Larry D. Welch

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Larry D. Welch
Larry D. Welch.jpg
General Larry D. Welch
Born (1934-06-09) June 9, 1934 (age 86)
Guymon, Oklahoma
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchKansas National Guard United States Air Force
Years of service1951–1990
Commands heldChief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Strategic Air Command
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Ninth Air Force
Battles/warsVietnam War
Cold War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal (7)
Other workRumsfeld Commission
President, Institute for Defense Analyses
Board of Directors, Henry L. Stimson Center

General Larry D. Welch (born June 9, 1934) is a retired United States Air Force four star general who served as the 12th Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. As Chief of Staff, he served as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipping of a combined active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian force serving at locations in the United States and overseas. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he and the other service chiefs functioned as the principal military advisers to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the President. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Nuclear Weapon Surety Task Force for the Defense Science Board.

Early life and career[edit]

CINCSAC General Larry D. Welch during a visit to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Welch was born in Guymon, Oklahoma, and graduated from Liberal (Kansas) High School in 1952. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master of Science degree in international relations from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.. Welch completed Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, in 1967, and National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1972. Welch is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Welch enlisted in the Kansas National Guard in October 1951, serving with the 161st Armored Field Artillery until he enlisted in the United States Air Force. In November 1953, he entered the aviation cadet program and received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant. He served initially as a flight instructor until his assignment in July 1958, to Headquarters Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Later military career[edit]

Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry D. Welch flies an Lockheed C-141 Starlifter.

Welch then served in tactical fighter units in Europe, the continental United States and Alaska before transferring to the Republic of Vietnam where he flew combat missions in F-4C Phantom IIs over North and South Vietnam, and Laos.

After completing the Armed Forces Staff College in July 1967, Welch was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., under the assistant chief of staff for studies and analysis. Upon graduation from the National War College in July 1972, he was assigned to Tactical Air Command, where he served in wing deputy commander for operations, vice commander and wing commander positions.

In August 1977, he transferred to Headquarters Tactical Air Command where he served as inspector general, deputy chief of staff for plans and deputy chief of staff for operations. In June 1981, he became commander of the Ninth Air Force and Air Force component commander for the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. In November 1982, he was assigned as deputy chief of staff for programs and resources at Air Force headquarters and became Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force in July 1984. From August 1985 to June 1986, he served as commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, and director, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. He became Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force in July 1986. Welch is one of only a handful of modern service chiefs to have risen from enlisted rank to his service's highest position (the others being Marine Corps General Alfred Gray, Army General John Shalikashvili and Navy Admiral Jeremy Boorda).

In March 1989, Larry Welch was rebuked by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney who intended to maintain civilian control of the military, due to Welch's unauthorized talks with a Congressman discussing some unresolved issues.[1]


Welch is a command pilot with more than 6,500 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Joint Meritorious Unit Award and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with "V" device and two oak leaf clusters.

Retirement and further work[edit]

Retired General Larry Welch speaks at the Defense Science Board breakfast as Colonel Andrew Gebara, the 2nd Bomb Wing Commander, listens at Barksdale Air Force Base, on August 28, 2012.

Welch was promoted to general on August 1, 1984, with same date of rank and retired on July 1, 1990. In 1998 he spent several months on the Rumsfeld Commission, which reported to Congress on the ballistic missile threat to the United States.

In 2009, Welch retired as the president of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia.[2] He continues to serve as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He also serves on the Defense Policy Board, the USSTRATCOM Strategic Advisory Group, the Sandia Corporation Board of Directors, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director's Review Committee.

In October 2007, Welch was asked by Robert Gates to lead the Defense Science Board task force that would study the 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident as part of a larger review of US Department of Defense procedures and policies for handling nuclear weapons. Welch briefed the results of the review before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on February 12, 2008.[3]

In 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel asked Welch and retired Admiral John Harvey to lead an Independent Review of the Department of Defense Nuclear Enterprise. The report was delivered to the Secretary of Defense in June 2014.


  1. ^ ROSENTHA, ANDREW (March 25, 1989). "Cheney Rebukes Air Force Chief For Arms Talk With Legislators". New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Pincus, "4 Colonels Lose Their Air Force Commands", USDoD, "DoD Press Briefing with Maj. Gen. Newton", Baker, "Air Force Relieves Commanders Involved in Nuclear Weapons Incident", Hoffman, "Wing decertified, COs sacked for nuke mistake", Hoffman, "Generals grilled on Minot nuclear mishap", Spiegel, "U.S. Nuclear Focus Has Dimmed, Studies Find", Spiegel, "U.S. Nuclear Focus Has Dimmed, Studies Find".

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. Bennie L. Davis
Commander, Strategic Air Command
Succeeded by
Gen. John T. Chain, Jr.
Preceded by
Gen. Charles A. Gabriel
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
Gen. Michael J. Dugan