Retired March 1, 1972. Died Jan. 14, 2001.
Brigadier General John A. Des Portes is commander of the 12th Strategic Aerospace Division, with headquarters at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. This division is the largest in the Strategic Air Command and the most diversified, having both intercontinental ballistic missiles and reconnaissance units.
General Des Portes was born in 1920 in Ridgeway, S.C., where he graduated from Ridgeway High School. He graduated from Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., with a bachelor of science degree and, as a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, his commission as second lieutenant, Infantry, Army Reserve, in 1941. He entered active military service in August 1941 in the Army Air Corps, attended aviation cadet training, and in March 1942 graduated from Advanced Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, with a commission as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and his pilot wings.
In March 1942 General Des Portes was assigned as commander and adjutant for a training squadron at Tyndall Field, Fla.; in February 1943 was assigned as training group commander and director of flying; and in January 1944 became director of B-24 copilot training.
He was transferred to the European Theater of Operations in March 1945, served as commander of the 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, in Italy, and flew 14 combat missions in B-24 bomber aircraft. At the end of World War II in Europe, he was assigned as squadron commander and operations officer at McCook, Neb., and then Fort Worth, Texas.
In August 1946 he became operations officer for the Strategic Air Command Air Demonstration Unit at Smokey Hill Army Air Field, Kan. He returned to Fort Worth, Texas, in December 1946, and served as operations officer for the 436th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group. In July 1948 he became chief of the Bombardment Unit, Flying Training Branch, Directorate of Operations, at Headquarters Strategic Air Command, then located at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. He stayed with the command when it moved to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., in November 1948. In July 1950 he entered the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
In December 1950 General Des Portes was assigned as operations officer with the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Group, Barksdale Air Force Base, La. This group was equipped with the RB-45, Strategic Air Command's first multiengine jet and moved to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1951 where he served as squadron commander, wing operations officer, and deputy commander for the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. In May 1954 he was named director of plans, Second Air Force, at Barksdale Air Force Base.
General Des Portes was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon in June 1957 in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, and became chief of the Strategic Division, Directorate of Operations. He entered the National War College, Washington, D.C., in August 1960, and in July 1961 was transferred to Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, as commander of the 4080th Strategic Wing, the only Air Force organization equipped with the U-2 aircraft. The wing was the first to bring back conclusive proof of offensive weapons in Cuba during the October 1962 Cuban crisis. President John F. Kennedy personally presented the 4080th Wing with the first oak leaf cluster to the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in November 1962. The wing moved to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in July 1963, and General Des Portes remained in command.
In June 1965, he was transferred to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as commander of the 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. This wing is the only Air Force organization with the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft. He assumed command of the 14th Strategic Aerospace Division at Beale Air Force Base, in September 1965, and became commander of the 47th Air Division at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in December 1966.
General Des Portes served from July 1968 until September 1970, as chief of staff, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, at Taipei, Taiwan. He assumed duties as commander of the 12th Strategic Aerospace Division with headquarters at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in October 1970.
His military decorations include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Emblem, and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon with two oak leaf clusters. He is a command pilot.
His hometown is Fort Mill, S.C.
He was promoted to the temporary grade of brigadier general effective Sept. 30, 1965, with date of rank Sept. 30, 1965.