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First Name: Lewis

Last Name: Brereton

Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Hyde

Date of Birth: 21 June 1890

Date of Death: 20 July 1967

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served:
Lewis Hyde Brereton

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Lewis Hyde Brereton
Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force

Lewis Hyde Brereton was born on 21 June 1890 in Pittsburgh, PA, the second son of William Denny Brereton and Helen Hyde Brereton. The family moved to Annapolis, MD, while Brereton's older brother, William Jr., was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. His father was a successful mining engineer and a 4th-generation Irish-American. His mother was English and Episcopalian by birth. At the age of eight, Brereton suffered a recurring infection of the middle ear, purulent otitis media, which proved impossible to treat in the pre-antibiotics era.

He was physically described early in World War II as "5-06," "stocky build," "brown-eyed," "black-haired," and "raspy-voiced." His personality characteristics were said to be "cool and thoughtful," able to "think rapidly on his feet," with a "quick, analytical mind." However he was also said to have an "appropriate temper" and "able to swear in three or four languages," a "party-loving streak," and when referring to himself, to use the third person. He had a reputation, especially among critics, for being hedonistic. General Omar N. Bradley, who intensely disliked Brereton, was quoted by a biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower as saying that Brereton was "marginally competent...(and) more interested in living in the biggest French chateau."

Artillery Officer

He attended St. John's College in Annapolis with the intention of entering West Point, but unable to secure an appointment, he followed his older brother into the Naval Academy in 1907, graduating in June 1911, ranked 58th in merit in a class of 194. In March 1911 he submitted a letter of resignation effective on the date of graduation, listing seasickness as a primary reason, and as a result, the Academy's Permanent Medical Examining Board rejected him for active duty. After two days as an Ensign, his resignation was accepted. He applied for commissioning in the U.S. Army and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps on 17 August 1911. He went on active duty on 6 September with the 118th Company CAC at Fort Monroe, VA. The next year he served in the 17th Company CAC at Fort Washington, MD.

In September 1912, he volunteered for detail to the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, to undertake flying training at the planned Signal Corps Aviation School at Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. He became the 26th serving officer so detailed. The lack of facilities at Rockwell forced most of his training to take place at the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in Hammondsport, NY during October 1913. Brereton returned to Rockwell in November and, after the school officially opened in December, passed the test qualifying him for a rating of Military Aviator on 27 March 1913, the 10th pilot to earn the rating. He began to train and instruct on float planes but experienced two crashes, the first as pilot of a fatal crash of a Curtiss F on 8 April 1913 and the second as an observer on May 21. At his own request, Brereton was relieved of aviation duties on 3 July 1913. He returned to the Coast Artillery Corps, posted to the 115th Company at Fort Rosecrans, on the Point Loma Peninsula across the channel from Rockwell. He met and married Helen Willis while stationed in San Diego, and subsequently had two children.

In July 1916 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and sent to the Philippines to join the 1st Company, Fort Mills (138th Company CAC) on Corregidor. Less than two months later he requested to return to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. Because of the "Manchu Law" (widespread Army colloquialism for the Detached Service provision included in the Army's 1912 appropriations bill to underpin the regulation made in 1911) regulating length of detached service away from an officer's permanent branch, Brereton first transferred to the 17th Field Artillery Regiment to qualify, and was assigned to duty with the 2nd Aero Squadron, also stationed on Corregidor, on 17 January 1917. Returning to the U.S. in March 1917, he was assigned to duty in Washington, DC, at the Aviation Section headquarters in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.

