Retired May 31, 1955. Died Feb. 21, 1977.
General Benjamin Wiley Chidlaw directed the development of the United States' original jet engine and jet aircraft. He was born in Cleves (Cincinnati suburb), Ohio, in 1900. Ben Chidlaw graduated from Woodward High School at Cleves and from the U.S. Military Academy, with appointment in June 1922 as a second lieutenant of Air Service.
He took flying training at Brooks and Kelly fields, Texas, and got his wings in January 1924. He remained at Kelly five months as a flying instructor. He went to Clark Field in the Philippines for duty with the 3rd Pursuit Squadron. He returned to Brooks in October 1926 as flying instructor assistant staging commander, and final check pilot.
Promoted to first lieutenant in April 1927, he remained at Brooks until July 1930 when he entered the Air Corps Engineering School at Wright Field, Ohio, graduating a year later. Then began the first of several long assignments at Wright Field which established Chidlaw as an expert on materiel, especially aircraft. He stayed five years this time, chiefly as project officer of the Materiel Division's Training and Transport Aircraft Branch.
Early in 1934 he devoted three months to helping the Air Corps inaugurate its flying of the airmail. In succession he took the Air Corps Tactical School course at Maxwell Field, Ala., and the Command and General Staff School instruction at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He was promoted to captain in August 1935 and assigned to the 2nd Bomb Group at Langley Field, Va., where he became Operations Officer in May 1938. The following January he was named technical assistant to the assistant chief of staff for materiel at the Air Force Headquarters at Langley. He went back to Wright Field for a short time and in March 1939 was assigned to the Supply Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps. Three months later he became chief of the Engineer Section and in October chief of the Experimental Engineering Branch, where he monitored the jet engine development.
Chidlaw was promoted to major in March 1940, to lieutenant colonel in September 1941, to colonel in March 1942, and to brigadier general in November 1942, while assigned to this duty in Washington. In March 1943, he was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Materiel in Washington. In that capacity he represented the Army Air Force on several joint Royal Air Force-Army Air Force technical missions in London. He went to the Mediterranean Theater in April 1944 as deputy commanding general of the 12th Tactical Air Command. Following the invasion of southern France he organized and commanded the 22nd Tactical Air Command in that theater. In March 1945 he took command of the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Forces and was promoted to major general the next month.
Chidlaw returned to Wright Field in July 1945 as deputy commanding general for operations of what became Air Materiel Command. In October 1947, he became deputy commanding general of the command, with rank of lieutenant general, and full commander Sept. 1, 1949. On July 29, 1951, he received his fourth star and the command of Air Defense Command at Ent Air Force Base, Colo. He also became commander in chief of the joint service Continental Air Defense Command there Sept. 1, 1954, and he retired in that capacity May 31, 1955, with many decorations from his own country as well as France, Great Britain, Poland and Brazil.