Nathan F. Twining

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Nathan Farragut Twining
Nathan Twining 02.jpg
General Nathan F. Twining, c.1957–60
Born(1897-10-11)October 11, 1897
Monroe, Wisconsin
DiedMarch 29, 1982(1982-03-29) (aged 84)
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
United States Air Force
Years of service1915–1947 (Army)
1947–1960 (Air Force)
RankUS Air Force O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Alaskan Air Command
Air Materiel Command
Twentieth Air Force
Fifteenth Air Force
Thirteenth Air Force
Battles/warsMexican Border
World War II
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal (2)
Army Commendation Medal
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
Commander of the National Order of Merit (France)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Order of the Phoenix (Greece)
Order of the Partisan Star with Golden Wreath (Yugoslavia)
Gold Cross of Merit with Swords (Poland)
Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy
Knight Grand Cordon of the Order of the White Elephant (Thailand)
Gugseon Medal of the Order of National Security Merit (South Korea)
Taegeuk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit (South Korea)
Aviation Cross, First Class (Peru)
Medal of Merit (Egypt)
RelationsMerrill B. Twining (brother)
Nathan C. Twining (uncle)

Nathan Farragut Twining (/ˈtwnɪŋ/ TWY-ning; October 11, 1897 – March 29, 1982) was a United States Air Force general, born in Monroe, Wisconsin.[1] He was Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1953 until 1957, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1957 to 1960. He was the first member of the Air Force to serve as Chairman. Twining was a distinguished "mustang" officer, rising from private to four-star general and appointment to the highest post in the United States Armed Forces in the course of his 45-year career.

Early life and military career[edit]

Nathan Twining came from a military background; his forebears had served in the United States Army and United States Navy since the French and Indian War. His step-mother was Frances Staver Twining, author of Bird-Watching in the West.[2]

General Nathan F. Twining with Lieutenant General Millard F. Harmon and Major General Alexander M. Patch, Jr during World War II in the Pacific Theater at Southwest Pacific 1943.
General Nathan F. Twining

In 1913, Twining moved with his family from Monroe, Wisconsin, to Oswego, Oregon. He served in the Oregon National Guard from 1915 to 1917.[2] In 1917, he received an appointment to West Point. Because the program was shortened so as to produce more officers for combat, he spent only two years at the academy and graduated just a few days too late for service in World War I.[3]

After graduating in 1919 and serving in the Army infantry for three years after arriving in Europe in July 1919, he was reassigned to the Air Service. Over the next 15 years he flew fighter aircraft in Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii, while also attending the Air Corps Tactical School and the Command and General Staff College. When World War II broke out in Europe he was assigned to the operations division on the Air Staff; then in 1942 he was sent to the South Pacific where he became chief of staff of the Allied air forces in that area.

In January 1943, he was promoted to major general and assumed command of the Thirteenth Air Force, and that same November he traveled across the world to take over the Fifteenth Air Force from Jimmy Doolittle. On 1 February 1943, the U.S. Navy rescued Brig. Gen. Twining, the 13th Air Force Commander, and 14 others near the New Hebrides. They had ditched their plane on the way from Guadalcanal to Espiritu Santo and spent six days in life rafts.[4] When Germany surrendered, Arnold sent Twining back to the Pacific to command the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force in the last push against Japan, however he was in this command only a short time when the atomic strikes ended the war. On 20 October 1945, Twining led three B-29s in developing a new route from Guam to Washington via India and Germany. They completed the 13,167-mile-trip in 59 hours, 30 minutes.[4] He returned to the States where he was named commander of the Air Materiel Command, and in 1947 he took over Alaskan Air Command.

On September 23, 1947, Lieutenant General Twining issued a memo to Brigadier General George Schulgen of the Army Air Forces. The subject line of the memo read “AMC Opinion Concerning 'Flying Discs.[5]'” The general tone of the memo was that unidentified objects seen in the skies by military personnel were not weather, astronomical or other phenomenon but rather objects that warranted further investigation. Twining wrote “The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.”

After three years there Twining was set to retire as a lieutenant general, but when Muir Fairchild, the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, died unexpectedly of a heart attack, Twining was elevated to full general and named his successor.

United States Air Force Chief of Staff[edit]

General Nathan F. Twining in 1957.

When General Hoyt Vandenberg retired in mid-1953, Twining was selected as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force; during his tenure, massive retaliation based on airpower became the national strategy. During his tenure as Air Force Chief of Staff Twining oversaw massive buildup within the United States Air Force, including the entrance of several jet-fleet aircraft within the Air Force such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and F-100 Super Sabre.[6] Twining also directed the development of missiles system within the Air Force. For his role and achievement in developing the Air Force, Twining was credited for leading the U.S. Air Force into a modern day Air Force with far more sophisticated equipment rather than the old equipment that the Air Force used during the World War II and during the early years of the Air Force following the Air Force received its own autonomy in 1947.[6]