Air Service in World War I

After World War I began, Brereton entered flying training a second time at Hazelhurst Field in Mineola, NY. While in pilot training he was promoted to Captain on 15 May 1917 and received a new rating of Junior Military Aviator on 27 June. During most of the remainder of 1917 he worked in the Equipment Division at Aviation Section headquarters under Col. Benjamin D. Foulois. In November, when Foulois was promoted to Brigadier General and sent to France to command the Air Service of the AEF, he took with him 100 members of his staff, including Brereton. Although initially sent to a Services of Supply unit, Brereton's JMA rating enabled him to enter advanced flying training at Issoudun, which qualified him to take command of the 12th Aero Squadron on 1 March 1918. His unit had no aircraft on his arrival, and he could only procure a dozen obsolete Dorand AR.Is to fly until first-line Salmson 2 A2s became available. The 12th A.S. began combat operations from Ourches Airdrome on 3 May, patrolling the "Toul Sector" between Flirey and Apremont in support of the U.S. 26th Division. Brereton and his pilots moved overland to Vathiménil to receive their Salmsons in the first week of June and carried out extensive operations between Blâmont and Badonviller in the "Baccarat Sector" for three weeks supporting the U.S. 42nd Division.

Brereton left the 12th Aero Squadron on 1 July, was promoted to Major on 2 July and three days later became Air Service Officer to I Corps. When the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division attacked Chateau-Thierry in mid-July, Brereton flew the first artillery adjustment mission near Vaux with his old command. Chateau-Thierry brought him to the attention of Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who assigned him command of the Corps Observation Wing on 28 August, supervising the observation groups of three corps, one army, and a French group, in preparation for the St-Mihiel Offensive. On 12 September 1918, while flying a special mission on the first day of the offensive, Brereton became involved in air-to-air combat over Thiaucourt that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.

On 26 October 1918, Mitchell, the Chief of Air Service, Group of Armies and de facto commander of all U.S. air combat units, made Brereton his Assistant for Operations. Brereton received a promotion to temporary Lieutenant Colonel on 1 November 1918. Less than 3 weeks before the end of the war, he proposed a plan to drop members of the 1st Infantry Division on the German-occupied city of Metz, in what would have been the first airborne assault. While Mitchell supported the plan, General John Pershing shelved it.

After the armistice, he was appointed Chief of Staff, Third Army Air Service, under Mitchell, on 19 November 1918 for occupation duty in Germany until February 1919.

Inter-War Service

Upon his return to the U.S. in early 1919, he was assigned to the Office of the Director of Air Service, Major General Charles T. Menoher. When Menoher reorganized the office in March under an executive order issued by President Woodrow Wilson and established a "divisional system," Brereton was picked as Chief of the Operations Division, Training and Operations Group, again under Gen. Mitchell. He remained there until December 1919, when he became an Assistant Military Attaché for Air at the U.S. Embassy, Paris, France, under Ambassador Myron T. Herrick. Brereton served in Paris until August 1922, where he learned "to speak French with a Parisian accent" and to "appreciate fine wine." On 1 July 1920, the Air Service was given statutory existence as a combatant arm of the line, and Brereton became a member in the permanent rank of Major, a rank he held for the next 15 years.

Brereton became Commanding Officer of the 10th School Group on 1 September 1922 at Kelly Field, TX, responsible for the advanced flying training of pilot candidates. At Kelly, Brereton successively became Assistant Commandant of the Advanced Flying Training School, Director of Attack Training, and President of the Board of Attack Aviation. On 5 February 1923, while on an inspection tour, Gen. Mitchell relieved the inexperienced commander of the 3rd Attack Group, at that time one of only three combat groups in the Air Service, and replaced him with Brereton. During this period the 3rd Attack Group conducted field tests on the new Boeing GA-1, a heavily armed and armored attack aircraft, ultimately determining it to be unfit for combat service. On 16 September 1924 he transferred to Langley Field as an Instructor at the Air Service Tactical School for its 1924-25 term.

Personal Difficulties

On 4 June 1925, Brereton was named Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field and was summoned to Washington in November as Associate Counsel for the Defense at the court martial of now-Col. Mitchell for insubordination. Subpoenaed as a witness in November 1925, he was not called to testify. In July 1926 the Air Service became the Air Corps in the aftermath of Mitchell's conviction and resignation from the service.

