Robert Whitney Burns – Lieutenant General, United States Air Force

Born: Stanley, Wisconsin, September 15, 1908. Graduated from high school in his hometown in 1926 and attended the University of Wisconsin for 2 years until becoming an aviation cadet at March Field, California, in Oct 1928. A year later he got his wings and was commisioned at Kelly Field, Texas, and assigned to Selfridge Field, Michigan, with the 17th Pursuit Squadron.

He went to Hawaii in February 1932 as Operations and Training Officer for the 19th Pursuit Squadron. In November 1934 he came home to Crissy Field, California, for four months and then went to Randolph Field for 6 years as an instructor, flight and Assistant Staging Commander. During this tour he was prom to First Lieutenant in August 1935 and to Captain in January 1940. That May went to Chile as an advisor to the Air Corps Military Mission and while there was promoted to Major in Mar 1941, to Lieuteant Colonel in January 1942, and to Colonel in December 1942.

In May 1943 he became Commanding Officer of the Air Defense Wing at Orlando, Florida, but was immediately sent to the 8th Fighter Command in England as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations. He moved up to the 8th USAF a year later in the same job. In the last 6 months of war in Europe he served as Commanding Officer of the 4th Combat Wing and the 14th Bomb Wing, with promotion in June 1945 to Brigadier General.

He received many medals, including the Distinguished Service Medal, 3 Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross the, Bronze Star, 2 Air Medals, and honors from France, Great Britain and Belgium.

He went to the Pacific with the 8th Air Force, serving on Okinawa until the war ended. He was in personnel assignments at Headquarters, Army Air Force, during most of 1946-47 and in May 1948 again jointed the 8th Air Force, this time at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, as Chief of Staff. In December he moved to the same staff position with Headquarters, Air Training Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, with promotion to Major General. He moved up to Vice Commander at ATC as the Headquarters moved to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

He returned to HQ, US Air Force in June 1951 as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for 2 years, and for the next 4 years was Air Force Assistant Vice Chief of Staff. In December 1957 he went to Elgin Air Force Base, Florida, as Commander of Air Proving Ground Center and on August 1, 1958 was promoted to Lieutenant General and named Commander of the 5th Air Force and US Forces, Japan, at Fuchu, near Tokyo.

In July 1961 he became Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board and on August 1, 1963 he took command of Air Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

He died at Lackland Air Force Base Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, September 5, 1964, a few days after retiring from ATC.

He is buried in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery.

NOTE:  General Burns was the son-in-law of Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller, United States Army, a Medal of Honor recipient, who was killed in an air crash in 1921.

Official U.S. Air Force Biography
Retired Aug. 10, 1964, Died Sept. 5, 1964

Lieutenant General Robert Whitney Burns was born in Stanley, Wis., in 1908. Following two years at the University of Wisconsin, he entered the Army Air Corps for aviation cadet training at March Field, California, in October 1928.

Upon graduation and receiving his commission as second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve a year later, he was assigned to Selfridge Field, Michigan, as operations and engineering officer of the 17th Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group.

In February 1932, General Burns received his first overseas assignment to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, where he served as operations and training officer for the l9th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group, until November 1934. On return to the United States, he was assigned to Crissy Field, Calif., for a four-month tour.

Until May 1940, General Burns was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where he served as flying instructor, flight commander, and assistant basic stage commander. He was then selected as a technical and tactical advisor with the Air Corps Military Mission to Chile.

In early 1943, General Burns received his first command assignment as commander of the Air Defense Wing at Orlando, Florida.

The command assignment was short-lived. In May 1943, he was again assigned overseas as assistant chief of staff for operations with the 8th Fighter Command in Great Britain and one year later became director of operations for the Eighth Air Force.

He returned to command assignments in January 1945 as commander of the 4th Combat Wing, followed shortly by assignment as commander of the 14th Bombardment Wing (Heavy).

With movement of the Eighth Air Force to Okinawa following cessation of hostilities in Europe, General Burns rejoined his old organization as assistant chief of staff for operations.

Operations in the Pacific also ended during the assignment period and in October 1945, he was assigned to Army Air Force Headquarters as a member of the special board for flying pay. He transferred to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel at Army Air Force Headquarters in January 1946, and five months later became chief of the Military Personnel Division.

With establishment of the Air Force as a separate service, General Burns was named assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel and administration at U.S. Air Force Headquarters.

In May 1948, he again joined the Eighth Air Force at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, as Chief of Staff. Six months later he moved into the same staff position with Air Training Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Within Air Training Command, after headquarters was moved from Barksdale Air Force Base to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, General Burns served as vice commander.

In June 1951, he returned to U.S. Air Force Headquarters as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations until his nomination as U.S. Air Force assistant vice chief of staff in May 1953.

After six years within U.S. Air Force Headquarters, he took command of the Air Proving Ground which later merged with the Air Force Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. With the merger, he became commander of the new Air Proving Ground Center.

In August 1958, he assumed command of the Fifth Air Force and U.S. Forces, Japan, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Command responsibilities in this position extended over that area covering most of the Pacific lying adjacent to the Asian land mass.

In July 1961, General Burns became chairman,  Inter-American Defense Board, Washington, D.C. Concurrently with this duty, he was assigned as senior Air Force member, Military Staff Committee, United Nations.

Assignment to his present position as commander, Air Training Command, became effective August 1, 1963.

General Burns has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, and Commendation Medal. His foreign decorations include the French Croix de Guerre, the Chilean Order of Merit (First Class), the Order of the British Empire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, and Chilean War Pilot Wings.

The General is rated a command pilot and technical observer.


Passed  away  October  16,  2002. She was preceded in death by two husbands, Lieutenant General Robert W. Burns, USAF  (Ret.)  and  Lieutenant General  Carl  Tiny” Jark, USA (Ret.). She is survived by two children, Marsha Burns Dupont and her husband Louis A. Dupont of San Antonio, Texas, and Robert W. Burns, Jr. of Universal City, Texas; four grandchildren, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas N. Glenn, Jr. of Panama City, Florida, Madeline  L.  Dupont  of Toledo, Ohio, Caroline Burns Stout of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Gwendolyn Miller Dupont  of  Kansas  City,  Kansas; four great-grandchildren, Casey Lynn Stout, Justin Albert Price, Kyle and Alyssa Glenn; and niece, Janet Simkins and husband Ron of Rancho Mirage, California. Graveside services  will  be held on Thursday, November 7 at 2 p.m. in Arlington National Cemetery, where she will be buried alongside General Burns. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made  to  the Army Residence Community Fund, San Antonio, TX; or to the Fort Huachuca, Arizona Museum Society.

NOTE: She was the daughter of Archie Miller, Lietuenant Colonel, United States Army, and Madeline Miller.  They are also buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Sam Russell, United States Army, for this information.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 09/15/1908
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/05/1964


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/30/1912
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/16/2002



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