Nathan Farragut Twining

Nathan Farragut Twining

General Nathan F. Twining, USAF, (Ret.)
Born (1897-10-11)October 11, 1897
Monroe, Wisconsin
Died March 29, 1982(1982-03-29) (aged 84)
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Forces
 United States Air Force
Years of service 1915–1960
Rank General
Commands held

Nathan Farragut Twining (/ˈtwnɪŋ/ TWY-ning; October 11, 1897  March 29, 1982) was a United States Air Force General, born in Monroe, Wisconsin.[1] He was Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1953 until 1957. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1957 to 1960 he was the first member of the Air Force to serve in that role.

Early life and military career

Nathan Twining came from a military background; his forebears had served in the United States Army and Navy since the French and Indian War. His step-mother was Frances Staver Twining, author of Bird-Watching in the West.[2]

General Twining

In 1913, Twining moved with his family from Monroe, Wisconsin, to Oswego, Oregon. He served in the Oregon National Guard from 1915 to 1917.[2] In 1917, he received an appointment to West Point. Because the program was shortened so as to produce more officers for combat, he spent only two years at the academy and graduated just a few days too late for service in World War I.[3]

After graduating in 1918 and serving in the infantry for three years, arriving in Europe in July 1919, he transferred to the Air Service. Over the next 15 years he flew fighter aircraft in Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii, while also attending the Air Corps Tactical School and the Command and General Staff College. When World War II broke out in Europe he was assigned to the operations division on the Air Staff; then in 1942 he was sent to the South Pacific where he became chief of staff of the Allied air forces in that area.

In January 1943, he was promoted to Major General and assumed command of the Thirteenth Air Force, and that same November he traveled across the world to take over the Fifteenth Air Force from Jimmy Doolittle. On 1 February 1943, the U.S. Navy rescued Brig. Gen. Twining, the 13th Air Force Commander, and 14 others near the New Hebrides. They had ditched their plane on the way from Guadalcanal to Espiritu Santo and spent six days in life rafts.[4] When Germany surrendered, Arnold sent Twining back to the Pacific to command the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force in the last push against Japan, but he was there only a short time when the atomic strikes ended the war. On 20 October 1945, Twining led three B-29s in developing a new route from Guam to Washington via India and Germany. They completed the 13,167-mile-trip in 59 hours, 30 minutes.[4] He returned to the States where he was named commander of the Air Materiel Command, and in 1947 he took over Alaskan Air Command.

After three years there he was set to retire as a Lieutenant General, but when Muir Fairchild, the vice chief of staff, died unexpectedly of a heart attack, Twining was elevated to full General and named his successor.

In 1947, Twining was asked to study UFO reports; he recommended that a formal study of the phenomenon take place; Project Sign was the result. He was alleged to be a member of the secret group known as Majestic 12 (or Majic-12), supposedly created by President Truman to investigate alien spacecraft. Researchers and the FBI concluded it is a hoax.

When General Hoyt Vandenberg retired in mid-1953, Twining was selected as chief; during his tenure, massive retaliation based on airpower became the national strategy.

In 1957, President Eisenhower appointed Twining Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Twining died on March 29, 1982 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Awards and decorations

General Twining held the ratings of Command Pilot and Aircraft Observer. In addition, General Twining was awarded numerous personal decorations from the U.S. military and foreign countries.

US Army Air Forces Command Pilot Badge
US Army Air Forces Aircraft Observer Badge
Width-44 white ribbon with width-10 scarlet stripes at edges, separated from the white by width-2 ultramarine blue stripes.
Army Distinguished Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Navy blue ribbon with central gold stripe Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges. Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 myrtle green ribbon with width-3 white stripes at the edges and five width-1 stripes down the center; the central white stripes are width-2 apart Army Commendation Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
Rainbow ribbon with violet at the outer edges and going down the spectrum to red in the center World War I Victory Medal
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Width-44 yellow ribbon with central width-4 Old Glory blue-white-scarlet stripe. At distance 6 from the edges are width-6 white-scarlet-white stripes.
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver and four bronze service stars
Silver star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with silver and bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes National Defense Service Medal
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
French Legion of Honour, Commandeur Medal
French National Order of Merit, Commandeur Medal
French Croix de Guerre with silver palm
French Legion of Honour, Chevalier Medal
Greek Order of the Phoenix, Silver Cross with Swords
Yugoslavian Order of the Partisan Star with Golden Wreath (I rank)
Polish Gold Cross of Merit with Swords
Military Order of Italy, Knight Grand Cross
Order of the White Elephant, Knight Grand Cordon
South Korean Order of National Security Merit, Gugseon Medal
South Korean Order of Military Merit, Taeguk Cordon
Egyptian Order of Merit (degree unknown)
Aviation Cross (First Class), Republic of Peru (not worn)


National Aviation Hall of Fame (1996)[5]
A city park in Monroe, Wisconsin, Twining's birthplace, and an elementary school on the Air Force base in Grand Forks, North Dakota are named after him.
An extensive amateur astronomy observatory facility located in rural central New Mexico is named after him.[6]


  1. "Birth Record Details". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  2. 1 2 "Cultural Resources Inventory: C.W. Twining House" (PDF). City of Lake Oswego. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  3. "Gen. Nathan F. Twining". United States Air Force. 2007-08-13. Archived from the original on 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  4. 1 2 "History Milestones: Monday, January 01, 1940 - Saturday, December 31, 1949". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 2012-10-20.
  5. "Paul Tibbets, Jr.". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  6. General Nathan Twining Observatory
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nathan F. Twining.
Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. Muir S. Fairchild
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
1953 – 1957
Succeeded by
Gen. Thomas D. White
Preceded by
Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
Gen. Thomas D. White
Preceded by
Adm. Arthur W. Radford
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer
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