Retired Feb. 28, 1959. Died Dec. 8, 1997.
Edwin William Rawlings was born in Milroy, Minn., in 1904, and graduated from Hamline University at St. Paul, Minn., with a bachelor of arts degree in 1927. The two previous years he had worked as a reporter for the Pioneer Press and Dispatch in St. Paul, and in 1927 became an assistant department manager at Dayton Company, Minneapolis.
He was appointed a flying cadet in February 1929 and commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps of the Officer's Reserve a year later. Rawlings was appointed a second lieutenant in the Air Corps of the Regular Army May 8, 1930. First assigned to Luke Field, Hawaii, as assistant photographic officer, he later served as commanding officer of the 11th photographic section and squadron mess officer of the Fourth Observation Squadron. In December 1931, while serving with the 18th Composite Wing, he was placed in charge of construction of the Fort Shafter Flying Field in Hawaii. Lieutenant Rawlings went to Brooks Field, Texas in May 1932, and during three years at that station served as adjutant and assistant operations officer, assistant post and group adjutant, and engineering and armament officer for the 12th Observation Group. He was promoted to captain April 20, 1935.
Going to Wright Field, Ohio in September 1935, Rawlings became assistant chief of the Administration Branch in the Field Service Section, Materiel Division. In 1937 he was one of two Air Corps officers chosen to attend Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. Captain Rawlings graduated with honors with a masters degree in industrial management two years later.
Spending the following four years at Wright Field, he served as assistant budget officer of the Statistical Branch, Air Corps Materiel Division, assistant budget officer of the materiel center and chief of the Production Resources Section, Production Division. Rawlings was promoted to major March 21, 1941 and lieutenant colonel in January 1942. In 1943 he was chosen to head the Aircraft Scheduling Unit which was responsible for scheduling the material and critical components needed to maintain wartime production scheduled for the entire aircraft industry. A year later he was given additional duty as chief of the Readjustment Division of the Air Technical Service Command there.
Rawlings was promoted to brigadier general in January 1945. In August, he left on a Far East assignment, but surrender of the Japanese brought him back to Wright-Patterson one month later. At this time he assumed responsibilities at Air Technical Service Command as chief of the Procurement Division. In July 1946, Rawlings was assigned to Air Force Headquarters, Washington, to help organize the new office of comptroller of the Air Force. In October 1946, Rawlings became air comptroller. The next February Rawlings was promoted to major general.
General Rawlings' efforts brought budgetary, fiscal and statistical functions together into a smooth-working organization. Rawlings guided the new office of comptroller through its formative years, 1946-1951.
Rawlings assumed command of the Air Materiel Command Aug. 24, 1951. In the following May, Rawlings said that there had been substantial slippings, the amounts that deliveries fall behind schedule. Extended schedules had not been met. In order to fulfill the demand for new and improved planes without too many modifications on the production lines, the deputy chief of staff for materiel decided to oversee designs and production modifications. This was only one instance of the managerial ability that made Rawlings an efficient administrator. During his Air Force career, General Rawlings has been responsible for the expenditure or obligation of more than $87 billion of government funds. He is considered one of the outstanding business experts in the military services. Rawlings was promoted to four-star rank Feb. 19, 1954. He commanded Air Materiel Command during the transition period into ballistic missiles and space developments. This transition required new technologies in Air Force support, supply and distribution.
In 1956, Rawlings headed a board which reviewed the Air Force's educational program. The board recommended to the chief of staff that additional incentives be given officers attending scientific courses, including preference in promotion. It also advised that Air University receive more funds to expand its educational program and to construct new facilities at the Air Force Institute of Technology Resident College. Although there had been recommendations in 1949-1950 that the Resident College be converted into a graduate school, leaving undergraduate study to civilian schools, the Rawlings Board advised that the need for undergraduate courses in science and engineering remained great. Many officers still lacked bachelor degrees and enough background to do graduate work. The board advised that both undergraduate and graduate studies be continued by the Air Force.
General Rawlings is a command pilot who enjoys action in the air. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1930, for aiding in the rescue of a downed aircraft in waters off the Hawaiian Islands. In 1932, he parachuted to safety from 500 feet when his biplane caught fire. In 1954, he was awarded the Soldier's Medal by the secretary of the Air Force for heroism in rescuing his pilot who was lying injured underneath a blazing B-17 that caught fire on landing at Wright-Patterson.
His other awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Commendation Ribbon, Degree of Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and the Brazilian Legion of Aeronautical Merit, Degree of Grand Officer. In 1957, Rawlings received an award for outstanding contribution to aviation progress, the General William E. Mitchell Award. One year later he received the Air Force Association's Citation of Honor. He has also received five honorary degrees.