Military Wiki
George Scratchley Brown
General George S. Brown
Born (1918-08-17)17 August 1918
Died 5 December 1978(1978-12-05) (aged 60)
Place of birth Montclair, New Jersey
Place of death Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Years of service 1941–1978
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Service number O-24021
Commands held Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Bronze Star
Air Medal (4)
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Croix de guerre (France)
Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)

George Scratchley Brown (17 August 1918 – 5 December 1978) was a United States Air Force general who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he served as the senior military adviser to the President of the United States, the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense. Through the commanders of the unified and specified commands, he was also responsible for executing the decisions of the National Command Authorities regarding worldwide readiness and employment of combat forces of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Early life

George Scratchley Brown was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on 17 August 1918, the son of Thoburn Kaye Brown, an Army officer who had graduated with the West Point class of 1913, and his wife Francis Katherine née Scratchley. As an Army brat, Brown lived in a succession of different towns and military bases. He was an Eagle Scout, and played on the American football varsity team as a freshman at Fort Brown, Texas. He later was a fullback during his junior and senior years at Immaculata High School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was an all-league in the Catholic high school interstate league.[1]

Both Brown and his younger brother Tim set their sights on attending West Point, but their father advised taking a year of college first. Therefore, after graduating from high school in 1936, Brown enrolled in engineering at the University of Missouri where he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon. A fine horseman, he played polo. He also enlisted in the 128th Field Artillery Battalion of the Missouri National Guard, rising to the rank of corporal. His father was able to secure a congressional appointment to the United States Military Academy from Kansas for him, and Brown entered on 1 July 1937.[2]

At West Point, Brown once again played polo, and was captain of the team in his senior year, when the West Point team lost in the final to Princeton University. In that year he was also cadet captain and regimental adjutant. He would have liked to have joined the cavalry on graduation like his father, but his standing as 342nd in his class was too low for an appointment to the cavalry. Instead, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry on graduation on 11 June 1941. However, he volunteered for Air Corps training.[3][4] At West Point he met Alice (Skip) Calhoun. An Army brat like himself, Alice met George at a party her father had thrown for the sons of the graduates of the class of 1913. George and Alice dated for over a year, [5] and were married in 1942. Their marriage produced three children, two boys and a girl.[6]

World War II

Brown commenced his basic flight training in Fairchild PT-19s at Pine Bluff, Arkansas on 20 August 1941. He then went to Randolph Field, Texas, for the second phase of his training. The third and final phase was completed at Kelly Field, Texas, where he received his pilot's wings on 7 March 1942.[7] He officially transferred to the Air Corps on 4 April, and was promoted to first lieutenant on 18 June.[4] His first assignment after flight training was at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where, as a member of the 344th Bombardment Squadron of the 93d Bombardment Group, he flew Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Moving with the organization to Fort Myers, Florida, he flew both antisubmarine patrol and conventional bomber training aircraft.[8]

B-24s leaving Ploiești through flak and smoke

In August 1942 he flew with the 93d Bombardment Group to England, where it became the first B-24 group to join the Eighth Air Force. He served in various positions with the group, including commander of the 329th Bombardment Squadron, group operations officer and group executive officer.[8] He was promoted to captain on 20 October, major on 13 February 1943, and lieutenant colonel on 27 August 1943. High casualties and the rapid expansion of the Air Force paved the way for fast promotion, which Brown's superiors felt was deserved due to his outstanding performance in combat and leadership skills. Perhaps no one was as surprised at his rapid advance in rank as his father, now a brigadier general,[9] who was serving in North Africa at the time Brown arrived there with the 93d Bombardment Group when it was temporarily detached from the Eighth Air Force. The elder Brown wanted to know "What's a young whippersnapper like you doing as a colonel?!"[10]

It was as executive officer that he took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the low-level bombing raid against oil refineries at Ploieşti, Romania, on 1 August 1943. The 93d Bombardment Group was the second of five B-24 groups that raided Ploieşti from a temporary base at Benghazi, Libya. It flew directly into heavy defenses to attack three of the six target refineries. The lead plane, flown by the group commander, Lieutenant Colonel Addison Baker, was shot down. Brown took over the command of the battered 93d and led it through the attack on the target and the journey back to Benghazi. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on that mission.[8] For his services in combat in the skies over Europe, he was also awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, the French Croix de guerre with palm and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.[4]

