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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Nugent

Birthplace: Altoona, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Emmel

Date of Birth: 12 December 1902

Date of Death: 05 November 1979

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served:
Richard Emmel Nugent

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Richard Emmel Nugent
Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force

Richard Emmel Nugent was born on 12 December 1902. He graduated from the U. S. Military Academy on 12 June 1924, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. In September, he joined the 17th Tank Battalion and later that month he began training at the Tank School, both at Camp Meade, MD. He graduated in March of '25 and returned to the 17th Tank Battalion. In August 1927, he was assigned to the Tank Section, Automotive Testing Division at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.

Seeking a transfer to the Army Air Corps, in March 1929 Nugent began training at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, TX. From there he entered training at the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, TX, and graduated on 24 March 1930. On that date, he received his pilot's rating; was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps; and was assigned to the 20th Bombardment Squadron at Langley Field, VA.

Nugent was sent to France Field, Panama Canal Zone, in September 1930, for flying duties with the 25th Bombardment Squadron. In October 1931, he joined the 7th Observation Squadron there. He was transferred to the 44th Observation Squadron in February 1932 and, in May 1932, was named Post Adjutant and 6th Composite Group Adjutant, at France Field.

In October, Nugent returned to Langley Field as Assistant Post Adjutant; he became Commanding Officer of Flight A, 16th Observation Squadron, in January of '33. In December, he was designated as Operations Officer of the 2nd Bomb Group. From February to May 1934, he served as Zone Adjutant and Assistant Zone Adjutant for Personnel, of the Eastern Zone of the Army Air Corps Mail Operations with stations at Floyd Bennett Field and Mitchel Field, NY. Upon reassignment to Langley Field in July, Nugent was Wing Adjutant of the 2nd Bombardment Wing and Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Wing Headquarters, becoming Post Operations Officer at Langley Field in March 1935. He was promoted to Captain on 20 April 1935 and, in September, was named Flight Commander of the 96th Bombardment Squadron. In July of '36 he became Adjutant of the 2nd Bombardment Group.

In 1936, three 97th Bombardment Squadron Martin B-10B bomber aircraft, commanded by Captain Richard E. Nugent, departed Langley Field, VA, and successfully bombed a target 600 miles away at Allegan, MI, during Second Army Maneuvers. The mission, flown almost entirely on instruments in inclement weather, earned the Squadron the 1936 Mackay Trophy. [Presented by the National Aeronautic Association, the trophy recognizes "the most meritorious flight of the year" by an Air Force member, members, or organization.] Nugent then returned to staff positions as Adjutant for the 2nd Bombardment Wing and 2nd Bombardment Group.

He became a student at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL, in August 1937 and graduated the following June. One year later, Nugent graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS. He then moved to Washington, DC, to serve as Assistant Chief of the Personnel Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps. Promoted to Major in March 1940, he was named Chief of the Flying Cadet Section in July. In January 1941, he was assigned (temporary duty as special military observer) as Assistant Military Attaché for Air at the American Embassy in London, England. Six months later, he returned to Air Corps Headquarters in Washington as Chief of the Planning Section, Personnel Division, Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Forces. Nugent was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 15 November 1941 and became Chief of the Officers Section in January of 1942. Promoted to Colonel on 1 March 1942, he served in the Office of the Chief of Staff, War Department General Staff.

Nugent next went to Mitchel Field, NY, where he was assigned, concurrently, as Chief of Staff of the Eastern Defense Command and the First Air Force. He was promoted to Brigadier General on 30 June 1943 and assumed command of the Philadelphia Fighter Wing in October. In November, Nugent was named Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations for the Ninth Air Force in England. Later, he served, concurrently, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and as Head of the U.S. Component of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force.

On 15 September 1944, the XXIX Tactical Air Command was activated in France with Nugent as its Commanding General. Flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, the six groups that made up his command provided air support to the U.S. Ninth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General William H. Simpson, from 3 October 1944 to 8 May 1945. In appreciation, Simpson personally pinned a Bronze Star Medal on Brigadier General Richard E. Nugent. In September 1945, Nugent served at the Air Force Personnel Distribution Command at Louisville, KY; three months later he was sent to the American Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the Military Air Attaché.

After returning from Brazil, Nugent served in the following assignments, in succession, and all in the Office of the Director of Personnel at Air Force Headquarters, Washington:

Chief of the Civilian Personnel Division - 1947
Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel - 1947
Director of Personnel Planning - 1948
Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel - 1949
Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel - 1950
Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel - 1951

After the U. S. Air Force became a separate branch of the military on 18 September 1947, Nugent, still at the temporary rank of Brigadier General, served in several positions in the Air Force Office of the Director of Personnel, Headquarters USAF. During this period, he was first promoted to permanent Brigadier General in the Regular Air Force in February 1948; then, to the temporary rank of Major General with dates of rank retroactive to 30 June 1943, and 14 October 1947, respectively. He received the permanent rank of Major General in January 1950 and was promoted to the temporary rank of Lieutenant General on 11 April 1951. At that time, he had been Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, USAF, since 1 November 1950.

Lieutenant General Richard Emmel Nugent retired from the Air Force in August 1951 from a disability incurred in the line of duty.

Nugent was rated as a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, and Technical Observer.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Legion of Honor (France)
Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)
Commander, Order of Leopold (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre with Palm (Belgium)
Order of Adolphe of Nassau (Luxembourg)
Croix de Guerre (Luxembourg)
Order of Alexander Nevsky (Soviet Union)
Order of Military Merit (Brazil)


Command Pilot Badge

Nugent's Role in Racial Integration of the Air Force

In 1948, Nugent was tasked by the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Lieutenant General Idwal H. Edwards, to chair a study group to re-examine Air Force racial policies. At that time, black Americans made up 7% of Air Force enlisted personnel and only .06% of Air Force officers; all serving in totally segregated units. Nugent, Evans and Lieutenant Colonel Jack F. Marr played key roles in creating and carrying out the USAF integration plan. Announced publicly in June 1948, it antedated President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981 on 26 July 1948, to integrate the armed forces. The Air Force plan was submitted to Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington in January 1949, and its execution began on 11 May.

Edwards, Nugent, and Marr had recommended full integration but the Air Force adopted an incremental plan modeled on the U.S. Navy's, which had been created by Navy Secretary James Forrestal during World War II. The source of the Navy's racial problem was limited compliance with its own policy; it was diverting 62% of its blacks into the Steward's Branch. But where black sailors were serving in the fleet, total integration within units, including living quarters, had already taken place - although the numbers were small. Gen. Edwards and the Air Force's civilian leadership announced that the Air Force policy clearly endorsed Truman's order and demanded "ungrudging compliance" with it. Edwards made clear to local commanders that they would be held personally and officially responsible for carrying out the Air Force plan. As a result, what was perceived as a limited plan proceeded swiftly towards complete integration.

By May 1950, the end of the first year of implementation, only 24 of the original 106 black units remained, with the definition of a "Negro unit" being one containing more than 50% blacks. Integration of quarters and other facilities in integrated units was almost immediate and total. At the end of 1950, only nine black units (all service units) remained and 95% of all black airmen served in integrated units. By June 1952, members of the last black unit, a 98-man service unit with 25 whites, had been dispersed throughout the Air Force. Meanwhile, the Navy had made only a "token" transition that would continue for another ten years, and compliance in the Army had barely started because of strong internal resistance.


Lieutenant General Richard Emmel Nugent died on 5 November 1979. His place of burial is unknown.

Honoree ID: 3296   Created by: MHOH




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