He was oil production supervisor for the West Texas Production Company in Fort Worth, Texas from 1938 to 1942.
After the U.S. entered World War II, McHugh joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as a captain on January 31, 1942 and received pilot training. During the war, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was stationed in the European Theater. After the war, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service during the war.
He served as assistant executive and senior aide to Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg from 1948 to 1953.
McHugh attended the National War College from 1953 to 1954.
He became Air Force Aide to President Kennedy, and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1961. As military aide to the President, his duties included supervising Air Force One. He very often rode in the middle of the front seat of the Presidential State Car while transporting the President. While he was in Dallas, Texas during the John F. Kennedy assassination, McHugh was moved farther back in the motorcade that day rather than riding in the President's car. He was also present during the president's autopsy.
After Kennedy's death, McHugh guarded Kennedy's body on Air Force One and until the President's body was returned to Washington, D.C.
In a 1978 oral history interview that McHugh gave to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (that was withheld from the public until 2009), McHugh provided detailed statements that once Kennedy's body was back on board Air Force One he did not know that Lyndon Johnson was also on board. Due to safety concerns that there was a conspiracy, Jacqueline Kennedy's repeated requests, and the fact that the plane's interior cabin was quite warm, McHugh had requested that the plane take off. When the plane still had not taken off, McHugh went forward to again ask pilot James Swindal why the plane had not taken off and he was told that Johnson did not want the plane to take off yet. McHugh went to find Johnson and he soon found Johnson hiding in a bathroom with Johnson saying repeatedly, "They're going to get us all. It's a plot. It's a plot. It's going to get us all." According to the General, Johnson "was hysterical, sitting down on the john there alone in this thing." In a documented interview the previous week in 1978 McHugh had also stated to the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigator Mark Flanagan the same basic account of what he witnessed.
Jordan Marsh incident
In the summer of 1963, a pregnant Jacqueline Kennedy was at the Kennedy family compound in Massachusetts. Air Force personnel became concerned that if Mrs. Kennedy were to deliver the child at the Otis Air Force Base hospital, that the maternity ward furniture would be inferior for the newborn of the President and First Lady. The Air Force then spent $5,000.00 of taxpayer money at Jordan Marsh & Company to purchase new furniture, and allowed media photographs of Air Force Colonel Carlson proudly standing next to the purchase. After the photos made their way into the Washington Post, an irate President Kennedy telephoned McHugh and ordered him to have the furniture returned. Kennedy's curse-laden phone call with McHugh is now public.
McHugh married Lillian Triplett Fall in 1967. The couple retired to Palm Beach, Florida in 1986.
- Legion of Merit
- Air Force Commendation Medal
- Army Commendation Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- Army of Occupation Medal
- National Defense Service Medal with star
- Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with four bronze oak leaf clusters
Dates of Rank
- Captain - 31 January 1942
- Major - 3 September 1942
- Lieutenant Colonel - 10 March 1944 
- Colonel -
- Brigadier General - 1961
- Oral History Interview with Godfrey T. McHugh pp.46–47 JFK Library
- "A New Wrinkle in the JFK Assassination Story". Huffington Post 10-30-09. May 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
- Archive audio of JFK call to McHugh on Furniture for J. Kennedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtLTmg2vCzY
- Find a Grave
- Official Register of Commissioned Officers of the United States Army. 1947. pg. 747.
The Death of a President, November 20-November 25, 1963 by William Manchester, Harper & Row, 1967
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