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First Name: Harold

Last Name: George

Birthplace: Somerville, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Lee

Date of Birth: 19 July 1893

Date of Death: 24 February 1986

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served:
Harold Lee George

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


Harold Lee George
Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force

Harold Lee George was born on 19 July 1893 in Somerville, MA.

George attended George Washington University, but decided to interrupt his studies when the U.S. became directly involved in World War I. George joined the U.S. Army and on 21 May 1917, received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry as a Reserve Officer. A month later, he went on active duty with the Cavalry at Fort Myer, VA, but in October resigned his commission to become a flying cadet with the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation Section.

George studied aeronautics at Princeton University and learned to fly at Love Field, TX, earning his wings on 29 March 1918. George went to France that September with an initial assignment to the 7th Aviation Instruction Center at Clermont. Two months later he was posted to the Meuse-Argonne front, piloting a bomber with the 163d Bomb Squadron, 2nd Day Bombardment Group. In the one week that it saw action, the 163d flew 69 sorties. George observed that massed bombers, flying in formation, swamped enemy defenses and so reduced the attacker's casualties.

Bombing Advocate

In France, George met William "Billy" Mitchell and became convinced that Mitchell's vision of an independent Air Force was the best future direction for the American military.

After the war, George was assigned to the 49th Bombardment Squadron at Kelly Field, TX, where he was promoted to First Lieutenant in April 1921. He next served with the 14th Bombardment Squadron at Langley Field, VA, and at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. From 1921-23, George assisted Mitchell in his bombing demonstration against old battleships, and helped develop air-to-ship tactics. In August 1925, George went to Washington as Chief of the Bombardment Section in the Operations Division of the Office of the Chief of Air Service. Later that year, still at the rank of First Lieutenant, he was one of several young air officers to testify at Mitchell's court-martial.

In July 1929, George was ordered to Hawaii for two years with the 5th Composite Group at Luke Field serving Pearl Harbor. In September 1931, he went to Maxwell Field, AL, to study at the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) where he helped refine the precision daylight bomber doctrine taught there. He was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1931. Following graduation, George became an instructor at ACTS, teaching air tactics and precision bombing doctrine; he became de facto leader of the influential "Bomber Mafia." With Haywood S. Hansell, Laurence S. Kuter and Donald Wilson, George researched, debated and codified what the men believed would be a war-winning strategy that Wilson termed "industrial web theory." In 1934, George was made Director of the Department of Air Tactics and Strategy, and vigorously promoted the doctrine of precision bombing in which massed air fleets of heavy bombers would be commanded independently of naval or ground warfare needs.

George was promoted to Major in July 1936. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, the following year and returned to Langley as Commanding Officer of the General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Corps 96th Bombardment Squadron. George flew to South America as a part of USAAC goodwill flights in February 1938 and November 1939, and received for his participation the Order of the Southern Cross (Knight), from the government of Brazil. In 1940, George took command of the 2d Bombardment Group, which in 1937 had become the first unit equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. He also filled the position of Executive Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Wing from January 1941.

In February 1941, George was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and, in July, was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff for Air War Plans Division, a unit of the newly created USAAF Air Staff in Washington. In that capacity he assembled a panel of bombing advocates who prepared AWPD-1, the plan for the air war against Germany. He was promoted to Colonel in January 1942 and to Brigadier General in April 1942, when he took command of the Air Corps Ferrying Command (ACFC).

Air Transport

In June 1942, George was promoted to Major General and ACFC was redesignated Air Transport Command and tasked to become not just a delivery service of aircraft from factory to the field, but a worldwide cargo and personnel air transportation service. George led it brilliantly throughout World War II, with the able assistance of many staff officers including his deputy, General C. R. Smith, peacetime president of American Airlines.

New organizations were formed and new cross-ocean routes were established in the face of the enemy and under difficult conditions. George took the ferrying command from 130 obsolescent aircraft to 3,000 modern military transports, and expanded the personnel from 11,000 to 300,000. For this major contribution to his country, George received the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal, as well as awards from Great Britain, France, Brazil, Peru and China.

After the war he served for a while as director of information for the USAAF and as senior Air Force representative of the military staff of the United Nations.

George retired from active duty with the Army Air Forces on 31 December 1946, with the rank of Lieutenant General dating back to March 1945.

In Retirement

George accepted a position at Hughes Aircraft to work for Howard Hughes, along with fellow bomber advocate Ira C. Eaker. Eaker and George transformed Hughes Aircraft into a very profitable military contractor, reaching $100M in sales in 1948. George expanded the company beyond the manufacture of aircraft to focus on the new field of military electronics, primarily by bringing together expert electronics designer Dean Wooldridge and engineer-businessman Simon Ramo, both hired by George in 1946. In August 1953, Ramo and Wooldridge resigned. George followed a few months later to help form the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation, competing directly with Hughes by developing ballistic missile defenses. In 1958, Ramo-Wooldridge would merge with Thompson Products, to become Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, which was shortened to TRW in 1965.

After moving there in 1948, George was elected to the City Council of Beverly Hills, CA, in 1952, and in 1954 he was elected mayor, for a one-year term. He served a second term in 1959. During his second term, George established an annual award to honor outstanding Beverly Hills police officers, given in the name of Clinton H. Anderson, the City's Police Chief.

In 1955, George was recalled to active duty in the U.S. Air Force for eight months as Special Consultant to the Air Force Chief of Staff. George was relieved from active duty on 4 November 1955.

By 1984, George was living in Laguna Hills, CA. That year, he collected and donated more than $21,000 to various Republican Party candidates and conservative causes including the Jesse Helms-founded National Congressional Club and the "Helms for Senate" campaign.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal

Legion of Merit

Distinguished Flying Cross

Air Medal

1939 - Knight of the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)


The Order of Daedalians has, since 1956, awarded the "Lieutenant General Harold L. George Civilian Airmanship Award," a trophy "presented annually to the pilot, copilot and/or crew of a United States certified commercial airline selected by a Federal Aviation committee to have demonstrated ability, judgment and/or heroism above and beyond normal operational requirements."

The Air Force Aid Society bestows the "Lieutenant General Harold Lee George Educational Grant Award."


In his directorship of ACTS, George is known today as the unofficial leader of the men in the USAAC who closed ranks and pushed exclusively toward the concept of daylight precision bombing as a strategic, war-winning doctrine. Though he played a fundamental role in the development of U.S. air power strategy, he is perhaps better known as the first Commander of Air Transport Command-the man who guided and expanded that organization throughout World War II.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General Harold Lee George died on 24 February 1986 in Laguna Hills, CA. He is buried at the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO.

He was survived by his wife Violette, three daughters and one son.

Honoree ID: 2548   Created by: MHOH




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