During 192,7 Brereton experienced a stressful amount of friction with superiors over his membership on technical boards, which required an inordinate amount of time from his command duties at 2nd BG. His 14-year marriage, never strong, was disintegrating and he developed a negative reputation for drinking. On 7 April, the Huff-Daland LB-1 bomber he was flying crash-landed near the Back River after an engine quit during takeoff. Returning to Langley from maneuvers in Texas on 28 May, Brereton was the copilot of the XLB-5 when it experienced catastrophic engine failure over Reynoldsburg, OH, and crashed, killing a passenger who failed to bail out. Ten days later Brereton requested a medical leave of two months to deal with an "incipient...fear of flying." Although a preliminary medical leave was granted, his wife left him to file for divorce in June 1927 and he suffered "nervous anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares" from the strain. These culminated in the issuance of a reprimand for being Absent Without Leave for 24 hours in a misunderstanding over an assignment to lead an aerial escort for Charles A. Lindbergh's return from France.

In August 1927, after private treatment for his emotional problems, Brereton was restored to flying status by a flight surgeon, found not to be an alcoholic, and accepted into the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KX, for which he had been rejected in 1919. He did poorly, and although he successfully completed the course, it was recommended that he receive no further advanced training. His post-graduation assignment to Headquarters of the First Corps Area in New York City was changed by Maj. Gen. Preston Brown, who felt he did not have the requisite social skills. Instead, he was assigned to Command the 88th Observation Squadron at Post Field, OK, as well as Instructor at the Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, from July 1928 to August 1931. While stationed in Oklahoma, Brereton remarried, to Icy V. Larkin, and his officer fitness reports, which had fallen to "average" during most of his time in the Air Corps, returned to "excellent."

Restoration of Reputation

Between 7 July 1931 and 20 June 1935, Brereton served in the Panama Canal Zone. He concurrently commanded the 6th Composite Group, France Field, and the Panama Air Depot. His superior in Panama was the same Gen. Brown who had rejected him for duty at First Corps Area headquarters, but Brereton's work performance reversed the General's earlier opinions and he received excellent ratings that restored the professional reputation nearly destroyed in 1927. On 4 March 1935, he received promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and became Air Officer, Panama Canal Department.

Following his duty in Panama, Brereton returned to Fort Leavenworth for a four-year tour as the Chief of the Air Corps Subsection at the Command and General Staff School, for which he received temporary promotion to Colonel. Brereton had only a few hours of instruction duty during each year's course, where the curriculum had not changed since 1926 and still emphasized horse cavalry. Nevertheless, Brereton received high ratings for efficiency and was recommended for higher command and staff duty, unlike a number of his Air Corps pupils, including future Air Force Chief of Staff Major Carl Spaatz.

Brereton then began six and one-half years of successive command assignments, including seven tours as a commanding general. He took command of Barksdale Field, LA, in July 1939. His performance during joint maneuvers resulted in increasingly high ratings that led to a promotion to Brigadier General on 1 October 1940. He transferred to Savannah Army Air Base on 25 October to organize and command the 17th Bomb Wing (3rd and 27th Bomb Groups). He was promoted to Major General on 11 July 1941 and took command of the Third Air Force on 29 July. That assignment was to have included participation in the Carolina Maneuvers but, on 3 October, he was called to Washington to meet with the Chief of the Army Air Forces, Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold. There he was informed that he was relieved of command of Third Air Force to go the Philippines to command the Far East Air Force, which would be activated 16 November 1941. With war imminent, the assignment was crucial, and he replaced an aging Brigadier General who had a penchant for drinking and suffered frequent bouts of malaria. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commanding in the Philippines, personally picked Brereton from three candidates.

