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Carl Spaatz
Born(1891-06-28)June 28, 1891
Boyertown, Pennsylvania, US
DiedJuly 14, 1974(1974-07-14) (aged 83)
Washington, D.C., US
AllegianceUnited States
Years of service1914–1947 (Army)
1947–1948 (Air Force)
1948-1959 (Civil Air Patrol)
Service number0-3706
UnitInfantry Branch
Commands heldChief of Staff of the United States Air Force
U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific
U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe
Fifteenth Air Force
Twelfth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
Air Force Combat Command
7th Bombardment Group
1st Pursuit Group
Kelly Field
31st Aero Squadron
Battles/warsMexican Expedition
World War I
World War II
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal

Carl Andrew Spaatz (born Spatz; June 28, 1891 – July 14, 1974), nicknamed "Tooey", was an American World War II general. As commander of Strategic Air Forces in Europe in 1944, he successfully pressed for the bombing of the enemy's oil production facilities as a priority over other targets. He became Chief of Staff of the newly formed United States Air Force in 1947.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • U.S. General Spaatz With Others (1945)
  • How to Study for Spaatz


Early life

Carl Andrew Spatz was born on June 28, 1891, in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, to Anna Amelia (née Muntz) and Charles Busch Spatz.[1] Spaatz had an older sister Flora (1889–1971).

Of German ancestry, in 1937 Spaatz legally added the second "a" to his surname at the request of his wife and three daughters to clarify the pronunciation of the name, as many pronounced it "spats".[2][3] The second "a" was added, as it was in the European branch of his family, to draw out the sound like an "ah", similar to the "a" in "father." The name is thus correctly pronounced in American English identically to "spots".[4]

His father was a state senator who ran a printing shop and a small newspaper, The Berks County Democrat, which he published from 1904 to 1930. While a student his son worked as a linotype operator.[5]

At West Point in 1914

Using his influence his father was able to obtain a West Point appointment for his son.[5] It was while at West Point that Spaatz received his nickname "Tooey" because of his resemblance to another red-headed cadet named F.J. Toohey.[6] He graduated as a second lieutenant of Infantry on June 12, 1914, ranked 97th out of a class of 107.[3] Other graduates included numerous men who would become general officers, such as Brehon B. Somervell, Charles P. Gross, Jens A. Doe, John B. Anderson, James L. Bradley, Orlando Ward, Harold Francis Loomis, Harold R. Bull, Frank W. Milburn, Ralph Royce, Vicente Lim, and Harry C. Ingles.

Following his graduation from West Point as an infantry lieutenant he served with the 25th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, until his assignment to the Signal Corps Aviation School at San Diego, California, between October 13, 1915, and May 15, 1916, for pilot training. He was detailed to the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps in Mexico on June 8, 1916, after earning his Junior Military Aviator rating.

Spaatz served in the First Aero Squadron, which was attached to General John J. Pershing during the Punitive Expedition. Spaatz was promoted to first lieutenant on July 1, 1916, and to captain on May 15, 1917, a few weeks after the American entry into World War I.

World War I

Following America's entry into World War I, Spaatz was sent with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in command of the 31st Aero Squadron. Spaatz was appointed Officer in Charge, American Aviation School at Issoudun, France but after receiving orders to return to the United States, he saw three weeks of action during the final months of the war with the 13th Aero Squadron as a supernumerary pilot. In this brief period, Spaatz shot down three enemy planes[5] and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; during the time he was promoted to the temporary rank of major on June 17, 1918.[citation needed]


In early 1919, Spaatz was appointed to lead one of the three "troupes" of the U.S. Army Air Service Victory Loan Flying Circus. His group consisted of about twenty-five officers and fifty enlisted men. His airplanes on the tour included five JN6 Jennies, five Fokker D VIIs, four RAE SE-5s and five Spad VIIs. The team gave promotional rides and flew aerial demonstrations across the Western and Southwestern United States from early April through mid-May 1919 to raise money to retire the World War I debt.[7]

Spaatz served in California and Texas and became assistant department air service officer for the Western Department in July 1919. Spaatz experienced the chaotic ups and downs in rank common to Regular officers in 1920, when the National Defense Act of 1920 reorganized the military. He first reverted to his permanent rank of captain of Infantry on February 27, 1920. On July 1, when the Air Service became a combatant arm of the line, he transferred to the Air Service as a captain, then was promoted to major on the same date by virtue of a provision in the National Defense Act that allowed officers who earned their rank in service with the AEF to retain it. This made him senior to a number of officers, including Henry H. Arnold (his superior at the time), with greater longevity of service. On December 18, 1922, Spaatz was discharged when Congress set a new ceiling on the number of majors authorized for the Air Service, and reappointed as a captain, then promoted again to major on February 1, 1923.

