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Gen Emmett O'Donnell

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Gen Emmett O'Donnell

  • Birth 15 Sep 1906 Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
  • Death 26 Dec 1971 Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
  • Burial Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, USA
  • Memorial ID 11846278

US Air Force General. Nicknamed "Rosie," he served as Commander-in-Chief, of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) from 1959 to 1963. He also led the first B-29 Superfortress bomber aerial attack against Tokyo, Japan during World War II. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Manual Training High School in 1924. He then received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he excelled in football, playing substitute halfback for All-Americans Harry Wilson and Chris "Red" Cagle. He graduating in 1928 with a commission as a second lieutenant of Infantry. He decided to become a pilot and was sent to Brooks Field (now Brooks City-Base) and Kelly Field (now part of Joint Base San Antonio) for flying training and earned his wings in March 1930. His first flying assignment in the US Army Air Corps was with the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he served for over six years. During this time he also served as an airmail pilot with the Army Air Corps mail operations at Cleveland, Ohio, in the spring of 1934. In April 1935 he was promoted to the rank of captain and in December 1936 he was assigned to the 18th Reconnaissance Group at Mitchel Field (now decommissioned), on Long Island, New York, until 1940. While with this organization, he attended the US Army Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field (now Maxwell Air Force Base), Alabama, graduating in August 1939. He also served as the assistant football coach at West Point from 1934 to 1938. In February 1940 he was transferred to Wheeler Field, Hawaii where he became commander of the 14th Bombardment Squadron in the 11th Bombardment Group. In January 1941 he was promoted to the rank of major and in the fall of that year, he participated in the first mass flight of B-17 Flying Fortress bomber aircraft to cross the western Pacific from Hawaii to the Philippines. After the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, his aircraft group was forced to withdraw to Bataan and then to Mindanao, and later to Java. From January 1942 when he arrived in Java until the beginning of the following March, when the Japanese conquered the island, he served as operations officer of the Far East Air Force. He then evacuated to India, where he became assistant chief of staff for operations of the newly organized Tenth Air Force. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in January 1942 and a colonel the following March. In 1943 he returned to the US to become the chief of General Henry "Hap" Arnold's Advisory Council, a post he retained until he was appointed commanding general of the 73d Bomb Wing at Smoky Hill Army Airfield (now closed) in Salina, Kansas a year later and he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in February 1944. He trained with the B-29 Superfortress Wing for six months at Smoky Hill and then led it to the Pacific island of Saipan. The B-29s began the bombing campaign against the Japanese mainland on November 24, 1944 when he led 111 B-29 aircraft against industrial targets in Tokyo, the first attack on Tokyo since the famous Jimmy Doolittle Raid in April 1942. Only 88 of the planes were able to bomb, and results were poor, partly because of bad weather. After the war, he was assigned to the Air Technical Service Command (later Air Materiel Command and then Air Force Materiel Command), Headquartered at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base), Ohio where he served as deputy chief of the Engineering Division. He remained there until August 1946 when he was made director of information of the Headquarters US Army Air Force in Washington DC. In February 1947 he was promoted to the rank of major general and seven months later, after the US Air Force was established as a separate branch of the Department of Defense, he was designated its Deputy Director of Public Relations. In January 1948 he was appointed steering and coordinating member of the military representation on the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, Canada-United States, the Canada-United States Military Cooperation Committee, the Joint Mexico-United States Defense Commission, and the Joint Brazil-United States Defense Commission. In October 1948 he became commanding general of the 15th Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in November 1949 moved with that headquarters to March Air Force Base (now March Air Reserve Base), California. In early 1950, as a result of United Nations action against communist forces in Korea, he took a nucleus of his 15th Air Force staff for the Far East to Japan, where he organized and commanded the Far East Bomber Command with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. His first B-29 aircraft squadrons to arrive in Japan carried out a maximum bombing effort in Korea 36 hours after the first B-29 aircraft had arrived in Japan. In January 1951 he returned to the US and two years later, he was appointed the Deputy Chief of Personnel at Headquarters US Air Force in Washington, DC. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and remained in this position until August 1959, when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of PACAF at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii and promoted to the rank of general. He retired from the Air Force in this position on July 31, 1963, with 35 years of active duty military service in the US Army, the US Army Air Corps and the US Air Force. Among his military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Cross (personally awarded by President John F. Kennedy on September 6, 1963), the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Defense Ribbon with bronze star, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with six stars, the American Campaign Medal, the Philippine Defense Ribbon with star, the Philippine Independence Ribbon, the Korean Military Service Medal with silver star (Taeguk), the Inter-American Defense Board Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Honorary Companion of the Military Division of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. After his military retirement, he became president of the United Service Organizations, Incorporated. He died in Washington, DC at the age of 65.

Bio by: William Bjornstad





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Peterborough "K"
  • Added: 29 Sep 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11846278
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gen Emmett O'Donnell (15 Sep 1906–26 Dec 1971), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11846278, citing United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .