Retired Jan. 31, 1991.
General John T. Chain Jr. is commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, and director, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, with headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The command is the nation's major nuclear deterrent force with bombers, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff coordinates U.S. nuclear war plans and develops the Single Integrated Operational Plan.
General Chain was born in Wilmington, Del., in 1934, and attended high school at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history in 1956 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters in 1990, both from Denison University. In 1971 he graduated from the National War College and concurrently earned a master's degree in international affairs from The George Washington University.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He received his pilot wings in December 1957 and then entered combat crew training. From August 1958 to September 1959 the general was an F-100 pilot with the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing at Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France, and from October 1959 to August 1962, with the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, West Germany. General Chain then served as a flight examiner with the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In June 1964 he was assigned as a forward air controller with the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. While there he became a master parachutist and flew Army 0-1s and Air National Guard F-84F's.
From January to December 1966 the general flew combat missions while assigned to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, as a member of the Air Force Advisory Group. He then transferred to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., as a staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations. From January 1969 to June 1970 General Chain was an exchange officer with the U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. He entered the National War College in August 1970 and upon graduation was assigned to the A-7-equipped 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., as deputy commander for operations. In January 1972 he became deputy commander for logistics.
From July 1972 to August 1973 the general flew combat missions in F-4s from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, while serving initially as the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing's deputy commander for operations, and then as deputy commander for logistics. Upon his return to the United States in August 1973, he became deputy commander for operations for the F-4-equipped 35th Tactical Fighter Wing at George Air Force Base, Calif. In March 1974 he was assigned as vice commander of the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., where he flew as an aggressor pilot.
General Chain transferred to Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., in April 1975 as director of fighter and reconnaissance operations. From November 1976 to August 1977 he was assistant to the commander, Tactical Air Command. He then assumed command of the F-15-equipped 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, also located at Langley.
In April 1978 he became the military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, Washington, D.C. He then served as deputy director of plans at Air Force headquarters until February 1980, when he became director of operations. General Chain was assigned as assistant deputy chief of staff for plans and operations in July 1981 and became deputy chief of staff for plans and operations in June 1982. He served as director of the Bureau of Politico Military Affairs, Department of State, Washington, D.C., from June 1984 until June 1985, when he became chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium. He assumed his present position in June 1986.
The general is a command pilot with 5,000 flying hours, including 400 combat hours, in more than 45 different military aircraft. He is a master parachutist with 66 jumps. His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with service star, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, Air Force Overseas Ribbon-Short with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Overseas Ribbon-Long with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with six oak leaf clusters, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal, Republic of Vietnam Distinguished Medal, Republic of Vietnam Special Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. General Chain is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
He was promoted to general July 1, 1985, with same date of rank.