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First Name: Laurence

Last Name: Kuter

Birthplace: Rockford, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Sherman

Date of Birth: 28 May 1905

Date of Death: 30 November 1979

Rank: General

Years Served: 1927-1962
Laurence Sherman Kuter

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1927

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Laurence Sherman Kuter
General, U.S. Air Force

Laurence Sherman Kuter was born on 28 May 1905 in Rockford, IL. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy on 14 June 1927, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery. From this beginning evolved a U.S. Air Force four-star general who was described by Colonel Phillip S. Meilinger, USAF in his 1995 book, 'American Airpower Biography: A Survey of the Field,' as "One of the more accomplished air planners and staff officers in [U.S.] Air Force history." Others called Kuter "One of the founding fathers of the independent Air Force and a framer of the Air War Plan document that mapped out the defeat of Germany in World War II and was used . . . almost without change."

As an Army artillery officer, his first assignment was to Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA, where (except for command) he was assigned all the duties of a battery officer. But Kuter wanted to be a pilot and, in May 1929, he was accepted by the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, TX, followed by training at the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, TX. After graduating from both schools, he became a bombardment pilot in June 1930.

His first flying assignment was as Operations Officer of the 49th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field, VA. A month later, Kuter was officially transferred from Field Artillery into the U.S. Army Air Corps. During his Langley assignment, Kuter placed second in the annual bombing competition of the Army Air Corps.

In August 1933, he moved up as Operations Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Wing and as Assistant Base Operations Officer at Langley. During this period he flew alternate wing position with Captain Claire L. Chennault's aerobatic group, "The Men on the Flying Trapeze" (originally the Three Musketeers) the first recognized aerial aerobatic team in the military service. Later, he was given a leading role in the operational development of the Boeing Y1B-9 twin-engine bombers that pioneered high altitude bombing techniques and tactics in the Army Air Corps.

From February to June 1934, the last months of Army Corps Mail Operations, Kuter was Operations Officer of the Eastern Zone. Ordered to write the final report and history of the unit, he was the last officer relieved from duty. Kuter was then selected to attend the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL, and graduated in the spring of 1935. First in his class, the school retained him as an Instructor in Bombardment Aviation and Employment of Air Forces. The school had just begun evolving the role of strategic bombing in warfare; earlier plans had been limited to defensive and supporting roles. So, the 10,000-plane Air Force Kuter envisioned and talked about in his lectures really taxed the imaginations of students and senior officers.

Kuter's next duty was as Member of the Air Secretariat, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and Training (A-3), War Department General Staff, in Washington, DC. He reported for duty on 1 July 1939, the same day that General George C. Marshall became Chief of the War Department General Staff. That very day Marshall called for, on an experimental basis, aviators, young and junior officers, and officers who had not attended the Command and General Staff School, to be assigned to the War Department General Staff. Since he was an aviator, young, and had never attended the staff school, Kuter met all three requirements for participation.

Early in 1941, Kuter was a principal factor in several augmentations of the Air Corps. In August, Kuter became a member of the committee which formulated Air War Plans Division-1 (AWPD-1), Munitions Requirements of the Army Air Forces, a document outlining the forces and munitions required to conduct the strategic long-range bombardment of Germany in the event of war. He was one of the four primary authors of AWPD-1; the basic plan for employment of air power in World War II. This plan was incorporated into the Combined Bomber Offensive and used, nearly unaltered, throughout the war. It has been said that there is no other case in military history where a detailed overall plan had been drawn up and adhered to so closely through the organizing, training, fighting and winning of any major war.

In November 1941, Kuter was designated Assistant Secretary, War Department General Staff. After participating as one of a committee of three in the reorganization of the War Department, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 5 January 1942. Twenty-eight days later, upon the recommendation of General George C. Marshall, Kuter was promoted to Brigadier General. In March, the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, General Henry H. Arnold, transferred him to Headquarters U.S. Army Air Forces as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff.

There was extensive public interest expressed in an officer who had been promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel and then, less than 30 days later, was elevated to the rank of temporary Brigadier General. Kuter never served in the active rank of full colonel. Kuter's was the first "jump" promotion to general of an officer as young as 36, since William T. Sherman. The next youngest general officer at that time was 46. [This promotion record to brigadier general didn't last long. Edward J. Timberlake, Jr. was promoted in October 1943 at age 33; and Frank S. Besson and Gerald J. Higgins were both promoted in August 1944 at age 34.]

During 1942, Kuter received three assignments in England; two of them temporary duty as an advisor. He was Advisor to the Commanding Generals of the Eighth Air Force and the 8th Bomber Command. In October, he took Command of the First Bombardment Wing (later First Bombardment Division), Eighth Air Force. Upon assuming command, he found four B-17 groups, understrength and operating separately, and united them into a coordinated fighting force. The premise was that the largest practicable combat unit over the target at one time would provide more mutual fire support, saving lives and planes, and increasing the odds of destroying the objective in one mission.

Kuter was transferred to North Africa in January 1943 to command the Allied Tactical Air Forces. In February, the Royal Air Forces Western Desert Air Force reached Tunisia and was merged with the Allied Support Command from North Africa. Kuter then became the American Deputy Commander of this new Northwest African Tactical Air Force. During this campaign, new tactical air concepts were generated and Air Corps regulations revised accordingly. The basic changes reflected in them remain the principal doctrinal basis for the present tactical air power concept of the U.S. Air Force.

