Retired Sep. 1, 1967. Died Dec. 13, 2000.
Brigadier General Frank Junior Collins is commander of the 836th Air Division with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In this position he bears the responsibility for directing the human and material resources necessary to operate and support three tactical fighter wings. In addition to maintaining a combat readiness posture, the 836th Air Division is also responsible for the operation of a replacement training unit.
Born in Breckenridge, Texas, in 1918, General Collins attended Allen Military Academy, a military preparatory school, where he graduated from high school in 1936 and attended two years of junior college. From there he attended Texas Wesleyan College until he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941.
In 1942 he completed pilot training and was assigned to the 325th Fighter Group. His first combat experience came during the invasion of North Africa. His unit was the first to be launched from aircraft carriers in the invasion. Along with various other missions he also went on to participate in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. During this time he served two consecutive combat tours and remained in Italy until the fall of Rome when he returned to the United States.
While he was in the European Theater his squadron was chosen for a highly classified mission. This was to escort a transport aircraft which was briefed to contain very important personnel. On arrival in Cairo it was found the passengers were members of the historic Tehran Conference and included such notables as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
For his gallantry in action in the North African, Mediterranean and European theaters of operation during 1943 - 1944, General Collins was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 23 oak leaf clusters.
The general returned to the United States and was given the command of a P-47 unit. His first task was of training and molding it into a combat ready force. When this was done, the unit was deployed to the Pacific Theater. There General Collins participated in attacks on various islands.
While in the Pacific Theater, he earned his 24th and 25th oak leaf clusters to the Air Medal. He was also wounded in action over Amimao Shima, Kyushu Islands, Japan in July 1945, and received the Purple Heart.
During one of the island attacks his aircraft was blasted from the air by the concussion from an exploding ship. After spending two days in the water, he was picked up by the Japanese and remained a prisoner until the end of the war.
General Collins regards this time as a prisoner as an unmatchable experience, "One that would take a book to describe."
Upon his release he spent several months recuperating in a hospital. He was then assigned to the first Jet Aircraft Development Program of the U.S. Air Force. He tested such aircraft as the then experimental F-80 and F-84. As an extension of this program, he went to England and was assigned duties in the Royal Air Force Jet Fighter Research and Development Program. This was under the auspices of the Foreign Exchange Program.
From England General Collins went to Germany where he served as director of operations of the 36th Fighter Bomber Wing. While in Germany he also served as director of operations for the 2nd Air Division and deputy commander of the 86th Fighter Bomber Group.
He returned to the United States for assignment with Strategic Air Command at Bergstrom Air Force, Texas, as deputy commander, 12th Strategic Fighter Wing. He was there almost a year. He spent the next three years at the Pentagon, where he served with the Tactical Branch, deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
His next move came in September 1955 when he went to California to assume command of Edwards Air Force Base. After two years there he went to Japan where he was instrumental in the activation of the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing. He served this unit as director of operations and as commander. He was then assigned to the 39th Air Division in Misawa, Japan, where he was deputy commander for operations.
Upon his return to the United States, General Collins was assigned to Headquarters 12th Air Force for 12 months as senior air advisor to the 121st Tactical Fighter Wing (Ohio Air National Guard) at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio.
The general's next assignment was as commander of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at George Air Force Base, Calif. He supervised the wing's relocation from George to Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., during the summer of 1962. While commanding the 31st, General Collins led a record non-stop F-100 Super Sabre deployment from Homestead Air Force Base to Cigli Air Base, Turkey, in February 1964. For this flight, he was awarded his 26th oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal.
General Collins arrived at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., March 16, 1964, to assume command of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. The wing had been reassigned to Holloman eight months before his arrival from a four-base complex in France.
In July 1965, the general assumed command of the 836th Air Division at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Earlier in the year the 836th became the first Air Division in the Air Force to convert to the new Mach 2 McDonnell F-4C Phantom II aircraft. Elements of the division also produced the first air victory for the U.S. Air Force since the Korean War by shooting down two MiG-17 aircraft over Vietnam.
As is evident from the record, General Collins has enjoyed not only a varied career but also a very successful one. He has handled all assignments with equal aplomb - from war pilot to test pilot, and finally leader of forces designed to protect the peace and security of the United States. He is the kind of man who is not only liked by his men but also respected. Perhaps this is due in part to his personal code of leadership. In his own words, "Lead By Example."
A command pilot, the general's decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 26 oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge with two oak leaf clusters, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with service star, Air Force Longevity Service Award with five oak leaf clusters, and Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.