Wayne Edward Downing

November 11, 1919August 4, 2018
Play Tribute Movie Play Tribute Movie

Wayne Edward Downing, aka “Speed,” died peacefully on August 4, 2018 at his home in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 98 years old.

One of the few remaining WWII combat pilots, he was born Armistice Day, now commonly known as Veteran’s Day, on November 11, 1919, to Wayne Wallace and Doris (Selleck) Downing.

Wayne spent most of his youth in Duluth, Minnesota, before moving back to Iowa with his parents and younger brother, Norris Selleck Downing. After graduating high school in Sioux City, Iowa, he completed three years of college at Denver University before volunteering in the aviation cadet program. It was there that he quickly discovered his passion for flying. Later degrees were earned at Arizona University (B.S., 1958) and Maine University (M.Ed., 1963).

Wayne was a fiercely proud Air Force veteran. During WWII, he flew 86 combat missions from England and France as an A-20 Havoc and A-26 Invader pilot of the 416th Bomb Group. While in Europe, he met Norma Raley Downing, a US Army nurse who landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France in July 1944. They were married on October 20, 1944, in Cherbourg, France. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 17 Air Medals, 6 ETO Battle Stars, and two Presidential Unit Citations.

After WWII ended, he continued his service to participate in Search and Recovery of Body Bones, Bombs and Aircraft crashes not yet recovered from the war with USS LST 711. Wayne continued serving during the Cold War flying B-47s among other aircraft until he was honorably discharged in 1962.

A natural mathematician, Wayne moved on to teach high school and community college math courses; however, his love of aviation was his true passion for the remainder of his life.

Wayne was mild-mannered, patient, generous, kind, and humble. He was a fixture in his Thousand Oaks neighborhood for 50 years and was affectionately regarded as an honorary grandfather to many of the neighborhood children.

Wayne is survived by his daughter, Nancy Downing (Therese Velasco); his granddaughter, Sara Downing (Jonathan Wall); sister-in-law, Ann Johnson (Jerry); niece, Norrie Jean Rawdon and nephew, Mark Johnson. He is preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Norma, his parents and his brother.

Services will be held Monday, August 13, at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks-Griffin Mortuary at 10 a.m.

Donations in his honor can be made to the 416th Bomb Group Archive.


  • Wayne Bean, Pallbearer
  • Bill Gaffney, Pallbearer
  • Thomas Gaffney, Pallbearer
  • Rick Lojek, Pallbearer
  • John Wall, Pallbearer
  • Jonathan Wall, Pallbearer


  • Funeral Service Monday, August 13, 2018
  • Committal Service Monday, August 13, 2018

Wayne Edward Downing

have a memory or condolence to add?

James Church

August 8, 2018

I will always have fond memories of our conversations at the 416th reunions. Wayne brought his stories to life; he did so much in his lifetime. Wayne spoke about his life experiences, remembering every little detail. He flew so many different types of aircraft. He pushed his boundaries to see what more he could do in a lifetime. Joe Meagher (who flew with Wayne during the war), told me “he always knew what aircraft Wayne was flying, because he was slightly out of formation due to the fact that he was constantly reading maps while flying". Wayne followed the rules on his terms. One story I will never forget; Wayne told me that his plane had over 300 holes after one mission and he could not believe his aircraft controls, hydraulics and him were still working. Wayne was a man of character, intellect, humor, and devoted to family and country. Wayne stayed young at heart throughout his life.

Doris Sayles

August 6, 2018

Wayne Downing is one of the loves of my life. The only regret I have is not meeting him sooner so we could have more time together.

He is one of the finest men I have had the privilege of knowing and I will miss him so much.

Wayne came to visit my Wayne and I at our home in Gainesville, MO. What a fun time we had. I loved listening to his stories about him and Norma and of course his war years. I never got tired of hearing repeats, because you could tell he enjoyed the stories so much. Wayne was brave and courageous and willing to share with everyone all the knowledge he had.

A favorite of mine was when Wayne was here with the 416th Bomb Group Reunion, he and I were together at a museum when these two young boys of 7 and 9 years of age approached him and asked if he was in a war. Yes, he said," I was a bomber pilot in WWII." Their eyes grew big and great smiles on their faces when they said to him, "Can we shake your hand". Wayne welcomed them and when they shook his hand, they both told him thank you for your service. When our group gathered for pictures, those boys wanted their picture taken with Wayne by themselves. Their mother asked if she could take one and Wayne and those boys stood so proud in the pose together. Wayne Downing is one of my heroes.

I love you Wayne and I will miss you. I know you and Norma are having a grand reunion of your own right now.

Wayne Sayles

August 5, 2018

Both Wayne and I were Life Members of the 9th Air Force Association (his 9th AF service in 1944/45 and mine in 1965/66). We attended three of the 9th AF Association reunions together, traveling on one occasion by auto from Gainesville, Missouri to Cincinnati, Ohio and back. We shared rooms on these occasions and obviously became well acquainted. In 2013, at the 416th reunion in Gainesville, Missouri hosted by the 416th Archive, the veterans voted to include me as an honorary veteran of the 416th and Command Pilot’s Wings were pinned on my Air Force uniform by none other than Colonel Wayne Downing. It was the proudest moment of my own military experience, which had many singular moments of satisfaction to raise that bar.

In addition to visiting us at Gainesville for two reunions of the 416th, Wayne visited on two other occasions, staying with us at our country home. On one occasion, he was here when the local Christmas Parade was held and Wayne was honored by the community on a float with the local pageant queen contestants. He was literally surrounded by a bevy of beauties. Afterward, he commented that it was the first parade he had ever been in.

Losing Wayne Downing is a heart-breaker. I respected him and admired him as a soldier and I loved him as a person. He was a kindred spirit and will always be in my thoughts going forward. My heart aches for his family. The last years have been tough and they have stood beside him. We should all be so blessed to share the life that Wayne Downing lived and the accomplishments that he left for a stepping stone to future greatness.


416th Bomb Group Reunion
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Wayne’s 96th birthday


Wayne and Nancy
Memorial Day 2015


Sara’s college graduation, 2014