's. Senator Edward Kennedy asked that Don drive him personally and alone from Sun Valley to Boise and to take him to and through as many Indian reservations possible. Senator Kennedy informed his Secret Service that they would not be needed because of Don's security clearance. The two men developed a cordial relationship and enjoyed several more visits before the untimely and tragic death of Senator Kennedy.
As a young single man, Don was known for his knowledge and ability in the outdoors of central Idaho. On one occasion, a man came up to him and said: "I hear you know where there are pheasants so thick they're nesting in the trees and on the fences." "Yes, sir." answered Don. "You're a damn liar." said the man. Don told him to be ready at 5 the next morning and he would pick him up and three of his friends and to bring their guns. Next morning Don drove his panel truck and picked up the men and their guns.
After driving about an hour Don slowed the truck to a stop, told them to get out quietly and not start shooting until all were ready. And sure enough, there were hundreds and hundreds of pheasants just as described! However, the man who had approached Don the night before jumped out of the truck and started firing as fast and indiscriminately as he could to the dismay and anger of the other men. Don had to reach over the hood of the car and push away the barrel of a gun pointed right at the first shooter. Don quietly said: "Now Mr. Crosby, you better not shoot Mr. Hemingway. There could be trouble." Yes, Bing Crosby was taking aim at Ernest Hemingway. However, there were enough and more pheasants for all to take back to Hemingway's place in Hailey.