Retired Sep. 1, 1966. Died Jan. 16, 1969.
Robert Francis Burnham was born in Battle Creek, Mich., in 1913. He graduated from Battle Creek High School in 1929 and entered Battle Creek College that year. He was appointed a cadet to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which he entered in June 1930. In 1933 he resigned to apply for appointment as a flying cadet, Army Air Corps. He was appointed a flying cadet in February 1935, at which time he entered training at Randolph Field, Texas. He graduated as a rated pilot from Kelly Field, Texas, in February 1936.
General Burnham was assigned to the 97th Operations Squadron, Mitchel Field, N.Y., as a flying cadet, in conformance with the personnel policy of those years which required an additional year of duty as a flying cadet subsequent to graduation and prior to commissioning. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve March 1, 1937.
In July 1937, General Burnham was transferred from Mitchel Field to Randolph Field, Texas, for duty as a flying instructor. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Regular Air Corps in October 1938.
From July 1939 until June 1942, he helped organize and became Air Corps supervisor of the Primary Flying schools at Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Decatur, Ala. In the spring of 1942 General Burnham was assigned as director of training for the Southeast Training Center's Heavy Glider Program at Lockbourne, Ohio, and moved with the program to Stuttgart, Ark.
After receiving B-17 transition training in the spring of 1943, General Burnham was assigned to the 13th Air Force in the South Pacific area. He was initially operations officer of the 5th Bomb Group (Heavy) and soon transferred to the 307th Bomb Group (Heavy) as deputy group commander, taking command of the group early in 1944. General Burnham flew 46 heavy bomber missions in the South, Southwest and Central Pacific area prior to his return to the United States in November 1944 to assume command of Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio.
At the end of World War II, he was transferred to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where he assisted in the establishment of the Air University as deputy chief of staff, chief of staff, Air University secretary, and lastly, chief of the academic staff. In the summer of 1948, he entered the Air War College as a student.
Upon graduation in 1949, General Burnham was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force for duty as chief, Legislative Division, Directorate of Legislative, Liaison, where he continued until he entered the National War College in 1952.
In July 1953, after graduation from the National War College, General Burnham was assigned to Allied Air Forces, Northern Europe, Oslo, Norway, as deputy chief of staff, plans. The following summer he was selected to be deputy chief of staff, plans and operations, Allied Forces, Northern Europe. He returned from this assignment to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in August 1956 for duty with the directorate of plans. He was later transferred in June 1957 to duty as the executive to the undersecretary of the Air Force.
General Burnham was promoted to brigadier general in June 1959 and the following month, was transferred to the inspector general, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, for duty as the provost marshal.
Effective June 11, 1962, General Burnham was appointed director of special investigations (The Inspector General).