Sept. 30, 1960: The Last of the Great Parades

  • Published
  • By Andy Stephens
  • 11th Wing Historian
In 1960, on Sept. 30, Gen. Nathan Farragut Twining retired from his term as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bolling has never hosted a retirement as large since General Twining's. Flying overhead at an altitude of 800 feet were six groups of four airplanes each, representing the newest aircraft in the DOD inventory; F-100 "Super Sabers," Navy A4D "Sky Raiders," F-101 "Voodoos," Marine F-8U "Crusaders," F-105 "Thunderchiefs," and F-106 "Delta Darts."

A bigger show was on the ground below. On runway 28, 500 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines passed a reviewing stand in a near endless line of formations that marched for hours. Joining General Twining on the reviewing stand were Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Army Chief of Staff; Adm. Arleigh A. Burke, Chief of naval operations; Gen. David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Gen. Thomas D. White, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. Each of those names has a well-deserved place in history. So too did General Twining.

To the lieutenant on the street or the major at his or her desk, the idea of rising to the position of senior officer in the entire DOD must seem like a daydream, but General Twining's history speaks of a man of will who remade his own reality. He began his career as an enlistee in the Army, assigned to patrol the U.S./Mexican border in 1916 and eventually received an appointment through the Oregon National Guard to West Point two years later. After graduating in 1918, he spent the next five years in the Army's infantry before he began air training in August 1923, eventually becoming an instructor.

But General Twining took on additional challenges and duties, expanding his abilities and knowledge of military airpower. As an example, after he joined the 18th Pursuit Group, he served successively as adjutant, personnel officer, headquarters detachment commander, and commanding officer of the 26th Attack Squadron. By becoming familiar with airpower's evolving role, he knew what was needed and stepped up when opportunity came knocking.

In August 1940, General Twining came to Bolling Field as the assistant chief of the Inspection Division. Three months later, he became chief of his office and joined the Operations Division in December 1941 and within six months was appointed director of War Organization and Movements. In this position, General Twining was able to apply his broad knowledge of modern airpower and was recognized for this prowess with an assignment to the South Pacific. On July 25, 1943, he was placed in tactical control of all Army, Navy, Marine and Allied Air Forces in the Pacific. He was now commander of one of the first Joint Air Commands in U.S. history.

In November of that year, General Twining was in Europe, commanding the 15th Air Force. Two months later, in addition to his other duties, he became commander of Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Forces. On Aug. 2, 1945, he was made commander of the 20th Air Force in the Pacific; within days of his appointment his command dropped the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

All the command experience made General Twining a strong candidate for the role of Air Force chief of staff, which he was named on June 30, 1953. Consistent with the pace of his career and making use of his extensive joint command experience, he became chairman of the joint chiefs four years later.

In reflection of his military career, of all his accomplishments and his will of steel, General Twining was honored at his retirement by all branches of the armed forces. He had served 44 years, covering two world wars and the Korean Conflict.

This was the last of the great parades at Bolling. Less than two years after, Bolling's runways were closed, never to re-open. Eventually, the runways that supported WWII missions worldwide were buried and became the foundations for homes, offices and on-base businesses.