Lyman Perley Whitten – Major General, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Air Force
Suggested By Russell C. Jacobs, June 2007


Retired July 1, 1956. Died Sepember 29, 1989.

Lyman P. Whitten was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1897. He was attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps on November 3, 1917. The following February he graduated from the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics at Princeton University and was sent to Taliaferro Field, Fort Worth, Texas, for primary flying instruction.

Upon completion of his flying training, General Whitten entered the School of Aerial Gunnery at Taliaferro Field and was a member of the first class to graduate. On May 23, 1918 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Aviation Section of the Signal Reserve Corps and rated a reserve military aviator. He then served for a short time at Camp Dick, Texas, and took advanced flying training at Ellington Field, Texas. After completing the course in November 1918, he acted as graduate bombing pilot at that station until honorably discharged the following January.

General Whitten then returned to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1921. In November of that year he was appointed a Second Lieutenant of Air Service in the Regular Army and immediately promoted to First Lieutenant. A month later he reported for duty and pilot training at the Air Service pilots school at Carlstrom Field, Florida. In April 1922 he was transferred to the Advanced Bombardment School at Kelly Field, Texas. Upon completing the course the following August, he joined the 42nd Squadron at Kelly Field where he served as flying instructor and squadron engineering, communications and operations officer.

In September 1923, General Whitten was detailed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate study. He completed the course in October 1924 and was assigned to McCook Field, Ohio, where he served in the Materials Laboratory and as secretary of the Engineering School. In February 1926, accompanied by a civilian navigator, Bradley Jones, to test navigation instruments under development, he established a nonstop record from Dayton to Boston in a specially built “long-range” DH-4 airplane.

General Whitten went to Luke Field, Hawaii, in June 1926 for duty with the 19th Pursuit Squadron. He was transferred to the 65th Service Squadron at that station and later served as assistant engineering office and chief inspector of the Hawaiian Air Depot. In February 1928 he was transferred to Fort Armstrong, Hawaii, where he became commanding officer of the Air Service Detachment and chief inspector of the Air Section of the Hawaiian General Depot.

In June 1929 General Whitten was assigned to the Office, Chief of Air Corps, at Washington, D.C. for service in the newly-established Inspection Division. In July 1933, he entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., and graduated the following June. He then was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio, with the Maintenance Branch of the Field Service Section. He entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenwroth, Kan., in August 1936, completed the course the following June, and returned to his duties at Wright Field. There he helped organize and establish the First Transport Group, of which he was commanding officer of the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. In April 1939 he was transferred to the Office, Chief of the Air Corps as chief of the Field Service Section. He was named assistant to the commanding general of Air Service Command in November 1941 and the following March became director of base services at Air Force headquarters. In August 1943, he became Air Force member of the Joint Logistic Committee and Combined Administrative Committee, an agency of the Combined and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Three months later he attended the Cairo Conference of the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, following which he visited the China-Burma-India, Mediterranean and European theaters in connection with logistical problems and organization. In June 1944 he headed a group of officers to determine the feasibility of logistical support of air transport of planned operations of the 20th Air Force against Japan.

In July 1944 General Whitten was assigned to headquarters in North Africa and then became commanding general of the Air Force Service Command in the Mediterranean Theater. In August 1945 he was transferred to Germany and appointed assistant chief of staff, G-4, Headquarters U.S. Forces, European Theater. In March 1946 he was assigned to Air Force Headquarters as deputy assistant chief of staff for materiel.

In October 1947 after the establishment of U.S. Air Force Headquarters, General Whitten was named director of maintenance, supply and services in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel. In April 1948 he was assigned to the office of the Secretary of Defense for temporary duty. In July 1949 he became commanding general of the Newfoundland Base Command at Fort Pepperell, Newfoundland. On Oct. 1, 1950 that command was inactivated and he was appointed commander-in-chief of the U.S. Northeast Command with headquarters at Fort Pepperell with additional duties as commanding general.

In February 1952 General Whitten was named commanding general of the Middletown Air Materiel Area with station at Olmsted Air Force Base, Pennsylvania.

General Whitten has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Bronze Star Medal.

His foreign decorations include the Italian Order of Sts. Maurizio and Lazarro, the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Polish Order of Virtuti Militari, III Class.

He is rated a command pilot, combat observer and aircraft observer.


He was promoted to Captain (permanent) August 1, 1935; to Major (temporary) January 18, 1940; to Major (perm) July 1, 1940; to Lieutenant Colonel (temp) July 22, 1941; to Colonel (temp) March 1, 1942; to Brigadier General (temp) December 11, 1942; to Lieutenant Colonel (perm) November 1, 1944; to Brigadier General (perm) February 19, 1948, with date of rank from December 11, 1942; to Major General (temp) February 19, 1948; to Major General (perm) June 11, 1948, with date of rank from March 1, 1944.


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