Died July 21, 1979.
Brigadier General George Fletcher Schlatter, assistant chief of staff, (Plans and Operations), Caribbean Command, was born in Fostoria, Ohio, in 1908.
He graduated from Fostoria High School in 1925 and attended Ohio Wesleyan University in 1926 for one-half year before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from West Point with a bachelor of science degree in June 1930 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
General Schlatter entered flying training at Kelly Field, Texas, in July 1930 as a student officer and received his wings in October 1931. His Air Force career for the next ten years was principally as a fighter pilot, flying with the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Mich., and as a flying instructor and flight commander at Randolph Field, Texas and Maxwell Field, Ala. He also helped organize Gunther Field as a flying school in 1940 when even the young second lieutenant instructors had trouble flying out of the original small, muddy landing area.
During the late '30s, the general also completed the Maintenance Engineer and Armament Course at Chanute Field, Ill., served as assistant commandant of cadets at Randolph Field, a one-year tour of duty as Air Force representative at the Stearman Aircraft Factory, and as commander of the Basic Flying Training Group at Maxwell.
Assigned to the Training and Operations Division in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps in Washington, D.C., in May 1941, General Schlatter served there as chief of pilot training during the fateful days of the beginning of World War II. This was the period when the entire pilot training staff consisted of four young officers, expanding rapidly into what later became the huge Air Training Command.
This was followed by a tour of duty as executive officer of the Army Air Force Flying Training Command at Fort Worth, Texas, and duty as commandant of Stewart Field, flight facility for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His additional duty as the air member of the Academic Board permitted the closest possible coordination of the academic and flying schedules for the cadets during their much shortened three-year course at the academy.
As a result of his direction, Stewart Field received a "superior" rating by both the Flying Training Command and, later, the Headquarters Army Air Force inspector general -- a rating never before awarded an entire base. The Distinguished Unit Citation was awarded the post as a consequence.
For his outstanding work during the period of February l942 and March 1943, which was the time of the great and rapid expansion of the Army Air Forces, General Schlatter was awarded the Legion of Merit.
The citation for the award said in part, "His exceptionally meritorious service in instituting the four-engine transition program, standardizing flying training procedures and instituting a course of flying instruction at the U.S. Military Academy, demonstrated great initiative, a thorough knowledge of the requirements for pilot training and an exceptional capacity for leadership which was an important factor in the Army Air Force's obtaining an increase in qualified pilots sixfold during the time these programs were under his supervision."
General Schlatter's overseas wartime assignment was with the Twelfth Tactical Air Command in Europe where he served as Command Air Inspector and chief of staff.
During his wartime duty - although a senior staff officer - the general flew 15 combat missions in P-47 fighter aircraft on dive bombing sorties and fighter sweeps with various units of the 12th TAC that won him the Air Medal and the Distinguished Unit Badge.
Among other experiences, his P-47 squadron met a unit of ME-262 German jets in aerial combat. As General Schlatter said later, "That German was as poor a shot as I was; we both missed!" The envy of many young fighter pilots who had never encountered a German jet in combat, he would willingly have traded places.
In the citation accompanying the Air Medal, his combat flying was described as "aggressive", and the fact that he flew missions while assigned to the senior command in order to gain first-hand knowledge of combat conditions for institution of new and improved fighter tactics and techniques was cited as "exemplifying the highest Air Force standards of leadership, courage and devotion to duty."
Following his return to the United States in 1947, General Schlatter served as commandant of cadets at Randolph Air Force Base with the job of reorganizing the aviation cadet training structure from scratch, after cadet training had been dropped following V-J day. Later, he was appointed assistant chief of staff for plans, Flying Training Division, Headquarters Air Training Command, until his selection in 1943 to attend the National War College where he graduated in 1949.
General Schlatter's next assignment, bringing into play his early science and engineering training, was to the military staff of the Atomic Energy Commission where he served as chief of the Full Scale Weapons Test Activities for two years. The Nevada Test Site was organized and Eniwetok Proving Ground was built during his tour of duty.
He played an important part in the coordination of public relations necessary to make possible the first series of atomic tests in Nevada and the later participation of troops and civil defense agencies in these tests. This included relocation of rare mountain sheep to a place of safety as well as inspecting broken windows in the Las Vegas gambling hotels.
This was followed by assignments as executive officer of the AEC's Joint Task Group 3 and as deputy director of AEC's Division of Military Applications until late 1952 when he became deputy chief of staff for operations of the Air Training Command, where he served for three years. This tour of duty saw the initiation of plans and equipment for all-jet flying training, beginning with T-37s.
The initial use of the jet aircraft crash barriers at Training Command bases, which were to save so many pilots and aircraft from death and destruction, resulted from General Schlatter's personal drive and interest. The first crash barrier in the United States, installed at Nellis Air Force Base in 1952, saved an F-86 three days later.
In 1955 the general was named commander of the 2nd Air Division and chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Saudia Arabia. In this assignment he covered the entire Middle East with his transport crews, supplying other U.S. MAAG's and missions.
He came to the Canal Zone in September 1956 to take over his present assignment as senior Air Force officer on the staff of the unified Caribbean Command.
Omnivorous reader of mysteries, novels, history and biographies; 35mm photography; poker.
Making slip-covers; United Fund activities; life-long church member; lay reader; fund raising.
President of the Canal Zone Council, Boy Scouts of America, three times.
DECORATIONS AND MEDALS
Legion of Merit
Commendation Ribbon with two oak leaf clusters
American Defense Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-Asiatic-Middle East Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (Germany)
National Defense Service Medal
Distinguished Unit Badge
Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with six oak leaf clusters
French Croix de Guerre with palm
OPINIONS, TASTES AND EVALUATIONS
Mexican food, cheeses, sport jackets and slacks, ranch houses; can't smoke pipes or cigars; hate diets.
Likes detective stories, but avid reader of wide selection of books of many subjects.
Employs the philosophy of life expressed in the West Point prayer in every endeavor; (a) For heaven's sake, if you want something done, don't do it yourself unless you know how; (b)If it's worth doing, there must be a way to do it; (c) Never go second class -- do it right or else; (d.) Nothing is more important than integrity, right or wrong, be honest.
Emphasizes honesty, integrity and loyalty in official, social and private relationships without imposition of stringent restrictions on initiative and freedom of expression. I've gotten a lot of good ideas from sergeants.
Rose from paper boy to general! A lousy plebe; heart attack taught the "Schlatter theory of floating".
It has been often said of the general that "He is a leader continually pointing the way by example to younger officers. He has a "can-do" spirit of positive thought and action that serves to overcome the difficulties of the tasks that have been given him during his professional career; Always respected and sometimes, even liked, by subordinates; Would as soon split a skull as an infinitive; Has been cussed and discussed, but his honesty, fairness and objectivity are seldom questioned.