Brown was appointed assistant operations officer, 2d Air Division on 8 April 1944. He was promoted to colonel on 1 October 1944.[4] Having completed the required 25 missions, he was rotated back to the United States on 9 November 1944.[11] Alice was shocked to discover "that guy of mine had in fact requested another overseas assignment. He was so gung ho that he had come home, checked on me, and without my knowing it, put in to go back for another tour."[10] However, the Air Force turned down the request. On 27 January 1945, Brown became Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff A-3 with the Air Training Command at Fort Worth, Texas.[4]

Cold War

In February 1946, Brown was posted to the Operations Division of the Air Training Command at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where he served under Major General Alvin C. Kincaid and his Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Brigadier General Thomas C. Darcy. For the first time, Brown received a mediocre effectiveness report.[12] In December 1946 he joined Headquarters Air Defense Command at Mitchel Field, New York, as assistant to Air Chief of Staff, Operations, and later as chief of its ROTC branch. On 1 July 1947 he became assistant deputy for operations.[13]

Brown became commander of the 62d Troop Carrier Group at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, on 17 July 1950. This group operated Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar aircraft between the West Coast and Japan. With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, this mission acquired great importance.[14] In July 1951 he assumed command of the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan, part of the Air Defense Command, although he had never flown fighters before. He learned to fly the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, North American F-86 Sabre and Lockheed F-94 Starfire.[15] On 1 January 1952 Brown became Assistant Director of Operations of the Fifth Air Force in South Korea. He became Director on 15 July 1952.[16]

Brown returned to the United States where he assumed command of the 3525th Pilot Training Wing at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, on 6 June 1953.[17] He entered the National War College in August 1956. It was the first and only service school he attended after graduating from West Point. After graduation in June 1957,[18] he served as executive to the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Thomas D. White.[19] Brown was promoted to brigadier general in August 1959.[8] He was selected to be military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Thomas S. Gates Jr., and then to the new Secretary of Defense, Robert MacNamara, with the rank of major general.[20]

Brown became commander of the Eastern Transport Air Force at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, in August 1963.[8] In September 1964, he was selected to organize and command Joint Task Force 2, a Joint Chiefs of Staff unit formed at Sandia Base, New Mexico, to the test weapon systems of all the military services in order to avoid wasteful duplication of effort. It was staffed by personnel of all three services.[21] In May 1966 he became the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler, on the recommendation of his predecessor in the role, Lieutenant General Andrew Goodpaster. Brown was promoted to the same rank on 1 August 1966.[22] The preoccupation of the Joint Chiefs at this time was the Vietnam War, but he was also involved in the handling of the Pueblo crisis.[23]

On 1 August 1968, Brown assumed command of the Seventh Air Force and also became deputy commander for air operations, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, with the rank of general.[24] As Seventh Air Force Commander, he was responsible for all Air Force combat air strike, air support and air defense operations in Southeast Asia. In his MACV position, he advised on all matters pertaining to tactical air support and coordinated the Republic of Vietnam and United States air operations in the MACV area of responsibility.[25] According to Goodpaster, Brown and MACV commander General Creighton Abrams "were like two brothers".[26] General George F. Keegan felt that:

[Brown's] relationship with General Abrams was the finest between a ground theater commander and his air subordinate that I have seen since 1941. There was complete trust, rapport, an end to gamesmanship between one service and another. It was clear from the outset that Abrams understood finally that in George Brown he had a personal friend whose life and resources were wholly committed to fulfilling the theater job and responsibility that Abrams had upon his shoulders.[26]

Brown's tour of Vietnam ended in September 1970, and he became Commander, Air Force Systems Command, with headquarters at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.[8] This job involved handling a number of troublesome projects, including the F-111.[27]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later life

Brown and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller listen to a briefing on the evacuation of Saigon, 28 April 1975

