Retired Aug. 1, 1973. Died Jan. 21, 1995.
Brigadier General William Henry Best Jr., is commander of the global Air Weather Service which manages a worldwide network of weather and environmental facilities to support U.S. Air Force and Army units. In addition to traditional weather support, Air Weather Service observes and forecasts space environmental events, performs aerial reconnaissance of hurricanes and typhoons, and carries out atmospheric sampling. The prime function of Air Weather Service is to assist and advise decision-makers whose decisions are affected by the aerospace natural environment.
General Best was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1920, the son of William H. Best, M.D., and Mary Kinsley Best. He entered Princeton University in 1937, and graduated in 1941 with a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics. He was employed as an actuarial mathematician when in August 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In September 1943 he graduated from the aviation cadet course in meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
From 1943 to 1946 General Best served as a weather officer in the Pentagon Weather Central. He was relieved from active military service in April 1946 and worked as a U.S. Weather Bureau (now National Weather Service) meteorologist and was staff weather officer for the Colorado Air National Guard in Denver, Colo. He was recalled to active military duty in June 1947.
From July 1947 through December 1949, he was chief forecaster at the U.S. Air Force Weather Central at Haneda, Tokyo, Japan. After graduation from the Air Tactical School at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in April 1950, he became assistant operations officer for the 2102d Weather Group at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y. In September 1950 he entered New York University under the Air Force Institute of Technology program, and received his master of science degree in meteorology in 1951. He was assigned to Air Weather Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., in July 1951.
General Best entered the University of Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1954 under the Air Force Institute of Technology doctorate-level program, one of the first U.S. Air Force officers to be so selected. He was assigned to the 2d Weather Wing in Germany in August 1955 to become assistant technical services officer.
In October 1957 General Best returned to the United States and assumed command of Detachment 30, 5th Weather Group, at Westover Air Force Base, Mass. In August 1960 he entered the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. In July 1961 he became deputy commander of the 4th Weather Group at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. He returned to Westover Air Force Base in July 1963 and was assigned as commander of the 8th Weather Squadron and staff weather officer for the Strategic Air Command's Eighth Air Force.
General Best moved to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in June 1966, where he served as commander of the 7th Weather Wing. In June 1967 he was assigned to Headquarters Air Weather Service as deputy chief of staff for operations; in February 1970 he became vice commander; and in July 1970 he assumed command of the Air Weather Service, becoming the 12th officer to command the global weather service.
His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Army Commendation Medal. In September 1971 General Best was awarded the Vietnamese Air Force Distinguished Service Order, First Class, for the U.S. Air Force Air Weather Service's achievement in organizing and training a Vietnamese Air Force meteorological service.
General Best is a member of Sigma Xi, the honorary scientific fraternity, and an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Air War College. He is a past councilor (1968-1971) and former executive committeeman of the American Meteorological Society as well as a member of the Society's Planning Commission and an elected AMS fellow, the highest level of professional membership.
He was promoted to the grade of brigadier general effective Feb. 6, 1970, with date of rank Jan. 30, 1970.