Senior American commanders of World War II. Seated are (from left to right) Gens. William H. Simpson, George S. Patton, Carl A. Spaatz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney H. Hodges, and Leonard T. Gerow; standing are (from left to right) Gens. Ralph F. Stearley, Hoyt Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto P. Weyland, and Richard E. Nugent.
Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg
Born January 24, 1899(1899-01-24)
Died April 2, 1954(1954-04-02) (aged 55)
Walter Reed Medical Center, Washington D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
United States Army
Years of service 1923–1953
Commands held 12th Air Force
9th Air Force
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal (5)
Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg (January 24, 1899 – April 2, 1954) was a U.S. Air Force general, its second Chief of Staff, and second Director of Central Intelligence.
During World War II, Vandenberg was the commanding general of the Ninth Air Force, a tactical air force in England and in France, supporting the Army, from August 1944 until V-E Day.
Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California is named for General Vandenberg. In 1946, he was briefly the U.S. Chief of Military Intelligence. He was also the nephew of Arthur H. Vandenberg, a former U.S. Senator from Michigan.
Vandenberg was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, spending his teenage years there. He graduated from the United States Military Academy on June 12, 1923, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Service.
General Vandenberg graduated from the Air Service Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, in February 1924, and from the Air Service Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, in September 1924.
His first assignment was with the 90th Attack Squadron, part of the 3d Attack Group at Kelly Field. Vandenberg was appointed commander of the 90th AS on January 1, 1926. In 1927, he became an instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at March Field, Calif. He went to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, in May 1929, to join the 6th Pursuit Squadron, and assumed command of it the following November.
Returning in September 1931, he was appointed a flying instructor at Randolph Field, Texas, and became a flight commander and deputy stage commander there in March 1933. He entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, in August 1934, and graduated the following June. Two months later he enrolled in the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and completed the course in June 1936. He then became an instructor in the Pursuit Section of the Air Corps Tactical School, where he taught until September 1936, when he entered the Army War College, where he specialized in air defense planning for the Philippines.
After graduating from the War College in June 1939, General Vandenberg was assigned to the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, selected personally by its head, Brig. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, whom he had met at the Command and General Staff College. In September 1939 and the autumn of 1940, Vandenberg developed two air plans for the Philippine Department, the second based on Royal Air Force interceptor operations in the Battle of Britain, but neither was adopted by the War Department when the Roosevelt Administration reaffirmed its long-standing opposition to any plan that called for extensive reinforcement of the defenses in the Philippines.
A few months after the United States entered World War II, he became operations and training officer of the Air Staff. For his services in these two positions he received the Distinguished Service Medal.
Eisenhower (seated, middle) with other US Army officers, 1945. From left to right, the front row includes Simpson, Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, and Gerow. Vandenberg is second from the left in the second row.
In June 1942, General Vandenberg was assigned to the United Kingdom and assisted in the organization of the Air Forces in North Africa. While in Great Britain he was appointed the chief of staff of the Twelfth Air Force, which he helped organize. On February 18, 1943, General Vandenberg became the chief of staff of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) which was under the command of Major General James Doolittle. NASAF was the strategic arm of the new Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) under Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz. With NASAF, Vandenberg flew on numerous missions over Tunisia, Pantelleria, Sardinia, Sicily, and Italy. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services during this time. For his organizational ability with the 12th Air Force and his work as chief of staff of the NASAF he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
In August 1943, Vandenberg was assigned to Air Force headquarters as Deputy Chief of Air Staff. In September 1943, he became head of an air mission to Russia, under Ambassador Harriman, and returned to the United States in January 1944. In March 1944, he was transferred to the European theater, and in April 1944, was designated the Deputy Air Commander in Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and the Commander of its American Air Component.
In August 1944, General Vandenberg assumed command
of the Ninth Air Force. On November 28, 1944, he received an oak leaf cluster to
his Distinguished Service Medal for his part in planning the Normandy invasion.
He was promoted to Lieutenant General in March 1945.
He was appointed the Assistant Chief of Air Staff at the Army Air Forces (USAAF) headquarters in July 1945. In January 1946, he became director of Intelligence on the War Department general staff where he served until his appointment in June 1946, as Director of Central Intelligence, a position he held until May 1947.
