Retired Aug. 1, 1968. Died Sep. 16, 1987.
Kenneth R. Powell was born on a small farm in McMinnville, Ore., in 1915. After a short stay in Oregon, he moved with his parents to Bozeman, Mont. In 1921 his family again moved to Tacoma, Wash., where he completed grammar school and graduated from Stadium High School in 1934. That fall he entered Washington State University at Pullman, Wash. He was a varsity track letterman; took advanced ROTC and was a member of Scabbard and Blade; member of Crimson Circle, national senior men's honorary society, and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He graduated June 6, 1938 with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and psychology and with a reserve commission as a second lieutenant, infantry. He accepted a competitive tour of active duty under the Thomison Act and July 5, 1938 reported to the 15th Infantry at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Some of his neighbors in the bachelor officer quarters were pilots in the 91st Observation Squadron, and after a year of maneuvers and overnight marches on foot, he was finally convinced that flying was better than walking. He entered flying school in the fall of 1939 and graduated from Kelly Field in July 1940.
Lieutenant Powell's first assignment with the Air Corps was to the 78th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii. At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he was a flight leader but due to all of the squadron's aircraft being either damaged or destroyed, no members of the squadron were able to get airborne during the attack. As a major in 1942 he commanded the 46th Fighter Squadron on Canton Island. In 1943 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was deputy commander of the 15th Fighter Group.
On April 21, 1944 he organized and activated the 21st Fighter Group. Early in 1945 his group moved to Iwo Jima to provide fighter protection for the B-29 raids against Japan. Early in the morning of the second day on the island the group was greeted by a "Bonzai" attack in their tent area. Several pilots were killed. Colonel Powell received hand grenade wounds in the leg and arm and was evacuated to the hospital in Guam. He returned to Iwo on the first anniversary of the group and participated in the fighter missions to Japan. His group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their effective escort work as the first land-based fighters over the Japanese homeland.
In July 1945 Colonel Powell was assigned as a student to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after five years overseas. His next assignment was commander of Dover Air Base, Del. During 1946 he commanded the Air Show Unit of Tactical Air Command at Langley Field, Va.
He attended the Royal Air Force Staff College, Bracknell, England, graduating in May 1947. From 1947 to 1949 he directed the Air Force Public Relations School and organized and supervised the Comptroller Course at the Air Force Special Staff School, Craig Field, Ala. From 1949 to 1951 he was deputy commandant of the Armed Forces Information School.
After graduation from the Air War College in 1952 the colonel was assigned as chief of the Airmen's Assignment Division in the Directorate of Military Personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
During the four year period from July 1955 to July 1959 the colonel commanded the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. During his overseas tour he was awarded the Honor Shield of the German State of Rheinland-Pfalz for his effective work in promoting German-American relations. This was the first time this shield had been awarded to an American military commander. The grand duchess of Luxembourg awarded Colonel Powell their highest decoration for foreign officers, the Officer's Cross in the Order of LaCouronne de Chene.
He also received the Legion of Merit in 1959, the citation stating in part: "Colonel Powell demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership, diplomacy and statesmanship in establishing and directing an exceptional program of international friendship and understanding with the populace of the Federal German Republic and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. His efforts have greatly enhanced the prestige and good will of the United States in this most important area."
On his return from overseas he was assigned as deputy commander of the 1st Missile Division (now 1st Strategic Aerospace Division) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. He was promoted to brigadier general in March 1961.
In July 1961, General Powell was assigned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command as deputy director of Materiel.
General Powell is a command pilot and was awarded the guided missile insignia in November 1959.