Died Feb. 1, 1977.
Brigadier General John D. Howe assumed command of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio on July 1, 1958. His command of the "mother" base of American aviation, upon which Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted most of their flight experiments after Kitty Hawk, culminated a colorful military career which began in October 1923 as a buck private with the Arkansas National Guard.
At the beginning, service with the National Guard was but a valued sideline with General Howe. His first love, and still his major interest, was aviation -- not merely piloting, but maintenance, organization, supply and everything it took to make his chosen profession work. Enlisting in the Arkansas National Guard 153rd Infantry at 17, he became a buck sergeant before leaving the outfit at 19 to devote himself more fully to aviation.
Nearly three years later, the old Arkansas 154th Observation Squadron, Air Corps, National Guard, looked favorably upon his single-handed elevation through the ranks in commercial aviation. By this time, in November 1929, Howe had become chief pilot for a struggling young outfit that later became one of the nation's major airlines. By the time he re-enlisted in the Guard, in November 1929, to take tests for a commission and a pilot's rating, Howe had accumulated a pilot's rating and nearly 5,000 hours commercial flying time. He wound up his airline career flying Travelair B-6000 and Stinson tri-motor aircraft.
Successfully completing his mental and flight tests, Howe was made a second lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve and Air Corps National Guard, on Jan. 11, 1930. He was 25 years old. He was ordered to active duty Aug. 1, 1930 and has remained on active duty since that date.
Rising to the rank of captain by 1939, Howe knew the workings of the 154th Observation Squadron inside out by the time his outfit was called to federal service in September 1940 -- the month which marked the start of the United States' defensive buildup before the outbreak of World War II. He was a 35-year-old captain with nearly three years in grade, ready to put to use the many years he had spent learning air operations, maintenance engineering, and supply from the tail-skid forward.
His first big break came in 1941, when after mysterious orders to Washington, he flew all night in an old 0-47 to report to the Army Air Force chief, General Hap Arnold, and his staff. After a series of early morning interviews, the sleepy Captain Howe learned that his field reports and service test on operating and maintaining aircraft for extended maneuvers had landed him a new job: Forming up the 4th Air Depot Group at Wright and Patterson Fields, and at Wellston Air Depot, Macon, Ga., the new commander took his new outfit to Australia, arriving early in January 1942.
By February, Howe was a major. He built and put into production the Air Depot that served the Southwest Pacific Theater; then along came another promotion to lieutenant colonel. By late 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Howe had learned much at first-hand of field depot support to aircraft. He had been sent to put the Southwest Pacific Air Depot into operation, and he had done just that. When the job was finished, he was returned to old Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, to the headquarters of Air Service Command.
Howe's first task in his new job was, as chief of the equipment action, maintenance division, to help establish a training program for depots and air service groups that were to go overseas to operate theater air depots or to serve as mobile Air Depot or Air Service Groups. This was his first shot at directing a program with Air Force-wide effects.
In August 1942 Howe became a colonel. And all the way to 1947, Colonel Howe remained at the "mother" base, receiving the Legion of Merit before ending his successive jobs there as assistant for field operations. The Wright and Patterson Field complex by then had begun to emerge as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, then the headquarters for 11 Air Force materiel and research and development activities.
It was back to school in September 1947, to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. A year later, Howe was overseas in Japan with Headquarters 5th Air Force. By May 1950, he was doing business at his old stand: deputy for operational engineering, 5th Air Force. The job lasted only a month. June brought the outbreak of the Korean War and a new job for Colonel Howe. He was made vice commander of the Air Force's advanced headquarters in Korea, where he established the Air Force's new base for operations. The big job completed in record time, Colonel Howe took on the additional task of setting up the first workable ground-air control system for directing jet and propeller fighter-bombers to pinpoint targets in support of Army ground forces.
For his Korean duty he received a first oak leaf cluster to the Legion of Merit as well as the Bronze Star Medal. In part, the citation for his Legion of Merit reads, "Colonel Howe proceeded to Itazuke Air Base to establish the advanced headquarters of the 5th Air Force for subsequent movement to Korea while serving in his present rank but acting as vice commanding general and later as chief of staff of the 5th Air Force Advanced Headquarters. In spite of enemy ground forces nearby, he succeeded in equipping and moving this major unit in sufficient time to permit its operation from an advanced position in Korea in a relatively short time. Through his devotion to duty, resourcefulness and personal courage, Colonel Howe has brought great credit upon himself and the United States Air Forces."