On 15 October, after being briefed regarding his new responsibilities by Arnold, his staff, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Brereton left Washington for San Francisco. Delayed by bad weather for 11 days at various points along the way, Brereton and his small staff finally reached Manila on 4 November aboard a Pan American Clipper. He met almost immediately with MacArthur and delivered to him a memorandum revising War Plan Rainbow 5 to authorize more aggressive action in the event of war, including offensive air strikes. He found that despite war warnings, the headquarters he inherited continued to operate under lax, peacetime conditions, in part because MacArthur and his staff did not expect war with Japan before April 1942. Airfield construction was behind schedule, many units were at half strength or less, a significant shortage of .50-caliber ammunition hampered training, and no equipment existed to provide oxygen to interceptor pilots, severely limiting operating ceilings. Brereton immediately instituted a wartime regimen. However he had been in the Philippines less than two weeks when MacArthur sent him to Australia "for twelve precious days" to finalize plans for use of Australian bases in the event of war, disrupting his attempts to organize an effective air force. On his return, Brereton found the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses based at Clark Field lined up in orderly rows and ordered their immediate dispersal. On 6 December, he had sent half of the bomber force 800 miles south to Mindanao but, anticipating the imminent arrival from the U.S. of a second bombardment group, left the other half at Clark to leave room for the reinforcements on the more distant airfield.

World War II

Far East

Shortly after word of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached the Philippines on 8 December 1941, Brereton urged immediate air attacks against Japanese bases on Formosa in accordance with the Rainbow 5 War Plan and Brereton's own aggressive nature. However Brereton was twice thwarted by General Douglas MacArthur's Chief of Staff from seeing him about an attack, and sent his bombers and P-40 pursuit planes aloft to prevent them from being destroyed by air attack. Hours later, MacArthur initially denied permission for the attack, but then reversed himself minutes afterwards. Brereton ordered his bombers to return to base to prepare for the mission, and by then all fighters aloft had become short on fuel. While they were being fueled and armed for the afternoon mission, the bombers and many of the pursuit planes were caught on the ground when Japanese air units, whose takeoff from Formosa had been delayed for six hours by fog, attacked shortly after noon. Consequently, FEAF was largely destroyed on the first day of the war.

Multiple Japanese landings on Luzon between 10-23 December forced the defenders to withdraw into Bataan Peninsula. After the 14 surviving bombers of the B-17 force escaped to Darwin, Australia, just ten days into the war and with only a handful of fighters remaining, FEAF was broken up as an organization on 24 December and moved by individual units into the Peninsula. Brereton and his headquarters were ordered by MacArthur to evacuate south. With only two hours' notice, Brereton left Manila by PBY Catalina for Java, where he was picked up by a B-17 and transported to Batchelor Field, Australia, on 29 December. The next day he dispatched 11 of the bombers to Malang on Java to conduct operations.

In early 1942, Brereton was named Deputy Air Commander, under Royal Air Force Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse, of ABDAIR, a component of the short-lived ABDACOM unified command of Allied forces in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. He also resumed active command of FEAF. Brereton arrived on Java on 10 January 1942 and, except for a nine-day period at the end of January when he acted as Commander of U.S. Army Forces In Australia, remained until 23 February despite requesting relief from command on 8 February over "honest differences" with Peirse and demoralizing criticism from the British commander of ABDACOM, Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell. Brereton received a cable from Gen. George C. Marshall on 22 February giving him complete freedom of action in evacuating himself and his headquarters from Java, including destination, and he left for India via Ceylon on 24 February before orders from Arnold to organize an air force in Australia could reach him. For his performance in commanding the FEAF, Brereton received his first award of the Distinguished Service Medal on 18 February 1943.

On 5 March 1942 in New Delhi, Brereton took command of and began to organize the new Tenth Air Force. In addition to setting up the new air force, Brereton was also ordered to prepare an air route for the resupply of China. On the night of 2-3 April 1942, he participated in the first bombing mission of the Tenth Air Force-an LB-30 and two B-17s, of which he co-piloted one of the latter-in an attack against Japanese warships at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands in support of the British, for which he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In June 1942, in response to the German threat to the Suez Canal in North Africa, he was transferred to Cairo with the best bomber aircraft and crews then in India.

Middle East

In June 1942, Brereton was appointed Commander of U.S. Army Middle East Air Forces. Brereton formed 19 Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the Halverson Detachment and the nine B-17s he had brought from India into a provisional group that was forced to fall back to Lydda in Palestine. With the arrival of B-24s of the 98th Bomb Group at the end of July 1942, USAMEAF began to attack depots in Libya, the chief of which was Tobruk, and ship convoys as far away as Navarino Bay in Greece.

