Retired Oct. 1, 1950. Died May 1, 1969.
George Clement McDonald was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1892. He received his schooling in his native city. He was associated with aviation in its early pioneering days, and had experience with the Wright and Bleriot types of airplanes.
During World War I, he enlisted as a flying cadet in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He received ground school training at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, and flying training at Rich Field, Waco, Texas, being appointed a second lieutenant in the Aviation Signal Corps Reserve May 14, 1918.
He served briefly as flying instructor at Rich Field and at Payne Field, Miss., and in July, l9l8 joined the First Provisional Wing at Garden City, Long Island, N.Y., serving with that organization at various fields until October 1918, when he was placed in charge of flying at Hazelhurst Field, Long Island. His next station was Mitchel Field, N.Y., where he joined the Fifth Aero Squadron.
During 1919 he was placed on temporary duty with Army Intelligence and the Department of Justice for seven months. It resulted in the apprehension and conviction of Grover Cleveland Bergdoll and associates, America's World War I number one draft dodger. General McDonald was officially recognized as the one who organized and effected Bergdoll's arrest.
On July 1, 1920, he was appointed a second lieutenant of Air Service in the Regular Army and that same date was promoted to first lieutenant.
In March 1921, he went to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for duty as student armament officer. At the same time he functioned as test pilot for the drop tests of bombs being developed for General Billy Mitchell's bombing of battleships off the Virginia Capes and Cape Hatteras. The following May he joined the 94th Squadron at Langley Field, Va., and participated in the actual bombing of battleships.
In September 1921, he was assigned to the Army School of Aerial Photography at Langley Field and, upon graduation in June 1922, remained at the field for duty with the 50th Observation Squadron. He assumed command of the 20th Photographic Section at Langley Field in August 1922, and served in that capacity for four years.
Assigned to duty at France Field, Panama Canal Zone, he served as post and group photographic officer of the Sixth Composite Group until July 1927, when he assumed command of the l2th Photo Section at France Field, at the same time functioning in fighter and bomber operations.
Upon completing his tour with the Panama Canal Department, he assumed command of the Second Photo Section at Langley Field, Va., and served in this capacity from September 1929, to August 1930, when he was assigned as a student at the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field.
Upon graduation in June 1931, he became adjutant of the Second Bombardment Group and commanding officer of Headquarters Squadron at Langley Field. In February 1932, he was ordered to Washington, D.C. for duty in the Training and Operations Division at Air Force headquarters.
In April 1933 he went to Patterson Field, Fairfield, Ohio, for a two month tour of duty at the Joint Anti-Aircraft-Air Corps exercises as intelligence officer. From February to June 1934, he served at Headquarters Army Air Corps Air Mail Operations as intelligence officer and then became photographic-observation-attack officer in the Training and Operations Division. From August to October 1935, he was assistant to the chief of the Training and Operations Division, and subsequently became assistant chief of the Operations and Training Section, War Plans and Training Division.
In February 1936 he was transferred to Mitchel Field, N.Y., where he assumed command of the 97th Observation Squadron. In August of the following year he was assigned as a student at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and upon graduation in June 1938, was assigned to Langley Field as plans and operations officer of the Second Wing. In addition, he served as intelligence officer of the Second Wing until February 1939. He then transferred to Maxwell Field, Ala., for the special Naval Operations course at the Air Corps Tactical School.
In April 1939, he became assistant air attache at the American Embassy at London, England. He became assistant military attache in September 1939, and from July to October 1940, served concurrently as assistant military attache and assistant air attache.
During the tour of duty with the American Embassy at London, he made numerous trips to Royal Air Force advance fighter and bomber bases in Northern France, a visit into the Maginot Line, and experienced the German Air Force "blitz" in England. The bulk of this period was devoted to interpreting early war lessons, which contributed to Air Force adoption of bullet-proof gasoline tanks, armor protection for combat crews and vital parts of aircraft, increased volume of fire power for fighters and bombers, power turrets for machine guns, bullet-proof windshields for fighters and bombers, portable airdrome matting for runway and taxi strips, and military troop and cargo gliders.
