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First Name: Hoyt

Last Name: Vandenberg

Birthplace: Milwaukee, WI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Sanford

Date of Birth: 24 January 1899

Date of Death: 02 April 1954

Rank: General

Years Served: 1923-1953
Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1923

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg
General, U.S. Air Force

Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg was born on 24 January 1899 in Milwaukee, WI. (He was the nephew of Arthur H. Vandenberg, a former U.S. Senator from Michigan.) He grew up in Lowell, MA, spending his teenage years there. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy on 12 June 1923 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Service.

Military Career

Vandenberg graduated from the Air Service Flying School at Brooks Field, TX, in February 1924, and from the Air Service Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, TX, in September 1924.

His first assignment was with the 90th Attack Squadron, part of the 3d Attack Group at Kelly Field. Vandenberg was appointed Commander of the 90th AS on 1 January 1926. In 1927, he became an instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at March Field, CA. He went to Wheeler Field, HI, in May 1929, to join the 6th Pursuit Squadron, and assumed command of it the following November.

Returning in September 1931, he was appointed a flying instructor at Randolph Field and became a Flight Commander and Deputy Stage Commander there in March 1933. He entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL, in August 1934, and graduated the following June. Two months later he enrolled in the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and completed the course in June 1936. He then became an instructor in the Pursuit Section of the Air Corps Tactical School, where he taught until September 1936, when he entered the Army War College, where he specialized in air defense planning for the Philippines.

After graduating from the War College in June 1939, Vandenberg was assigned to the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, selected personally by its head, Brigadier General Carl A. Spaatz, whom he had met at the Command and General Staff College. In September 1939 and the autumn of 1940, Vandenberg developed two air plans for the Philippine Department, the second based on Royal Air Force interceptor operations in the Battle of Britain. But neither of the plans was adopted by the War Department when the Roosevelt Administration reaffirmed its long-standing opposition to any plan that called for extensive reinforcement of the defenses in the Philippines.

World War II

A few months after the U.S. entered World War II, he became Operations and Training Officer of the Air Staff. In June 1942, Vandenberg was assigned to the United Kingdom and assisted in the organization of the Air Forces in North Africa. While in Great Britain he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Twelfth Air Force, which he helped organize. On 18 February 1943, he became the Chief of Staff of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) which was under the command of Major General James Doolittle. NASAF was the strategic arm of the new Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) under Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz. With NASAF, Vandenberg flew on numerous missions over Tunisia, Pantelleria, Sardinia, Sicily, and Italy.

In August 1943, Vandenberg was assigned to Air Force headquarters as Deputy Chief of Air Staff. In September 1943, he became head of an air mission to Russia, under Ambassador Harriman, and returned to the U.S. in January 1944. In March 1944, he was transferred to the European Theater, and in April 1944, was designated the Deputy Air Commander in Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and the Commander of its American Air Component. In August 1944, Vandenberg assumed Command of the Ninth Air Force. He was appointed the Assistant Chief of Air Staff at the Army Air Forces (USAAF) headquarters in July 1945.

Post-War Service

In January 1946, he became Director of Intelligence on the War Department General Staff where he served until his appointment in June 1946, as Director of Central Intelligence, a position he held until May 1947.

Vandenberg returned to duty with the Air Force in April 1947 and, on 15 June 1947, became the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Air Staff. Following the division of the U.S. Department of War into the Departments of the Army and the Air Force, Lieutenant General Vandenberg was designated the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force on 1 October 1947 and promoted to the four-star rank of General.

Even when he was at the pinnacle of his military career, General Vandenberg's boyish good looks and outgoing personality often made him the target of attacks on his credibility and experience. But the attention that his appearance brought on was not all bad, having appeared on the covers of Time and LIFE magazines. The Washington Post once described him as "the most impossibly handsome man on the entire Washington scene," and Marilyn Monroe once named Vandenberg, along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein, as one of the three people with whom she would want to be stranded on a deserted island.

On 30 April 1948, General Vandenberg became the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, succeeding General Carl Spaatz. He was renominated by President Harry S. Truman for a second term as Air Force Chief of Staff on 6 March 1952. The nomination was confirmed on 28 April 1952, with Vandenberg serving until 30 June 1953.

A controversy arose while he was the Air Force Chief of Staff, when he opposed Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson on a proposed $5 billion budget reduction for the Air Force. General Vandenberg maintained that the cut backed by Wilson would reduce U.S. military aviation to a "one-shot Air Force," inferior to that of the Soviet Union. He said it was another instance of "start-stop" planning of a kind that had impeded Air Force development in previous years. The cut in appropriations went into effect in July 1953, immediately after his retirement from the Air Force on 30 June 1953.

In Retirement

A scratch golfer, General Vandenberg spent every free moment on the golf courses, but he was also a lover of movies, Westerns, and scotch. Unfortunately, his last months in uniform were painful, unhealthy ones.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
Bronze Star Medal
World War II Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal

His foreign decorations include:

Mexican Military Order of Merit
Netherlands Order of Orange Nassau (Grand Officer with Swords)
Brazilian Cruzeiro do Sul (Grand Officer) and Medal of War
Luxembourg Order of Adolphe of Nassau (Grand Cross) and Croix de Guerre
Belgian Order of Leopold I (Grand Officer with Palms)
French Croix de Guerre with Palms
British Order of the Bath (Knight Commanders Cross)
Polish Order of Polonia Restituta (Commander's Cross with Star)
Portuguese Order of Aviz, Gra Cruiz
Egyptian Order of the Nile, Grand Cordon
Chinese Order of Pao Ting (Tripod with Grand Cordon)
Chilean Medallia Militar de Primerera Clase
Argentine General Staff Emblem
Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy


• On 4 October 1958, the missile and aerospace base at Cooke AFB in Lompoc, CA, was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base.

• In July 1963, the instrument ship USAF General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) was renamed at Cape Canaveral, FL, for duty on the Eastern Space and Missile Range in the Atlantic.

• One of the two cadets' dormitories at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Vandenberg Hall, is named in his honor.

• A popular enlisted "hangout" for technical school Airmen at Keesler AFB, MS, is named in his honor.

• The Vandenberg Esplanade, located along the Merrimack River in Lowell, Massachusetts and part of the Lowell Heritage State Park, is named in his honor.

• The Manuscript Collection of Hoyt S. Vandenberg at the Library of Congress as of November 2005 is Classified information.

Death and Burial

General Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg's retirement from active duty was as a result of major illness. He died from prostate cancer nine months later, on 2 April 1954, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was only 55. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 30, Lot 719.

His wife, Gladys Rose Vandenberg, started the concept of the Arlington Ladies while he was Air Force Chief of Staff. The program provides that a military lady of the appropriate service represents the service chief at all military funerals at Arlington Cemetery. She was buried alongside her husband upon her death on 9 January 1978. They are survived by their children, Gloria Miller, and retired Major General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Jr., USAF.

Honoree ID: 851   Created by: MHOH




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