General Carl A. Spaatz was the first chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C
The general was born in 1891, in Boyertown, Pa. In 1910, he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated June 12, 1914, and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry. He served with the 25th United States Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, from Oct. 4, 1914, to Oct. 13, 1915, when he was detailed as a student in the Aviation School at San Diego, Calif., until May 15, 1916.
In June 1916, General Spaatz was assigned at Columbus, N.M., and served with the First Aero Squadron under Gen. John J. Pershing in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico. He was promoted to first lieutenant July 1, 1916, in May 1917 joined the Third Aero Squadron in San Antonio, Texas, and in the same month was promoted to captain.
General Spaatz went to France with the American Expeditionary Forces in command of the 31st Aero Squadron and, after Nov. 15, 1917, served in the American Aviation School at Issoundun continuously, except for one month at the British Front, until Aug. 30, 1918. In this period, he received a temporary promotion to major.
He joined the Second Pursuit Group in September 1918, as pursuit pilot in the Thirteenth Squadron, and was promoted to flight leader. He was officially credited with shooting down three German Fokker planes, and received the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1919 he served in California and Texas and became assistant department air service officer for the Western Department in July 1919. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain Feb. 27, 1920, but was promoted to major July 1, 1920.
As a major, he commanded Kelly Field, Texas, from Oct. 5, 1920, to February 1921, served as air officer of the Eighth Corps Area until November 1921, and was commanding officer of the First Pursuit Group, first at Ellington Field, Texas, and later at Selfridge Field, Mich., until Sept. 24, 1924. He graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, Va., in June 1925, and then served in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps at Washington, D.C.
General Spaatz commanded the Army plane "Question Mark" in its refueling endurance flight over Los Angeles and vicinity Jan. 1-7, 1929, keeping the plane aloft a record total of 150 hours, 40 minutes and 15 seconds, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
From May 8, 1929, to Oct. 29, 1931, General Spaatz commanded the Seventh Bombardment Group at Rockwell Field, Calif., and the First Bombardment Wing at March Field, Calif., until June 10, 1933. He then served in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps and became chief of the Training and Operations Division. In August 1935, he enrolled in the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and while there was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He graduated in June 1936, and then served at Langley Field, until January 1939, when he returned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps at Washington as assistant executive officer.
General Spaatz in November 1939, received a temporary promotion to colonel, and during the Battle of Britain in 1940, spent several weeks in England as a special military observer. In August 1940, he was assigned in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, and two months later was appointed assistant to the chief of Air Corps, with the temporary rank of brigadier general. He became chief of the Plans Division of the Air Corps in November 1940, and the following July was named chief of the air staff at Army Air Force Headquarters.
A few weeks after Pearl Harbor, in January 1942, General Spaatz was assigned as chief of the Army Air Force Combat Command at Washington and promoted to the temporary rank of major general. In May 1942, became commander of the Eighth Air Force, transferring to the European theater of operations in that capacity in July 1942, to prepare for the American bombing of Germany. His accomplishments earned him an award of the Legion of Merit. On July 7, he was appointed commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces in the European Theater, an addition to his duties as commander of the Eighth. His promotion to the permanent rank of colonel was made on Sept. 17, 1942.
On Dec. 1, 1942, General Spaatz became commanding general of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. In February 1943, he assumed command of the Northwest African Air Force, which he organized. He received a temporary promotion to lieutenant general March 12, 1943.
After Rommel's Afrika Korps had been driven out of the North Africa and the invasion of Italy was launched, General Spaatz became deputy commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, including the 12th Air Force in Africa and the 15th Air Force and the Royal Air Force in Italy. He returned to England in January 1944, to command the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, which he headed throughout the pre-invasion period and the ensuing campaign which culminated with the utter defeat of Germany. His service in Africa won an award of the Distinguished Service Medal, and the accomplishments of his Strategic Air Force in 1944, earned him the Robert J. Collier Trophy for that year, awarded annually to the American making the outstanding contribution to aviation.
General Spaatz received a temporary promotion to general March 11, 1945, and was assigned to Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in June 1945. The following month he assumed command of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, with headquarters on Guam. There he supervised the final strategic bombing of Japan by the B-29, including the two atomic bomb missions. He was present at all three signings of unconditional surrender by the enemy, at Rheims, Berlin and Tokyo.
In October 1945, General Spaatz returned to Army Air Force Headquarters, and the same month President Harry S. Truman nominated him for promotion to the permanent rank of major general in the Regular Army. In February 1946, he was nominated to become commander of the Army Air Forces. In September 1947, he was appointed by President Truman as the first chief of staff of the new United States Air Force until April 30, 1948.
He retired with the rank of general on June 30, 1948.
General Spaatz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star Medal. He also has the Mexican Interior Campaign ribbon, the World War I ribbon with three battle stars, the pre-Pearl Harbor ribbon with star, the European Theater ribbon with six stars, the Pacific Theater ribbons, the American Theater ribbon, and the World War II Victory ribbon. His foreign honors include a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, a Grand Commander of the British Empire, Russia's Second Order of Suvorov and Poland's Polonia Restituta, Commander's Cross with Star.
General Spaatz died July 14, 1974, at the age of 83. He was interred at the U.S. Air Force Academy.