As a major, Spaatz commanded Kelly Field, Texas, from October 5, 1920, to February 1921, served at Fort Sam Houston as air officer of the Eighth Corps Area until November 1921, and was commanding officer of the 1st Pursuit Group, first at Ellington Field, Texas, and later at Selfridge Field, Michigan, until September 24, 1924. He graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, Virginia, in June 1925, and then served in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps at Washington, D.C. Later that year he testified for the defence at the court-martial of Colonel Billy Mitchell.

The Question Mark being refueled by a Douglas C-1

From January 1 to January 7, 1929, Spaatz along with fellow Air Corps officers, Captain Ira Eaker and Lieutenant Elwood Quesada, both of whom would later become senior United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) generals, established an aviation record by keeping the airplane Question Mark in the air over the Los Angeles vicinity for over 150 hours. For his efforts he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[5]

From May 8, 1929, to October 29, 1931, Spaatz commanded the 7th Bombardment Group at Rockwell Field, California, and the 1st Bombardment Wing at March Field, California, until June 10, 1933. He then served in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps and became chief of the Training and Operations Division. In August 1935, he enrolled in the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and while there was promoted to lieutenant colonel on September 16. He graduated in June 1936, and then served at Langley Field on the staff of Major General Frank M. Andrews, commander of General Headquarters Air Force, until January 1939, when he returned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps at Washington as assistant executive officer.

On November 7, 1939, Spaatz received a temporary promotion to colonel, and during the Battle of Britain in 1940, spent several weeks in England as a special military observer. This roving assignment when combined with his Teutonic name gave rise to rumors to which he once responded by signing in at a British airbase as “Col. Carl A. Spaatz, German spy.”[5]

In August, he was assigned in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, and two months later was appointed assistant to the chief of Air Corps, General Arnold, with the temporary rank of brigadier general. He became chief of the Plans Division of the Air Corps in November 1940, and the following July was named chief of the air staff at Army Air Forces Headquarters.

World War II

Army Chief of Staff George Marshall named Spaatz commander of Air Force Combat Command in January 1942 and promoted him to the temporary rank of major general. In May 1942 Spaatz became commander of the Eighth Air Force and transferred its headquarters to England in July. Spaatz was placed in overall command of the USAAF in the European Theater of Operations, while retaining his Eighth Air Force command. He was promoted to the permanent rank of colonel in September 1942. He was named commander of the Allied Northwest African Air Force in February 1943, the Twelfth Air Force in March 1943, the Fifteenth Air Force, and Royal Air Forces in Italy in November 1943, and the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe in January 1944. Spaatz received a temporary promotion to lieutenant general in March 1943.

"It is hard to think of another commander in the USAAF who had enough influence with General Eisenhower to hold off, as well as Spaatz did, the diversions proposed by Leigh-Mallory. Neither is it easy to think of any other who had both the perception to identify oil targets as decisive and the strength to conserve a part of the U.S. strategic air striking power for them.[8]: 340 

biographer David R. Mets

Generals Arnold, Spaatz, and Vandenberg at decoration ceremonies held in Luxembourg City on April 7, 1945

As commander of Strategic Air Forces, Spaatz directed the United States portion of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany, directing the Eighth Air Force, which was then commanded by Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle, based in England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, which was now commanded by Lieutenant General Nathan Twining, based in Italy.

As the commander of Strategic Air Forces in Europe, Spaatz was under the direct command of General Dwight Eisenhower. In March 1944, Spaatz proposed the Oil Plan for bombing, and in June 1944 during the Operation Crossbow priority bombing of V-1 sites aimed at the UK, Spaatz advocated, and received authorization from Eisenhower for, bombing of those targets at a lower priority. Spaatz also identified that "...the chimera of one air operation that will end the war...does not exist", and[8]: 273  advocated Tedder's plan "which retained the oil system in first position, but more clearly placed Germany's rail system in second priority", which encouraged Eisenhower to overrule Air Ministry fears that the "thrust against the oil industry" might be weakened.[8]: 260–1  Spaatz's "Oil Plan" became the highest bombing priority in September 1944. After the war, Eisenhower said that Spaatz, along with General Omar Bradley, was one of the two American general officers who had contributed the most to the victory in Europe.

