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Vandenberg, Hoyt

Vandenberg, Hoyt (1899–1954), air force general.A 1923 graduate of West Point, Vandenberg was handsome, affable, and the nephew of a senator. He began his career in ground support aviation. In the mid‐1930s, he attended professional schools, including the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth, where he met Carl A. Spaatz, a senior air officer. In 1939, Spaatz assigned Vandenberg to the Plans Section, the key office in Air Corps expansion. Vandenberg spent eight months in headquarters, in 1942, before becoming chief of staff, Twelfth Air Force, in August. He served in North Africa and the Mediterranean until summoned to Washington. In November 1943, in Moscow, he negotiated to obtain Soviet bases for shuttle flights for American bomber aircraft. As a result of Dwight D. Eisenhower's appeal, Vandenberg received the post of deputy commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force in March 1944. This position required tact and a personality forceful enough to defend U.S. interests. Vandenberg succeeded, and in August 1944 he took command of the Ninth Air Force, the world's most powerful tactical air force. The Ninth supported Bradley's Twelfth Army Group, through the Battle of the Bulge and victory in the battle for Germany.

In 1946, Vandenberg became the assistant chief of staff, Intelligence, and then director, Central Intelligence Group, the Central Intelligence Agency's predecessor. He worked aggressively to improve intelligence collection and the CIA's status. In October 1947, during the Cold War, he became the first vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force. After General Spaatz's brief tenure, Vandenberg was appointed USAF's second chief of staff in April 1948, a position he occupied until retirement, June 1953. He proved an able officer for the rapid expansion of the air force. His relationships with important army officers eased negotiations within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while his knowledge of personnel enabled him to make key appointments, such as Curtis E. LeMay to the Strategic Air Command. Vandenberg maintained excellent relations with Congress in a time of first budget cuts and interservice squabbles and then military buildup. He also led the independent service through the Korean War. He died prematurely, of cancer, at age fifty‐five.
[See also Air Force, U.S.: Predecessors of, 1907–46; Air Force, U.S.: Since 1947; World War II, U.S. Air Operations in.]


Philip Meilinger , Hoyt S. Vandenberg: The Life of a General, 1989.

Richard G. Davis

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