Retired Sep. 1, 1965. Died March 24, 1984.
Lieutenant General Archie J. Old Jr., is a perfectionist.
As a youngster in Farmersville, Texas, in college at Trinity University and Texas University and through aviation cadet days in the old Army Air Corps, General Old always left his mark for getting the most out of anything he did.
Throughout World War II and the rise to his present post of commander, Fifteenth Air Force, he set rigid and exacting standards of performance. It meant pushing and driving. It meant insistence on efficiency until he got what he ceaselessly demands - the best possible results.
Despite his pushing and driving to obtain perfection, General Old usually pushes himself harder than his subordinates. Once at a briefing, after he himself had worked more than 14 hours, he noticed that one of his staff officers looked tired and worn. "Go to bed Bill," he said, "I'll look after the rest of this."
This burning insistence for efficiency has enabled General Old to put several outstanding accomplishments into the history of military aviation.
Latest of his achievements was the first round-the-world flight of three Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers in January 1957.
When this historic project was given to Fifteenth Air Force by Strategic Air Command headquarters, General Old delegated it to the 93d Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., but let it be known from the start that he would fly in the lead airplane.
After careful perusal of all phases of planning, General Old took off from Castle Air Force Base Jan. 16, 1957, and circled the globe in his B-52, a total distance of 24,325 miles, in 45 hours and 19 minutes, landing at March Air Force Base, Calif.
Perfectionist Old refused to get excited when he was greeted by the press shortly after landing. He had reviewed the operation many times before taking off and knew it could be done. General Old told reporters that the flight was "merely a routine SAC mission" and that "the planning and preparation that went into the aerial circumnavigation were identical to what was demanded every day in the Fifteenth Air Force and the Strategic Air Command."
Other well-known achievements include leading the Oct. 10, 1943 raid against the ball-bearing works at Schweinfurt, Germany, and the first shuttle bomb run from England to Russia in June 1944. The general was commander of the 45th Combat Bomber Wing of the Eighth Air Force when he led these two dangerous missions. For leading the shuttle bomb flight, he received the nation's second highest military decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross.
During World War II, General Old flew 43 combat missions against Germany. There used to be a saying around his headquarters in England that wing headquarters usually had to fight two battles in a raid in which Old's outfit was scheduled to fly - one against the enemy and the other keeping General Old (then Colonel Old) on the ground.
In answer to higher headquarters directives about his flying combat missions, General Old said, "Every mission I make means that I'm that much more competent to advise the boys concerning their jobs. I'll go with them anywhere - Berlin, the Ruhr, and, more important, most of us will get back."
Archie J. Old Jr., was born at Farmersville, Texas, in 1906. After studying Civil Engineering at Trinity and at Texas University he enlisted as a private in the Texas National Guard April 16, 1930.
Appointed a flying cadet in February 1931, he completed his flying training at Brooks and Kelly fields Texas, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Reserve Feb. 26, 1932. He then was assigned to active duty with the 13th Attack Squadron at Fort Crockett, Texas, with which he served until February 1933, when he went on inactive duty.
For short periods during the following seven years he was on active duty as a reserve officer and Sept. 6, 1940 was ordered to extended active duty.
At that time, he was assigned to the 52d Bombardment Squadron at MacDill Fie1d, Fla., as assistant armament and chemical officer. The following February he became operations officer of the 29th Bombardment Group at that base, later moving with it to Gowen Field, Idaho. In September 1942 he assumed command of the 96th Bomb Group at Walla Walla, Wash.
The following January he moved his group to the European theater, and in December 1943, became chief of the 45th Combat Bomber Wing.
Returning to the United States in July 1945, he was assigned to the Army Air Forces headquarters at Washington, D.C., and a month later was transferred to Air Transport Command headquarters at Gravelly Point, Va.
In December 1945, he became commanding general of the Southwest Pacific Wing of Air Transport Command and the following January assumed additional duty as commanding general of the China Wing.
In July 1946, he received his Regular Army commission.
He became commanding general of the 530th Air Transport Wing of Military Transport Service at Fairfield-Suisan Air Force Base, Calif., June 1, 1948, and a month later was named commander of the Atlantic Division of MATS with station at Westover Air Force Base, Mass. He was appointed acting commander of the Eighth Air Force at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, in March 1950.
In 1951 when General Curtis E. LeMay had to select a Strategic Air Command general officer to activate and command two of SAC's important overseas Air Divisions - the 7th in England and the 5th in French Morocco - General Old got both jobs. He activated the 7th Air Division in April 1951. In late May 1951, he activated the 5th Air Division.
In February 1953 he was assigned as director of operations for the Strategic Air Command, and assumed command of the Fifteenth Air Force Aug. 22, 1955.
General Old has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart. His foreign decorations include the French Legion of Honor, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the French Moroccan Order of Ouissam Alouite Cherifien, the Belgian Croix with Palm, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Russian Order of Suvorov. He is rated a command pilot.