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Wilbur L. Creech
General, United States Air Force
Missouri State Flag
 Courtesy of the United States Air Force

WL Creech Photo USAF
U. S. Air Force Photo

Retired December 31, 1984. Died August 26, 2003

General W.L. Creech was the Commander of Tactical Air Command with headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The command directs the activities of two numbered air forces, three centers and seven air divisions. More than 111,300 military and civilian personnel are assigned to 32 Tactical Air Command bases in the United States, Panama, Okinawa and Iceland. Tactical Air Command is the gaining organization for 58,300 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel in 149 major units throughout the United States.

General Creech was born in Argyle, Missouri, in 1927. He has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland, a master's degree in international relations from The George Washington University, and graduated from the National War College in 1966. He received his wings and commission in September 1949 as a distinguished graduate of flying training school.

His first operational assignment was with the 51st Fighter Wing at Naha, Okinawa. During the Korean War he flew with the 51st Wing from Kimpo Air Base and completed 103 combat missions over North Korea. He also served a combat tour of duty as a forward air controller with the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

In July 1951 General Creech was assigned as a flight commander at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona, where, for the next two and one-half years, he taught advanced gunnery to students from 14 nations. In November 1953 he joined the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Team, the Thunderbirds, and flew 125 official aerial demonstrations over the United States and Central America.

In January 1956 he became commander and leader of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Aerial Demonstration Team, the Skyblazers, based at Bitburg, Germany. By December 1959 he had flown 399 official aerial demonstrations with this team throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

In June 1960 General Creech was named director of operations, U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he served until February 1962. He then was assigned us a special adviser to the commander of the Argentine air force in Buenos Aires.

From August 1962 to August 1965, he was executive and aide to the commander of Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base. In August 1965 he entered the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. Upon graduation in June 1966, he was selected to be a staff assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

General Creech transferred to the Republic of Vietnam in November 1968 as deputy commander for operations of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, Phu Cat Air Base. After six months with the wing, during which he flew 177 combat missions, he became assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters Seventh Air Force in Saigon.

In November 1969 General Creech was assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and successively commanded two tactical fighter wings. After one year as commander of the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing at Zweibrucken, Germany, he became the commander of the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing at Madrid, Spain. From August 1971 until August 1974, General Creech served as deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Wiesbaden and Ramstein, Germany.

General Creech was assigned to Air Force Systems Command in September 1974 as vice commander of Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, and in October 1974 was appointed commander of the Electronic Systems Division, Boston, Mass. The Electronic Systems Division manages the complex development and acquisition of command, control and communications equipment to meet the worldwide needs of the Air Force and other Department of Defense agencies.

After two and one-half years as commander of Electronic Systems Division, General Creech was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he served concurrently as the assistant vice chief of staff, assistant to the Chief of Staff for Readiness and North Atlantic Treaty Organization matters and senior U.S. Air Force member, Military Staff Committee, United Nations. He assumed his present position on May 1, 1978.

He is a command pilot, experienced in 40 different military fighter, cargo and reconnaissance aircraft. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Republic of Vietnam Air Service Medal (Honor Class), Spanish Grand Cross of Aeronautical Merit with white ribbon and Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit Tong II Medal.

He was promoted to general May 1, 1978, with same date of rank.


Retired four-star General W. L. "Bill'' Creech -- who in the 1970s turned around the languishing Tactical Air Command and oversaw the development of such modern air weaponry as the F-117 stealth fighter -- has died. He was 76.

General John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff of the Air Force says "No single officer has had greater influence on the Air Force in recent times than General Bill Creech.'' Creech, a former Thunderbird pilot of the 1950s, died Tuesday at his Henderson home.

As a combat pilot, Creech flew 280 missions and was decorated 39 times, including 22 awards for bravery in combat. He flew more than 40 types of aircraft including fighter, reconnaissance and cargo planes. As head of Tactical Air Command, Creech oversaw the development of the A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, the F-15E night fighter, and the Stealth fighter.

He is survived by his wife, Caroline. Funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery are pending.