His small air force was reinforced by the 57th Fighter Group (P-40s) and 12th Bomb Group (Medium) (B-25s) in July and August, and Brereton drew heavily on the experiences of the RAF's Western Desert Air Force. While the heavy bombers continued to operate from Palestine, the medium bombers and fighters moved forward as the battle line advanced. By 25 October, the small force under Brereton had flown 743 heavy bomber and 259 medium bomber sorties, dropping 806 tons of bombs. The heavy bombers used the campaign as a proving ground for tactics, particularly pattern bombing against maneuvering ships. From 31 January 1943, he had collateral duty as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces in the Middle East (USAFIME) when Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews was reassigned following the Casablanca Conference.

On 22 October 1942, the U.S. Desert Air Task Force was formed with Brereton in command to support the British offensive at El Alamein and gain experience for arriving USAAF staff officers. When the headquarters of the U.S. Ninth Air Force was activated in Egypt on 12 November, it replaced USAMEAF and all its temporary components, with Brereton still in command, and the heavy bombers returned to bases in Egypt. Beginning 21 November 1942, an advanced landing ground at Gambut was used to stage strategic bombing missions against Tripoli and Naples.

Among the missions undertaken in 1943 by the heavy bomber units under Brereton's command, was the minimum-altitude bombing of oil refineries at Ploieşti, Romania. Intelligence estimates predicted a 50% loss among the attacking B-24s, and in fact 30% (54 of the 178) were destroyed or written off. The raid fell short of expectations but the bombing was very accurate and heavy (but not decisive) damage was inflicted that would have been greater had not many bombs failed to explode. Air Force historian Dr. Roger G. Miller wrote:

"In August 1943, Operation Tidal Wave took place under Brereton's command. Plans for the low-level bombing raid on the Ploesti oil refineries in Rumania originated in the Air Staff, but Brereton determined that the attack would originate from Libyan rather than Syrian bases, trained the bomber force, and ably defended the controversial low-level concept. "

Ninth Air Force

In January 1943, the Combined Bomber Offensive plan was approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, calling for a force of 2,700 heavy bombers and 800 medium bombers, based in England, to attack German targets on the continent around the clock. In April, Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, commanding the Eighth Air Force, submitted a plan to the USAAF requesting creation of a new tactical air force within the Eighth AF of 25 medium and light bomb groups to carry out the medium bomber portion of the CBO plan. His proposal was investigated and endorsed by a committee from Headquarters USAAF under Brig. Gen. Follett Bradley. At the same time but unrelated to the CBO, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a consolidation of the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces, and suggested that Brereton be re-assigned as Deputy Commander of the Allied Tactical Air Force commanded by Air Marshal Arthur Coningham.

Gen. Arnold instead offered Brereton a choice of positions on 31 July: a command in the U.S., a position of responsibility in the Cairo headquarters of the new combined air force, or command of the new tactical air force to be formed as part of Eighth Air Force. Brereton "with utmost eagerness" chose the new command in England.

The Quadrant Conference in August instead approved a combined tactical air force, the Allied Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF), to be distinct from strategic bombing and commanded by Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. The Ninth Air Force under Brereton would become the U.S. component of the new force. In October the air units of the Ninth were transferred to other air forces and the several command headquarters of the Ninth sent to England. The Ninth was re-activated on 16 October using the medium bombers of the VIII Air Support Command as its nucleus, and Brereton made his headquarters at Sunninghill Park, Berkshire. A temporary administrative "super-command" under Eaker ("USAAF in the UK," which in January was replaced by the U.S. Strategic Air Forces) stood up at the same time to coordinate the administrative activities of the Eighth and Ninth, but when the AEAF was activated on 1 November, Brereton took his operational orders from it.

