Anderson Watkins Atkinson – Major General, United States Air Force

15413 Atkinson, Anderson Watkins
December 31, 1923 – March 30, 1992
United States Military Academy, Class of 1946

'46 – No. 15413 *
31 Dec 1923 – 30 Mar 1992
Died in Niceville, Florida * Interred in Arlington National Cemetery.


ANDERSON WATKINS ATKINSON was born and raised in Fordyce, Arkansas a small town in Southwest Arkansas. His sister, Margie recalled: “Our father was a country doctor who died when Andy was about ten years old. Andy graduated from Fordyce High School as Valedictorian and then told our mother he was leaving for New York to spend the summer working on the Hudson River Day Line. At the end of the summer, he didn't come home but let Mother know he was enrolling in Syracuse University but didn't need any money because he was getting a job. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet Program and was sent to Santa Ana, California. He had received an alternate appointment to West Point and was accepted.” Andy joined the Class of 1946 on 10 July 1943.

Andy was ten days late arriving in Beast Barracks and further endeared himself to the upperclassmen by announcing that he could land an A-6 in Central area. Classmate Lew Allen who rose to become Chief of Staff of the Air Force, recalled: “I remember Andy during plebe year for his marvelous sense of humor and his inability to take hazing seriously. Upperclassmen consistently failed to remove his grin and almost always ended up laughing with him.” Andy opted for Air Cadet training yearling year and graduated with his pilot's wings as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.

Andy married his long time sweetheart, Shirley Marie (Susie) Seaman two days after graduation, 6 June 1946, at the West Point Cadet Chapel. After transition training to single engine aircraft in AZ, Andy was assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Selfridge AFB, Michigan. In March 1947, Andy's squadron was the first to convert to jets, the P-80. In 1949, the Atkinsons moved to Elmendorf AFB, Arkansas, where Andy joined the 66th Fighter Squadron. In 1951, Andy moved to Griffiss AFB, New York, with the 27th Fighter Squadron flying F-86s and then F-94Cs.

In 1956, Andy received his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan. This was followed by an assignment with MIT's Lincoln Laboratory at Hanscom Field, MA. Andy moved to the Pentagon in 1960, serving in the Directorate of Operational Requirements, ODCS, Operations, HQS US Air Force. This was followed by two years in Germany in the Office, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, HQ US Air Force Europe in Wiesbaden. From Germany, Andy attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and in June 1967 became the deputy commander for operations of the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill AFB, Florida. In 1968, Andy went to Vietnam where he served as Chief, Command Center Branch, Seventh Air Force and then as Deputy Commander for Operations, 366 Tactical Fighter Wing, Da Nang AFB, Republic of Vietnam. Andy flew 114 combat missions in Southeast Asia in the F-4.

Back to the States in 1969, Andy became Commander, 3560 Pilot Training Wing, Webb AFB, TX. Then in 1971, Andy became Vice Commander, Sheppard technical Training Wing, Sheppard AFB, TX, Andy returned to the Pentagon in 1973 to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was first Chief, Pacific Division (J-3) and then Assistant Deputy Director, Operations (national Military Command Systems) and finally Deputy Director, Operations (current operations). Andy's final assignment on active duty was with the Defense Intelligence Agency as Assistant Vice Director for Attaches and Training. He retired in 1980 as a Major General.

Retirement found the Atkinsons in Florida. Andy dabbled in real estate for a while but soon realized that it was interfering with his golf. He enjoyed retirement and being able to play golf as much as he wanted.

Andy died 30 March 1992 at his home in Niceville, Florida. Survivors included his wife, Susie, sons, Randall and John, brother, Tom and sister, Margie.

It is evident that Andy Atkinson was everything a West Pointer is expected to be. He lived the motto in every aspect of his life. Classmate and fellow airman, H. Lobdell, MG, USAF, Rtd.: “Andy knew what flying was about. He was straightforward and demanding in his professional life, but he brought along a wry and delightful sense of humor. While he was tough, his down-home sense of humor and ‘good-old-boy' manner took the edge off his strict and safety-conscious leadership. These qualities made Andy, in my opinion, the best Air Force operational flying supervisor and leader I have known. He certainly exemplified that which we would expect of a West Point graduate. I can give him no greater compliment. I miss the guy…not only for his understanding of what was right and wrong, but for the companionship he gave me and everyone around him.”

Son, John and daughter-in-law, Ava, remembered: “John's father was one of the most unforgettable characters of our lives. He had strong moral character and projected such in his actions. He cared deeply about his children and grandchildren and never criticized the mistakes we made in rearing his grandchildren. He was a good listener and a great person from whom to seek advice. He cared a great deal about his country and was a great writer. He believed in tough love yet had a tender heart and tolerated thoughts, ideas and beliefs different from his own. John and I both miss him.”

To the words of praise from his friends and family, the Class of 1946 is proud to add those few words that would mean so much to our classmate: “Well Done, Andy; Be Thou At Peace!”


Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Retired Sept. 1, 1980, Died March 30, 1992

Major General Anderson W. Atkinson was assistant vice director for attaches and training, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.

General Atkinson was born at Fordyce, Arkansas, in 1923. He graduated from Fordyce High School in 1941 and attended Syracuse (New York) University for one year prior to enlisting as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces. In 1943 he entered the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, graduating in June 1946 with a bachelor of
science degree. He received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1956 after two years residency and graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1967.

General Atkinson was commissioned a second lieutenant when he graduated from the academy. He entered transition training in P-51s at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, and then went to Ajo, Ariz., to complete gunnery training. In November 1946 he reported to the 63rd Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, at Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan, initially flying P-51H's and converting to P-80A's in March 1947. In March 1949 he was
assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. In June 1951 he transferred to the 27th Fighter Squadron at Griffiss Air Force Base, New York, flying F-86s. This unit converted to F-89s, back to F-86s and finally to F-94C interceptors prior to his departure in August 1954.

Following advanced degree work at the University of Michigan, General Atkinson was assigned to the Air Defense Element at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, Hanscom Field, Mass. He worked on the operational design and weapons integration of the semi-automatic ground environment system from June 1956 to September 1960. He then transferred to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.,
and served in the Directorate of Operational Requirements, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, until July 1964. General Atkinson next had a two-year assignment in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe, Wiesbaden Air Base Germany, prior to attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

In June 1967 Genera Atkinson become the deputy commander for operations of the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In April 1968 he assumed duty as the chief, Command Center Branch, Seventh Air Force, Tan Son Nhut Air Base Republic of Vietnam. In November 1968 he was assigned as deputy commander for operations of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. He flew 114 combat missions in Southeast Asia in the F-4.

Upon his return from overseas in June 1969, he was assigned to the 3560th Pilot Training Wing, Webb Air Force Base, Texas, as deputy commander for operations until March 1970 when he took command of the wing. In August 1971 General Atkinson become vice commander of the Sheppard Technical Training Center, Sheppard Air Force Base,  Texas.

He was assigned to the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., in July 1973. He was chief of the Pacific Division (J-3) and in July 1975 become assistant deputy director in the Directorate of Operations (National Military Command Systems). In June 1977 he was assigned as deputy director for operations (current operations). General Atkinson assumed his present duties in July 1978.

He is a command pilot with about 5,000 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Republic of Vietnam Medal of Honor with gold star.

He was promoted to major general May 1, 1978, with date of rank September 1, 1974.awatkinson-gravesite-photo-august-2006

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