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First Name: John

Last Name: Ryan

Birthplace: Cherokee, IA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Dale

Date of Birth: 10 December 1915

Date of Death: 27 October 1983

Rank: General

Years Served: 1938-1973
John Dale Ryan

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1938

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John Dale Ryan

General, U.S. Air Force

John Dale Ryan was born on 10 December 1915 in Cherokee, IA. Following graduation from Cherokee Junior College in 1934, he entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1938. After being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he attended flying school at Randolph and Kelly Fields in Texas, and received his pilot wings in 1939.

Military Career

Ryan remained at Kelly Field as a flight instructor for approximately two years. From January 1942 until August 1943, he was Director of Training at Midland Army Air Field, TX, and was instrumental in establishing an advanced bombardier training school. His next assignment was as Operations Officer for the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, CO. In February 1944, he was transferred to Italy where he commanded the 2nd Bombardment Group and later became Operations Officer for the 5th Bombardment Wing, Fifteenth Air Force. While Commanding the 2nd Bombardment Group, he lost a finger to enemy anti-aircraft fire. This later resulted in his being awarded the nickname (sometimes used derisively), "Three-fingered Jack."

He returned to the U.S. in April 1945, and became Deputy Air Base Commander, Midland Army Air Field. In September 1945, he was assigned to the Air Training Command at Fort Worth and Randolph Field, TX. He remained there until April 1946, when he assumed duties with the 58th Bombardment Wing and participated in the Bikini Atoll atomic weapons tests.

From September 1946 to July 1948, he was Assistant Chief of Staff for Pilots of the 58th Bombardment Wing and then Eighth Air Force Director of Operations. For the next three years, he commanded the 509th Bombardment Group at Walker Air Force Base, NM. Between July 1951 and June 1956, Ryan Commanded the 97th Bombardment Wing and the 810th Air Division, both at Biggs Air Force Base, TX, and the 19th Air Division at Carswell Air Force Base, TX.

Ryan became Director of Materiel for the Strategic Air Command in June 1956 and, four years later, assumed Command of SAC's Sixteenth Air Force in Spain. In July 1961, he was named Commander of the Second Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA.

In August 1963, Ryan was assigned to the Pentagon as Inspector General for the U.S. Air Force. One year later he was named Vice Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command. On 1 December 1964, Ryan was promoted to the four-star rank of General and assigned as the Commander-in-Chief of SAC. He was made Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Air Forces, in February 1967.

General Ryan was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in August 1968; he was made Chief of Staff in August 1969.

Ryan was the seventh Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. As chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, General Ryan served in a dual capacity. He was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which, as a body, acts as the principal military adviser to the president, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. In his other capacity, he was responsible to the Secretary of the Air Force for managing the vast human and materiel resources of the world's most powerful aerospace force.

One of the more controversial moves of his tenure was his disbandment of the U.S. Air Force Pipes and Drums, the only free-standing, full-time pipe band in the U.S. armed forces.

Ryan's tenure as Commander-in-Chief of PACAF, and as Air Force Chief of Staff, also engendered controversy when he was named as a member of a group that helped destroy General Jack Lavelle's career after Lavelle gave fighter pilots permission to shoot back at bona fide threats; something previously denied them by rules of engagement. This was also related to the court-martial of USAF Colonel Jack Broughton, after Broughton attempted to protect one of his pilots who shot back at an anti-aircraft position, also in apparent violation of rules of engagement. The irony is that Colonel Broughton had to protect the pilot from his own side - and directly from General Ryan - whose "undue command influence" later resulted in the overturning and expungement of Broughton's conviction by the USAF Board for the Correction of Military Records.

General Ryan retired from the Air Force in 1973.

Medals and Awards

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (4 Awards)

Army Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)

Legion of Merit

Distinguished Flying Cross (2 Awards)

Air Medal (6 Awards)

Purple Heart

French Croix de Guerre with Palm

Chinese Order of the Cloud and Banner

1st Class with Grand Cordon, and 2nd Class

Republic of Korea National Security Merit First Class

Vietnamese National Order of Vietnam/Commander and Gallantry Cross with Palm

Grand Cross, Royal Order of Phoenix (Greece)

Grand Cross of Aeronautical Merit (Spain)
Chilean Military Star of the Armed Forces, Class of Great Star for Military Merit
French Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander
Brazilian Order of Aeronautical Merit, Degree of Grand Official


Lancaster County Veterans Association of Veterans Award

In December 1962, he joined a select group of athletes, who had been successful in their professional careers since their college football days, when he was chosen a member of the Sports Illustrated Silver Anniversary All-American team.

He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Creighton University, Omaha, NE, on 30 May 1966

He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Akron, OH, on 5 June 1967.


General Ryan's son, General Michael E. Ryan, USAF, also served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. Unlike the elder Ryan's career as bomber pilot, the younger Ryan was a fighter pilot.

Death and Burial

General John Dale Ryan died on 27 October 1983 and is buried in the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, CO, in Plot: 003 A 035.

Honoree ID: 829   Created by: MHOH




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