Retired Aug. 1, 1976. Died Oct. 22, 1998.
Brigadier General Thomas Merritt Knoles III is deputy director of operations (J-3), U.S. Readiness Command, with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
General Knoles was born in 1927, in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1945. He attended the University of Arizona prior to enlisting in the Army Air Forces in March 1946. He received his commission as second lieutenant and pilot wings through the aviation cadet program in June 1948. He graduated from the Air Tactical School in 1950 and the Air War College in 1967.
His first assignment as a pilot was with the 31st Fighter Group at Turner Air Force Base, Ga., where he flew P-51 and F-84 aircraft for two years. From July 1950 to May 1953, General Knoles was assigned to the 36th Fighter Group in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, where he was a flight commander and a P-80 and F-84 pilot. During the Korean War, he flew 20 combat missions while on temporary duty with the 474th Tactical Fighter Group.
General Knoles next served as operations officer with the 506th Strategic Fighter Wing at Dow Air Force Base, Maine, and went with the wing to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., in 1955. During this tour of duty, he flew the F-100 Supersabre and three models of the F-84 Thunderjets. In February 1959 he was sent to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., as an instructor in the Air Ground Operations School.
In June 1961 he went to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, where he served for two years as director of contingency plans at Headquarters Thirteenth Air Force and then was operations officer for the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In May 1964 General Knoles was transferred to Headquarters Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, where he served as assistant chief, General War Area, Plans and Policy Section. In August 1966 he entered the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
In September 1967, he went to the Republic of Vietnam and assumed command of the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Phan Rang Air Base. During this tour of duty, he flew 258 combat missions in the F-100.
General Knoles returned to the United States in October 1968, and was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force where he served as deputy chief, Cost Division, Directorate of Budget. In June 1971, he became commander of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing with headquarters at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C. A year later he led the wing when it was deployed to Thailand to participate in the final stages of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia and supported Operation Linebacker in December 1972.
General Knoles became assistant deputy chief of staff, operations, for control and support, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., in May 1973. He was transferred to U.S. Readiness Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in September 1974, as deputy director of Operations (J-3).
His military decorations and awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with 15 oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.
General Knoles' hometown is Flagstaff, Ariz.
He was promoted to the grade of brigadier general effective Aug. 1, 1973, with date of rank July 31, 1973.