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First Name: Merrill

Last Name: McPeak

Birthplace: Santa Rosa, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Anthony

Date of Birth: 09 January 1936

Rank: General

Years Served: 1957-1994
Merrill Anthony McPeak

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Merrill Anthony "Tony" McPeak

General, U.S. Air Force

Merrill Anthony "Tony" McPeak was born 9 January 1936 in Santa Rosa, CA. After graduating from Grants Pass High School in Grants Pass, OR, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from San Diego State College in 1957 and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force through AFROTC, and entered active duty in November of that year.

After completing preflight and pilot training, he flew F-100 Super Sabre and F-104 Starfighter fighter aircraft in operational squadrons in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. Later he returned to the U.S. as an instructor pilot and weapons officer at Luke AFB, AZ.

From December 1966 to December 1968, McPeak was assigned as a Solo and Lead Solo Pilot with the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's acrobatic flying team. While with the Thunderbirds, he performed in nearly 200 air shows in the U.S. and overseas.

Upon completion of his tour with the Thunderbirds, he was assigned as an F-100 pilot with the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. On 1 February 1969, he was assigned to Project Commando Sabre (Detachment 1, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron), known as the Misty FACs, a specialized group of high speed forward air controllers trying to stop traffic down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He became the tenth Commander of Commando Sabre on 22 April 1969, and moved it to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base on 1 May when the 37th TFW transitioned to F-4 Phantom IIs. Rotating out of his command on 31 May 1969 after 98 missions, he served as Chief of Standardization and Evaluation for 31st Wing. McPeak completed a total of 269 combat missions while in Vietnam, remaining in country until 1970, after which he attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA.

From 1970-73, McPeak was an Air Operations Staff Officer for the Mideast Division at Headquarters USAF in Washington. After graduating from the National War College in 1974, he was named Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations for the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill AFB, FL. He later (1975-76) was a military fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

In 1976, McPeak contributed an article to Foreign Affairs Journal expressing his views on the Israelis' occupation of territories during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

In July 1976, he became Commander of the 513th Combat Support Group based at RAF Station Mildenhall; a year later he moved to Zaragoza Air Base in Spain as Vice Commander of the 406th Tactical Fighter Training Wing. From 1978-80, he was Assistant Chief of Staff for Current Operations, Allied Air Forces Central Europe (in Boerfink, West Germany). During 1980-81 he commanded the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at RAF Station Upper Heyford. McPeak was Chief of Staff at USAFE Headquarters from 1981-82, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans at TAC headquarters, Langley AFB, VA, from 1982-85. He returned to Headquarters USAF in 1985-87 as Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs and Resources. In June 1987, McPeak moved to Bergstrom AFB, TX, in the dual roles of 12th Air Force Commander and Commander of Air Forces for U.S. Southern Command.

On 1 August 1988, McPeak was promoted to the four-star rank of General and named Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Air Forces (CINCPACAF). He was appointed Air Force Chief of Staff by President George H.W. Bush in October 1990, replacing the retiring General Michael Dugan.

McPeak took over as Chief of Staff during the run-up for Operation Desert Shield, and assisted in overall strategic planning for Operation Desert Storm. His tenure also saw major reduction-in- force as a result of the end of the Cold War. During his time as Chief of Staff, he oversaw the disbandment of Strategic Air Command; Air Force Systems Command; and Air Force Communications Command, with assets transferred primarily to Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Materiel Command and the Air Force Communications Agency.

McPeak pushed through major organizational change, aimed at streamlining and emphasizing operations and combat readiness. Much of his tenure focused on elevating the status of the fighter pilot, frequently at the expense of other flying and non-flying career fields. He also created the Air Force Expeditionary Wing concept, a fusion of combat forces and support into a single organization. He also transferred several command billets to Brigadier Generals even though previously these had been commanded by Colonels.

However, he is best remembered by many Air Force personnel for the sweeping changes made to the service dress uniform. Worn by more personnel during most duties, the new version was a radical departure from the earlier version, which was essentially the same as the U.S. Army service uniform (the U.S. Air Force was originally the U.S. Army Air Corps). Because of its resemblance to both Naval officer's uniforms and those of airline pilots, the McPeak uniform was unpopular with service members, especially the senior enlisted corps, who still to this day object to the uniform change, and was obsoleted rapidly after McPeak retired.

McPeak also acted as Secretary of the Air Force for three weeks in 1993, during an interim before the formal appointment and confirmation of Sheila E. Widnall. At that time, he became the only person to have ever concurrently served in both capacities. McPeak continued as Chief of Staff through October 1994. He retired from the Air Force in 1994.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit (2 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross (2 Awards)
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal (14 Awards)
Air Force Commendation Medal (4 Awards)
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Service Stars
Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon
Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon
Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Command Pilot Badge
Parachutist Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

In Retirement

Following his Air Force career, McPeak entered the private sector as a consultant and business executive. He has been on the Boards of Directors for TWA, ECC International, where he served for several years as Chairman, Tektronix, U.S.I.A. of St. Helens, OR, as Advisory Board Chairman, and other organizations.

