Retired July 1, 1962. Died Nov. 30, 1979.
Laurence Sherman Kuter was born in Rockford, Ill., in 1905, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., June 14, 1927.
Second Lieutenant Kuter was first assigned to Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, Presidio of Monterey, Calif. He was formally assigned all battery officer duties except command. In May 1929 he was accepted for flying training, graduating from flying schools at Brooks and Kelly fields, Texas, as a bombardment pilot in June 1930.
He was then assigned as operations officer, 49th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Va. One month later Lieutenant Kuter was transferred to the Air Corps. During his assignment at Langley, Lieutenant Kuter placed second in the annual bombing competition of the Army Air Corps. Since the Air Corps was leading the world in the development of bombing techniques, this had the effect of proving him the number two bombardier in the world.
In August 1933 Lieutenant Kuter moved up as operations officer, 2nd Bombardment Wing, and assistant base operations officer at Langley. During this period he flew alternate wing position with Captain Claire L. Chennault's acrobatic group, "The Flying Trapeze." This was the first recognized aerial acrobatic team in the military service.
He then was given a leading role in the operational development of the B-9 Boeing twin engine bombers which pioneered high altitude bombing techniques and tactics in the U.S. Air Force.
From February to June 1934, Lieutenant Kuter served as operations officer of the Eastern Zone Army Corps Mail operations. He was the last officer relieved from this duty being held over to write the final report and history. At the conclusion of this assignment he was selected for the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Ala. He graduated at the top of his class in the spring of 1935 and was retained at the school as instructor in bombardment aviation and in the employment of air power.
At this time the school was beginning to develop the role of strategic bombing in future warfare. Prior to this, planning had been directed to defensive and supporting roles. The 10,000-plane Air Force envisioned in Captain Kuter's lectures taxed imaginations at that time.
The ideas born and developed at the school were to play an important part in his next assignment in the Operations and Training Division, War Department General Staff, Washington, D.C., where he was ordered to duty on July 1, 1939. General George C. Marshall, who became the chief of the War Department General Staff on that day had called for the experimental assignment to the general staff of aviators, young and junior officers and officers who had not attended the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Captain Kuter's assignment represented all three phases of this experiment.
Early in 1941 he was a principal factor in several augmentations of the Air Corps and was one of the four principal authors of the basic plan for employment of Air Power in World War II. This plan was used almost without change. It has been said that there is no other case in military history where a detailed overall plan had been drawn up and adhered to so closely through the organizing, training, fighting and winning of any great war.
In November 1941, Major Kuter was designated assistant secretary, War Department General Staff. After participating as one of a committee of three in the reorganization of the War Department, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel Jan. 5, 1942, and to brigadier general Feb. 2, 1942, and transferred in March to Headquarters Army Air Forces as the deputy chief of air staff.
At this time there was extensive public interest expressed in the sudden promotion to temporary brigadier general of an officer who had been a temporary lieutenant colonel for less than 30 days. General Kuter has never served in the active rank of full colonel. His was the first "jump" promotion of an officer as young as 36 since William T. Sherman. The next youngest general officer at that time was 46.
General Kuter was assigned overseas in October 1942 in command of the First Bombardment Wing (later First Bombardment Division), Eighth Air Force, Brampton Grange, England. When General Kuter assumed command he found four understrength groups of B-17's (Flying Fortresses) operating separately. He succeeded in welding the individual squadrons and groups into a coordinated fighting force. This was done on the assumption that the largest practicable combat unit over the target at one time would provide more mutual fire support, saving lives and planes, and improve the probability of destroying the objective without having to repeat.
Then in January 1943 General Kuter was transferred to North Africa to command the allied tactical air forces. In February the Royal Air Forces Western Desert Air Force reached Tunisia and was merged with the Allied Support Command from North Africa. General Kuter became the American deputy commander in the newly consolidated Northwestern African Tactical Air Force. During this campaign in Tunisia, new tactical air concepts were generated and Air Corps regulations revised accordingly. The basic changes reflected in them are still the principle doctrinal basis for the present tactical air power concept of the U.S. Air Force.
During the Tunisian campaign, General Henry H. Arnold, commanding general, Army Air Forces, directed that General Kuter be released from the Mediterranean theater and returned to Washington effective the day General Rommel surrendered. So in May 1943 General Kuter returned to Headquarters Army Air Forces to become assistant chief of air staff for plans and combat operations.