The Ninth initially consisted of three combat commands. The IX Fighter Command (envisioned as a training organization to be replaced later by two combat "air support commands") was created from the prior headquarters of the Ninth AF in Africa. Commanded by Brig. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada, it received the "pioneer" P-51 Mustang unit, the 354th Fighter Group, on 2 November 1943. The IX Bomber Command, commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel E. Anderson, was an amalgamation of three old units: the 3rd Bomb Wing of the Eighth AF (one of the original Air Corps wings) and two headquarters elements from the "old" Ninth, including the previous IX Bomber Command. The IX Troop Carrier Command was activated in England under Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Giles, a caretaker commander who was replaced on 25 February 1944 by the experienced Brig. Gen. Paul L. Williams. His command team was rounded out when Brig. Gen. Otto P. Weyland arrived in February 1944 to take command of XIX TAC while Quesada held dual command of IX FC and IX TAC.

During the winter of 1943-44, Ninth Air Force expanded at an extraordinary rate. In six months under Brereton's command, 16 October 1943 to 16 April 1944, the Ninth Air Force expanded from 2,162 to 163,312 men. By the end of May its complement ran to 45 flying groups operating 5,000 aircraft. Organizationally it had added an Engineer Command, an Air Defense Command, and two Air Support Commands, which were redesignated Tactical Air Commands (TAC) on 18 April 1944, and by D-Day had received and trained 11 medium bomb groups, 19 fighter groups, 14 troop carrier groups, and a photo-reconnaissance group. The total number of personnel assigned to Ninth Air Force was more than 200,000, a total greater than that of the Eighth Air Force.

Operation Overlord

Brereton was promoted to Lieutenant General in April 1944 as his units began a campaign of planned attacks against airfields (1 April), railway centers and rolling stock (1 April), coastal batteries (13 April), and bridges (7 May) in France preparatory to Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on 6 June 1944.

The American airborne landings in Normandy by IX Troop Carrier Command were the first U.S. combat operations of Operation Neptune, (the assault operation for Overlord). Over 13,100 paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, followed by nearly 4,000 glider troops flown in by day in six missions. The Divisions were assigned to support the U.S. VII Corps in capturing Cherbourg (to provide the Allies with a port of supply) by blocking approaches threatening the amphibious landing at Utah Beach, capturing exits off the beaches, and to establishing crossings over the Douve River to assist the merging of the two American beachheads. The assault did not succeed in blocking the approaches to Utah for three days. Numerous factors played a part, most of which dealt with excessive scattering of the drops. Despite this, German forces were unable to exploit the chaos. Many German units made a tenacious defense of their strongpoints, but all were systematically defeated within the week. A follow-up operation was scheduled in which one wing of IX TCC would deliver the British 1st Airborne Division to Évrecy on 14 June to support a breakout attempt by British armored forces (Operation Wild Oats) but was so perilous that airborne and troop carrier commanders agreed to it only reluctantly. Crews were being briefed on 13 June when a strong German counterattack at Villers Bocage forced cancellation of the drop.

Seven fighter groups moved to the continent shortly after the invasion and, by August, all of the Ninth's fighter groups were operational in beachhead. Brereton had learned from the Western Desert Air Force, and made it a slogan of the Ninth, that all units must "Keep Mobile."

Operation Cobra

In mid-July 1944, the First U.S. Army became stalled in its operations in the Norman bocage. Gen. Omar Bradley implemented Operation Cobra, a plan to end the near-stalemate by using massive air power to punch a hole in the strong German defenses near Saint-Lô, allowing the VII Corps to break through into the French interior. The key to the plan, at the insistence of Leigh-Mallory, was the use of heavy bombers to pattern bomb a small area of the defenses immediately before the start of the offensive, preceded by fighter-bomber attacks of IX TAC, and followed by attacks in the German rear by 11 groups of medium and light bombers of the Ninth Air Force. At a conference at AEAF headquarters at Stanmore on 19 July, air commanders expressed serious reservations about the safety of U.S. troops, particularly their proximity to the target area, resulting in tactical compromises that ultimately proved inadequate.

