Charles A. Gabriel – General, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Retired July 1, 1986.   Died September 4, 2003


General Charles A. Gabriel was the 11th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. As chief, he served as the senior uniformed Air Force Officer responsible for the organization, training and equipage of a combined active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian force of nearly one million people serving at approximately 3,000 locations in the United States and overseas. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he and the other service chiefs function as the principal military advisers to the secretary of defense, National Security Council and the president.

The general was born in Lincointon, North Carolina, in 1928. Following graduation from high school, he attended Catawba College, Salisbury, N.C., for two years before entering the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. He graduated from the academy in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree and a commission in the U.S. Air Force. The General earned a master of science degree in engineering management from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in 1963. He graduated from the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, in 1962; and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1967.

After graduation from West Point, General Gabriel entered pilot training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and completed advanced training at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama, in December 1951. His first assignment was to South Korea, where he flew 100 combat missions in F-51s and F-86s and was credited with shooting down two MiG-15s.

From December 1952 to November 1955, the general was assigned to the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, Landstuhl Air Base, Germany, as a pilot and later a squadron air operations officer. He then spent three years as an air officer commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.

In July 1959 General Gabriel transferred to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, where he served as adjutant for the 3550th Pilot Training Group and commander of the Headquarters Squadron Section. Following graduation from the Naval War College in August 1962 and completion of his master's degree at The George Washington University in August 1963, he was assigned as a staff officer in the Directorate of Plans, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. In August 1966 he entered the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Returning to Europe in August 1967, the general served as executive officer to the chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium. He returned to the United States for combat crew training in July 1970 and was subsequently assigned as commander of the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, flying 152 combat missions in F-4s. He returned to the Air Staff in July 1972, as deputy for operational forces and deputy director of operations.

General Gabriel served as deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, from February 1975 to August 1977. He then became deputy commander in chief, U.S. Forces Korea and deputy commander in chief, United Nations Command, Seoul, South Korea.

In April 1979 he returned to Air Force headquarters as deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and readiness. The general served as commander in chief, United States Air Forces in Europe and commander of Allied Air Forces Central Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from August 1980 to June 1982. He assumed his present duties in July 1982.

Gabriel is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Presidential Unit Citation Emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon, Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit (Gugseon Medal) and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

He was promoted to General August 1, 1980.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Charles A. Gabriel, 75, a four-star general and fighter pilot who served as Air Force chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan, died Sept. 4 at the Jefferson assisted living facility in Arlington. He had Alzheimer's disease.

Gen. Gabriel had flown hundreds of combat operations in Korea and Vietnam and held key administrative positions worldwide before being named the top Air Force official in 1982. He stayed in the job until 1986, the same year he retired from active duty.

His appointment was seen as a shift from previous chiefs of staff, many of whom had represented the ranks of bomber pilots and those involved in strategic nuclear deterrence. Gen. Gabriel, as the first fighter pilot chosen, was said to have greater knowledge of the military's tactical air power. His tenure included the 1986 raid on Libya.

After retiring, Gen. Gabriel, considered a chummy but low-key Washington personality, held corporate and Defense Department-related board positions.

Charles Alvin Gabriel, the son of a homemaker and a postal carrier, was a native of Lincolnton, N.C. He was a 1950 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he played quarterback on the football team.

He also was a graduate of the command and staff course at the Naval War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He received a master's degree in engineering management from George Washington University in 1963.

During the Korean War, he flew 100 combat missions in F-51 Mustangs and F-86 Sabre jets and was credited with shooting down two enemy MiG-15 fighter planes.

After holding administrative jobs in Washington and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium, he flew more than 150 combat missions in Vietnam from an air base in Thailand.

In the late 1970s, he was a top commander for U.S. Forces in Korea and United Nations Command in South Korea. Returning to Air Force headquarters in 1979, he was made deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and readiness.

He then served as commander in chief of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of Allied Forces Central Europe at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

His decorations included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit, five awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, 15 awards of the Air Medal and two awards of the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Dorothy Cutts Gabriel, and two children, Jane Gabriel and Charles A. Gabriel Jr., all of McLean; three brothers; a sister; and five grandchildren.

Posted on Wednesday, September 17, 2003
In the military and in family, he made difference
General Gabriel was Air Force chief of staff under President Reagan
Courtesy of the Charlotte (NC) Observer

Lincolnton had its own home boy. Some thought he was not military material, but he made it, and he made it Big Time. He had four stars on his shoulder, a pile of scrambled brass on his hat and a post office in Iron Station about to become his namesake.

General Charles A. Gabriel, former Air Force chief of staff who was born and raised in Lincoln County, died September 4, 2003, in McLean, Virginia. He was 75 and the first fighter-pilot to serve as Air Force chief of staff under then-President Reagan. A memorial service is 1 p.m. today at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel in Arlington, Va. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery, where he'll be among some pretty elite compatriots.

The general came from a working class background. His father, Paul Gabriel, worked at the Iron Station post office for 44 years. Townsfolk thought it would be fitting to honor his son, one of Lincoln County's own. The House approved the bill on June 3 to rename the post office for the general.

Not ‘military material'

Charles was formidable on Catawba College's gridiron. Son Chuck tells of when, after two years at Catawba, his dad left for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There he played with Heisman Trophy winners Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis. Football coach Chubby Kirkland protested to then-President Truman. “They're raiding our colleges,” he wrote, “and this boy will never become military material.” The rest, goes the old saw, is history. He went on to fly F-51 Mustangs and F-86 Sabre Jets in 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 150 in Vietnam. He was credited with downing two enemy MiG-15s.

Blind date beginning

He was in flight training school when he married Dorothy Cutts, whom he met on a blind date. They added daughter Jane and son Charles Jr. (Chuck) to the family. Jane (Copper) recalls her dad trying to teach her to catch a ball when she was a toddler. His sense of fairness impressed her more. “He always gave good advice,” she said. He also gave them a strong sense of duty and a competitive spirit. “He taught us to do the best we could in everything we tried,” she said.

Charles was shipped to Korea, and “she went all over the world with him,” said Charles' sister, Betty Ross.

Charles and his family bounced from continent to continent and back again. “We lived six years in Europe,” Jane said. “They spent another two in Korea and (in all) were overseas 10 years.”

His military career may have taken him across nations, across oceans and across cultures many times. It did not, however, take him above his fellow men.

‘A people person'

“He was always the same person, a people man,” said his sister. “Regardless of the boys who served under him, he treated them all alike.” His visits, though few, were very special. “When he came back to Lincolnton, you didn't notice he was any different than he ever was.”

He retired in June 1986, then served on the boards and as chairman of several businesses. He also served on military advisory and intelligence boards and on the Citadel College visitors board.

Charles Gabriel also has a 1,200-member Air Force Association Chapter 433 in northern Virginia named for him.

The general, a command pilot who flew more than 4,200 hours, is no stranger to the sky.

We'd say that he feels pretty much at home right about now.

Age 75, of McLean, VA on September 4, 2003. Beloved husband of Dorothy Gabriel; loving father of Jane L. Gabriel and husband, Jerry L. Copper and Charles A. Jr. and wife Kelli L. Gabriel. Also survived by one sister, Betty Ross, and three brothers, Paul Gabriel, Jr., Steve Gabriel and S.G. Gabriel and five grandchildren, Darcy, Hillary, Courtney, Charlotte (Charlie) and Matthew Gabriel. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 at Ft. Myer Memorial Chapel at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Alzheimer's Association.


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