Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Joseph

Last Name: Atkinson

Birthplace: Dublin, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Hampton

Date of Birth: 05 February 1900

Date of Death: 06 November 1984

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served: 1922-23 Enlisted USA; 1924-61 Officer
Joseph Hampton Atkinson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Joseph Hampton Atkinson
Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force

Joseph Hampton Atkinson was born on 5 February 1900 in Dublin, TX, the son of Lee Arthur and Della Linla Watson Atkinson. When he was six months old, his parents returned to his father's "old home town" in Jacksboro, TX. Later, the family spent several months at Dalhart but returned to Jacksboro, where Joseph finished high school then graduated from a business college in Dallas.

Atkinson enlisted in the U.S. Army on 20 December 1922 and became a flying cadet in September 1923. [He found his lack of a full college education a handicap, so he dove into special training, in addition to his regular military duties, and made up the deficiency in three years.]

He earned his wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 13 September 1924 after completing flying training at Brooks and Kelly Fields, TX. Atkinson was then assigned to the 16th Observation Squadron at Fort Riley, KS. He also served with the 12th Observation Squadron, commanded by Major H.H. Arnold. One of Atkinson's duties was to fly the Presidential Airmail from the summer White House in Superior, WI, to Chicago, IL, with the Squadron operating from what he recalls as a "typical cornfield operation."

From October 1929 to April 1930, Atkinson was a student at the Air Corps Technical School Maintenance Engineering Course at Chanute Field. He became a Flying Instructor, first at Brooks Field, and later at Randolph Field, both in Texas. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on 6 November 1933 and, in September 1934 he was assigned as Adjutant of the 29th Pursuit Squadron stationed at Albrook Field, Canal Zone. He became Commanding Officer of the Squadron in December. Atkinson was promoted to Captain on 15 March 1935 and, on 14 January 1936 he was assigned as Flight Commander (later Commander) of the 11th Bombardment Squadron stationed at Hamilton Field, CA. He served with this Squadron until January 1940, interrupting his service from 1 June-26 August 1940, to attend the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL.

Atkinson's next assignment was with the 24th Bombardment Squadron at Eglin and Orlando Fields, FL, beginning 18 February 1940, as its Commanding Officer. On 1 February 1941 he was promoted to Major. In September he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff, A-3, at Headquarters Army Air Forces. On 23 January 1942 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and on 9 May he was promoted to Colonel. His next assignment, beginning in September 1942, was as Commanding Officer of the 97th Bombardment Group with station first in England, and later in Africa.

On 18 January 1943, Atkinson was promoted to Brigadier General and made Commanding General of the 5th Bomb Wing, stationed first in Africa, and later in Italy. During this time, Atkinson flew a B-17 Flying Fortress named "Little Bill" and became known for personally leading bombing missions; instead of just ordering others to fly the mission.

While in Italy, Atkinson was designated as Deputy Commanding General of the Fifteenth Air Force in February 1944. He remained in that assignment until July 1944 when he was designated as Commanding General of the III Bomber Command at MacDill Field, FL.

In May 1945, Brig Gen Atkinson was assigned to the Alaskan Department at Fort Richardson. He was appointed Deputy Commanding General, Alaskan Air Command on 20 January 1946 and was appointed Commanding General on 1 October 1946. He was promoted to Major General on 24 January 1948. In February 1949, Major General Atkinson was assigned as Commanding General of the 311th Air Division in Topeka, KS. He remained with this Division until 31 October and the following day he was assigned as Commanding General, Second Air Force, at Barksdale AFB, LA.

In November 1952, Atkinson was appointed Vice Commander, and later Commander-in-Chief of the Alaskan Command (with the additional duty of Commander, Alaskan Air Command, from 24 February to 17 September 1956) at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. Atkinson was promoted to Lieutenant General on 3 March 1953.

In September 1956, Atkinson was appointed Commander, Air Defense Command, Ent AFB, CO, where he remained until his retirement on 28 February 1961.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with Silver and Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Air Force Longevity Service Award with Silver and 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Command Pilot Badge

He also received the Croix de guerre with Palm (France).


Atkinson married Marie Sealy, also a native Texan. She went into full time war work as soon as "Hamp" went overseas. She was a mail and record clerk in the Army Relief Office in Washington. 

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General Joseph Hampton Atkinson died on 6 November 1984 in Sun City, AZ. He is buried at the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, in Section 3, Row B, Lot 74.

Honoree ID: 2082   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image