Momeyer, William M.
33rd Fighter Group commander in WW II opposed allowing Tuskegee Airmen in combat, led 7th Air Force and Tactical Command in Vietnam, Deputy Commander of MACV for Air Operations
Autograph ID: 6754
Condition: Very good, docketing at top right.
Description: “(1916-2012) USAF pilot and general, led 7th Air Force and the Tactical Air Command (TAC) in Vietnam and Deputy Commander of Military Assistance Command (MACV) for air operations, responsible for “Operation Rolling Thunder”. He was controversial for racial intolerance in WW II when, as a fighter group commander, he recommended the 99th Fighter Squadron, a segregated African-American unit in his command, be removed from combat. The controversy reached the highest levels of the Army Air Forces, widely reported in the press, resulting in exculpation of the “Tuskegee Airmen”. Commissioned a 2nd lieut. and pilot in 1938, in Feb. 1941, he was Military Observer for Air with the Military Attaché in Cairo, equipping the RAF’s 1st squadrons in the Western Desert Air Force with Curtiss Tomahawk fighters, and flew combat missions. Early in 1942, Momyer became CO of the 33rd Fighter Group sent to No. Africa for Operation Torch. Launching from an aircraft carrier, the group attempted landing at Port Lyautey airfield in French Morocco, still under occasional fire. Momyer received the Silver Star for removing a trapped pilot from a P-40 that flipped onto its back. From Algeria & Tunisia he led the 33rd in the Tunisia, Sicily and Naples-Foggia campaigns, awarded the DSC and 2 oak leaf clusters to his Silver Star. While leading an attack near El Guettar, he engaged 18 Stukas on 31 March 1943, and had 4 confirmed kills, becoming an ace with 8 victories. In the initial campaign to drive Axis forces from Tunisia where the Luftwaffe had air superiority, the understrength 33rd had the burden of air support. After Axis forces surrendered in No. Africa, Allied air forces prepared to invade Sicily. The 33rd began fighter-bomber attacks on Pantelleria on 29 May with the segregated 99th Fighter Sqdn. (the “Tuskegee Airmen”), which flew its 1st combat mission on June 2. After Pantelleria’s surrender, the 33rd began attacks on Sicily, invaded in July, the 99th sent to another group. In Sept. 1943, the 99th was again attached to the 33rd. Momyer wanted it removed from operations and given coastal patrol duties alleging it was ineffective in combat because “…they have failed to display the aggressiveness and desire for combat…necessary to a first-class fighting organization.” Press reports that the AAF might downgrade the 99th’s combat role led to review by the War Dept.’s Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies in which Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. defended his former command. The 99th stayed in combat with the African-American 332nd FG. He was replaced in Oct. 1943 with no other combat command for the rest of the war. In March 1955 he went to Korea establishing the 314th Air Div., commanding Air Force units there. He retired in 1973.
TLS as General USAF (Ret.) on 8 ½ x 7 4-star letterhead, March 10 1980, to Major General DeWitt C. Smith Jr., Commandant, Army War College. Momeyer suggest date for a presentation, has enjoyed discussions with AWC students over the years, adding: “The give and take in probing military problems of strategy and operations is not only intellectually healthy, but is productive in reaching better solutions.” Momeyer is sure this discussion will be as engaging as previous ones have been.
DeWITT C. SMITH,JR. (1920 -1985) US Army officer, former deputy Army Chief of Staff, twice (and longest-serving) Army War College commandant 1974 -77, 1978-80. In 1942, he joined the US Army and commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, served with the 4th Armored Div. in combat after Normandy to the end of the War. He was wounded 3 times and awarded the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars for Valor, and 3 Purple Hearts. Discharged in 1946, he returned to active duty for the Korean War and stayed in the military. He was an aide to Chief of Staff Gen. Maxwell Taylor, served in the “Old Guard” at Fort Myer, and was a battalion executive officer and commander in Germany. He served at the Pentagon before going to the Army War College. He commanded a combat brigade of the 1st Infantry Div. in Vietnam. In 1970, under his leadership, Fort Carson, Colo. was made an initial test site for the modern volunteer Army concept. After his stints at the War College, he retired in 1980″