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Boyd, John R. (23 January 1927–09 March 1997), air force officer, was born John Richard Boyd in Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of Hubert Boyd, a paper mill official, and Elsie Mae Beyer. When Boyd was three, his father died and his mother became a telephone-advertising salesperson. At Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Boyd was an honor student and a member of the swimming team. He received his diploma in absentia in 1945 because he was serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces. During his tour of duty in Japan (1945–1946), Boyd criticized the bivouacking of enlisted men in freezing tents and giving them cold K rations while officers enjoyed warm quarters and hot food. When Boyd and others dismantled and burned a wooden hangar for warmth, he was threatened with court-martial; but he ultimately helped to implement reform measures. His stubborn maverick personality was forming....

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Brown, George Scratchley (17 August 1918–05 December 1978), air force officer, was born in Montclair, New Jersey, the son of Thoburn Kaye Brown, a career army officer, and Frances Katherine Scratchley. After graduating from high school in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1936, Brown attended the University of Missouri for a year before enrolling in the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated in 1941 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry. Brown entered flight training in August 1941, and the following March he received his wings and was assigned to the army air forces. In 1942 he married Alice Norvell Calhoun; they had three children....

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Clay, Lucius DuBignon, Jr. (06 July 1919–07 February 1994), U.S. Air Force general, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Lucius D. Clay, Sr., an army general, and Marjorie McKeown. Clay, Jr., lived the life of an army “brat,” but, as the son of an engineer officer, he spent more time in nonmilitary environments than most peers whose fathers served in other branches. He attended Western High School in Washington, D.C., and finished his secondary education at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. Clay first entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1937 as a member of the class of 1941, but he was turned back his plebe (freshman) year and finished with the class of 1942....

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Jacqueline Cochran Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105221).

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Cochran, Jacqueline (1910?–09 August 1980), pioneer aviator and business executive, was born in Muscogee, Florida, near Pensacola. Her parents both died during her infancy, and she was raised by foster families with whom she worked in the lumber mills of the Florida panhandle. By the age of fifteen she had also worked in a Columbus, Georgia, cotton mill and learned how to cut hair in a beauty shop. Cochran took nursing training at a hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1925 to 1928, but by 1930 she had returned to Pensacola to work in a beauty salon. In 1932 she traveled to Philadelphia to work in a beauty shop and then moved in the same year to New York City, where her skill earned her a job at Antoine’s, a well-known Saks Fifth Avenue beauty shop. For the next four years she worked for this business, spending every winter working in Antoine’s branch in Miami Beach, Florida. She met ...

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James Doolittle. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103547).

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James Doolittle Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90021).

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Doolittle, James Harold (14 December 1896–27 September 1993), aviator and air force commander, was born in Alameda, California, the son of Frank Henry Doolittle, a carpenter and gold prospector, and Rosa Shepard. Doolittle grew up in California and Alaska, where his parents moved in the gold rush of the period. He was educated in Nome, Alaska; at Los Angeles Junior College; and, for three years, at the University of California. He left the university at the beginning of his senior year when the United States entered World War I....

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Eaker, Ira Clarence (13 April 1896–06 August 1987), air force officer, was born in Field Creek, Texas, the son of Young Yancy Eaker and Dona Lee Graham, farmers. In 1917 Eaker graduated from Southeastern State Normal School in Durant, Oklahoma, and enlisted in the army. After attending Officers Training Camp at Fort Logan H. Roots in Arkansas, Eaker was assigned to the Sixty-fourth Infantry at Fort Bliss, Texas, as a second lieutenant. Early in 1918 he entered the army’s aviation training program, completed flight school in July, and was at Rockwell Field near San Diego studying aerial gunnery when World War I ended....

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Eckert, William Dole (20 January 1909–16 April 1971), military officer and baseball commissioner, was born in Freeport, Illinois, the son of Frank Lloyd Eckert, a salesman, and Harriet Julia Rudy. The family moved to Madison, Indiana, when he was two years old. Eckert played football, basketball, and baseball at Madison High School, but his primary youthful interest was the military. At age fifteen he joined the Indiana National Guard, and in 1926 he obtained an appointment to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York....

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Daniel “Chappie” James Speaking at a conference on tactics at Ubon Air Base, Thailand; seated next to the microphone is Colonel Robin Olds, 1967. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-342-AF-102887USAF).

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James, Daniel, Jr. (11 February 1920–25 February 1978), U.S. Air Force officer, was born in Pensacola, Florida, the son of Daniel James, a migrant laborer and handy man, and Lillie Anna Brown, who operated a private elementary and junior high school. Nicknamed “Chappie,” James was the youngest of seventeen children. After completing high school in Pensacola, he attended Tuskegee Institute, an all-black college in Alabama. While at Tuskegee, he learned to fly in a government-sponsored program. He graduated with a degree in physical education in 1942. In November of that year he married Dorothy Watkins; they had three children....

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Lansdale, Edward Geary (06 February 1908–23 February 1987), air force officer and counterinsurgency specialist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of automotive executive Henry Lansdale and Sarah Frances Phillips. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and obtained an army commission through the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. Leaving UCLA without graduating in 1931, he went to New York City to look unsuccessfully for newspaper work. There he met and married Helen Batcheller in 1932. They had two children....

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Curtis E. LeMay. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90918).

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LeMay, Curtis Emerson (15 November 1906–01 October 1990), airman, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Erving LeMay, an ironworker, and Arizona Carpenter. Desiring a military career yet unable to gain appointment to West Point, he enrolled in Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) while attending Ohio State University. LeMay left school without graduating to accept a commission as second lieutenant in the field artillery reserve on 14 June 1928. Inspired by ...

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Love, Nancy (14 February 1914–22 October 1976), aviator and government official, was born Hannah Lincoln Harkness in Houghton, Michigan, to Robert Bruce Harkness, a successful medical doctor, and Alice Graham Chadbourne Harkness. Nicknamed Nancy by her family, she graduated from Milton Academy in Massachusetts and then enrolled in Vassar College in 1931. She withdrew from Vassar in 1934, however, as her parents could no longer afford the tuition because of the Great Depression....

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Marchbanks, Vance Hunter, Jr. (12 January 1905–21 October 1988), aerospace surgeon, was born at Fort Washikie, Wyoming, the son of Vance Hunter Marchbanks, Sr., an army cavalry captain, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). Marchbanks, Jr., was influenced by the military career of his father, who was both a Spanish-American War and World War I veteran. A childhood operation inspired his “passion” for medicine. Marchbanks operated on cherries in his backyard, opening them up, removing the stones, and sewing shut the incision....

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Norstad, Lauris (24 March 1907–12 September 1988), air force officer, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of the Reverend Martin Norstad, a Norwegian Lutheran minister, and Marie Johnson. He grew up in Red Wing, Minnesota, and after high school received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1930, ranking 139 in a class of 241 students. He was commissioned into the cavalry, but in 1931 he transferred to the Air Corps, an option for young officers. Norstad’s penchant for analysis as well as action, which had already been evident when he was at West Point, doubtless was a factor in his interest in a career in the Air Corps, then undergoing constant doctrinal debates as well as technological changes. During the 1930s he served as commander of the Eighteenth Pursuit Group at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In 1935 he married Isabelle Helen Jenkins; they had one daughter....

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Carl Spaatz. Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, c. 1940–1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92807).

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Spaatz, Carl Andrew (28 June 1891–04 July 1974), first chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, was born in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Spatz, a state senator, newspaperman, and printshop owner, and Ann Muntz. Years later, Carl Spaatz added an ...