John R. Dolny, A-36 Fighter-Bomber Pilot, P-47 & P-40 Pilot, MN Aviation Hall of Fame, MN Air National Guard

Mn Aviation Hall of Fame Inductee:
Major General John R. Dolny
b. 1921

Minneapolis native John Dolny enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1942 and received his Pilot's Wings and Officer's Commission in July 1943. After training in the US, he was shipped to North Africa via the "southern route" through Brazil to the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group* 12th Air Force, as a replacement pilot flying the A-36* in support of the Fifth Army. He was engaged in the Invasion of Salerno, Italy in September 1943. On one mission near the beachhead of Anzio, Italy, his aircraft was struck by enemy ground fire and he bailed out, at low altitude and headfirst, barely landing in Allied territory. The breakout at Anzio occurred earlier that day.

The 86th continued to battle the enemy through Naples, then Rome, and up the Italian "boot" to Pisa. In June of 1944 Lt. Dolny was transferred from the 526th Squadron to the 527th Squadron as the Commanding Officer, where he transitioned from the A-36 to the P-47** Thunderbolt aircraft. For a short period they were also flying the P-40 Warhawk.*** 

During  this second tour of duty, he was squadron commander of the 527th Squadron of the 86th and logged 134 ground support missions by the end of the war. He was now a Major. He flew combat missions in Italy, Corsica, Southern France in support of the invasion and advance and Germany. The war in Europe ended in May 1945 with the 86th's last station - Gross Gerau, a small town South of Frankfurt, Germany.

Awards: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Air Medal - 7 Clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, Two Presidential Unit Citations, and many Campaign Ribbons.

On his return to the States, Major Dolny joined the Minnesota Air Guard and took over command from General Ray Miller. Under his leadership, the Minneapolis unit transitioned from a fighter-interceptor role to a transport role while the Duluth unit became a fighter-interceptor group. He also served as the National Guard advisor to the Air Defense Command. During his career he served in a number of major commands, such as the Strategic Airlift, Tactical Airlift, North American Air Defense, and many others. He retired in 1981 as a Major General and Command Pilot with over 10,000 flight hours. He attends the annual 86th Group reunions.

Inducted into the MN Aviation Hall of Fame 1998

Brothers John, Ray, Len, and Ed Dolny (the latter is now deceased) are the most distinguished family of pilots in Minnesota Aviation History. See John's brothers' webpages.

*The 86th Fighter-Bomber Group's History. The Group was constituted as 86th Bombardment Group (Light) on 13-Jan 1942, and activated on 10 Feb 1942. It was redesignated 86th Bombardment Group (Dive) in Sep 1942, 86th Fighter-Bomber Group in Aug 1943, and 86th Fighter Group in May 1944.

In March through May of 1943, they moved to North Africa and trained until July, then began combat with Twelfth Air Force. They were engaged primarily in close support of ground forces, with the group moving forward to bases in Sicily, Italy, Corsica, France, and Germany as the battle line changed. Patrol and interdictory missions were also flown. A-36, P-40, and P-47 aircraft were used to attack convoys, trains, ammunition dumps, troop and supply columns, shipping, bridges, rail lines, and other objectives.

They participated in the softening up of Sicily and supported the invasion by Seventh Army in July of 1943, and provided cover for the landings at Salerno in September of that year. The Group assisted the Allied advance toward Rome during Jan-Jun 1944. They supported the invasion of Southern France in Aug 1944, and worked to take out enemy communications in northern Italy from Sep 1944 to April 1945. They attacked enemy transportation in Germany during April and May 1945.


* The North American A-36 Apache was the ground-attack/dive bomber version of the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, from which it could be distinguished by the presence of rectangular, slatted dive brakes above and below the wings. Wikipedia
Top speed: 365 mph (587 km/h)
Wingspan: 37' (11 m)
Length: 32' (9.83 m)
First flight: October 1942
Retired: 1945

**There is also a painting of John Dolny's P-47 at the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group's website described as the "P-47 as flown by John Dolny (now Major General), marked with the name Sandra Lee for his niece, with his aircraft number 70, and with a candystriped tail."

*** At one point the squadron was also using P-40 Warhawks due to a shortage of more powerful planes.