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First Name: Gordon

Last Name: Saville

Birthplace: Macon, GA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Philip

Date of Birth: 14 September 1902

Date of Death: 31 January 1984

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Gordon Philip Saville

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Gordon Philip Saville
Major General, U.S. Air Force

Gordon Philip Saville was born on 14 September 1902 in Macon, GA. He attended the University of Washington, Antioch College, and then the University of California.

On 5 November 1923, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was called to active duty in August 1924 and August 1925.

Saville became a flying cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) in March 1926 and entered the Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, TX. In September of that year, he was transferred to the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, TX, from which he graduated on 28 February 1927. He was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Reserve. Saville was assigned to the Fifth Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, NY, and in June 1927 was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Air Corps of the Regular Army.

In December 1928, Saville became Adjutant of Crissy Field in San Francisco, CA. Two years later, he transferred to Mather Field, CA, where he was appointed Adjutant of the Field, and the 20th Pursuit Group. In 1932, he moved to Barksdale Field, LA, with the 20th Pursuit Group.

Saville became a student at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL, in August 1933 and, after graduating in May 1934, he remained at the school as an Instructor. At the temporary rank of Captain, in July 1935 he was named Recorder of the Air Corps Board at Maxwell Field, in addition to his duties as a Fighter Aviation Instructor.

In February 1937, Saville worked with Lieutenant Benjamin S. Kelsey, Project Officer for Fighters at the USAAC, to find a way around the USAAC's 500-pound limit on the weight of fighter aircraft armament. Together, they agreed on the term "interceptor" thereby creating a new name for fighters; not a new mission. They issued a specification for two new heavily-armed fighters via Circular Proposal X-608 and Circular Proposal X-609. These requests were for fighters having "the tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraft at high altitude." The proposal specifications called for at least 1,000 pounds of heavy armament, including a cannon; one or two liquid-cooled Allison V-1710 engines, each with a General Electric turbo-supercharger; tricycle landing gear; a level airspeed of at least 360 miles per hour at altitude; and the ability to climb to 20,000 feet within 6 minutes. To date, that was the toughest set of specifications USAAC had ever presented. From these specifications, a competition was held and eventually the single-engine fighter became the Bell Aircraft P-39 Airacobra, and the twin-engine fighter became the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Saville's rank of Captain became permanent in June 1937.

Saville became a student at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, in September 1938, and graduated the following June. He was then assigned as Assistant to the Chief of the Plans Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, in Washington, DC. In March 1940, he became Assistant Intelligence and Operations Officer, Air Defense Command, Mitchel Field, NY.

Saville was sent to London in October 1940, for temporary duty as a Military Air Observer. Two months later, he returned to Mitchel Field to become Executive Officer of the First Interceptor Command, at the temporary rank of Major (the rank was made permanent in February 1941). In August, he returned to London where he served until December 1941.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saville was assigned as Director of Air Defense, Headquarters U.S. Army Air Forces, in Washington. He became a Lieutenant Colonel on 5 January 1942. To tackle the problem of air defense of the Panama Canal Zone, he brought together civilian mathematicians and military defense experts to organize the first Operations Research Group in the Air Corps, following two such groups formed by the Navy. On 2 November, Saville was promoted to Brigadier General. In March 1943, he became Director of Tactical Development, U.S. Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando, FL, and by 2 July he had reorganized the Army Air Forces Board. Saville's structure put tactical and strategic development on equal footing; he tied together the efforts of the Chief of Air Staff for Operations, Commitments, and Requirements (OC&R); the Proving Ground Command; and the School of Applied Tactics.

Later that month, he was ordered to the North African Theater where he became Chief of Staff of the Mediterranean Air Command. Under General Carl A. Spaatz, Saville argued against the plans for Operation Tidal Wave in August; the air attack on oil refineries in Ploieşti, Romania. After the operation resulted in heavy American casualties with little effect on oil production, Saville described it as a "goddamned thing... ridiculous and suicidal." In October 1943, he was appointed Commanding General of the XII Fighter Command, Algiers, Algeria, and, in January 1944, was named Deputy Commanding General of the XII Tactical Air Support Command, in Italy. There, Saville achieved close coordination between air power and the infantry. Saville was promoted to Major General on 30 June 1944 and assumed command of the First Tactical Air Force (Provisional) in January 1945.

The following month, Saville returned to the U.S. for temporary assignment to Army Air Forces Headquarters. In March 1945, he became Commanding General of the III Tactical Air Command, Barksdale Field, LA. Two months later, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Air Transport Command in Washington.

In January 1947, he became Chief of the Air Section, Joint United States-Brazil Military Commission, with station at the American Embassy at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In July 1948, Saville returned to the U.S. for duty at Headquarters, Air Defense Command (ADC), Mitchel Field, NY, and the following November was named Commanding General of ADC, where he worked to combine it with Tactical Air Command to form the backbone of the Continental Air Command organization.

Saville was appointed Director of Requirements, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, in September 1949. The following January, he became Deputy Chief of Staff for Development, a new staff section at U.S. Air Force Headquarters.

General's Muir S. Fairchild and Saville went to Congress in 1950 and obtained $114 million for the development of an electronic computer-based air defense system, a project headed by George E. Valley, a physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The computer, named Whirlwind, helped the USAF develop the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Air Defense System. Saville retired from active duty with the USAF in July 1951.

Major General Gordon Philip Saville was rated as a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, Aircraft Observer and Technical Observer.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Command Pilot Badge

Death and Burial

Major General Gordon Philip Saville died on 31 January 1984 in San Antonio, TX. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Columbarium No 1.


Honoree ID: 3302   Created by: MHOH




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