BOYERTOWN, Pa. - Pennsylvania’s prominence in U.S. Army history and its role in today’s force is well known - from watershed events at Valley Forge and Gettysburg to being the home of the U.S. Army War College and the third-largest Army National Guard in the country.
However, fewer people know that Pennsylvania also holds a special place in the earliest days of the U.S. Air Force.
Gen. Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz, appointed by President Harry Truman as the first U.S. Air Force chief of staff in September 1947, hails from Boyertown, a small town between Philadelphia and Allentown.
Recently, military leaders, veterans and history enthusiasts turned out for the opening of a new museum in Spaatz’s hometown honoring his life and legacy. Among the attendees was Brig. Gen. Michael J. Regan, Pennsylvania Air National Guard commander.
“General Spaatz’s contributions to our heritage as American Airmen are immeasurable,” Regan said. “Airmen across our formation learn about Spaatz as one of the founders of our service who exemplified the core values of integrity, excellence and service, even before they were officially adopted decades later and that Airmen still strive to embody today.”
A 1914 graduate of West Point, Spaatz served in the Army infantry before becoming a pioneer of American aviation.
A veteran of both World Wars, he commanded military units and flew missions around the globe, including shooting down three German Fokker planes over Europe in 1918, commanding the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa in 1942, and supervising the final strategic bombing of Japan by the B-29, including the two atomic bomb missions, as the commander of U.S. Strategic Forces in the Pacific.
Spaatz was also the only general or civilian of equivalent rank at the unconditional surrender of enemy forces at Rheims, Berlin and Tokyo.
“Promoting and preserving Spaatz’s legacy is our goal,” said museum founder and retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Keith Seiwell. “Current and future generations should know of Carl Spaatz’s contribution to the American victory in World War II, and consequently our leadership position in world affairs.”
Additionally, Spaatz commanded the U.S. Army plane Questions Mark to set a world aviation record in January 1929 for sustained flight, when as part of an aerial refueling experiment, it flew for over 150 hours nonstop.
“It is exciting to recognize that the story of this distinguished Air Force leader starts in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania,” Regan said. “It underscores that no matter where you are from, you can make history, and it excites me to imagine where our future leaders will come from and what their stories will be.”
In addition to the new museum, there is a Spaatz historical marker and a portion of Route 562 in Boyertown is designated the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Memorial Highway.