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George Scratchley Brown

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George Scratchley Brown
GEN George Brown.JPG
General George S. Brown
Born(1918-08-17)17 August 1918
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Died5 December 1978(1978-12-05) (aged 60)
Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1936–1978
RankUS Air Force O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General
Service numberO-24021
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Air Force Systems Command
Seventh Air Force
Eastern Transport Air Force
3525th Pilot Training Wing
56th Fighter Interceptor Wing
62d Troop Carrier Group
Battles/warsWorld War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal (4)
Croix de guerre (France)
Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)

George Scratchley Brown (17 August 1918 – 5 December 1978) was a United States Air Force general who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he served as the senior military adviser to the president of the United States, the National Security Council and the secretary of defense. Through the commanders of the unified and specified commands, he was also responsible for executing the decisions of the National Command Authorities regarding worldwide readiness and employment of combat forces of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Early life[edit]

Major George S. Brown during World War II in 1943.

George Scratchley Brown was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on 17 August 1918, the son of Thoburn Kaye Brown, an Army officer who had graduated with the West Point class of 1913, and his wife Frances Katherine née Scratchley. As an Army brat, Brown lived in a succession of different towns and military bases. He was an Eagle Scout, and played on the American football varsity team as a freshman at Fort Brown, Texas. He later was a fullback during his junior and senior years at Immaculata High School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was an all-league in the Catholic high school interstate league.[1]

Both Brown and his younger brother Tim set their sights on attending West Point, but their father advised taking a year of college first. Therefore, after graduating from high school in 1936, Brown enrolled in engineering at the University of Missouri where he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon. A fine horseman, he played polo. He also enlisted in the 128th Field Artillery Battalion of the Missouri National Guard, rising to the rank of corporal. His father was able to secure a congressional appointment to the United States Military Academy from Kansas for him, and Brown entered on 1 July 1937.[2]

At West Point, Brown was roommates with John Norton, future US Army lieutenant general.[3] Brown once again played polo, and was captain of the team in his senior year, when the West Point team lost in the final to Princeton University. In that year he was also cadet captain and regimental adjutant. He would have liked to have joined the cavalry on graduation like his father, but his standing as 342nd in his class was too low for an appointment to the cavalry. Instead, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry on graduation on 11 June 1941. However, he volunteered for Air Corps training.[4][5] At West Point he met Alice (Skip) Colhoun. An Army brat like himself, Alice met Brown at a party her father had thrown for the sons of the graduates of the class of 1913. Brown and Alice dated for over a year,[6] and were married in 1942. Their marriage produced three children, two boys and a girl.

World War II[edit]

B-24s leaving Ploiești through flak and smoke

Brown commenced his basic flight training in Fairchild PT-19s at Pine Bluff, Arkansas on 20 August 1941. He then went to Randolph Field, Texas, for the second phase of his training. The third and final phase was completed at Kelly Field, Texas, where he received his pilot's wings on 7 March 1942.[7] He officially transferred to the Air Corps on 4 April 1942, and was promoted to first lieutenant on 18 June 1942.[5] His first assignment after flight training was at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where, as a member of the 344th Bombardment Squadron of the 93d Bombardment Group, he flew the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Moving with the organization to Fort Myers, Florida, he flew both antisubmarine patrol and conventional bomber training aircraft.[8]

In August 1942, he flew with the 93d Bombardment Group to England, where it became the first B-24 group to join the Eighth Air Force. He served in various positions with the group, including commander of the 329th Bombardment Squadron, group operations officer and group executive officer.[8] He was promoted to captain on 20 October, major on 13 February 1943, and lieutenant colonel on 27 August 1943. High casualties and the rapid expansion of the Air Force paved the way for fast promotion, which Brown's superiors felt was deserved due to his outstanding performance in combat and leadership skills. Perhaps no one was as surprised at his rapid advance in rank as his father, now a brigadier general,[9] who was serving in North Africa at the time Brown arrived there with the 93d Bombardment Group when it was temporarily detached from the Eighth Air Force. The elder Brown wanted to know "What's a young whippersnapper like you doing as a colonel?!"[10]

Brown upon receiving his first star as Brigadier General, pinned by Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
Brown during his tenure as Seventh Air Force Commander with Pacific Air Forces Commander General Joseph J. Nazzaro.

It was as executive officer that he took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the low-level bombing raid against oil refineries at Ploieşti, Romania, on 1 August 1943. The 93d Bombardment Group was the second of five B-24 groups that raided Ploieşti from a temporary base at Benghazi, Libya. It flew directly into heavy defenses to attack three of the six target refineries. The lead plane, flown by the group commander, Lieutenant Colonel Addison Baker, was shot down. Brown took over the command of the battered 93d and led it through the attack on the target and the journey back to Benghazi. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on that mission.[8] For his services in combat in the skies over Europe, he was also awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, the French Croix de guerre with palm and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.[5]

Brown was appointed assistant operations officer, 2d Air Division on 8 April 1944. He was promoted to colonel on 1 October.[5] Having completed the required 25 missions, he was rotated back to the United States on 9 November.[11] Alice was shocked to discover "that guy of mine had in fact requested another overseas assignment. He was so gung ho that he had come home, checked on me, and without my knowing it, put in to go back for another tour."[10] However, the Air Force turned down the request. On 27 January 1945, Brown became Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff A-3 with the Air Training Command at Fort Worth, Texas.[5]

Cold War[edit]

Brown received his fourth star, pinned by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Bruce K. Holloway on board the Boeing C-135 Speckled Trout, en route to South Vietnam in January 1968.

