RIP My friend Tom Doll, fellow airplane nut and writer
Just heard that Tom Doll has made his last rolling takeoff from the flight deck, headed west.
Tom was an amazing writer, a real lover of naval aviation (go google him at Amazon and see all the books he wrote that you’ve read at one time or another). He was also extremely generous with his knowledge and experience. I’d met him at events over the years, but we became friends when he saw a post I made on FB back about 9 years ago, that I’d gotten a commission from Osprey to do what turned out to be the Aces of VF-2 book. He sent me a PM that if I needed help illustrating the book, to contact him, and left his e-mail.
As it turned out, I did need help, and he was very generous with both photos and some stories of VF-2 guys he had met over the years, stories that hadn’t been “told to death.” He also put me in touch with the Hornet Air Group 2 guys I was able to interview, which really brought things alive. That book set me up with Osprey. Marcus Cowper liked it so much he asked me if I’d like to take a whack at an idea he had for a campaigns book on Chosin. That didn’t work out, but when I told him I had the interviews in the drawer I did from trying to write a screenplay, that turned into “Frozen Chosen” and “we never looked back,” as they say. And that would never have happened if Tom hadn’t been the mensch he was with his info on Air Group 2.
The thing I like best about what I do for a living is the people I get to meet, who I’d never meet otherwise. Not just the folks who end up in the stories, but all the other crazy wonderful guys who toiled in the same field. Losing Tom Doll and Eric Hammel inside a month of each other really makes 2020 the @@#$#@$#@! year it is.
Fair skies and a warm sun through the canopy, my friend.
Update: here is an obituary
Now I know why he didn’t answer that e-mail back in early July.
On July 10, 2020, the aviation world lost a dear and devoted friend, with the passing of Tom Doll at the
age of 81. Tom was one of a rare breed of men who not only fulfilled his desire to work in aviation, but
he loved the lore and history of aviation so much, that he sought out the famous aviators and other folks in the industry, to record their stories and as such, went on to author over a dozen books and just as many magazine articles. Tom didn’t stop there, he was also an accomplished artist and painted quite a few caricatures and logos while working at the Lockheed “Skunk Works”.
Hollywood sought out Tom’s skills with consulting work on the 1970 blockbuster “Tora Tora Tora”, and of course Terwilliger Productions glamorous look at SoCal’s historic Van Nuys airport with the documentary “One Six Right.”
Tom was born in St. Louis, on August 29, 1938. Growing up in Pine Lawn, Missouri, Tom attended grade school at St. Paul the Apostle, then went on to DeAndreis and Normandy High School. Aftermoving to California in 1955, Tom worked at the Fisher Body Van Nuys assembly plant building 1957and 58 Chevrolets.
As a professional musician, Tom played the drums and worked in pick-up bands and as a fill-in whenever the union would call. On one gig, Tom got to play backup to a relatively unknown teenage singer by the name of Richie Valens at the Pacoima American Legion Hall!
Tom finally got into aviation in the early 60’s at the Beechcraft dealership at Van Nuys airport. Moving over to Burbank airport in 1963, Tom worked as a surplus salesman for Flying Tiger Airlines. As the name implies, yes this airline was founded and ran by the same aviators who commanded the skies over China in 1940 with their brightly painted Curtiss P-40’s, and known as the AVG or American Volunteer Group commanded by General Claire Chennault. One of the pilots, Tommy Haywood became a good friend of Tom’s.
In the mid 60’s Lockheed Aircraft Corporation made Tom an offer “he couldn’t refuse”and it must have been a good one as Tom stayed there for 25 years and retired as a Master aircraft painter and artist! Truth be told, Tom would most likely have worked for free as long as he was around airplanes. Mixed in with authoring some of his very first books, Tom treasured every moment, while volunteering at both Ed Maloney’s Planes of Fame museum and Frank Tallman’s Movieland of the Air. As if that were not enough, Tom also found time to serve as VP and President for IPMS Los Angeles from 1966 – 69.
After retiring from Lockheed in the mid 80’s, Tom continued to research and write numerous books on USMC, USN, and USCG aircraft, and was co-founder of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society. He also loved building models in his spare time, and if a kit did not exist, no problem, Tom would get a set of plans and start carving out a piece of wood! Always a dear friend, Tom was quick to answer any question about aviation or send photos with detailed explanations to anyone requesting such material.
He joins a sadly growing list of men, humble all, who were of the same mark. Men such as Pete Bowers, Harry Gann, Bill Riley, and many more who were so devoted to insuring that the history of aviation was properly chronicled for all generations. Tom is survived by his loving wife of 63 years Rosalind, 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. A Memorial Service is being planned and will be held via Zoom in the near future. If you would like to participate in this meeting please contact Linda VanCourt at [email protected] or text 818-322-5371. Flowers may be sent to the following address:314 South Main St. # 78Angels Camp, CA 95222