Retired March 1, 1974.
Lieutenant General Robert E. Pursley is commander of U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force, with headquarters at Fuchu Air Station, Japan. As commander of U.S. Forces Japan, he is the senior U.S. military representative in Japan. As commander of Fifth Air Force, he is responsible for the conduct of U.S. air operations in Japan and the Republic of Korea.
General Pursley was born in 1927, in Muncie, Ind. He attended Ball State University and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1949, with a bachelor of science degree and a commission as second lieutenant. He received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1957, and took additional post-graduate work at Harvard until June 1958.
In June 1949 General Pursley was assigned as a student to the Air Tactical School, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. He began pilot training in February 1950, first at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and completed advanced pilot training in February 1951, at Vance Air Force Base, Okla. Transferred to Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, in March 1951, he became a mission pilot with the 1st Tow Target Squadron.
He attended combat crew training from May through July 1952 and was subsequently assigned to the 8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bombardment Group in Korea. There he flew 50 combat missions in night-intruder B-26 aircraft.
He returned to the United States in February 1953 and was assigned to the 3565th Observer Training Wing, James Connally Air Force Base, Texas. There General Pursley served as wing operations and training officer.
From August 1955 to June 1958, he was a graduate student at Harvard School of Business, under the Air Force Institute of Technology program. He then was transferred to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. He was in turn instructor, assistant professor and associate professor in the Department of Economics.
In May 1963 he was transferred to the office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C., where he served to July 1965 as Staff Analyst in the Systems Analysis office.
General Pursley was a student and part-time faculty member At the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., from August 1965 to March 1966. He graduated with the Air War College class of 1966, winning the Major General Orval Anderson award for excellence in military/political strategy.
In April 1966 General Pursley became military assistant to the secretary of defense, serving successively with secretaries McNamara, Clifford, and Laird. In August 1972 General Pursley was assigned as vice commander, Fifth Air Force, with headquarters at Fuchu Air Station, Japan. He was appointed commander, U.S. Forces, Japan, and commander, Fifth Air Force, in November 1972.
General Pursley is a command pilot. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal (Department of Defense design), Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force design), Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
He was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general effective Nov. 19, 1972.