Major General Oscar Westover was chief of the Air Corps from December 1935 until September 1938, and was in part responsible for the beginning of a period of expansion that ended with the emergence of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service.
Oscar Westover was born in Bay City, Mich., in 1883. His military service began as an enlisted man in the U.S. Army from 1901 to 1902, when he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated in 1906 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry. Westover was promoted to first lieutenant on April 13, 1911; to captain on July 1, 1916; and to major on Oct. 20, 1917.
In 1919 Captain Westover was detailed to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, and in 1920 transferred to the Air Service with the rank of major. (He had previously been promoted to lieutenant colonel and colonel.) Westover attended the Air Service Balloon School in 1921, the Air Service Airship School in 1922, the Air Service Primary Flying and Advanced Flying Schools in 1923, the Air Corps Tactical School in 1927, and Command and General Staff School to January 1932, both as a student and as an instructor. As a result of various courses, Westover was awarded aeronautical ratings as a balloon observer, airship pilot, airplane pilot, and airplane observer.
Westover served as assistant executive and executive in the Office, Chief of the Air Service, from November 1918 to November 1920. He was appointed director of aircraft production in the Office, Chief of the Air Corps in April 1921, serving until December 1922. From 1924 to 1926 he served as commandant of the Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, Va., and as commanding officer of Langley Field. On Jan. 13, 1930 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and on Dec. 22, 1931 appointed assistant to the chief of the Air Corps and promoted to brigadier general. He was named chief of the Air Corps and promoted to major general on Dec. 22, 1935. He spent the next two-and-a-half years flying to bases around the country to step up pilot training and increase the emphasis on aviation which would be important in the 1940s. On Sept. 21, 1938, General Westover lost his life in an airplane accident near the Lockheed plant at Burbank, Calif., when his plane burst into flames on landing. Westover Air Force Base, Chicopee Falls, Mass., was named in his honor in June 1949.
General Westover has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the World War I Victory Medal.