In February 1946, Brown was posted to the Operations Division of the Air Training Command at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where he served under Major General Alvin C. Kincaid and his Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Brigadier General Thomas C. Darcy. For the first time, Brown received a mediocre effectiveness report.[12] In December 1946 he joined Headquarters Air Defense Command at Mitchel Field, New York, as assistant to Air Chief of Staff, Operations, and later as chief of its ROTC branch. On 1 July 1947 he became assistant deputy for operations.[13]

Brown became commander of the 62d Troop Carrier Group at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, on 17 July 1950. This group operated Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar aircraft between the West Coast and Japan. With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, this mission acquired great importance.[14] In July 1951 he assumed command of the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan, part of the Air Defense Command, although he had never flown fighters before. He learned to fly the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, North American F-86 Sabre and Lockheed F-94 Starfire.[15] On 1 January 1952 Brown became Assistant Director of Operations of the Fifth Air Force in South Korea. He became Director on 15 July 1952.[16]

Brown returned to the United States where he assumed command of the 3525th Pilot Training Wing at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, on 6 June 1953.[17] He entered the National War College in August 1956. It was the first and only service school he attended after graduating from West Point. After graduation in June 1957,[18] he served as executive to the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Thomas D. White.[19] Brown was promoted to brigadier general in August 1959.[8] He was selected to be military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Thomas S. Gates Jr., and then to the new Secretary of Defense, Robert MacNamara, with the rank of major general.[20]

General George S. Brown during his tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Brown became commander of the Eastern Transport Air Force at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, in August 1963.[8] In September 1964, he was selected to organize and command Joint Task Force 2, a Joint Chiefs of Staff unit formed at Sandia Base, New Mexico, to the test weapon systems of all the military services in order to avoid wasteful duplication of effort. It was staffed by personnel of all three services.[21] In May 1966 he became the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler, on the recommendation of his predecessor in the role, Lieutenant General Andrew Goodpaster. Brown was promoted to the same rank on 1 August 1966.[22] The preoccupation of the Joint Chiefs at this time was the Vietnam War, but he was also involved in the handling of the Pueblo crisis.[23]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General George S. Brown during the Strategic Air Command change of command ceremony in Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska on 8 January 1977.

On 1 August 1968, Brown assumed command of the Seventh Air Force and also became deputy commander for air operations, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), with the rank of general.[24] As Seventh Air Force commander, he was responsible for all Air Force combat air strike, air support and air defense operations in Southeast Asia. In his MACV position, he advised on all matters pertaining to tactical air support and coordinated the Republic of Vietnam and United States air operations in the MACV area of responsibility.[25] According to Goodpaster, Brown and MACV commander General Creighton Abrams "were like two brothers".[26] General George F. Keegan felt that:

[Brown's] relationship with General Abrams was the finest between a ground theater commander and his air subordinate that I have seen since 1941. There was complete trust, rapport, an end to gamesmanship between one service and another. It was clear from the outset that Abrams understood finally that in George Brown he had a personal friend whose life and resources were wholly committed to fulfilling the theater job and responsibility that Abrams had upon his shoulders.[26]

Brown's tour of Vietnam ended in September 1970, and he became Commander, Air Force Systems Command, with headquarters at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.[8] This job involved handling a number of troublesome projects, including the F-111.[27]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later life[edit]

On the recommendation of the secretary of the Air Force, Robert Seamans, President Richard Nixon appointed Brown to be Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, effective 1 August 1973.[28] General Brown became the first Air Force chief of staff whom previously never held the position Air Force vice chief of staff.[29]

However, he did not remain Chief of Staff for long. He was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff effective 1 July 1974. As Chairman, Brown was responsible for the handling of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974,[30] and the Mayaguez incident, the final act of the war in Vietnam in 1975. He also dealt with the 1976 shootings and Axe Murder Incident in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and oversaw the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977.[8]

During his term as Chairman, Brown commented on two occasions—firstly to a Duke University audience in October 1974, and then to a French reporter in 1976—that Israel was becoming a burden to the Pentagon and that he believed the reason for continual military aid was due to Jews having control over America's banks, newspapers and elected officials. His exact words were:

It's so strong you wouldn't believe now. We have the Israelis coming to us for equipment. We say we can't possibly get the Congress to support that. They say, 'Don't worry about the Congress. We will take care of the Congress.' Now this is somebody from another country, but they can do it. They own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is.[31]

Brown and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller listen to a briefing on the evacuation of Saigon, 28 April 1975

