Retired Oct. 1, 1966. Died March 20, 1990.
Gilbert L. Pritchard was born in 1915 in Redfield, S.D. At an early age he moved with his family to California, attending grade school in Hollywood and high school in Beverly Hills. After spending a year as a pre-law student at the University of San Francisco, General Pritchard transferred to the University of Southern California.
Prior to his entry into college, General Pritchard had spent three years of enlisted service with the U.S. Army and, following his graduation he returned to the service for Air Cadet training. On Nov. 15, 1940, he received his pilot's wings at Randolph Field, Texas and remained there as a newly-commissioned second lieutenant flight instructor until July of 1942. He then left for North Africa with an assignment to the 97th Bomb Group. In July of 1944, General Pritchard was assigned to the 5th Wing as A-3 and in late October he was returned to the States to attend the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. In early 1945, he was assigned to Italy to the 52d Fighter Group, remaining with that unit until the war in Europe ended.
Scheduled for transfer to the Pacific Theater, when the war with Japan ended, General Pritchard instead returned to the United States for an assignment with Headquarters Air Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas. When the headquarters moved to Barksdale Field, La. in 1946, General Pritchard joined in the move and remained with the organization as chief of the Flying Training Division until the summer of 1949. After attending the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., he was assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, as chief of the Flying Training Division under the director of training, U.S. Air Force.
In June of 1953, General Pritchard was assigned to the Far East Air Forces in Korea and assumed command of the 49th Fighter-Bomber Group, shortly after his arrival there, this group, augmented and re-deployed to Japan, became the first fighter-bomber unit in the Pacific to have anatomic weapon capability. During General Pritchard's period of command, the group became well known for its accomplishments. The group's teams, captained by General Pritchard, placed second in the Air Force Gunnery Meet in 1954,and returned the following year to take first place. The unit also participated in the longest non-stop fighter flight in history, when group aircraft flew from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to Sydney, Australia. In 1955, General Pritchard led aircraft from his unit to Bangkok as part of the good will flight "Firmlink".
General Pritchard returned to the United States in August of 1956. He spent the following year as a student at the National War College in Washington. Following his graduation, he became commandant of the Air Force Command and Staff School, a division of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
Following a short tour in mid-1959 as commander of the Iceland Defense Force at Keflavik Airport, Iceland, General Pritchard came to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., to his present assignment as commander of the New York-Air Defense Sector.
General Pritchard is rated a command pilot with more than 7,200 hours of flying time, more than 1,275 hours of which is in jet aircraft. His awards include the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters, the Legion of Merit, and various campaign medals from both Europe and the Far East. He was promoted to his present rank June 27, 1959.