General Twining was also an ardent advocate of the Strategic Air Command and strongly believed that Strategic Air Command was the best deterrent to Communist military power.[7] As a result several of new Strategic Air Command bases including the Strategic Air Command underground command center in Strategic Air Command Headquarters was build during General Twining tenure as Air Force Chief of Staff.[7]

As Air Force Chief of Staff General Twining also achieved the reputation for appeasing the acrimonious controversies which characterized the interservice rivalry during the immediate postwar years and played major role in easing the interservice rivalry.[7] The interservice rivalry had emerged following the end of World War II and the establishment of National Security Act of 1947. One of interservice rivalry major conflict was the "Revolt of the Admirals" in 1949, on which the Truman administration canceled the building of supercarrier USS United States (CVA-58) due to Truman Administration and the Department of Defense more preferred the strategic bomber aircraft Convair B-36 Peacemaker, causing several high-ranking Navy officials to protest against the Truman administration decision to canceled the supercarrier project.[6]

In 1956, Twining was chosen by Eisenhower to head a delegation of senior officers to visit Soviet Union, the first such exchange since World War II. He was shown by Zhukov at an air force base with Badger and Bison bombers flying overhead.[8]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff[edit]

General Nathan F. Twining is sworn in as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald A. Quarles as President Dwight D. Eisenhower watch at The White House August 15, 1957.

In 1957, President Eisenhower appointed Twining Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his term as chairman, Twining oversaw the early stage of the Space Race and boost the space program due to the Soviet that launch an intercontinental ballistic missile on 25th August 1957 and less than two months later successfully launch "Sputnik" in orbit.[9] Twining also supported President Eisenhower New Look policy that turns the military capability from conventional military capability into a modern military capability by pushing the research and development for science and technology especially on the weapons program.[6] The policy was to deter the threat from the Soviet and their Eastern Bloc allies and eventually preventing them to win the Arms race. One of Twining's major achievement as Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff was the launch of The United States first liquid-fueled Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Titan and Atlas Missile in 1959. Twining was also credited for established the growth of The Strategic Air Command or SAC as The United States primary Nuclear deterrence against the massive retaliation, as a result Strategic Air Command's strength increased multiple times rather than when Strategic Air Command was first established in 1946.[10][11][6]In 1958 when the Iraqi's insurgent managed to topple the Iraqi's monarchy government causing the neighboring Lebanon to be concerned that the uprising might spread within the Lebanon area. Those eventually leading General Twining to convince President Eisenhower to deploy troops to Lebanon in order to secure the government of President Camille Chamoun of Lebanon from the incoming uprising.[9] General Twining also played major role during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis when The People's Republic of China forces (PRC) attacked the Taiwan Territory island of Quemoy and Matsu. Worried that the island of Taiwan might lose into the PRC's communist, General Twining and the rest of the Joint Chiefs member recommended to President Eisenhower to use whatever force necessary in order to protect the Island of Taiwan from the PRC's forces. This resulted in the deployment of United States Seventh Fleet and another two carriers from the Mediterranean including USS Lexington and USS Marshall to the Formosa strait. Several of the U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft also deployed to Taiwan.[9] Those eventually the show of force along with some political initiatives did worked and the crisis passed after the bombardment ceased. During the Berlin Crisis in November 1958 General Twining convinced President Eisenhower that the Soviet threat is imminent and eventually could caused major crisis and told the President that the armed forces have to standby in cased some major crisis erupted.[10][9] Some other service chief are considering for major mobilization forces along with the Western Allies. However General Twining saw that it was not necessary for that and The Soviet finally withdrew from its deadline in May 1959. [9][10]

Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff General Nathan F. Twining with the other members of The Joint Chiefs of Staff at The Pentagon in 1957.
Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff General Nathan F. Twining with Secretary of the Air Force James H. Douglas Jr. greeted Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay at Washington National Airport in November 1957.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Twining also played central role in working out a new procedures to coordinate a nuclear strike plans in order to prevent the first-strike and strength the United States deterrence against the United States enemy, especially those who own Nuclear Weapons.[11][9] This resulted in the development of land-based missiles and Polaris Submarines missile in order to complement the submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of the Nuclear Triad. Together with Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates Jr., Twining coordinated the creation of the Joint Strategic Planning Staff and also the Single Integrated Operational Plan. These two functions plan played major role during the Cold War and eventually still play major role even after the end of the Cold War.[11][9]

Twining was re-appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the second term in 1959. However due to his deteriorating health condition following major surgery, Twining chose to take early retirement from active-duty on September 30, 1960.[9]

Following his retirement from active duty Twining worked as vice chairman for the publishing firm Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. In 1965, Twining was named ninth annual recipient of the General William E. Mitchell Memorial Award.[12]

General Nathan F. Twining died on March 29, 1982 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Dates of rank[edit]

