Charles Pearre Cabell – General, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Retired January 31, 1962, Died May 25, 1971

Charles Pearre Cabell was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1903. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy June 12, 1925, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery.

For five years following his graduation from the academy, Lieutenant Cabell served with the 12th Field Artillery at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He then was assigned to the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, from which he graduated in February 1931 when he went to Kelly Field, Texas. He completed the observation course at the Air Corps Advanced Flying School in June 1931 and remained at Kelly Field as a flying instructor. He was transferred to the Air Corps July 11, 1931.

Lieutenant Cabell joined the Seventh Observation Squadron at France Field, Panama Canal Zone, as adjutant in October 1931. He subsequently served as commanding officer of the 44th Observation Squadron, the 24th Pursuit squadron, and the 74th Pursuit Squadron, successively, at Albrook Field, Canal Zone.

In September 1934 he became a flying instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Randolph Field, Texas. Captain Cabell later served as post adjutant and in September 1938 entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, from which he graduated in June l939. In August 1939 he was detailed to the Command and General Staff school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from which he graduated in February 1940.

The following June Major Cabell went to Wright Field, Ohio, where he was assigned to the Photographic Laboratory in the Experimental Engineering Division. After a period as an observer with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom, he was transferred to Washington, D.C., in April 1941 for duty in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, as chief of the Photo Unit. In February 1942 Lieutenant Colonel Cabell was made assistant executive for technical planning and coordination. The following month he became chief of the advisory council to the commanding general of the Army Air Forces. From June to October 1943 Colonel Cabell attended the first course at the Army and Navy Staff College.

He was assigned to the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater in October 1943 and on December 1, 1943, assumed command of the 45th Combat Bombardment Wing. In April 1944 Brigadier General Cabell became director of plans for the U.S. Strategic Air Force in Europe, and three months later was made director of operations and intelligence for the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces with headquarters at Caserta, Italy.

In May 1945, General Cabell was assigned to Air Force headquarters, where he became chief of the Strategy and Policy Division in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans. In December 1945 he was assigned with the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations, and after attending the London Conference,  remained on duty with the United Nations in New York, as deputy and later as U.S. Air Force Representative on the Military Staff Committee.

General Cabell was assigned to Air Force Headquarters in August 1947 as special assistant to the assistant chief of air staff for plans, and the following two months served as acting deputy to the director (designate) of the Joint Staff. In November 1947 Major General Cabell became chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division in the Office of the Director of Intelligence. On May 15, 1948, he was appointed director of intelligence of the U.S. Air Force.

On November 1, 1951, General Cabell was named director of the joint staff in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lieutenant General Cabell was sworn in as deputy director of Central Intelligence on April 23, 1953.

He is a rated technical observer and command pilot.


Enjoys spectator sports, plays golf, fond of fishing, swimming and horseback riding. Is an avid reader and enjoys good classical music. Has the habit of taking a morning constitutional.

Opinions, Tastes and Evaluations

Enjoys Mexican cooking, particularly a good bowl of chili; partial to beef and fresh lemon pie.

Likes Western stories and good music. Tells a good story and has a sense of humor. Enjoys traveling, prefers warm climate areas.

Is a firm believer in General Arnold's philosophy that there is no such thing as “can't be done”.

Stresses intellectual integrity; loyalty and sincerity off relationships; precision and decisiveness; and frowns on premature judgment, shortcuts, cure-alls, talkativeness and bombasticity.

Penetrating in his evaluations of people and tasks. Has tremendous energy with ability to contain pressure. Is frank and direct, exercising integrity and fairness in all decisions.

His colleagues and associates have stated that, “when working with General Cabell, personal integrity, leadership and patience abound. The general is always fair and open-minded; and inconsideration is unknown to his behavior”.

Decorations and Medals

Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal with oak leaf cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal

Foreign Awards

Order of the British Empire (Honorary Commander)
National Order of the Legion of Honor, Degree of Chevalier (France)
Croix De Guerre with Palm (France)
Commander, Order SS Maurice and Lazarous (Italy)

General Cabell and his wife, Octavia Jacklyn DeHymel Cabell, are buried in Section 5, Grave 55, of Arlington National Cemetery.

From a contemporary press report:

Cabell, Octavia Jacklyn DeHymel

The wife of Charles P. Cabell, Sr. 93, a volunteer with charitable, service and cultural organizations, died of a thyroid disorder November 4, 1995 at the Arleigh Burke Pavilion in McLean. Mrs. Cabell was the widow of retired Air Force General Charles P. Cabell Sr., who also had served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He died in 1971.

Mrs. Cabell was born in San Antonio and graduated from Incarnate Word College. In 1941, she came to Washington with her husband.

Her volunteer work included service for the National Symphony Orchestra, Travelers Aid Society and United Service Organizations, where she had served as a board member for several years. She was a former president of the Texas State Society and, in this capacity, organized an inaugural reception for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1961. Mrs. Cabell also had served as president of the Air Force Officers Wives Club during the years immediately following the establishment of the Air Force as a separate service in 1947.

Her activities also included work with the National Society of Arts and Letters, the American Newspaper Womens Club and the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen's Club.

Survivors  include three children, retired Air Force Brigadier General Charles P. Cabell Jr. of Colorado Springs, Catharine Cabell Bennett of Annandale and Benjamin Cabell of West Grove, Pa.; a brother, Cushing DeHymel of Pasadena, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.

Book Review

A MAN OF INTELLIGENCE: MEMOIRS OF WAR, PEACE, AND THE CIA — the memoirs of General Charles P. Cabell Edited by Charles A. Cabell, Jr. Brigadier General, USAF (Ret).,  Boulder, CO: Impavide Publications, 1997, 401pp., index.

In the 3 years before his death, General Charles P. Cabell, the CIA's longest serving DDCI (under DCI Allen Dulles), wrote his memoirs. For family reasons which his son explains in his preface, they were not published until 1997 and have only recently come to AFIO's attention. General Cabell (West Point, Class of 1925) tells of his career as an advisor to Hap Arnold, B-17 bomb wing commander, D-Day planner, Director of Operations and Intelligence in the Mediterranean theater, his presence at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, Director of Air Force Intelligence, Director of the Joint Staff for the JCS, and DDCI.

More than 100 pages are devoted to his CIA service, and of particular interest here are his candid comments about the Bay of  Pigs operation in which he was directly involved. His assessment of the reasons for its failure are dispassionate, but do not mince words. General Cabell had a fascinating and rewarding career. His book is a valuable contribution to the history of Air Force intelligence and the early years of the CIA.


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