General McDonald was named assistant to the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Intelligence at Air Force headquarters in July 1941, and the following October was named as member of the Military Mission in the Office of the Coordinatory of Information (later renamed Office of Strategic Services) in Washington. In January 1942, he became a member of the Military Mission of the Board of Analysts in the Office of the Coordinator of Information, and the following March was assigned to the War Department General Staff.
In September 1942, he was assigned to the European theater as intelligence officer of the Eighth Air Force. In December 1942, he intelligence officer of the 12th Air Force and headquarters of the Northwest African Air Forces, Allied Air Forces in North Africa and the Mediterranean. In February 1944, he became director of intelligence, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe.
Following V-E Day, he became director of intelligence of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
He returned to the United States in January 1946, and was assigned to Air Force headquarters as assistant chief of air staff for intelligence. Under the National Defense Act, he became director of intelligence for the U.S. Air Force in October 1947.
In June 1948, he became chief of the Air Section of the U. S. Military Commission at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He returned to the United States in June 1950, for duty at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the following month was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at that headquarters.
Many months preceding the collapse of Germany, General McDonald recognized the imperative need for the creation of a new type of intelligence activity to investigate and exploit air intelligence objectives in Germany and liberated countries. This unique system was established and consisted of a great number of highly qualified technical and scientific personnel to exploit all of the worldwide aeronautical research developments of Germany. This resulted in the collection of priority intelligence information of value in the prosecution of the war against Japan; technical and non-technical information of immediate operational significance and value; as well as a substantial portion of important documents and personnel of the German Air Ministry that enabled the U.S. Army Air Forces to undertake long-range research with respect to many valuable-phases of air doctrine, research, employment, organization, procedure and plans of the German air force.
During the period of active air warfare in the European theater; General McDonald had an active hand in creating the Allied Escape and Evasion System that resulted in effecting the escape of a minimum of 6,000 U.S. Army Air Forces personnel. Combat crews who had been shot down and became prisoners of war or interned in Germany, satellite and neutral countries, through this system, were returned to their combat organization, then to the United States.
Recognized as a pilot of outstanding ability in all types of planes, General McDonald has substantiated this through his participation in a number of notable flights. In 1923, he participated in the flight of six DeHavilland planes from San Antonio, Texas, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and return to Washington, D.C. In August 1924, he flew the Douglas World Cruiser, Boston II, from Langley Field, Va., to Pictou, Nova Scotia, to enable Lieutenant Leigh Wade, who was forced to land in a heavy sea due to engine trouble shortly after his take-off from Kirkwall for Iceland, to resume the first around-the-world flight with the two fellow pilots, Lieutenant Lowell E. Smith and Erik H. Nelson.
Also in 1924, General McDonald, piloting a Loeing Air Yacht, established four new world's records for seaplanes under the regulations of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, viz: Speed for 100 and 200 kilometers with a useful load of 890 kilograms, and speed for 100 and 200 kilometers with a useful load of 250 kilograms. These four world records were made simultaneously on one flight
During 1924, General McDonald also established a new world's speed record for 1,000 kilometers in a Loeing Air Yacht. In 1924, he equaled the world's endurance and long distance seaplane record in the Douglas World Cruiser, Boston II. In January 1929, he participated in a long flight from Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, to France Field, Panama Canal Zone, in a tri-motored Fokker Transport being accompanied by First Lieutenant Dwight J. Canfield. This long flight marked the first attempt of the Army Air Corps to ferry an airplane from the United States to a foreign possession. The flight involved a total distance of approximately 2,900 miles.
General McDonald has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and the European theater ribbon with seven stars. His foreign decorations include the French Legion of Honor in the Order of Chevalier and the Croix de Guerre with Palm; the Netherlands Commander Order of Orange-Nassau; the Morroccan Third Order (Commander) of the Order of Ouissam Alanyte, and the Commander of the British Empire.
He is rated a command pilot, combat observer, and technical observer.