Retired Sep. 7, 1964. Died Nov. 27, 1984.
Joseph James Preston was born in Elgin, Minn., in 1912. He graduated from Elgin High Schoo1 in 1930 and entered the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1934. He graduated from that institution in 1938 with a bachelor of science degree in science.
In 1938, he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps and attended flying training at Randolph and Kelly fields, San Antonio, Texas. He graduated as a pilot and was commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1939. In June he was assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, Hamilton Field, Calif. Since winning his pilot's wings, General Preston has accumulated more than 6,000 hours of flying time, 1,650 of which have been in jet aircraft. A command pilot, he has flown B-47 and B-52 multi-jet bombers as well as single and multi-engine conventional aircraft.
General Preston left Hamilton Field in September 1940, and went to Fort Douglas, Utah, with the 7th Bombardment Group. In May 1941, First Lieutenant Preston was assigned to the 39th Bombardment Group at Felts Field, Wash., as squadron operations officer for the 60th Bombardment Squadron. Two months later he moved with the unit to Geiger Field, Wash. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was transferred to Far East Air Forces on Java Island, where he was a combat crew pilot and flight leader for three months. After being forced back to Australia with his unit, he returned to Fort Douglas as commander of the 365th Bombardment Squadron, a unit of the 305th Bombardment Group.
He remained in the United States until October 1942, then went with the 305th to England. In May 1943, Major Preston was assigned as operations officer of the 4th Bombardment Wing (Europe) and was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the end of that same month. The following September he was assigned similar duties with the 3d Bombardment Division and in December was promoted to the grade of colonel. In January 1944, he temporarily left the division to attend the Army-Navy Staff College and returned to the unit in June 1944. In September of that year he was transferred to the China-Burma-India theater as director of operations for the 20th Bombardment Command. In January 1945, Colonel Preston was transferred to the 21st Bombardment Command on Guam. He completed World War II overseas duty in May 1945, when he was assigned as commander of the 20th Air Force Lead Crew School at Muroc Air Force Base, Calif.
During his overseas tours in the South Pacific and the CBI Theater, he flew nine combat missions with 120 combat flying hours in B-17, B-24 and B-29 aircraft. While in Europe he flew 28 combat missions with 160 combat flying hours in B-17s. His World War II duties earned him the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, the Air Medal with three oak Leaf clusters, the Second Degree Order of Patriotic Russia and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
He retained command of the 20th Air Force Lead Crew School at Muroc until V-J Day, then spent brief tours as operations and planning officer at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., and as director of personnel and administration at Lowry Air Force Base, Colo. During the period, March-September, 1946, he was assigned temporary duty at Bikini Atoll and later, in Washington, D.C., with the Atomic Energy Commission Staff of "Operation Crossroads". In October of that year, he was assigned as an instructor in the operations division of the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Va. In January 1949, he became director of operations for the 311th Air Division at Forbes Air Force Base, Kan., a post he held until November when he became director of operations for Second Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. In August 1951, he assumed command of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Barksdale, retaining that position when the wing shifted to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, a month later. While a wing commander, he underwent B-47 transition training at Pinecastle Air Force Base Fla., in early 1953.
In August 1954, Colonel Preston left the 91st Wing to attend the National War College. Upon his completion of the course in June 1955, he assumed command of the 4225th Air Base Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., which became the 825th Air Division in August of that year.
He was promoted to brigadier general in September 1955 and retained command of the 825th until July 1959, at which time he was assigned to Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico, as commander of the B-52 equipped 72d Bombardment Wing. (Incidentally, this move ended for General Preston a four-year tenure at Little Rock, the longest thus far at any one base during his military career.) He immediately undertook B-52 transition training which was completed the latter part of August.
In May 1960 he was promoted to his present rank of major general. With the advent of missile base development and expansion, General Preston in September 1960, was selected to take command of the 22d Air Division, the hub of the Minuteman ICBM program, at Malmstrom. Air Force Base, Mont., On July 1, 1961, he was reassigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as commander of SAC's 1st Strategic Aerospace Division.
General Preston is an ardent supporter of national and local youth programs and actively participated in Boy Scout work. He has been a member of Rotary International since 1955.