1978: Gen. George Brown dies
Son of a career Army officer, young George became an Eagle Scout, played football, rode horses and played polo. After high school, he attended the University of Missouri for one year after which he entered the Military Academy at West Point. While there, he captained the polo team.
Upon graduation in June 1941, he was commissioned into the infantry and immediately volunteered for the quickly expanding Air Corps. He earned his wings on March 7, 1942 and helped stand up the 93rd Bombardment Group. The group’s initial mission was antisubmarine duty on the East Coast and began training for heavy bombardment.
As part of the first wave of American 8th Air Force bombardment units shipped to England, Brown and his group arrived in August 1942. As a member of the 329th Bombardment Squadron, he saw heavy losses within his group and the bomber community. It was not long before he was a major and commanded the squadron. During the summer of 1943, the group was attached to Ninth Air Force for operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Targets included Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Tunisia, invasion targets in Sicily and Italy, as well as more strategic targets in the Balkans.
During the Aug. 1, 1943, mission on the Ploiesti oil refineries in Romania, Brown’s group commander, Lt. Col. Addison Baker, was killed over the target. Brown led the group through the rest of the attack and then shepherded the survivors home. He received the Army’s second highest decoration for gallantry, the Distinguished Service Cross. A detailed account of the attack on Ploiesti deserves its own article sometime in the future.
Later, the group moved back to England. After 25 missions, he was sent home and finished the war as a colonel. He worked on staffs at Air Training Command and later Air Defense Command.
He took command of the 62nd Troop Carrier Group at McChord, Wash., in 1950 and took part in airlift operations at the start of the Korean War. Reassigned to command of the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing, at Selfridge, Mich., he learned to fly fighters. In 1952, he became the 5th Air Force director of operations in Korea during the war, and then commander of the pilot training wing at Williams AFB in Mesa. In between jobs as the executive officer to the chief of staff of the Air Force, military assistant to the secretary of defense, and assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, he commanded the Eastern Transport Air Force.
He was a general when he went to Vietnam in 1968 in dual-hatted roles as the 7th Air Force commander and the Air Operations to the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam deputy commander.
He became the Air Force Systems Command commander in 1970. Three years later, he served as chief of staff of the Air Force, and a year after that as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During those last four years, he helped the United States deal with the Arab-Israeli War of 1973; the loss of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; the Mayaguez incident; Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus; and the negotiations of SALT II.