During this period, plans for the overall air war offensive for the defeat of Japan reached the stage where it became practicable to organize the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force in the Pacific. This headquarters was set up in the Pentagon under General Arnold's personal and direct command. General Kuter served as General Arnold's chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, plans, in connection with the 20th Air Force and, as it moved into the Pacific Ocean Area, the 8th Air Force. These units later formed the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force, Pacific.
In February 1944, General Kuter was promoted to major general. Previous to this, in August 1943 and extending through February 1945, he participated in the series of combined chief of staff conferences at Quebec, Cairo and London. When General Arnold became suddenly and seriously ill, General Kuter was designated as his representative to attend the Yalta and Malta conferences. His experiences in these two conferences are told in detail in his book, "An Airman at Yalta," Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1955.
General Kuter went to the Marianas Islands in May 1945 to become deputy commander of Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Area, and to help operate the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific.
At the conclusion of the war in the Pacific, General Kuter was directed to return to Headquarters U.S. Air Force through Europe. In Paris he was intercepted by an order redirecting him back through the Philippines, Guam and Okinawa to assume command of the airlift forces as General Arnold's and General H.L. George's, personal representative in arranging the airlift of General MacArthur and Army forces into Japan. He then returned to the United States.
During the next year General Kuter consolidated three Air Transport Command divisions into the Atlantic Division, ATC, and served as its commander. While in this position, he represented the Air Force of the US-UK Bilateral Air Conference in Bermuda, and participated in negotiating an agreement with Portugal for U.S. Air Force use of Lajes Air Field in the Azores.
In September 1946, by presidential order, the general was appointed U.S. representative to the Interim Council of the Provisional International Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada. A year later he was reappointed by presidential order as the U.S. Representative to the then permanent International Civil Aviation Organization. In his appointment he had the personal rank of minister. During this period of the birth of international agreements in aviation, General Kuter participated in major civil aviation conferences in London, Cairo, Lima and Rio de Janeiro.
This experience led President Truman to nominate General Kuter for the chairmanship of the Civil Aeronautics Board. At this time several military figures had recently been appointed to high civilian positions and General Eisenhower was emerging as a possible political figure, Republican or Democrat. The Senate committee refused to confirm the nomination of another military man to such position, and indicated that it would be necessary for General Kuter to resign from the service before accepting the position. General Kuter preferred not to resign from the Air Force and asked that his nomination be withdrawn.
Within a month he was named commander designate of the proposed Military Air Transport Service in February 1948. This was the first integrated military service. He was primarily responsible for its charter and organization. When MATS was activated four months later General Kuter became its first commander, MATS proved its organizational soundness and its operational capability in its first six months of operations when its global resources were directed into the operation of the Berlin airlift.
Two years later the same global resources of MATS were operating across the Pacific Ocean in support of fighting in Korea. At the same time General Kuter's command brought air evacuation of troops into extensive and effective operation.
He was promoted to lieutenant general in April 1951 and in October of that year was designated deputy chief of staff for personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. In this position General Kuter initiated actions in the Air Force and in cooperation with the personnel chiefs of the other services which culminated four years later in extensive legislation raising pay and otherwise increasing the desirability of a military service career. He held this position until April 1953 when he assumed command of the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
As commander, Air University, General Kuter raised the status of the Air Command and Staff School to college level, the Squadron 0fficer's Course to school level, and brought the Air University closer to its original concept as a university with a university staff and faculty to handle all levels of professional military education in the U.S. Air Force. This concept has been adopted by the Air Forces of several foreign countries.
Lieutenant General Kuter was promoted to full general while in flight at 0001 hours, May 29, 1955, while en route to Tokyo to assume command of the Far Fast Air Forces.
In this new command, General Kuter immediately found the mobility of air power impeded by the existence of two major commands in the Pacific. His air units were split between the Far East Command with headquarters in Tokyo and the Pacific Command in Hawaii. He could not move air units from one of these commands to the other without permission of two theater commanders or the Joint Chiefs in Washington. Rapid movement to meet potential air threats is a basic essential of the jet age and General Kuter's long-term recommendations and objections to the divided command system were registered in a formal recommendation to the chief of staff, U.S. Air Force. This study was then used as the U.S. Air Force position before the Joint Chiefs of Staff and led to the consolidation of the two commands and establishment of the present Pacific Command.
When Far East Air Forces was disestablished in this consolidation of command, General Kuter became commander in chief of the newly created Pacific Air Forces July 1, 1957. Pacific Air Forces is the air arm of Pacific Command. Its headquarters is at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
General Kuter is a rated command pilot, combat observer, technical observer and aircraft observer. He has logged more than 8,000 flying hours, including 3,200 hours as a command pilot. Before 1952 he had flown around the world seven times visiting Air Force installations.