Spaatz received promotion to the rank of general on March 11, 1945. After VE Day he was transferred to the Pacific and assumed command of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific as part of the Pacific Theatre of Operations, with headquarters on Guam, in July 1945. From this command, Spaatz directed the strategic bombing of Japan, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Spaatz was present at Reims when the Germans surrendered to the Americans on May 7, 1945; at Berlin when they surrendered to the Soviets on May 8; and aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered on September 2. He was the only man of general rank or equivalent present at all three of these acts of surrender. On May 10, Spaatz conducted an interrogation of Hermann Göring along with an American historian Bruce Campbell Hopper at the Ritter School in Augsburg, Germany.

Civil Air Patrol

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presents Civil Air Patrol Cadet Matthew C. Jackson (NJ) the Gen. Spaatz Award

From 1948 until 1959, he served as the first Chairman of Civil Air Patrol's National Board. In 1964, CAP honored him by making his name synonymous with the highest cadet achievement, C/Colonel. The awards first recipient being Col. Douglas C. Roach from Michigan Wing in November of the same year.[9][10] Since then, only 2,280 cadets have received this honor nationwide (as of February 2022).[11]

Later life

In July 1945, President Harry S. Truman nominated Spaatz for promotion to the permanent rank of general. Spaatz was appointed Commanding General of the Army Air Forces in February 1946 following Arnold's retirement. After the creation of the independent Air Force by the National Security Act of 1947 and Truman's Executive Order No. 9877, Spaatz was appointed as the first Chief of Staff of the new United States Air Force in September 1947.[5]

Spaatz retired from the military at the rank of general on June 30, 1948,[12] and worked for Newsweek magazine as military affairs editor until 1961. He also served on the Committee of Senior Advisors to the Air Force Chief of Staff from 1952 until his death; and was the first President of the Air Force Historical Foundation during 1953. In 1954, Spaatz was appointed to the congressional advisory board set up to determine the site for the new United States Air Force Academy.

Spaatz died at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on July 14, 1974, from congestive heart failure.[5]

He was buried at the Academy's cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[5]

Personal life

Spaatz married Ruth Harrison in 1917. Ruth was born on April 28, 1896, in Fort Riley, Kansas. She died on November 19, 1989, in Maryland. The couple had three children.

Katherine ("Tattie") served in the American Red Cross mobile unit in England during World War II[13] and later married British intelligence officer Walter Bell (diplomat) 1948. She died in 2005. Rebecca married Emmet B. Gresham, Jr. (March 25, 1923 – February 25, 1954) on February 13, 1943.[14] Following his death Rebecca married Steven P. Nagel.[15]

Carla married Francis D. Thomas Jr. at Fort Myer on April 4, 1951.[16]


Awards and decorations

Source: USAF Historical Study 91: Biographical Data on Air Force General Officers, 1917–1952, Vol. II, "L-Z"

  Command pilot
  Junior Military Aviator
  Combat Observer

Distinguished Service Cross[23]
Distinguished Service Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)[23]
Legion of Merit[23]
Distinguished Flying Cross[23]
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal
Mexican Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal with three battle stars
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with six battle stars
World War II Victory Medal
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
Knight of the Order of the Crown with bronze palm (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre with palm (Belgium)
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor (France)
Croix de Guerre with bronze palm (France)
Commander's Cross with Star (Krzyż Komandorski z Gwiazdą) of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland)
Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav (Norway)
Order of Suvorov 2d Class (Soviet Union)

Spaatz also received the Collier Trophy for 1944 for "demonstrating the air power concept through employment of American aviation in the war against Germany."

Distinguished Service Cross citation


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Air Service) Carl Andrew Spatz (ASN: 0–3706), United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 13th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., during the St. Mihiel offensive, 26 September 1918. Although he had received orders to go to the United States, Major Spatz begged for and received permission to serve with a pursuit squadron at the front. Subordinating himself to men of lower rank, he was attached to a squadron as a pilot and saw continuous and arduous service through the offensive. As a result of his efficient work he was promoted to the position of night commander. Knowing that another attack was to take place in the vicinity of Verdun, he remained on duty in order to take part. On the day of the attack west of the Meuse, while with his patrol over enemy lines, a number of enemy aircraft were encountered. In the combat that followed he succeeded in bringing down three enemy planes. In his ardor and enthusiasm he became separated from his patrol while following another enemy far beyond the lines. His gasoline giving out, he was forced to land and managed to land within friendly territory. Through these acts he became an inspiration and example to all men with whom he was associated.

