Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Lew

Last Name: Allen

Birthplace: Miami, FL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Date of Birth: 30 September 1925

Date of Death: 04 January 2010

Rank: General

Years Served: 1946-1982
Lew Allen, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1946


Lew Allen, Jr.

General, U.S. Air Force

Lew Allen, Jr. was born on 30 September 1925 in Miami, FL. Allen attended and graduated from high school in Gainesville, TX, in 1942. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1943 and graduated in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was awarded his pilot's wings upon graduation from flight training.

Post-World War II

After completing multi-engine flight training in November 1946, Allen was assigned to Strategic Air Command's 7th Bombardment Group at Carswell Air Force Base, TX, where he flew B-29 Superfortress bombers, and then the new and very long-range Convair B-36 bomber. Allen also served in various technical positions in the area of nuclear weapons. Allen attended the Air Tactical Course at Tyndall Air Force Base, FL, and then returned to Carswell AFB as a Flight Instructor and as an Assistant Special Weapons Officer for the 7th Bombardment Wing.

In September 1950, Allen entered the University of Illinois for graduate study in nuclear physics. He completed his Master of Science degree in 1952. Allen continued his graduate study, and he earned his Ph. D. in Physics in 1954. He had completed an experimental thesis on high-energy photonuclear reactions. Allen was then assigned to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, as a Physicist in the Test Division, where he became acquainted with the bomb designer, Ted Taylor. Allen conducted experiments in several different nuclear test series. These experiments concerned the physics of thermonuclear weapons design and to the effects of high altitude nuclear explosions conceivably to be used for ballistic missile defense.

From June 1957 to December 1961, Allen was assigned to Kirtland AFB, NM, as the Science Adviser to the Physics Division of the Air Force Special Weapons Center. ("Special weapons" is a euphemism for nuclear and thermonuclear bombs.) Allen specialized in the military effects of high altitude nuclear explosions and participated in several nuclear weapons test series. He was scientific director of a major experiment that utilized a large series of high altitude rockets to measure the characteristics of electrons trapped in the geomagnetic field after an exoatmospheric nuclear burst.

Allen was assigned in December 1961 to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Space Technology Office, in the Directorate of Research and Engineering, Washington, DC. From June 1965 to February 1973, he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, initially in Los Angeles, CA, as the Deputy Director for Advanced Plans in the Directorate of Special Projects. Allen next moved to the Pentagon in June 1968 as the Deputy Director of Space Systems, and in June 1969, he became the Director. He returned to Los Angeles in September 1970 as the Assistant to the Director of Special Projects and in April 1971 became the Director of Special Projects, with additional duty as the Deputy Commander for Satellite Programs of the Space and Missile Systems Organization.

After serving briefly as the Chief-of-Staff for the Air Force Systems Command at Andrews AFB, MD, Allen was appointed in March 1973 as a Deputy to the Director of Central Intelligence for the Intelligence Community in Washington. In August 1973, Allen became the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Chief of the Central Security Service at Fort George G. Meade, MD. Allen's tenure as the NSA Director was noteworthy in that he became the first NSA Director to ever testify publicly before Congress. On 31 July 1977, Allen was promoted to the rank of four-star General and assigned as Commander of Air Force Systems Command.

Allen served as the Vice Chief-of-Staff of the U.S. Air Force from April 1978 until he became the Chief of Staff in July 1978. His nomination was unusual in that he had never served in an overseas or combat assignment, and most of his positions were in specialized technical activities, rather than in the usual command structure of the Air Force. Also, he was the last Chief of Staff with a bomber background; all subsequent Chiefs of Staff, except General Norton Schwartz, have been fighter pilots, and this trend is reflected by the Service's weapon budgets, which devote most funding to fighter planes rather than bombers.

General Allen retired from the Air Force on 1 July 1982. He was a Command Pilot and also earned the Master Missile Badge.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Air Force Organization Excellence Award
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star
Air Force Longevity Service Award with Silver and Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Command Pilot Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

He was also awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.


• Allen was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

• He was on the Council on Foreign Relations.

• From 1993-95, Allen served as a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the Intelligence Oversight Board.

• Allen was awarded the 1999 Distinguished Graduate Award of the Association of Graduates, the alumni association of West Point graduates.

• The U.S. Air Force has created an award in Allen's honor, the General Lew Allen, Jr. Trophy, which is awarded annually to an officer and a senior NCO in the aircraft maintenance or munitions career fields directly involved with setting up aircraft sorties with nuclear weapons.

In Retirement

Allen became the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) during part of the Voyager Program (space probes launched in 1977) and he served as the Director of JPL until 1990.


General Allen left an indelible mark on the Air Force, whether it's singing the "U.S. Air Force Song," knowing airpower history or receiving one of the annual awards named in his honor.

"The 'Army Air Corps' song was originally written by Robert Crawford in 1939 and selected by Maj. Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, as the official song," wrote Brig. Gen. H.J. Dalton Jr., Director of Information, in a 1978 staff summary sheet to designate it as the official Air Force song. General Allen made it official with a memorandum dated 27 September 1979.

"The United States Air Force inherited many fine traditions from the Army Air Corps," General Allen wrote. "Among these was the song 'The Army Air Corps.' Although this song was retitled 'The U.S. Air Force' in 1947, there was no accompanying formal action to adopt the song or secure a copyright release for its use. Recently, however, the copyright holder very generously granted the Air Force permission to designate 'The U.S. Air Force' as its official song. Thus, I hereby declare that 'The U.S. Air Force,' popularly known as 'Off We Go Into The Wind Blue Yonder,' to be the official song of the Air Force. In keeping with our tradition, let us stand proudly when it is played or sung."

Death and Burial

General Lew Allen, Jr. died in Potomac Falls, VA, on 4 January 2010. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 436   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image