Poor weather delayed the attack until 24 July, and a request for postponement another 24 hours was denied. After the aircraft began taking off, Leigh-Mallory vacillated before recalling the mission, and while some fighter-bombers completed their missions, the medium bombers did not take off from their English bases. The heavy bombers, however, were already in the air and did not receive the recall. Finding a severe ground haze over the target, most returned to base as instructed in their field orders, but others attacked, resulting in the bombing of American troops. Brereton and Quesada were near the front with Bradley to observe the results, and were nearly killed by errant bombs.

The next day, 25 July, Operation Cobra was finally launched as planned with a "maximum effort" by the air forces that included 559 sorties by fighter-bombers and 480 by medium and light bombers of the Ninth Air Force. Fighter-bomber attacks of the immediate front lines by eight groups of IX TAC, to a depth of 250 yards (230 m), were generally excellent, but as air planners had predicted, created smoke and dust that obscured aiming points for the bombers at higher altitudes. The second day of heavy bomber attacks also resulted in further accidental bombings of American troops, particularly the 47th Infantry of the 9th Infantry Division and the 120th Infantry of the 30th Infantry Division. The latter was also attacked by B-26 bombers of the Ninth that dropped their bombs short of the German lines. In both days of bombing, approximately 3% of bombs fell within American lines, resulting in 111 killed and 490 wounded. Although not apparent at first, the air attacks succeeded in their objective of disrupting German formations and destroying their communications, facilitating the break-through.

Brereton was awarded the Legion of Merit for his performance in commanding the Ninth AF during 1944.

First Allied Airborne Army

In July, Gen. Eisenhower decided to implement tentative plans for a unified command of all British and American airborne forces and the troop carrier units needed to deliver them into battle, under an American commander, over the resistance of Leigh-Mallory, who opposed the separation of the troop carrier units from AEAF. Eisenhower nominated Brereton on 16 July to command the organization, based on his extensive and diverse combat command experience at the air force level, over Lt. Gen. Frederick Browning, commanding the British I Airborne Corps, despite Browning being four months senior. After first suggesting (and having rejected) that the airborne troops be made a part of Ninth Air Force, Brereton accepted the command and was appointed on 2 August 1944 as Commander of the "Combined Airborne Headquarters," and reporting directly to SHAEF. He made his headquarters at Sunninghill Park and on 16 August recommended that the organization be called the First Allied Airborne Army. Browning became his Deputy, despite personal friction between them, and on 25 August the IX Troop Carrier Command was assigned to the Airborne Army.

Operation Market-Garden

After alerts and cancellations of several airborne drops to cut off retreating German forces, Eisenhower on 10 September approved a three-division airborne assault in Holland to be called Operation Market, coordinated with a simultaneous ground offensive called Operation Garden. The objective of the combined Operation Market-Garden was to seize a bridgehead across the Rhine River at Arnhem. The anticipated date of the operation (dependent on good flying weather) was 14 September. Because that date was so close at hand, the plans of a large cancelled drop, Operation Linnet, were revived and adapted to Market.

Brereton, however, made key changes to the Linnet plan, first in restricting glider missions to "single-tows," that is, one tug aircraft towing one glider, whereas Linnet had contemplated a double-tow mission. Because poor weather, extensive resupply missions to the pursuing Allied armies, and anticipation of last-minute airborne drops had virtually cancelled all training for IX TCC, Brereton thought untried and unpracticed double-tows were too hazardous. Brereton also decided that the operation, protected by massive air support from the RAF and the AAF, would take place in daylight, to avoid the dispersion experienced during both the British and American airborne landings in Normandy in June. His decision was finalized when weather and other delays pushed back D-Day for the operation to 17 September, which was the dark moon. Finally, the shorter hours of daylight in September caused Brereton to refuse authorization for two lifts per day, and as a result of the limited number of troop carrier aircraft, the air movement of the Army required three consecutive days to complete.

