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First Name: Paul

Last Name: Airey

Birthplace: Quincy, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Wesley

Date of Birth: 13 December 1923

Date of Death: 11 March 2009

Rank: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force

Years Served: 1943 - 1970
Paul Wesley Airey

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Paul Wesley Airey
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force

Paul Wesley Airey was born on 13 December 1923 in Quincy, MA. After two years of high school in Quincy, MA, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. He served as an aerial gunner on B-24 bombers during World War II and is credited with 28 combat missions in Europe. After he was forced to bail out of his flak-damaged aircraft, he was captured and became a Prisoner of War in Germany from July 1944 to May 1945.

During the Korean conflict, he was awarded the Legion of Merit while assigned at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. The Legion of Merit is a very uncommon award for an enlisted man, and was earned for creating a means of constructing equipment from salvaged parts that improved corrosion control of sensitive radio and radar components.

Airey spent much of his 27-year career as a First Sergeant in various postings. His last assignment as a First Sergeant was at the Air Defense Command's 4756th Civil Engineering Squadron at Tyndall AFB, FL.

On 3 April 1967, Paul Wesley Airey was named Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He was the first person appointed to this ultimate noncommissioned officer position and was selected from among 21 major air command nominees to become the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He was formally installed by General John P. McConnell.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Airey was Advisor to Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown, and to Chief of Staff of the Air Force General John P. McConnell, on matters concerning welfare, effective utilization, and progress of the enlisted members of the Air Force. He remained in the position until 31 July 1969.

Airey retired from the Air Force on 1 August 1970.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Legion of Merit with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
POW Medal
Air Force Good Conduct Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
Air Force Longevity Service Award
Air Force Recruiter Ribbon
United Nations Service Medal
Air Force Aircrew Badge


The Paul W. Airey NCO Academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, FL, is named in his honor.


In 1948 he obtained his high school equivalency certificate. He later completed 62 semester hours of study at McKendree College, Lebanon, IL. His military schooling includes courses in Communication Mechanics and Personnel Management. He is a graduate of the Air Defense Command Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

Memberships and Associations

Air Force Memorial Foundation
Air University Foundation
Airmen Memorial Museum

Death and Burial

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Paul Wesley Airey died on 11 March 2009 in Panama City, FL, of heart failure complicated by cancer. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

His wife, Shirley Elizabeth Airey preceded him in death on 4 June 2001 and is buried beside her husband.

Honoree ID: 2047   Created by: MHOH




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