General Vandenberg returned to duty with the Air Force in April 1947, and on June 15, 1947, became the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Air Staff. Following the division of the United States Department of War into the Departments of the Army and the Air Force, Lieutenant General Vandenberg was designated the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force on October 1, 1947, and promoted to the rank of General.
On the January 15, 1945, cover of Time magazine
Even when he was at the pinnacle of his military career, General Vandenberg’s boyish good looks and outgoing personality often made him the target of attacks on his credibility and experience. But the attention that his appearance brought on was not all bad, having appeared on the covers of Time and LIFE magazines. The Washington Post once described him as “the most impossibly handsome man on the entire Washington scene,” and Marilyn Monroe once named Vandenberg, along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein, as one of the three people with whom she would want to be stranded on a deserted island.
On April 30, 1948, General Vandenberg became the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, succeeding General Carl Spaatz.
He was re-nominated by President Harry S. Truman for a second term as Air Force Chief of Staff on March 6, 1952. The nomination was confirmed on April 28, 1952, with Vandenberg serving until June 30, 1953.
A controversy arose while he was the Air Force Chief of Staff, when he opposed the Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson on a proposed $5 billion budget reduction for the Air Force. General Vandenberg maintained that the cut backed by Wilson would reduce U.S. military aviation to a "one-shot Air Force", inferior to that of the Soviet Union. He said it was another instance of "start-stop" planning of a kind that had impeded Air Force development in previous years. The cut in appropriations went into effect in July 1953, immediately after his retirement from the Air Force.
A scratch golfer, General Vandenberg spent every free moment on the golf courses, but he was also a lover of movies, Westerns, and scotch. Unfortunately, his last months in uniform were painful, unhealthy ones. General Vandenberg retired from active duty as a result of major illness on June 30, 1953, and died nine months later at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center from prostate cancer at the age of 55. His remains are buried in Section 30 of the Arlington National Cemetery.
His wife, Gladys Rose Vandenberg, started the concept of the Arlington Ladies while he was Air Force Chief of Staff. The program provides that a military lady of the appropriate service represents the service chief at all military funerals at Arlington Cemetery. She was buried alongside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery upon her death on January 9, 1978. They are survived by their children, Gloria Miller, and retired Major General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Jr., USAF.
On October 4, 1958, the missile and aerospace base at Camp Cooke in Lompoc, California, was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base. In July 1963, the instrument ship USAF General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) was renamed at Cape Canaveral, Florida, for duty on the Eastern Space and Missile Range in the Atlantic. One of the two cadets' dormitories at the United States Air Force Academy, Vandenburg Hall, is also named in his honor. In addition, a popular enlisted "hangout" for technical school Airmen at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, is named in his honor. The Vandenberg Esplanade, located along the Merrimack River in Lowell, Massachusetts and part of the Lowell Heritage State Park, is named in his honor.
General Vandenberg was awarded:
Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster,
the Silver Star,
the Legion of Merit,
the Distinguished Flying Cross,
the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters,
the Bronze Star,
the World War II Victory Medal,
the American Campaign Medal,
the American Defense Service Medal, and
the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal.
His foreign decorations include:
Mexican Military Order of Merit;
Netherlands Order of Orange Nassau (Grand Officer with Swords);
Brazilian Cruzeiro do Sul (Grand Officer), and Medal of War;
Luxembourg Order of Adolphe of Nassau (Grand Cross), and Croix de Guerre;
Order of Leopold (Belgium) (Grand Officer with Palms); and
French Croix de Guerre with Palms;
British Order of the Bath (Knight Commanders Cross);
Polish Order of Polonia Restituta (Commander's Cross with Star);
Portuguese Order of Aviz, Gra Cruiz;
Egyptian Order of the Nile,
Chinese Order of Pao Ting (Tripod with Grand Cordon);
Chilean Medallia Militar de Primerera Clase;
Argentine General Staff Emblem and the
Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy.
The Manuscript Collection of Hoyt S. Vandenberg at the Library of Congress as of November 2005 is Classified information.
General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was the second chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
The general was born at Milwaukee, Wis., in 1899. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy June 12, 1923, and commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Service.
General Vandenberg graduated from the Air Service Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, in February 1924, and from the Air Service Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, in September 1924.
