General Hoyt S. Vandenberg retired from the United States Air Force in 1953, after a 30 year career spanning the Second World War and the Korean War. During the later years of his career he served for one year, from mid 1946 to mid 1947, as the Chief of Military Intelligence, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. During World War II, Vandenberg served as the commanding general of the Ninth Air Force from August 1944 until V-E Day in May 1945, covering the European theater of operations and providing tactical support to the United States Army.
Vandenberg was born at Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 24, 1899. His uncle was Arthur H. Vandenberg, a former United States Senator from Michigan. Following his high school studies, he was able to get an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and graduated on June 12, 1923. He was then commissioned in the United States Air Service. He was sent to Flying School in Brookfield, Texas and following that to Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. He graduated in 1924, and was assigned to the Third Attack Group at Kelly Field, Texas, and assumed command of the 90th Attack Squadron. During the next several years, Vandenberg served as a flight instructor at various locations. In 1936, he was chosen to attend the Army War College, and graduated in June 1939. He was then assigned to the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps.
In 1943, Vandenberg was sent to the United Kingdom to help organize the Allied Air Force operations in North Africa. He then became Chief of Staff of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force, and he personally participated in numerous missions over Tunisia, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily and Pantelleria. During that time Vandenberg was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Legion of Merit.
In August 1943, Vandenberg became Deputy Chief of Staff at Air Force Headquarters, and in that position he became Head of an Air Mission to Russia, under Ambassador Averell Harriman. Following the Mission to Russia, Vandenberg returned to the United States in January 1944.
In March 1944, Vandenberg returned to the European theater of operations, and was designated Deputy Air Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, and Commander of its American Air component. He assisted in the planning of D-Day operations, scheduled for early June in 1944. In August 1944, he assumed command of the Ninth Air Force in the European theater of operations.
Following the end of the war in Europe, in July 1945, Vandenberg was appointed Chief of Air Staff at Air Force headquarters. In January 1946, he was appointed the Director of Intelligence on the War Department general staff, a position he held until June 1946, when he was appointed as the Director of Central Military Intelligence, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In April 1947, Vandenberg returned to the Air Force, and became Deputy Commander and Chief of Air Staff. In the same year the War Department was re-organized into two departments, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Air Force. Following the re-organization, Vandenberg was appointed to the position of Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force on October 1, 1947. With the appointment, he was also promoted to rank of General, or rather he became a four star general, after having served as brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general.
On April 30, 1948, General Vandenberg became Chief of Staff of the Air Force, succeeding General Carl Spaatz. President Truman re-nominated Vandenberg to a second term as Chief of Staff of the Air Force for the period from March 1952 onward. Vandenberg’s nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 28, 1952. Unfortunately, Vandenberg had been suffering from prostate cancer, and retired from his military position on June 30, 1953.
General Vandenberg’s military decorations were numerous. They included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Bronze Star, Victory Medal, American Campaign Ribbon, American Defense Ribbon, and the European-African-Middle East Campaign Ribbon.
In 1958, the missile and aerospace base at Cooke Air Force Base in Lompoc, California was renamed “Vandenberg Air Force Base”. In 1963, the instrument ship, “General Hoyt S. Vandenberg” was dedicated at Cape Canaveral. And one of two dormitories at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado is also named in Vandenberg’s honor.
General Vandenberg also received wide recognition by foreign countries, including decorations from Mexico, the Netherlands, Brazil, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Egypt, China, Chile, Argentina, and Italy.
General Vandenberg was married to Gladys Rose Vandenberg. Gladys started the program of the “Arlington Ladies”, while Vandenberg 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 National Cemetery. General Vandenberg passed away on April 2, 1954 at the rather young age of 55. The cause of death was the prostate cancer he had to deal with during the last years of his life. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with an elaborate special military funeral, which lasted from April 2 until April 5, 1954.
Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg, http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/hsvanden.htm
Hoyt Vandenberg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoyt_Vandenberg
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