Retired July 1, 1977. Died Feb. 19, 1988.
Major General Lester T. Kearney Jr., is vice director, J-5, Plans and Policy Directorate, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.
General Kearney was born in 1924, in Sweetwater, Texas. He graduated from high school in San Angelo, Texas, in 1942 and attended San Angelo College. He is a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College.
He was called to active duty as a member of the Reserve in 1943 and he received his pilot wings and commission as second lieutenant in May 1944 at Marfa, Texas. He then went to Roswell, N.M., for transition training. In December 1944 General Kearney went to the European Theater of Operations where he served as a B-17 pilot in the 306th Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force.
He returned to the United States in November 1945 and served as a flying instructor at Columbus Army Air Field, Miss. From September 1946 to March 1949, he served as a pilot and in operations positions at Albrook and Howard fields in the Canal Zone.
He was transferred to Lowry Air Force Base, Colo., in 1949, where he served as a pilot and operations officer with the 5th Rescue Squadron. During 1950-1951, he served a six-month temporary duty assignment on Eniwetok atoll as an operations officer with "Operation Greenhouse," a series of atomic tests in the Pacific area.
In late 1951 General Kearney was sent to West Palm Beach, Fla., to assist in organizing, training and deploying an air rescue group to the European theater. In November 1952 he went with the group to southern France and subsequently served at Twelfth Air Force headquarters (advance echelon), Landsburg, Germany, and at Ramstein Air Base. While in Europe he went on temporary duty to Korea for six months, during 1952-1953, on an exchange program.
He returned to the United States in July 1956 and was assigned to the Military Air Transport Service as a pilot, operations officer, and director of wing personnel with the military airlift wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. He entered the Air Command and Staff College in August 1958.
In July 1959 General Kearney was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., where he served in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, as a staff planning officer in the Plans Division; in 1961 became assistant executive officer to the director of plans; and in 1962 became executive officer to the deputy chief of staff, plans and operations. In 1964 he was transferred to the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as executive assistant to the director of the joint staff. He entered the National War College, Washington, D.C., in August 1965.
General Kearney was assigned in July 1966 as executive officer, Headquarters U.S. European Command, in France and assisted in the planning for and transfer of all U.S. forces from France to Germany and other NATO countries. He moved with the headquarters to Stuttgart, Germany, in March 1967.
In June 1970 General Kearney was named vice commander, 63d Military Airlift Wing, Norton Air Force Base, Calif., and in February 1971 he became commander.
General Kearney assumed duties as chief of staff for the Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in March 1973. He became commander of the Twenty-first Air Force, with headquarters at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., in October 1973.
General Kearney was assigned as vice director, J-5, Plans and Policy Directorate, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., in June 1975.
His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
General Kearney's hometown is San Angelo, Texas.
He was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 11, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970.