Richard Sargent Abbey – Major General, United States Air Force

From a contemporary press report

Richard Sargent Abbey, 85, an Air Force major general who retired in 1971 after having served as a regional commander of the North American Air Defense Command, died of pulmonary fibrosis December 2, 2001, at his home in Galesville.

In his final military post, General Abbey was responsible for the air defense of nine states in the Midwest and four Canadian provinces. Earlier, he had served as director of the combat operations center of the North American Air Defense Command
and the Continental Air Defense Command.

Early in the Vietnam War, he was deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Military Assistance Command. Subsequently he was chief of staff for reserve forces at Air Force headquarters.

His military decorations included the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Gen. Abbey was born in New York. For part of his childhood, he lived in Washington, and he graduated from Central High School. He attended the University of Alabama for one year, then in 1935 joined the Army as an enlisted man. He received an
appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1940.

In 1941, he received his pilot's wings and later served as a flight instructor for B-17 pilots. During the latter period of World War II, he commanded a bombardment squadron in Italy and flew 29 combat missions over France, Italy, Germany and the

In 1947, he transferred to the Air Force when it became a separate service. He received a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University, served in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later was posted to the Netherlands as chief of the Air Force Military Assistance Advisory Group. Later, he taught at the National War College and served as a wing commander at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona.

He retired from military service in 1971.

General Abbey, a longtime resident of Alexandria, moved to Galesville in Anne Arundel County three years ago.

Survivors include his wife, Eleanor Katherine Quirk Abbey of Hillsboro Beach, Florida; four children, George E., of Sun Lakes, Arizona, Steven Q., of Howe, Idaho, William S., of Parker, Colorado, and Mary Ann Abbey Howell of Galesville; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


Retired Aug. 1, 1971

Major General Richard Sargent Abbey was commander of the 24th North American Air Defense Command Continental Air Defense Command region with headquarters at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. He was responsible for the air defense of part or all of nine Middle Western states and four Canadian provinces.

General Abbey was born in New York City in 1916. He graduated from Central High School in Washington, D.C., and attended the University of Alabama for one year. From July 1935 to June 1936 he served as a private in Headquarters Battery, 2nd Coast Artillery at Fort Monroe, Virginia.

He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in July 1936 and received a bachelor of science degree and commission as second lieutenant in
June 1940. He attended basic and advanced flying schools at Randolph and Kelly fields, Texas, and received his pilot wings in 1941.

General Abbey became operations officer in April 1941 for one of the pioneer B-17 squadrons at MacDill Field, Fla., and logged 400 hours of flying time in this aircraft. His experience as a B-17 pilot qualified him to serve as a flight instructor for pilots who would fly the bomber in combat.

During World War II on Dec. 7, 1941, General Abbey reported to West Point to serve as senior ground school instructor at Stewart Field, New York. In November 1943 he attended the Central Instructor School at Lockbourne Army Air Base, Ohio, and then served three months as commandant of crews at the Combat Crew Training
Center at Ardmore, Okla. He went to Italy in May 1944 and commanded the 49th Bombardment Squadron. He flew 29 combat missions over northern France, Italy, Germany and the Balkans, logged 250 combat hours and became deputy commander of the 2d Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.

In March 1945 General Abbey was transferred to Washington, D.C., and assigned to the War Department general staff in the operations and plans division. Before leaving the general staff in 1948 he progressed to the position of executive officer, plans and operations division. He attended Georgetown University from August 1948 to February 1950 and earned a master of arts degree in international relations. From February 1950 to July 1952, he served on the joint strategic plans group in the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Abbey returned to Europe in 1952 as chief of the Air Force section, Military Assistance Advisory Group, in the Netherlands. He returned to the United States in August 1955 to enter the National War College at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. After graduation he served as a faculty member at the National War College for
two years.

In July 1958 he was reassigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as chief of the policy division, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, and later held the position of assistant deputy director for policy.

General Abbey served from August 1959 to August 1960 as deputy commander 3575th Pilot Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., and from October 1960 to March 1963 as commander, 3525th Pilot Training Wing, at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. In March 1963 he was assigned as director, plans and policies, J-5, North American Air Defense Command, Ent Air Force Base, Colorado.

In July 1965 General Abbey went to the Republic of Vietnam as the deputy chief of staff, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. In October 1966 he returned to Washington, D C, as assistant chief of staff for reserve forces, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. He assumed duties as director, Combat Operations Center, North
American Air Defense Command/Continental Air Defense Command, Ent Air Force Base, Colo., in February 1968.

General Abbey became the first commander of the 24th NORAD/CONAD region with headquarters at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, upon its inception in November 1969 in conjunction with the NORAD forces realignment.

His military decorations include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Croix de Guerre with Palm (France).

He was promoted to the temporary grade of major general effective Oct. 1, 1965, with date of rank April 4, 1961.

Major General, USAF, (Ret.)

Died on Sunday, December 2, 2001, of Alexandria, Virginia. He is survived by his wife,
Eleanor Quirk Abbey, and four children. Funeral services will be held graveside at Arlington National Cemetery, at 9 a.m. Thursday, December 13, 2001. Gather at Administration Building prior to 9 a.m. Family will receive friends following services, at 10:30 a.m., at Belle Haven Country Club. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of the Chesapeake.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 08/01/1941 – 08/01/1971
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/03/1916
  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/02/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 12/13/2001

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