Insignia Rank Component Date
None Private Oregon National Guard 1915
WW1-Corporal.svg Corporal Oregon National Guard 19 June 1916
WW1-Sergeant.svg Sergeant Oregon National Guard 25 March 1917
WW1-1sgt.svg First sergeant Oregon National Guard 1917
None Cadet United States Military Academy 14 June 1917
No pin insignia at the time Second lieutenant National Army 1 November 1918
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant National Army 1 January 1920
US-O1 insignia.svg Second lieutenant Regular Army 15 December 1922
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant Regular Army 20 November 1923
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant Regular Army (United States Army Air Service) 16 November 1926 (transferred)
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular Army (United States Army Air Corps) 20 April 1935 (temporary)
1 August 1935 (permanent)
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular Army (United States Army Air Corps) 1 September (accepted 7 September) 1938 (temporary)
1 July 1940 (permanent)
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Army of the United States 15 September (accepted 22 September) 1941
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Army of the United States 1 February 1942
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Army of the United States 17 June 1942
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Regular Army (United States Army Air Forces) 15 July (accepted 22 July) 1941 (temporary)
11 December 1942 (permanent)
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Army of the United States 5 February 1943
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant general Army of the United States 5 June 1945
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Regular Army (United States Army Air Forces) 18 July 1946
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general United States Air Force 19 February 1948
US-O10 insignia.svg General United States Air Force 10 October 1950 (temporary)
30 June 1953 (permanent)


Awards and decorations[edit]

General Twining held the ratings of Command Pilot and Aircraft Observer. In addition, General Twining was awarded numerous personal decorations from the U.S. military and foreign countries.

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png US Army Air Forces Command Pilot Badge
ObserverBadge.jpg US Army Air Forces Aircraft Observer Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 white ribbon with width-10 scarlet stripes at edges, separated from the white by width-2 ultramarine blue stripes.
Army Distinguished Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Navy blue ribbon with central gold stripe Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges. Bronze Star Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 myrtle green ribbon with width-3 white stripes at the edges and five width-1 stripes down the center; the central white stripes are width-2 apart Army Commendation Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
Rainbow ribbon with violet at the outer edges and going down the spectrum to red in the center World War I Victory Medal
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Width-44 yellow ribbon with central width-4 Old Glory blue-white-scarlet stripe. At distance 6 from the edges are width-6 white-scarlet-white stripes.
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver and four bronze service stars
Silver star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with silver and bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
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
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
French Legion of Honour, Commandeur
French National Order of Merit, Commandeur
French Legion of Honour, Chevalier
Greek Order of the Phoenix, Silver Cross with Swords
Yugoslav Order of the Partisan Star with Golden Wreath (I rank)
Polish Gold Cross of Merit with Swords
Military Order of Italy, Knight Grand Cross
Order of the White Elephant, Knight Grand Cordon
South Korean Order of National Security Merit, Gugseon Medal
South Korean Order of Military Merit, Taeguk Cordon
EGY Order of Merit - Grand Cross BAR.png Egyptian Order of Merit, Grand Cross
UK Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service device.svg French Croix de Guerre with silver palm
PER Order of Aeronautical Merit Grand Cross.png Aviation Cross (First Class), Republic of Peru


National Aviation Hall of Fame (1996)[15]
A city park in Monroe, Wisconsin, Twining's birthplace, and an elementary school on the Air Force base in Grand Forks, North Dakota are named after him.
An extensive amateur astronomy observatory facility located in rural central New Mexico is named after him.[16]


  1. ^ "Birth Record Details". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  2. ^ a b "Cultural Resources Inventory: C.W. Twining House" (PDF). City of Lake Oswego. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  3. ^ "Gen. Nathan F. Twining". United States Air Force. 2007-08-13. Archived from the original on 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  4. ^ a b "History Milestones: Monday, January 01, 1940 – Saturday, December 31, 1949". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 2012-10-20.
  5. ^ Wojciechowski, Eric (March–April 2020). "General Nathan F. Twining and the Flying Disc Problem of 1947". Skeptical Inquirer. 44: 54–57.
  6. ^ a b c d e Perry, Mark (March 1, 1989). Four Stars: The Inside Story of The Forty-Year Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America's Civilian Leaders. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0395429235.
  7. ^ a b c "Gen. Nathan Farragut Twining June 30, 1953–June 30, 1957" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  8. ^ Campbell, Kurt M. (1989). "The Soldiers' Summit". Foreign Policy (no.75 ed.) (75): 76–91. doi:10.2307/1148865. JSTOR 1148865.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "3rd Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff General Nathan Farragut Twining". Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Rearden, Steven (July 30, 2012). Council of War: A History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1942-1991. Military Bookshop. ISBN 978-1780398877.
  11. ^ a b c Watson, Robert J. (November 4, 1997). History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Vol. 4: Into the Missile Age, 1956-1960. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Historical Office. ISBN 978-0160611261.
  12. ^ The Laws of Wisconsin, Volume 1. Atwood & Culver. 1965. p. 834.
  13. ^ Official Army and Air Force Register, 1948, p. 1852.
  14. ^ Air Force Register, 1949–1951, p. 223.
  15. ^ "Paul Tibbets, Jr". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  16. ^ General Nathan Twining Observatory

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Muir S. Fairchild
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
Thomas D. White
Preceded by
Hoyt Vandenberg
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
Thomas D. White
Preceded by
Arthur W. Radford
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Lyman Lemnitzer