On the recommendation of the Secretary of the Air Force, Robert Seamans, President Richard Nixon appointed Brown to be Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, effective 1 August 1973.[28] When the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 broke out in October 1973, Brown realized that the Israeli Air Force would quickly run short of consumables like bombs and ammunition. Without waiting for approval from the Secretary of Defense, he ordered two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms with Electronic Counter Measures capability be delivered to Israel, along with 100,000 tons of bombs and ammunition. Keegan believed that without Brown, "the supplies would never have reached Israel."[29]

However, he did not remain Chief of Staff for long. He was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff effective 1 July 1974.[6] As Chairman, Brown was responsible for the handling of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974,[30] and the Mayaguez incident, the final act of the war in Vietnam in 1975. He also dealt with the 1976 shootings and Axe Murder Incident in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and oversaw the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977.[8]

During his term as chairman, Brown commented on two occasions – firstly to a Duke University audience in October 1974, and then to a French reporter in 1976 – that Israel was becoming a burden to The Pentagon and that he believed the reason for continual military aid was due to Jews having control over America's banks, newspapers and elected officials. His exact words were:

It's so strong you wouldn't believe now. We have the Israelis coming to us for equipment. We say we can't possibly get the Congress to support that. They say, 'Don't worry about the Congress. We will take care of the Congress.' Now this is somebody from another country, but they can do it. They own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is.[31]

Brown's comments at Duke and subsequent reprimand by President Gerald Ford were reported on the front page of The Washington Post on 13 and 14 November 1974.[32] There was speculation that Brown would be asked to resign, or at least not be nominated for a second two-year term; but he was renominated and went on to serve under the new president, Jimmy Carter.[33]

Brown was known for the directness of his speech, which sometimes offended those around him. Asked to comment in an interview for Newsweek on his opinion of the British Armed Forces, Brown replied, "They're no longer a world power. All they've got are generals, admirals and bands."[34] Reaction in Britain was mixed. Some, like Lord Allenby condemned Brown's remarks, while others, like Lord Monckton acknowledged the truth of the remarks.[35] Brown also said that Israel was a "burden" to the United States, and predicted that Iran would become an important military power in the Middle East.[36]

Brown was diagnosed with prostate cancer and retired due to ill health on 21 June 1978. He died at the Malcolm Grow Air Force Hospital at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on 5 December 1978, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, not far from Creighton Abrams. He was survived by his wife and three children.[6]


  1. Puryear 1983, pp. 3–6.
  2. Puryear 1983, pp. 6–7.
  3. Puryear 1983, pp. 13–18.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Cullum 1950, p. 1147.
  5. Puryear 1983, pp. 13–14, 69.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "George Scratchley Brown , General, United States Air Force". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  7. Puryear 1983, pp. 20–22.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 "General George S. Brown". United States Air Force. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  9. Cullum 1950, p. 169.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Puryear 1983, p. 42.
  11. Puryear 1983, p. 36.
  12. Puryear 1983, pp. 42–44.
  13. Puryear 1983, p. 48.
  14. Puryear 1983, pp. 53–57.
  15. Puryear 1983, pp. 58–65.
  16. Puryear 1983, pp. 71–72.
  17. Puryear 1983, p. 85.
  18. Puryear 1983, p. 97.
  19. Puryear 1983, p. 102.
  20. Puryear 1983, pp. 112–116.
  21. Puryear 1983, pp. 132–133.
  22. Puryear 1983, p. 151.
  23. Puryear 1983, pp. 158–159.
  24. Puryear 1983, pp. 164–165.
  25. "Major General John Daniel Lavelle". United States Air Force. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 Puryear 1983, p. 183.
  27. Puryear 1983, p. 196.
  28. Puryear 1983, pp. 205–206.
  29. Puryear 1983, pp. 222–223, 252.
  30. Puryear 1983, p. 257.
  31. "Brown's Bomb". 25 November 1974.,9171,943064-1,00.html. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  32. Puryear 1983, pp. 246–251.
  33. Puryear 1983, p. 256.
  34. Puryear 1983, p. 265.
  35. Puryear 1983, p. 267.
  36. Puryear 1983, p. 263.


Military offices
Preceded by
John Dale Ryan
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
David C. Jones
Preceded by
Thomas H. Moorer
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
David C. Jones

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