Retired Oct. 10, 1963. Died Aug. 22, 1983.
Leland S. Stranathan was born in Glenwood, Iowa in 1904. He graduated from Glenwood High School in 1921 and entered the University of Southern California the same year. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1926 with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in business administration.
Aviation Cadet Stranathan was in the first class of flying students at March Field, Calif., after it was first reactivated after World War I. This was in October 1927. His first instructor was the late General Hoyt Vandenburg, then a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve. In 1928, he completed his advanced flying training at Kelly Field, Texas and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve. He is today rated a command pilot and remains on active pilot status.
Lieutenant Stranathan's first assignment was to Langley Field, Va., in November 1928. On receiving a permanent commission in the Regular Army, he was assigned to Bolling Field, D.C., in March 1929. One of his principal duties there was to pilot government dignitaries. In a small way, and in the best airplanes of the times, he and a few other young officers operated the forerunner to Special Air Missions.
After a long tour as flying instructor at Randolph Field, Texas, and an overseas tour in Hawaii, he was assigned to Maxwell Field, Ala., in January 1939. Just prior to the war, he was instrumental in establishing many of the elementary flying schools in the Southeastern United States. Later, he established and commanded a two-engine advanced flying school at Blytheville, Ark. He entered the flexible gunnery training program as commander of Tyndall Field, Fla., in February 1943. During this assignment he was twice sent to the European Theater of Operations to observe and analyze flexible gunnery effectiveness in combat. As a result of this work, many actions were taken to improve the theater training of gunners, as well as to improve the training methods used in the Training Command.
Other Air Training Command assignments during the war included a tour as assistant chief of A/3 for the Southeast Air Training Command add as commander of the Flexible Gunnery School at Laredo, Texas.
In December 1944, he became chief of staff of the 315th Bomb Wing, then located at Colorado Springs, Colo. During the spring of 1945, the unit moved to Guam and became a part of the 20th Air Force. He participated in B-29 strikes against the Japanese mainland, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Shortly after the end of the war he assumed command of the 315th Wing.
In April 1946, he was transferred to Headquarters 5th Air Force, Japan and became assistant chief of Staff A/3. In the fall of 1946, he was designated commander of the 308th Bomb Wing in Korea and remained there until his return to the United States in June 1947 to attend the National War College. After graduating from the National War College in 1948, he was for several months the deputy director of training and requirements in Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
A long assignment to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project began in December 1948. He was first in charge of operations and training and later deputy chief. In February 1951, he was named commanding general of the Field Command, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Sandia Base, N.M. and held this position until July 1955, at which time he was assigned as director of development planning in Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
In August 1959, he assumed command of Caribbean Air Command.