His first assignment was with the Third Attack Group at Kelly Field, where he assumed command of the 90th Attack Squadron. In 1927, he became an instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at March
Field, Calif. He went to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in May 1929, to join the Sixth Pursuit Squadron, and assumed command of it the following November.
Returning in September 1931, he was appointed a flying instructor at Randolph Field, Texas, and became a flight commander and deputy stage commander there in March 1933. He entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., in August 1934, and graduated the following June. Two months later he enrolled in the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and completed the course in June 1936. He then became an instructor at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, where he taught until September 1936, when he entered the Army War College.
After graduating from the War College in June 1939, General Vandenberg was assigned to the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps. A few months after the United States entered World War II, he became operations and training officer of the Air Staff. For his services in these two positions he received the Distinguished Service Medal.
In June 1943, General Vandenberg was assigned to the United Kingdom and assisted in the organization of the Air Forces in North Africa. While in Great Britain he was appointed chief of staff of the 12th Air Force, which he helped organize. On Feb. 18, 1943, General Vandenberg became chief of staff of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force and with this air force he flew on numerous missions over Tunisia, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily and Pantelleria during the North African campaign. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services during this time. For his organizational ability with the 12th Air Force and his work as chief of staff of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
General Vandenberg, in August 1943, was assigned to Air Corps headquarters as deputy chief of air staff. A month later he became head of an air mission to Russia, under Ambassador Harriman, and returned to the United States in January 1944. Two months later he was transferred to the European theater, and in April 1944, was designated deputy air commander in chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and commander of its American Air Component. In August 1944, General Vandenberg assumed command of the Ninth Air Force. On Nov. 28, 1944, he received an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Service Medal for his part in planning the Normandy invasion.
He was appointed assistant chief of air staff at Air Corps headquarters in July 1945. The following January he became director of Intelligence on the War Department general staff where he serviced until his appointment in June 1945, as director of Central Intelligence. He returned to duty with the Air Corps in April 1947, and on June 15, 1947, became deputy commander and chief of air staff. He was designated vice chief of staff of the Air Force on Oct. 1, 1947, and promoted to the rank of general. On April 30, 1948, General Vandenberg became chief of staff of the Air Force, succeeding General Carl Spaatz. He was renominated by President Harry S. Truman for a second term as chief of staff March 6, 1952, to June 30, 1953, and the nomination was confirmed by the Senate on April 28, 1952.
General Vandenberg retired from active duty June 30, 1953. He has been awarded the
Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster,
Legion of Merit,
Distinguished Flying Cross,
Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters,
American Campaign Ribbon,
American Defense Ribbon and the
European-African-Middle East Campaign Ribbon.
His foreign decorations include: Mexican Military Order of Merit; Netherlands Order of Orange Nassau (Grand Officer with Swords); Brazilian Cruz del Sol (Grand Officer), and Medal of War; Luxembourg Order of Adolph von Nassau (Grand Cross), and Croix de Guerre; Belgian Order of Leopold I (Grand Officer with Palms); and Croix de Guerre with Palms; British Order of the Bath (Knight Commanders Cross); Polish Order of Polish Restoration (2nd Class); Portuguese Ordem de Avis, Gra Cruiz; Egyptian L'Ordre Du Nil Grand Cordon; Chinese Order of Pao Ting (Tripod with Grand Cordon); Chilean Medallia Militar de Primerera Clase; Argentine General Staff Emblem and the Military Order of Italy.
Retired June 30, 1953, Died April 2, 1954
For some time Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, chief of staff USAF, had feared that an outbreak of war was going to come somewhere in the world. He also knew that after the postwar demobilization, the US Air Force was, in his words, "a shoe string air force".
July 10, 1950
President Truman sent two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Collins and General Vandenberg, to the Far East on 10 July 1950. They were to bring back firsthand information to use in establishing the scope of expansion of the U. S. military program.
Vandenberg returned to Tokyo
[5-7/13 2300] , where they again conferred with MacArthur, then flew back to Washington, where they arrived on July 14, Washington time.
