Military Bios

Lieutenant General Robert Whitney Burns:

Military Branch:United States Airforce
Retired Aug. 10, 1964.   Died Sep. 5, 1964.
Lt. Gen. Robert Whitney Burns was born in Stanley, Wis., in 1908. Following two years at the University of Wisconsin, he entered the Army Air Corps for aviation cadet training at March Field, Calif., in October 1928.
Upon graduation and receiving his commission as second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve a year later, he was assigned to Selfridge Field, Mich., as operations and engineering officer of the 17th Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group.
In February 1932, General Burns received his first overseas assignment to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, where he served as operations and training officer for the l9th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group, until November 1934. On return to the United States, he was assigned to Crissy Field, Calif., for a four-month tour.
Until May 1940, General Burns was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where he served as flying instructor, flight commander, and assistant basic stage commander. He was then selected as a technical and tactical advisor with the Air Corps Military Mission to Chile.
In early 1943, General Burns received his first command assignment as commander of the Air Defense Wing at Orlando, Fla.
The command assignment was short-lived. In May 1943, he was again assigned overseas as assistant chief of staff for operations with the 8th Fighter Command in Great Britain and one year later became director of operations for the Eighth Air Force.
He returned to command assignments in January 1945 as commander of the 4th Combat Wing, followed shortly by assignment as commander of the 14th Bombardment Wing (Heavy).
With movement of the Eighth Air Force to Okinawa following cessation of hostilities in Europe, General Burns rejoined his old organization as assistant chief of staff for operations.
Operations in the Pacific also ended during the assignment period and in October 1945, he was assigned to Army Air Force Headquarters as a member of the special board for flying pay. He transferred to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel at Army Air Force Headquarters in January 1946, and five months later became chief of the Military Personnel Division.
With establishment of the Air Force as a separate service, General Burns was named assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel and administration at U.S. Air Force Headquarters.
In May 1948, he again joined the Eighth Air Force at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, as Chief of Staff. Six months later he moved into the same staff position with Air Training Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Within Air Training Command, after headquarters was moved from Barksdale Air Force Base to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., General Burns served as vice commander.
In June 1951, he returned to U.S. Air Force Headquarters as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations until his nomination as U.S. Air Force assistant vice chief of staff in May 1953.
After six years within U.S. Air Force Headquarters, he took command of the Air Proving Ground which later merged with the Air Force Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. With the merger, he became commander of the new Air Proving Ground Center.
In August 1958, he assumed command of the Fifth Air Force and U.S. Forces, Japan, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Command responsibilities in this position extended over that area covering most of the Pacific lying adjacent to the Asian land mass.
In July 1961, General Burns became chairman, Inter-American Defense Board, Washington, D.C. Concurrently with this duty, he was assigned as senior Air Force member, Military Staff Committee, United Nations.
Assignment to his present position as commander, Air Training Command, became effective Aug. 1, 1963.
General Burns has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, and Commendation Medal. His foreign decorations include the French Croix de Guerre, the Chilean Order of Merit (First Class), the Order of the British Empire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, and Chilean War Pilot Wings.
The General is rated a command pilot and technical observer.


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