Weather intelligence had indicated four consecutive days of clear weather, but after the first day, operations were delayed or postponed because of fog, low clouds, haze, and other conditions of poor visibility over the bases in England, the planned routes to Holland, and the drop/landing zones. Airborne operations on the first two days had been successful to an unexpected degree, but nevertheless the overall operation had begun to fall seriously behind schedule, and only grew worse as the weather deteriorated. The cancellation of a reinforcement lift of an American glider infantry regiment and a Polish paratrooper brigade on 19 September proved crucial to failure of the operation.

Operation Varsity

On 17 October 1944, after the completion of Market Garden, the the First Allied Airborne Army staff learned that Gen. Bradley hoped to cross the Rhine at Wesel, Germany, and on 7 November completed a study for an airborne operation by two divisions, Operation Varsity, to support the endeavor. A number of factors delayed the target date to 1 January 1945 and the Battle of the Bulge further disrupted the schedule. After the Allied counter-offensive in January, Eisenhower planned an assault over the Rhine in the same area, and Operation Varsity was revived on 10 February with few changes in the outline plan. Its objective was to seize the low wooded heights overlooking the Rhine to prevent German artillery from disrupting bridging operations.

The British 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery would cross the Rhine River in Operation Plunder. Varsity would support the crossing by landing two airborne divisions of the Airborne Army's US XVIII Airborne Corps by parachute and glider behind the Rhine, near Wesel and Hamminkeln. A second U.S. airborne division was added to the original plan, but when it became apparent that the Airborne Army barely had enough troop carriers for two divisions, the third division was placed in reserve and then released altogether from the operation on 6 March. The consequences of the poor weather during Operation Market-Garden led Brereton to plan for the delivery of both divisions in a single lift. On 18 February, to establish a command post for the operation, Brereton moved the headquarters of First Allied Airborne Army to Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris.

In late February, Montgomery set the date for Plunder/Varsity as 24 March, which SHAEF approved on 8 March. On the afternoon of 23 March, Brereton and Coningham, commanding all the cooperating air forces, made the final decision to launch Varsity when weather officers predicted clear weather the next day. Although the Germans had anticipated the assault and prepared positions for 10,000 defending troops, the unprecedented size of the airborne operation overwhelmed the defense. Using 300 double-tow glider sorties, a troop carrier group of Curtiss C-46 Commandos and three parallel ingress lanes, nearly 17,000 troops were concentrated in the objective area in less than four hours, using 540 planeloads of paratroopers and 1,348 gliders.

Post-War Career

Brereton returned to the U.S. in May 1945 (for the first time since October 1941) for assignment to Headquarters Army Air Forces at Washington and, in July 1945, was assigned to Command the Third Air Force at MacDill AAB, FL. In January 1946, he was named Commanding General of the First Air Force at Mitchel Field, NY. The following month he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of War on the Joint Chiefs of Staff Evaluation Board (observer for Operation Crossroads).

From July 1947 to June 1948 Brereton was Chairman of the Military Liaison Committee to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, then became Secretary General of the Air Board until his retirement.

Lieutenant General Brereton retired on 1 September 1948.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Cross (with oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster)
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit (2 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Air Medal
World War I Victory Medal* (with six battle stars)
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with three campaign stars)
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with seven campaign stars)
World War II Victory Medal
Grand Officer, Order of Albert (Belgium)
Commander, Order of Prince Danilo I (Montenegro)
Commander and Officer of the Legion of Honor (France)
Croix de Guerre with Palm (three) (France)
Companion, Order of the Bath (CB) (Great Britain)
Grand Officer, Order of Orange-Nassau, with crossed swords (Netherlands)


Command Pilot Badge
Combat Observer Badge
Technical Observer Badge


Brereton divorced in February 1946 and married a third time.

In 1946 William Morrow published his wartime memoirs, The Brereton Diaries, which have been sometimes criticized as allegedly written after-the-fact to absolve Brereton of any blame for controversies, and created further friction with MacArthur and his acolytes.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General Lewis Hyde Brereton died on 20 July 1967 of a heart attack while in Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering from abdominal surgery on 10 July. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2283   Created by: MHOH




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