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First Name: John

Last Name: Chain

Birthplace: Wilmington, DE, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: T.

Date of Birth: 11 December 1934

Rank: General

Years Served: 1957-1991
John T. Chain, Jr.

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


John T. Chain, Jr.

General, U.S. Air Force

John T. Chain, Jr. was born on 11 December 1934 in Wilmington, DE, and attended high school at Fork Union Military Academy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1956.

Military Career

Chain was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He received his pilot wings in 1957 and then entered combat crew training. From 1958-59, the General was an F-100 Super Sabre pilot at Toul-Rosieres Air Base in France, and from 1959-62 at Ramstein Air Base in West Germany. He then served as a Flight Examiner at Cannon AFB, NM. In 1964, he was assigned as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) at Fort Campbell, KY. While there he became a master parachutist and flew Army O-1s and Air National Guard F-84 Thunderjets.

In 1966, Chain flew combat missions while assigned to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. He then transferred to Washington, DC. From 1969-70, Chain was an Exchange Officer with the U.S. Department of State. He entered the National War College in 1970 and upon graduation was assigned to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, as Deputy Commander for Operations. In 1972 he became Deputy Commander for Logistics.

In 1972 and 1973, Chain flew combat missions in F-4 Phantoms from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1973, he became Deputy Commander for Operations at George AFB, CA. In 1974, he was assigned as Vice Commander at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, where he flew as an aggressor pilot. He then transferred to Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB in 1975 as Director of Fighter and Reconnaissance Operations. In 1976 and 1977, he was Assistant to the Commander there.

Chain became the Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force in 1978. He then served as Deputy Director of Plans at Air Force Headquarters until 1980, when he became Director of Operations. Chain was assigned as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations in 1981 and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations in 1982. He served as Director of the Bureau of Politico Military Affairs for the Department of State from 1984-85.

On 1 July 1985, Chain was promoted to the rank of four-star General and assigned as Chief of Staff for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.

In 1986, he became Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), where he oversaw the LGM-118A Peacekeeper (MX-missile) operations for the Reagan Administration.

He retired from the Air Force on 31 January 1991. During his service, he became a Command Pilot and accrued over 5,000 flying hours (including 400 combat hours) in more than 45 different military aircraft. He also became a Master Parachutist with 66 jumps.

In 1971, he graduated from the National War College and concurrently earned a Master's degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal


Command Pilot Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge


He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters in 1990, from Denison University.

In Retirement

After his retirement from the Air Force, Chain devoted himself full-time to corporate management. In March 1991, he became Executive Vice President for Burlington Northern Railroad, a position he held for five years. He was also Special Assistant to the chairman of that company in 1995 and 1996.

In 1996, he became President of Quarterdeck Equity Partners, a position he held until 2002. Chain became a member of the Board of Directors of Thomas Group, a management consulting company, in 1995, and was elevated to Chairman of the Board in 1998. He is also a Director of RJ Reynolds, Inc., ConAgra Foods, Inc. and Kemper Insurance Company.

Chain also serves as a Board member of Northrop Grumman, one of the world's largest defense contractors. He gained this position in 1991 and oversaw the company's dramatic growth throughout the 1990s.

John Chain has been active in politics, though mostly behind the scenes. He was a Bush Pioneer in 2000, meaning that he gathered $100,000 for George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Honoree ID: 550   Created by: MHOH




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