Retired Nov. 1, 1986.
Maj. Gen. William J. Breckner Jr. is commander of 17th Air Force, with headquarters at Sembach Air Base, Germany.
General Breckner was born in Alliance, Ohio, in 1933. He attended Ohio State University; Troy (Ala.) State University; and graduated from State University of New York in 1976, with a bachelor of arts degree. He graduated from Squadron Officer School in 1960, and the Air Command and Staff College in 1970, both schools located at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The general has also completed the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., and the program for senior government managers at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., in August 1980.
He received his commission and wings through the aviation cadet program in 1955 and attended Day Fighter School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. He served his first assignment in France and Germany with the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying F-86H's and F-1OOD's. Following this tour of duty he attended weapons controller school and served as a ground-controlled interception controller at Calumet Air Force Station, Mich., and with the 30th North American Air Defense Region at Truax Field, Wis. He was next assigned to the 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, where he served as an F-101 pilot, flight commander, and chief of training and standardization.
In 1966 General Breckner served as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Navy for 38 months. During this tour of duty he flew 100 missions in A-4s from the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam, and he has a total of 219 carrier landings. General Breckner graduated from Air Command and Staff College in 1970 and was assigned as commander of Detachment 1, 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Volk Field, Wis.
The general returned to Southeast Asia in May 1972 and served as operations officer for the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, flying F-4 Phantoms. On July 30, 1972, his aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile while over Hanoi and General Breckner became a prisoner of war until his release in March 1973.
After returning to the United States, General Breckner commanded the Air Force Interceptor Weapons School, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., from 1973 to 1975, where he flew F-106s. He left to attend National War College and upon graduation was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., from 1976 to 1979, where he served as deputy commandant and later as vice commandant of cadets. He took command of the 82nd Flying Training Wing at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., in July 1979 and in March 1980 became deputy chief of staff, logistics, Headquarters Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. His next assignment in August 1983 took him overseas again, where he served as chief of staff, Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. He assumed his present duties in August 1984.
General Breckner is a command pilot with 5,100 hours in fighter aircraft. His military decorations and awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Navy Commendation Medal with "V" device, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm.
He was promoted to major general Aug. 1, 1983, with date of rank Aug. 1, 1979.