McPeak and his wife, Elynor, currently reside in Lake Oswego, OR. She serves as a member of the Lake Oswego City Council.

In 1996, McPeak served as Oregon state chairman for the Bob Dole for President campaign. During the presidential election of 2000, McPeak endorsed George W. Bush and served as co-chairman of Oregon Veterans for Bush.

As the military and foreign policy of the Bush administration coalesced, however, McPeak expressed strong objections, especially with regard to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. McPeak later openly campaigned for Howard Dean's nomination, and when Dean withdrew, acted as an adviser for the John Kerry campaign. He was also one of twenty-seven signatories to the statement of the "Committee of Diplomats & Commanders for Change" calling the Bush Administration a failure at "preserving national security" and calling for Bush not to be re-elected.

McPeak worked as a co-chair on Barack Obama's presidential campaign during the 2008 U.S. presidential election.


McPeak was harshly criticized by American Spectator journalist Robert Goldberg for comments and writings he has made regarding Israel.

Goldberg begins the piece saying that "McPeak has a long history of criticizing Israel for not going back to the 1967 borders as part of any peace agreement with Arab states. In 1976 McPeak wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine questioning Israel's insistence on holding on to the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank."

Goldberg writes that "[in] recent years McPeak has echoed the Mearsheimer-Walt view that American Middle East policy is being controlled by Jews at the expense of America's interests in the region." Goldberg then quotes McPeak responding to a question as to what is the cause for the lack of progressing in getting Israelis and Palestinians together: "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote -- vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."

Goldberg also wrote that McPeak "claims that a combination of Jews and Christian Zionists are manipulating U.S. policy in Iraq in dangerous and radical ways." To support this claim, Goldberg quotes McPeak from a published interview: "Let's say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq. Let's say you are a born-again Christian and you think that Armageddon and the rapture are about to happen any minute and what you want to do is retrace steps you think are laid out in Revelations, then it makes sense. So there are a number of scenarios here that could lead you in this direction. This is radical...."

McPeak's response

More than 30 years ago, ... I wrote a Foreign Affairs published an article now being circulated in the blogosphere as evidence of an alleged anti-Israel point of view. Some commentators reach farther, suggesting that since I have been an active supporter of Barack Obama's presidential bid he, too, is anti-Israel. Both these assertions fall flat after any objective reading of the historical record.

I am a long-time admirer (and think myself a friend) of Israel. In the early 1970s, I played a key role in getting advanced weaponry released to the Israeli Air Force -- capabilities it later put to active use. During that period, I made many official visits to Israel and established close relationships there. These contacts turned out to be useful during Operation Desert Storm, when, as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, I worked with my Israeli counterparts to help defend Israel from Iraqi Scud missile attacks.

I was a vocal opponent of the George W. Bush Administration's decision to invade Iraq, a strategic blunder made worse by slapdash execution. As we have seen, this star-crossed action took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, breathed new life into a moribund al Qaeda, and enhanced Iranian influence in this critical region -- all outcomes which damaged both the U.S. and our ally Israel.

It is my view and hope that Israel will have our continued support. I wish it every success. Of course, what Israel regards as success is up to it to decide. But for friends like me, "success" means a secure Israel at peace with neighbors who recognize and respect its existence. Even so, we should maintain our special relationship and help Israel keep its qualitative military edge.

As for the article, much has changed in 32 years and much has not. The essential argument holds: no set of realistically achievable geographic borders produces safety for Israel. Rather, the security requirement is that any of the territory taken in the Six-Day War and given back as part of a peace settlement should be effectively demilitarized. Of course, the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt long ago in exactly this way, resulting in relative quiet along Israel's southern border and creating a fundamental shift in the regional balance of forces. This opportunity was not skillfully exploited, so the result has been a "cold peace." But it is nevertheless peace and has served the interests of both sides.

Former President Clinton

McPeak also generated controversy following comments he made at a Barack Obama campaign appearance in Medford, Oregon where he implied that former President Bill Clinton had appeared to question Obama's patriotism:

As one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these tactics, he of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactics.

McPeak also compared the former President's comments to actions by Senator Joe McCarthy: "I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I've had enough of it."

East Timor

According to journalist Allan Nairn, General McPeak oversaw the delivery of advanced U.S. fighter planes to Suharto's government not long after the November 1991 shooting of pro-independence demonstrators known as the Dili massacre.

Honoree ID: 789   Created by: MHOH




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