August 28, 2003 

Retired General Creech, 'Father of the Thunderbirds,' dies
By Ed Koch
Courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun

As a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, Bill Creech knew there had to be a better way to fight an air war than flying low to the ground in broad daylight and risking being shot down by North Vietnamese small-arms fire.

Creech vowed that never again would an enemy of the United States "own the night" in combat and that his methods of flying far above ground fire, using sophisticated electronic striking and anti-jamming equipment, would prevail in future wars.

"No single officer has had greater influence on the Air Force in recent times than General Bill Creech," General John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said Tuesday. "He transformed the way the Air Force conducts warfare."

Retired four-star Gen. W. L. "Bill" Creech, who in the 1970s turned around the languishing Tactical Air Command and oversaw the development of much of today's modern air weaponry including the F-117 stealth fighter, died Tuesday at his Henderson home. He was 76.

Services with full military honors are pending at Arlington National Cemetery.

Creech, a former Thunderbird pilot of the 1950s, also was known as "The Father of the Thunderbirds" for rescuing the Air Force's Aerial Demonstration Team from a congressional chopping block after four of its pilots were killed on Jan. 18, 1982, near Indian Springs while on a training exercise.

After his 37-year military career, Creech became an internationally recognized authority on business management, promoting the same decentralization philosophy he used to restructure his Air Force command.

He also was author of the best-selling book "The Five Pillars of TQM: How to Make Total Quality Management Work For You," published in 1994.

Upon learning of the death of his former commander and longtime friend, Jumper, the Air Force's top-ranking general, flew to Henderson to assist Creech's wife of 34 years, Caroline Creech, with arrangements. He missed a Tuesday memorial service for Bob Hope to come to Southern Nevada.

"Bill's impact on many of today's military leaders was far and wide," said Jumper, who served as Creech's executive officer in 1983 and '84. "He taught us so many lessons of leadership and life. He had tremendous curiosity and a piercing intellect.

"He was a war hero of Korea and Vietnam who improved the tactics that have led to our successes in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. Through his efforts, we have made great strides in electronic warfare and, in battle, we have won back the night."

Former two-term Nevada Governor Mike O'Callaghan, a longtime friend, said America has lost one of its greatest military minds.

"I know of no American of my generation who has made a bigger or more important contribution to our nation," said O'Callaghan, who today is executive editor and chairman of the Sun. "He was a talented leader who, by example, taught others how to think and select future goals.

"Personal courage was to him just a way of life that didn't have to be taught or discussed."

Richard Dix, a retired local doctor and Air Force colonel, said he was fascinated by his longtime friend's great intellect and meticulous attention to detail.

"As a pilot, the General saw that flying low, fast and under the radar was not going to work because the North Vietnamese would hear the jets coming, lay on their backs and fire, hitting our planes," Dix said.

"He developed night-flying tactics because he said mere sounds at night are terrifying to the enemy and he developed tactics for flying above 15,000 feet -- tactics that led to victory in the Persian Gulf and Iraq."

General Chuck Horner, who served as air commander during the Persian Golf War, has described as "monumental" Creech's development of tactics that resulted in just 14 of the 1,500 U.S. fighter planes in the Gulf War being lost.

In a book Horner co-wrote with Tom Clancy, "Every Man a Tiger," they call Creech, "a consummately skilled and precise fighter pilot ... as demanding on himself as he was on others."

It was as commander of the Tactical Air Command for 6 1/2 years in the 1970s and '80s, that the legend of Creech the venerable business leader began.

TAC, a sprawling command that at the time included 180,000 personnel in 46 states and five countries, had an 80 percent productivity improvement under Creech that resulted in savings of $12 billion to the government.

As head of TAC, Creech also oversaw the development of the A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, the F-15E night fighter, AWACS, AMRAAM, HARM and LANTIRN jets and the Stealth fighter that cannot be detected by radar.

After retiring from the Air Force, Creech moved to Henderson in 1985 and began his management advisory company, WLC Enterprises. Companies for which he was a consultant included General Electric, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Johnson & Johnson, Litton and Lockheed.

