Retired Feb. 2, 1968. Died March 1, 1968.
Brigadier General Thomas Henry Beeson is the chief of staff, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, Naples, Italy, the air arm of Allied Forces Southern Europe. In this position he directs and coordinates the work of the AIRSOUTH international staff in all matters pertaining to North Atlantic Treaty Organization air operations in the Southern Region, including active plans and programs for wartime employment of earmarked air offensive units, and exercises and tactical evaluations to ensure the readiness of all forces. Combat units, personnel and facilities committed to NATO by Italy, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States are involved in these activities.
General Beeson was born at Riverside, Calif., in 1922. In 1939, he received a Congressional appointment to the U.S. Military Academy and, six months after Pearl Harbor, participated in a unique training program which enabled cadets to commence flight training prior to graduation from the academy. His primary training at Uvalde Field, Texas, was followed by basic training at Randolph Field and advanced training at Foster Field, Texas. He graduated from the academy in January 1943, five months ahead of schedule in an accelerated program generated by World War II.
In March 1943, he was assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron, Westover Field, Mass., and in August of that year was assigned to the 377th Fighter Squadron, Mitchel Field, N.Y In November 1943, he went with the 377th to the European Theater of Operations as operations officer and later became commander. In February 1945, he was assigned as deputy commander and executive officer of the 362nd Fighter Bomber Group, a unit of the Ninth Air Force in France. In March 1945, he was shot down by ground fire near Coblenz, Germany, and was imprisoned in a German hospital. Two weeks later, the hospital was overrun by U.S. armored forces and the German commander surrendered the hospital to General Beeson who was the ranking allied prisoner. He rejoined the 362nd Group in May 1945. He completed 115 combat missions in the P-47 Thunderbolt and shot down three German aircraft.
In July 1945, as commander of the 379th Fighter Squadron, he returned to the United States and went to Seymour Johnson Army Air Base, N.C. In January 1946, he was assigned to the Department of Mechanics, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, as an instructor.
In August 1949, General Beeson became commander of the 317th Fighter Squadron, Moses Lake Air Force Base, Wash. He next was commander of the 449th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Ladd Air Force Base, Wash., and later of the 57th Fighter Group, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. In November 1952, he became director of plans and requirements, Headquarters Alaskan Air Command, Elmendorf Air Force Base.
General Beeson was assigned as director of operations for the Western Air Defense Force at Hamilton Air Force Base, Calif., in October 1953. He graduated from the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 1957, and was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force and served successively as the assistant chief, Unilateral Plans Branch, War Plans Division; Assistant Deputy Director for War Plans, and Assistant Deputy Director of Plans, Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Programs. In June 1959, he was selected as the U.S. Air Force member on the personal staff of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General Beeson graduated from the National War College in Washington, D.C., in June 1962 and was assigned to the Northern North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) Region, North Bay, Ontario, Canada, as deputy for operations. He became commander of the Goose Air Defense Sector, Goose Air Base, Labrador, Dec. 21, 1963, with subordinate commands in Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland. In July 1965, he was reassigned as commander of the 73rd Air Division, with headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. When the 73rd Air Division was deactivated April 1, 1966, General Beeson became vice commander, Fourteenth Air Force, Gunter Air Force Base, Ala.
On Jan. 24, 1967, General Beeson was assigned to Allied Air Forces Southern Europe as chief of staff.
General Beeson is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours, including 2,000 hours in jet fighters. He is currently combat ready in the F-102 fighter interceptor and through the transition phase of the F-106 Combat Crew training.
His decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 22 oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Ribbon, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Gilt Star.