Retired. Died Jan. 6, 1964.
Howard James Withycombe was born in San Jose, Calif., in 1916. He graduated from high school there in June 1934 and was enrolled at San Jose College in the fall of the same year.
He graduated from San Jose State College in the Class of 1939 with a bachelor's degree in economics; following his graduation he went into business as owner-manager of a neighborhood grocery store.
In February 1941 General Withycombe enlisted in the Army Air Corps and attended flying schools at Hemet, Calif., and Randolph and Brooks fields in San Antonio. Upon graduation in September 1941 he was commissioned a second lieutenant and served the next three years as flying instructor, operations officer and squadron commander, at bombardier school, then mushrooming in West Texas.
General Withycombe helped to open bombardment schools in Midland, Big Spring and Childress, Texas; he served as group operations officer at Webb -- at that time designated as the Big Spring Army Bombardier School -- for nine months in 1942. The general's eldest son, Jim, was born at the Childress Army Air Field Hospital; his second son, Keith, was born at Watsonville, Calif., in 1944, while the general -- then a brand-new major -- was stationed at Alexandria, La., preparing for overseas duty.
In 1944 General Withycombe was sent to Hendricks Field, Fla., for transition training on the B-17, and left for overseas duty early in 1945; reporting for duty in the China-Burma-India theatre, he spent the next several months flying bombs and gasoline over "the hump", from India, to support the air offensive launched against Japanese targets in China and Japan.
General Withycombe flew 32 missions for a total of 300 combat hours, mostly in the B-24. At war's end he was sent to Shanghai as personal pilot for Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, commander of the China-Burma-India theatre.
Returning to the United States in April 1946, General Withycombe served as pilot and operations officer at the Washington National Airport in the so-called "Brass-Hat" squadron, engaged in flying VIP's all over the world.
In August 1947 he entered the Air Command and Staff College at the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. A year later, in July 1948, he was moved to Mather Air Force Base, Calif., as commandant of students; and in December 1948 he was made director of flying for the 3535th Bomber Training Wing, also based at Mather.
General Withycombe -- by that time a lieutenant colonel -- was ordered, in October l949, to Washington as a staff member of the Personnel Policy Board in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Personnel); he remained on the board until Oct. 10, 1952, when he was sent to France as deputy commander of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing; he later went with the wing when it was moved to Spangdahlem, Germany. On March 1, 1954, he was made commander of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group. In July he was moved to Rhein Main Airport at Frankfurt, Germany, to command the 60th Troop Carrier Group.
Returning to the United States in August 1955, he was assigned to the U.S. Air Force ROTC Detachment at Florida State University, as professor of air science. While at the university he attended night classes and studied for his advanced degree. He was awarded the master of science degree in management in August 1958. He was then assigned to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., as inspector general for MATS, Eastern Transport Air Force; remaining with MATS until June 1960, he reported to the U.S. Air Force Academy as chief of staff. He remained on duty in this capacity until his assignment to Webb on July 29, 1963.
The Withycombes are Episcopalians; he is active in Base-Community Council affairs and is a member of the Big Spring Rotary Club. He also takes an active interest in the Boy Scout and Little League programs.
General Withycombe's decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Occupation Medal (Germany), the National Defense Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the Air Force Longevity Service Award with four oak leaf clusters and two Nationalist Chinese decorations -- the Victory Memorial Medal and the Breast Order of Yun Wui.
General Withycombe is a rated command pilot.
Fond of fishing, boating, swimming and hunting. Likes golf, and plays in the mid-80s.
OPINIONS, TASTES AND EVALUATIONS
"Stay Loose, but don't come unglued" is a favorite expression.
Firm believer is physical fitness for officers and men. Never spares himself. Was captain of the varsity swimming team for his four years in college; also won title of backstroke champion.