  • General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 123 (1918)
  • Action Date: 26 September 1918
  • Service: Air Service
  • Rank: Major
  • Company: 13th Aero Squadron
  • Division: American Expeditionary Forces

Dates of rank

Insignia Rank Component Date
No insignia Cadet United States Military Academy March 1, 1910
No insignia in 1914 Second Lieutenant Regular Army June 12, 1914
 First Lieutenant Regular Army July 1, 1916
 Captain Regular Army May 15, 1917
 Major National Army June 17, 1918
 Captain Regular Army February 27, 1920
 Major Regular Army July 1, 1920
 Captain Regular Army December 18, 1922
 Major Regular Army February 1, 1923
 Lieutenant Colonel Regular Army September 16, 1935
 Colonel Temporary November 7, 1939
 Brigadier General Temporary October 2, 1940
 Major General Army of the United States January 28, 1942
 Colonel Regular Army September 17, 1942
 Lieutenant General Army of the United States March 12, 1943
 Brigadier General Regular Army September 1, 1943
 Major General Regular Army October 5, 1944
 General Army of the United States March 11, 1945
 General United States Air Force September 18, 1947
 General U.S. Air Force, Retired June 30, 1948



  1. ^ Davis, Richard G. (1993) [1992]. Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe (PDF). Washington D.C.: Center for Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-75-7. Retrieved May 4, 2022. Original publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
  2. ^ "Carl A. Spaatz: An Air Power Strategist". June 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Boatner III, Mark M. (1996). The Biographical Dictionary of World War II. Presidio. pp. 518–519. ISBN 978-0-89141-548-0.
  4. ^ Spaatz was a neighbor and close associate of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Olds at Langley Field, Virginia in the 1930s. Olds had similarly changed the spelling of his name (from Oldys) in 1931 because of common mispronunciation and recommended Spaatz to the same attorney he used for his own change.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Johnston, Laurie (July 15, 1974). "Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, 83, Dead; First Air Force Chief of Staff". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  6. ^ Clodfelter, Mark (2011). Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917–1945. University of Nebraska Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-8032-3449-9.
  7. ^ "Current Issues - over the Front".
  8. ^ a b c Mets, David R. (1997) [1988]. Master of Airpower: General Carl A. Spaatz (paperback ed.). pp. 260–1, 265.
  9. ^ "1st Spaatz recipient, Roach, dies after distinguished public service career | Aviators Hot Line". Retrieved February 24, 2024.
  10. ^ "New Jersey Wing cadet named 2,000th recipient of top Civil Air Patrol award". CONR-1AF (AFNORTH & AFSPACE). August 11, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2024.
  11. ^ "Spaatz Award History – The Spaatz Association". Retrieved February 24, 2024.
  12. ^ "General Carl A. Spaatz". Public domain biography from U.S. Air Force. Air Force Link. Archived from the original on June 13, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  13. ^ "Women in Wartime: ARC Clubmobile". The Butterfly Balcony.
  14. ^ Gibbs, James L. (1954). "Memorials: Emmet B. Gresham, Jr". South Carolina Law Review. 7 (1): 218.
  15. ^ Staff (April 4, 2001). "Rebecca S. Nagel". Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  16. ^ "Carla Spaatz Married; Daughter of General Wed at Fort Myer to Francis Thomas Jr". New York Times. New York. April 5, 1951. p. 32. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  17. ^ "Spaatz Island". Geographic Names Information System. US Geographical Survey. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  18. ^ Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57864-397-4.
  19. ^ "Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame".
  20. ^ "Gen. Carl Spaatz Road Naming Ceremony Set for June 28, Says Maloney". Representative David Maloney, 130th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives. June 22, 2018. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  21. ^ Staff (June 28, 2018). "Section of Route 562 renamed for local WWII hero". Allentown, PA: WFMZ-TV. Archived from the original on June 29, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  22. ^ "Grand Opening of General Carl Spaatz National USAAF Museum". BCTV. September 29, 2021. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  23. ^ a b c d "Carl Andrew "Toohey" Spaatz". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  24. ^ Official Register of Commissioned Officers of the United States Army, 1948. Vol. II. pg. 1715.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. of the Army
Henry H. Arnold
Commanding General,
United States Army Air Forces

Office abolished
Army Air Forces replaced
by United States Air Force
New office Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 31 May 2024, at 09:33
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