December 22: Thomas Dresser White (1965)

Thomas Dresser White was the fourth Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. White was born in Minnesota in 1901 to the Rev. John C. White, an Episcopal priest, and Katherine (Dresser) White. Upon graduation from West Point in 1920, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry. After completing infantry school, White was assigned duty at Fort Davis, Panama Canal Zone. In September 1924, he graduated from Advanced Flying School and was assigned duty at Bolling Field, Washington. While stationed in D.C., White married Rebecca Lipscomb at the Church of the Epiphany. His father, who was now Bishop of Springfield (IL) joined rector ZeBarney Phillips in performing the ceremony. In June 1927, White was assigned to study Chinese in Peking,. During his stay in China, he also began to study Russian, a discipline that would serve him well after the United States granted diplomatic recognition to the USSR in 1933. The following year, the first U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union selected the 33 year-old Air Corps first lieutenant and Russian linguist to serve as air attaché and pilot of the embassy airplane.

A series of attaché assignments in Italy, Greece, and Brazil further developed White’s talents, not only as an intelligence officer, but also as an accomplished linguist. During those tours, he became fluent in Chinese, Russian, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish. After World War II began, White was recalled to the United States to serve as assistant chief of staff for operations and then chief of staff of the Third Air Force. In January 1944 he was reassigned to Army Air Forces Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he became assistant chief of staff for intelligence. In that post he helped formulate plans for the D–Day invasion. His request for combat duty was honored in 1944, when he went to the Pacific and took part in the New Guinea, Southern Philippines, and Borneo campaigns. His command of the Seventh Air Force in the Marianas played an important role in bringing about the Japanese surrender. White was promoted to the rank of general in 1953, and designated vice chief of staff and then became chief of staff for the U.S. Air Force July 1, 1957. He retired in 1961.

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