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Brigadier General William K. Skaer:

Military Branch:United States Airforce
Retired Nov. 1, 1967.  
On graduation from East High School, Denver, Colo., in June 1932, I was awarded a scholarship to Yale University. Due to personal circumstances, I could not take advantage of this unique opportunity and enrolled instead in the Engineering School of the University of Colorado. During my freshman year, my academic standing was high, and I captained the freshman football team. At the end of the year, I received the Sigma Tau Freshman Award for outstanding all-around performance. During my sophomore year, my studies were continued at Colorado University, and it was during that year that I decided to apply for appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Senator Alva Adams from Colorado nominated me as first alternate, and I entered the academy in the summer of 1934 on the failure of the principal appointee to qualify.
During my four years at the U.S. Military Academy, varsity football was my principa1 extra-curricular activity, and as a member of the first team I was awarded a letter. In 1938, I graduated from West Point standing 39 in a class of 302.
My first commission in the U.S. Army was as second lieutenant in the Field Artillery, however, I proceeded directly after my graduation to Randolph Field, Texas, for flying training. A year later, I was awarded my wings at Kelly Field and at that time transferred to the Air Corps.
For the following three and one half years, I held a number of positions of increasing responsibility in the expanding flying training program of the Army Air Corps. I started out as a basic flying instructor and then became in sequence a training squadron commander, a school squadron commander, an Air Corps supervisor at a primary flying school, a director of flying and then director of training at a basic flying school. Except for my initial assignment as flying instructor at Randolph Field, the positions held during this period were in the Southeast Training Command.
Early in 1943, in preparation for a tactical assignment, I completed four engine transition training at Hendricks Field, Fla., and proceeded to the Second Air Force for assignment as provisional group commander (B-17) at Geiger Field, Wash. In this capacity, I helped train a group of B-17 replacement crews and accompanied them to England in the fall of 1943. On my return to the United States in late 1943, I was ordered to the XXth Bomber Command which was then preparing for the initial deployment of B-29 aircraft to an overseas combat theater.
During the early months of 1944, I held the position of A-3 for the 58th Bomb Wing of the XXth Bomber Command. The 58th Wing was at that time receiving its final training and equipment just prior to debarkation for the China-Burma-India Theater. In March and April, the wing and its immediate headquarters, the XXth Bomber Command, moved to India. In the vanguard of this movement, I piloted the first B-29 aircraft to arrive in the CBI Theater.
During the late spring and summer months of 1944, the 58th Bomb Wing began its operations from China and initiated, for the first time in the war, a sustained bombing offensive against the Japanese Islands. As A-3 of the 58th Bomb Wing, I was on the first bombardment mission against Japan proper which took place June 15, 1944. This mission was directed against a steel mill at Yawata on the island of Kyushu.
In September 1944, the XXth Bomber Command was reorganized and the 58th Wing Headquarters deactivated. This reorganization resulted in my designation as chief of the Operations, Plans, and Training Division of the command. During the balance of this year, the command operated from its China bases against the Japanese Islands and from its bases in India against other targets in Southeast Asia.
Early in 1945, I was given command of the 40th Bomb Group, one of the groups in the XXth Bomber Command. Shortly thereafter my group, the 40th, which was then a part of the reactivated 58th Bombardment Wing was redeployed to the Marianna Islands. For the balance of the war my bomb group materially contributed to the final air offensive against the Japanese Islands.
For my services in the CBI Theater and the Pacific Theater, I was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster.
In addition, the 40th Bomb Group which I commanded received two presidential citations.
Soon after the capitulation of the Japanese, the 40th Bomb Group returned to the United States with station at March Air Force Base, Calif.
Early in 1946, while commanding the 40th Bomb Group, I, together with five other Air Force colonels, was assigned for a six months period of study to become acquainted with the then infant atomic weapons program of the Air Force. As a result of this program in which we participated in the first atomic tests in the Pacific (Cross-Roads), we were all designated atomic bomb commanders, the first in the Air Force. The recommendations made by our group of six officers were influential in creating within the Air Force a much broader understanding of the problems of using atomic weapons.
Late in 1940, I was transferred to the position of assistant Air Force representative on the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations.
This committee, (at the time of my assignment) was composed of military representatives from the United Kingdom, France, China, the USSR, well as the United States, had existed less than one year and was in the early stages of its discussions on the organization of the United Nations Forces in accordance with the provisions of the charter. These discussions were continued during 1947.
In the summer of 1948, I was again transferred, this time to Washington for duty with the Atomic Energy Commission. My specific job was chief of the production, Storage and Utilization Branch in the Division of Military Application. The Atomic Energy Commission at that time was a relative youngster with a history of less than two years and during my three years, the facilities of the commission expanded rapidly.
In 1951, I was appointed air attache to Mexico, and remained in that capacity until my assignment as a student at the National War College in 1955. Upon completion of this year as a student, I was reassigned to the War College as a member the faculty with the position of chief of the military affairs committee. After one year on the faculty of the War College, I was named as director of the Staff, Inter-American Defense Board.
0n Sept. 2, 1960, I returned to Randolph Air Force Base to take command of the Fourth Air Force Reserve Region. As commander of this region, encompassing Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, I am responsible for all Air Force Reserve activities within the area.

 

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