In his book, now published in eight languages, Creech said the five pillars of total quality management are organization, product, process, leadership and commitment.

Using 19 success and horror stories he had witnessed around the world, Creech showed how to supplement traditional management techniques with a decentralized, team-based approach that has since been implemented by companies such as Boeing, General Electric and Motorola.

Creech was a major proponent of the "human" factor in the business world that today that is dominated by computers and other modern technologies. He focused on bottom-to-top communication that emphasizes motivation and team concepts.

"If 90 percent of employees believe that productivity is in their best interest, productivity will rise," Creech told the Sun in a 1996 story. "It's time for us to pull out the old habits that were good at another time, but are no longer working."

Inc. magazine in its April 1989 issue, named Creech a member of its "Dream Team of the Decade," featuring six innovative U.S. business leaders. The magazine called Creech: "A tremendous motivator, leader (and) challenger of convention."

The magazine said his turnaround of TAC, "may be the most important U.S. military victory since MacArthur's Inchon landing."

But many Las Vegans and Nellis personnel perhaps will best remember Creech as the savior of the Thunderbirds. A Thunderbird pilot from 1953 to '54, Creech's photo hangs prominently on a wall of the VIP room in the Thunderbirds Museum at Nellis.

As a Thunderbird, Creech flew in 125 demonstration shows in the United States and Central America. A Thunderbird museum spokesman once called Creech "the father of the Thunderbirds."

Following the infamous accident when four Thunderbird pilots crashed after flying in a diamond formation, Creech went to bat for the unit before Congress and lobbied members of the executive branch.

He won in part because of a lengthy document Creech prepared giving specific details of the life of a Thunderbird pilot and methods for keeping them safe.

Creech long believed that the Thunderbirds inspired young people to join the Air Force, especially in times when recruitment was down.

While there were 36 major accidents that killed 24 Thunderbird pilots between 1953 and 1981, there have been no fatalities and only one minor accident since the 1982 tragedy -- a fact in which Creech took great pride.

Jumper said the Thunderbirds for many years invited Creech to address their new pilots, where he would share details of the unit's storied history.

Born March 30, 1927, in Argyle, Misouri, Bill Creech was the youngest of three children of Paul Creech and the former Marie Maloney.

Creech graduated from Emmetsburg (Iowa) High School in 1944 and went on to earn a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland and a masters degree in international relations from George Washington University.

He also graduated from the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., in 1966.

Creech began his military career as a private in July 1944. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September 1949 after graduating from flight training school.

During the Korean War Creech flew with the 51st Wing. In July 1951, Creech was assigned as flight commander at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where he taught gunnery students from 14 nations.

In January 1956, Creech was named commander of the Air Force Europe Aerial Demonstration Team, the Skyblazers, based at Bitburg, Germany.

In June 1960, Creech came to Nellis Air Force Base as director of operations for the "Top Gun" Fighter Weapons School.

After a stint at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in the mid-1960s, Creech served as deputy commander of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam.

As a combat pilot, Creech flew 280 missions -- 103 in Korea and 177 in Southeast Asia. He was decorated 39 times, including 22 awards for bravery in combat.

Among his honors were the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters.

Creech flew more than 40 types of aircraft including fighter, reconnaissance and cargo planes.

Creech was promoted to Brigadier General in December 1971 and served command assignments in Germany, Spain, Ohio, Massachusets and Washington, D.C., where he was assistant vice chief of staff.

He also served as senior United States member on the Military Committee of the United Nations and as assistant to the Chief of Staff for Readiness and North Atlantic Treaty Organization matters.

In the mid-1970s, Creech was commander of the Electronic Systems Division near Boston, which developed sophisticated electronics equipment for the Department of Defense. The division each year procured more than $6 billion in high-tech electronic equipment, including AWACS and anti-jamming communications.

Creech was promoted to Major General in October 1973 and lieutenant general in July 1975. He earned his fourth star on May 1, 1978. On that date, he also became commander of the Tactical Air Command at Langley.