July 17, 1950
Six B-29's of the
92nd Group reported to "Angelo" on 17
July, and these crews destroyed two bridges and bombed the railway marshaling
yards at Chech'on, Ansŏng, and Wŏnju." #63
The employment of B-29 strategic bombers
[I thought these were medium bombers?] in visual attacks against ground support targets of opportunity was a novel and wasteful usage of airpower. Bombing from 10,000 feet, with no target information other than the oral directions provided by "Angelo" and such other data as they could glean from aerial maps while in flight, the B-29 crews had very little expectations for successful attacks against poorly distinguished targets. In several discussions with General Stratemeyer and with General Vandenberg, who was in the theater for a firsthand view of the conflict, General MacArthur stated that he knew that the B-29's were improperly used but he argued that the ground emergency justified emergency procedures.
Besides the Air Force demoted the B-29 Heavy Bombers to a Medium Bomber, so what were they complaining about?
June 25, 1950
Vandenberg would remember that most of the discussion at the Sunday [6/25/50 EST] meeting was speculation about whether the Soviet Union or China might take a hand in the fighting. There was no argument or discussion about the difficulties that were going to be involved if the poorly prepared American armed forces were ordered into combat. However, one thing was certain: Vandenberg knew and frequently told listeners that the US Air Force was on trial in Korea. Based on his wartime experience as a foremost tactical air commander, Vandenberg had an interesting view of the unitary nature of air power. He had hoped to rid the Air Force of the arbitrary separation of combat units into "tactical" and "strategic" forces. In Korea, strategic B-29 bombers were going to deliver the heaviest blows against the Communist invaders.
At the outbreak of the war, General Headquarters (GHQ),
US Far East Command (FEC), in Tokyo had no combat mission relevant to the Republic of Korea.
The Far East Air Forces (FEAF) was geared for air defense provided by the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces. FEAF had, however, managed to retain the Twentieth Air Force with one B-29 wing on Guam.
This unit was the 19th Wing, and it was the only strategic wing not assigned to Strategic Air Command. In an expedited movement, the 19th Group's air echelon immediately moved to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, from which location an Army staff group in GHQ undertook to direct its employment in support of friendly ground forces in Korea.
The effort to manage the B-29's from GHQ as somewhat successful. For an initial strike, aircraft were loaded with fragmentation bombs and directed to hit Red aircraft at Wŏnsan. The strike was diverted to attack Han River bridges at Sŏul, where the frags were virtually useless. In the days that followed, the B-29 crews were ordered to search out and bomb enemy tanks. Another mission was ordered out to destroy bridges at coordinates on a supposed east coast rail line. This task was difficult since the rail line, though shown on a map consulted, had never been built.
June 25, 1950 1100 2100 East Coast
Early on the evening of Saturday, 24 June 1950,press news flashes informed Washington that the North Korean People's Army had crossed the 38th parallel in an invasion of the Republic of Korea.
PRESIDENT Harry Truman was in Missouri, and in the first hours Washington policy makers hoped that the South Koreans could withstand the invasion. When the situation worsened, Truman flew back to Washington for a Sunday-evening dinner meeting with the secretaries of state and defense and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
For some time Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, chief of staff USAF, had feared that an outbreak of war was going to come somewhere in the world. He also knew that after the postwar demobilization, the US Air Force was, in his words, "a shoe string air force."
June 26, 1950 0915
Secretary of State Acheson was waiting for me at the airport as was Secretary of Defense Johnson. We hurried to Blair House where we were joined by Secretary of the Army Frank Pace. & Secretary of the Navy Francis Matthews; Secretary of the Air Force Thomas Finletter General of the Army Omar N. Bradley; the Army Chief General Collins; the Air Force Chief General Vandenberg; and Admiral Forrest Sherman Chief of Naval Operations.
Dean Acheson was accompanied by Undersecretaries Webb and Rusk and Assistant Secretary John Hickerson and Ambassador- at-Large Philip Jessup. It was late and we went at once to the dining room for dinner. I asked that no discussion take place until dinner was ended and over and the Blair House staff had withdrawn.
Earlier that Sunday evening. Acheson reported, the Security Council of the United Nations had, by a vote of nine to nothing, approved a resolution declaring that a breach of the peace had been committed by the North Korean action and ordering the North Koreans to cease action and withdraw their forces.
