Retired Aug. 1, 1969. Died June 15, 2004.
Lt. Gen. Keith Karl Compton is vice commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, with headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and as such he fulfills the responsibility of the commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, in his absence and acts as his principal assistant and advisor in the formulation of SAC policies, plans and directives.
General Compton was born in 1915 in St. Joseph, Mo., and graduated from Central High School there in 1933. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Westminster College at Fulton, Mo., in 1937. He entered military service in February 1938 as an aviation cadet at Randolph Field, Texas, and received his pilot's wings a year later.
General Compton spent the next two and a half years at Langley Field, Va., with the 2nd Bomb Wing, the first unit equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress. In April 1942 he became commander of the 409th Bomb Squadron and later, at Fort Myers, Fla., operations officer for the 93rd Bomb Group.
In February 1943, General Compton became commander of the 376th Bomb Group in Africa and, on Aug. 1, 1943, led the famous air attack on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania.
He was reassigned as assistant to the air chief of staff for operations, Fifteenth Air Force, in North Africa in March 1944 and returned to the United States in July that year as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and training, Second Air Force, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Following several command assignments and graduation from the Air University, General Compton was assigned in June 1948 to the Air Proving Ground Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as deputy for operations, a position he held until February 1953. It was during this tour of duty that General Compton, flying an F-86 Sabrejet, won the National Air Races Bendix Trophy for 1951, setting a new national speed record for the route.
In February 1953, General Compton transferred to SAC. Several successful command assignments in SAC resulted in his designation in September 1961 as SAC director of operations. In June of 1963 he became SAC's chief of staff.
In August 1964 he was assigned to be the inspector general, U.S. Air Force. Six months later he was designated the deputy chief of staff for plans and operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. With these duties he also became the Air Force's operations deputy sitting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the chief of staff, U.S. Air Force. He assumed his present position in February 1967.
Military decorations awarded General Compton include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters, the Air Force and the Army Commendation medals. In addition he holds his college's outstanding Alumni Achievement Award and is one of the few holders of aviation's famed Bendix Trophy.