Brown's comments at Duke and subsequent reprimand by President Gerald Ford were reported on the front page of The Washington Post on 13 and 14 November 1974.[32] There was speculation that Brown would be asked to resign, or at least not be nominated for a second two-year term; but he was renominated and went on to serve under the new president, Jimmy Carter.[33]

Brown was known for the directness of his speech, which sometimes offended those around him. Asked to comment in an interview for Newsweek on his opinion of the British Armed Forces, Brown replied, "They're no longer a world power. All they've got are generals, admirals and bands."[34] Reaction in Britain was mixed. Some, like Lord Allenby condemned Brown's remarks, while others, like Lord Monckton acknowledged the truth of the remarks.[35] Brown also said that Israel was a "burden" to the United States, and predicted that Iran would become an important military power in the Middle East.[36]

Brown was diagnosed with prostate cancer and retired due to ill health on 21 June 1978. He died at the Malcolm Grow Air Force Hospital at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on 5 December 1978, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[37]

Dates of rank[edit]

Source: [38]

Insignia Rank Date
US-O1 insignia.svg
Second Lieutenant June 11, 1941
US-O2 insignia.svg
 First Lieutenant June 18, 1942
(permanent on June 12, 1944)
US-O3 insignia.svg
 Captain October 20, 1942
US-O4 insignia.svg
 Major February 13, 1943
(permanent on September 3, 1948)
US-O5 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant Colonel August 27, 1943
(permanent on April 12, 1951)
US-O6 insignia.svg
 Colonel October 1, 1944
(permanent on April 24, 1956)
US-O7 insignia.svg
 Brigadier General August 1, 1959
(permanent on January 30, 1962)
US-O8 insignia.svg
 Major General April 1, 1963
(permanent on February 27, 1964)
US-O9 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant General August 1, 1966
US-O10 insignia.svg
 General August 1, 1968

Awards and decorations[edit]

Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff General George S. Brown with the other members of The Joint Chiefs of Staff at The Pentagon in 1977.
COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png Command Air Force Pilot Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
Distinguished Service Cross[39]
Defense Distinguished Service Medal[39]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters[39]
Navy blue ribbon with central gold stripe Navy Distinguished Service Medal[39]
Silver Star[39]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with two bronze oak leaf clusters[39]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster[39]
Bronze Star Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor device
American Defense Service Medal
Bronze star
American Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with seven campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal with two campaign stars
Silver star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with six campaign stars
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Croix de Guerre with bronze Palm (France)
Uk dfc rib.png British Distinguished Flying Cross
Silver star
Order of National Security Merit Cheon-Su with Silver Star (Korea)
VPD National Order of Vietnam - Commander BAR.svg Republic of Vietnam National Order of Vietnam, Commander
Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order Ribbon-First Class.svg Republic of Vietnam Distinguished Service Order, First Class (Air Force)
BRA Ordem do Mérito Aeronáutico Grande Oficial.png Order of Aeronautical Merit (Brazil), Grand Officer[40]
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon, with 60- clasp.svg Vietnam Campaign Medal

Other honors and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 3–6.
  2. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 6–7.
  3. ^ Norton, John (14 July 2004). "Veteran's History Project" (Interview). Interviewed by Redmond, Patricia T. American Folklife Center. p. 2. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  4. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 13–18.
  5. ^ a b c d e Cullum 1950, p. 1147.
  6. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 13–14, 69.
  7. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 20–22.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "General George S. Brown". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  9. ^ Cullum 1950, p. 169.
  10. ^ a b Puryear 1983, p. 42.
  11. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 36.
  12. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 42–44.
  13. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 48.
  14. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 53–57.
  15. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 58–65.
  16. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 71–72.
  17. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 85.
  18. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 97.
  19. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 102.
  20. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 112–116.
  21. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 132–133.
  22. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 151.
  23. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 158–159.
  24. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 164–165.
  25. ^ "Major General John Daniel Lavelle". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  26. ^ a b Puryear 1983, p. 183.
  27. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 196.
  28. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 205–206.
  29. ^ Puryear, Edgar F. (1 October 1983). George S. Brown, General, U.S. Air Force: Destined for Stars. Presidio Pr. ISBN 978-0891411697.
  30. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 257.
  31. ^ "Brown's Bomb". Time magazine. 25 November 1974. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  32. ^ Puryear 1983, pp. 246–251.
  33. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 256.
  34. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 265.
  35. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 267.
  36. ^ Puryear 1983, p. 263.
  37. ^ Arlington National Cemetery
  38. ^ The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949-2012 (PDF) (2 ed.). Joint History Office. 27 October 2012. p. 141. ISBN 978-1480200203.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g "George Scratchley Brown". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  40. ^ ORDEM DO MÉRITO AERONÁUTICO from served provided Brazil Armed Forces
  41. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  42. ^ "The National Aviation Hall of Fame". The National Aviation Hall of Fame.


Military offices
Preceded by
John Dale Ryan
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
David C. Jones
Preceded by
Thomas H. Moorer
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
David C. Jones