NO. 17813 • March 1927 - 30 June 1996
Died in Ft. Collins , CO
Interred in Grandview Cemetery , Ft Collins, CO
Donald Lee Bohn was born in Bishop, CA, but grew up in Merced, CA, where he graduated from Merced Union High School. Since childhood, Don aspired to join the Long Gray Line at West Point.
Don graduated from New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, NM, before receiving his appointment to West Point. Although his NMMI experience helped ease the transition to Academy life, Plebe year still had plenty of unexpected traumas. Academics were not always easy for Don, but through commitment and tenacity, he passed all his subjects. At worst, he was disciplined for studying after "Taps." Don excelled with the Tactical Department, though, and his uniform, rifle, and other equipment always passed inspection.
After Beast Barracks, Don and Bob Shade asked John Vanston to join them as their roommate in M 1 Company. They shared a second floor room facing the South Area. John remembers how opening the window when they went to bed was one of their continuing disagreements. John favored a small opening while Don and Bob favored a complete opening. Since it was two against one, the window stayed wide open, and they often found snow in the room when they got up in the morning.
Although Don was a fine athlete, he faced a great challenge passing the five minute swim test. Many hours during Plebe year were spent as a member of the Special Swimming Squad. Although Don had excellent form and good endurance, he suffered from negative buoyancy as he continually ended up at the pool's bottom. He eventually passed the swimming test and thought it most funny when, the following summer, he reassured reluctant plebes taking the swimming test.
Don was an exceptional softball player. His roommate, John, remembers a particular demonstration of Don's ability. "At the Academy, plebes sat at one end of the tables on the last four inches of their chairs with their eyes focused on their plates. Typically, when an upper classman wanted a drink refill, they would bang their glass on the table and throw the glass to the plebe at the other end of the table. Occasionally as a lark, an upperclassman would throw the glass well over the plebe's head to an upperclassman standing on a chair behind the plebe. The plebe was then admonished for not catching the glass. One time, around the middle of Plebe year, an upperclassman tried this trick on Don. As Don saw the glass flying over his head, he leaped to his feet, tipped the glass, catching it as he returned to his seat. Don then calmly asked, 'Do you care for water or tea, sir?"
Upon graduation, Don was assigned as a platoon leader in the 11th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Ft. Lewis. In December 1951, after completing radar school at Ft. Bliss, Don was assigned to the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2d Armored Division, Germany, as a counter radar mortar officer and battery executive officer. He was reunited in Germany with John Vanston, who remembers Don as smart, funny, honest, friendly, and dedicated.
Upon hearing that the caserne could send one team to a Seventh Army tennis tournament in Garmisch, the pair requested permission to attend. To their surprise, the commander said yes. The tandem’s play, unrefined and unorthodox, confused their opponents as they won the first two games. Then, however, their opponents adjusted to their awkward style and dispatched them without fanfare.
Don was challenged by his work with mortar suppression radar. For many months he toiled to make the system work, with little or no success. After endless attempts, he finally got an accurate reading on a mortar site. It was his greatest triumph since the five minute swim test.
In 1955, CAPT Bohn transferred to Ft. Sill, OK, where he commanded the 2d "Honest John" Battery, and attended the Advanced Course, after which he became a battery commander with the 451st AAA Battalion "Sky Sweepers," March Air Force Base, CA. In 1957, he attended the Guided Missile Staff Officers Course at Ft. Bliss, after which he was assigned as a battery commander with the 4th Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery Regiment, Swansea, MA.
After Don graduated in 1962 with a degree in nuclear physics from the Navy Postgraduate School in California, he went to the Chemical School at Ft. McClellan, AL, as an instructor. The following year, he married Jean Dwenger.
Don attended CGSC in 1964 and then returned to the Chemical School. In 1965, he went to Viet Nam, returning the following year to Washington, DC. In 1969, he was sent to Hawaii, where he served on the CINCPAC staff. With his health fading, LTC Bohn retired in 1971.
After retiring, the family moved to Ft. Collins, CO, where Don spent the rest of his life. There he spent time as a real estate agent, property appraiser, chief deputy assessor for Latimer County and was on the state's Division of Property Taxation staff. In 1986, Don had heart bypass surgery and fully retired.
Don loved books and history and researched and authored several manuscripts. He was a student and frequent traveler of the Oregon, Mormon, and Santa Fe Trails and the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Don also studied and documented his family’s genealogy. He collected clocks, cameras, books, and, later in life, motorcycles. He greeted many days with an early morning ride into the mountains.
Don was an individualist, guided always by his unwavering sense of right and wrong. Above all else, he valued honesty. To the end, Don was a student of life and had great adoration and affection for his children and grandchildren and an unwavering love for his wife of 32 years. He was a role model for all who knew him.
His wife and four children survive him.