Retired Oct. 1, 1959. Died May 11, 1980.
Donald John Keirn was born in Elbert, Colo., in 1905. He graduated from high school in Denver, Colo., in 1922, and attended Denver University for a year and the Colorado School of Mines for two years. Entering the U.S. Military Academy in July 1925, he graduated June 13, 1929 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Field Artillery.
Immediately thereafter, General Keirn entered Primary Flying School at March Field, Calif., and graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, in October 1930. Assigned to Rockwell Field, Calif., as assistant squadron supply officer, Dec. 11, 1930 he was transferred to the Air Corps. In August 1931, the general entered the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Ill., graduated the following June, and was named squadron and assistant group engineering officer at March Field. He was transferred to Hamilton Field, Calif., as assistant base engineering officer in 1934.
Entering the Air Corps Engineering School at Wright Field, Ohio, in July 1936, General Keirn graduated a year later, and in June 1938 received a master of science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Returning to Wright Field, he served as assistant chief and chief of the Research Branch of the Power Plant Laboratory and then as chief of the Power Plant Laboratory, in which capacity he made a number of extended tours to England during World War II on a special assignment for jet propulsion.
Moving to Washington, D.C., in April 1946, General Keirn became liaison officer for the Manhattan Engineering District, and while serving in that capacity participated in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini in July and August 1946. The following May he was appointed special assistant to the director of the Division of Military Application, Atomic Energy Commission. He entered the National War College in October 1949, and graduated the following June.
Appointed deputy chief of staff for research of the newly organized Air Research and Development Command, General Keirn moved with it to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in December 1950, and to Baltimore, Md., the following June, in that capacity. He assumed command of the 1009th Special Weapons Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., in September 1951.
The following August General Keirn was named chief of the Aircraft Reactor Branch, Reactor Development Division, of the Air Research and Development Command, in Washington, D.C., and in February 1953 was appointed chief of the Office of Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion there. On June 4, 1957 he became assistant deputy chief of staff for development for Nuclear Systems, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, with duty station at Baltimore, Md.
His decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He has received the Therman H. Bain Award for aeronautical work in jet propulsion. He is rated a command pilot.
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
He was promoted to first lieutenant (permanent) Oct. 1, 1934; to captain (temporary) April 20, 1935. He reverted to his permanent rank of first lieutenant June 16, 1936, and was promoted to captain (permanent) June 13, 1939; to major (temporary) March 15, 1941; to lieutenant colonel (temporary) Jan. 5, 1942; to colonel (temporary) March 1, 1942; to major (permanent) June 13, 1946; to colonel (permanent) April 2, 1948; to brigadier general (temporary) Dec. 22, 1950; to major general (temporary) Dec. 13, 1955.