During the Tunisian campaign, General Hap Arnold, Commanding General of Army Air Forces, ordered that Kuter be returned to Washington effective the day General Erwin Rommel surrendered. So, in May 1943, Kuter returned to Headquarters Army Air Forces as Assistant Chief of the Air Staff for Plans and Combat Operations. At this point, plans for the air war offensive to defeat Japan reached a stage where it was practicable to organize the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force in the Pacific. This headquarters was set up in the Pentagon under General Arnold's direct command. Kuter served as Arnold's Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans, in connection with the 20th Air Force and, as it moved into the Pacific Ocean Area, the 8th Air Force. These units later formed the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force, Pacific. In the latter part of 1943, Kuter attended Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference's in Canada and Egypt. In February 1944, he was promoted to Major General and then attended two other Combined Chiefs of Staff Conferences in England and Canada.

In February 1945, General Arnold fell ill (with one of his five heart attacks) and Kuter was sent to the Allied conference at Yalta as the Army Air Forces representative. The air discussions between Kuter and representatives from the Royal Air Force and the Red Air Force proved unproductive. In May of '45, Kuter went to the Marianas Islands to become Deputy Commander of U.S. Army Air Forces in the Pacific Ocean Area, and to help operate the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific.

When the war in the Pacific ended, Kuter returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force via Europe. In Paris, he was given orders redirecting him to assume command of the airlift forces as General Hap Arnold's and General H.L. George's personal representative in arranging the airlift of General MacArthur and Army forces into Japan. He then returned to the U.S. The next year, Kuter merged three Air Transport Command divisions into the Atlantic Division, ATC, and served as its Commander. While in this status, he represented the Air Force at the US-UK Bilateral Air Conference in Bermuda, and helped negotiate an agreement with Portugal for U.S. Air Force use of Lajes Air Field in the Azores.

By presidential order in September of '46, Kuter was named as U.S. representative to the Interim Council of the Provisional International Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada. A year later he was reappointed as the U.S. Representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization, with the rank of Minister. Due to his ICAO experience, President Truman nominated Kuter for the Chairmanship of the Civil Aeronautics Board. However, the Senate committee refused to confirm the nomination of a military man to the position, and said that Kuter would have to resign from the Air Force to be confirmed. Kuter did not want to resign and asked that his nomination be withdrawn.

When the new Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was activated, Kuter was its first Commander. During its first six months of operations, MATS proved its worth when its global resources were directed into the operation of the Berlin Airlift. Two years later, MATS was used to support the war in Korea, including the air evacuation of troops.

Kuter was promoted to Lieutenant General in April of '51 and in October became Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Here, in cooperation with the personnel chiefs of the other services, he initiated actions that, four years later, raised pay and added benefits that increased the desirability of a military career.

In April of '53, he assumed Command of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, where he raised the status of the Air Command and Staff School to college level and the Squadron Officer's Course to school level. He brought the Air University closer to its original concept as a university with a staff and faculty to handle all levels of professional military education in the U.S. Air Force. This concept has been adopted by the Air Forces of several foreign countries.

At 0001 hours on 29 May 1955, Kuter was in flight enroute to Tokyo to assume Command of the Far East Air Forces when he learned that he was now a four-star General. In his new command, Kuter found air power mobility impeded due to the existence of two major Pacific commands. His air units were split between the Far East Command in Tokyo, and the Pacific Command in Hawaii. To move air units from one command to the other required either the consent of the two Theater Commanders, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. Rapid movement to meet potential air threats is essential in the jet age and Kuter's long-term recommendations and objections to the divided command system were registered in a formal proposal to the Air Force Chief of Staff. His study was used as the Air Force's position before the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which then led to merging the two commands to create the present Pacific Command. When Far East Air Forces was eliminated in the merger, Kuter became Commander-in-Chief of the newly created Pacific Air Forces on 1 July 1957. Pacific Air Forces is the air arm of Pacific Command, with Headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base, HI.

According to Pentagon documents declassified in 2008, Kuter was one of the Air Force generals (Air Force Gen. Nathan F. Twining, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was another) who advocated the use of nuclear weapons if China blockaded the Taiwan Strait in 1958. When informed that President Eisenhower insisted that first strikes be made with high explosives, Kuter, the Pacific Air Forces Commander, described "this idea of limited response as disastrous... and warned that the U.S. should either be ready to use its most effective weapons - in his opinion nuclear bombs - or stay out of the conflict."

Kuter's final assignment was as Commander of the North American Aerospace Command in Colorado Springs, CO. He retired from active duty on 1 July 1962.

General Kuter was a rated Command Pilot with over 8,000 flying hours, including 3,200 hours as a Command Pilot. Prior to 1952, he had flown around the world seven times visiting Air Force installations. He was also rated as a Combat Observer; Technical Observer; and Aircraft Observer.

An avid collector and historian, Kuter donated papers covering his entire 35-year career, to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Kuter was the author of "An Airman at Yalta" (New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1955) and "The Great Gamble" (1973).

Death and Burial

General Laurence Sherman Kuter died on 30 November 1979 in Naples, FL. He is buried at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, in Plot 003 B 075.

His wife, Ethel Lyddon Kuter died on 8 May 1993 and is buried next to her husband.

Honoree ID: 763   Created by: MHOH




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