Frank O'Driscoll Hunter

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Frank O’Driscoll Hunter
Major General Frank O’Driscoll Hunter during World War II
Nickname(s) Monk
Born (1894-12-08)December 8, 1894
Savannah, Georgia
Died June 25, 1982(1982-06-25) (aged 87)
Savannah, Georgia
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Force
Years of service 1917–1919, 1920–1946
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit 103rd Aero Squadron
1st Pursuit Group
Commands held 94th Aero Squadron
95th Pursuit Squadron
17th Pursuit Group
79th Pursuit Squadron
VIII Fighter Command
First Air Force
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (5)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Other work Rose to Major General during World War II

Frank O. Hunter began his military career as a World War I flying ace, being credited by the United States Army Air Service with downing nine enemy aircraft. Hunter became an advocate of fighter aircraft strategy and tactics. In World War II he served as commanding general of the VIII Fighter Command and, later, the First Air Force.

Early career[edit]

Hunter was born in Savannah, Georgia. He was educated at Hotchkiss School, Connecticut, and in Lausanne, Switzerland. He enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve, as a flying cadet on May 18, 1917.[citation needed]

World War I service[edit]

Hunter during World War I

He went to France in September 1917 and received further training at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun, France. Assigned to the 103rd Aero Squadron in May 1918, on his first combat patrol Hunter downed two German planes and landed safely despite being wounded. By the end of the war he had nine German planes to his credit, earning him recognition as an ace.[1] Hunter was the last pilot remaining with the squadron before its return to the United States, transferring out on January 24, 1919.[citation needed]

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with four oak leaf clusters, more than any person other than Eddie Rickenbacker who received six oak leaf clusters to the DSC.[2] His achievements in aerial combat earned him the French Croix de Guerre with palm. He left the Army for a short time after the war, but returned with a commission in the Regular Army Air Service in 1920.[citation needed]

Between the world wars[edit]

When he entered the Regular Army in 1920 he attended Field Artillery School and Air Service Observation School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He graduated in September 1921 and transferred to Ellington Field, Texas, for duty with the 1st Pursuit Group. In July 1922, he went to Selfridge Field, Michigan, as Commanding Officer of the 94th Squadron, and in October 1922, entered the Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, Virginia, returning to his command of the 94th Squadron when he graduated in June 1923. In July 1925 he became Operations Officer of Selfridge Field.[citation needed]

He transferred to Camp Anthony Wayne, Pennsylvania., in September 1926 as a pilot with the Composite Air Corps Squadron, and returned to Selfridge Field in December 1926. He next served in Washington, D.C., in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, and in December 1930 went to Rockwell Field, California, as Commanding Officer of the 95th Pursuit Squadron. He assumed command of the 17th Pursuit Group there in October 1931.[citation needed]

In November 1933 he was assigned as Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Wing at March Field, California, and in February 1934 became Chief of Operations, Western Zone Air Mail Operations, with headquarters at March Field. In May 1934 he returned to his duties as Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Wing. He was ordered to Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone, in July 1934, as Adjutant and Operations Officer of the 19th Composite Wing. In December 1934 he became Operations and Training Officer and Intelligence Officer at Albrook Field.[citation needed]

He transferred to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, in November 1936 as Commanding Officer of the 79th Pursuit Squadron, and in July 1937 became Operations Officer for the 3rd Wing there. He then went to Maxwell Field, Alabama, in July 1939 as Commanding Officer of the 23rd Composite Group.[citation needed]

World War II service[edit]

In May 1940 the citizens of Savannah, Georgia., named the Savannah Municipal Airport the Hunter Municipal Airfield, later Savannah Army Air Base, Hunter Air Force Base, then Hunter Army Air Field in his honor.[3] In July 1940 he was attached to the Office of the Military Attaché in London, England, as a Military Observer. He returned to the United States in December 1940 and was stationed at Orlando Army Air Base, Fla., as Commanding Officer of the 23rd Composite Group. In February 1942, he was assigned to Headquarters Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C., and in May 1942 joined the Eighth Air Force at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. That same month he accompanied that organization to the European Theater of Operations, with headquarters in London, as Commanding General, VIII Fighter Command. In this position he affected the first trans-Atlantic flight of AAF planes without the loss of life or equipment. He also directed the first P-47 fighter-bomber sweeps over the continent.[citation needed]

It was upon Brigadier General Hunter's recommendation that the Eagle Squadrons were transferred from the Royal Air Force to become the 4th Fighter Group in September 1942.[citation needed]

In May 1943, Hunter was relieved of his command for his failure to obey a directive issued by his superior, General Ira Eaker mandating use of wing tanks on P-47 fighters.[4] He returned to the United States in August 1943[citation needed] and was named Commanding General of the First Air Force, where he was charged with training replacement air crews. His tenure in this command was marred by his involvement in maintaining racial segregation in the U. S. Army, thus provoking the Freeman Field Mutiny of the Tuskegee Airmen.[5]

In 1944 the Earl of Halifax, then Britain's Ambassador to the U.S., presented to General Hunter, in the name of the King of England, the CBE, "Commander of the military division of the most excellent order of the British Empire." Just a year earlier the general had been awarded the Legion of Merit for "exceptional services" in planning and executing the movement of air echelons of the Twelfth Air Force from Great Britain to North Africa. His other awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.[citation needed]