As part of his developing management philosophy, Creech established realistic goals for TAC flight squadrons. Also, parts suppliers, training officers and aircraft maintenance workers were brought to the flight line and made part of a team. Rewards were given for surpassing goals and a pride in ownership was developed among airmen.

Creech maintained that Desert Storm ultimately proved that the decentralized management system in military operations worked.

Creech retired as TAC commander in September 1984 and soon after took the business world by storm with his decentralization philosophy.

Creech also became a key motivational speaker and served on several corporate boards, including the Chicago-based Centel Corp. He was the first Nevadan ever appointed to that major telephone company board.

Creech also served on the board of directors of Tech-Sym Corp., Transnational Industries, Inc., and Comarco Inc.

In addition to his wife, Creech is survived by a sister, Maxine Brody of Bigelow, Minn. He was preceded in death by a sister, Louise Voight.


Four-star general praised for rebuilding military command dead at 76
Courtesy of The Associated Press 
28 August 2003

Retired four-star Gen. W. L."Bill"Creech, who in the 1970s turned around the languishing Tactical Air Command and oversaw the development of such modern air weaponry as the F-117 stealth fighter, has died. He was 76.

"No single officer has had greater influence on the Air Force in recent times than Gen. Bill Creech,"said Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff of the Air Force."He transformed the way the Air Force conducts warfare."

Creech, a former Thunderbird pilot of the 1950s, died Tuesday at his Henderson home.

Known as"The Father of the Thunderbirds,"Creech was credited with rescuing the Air Force's Aerial Demonstration Team from congressional cuts after four pilots were killed in 1982 during a training exercise near Indian Springs.

"Bill's impact on many of today's military leaders was far and wide,"said Jumper, who served as Creech's executive officer in 1983 and 1984."He taught us so many lessons of leadership and life. He had tremendous curiosity and a piercing intellect."

Born Missouri in 1927, Creech earned a degree from the University of Maryland and a master's degree from George Washington University. He also graduated from the National War College in Washington, D.C., in 1966.

Creech began his military career as a private in July 1944. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September 1949 after graduating from flight training school.

During the Korean War, Creech flew with the 51st Wing. In July 1951, Creech was assigned as flight commander at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where he taught gunnery students from 14 nations.

As a combat pilot, Creech flew 280 missions _ 103 in Korea and 177 in Southeast Asia. He was decorated 39 times, including 22 awards for bravery in combat. He flew more than 40 types of aircraft including fighter, reconnaissance and cargo planes.

As head of Tactical Air Command, Creech oversaw the development of the A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, the F-15E night fighter, AWACS, AMRAAM, HARM and LANTIRN jets and the Stealth fighter.

After retiring from the Air Force, Creech moved to Henderson in 1985 and began his management advisory company, WLC Enterprises. He did consulting work for General Electric, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Johnson&Johnson, Litton and Lockheed.

Maj. Gen. Steve Wood, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, on Wednesday called Creech one of the Air Force's greatest leaders and staunchest advocates.

"During more than 35 years of service to our nation, General Creech held commands around the globe and was a decorated combat veteran,"Wood said."Airmen from Nellis, past and present, mourn his passing. He had a special relationship with the base and Las Vegas community dating back to his assignment at the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School in 1960."

Creech is survived by his wife, Caroline of Las Vegas, and his sister, Maxine Brody of Bigelow, Minnesota.

Funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery were pending.

WL Creech Gravesite PHOTO
Photo Courtesy of Russell C. Jacobs, October 2006


CREECH, WILBUR L
GEN US AIR FORCE
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 11/01/1949 - 11/01/1984
DATE OF BIRTH: 03/30/1927
DATE OF DEATH: 08/26/2003
DATE OF INTERMENT: 09/25/2003
BURIED AT: SECTION 30  SITE 696-LH
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson


Posted: 30 August 2003 Updated: 18 July 2004  Updated: 6 September 2005 Updated: 15 October 2006 Updated: 19 August 2009
Distinguished Service Medal 2 awards
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

      Silver Star
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Distinguished Flying Cross
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal 15 awards