The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Military Science >> Biography
John Paul McConnell

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff

John Paul McConnell

John Paul McConnell was born in Booneville, Arkansas, on February 7, 1908, the first of three sons born to Samuel Paul McConnell, a local physician, and Desseau (Dorsey) McConnell. He attended local schools before entering Henderson-Brown College (in Arkadelphia, Arkansas), from which he graduated with a degree in biology in 1927. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1928, and graduated as the First Captain of the class of 1932.

Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the field artillery, McConnell received flight training at Randolph and Kelly Fields, Texas, and earned his wings in 1933. A fighter pilot during his early years in the then Army Air Corps, he subsequently served in a number of administrative and operational command positions, including duty as assistant executive in the Office of the Chief of Air Forces in Washington, D.C. He was promoted to Captain in 1940, to Major in 1941, and to the rank of Colonel in 1942.

McConnell became the Chief of Staff of the China-Burma-India Air Force Training Command in Karachi, India, in 1943, and remained in Asia for the rest of World War II. While Senior Air Staff Officer, Air Command Southeast Asia, and Deputy Commander of the Third Tactical Air Force, he participated in combat operations against the Japanese in Burma. He also received his first star, as he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1944. By war's end he was Chief of Staff of U.S. Air Forces in China. In 1946 he was named Senior Air Adviser to the Chinese Government and, at the same time, commanded the Air Division, Nanking Headquarters Command.

In 1946, McConnell married a fellow officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sally Dean of the Women’s Air Corps, who had served on the staff of Lord Louis Mountbatten during the war. The couple had two sons, Bruce W. and Dorsey M., before the marriage ended in divorce.

General McConnell returned to Air Force Headquarters in Washington in 1947 to become chief of the Reserve and National Guard Division and, the next year, was appointed chief of the Air Force's Civilian Components Group. Assigned to England in 1950, he served as Deputy Commander of the newly separate U.S. Air Force and later, Commander of the Third Air Force. He then took command of the 7th Air Division of the Strategic Air Command, commanding the Third Air Force at the same time. This was followed by a four-year tour as Director of Plans at Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In 1957 he was named Commander of the Second Air Force, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and four years later returned to the Strategic Air Command to become Vice Commander in Chief. In 1962 he was promoted to the rank of General and assigned to Europe as Deputy Commander in Chief of the United States European Command.

Appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in August 1964, he was named Air Force Chief of Staff by President Lyndon Johnson on February 1, 1965, replacing retired General Curtis LeMay. A hawk on the bombing of North Vietnam, he was reconfirmed for a second two-year term in 1967 and served through until his retirement on July 31, 1969. During his tenure, the Air Frce was involved with the rest of the United States military in the Vietnam War, and McConnell spent much of his time focused on that conflict. He visited Vietnam and came under fire in 1968.

General John Paul McConnell died of cancer at the Carriage Hill nursing home in Bethesda, Maryland, on November 21, 1986. His funeral services were held at the National Cathedral, and he is buried at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas
United States Air Force

United States Military Academy at West Point
World War II
President Lyndon Johnson
United States Air Force Academy

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Military Science >> Biography

This page was last updated on 12/08/2017.