In October 1945 he was assigned to a detachment of patients at Air Force Regional Hospital, Miami District, and later was admitted to Walter Reed General Hospital.[citation needed]

He was rated a command pilot, combat observer and technical observer. Throughout his lengthy flying career he survived three bail outs, one of which was from an altitude of 500 feet over a frozen lake, and two broken backs, both of which kept him in the hospital for a year. He became known as one of the Army's top stunt, test and racing pilots.[citation needed]

Post World War II[edit]

General Hunter retired from the Army Air Force in 1946. He died on 25 June 1982 in Savannah, Georgia.[citation needed]

Effective dates of promotion[edit]

  • Captain January 17, 1921
  • Major (temporary) March 15, 1935; (permanent) November 1, 1936
  • Lieutenant Colonel (temporary) March 1, 1940; (permanent) October 9, 1940
  • Colonel (temporary) April 19, 1941
  • Brigadier General (temporary) April 20, 1942
  • Major General (temporary) November 3, 1943[citation needed]

World War I citations[edit]

Lieutenant Frank Hunter of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service in World War I received five Distinguished Service Cross citations:

  • "Frank O'D. Hunter, First Lieutenant, Air Service, pilot, 103d Aero Squadron. For extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Ypres, Belgium, June 2, 1918. Lieut. Hunter, while on patrol, alone attacked two enemy biplanes, destroying one and forcing the other to retire. In the course of the combat he was wounded in the forehead. Despite his injuries he succeeded in returning his damaged plane to his own aerodrome."[6]
  • "A bronze oak leaf, to be worn with the Distinguished Service Cross, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Champey, France, September 13, 1918. He, accompanied by one other mono-place plane, attacked an enemy patrol of six planes. Despite numerical superiority and in a decisive combat, he destroyed one enemy plane and, with the aid of his companion, forced the others within their own lines."[6]
  • "A second bronze oak leaf, for extraordinary heroism in action near Verneville, France, September 17, 1918. Leading a patrol of three planes, he attacked an enemy formation of eight planes. Although out-numbered, they succeeded in bringing down four of the enemy. Lieut. Hunter accounted for two of these."[6]
  • "A third bronze oak leaf, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Liny-devant-Dun, France. While separated from his patrol he observed an allied patrol of seven planes (Breguets) hard pressed by enemy formation of 10 planes (Fokker type). He attacked two of the enemy that were harassing a single Breguet and in a decisive fight destroyed one of them. Meanwhile five enemy planes approached and concentrated their fire upon him. Undaunted by their superiority, he attacked and brought down a second plane."[6]
  • "A fourth bronze oak leaf, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Bantheville, France. While on patrol he encountered an enemy formation of six monoplanes. He immediately attacked and destroyed one enemy plane and forced the others to disperse in confusion."[6]

On 23 October 1918, International News Service staff & war correspondent Newton C. Parke wrote an article that described one of the missions that Hunter flew over France:

"Lieut. Frank O. Hunter of Savannah, Ga., scored his eighth unofficial air victory northwest of Verdun this morning. In the combat Percy D. Dine of New York City and Wm. H. Ponder of Lone Wolf, Okla., each shot down an enemy plane, the latter elevating himself to the position of an ace by his exploit. Reed Chambers of Memphis, Tenn., another new ace, was unofficially credited with shooting down two boches yesterday and Eddie Rickenbacker got another. Eleven American planes were engaging at one time yesterday against 30 machines. Lieut. Benson of the American air service single handed wandered thirty miles behind the enemy lines in the darkness and turned his machine gun upon an enemy troop train meanwhile dropping bombs."[7]


  • 1939–1940 Commanding Officer of the 23d Composite Group, Maxwell Field, Alabama
  • 1940 Military Observer and Assistant Air Attaché at the American Embassies in Paris, France and London, England
  • 1940–1942 Commanding Officer of the 23d Composite Group, Orlando, Florida
  • 1942–1943 Commanding General of the VIII Interceptor (later, Fighter) Command, High Wycombe, England
  • 1943–1945 Commanding General of the First Air Force, Mitchel Field, New York
  • 1946 Retired (disability in line of duty)[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918 Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W. 1992, Grub St. ISBN 0-948817-54-2, ISBN 978-0-948817-54-0, p. 46.
  2. ^ "Frank Hunter". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 17 September 2009.  and
    Guttman, Jon (2002). SPAD XII/XIII Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-84176-316-3. Retrieved 17 September 2009.  and
    "MAJOR GENERAL FRANK O. HUNTER". Biographies. United States Air Force. Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  3. ^ Catron, Susan (2015). Savannah Stories. Savannah, GA: Savannah Morning News. p. 26. 
  4. ^ The Tuskegee Airmen: Mutiny at Freeman Field. p. 16–17. 
  5. ^ The Tuskegee Airmen: Mutiny at Freeman Field. p. 16–160. 
  6. ^ a b c d e The National Geographic Magazine. Vol. XXXVI, No. 6, pp 496, 498 (Washington: December 1919). "The Romance of Military Insignia: How the United States Government Recognizes Deeds of Heroism and Devotion to Duty" (Col. Robert E Wyllie, General Staff, U.S.A.).
  7. ^ Parke, Newton C. More Huns Are Downed. Yankee Fliers Are Proving Terror In Air To Birdmen Of Germany. International News Service. 23 October 1918.


External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force website