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Cherokee County WWII War Stories


BIOGRAPHY OF GENERAL JOHN D. RYAN, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE - General John Dale Ryan was born in Cherokee, IA, Dec 10, 1915, the son of E. T. Ryan & Mabel C. Ryan (both deceased).  He graduated from Wilson High School, Cherokee, IA in 1932.  Following graduation from Cherokee Junior College in 1934; he entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, from which he graduated in 1938.  He next attended flying Primary and Advanced Flying Schools at Randolph and Kelly Fields, TX and received his pilot wings in 1939.

General Ryan remained at Kelly Field as a flight instructor for approximately two years.  From Jan 1942 until Aug 1943, he was Director of training at Midland Army Air Field, Texas and was instrumental in establishing an advanced bombardier training school.  His next assignment was a operations officer for the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, CO.  In February 1944 he was transferred to Italy, where he commanded the 2nd Bombardment Group and later became operations officer for the 5th Bombardment Wing, fifteenth Air Force.

He returned to the United States in April 1945 and became Deputy Air Base Commander, Midland Army Air Field, TX.  In September 1945 he was assigned to the Air Training Command (ATC) at Fort Worth and Randolph Field, TX where he remained until April 1946 when he assumed duties with the 58th Bombardment Wing and participated in the Bikini Atoll atomic weapons tests.  From September 1946 to July 1948, he was Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans of the 58th Bombardment Wing and then Eighth Air Force Director of Operations.  For the next three years, he commanded the 509th Bombardment Wing at Walker Air Force Base, NM.  Between July 1951 and June 1956, General Ryan commanded the 97th Bombardment Wing and the 810th air DIvision, both at Biggs Air Force Base, TX and the 19th Air DIvision at Carswell Air Force Base, TX.

General Ryan became Director of Material for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in June 1956, and four years later assumed command of SAC's Sixteenth Air Force in Spain.  In July 1961, he was named Commander of the Second Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA.

In August 1963, General Ryan was assigned to the Pentagon as Inspector General for the U. S. Air Force.  One year later he was name Vice Commander in Chief of Strategic Air Command, and in December 1964 became Commander in Chief.  He was assigned as Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces, in February 1967.

General Ryan was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in August 1968, and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in August 1969.

His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force Ddesign) with three oak leaf clusters; Distinguished Service Medal (Army design); Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster; Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster; Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters; Purple Heart; French Crois de Guerre with Palm; Chinese Order of the Cloud and Banner, 1st Class with Grand Cordon, and 2nd Class; Korean National Security Merit First Class; the Vietnamese National Order of Vietnam/Commander and Gallantry Cross with Palm; Grand Cross, Royal Order of Phoenix (Greece); and Grand Cross of Aeronautical Merit (Spain).  In July 1971 General Ryan became the first foreign dignitary to receive the Golden Wings of  the Phillipine Air Force.  Additional foreign decorations are Chilean Military Star of the Armed Forces, Class of Great Star for Military Merit; French Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander; and the Brazilian Order of Aeronautical Merit, Degree of Grand Official.

In December 1962 he joined a select group of athletes, who have been successful in their professional careers since their college footballs days, when he was chosen a member of the Sports Illustrated Silver Anniversary All - American team.

He received an honorary ddoctor of laws degree from Creighton University, Omaha, NE on May 30, 1966; and an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Akron, Ohio on June 5, 1967.

General Ryan married the former Jo Carolyn Guidera of San Antonio, TX on August 26, 1939.  They have a son, Captain Michael E., USAF and a daughter Patricia Jo.  A second son, Captain John D. Jr., USAF, was killed in January 1970 when his F-4D crashed on takeoff.

General Ryan retired in 1973 after serving thirty-nine years in the Military.

 Source: Cherokee County Historical Society Newsletter, Vol 15, Num 2, Feb 1980, Sec VI, Pg 10

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