I then called on Acheson to present the recommendations which the State and Defense Departments had prepared. He presented the following recommendations for immediate action:
1) That MacArthur should evacuate the Americans from Korea --including the dependents of the military mission — and, in order to do so, should keep open the Kimp'o and other airports, repelling all hostile attacks thereon. In doing this, his air forces should stay south of the 38th Parallel.
2) MacArthur should be instructed to get ammunition and supplies to the Korean army by airdrop and otherwise.
3) That the Seventh Fleet should be ordered into the Formosa Strait to prevent the conflict from spreading to that area. We should make a statement that the fleet would repel any attack on Formosa and that no attacks should be made from Formosa on the mainland.
At this point I interrupted to say that the Seventh Fleet should be ordered north at once, but that I wanted to withhold making any statement until the fleet was in position. After this report I asked each person in turn to state his agreement or disagreement and any views he might have in addition.
Two things stand out in this discussion.
One was the complete, almost unspoken acceptance on the part of everyone that whatever had to be done to meet this aggression had to be done. There was no suggestion from anyone that either the United Nations or the United States could back away from it.
The other point which stands out was the difference in view of what might be called for Vandenberg and Sherman thought that air and naval aid might be enough. Collins said that if the Korean army was really broken, ground forces would be necessary.
I expressed the opinion that the Russians were trying to get Korea by default gambling that we would be afraid of starting a third world war and would offer no resistance. I thought that we were still holding the stronger hand, although how much stronger it was hard to tell.
At 1915 hours
that [Saturday] night [1915+1400=3315-2400=0915] the President landed
at Washington and drove directly to his temporary residence at Blair
House. Here were assembled the key officers of the Departments of State
and Defense, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff: General Omar Bradley
(chairman), General J. Lawton Collins (Army), Admiral Forrest P Sherman
(Navy), and General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (Air Force). Most of the talk
over the dinner table reflected a hope that the South Koreans could
hold with the help of American arms and equipment which General MacArthur
was sending them. The main theme of conversation, however, was that
the Communists appeared to be repeating patterns of aggression similar
to those acts which had set off World War II.
After dinner President Truman opened the conference with the statement that he did not wish to make decisions that night, except such as were immediately necessary. Secretary Acheson then presented three recommendations which had been prepared by the State and Defense Departments:
1) that MacArthur would send arms and ammunition to Korea,
2) that MacArthur would furnish ships and planes to assist and protect the evacuation of American dependents from Korea, and
3) that the U.S. Seventh Fleet would be ordered northward from the Philippines to report to MacArthur.
Truman asked for comments, and the discussion worked around to what the United States might have to do to save South Korea. Vandenberg and Sherman thought that air and naval aid might be enough. Collins stated that if the ROK Army was really broken, American ground forces would be needed. At the end of the meeting President Truman directed that orders be issued implementing the three recommendations made by the State and Defense Departments.#74
[About noon, Monday, in Korea,] Truman returned to Washington that Sunday evening, June 25. En route he summoned his chief Pentagon and State advisers to a meeting that night at Blair House, the president's temporary home and office during the renovation of the White House. Thirteen senior officials gathered at Blair House for a fried chicken dinner and urgent talks. Of the thirteen, the majority - eight - were from the Pentagon. These included Louis Johnson and Omar Bradley, returned from the aircraft carrier demonstration in Norfolk, the three service secretaries - Frank Matthews, Frank Pace, and Tom Finletter - and the three military chiefs - Collins, Vandenberg, and Sherman.[3-17]
Confident that the ROK Army would push back the NKPA, the Pentagon contingent had a larger Far East worry that night: Formosa. Recently the Chinese Communists had taken Hainan Island and had amassed 200,000 troops on the mainland opposite Formosa. The Pentagon advisers believed that the NKPA invasion in Korea might possibly be a feint to divert attention and resources from a Chinese Communist invasion of Formosa. Johnson and Bradley, armed with a long and eloquent study paper from MacArthur urging American support for Formosa, took advantage of the crisis atmosphere to push for a reversal of the Truman-Acheson hands-off Formosa policy. On Johnson's instructions, the ailing Bradley read the entire MacArthur paper, and Johnson recommended (as the JCS had the previous December) that an American survey team be authorized to go to Formosa to find out what was required to maintain the security of the island.[3-18]