Before his Korean service was completed in 1951, Colonel Howe had been awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Citation and the Republic of Korea Ulchi with Gold Star. In all, he participated in seven different battle campaigns in Korea.
The Pentagon called Colonel Howe in 1951 to the post of deputy director of maintenance engineering, and a few months later he became director of maintenance engineering at Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
June 23, 1953 was a big day for Howe. On that date he was promoted to brigadier general.
In July l954, General Howe was assigned as deputy commander of the Sacramento Air Materiel Area; the Air Materiel Command's big buying, supplying and maintenance setup at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif. The Sacramento AMA is responsible for all Air Force materiel activities through its surrounding geographical area and the Pacific area as well. This, one of General Howe's most rewarding assignments, lasted two and a half years. Then it was back to headquarters again -- this time to Air Materiel Command at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he was to become deputy director of maintenance engineering.
The most challenging of all Air Force base commands became General Howe's on July 1, 1938, when he was named commander of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He was back where he put his first "break" on the road as a captain in 1941.
Brigadier General John D. Howe was born in Arkansas in 1906. He spent most of his mature years, before entering military active duty, in Little Rock and Hot Springs, Ark. His high school and college years were spent in Conway, near Little Rock.
He is the son of Charles D. and Lucy P. Howe who live in Benton, Ark. Both his parents are living (August 1958); his mother was born in l874, his father in 1867. At 91 Charles Howe is living in quiet retirement after spending a lifetime as a building contractor. Besides General Howe, Charles and Lucy Howe had one other son and a daughter. The second son, Philip C., younger than General Howe, is a colonel in the U.S. Army Artillery Reserve and now lives in Morrilton, Ark.
While attending high school and college (Arkansas State Teachers) at Conway, Howe lettered in baseball, track, basketball and football. He won a hatful of first places for high jumps and hurdles, earning a collegiate athletic scholarship.
General Howe is a 32nd degree Mason, a former Rotarian, and a member of the Methodist Church of Benton, Ark.
As a hobbyist, he has been almost a lifelong amateur gunsmith and cabinetmaker. Between the years 1927-35, he developed one of the very first super-high velocity .22 caliber rifles, achieving a muzzle velocity with his weapon of 4,340 feet per second. He has continued his research with small calibre high velocity rifles for more than 30 years. Also in the shooting business, Howe has been a trick exhibition rifle and shotgun shooter and has won many championship skeet shoots.
Aviation-wise, General Howe is an Air Force command pilot with more than 13,000 hours total flying time -- of which 5,000 are commercial. At the end of World War II, Howe was checked out in every combat type aircraft flown by the Air Force. Aircraft in which he has qualified include everything from the F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter all the way back to the Jenny, PT-1 and the 0-2C; in between, he has checked out in four-engine aircraft as well.
General Howe is known by his staff as a hard-driving, resourceful, devoted Air Force officer who will spare no effort to get a needed job done. In a new assignment, his staff is apt to get its first insight into his character when, during one of his first staff meetings, some unlucky officer makes the unhappy mistake of saying we "can't."
"Colonel," the six-foot-three, 200-pound general will erupt, "I don't ever want to hear you use that word again while I'm here. You can tell me you expect a little difficulty getting a job done -- you might even have to work until midnight a few nights -- but don't you ever tell me we can't get a job done. If we need to get something done, we'll do it. Do you understand?"
General Howe lives and works as a man who expects what he accomplishes in his lifetime to be marked down and remembered for better or for worse -- and he doesn't expect much of the latter to creep in. What sets a man out on such a hard path?
"When I was growing up," General Howe will tell you, "my father had a favorite saying he would repeat to me whenever he thought I needed it. 'Son,' he would say, 'be careful of the tracks you leave behind you. They will always catch up with you, be they good or be they bad.' That old saying made a distinct impression on me, and I've tried to live it throughout my life as my father did."
DECORATIONS AND MEDALS
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star Medal
Republic of Korea Ulchi with Gold Star
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Medal
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with service star
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (Japan)
Korean Service Medal with seven service stars
United Nations Service Medal
Air Force Longevity Service Award with six oak leaf clusters