Brigadier General Jack C. Ledford was commander of the 12th
Strategic Aerospace Division, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
General Ledford was born in 1920, at Blairsville, Ga. He graduated from
Massanutten Military Academy, Woodstock, Va., in 1938, and attended Ohio State
University, majoring in physics. He entered Army Air Corps aviation cadet
training and upon graduation in October 1941 was commissioned as a second
lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.
His first assignment was as flying instructor and flight commander at Goodfellow
Field, Texas, prior to entering B-24 transition training. Six months later he
became one of the first B-29 pilots when he joined the 45th Bombardment Squadron
of the 40th Bombardment Group at Pratt, Kan.
He went overseas with the 40th Group, flew 21 combat missions in the
Asiatic-Pacific Theater, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Air
Medal. He became assistant group operations officer before returning to the
United States in May 1945.
In 1945 General Ledford graduated with honors from the Army Command and General
Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and remained there as an instructor. In
June 1946 he was transferred to Tyndall Field, Fla., serving as an instructor,
and finally as a section chief in the Tactics Division at the Air Tactical
School. During this time he attended Ohio State University and earned a bachelor
of science degree.
General Ledford then began a series of assignments with the Strategic Air
Command at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. He was a 7th Bombardment Wing
operations and training staff officer before becoming a B-36 instructor pilot
and executive officer with the 26th Bombardment Squadron, 11th Bombardment
Group. He became chief of the Plans Section, Director of Plans, Eighth Air
Force, in December 1950.
This was followed by duty at Sandia Base, N.M., first as officer in charge of
the Bomber Commander's School and later leading the Special Weapons Unit
Training Group of the same organization.
After a tour as special weapons adviser for British Royal Air Force units in
Germany, he became commander of Etain Air Base, France, in September 1956. His
final assignment in Europe was as director of materiel, 49th Fighter-Bomber
Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
In August 1958 General Ledford was assigned as deputy chief of staff for weapons
effects and tests, Headquarters Defense Atomic Support Agency, Washington, D.C.
He left this position in 1961 to attend the Industrial College of the Armed
Forces, graduating with distinction in August 1962. During his Washington tour
of duty he earned a master of business administration in management from The
George Washington University.
In September 1962 he was assigned as an air commander with the 1040th U.S. Air
Force Field Activity Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., and
then became director of special projects, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. He was
Director of the Office of Special Activities, DD/S&T for Project Oxcart at
Area 51. In this position he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
General Ledford was Director of Inspection, U.S. Air Force, Norton Air Force
Base, Calif., from August 1966 to July 1968. As one of the three directors
assigned to the deputy inspector general for inspection and safety, he was
responsible for monitoring the combat readiness and management efficiency of the
U.S. Air Force. He received the Legion of Merit for his work in the Inspector
General Ledford assumed command of the 12th Strategic Aerospace Division, Davis-Monthan
Air Force Base, Ariz., in July 1968.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal,
Legion of Merit and Air Medal, his military decorations include the Air Force
Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, the Cravat Medal of Cloud and Banner (China),
and the Special Breast Order of Yun Hui (China). A command pilot, he also wears
the Senior Missileman Badge.
If we Roadrunners had a flag, it would be flying at half-staff
this month as we mourn the sudden death of Brigadier General Jack Ledford. Our
hearts and prayers go out to the General's wife Polly and family. General
Ledford's memorial service, in Tucson, was held on Saturday, December 8th, 2007
at 2:00 PM. Address: St Philip's in the Hills Parish, 4440 North Campbell Avenue
/ at River Road, P.O. Box 65840, Tucson, AZ.
To a lot of us Roadrunners, General Ledford was a World War II hero and the
Director of the Office of Special Activities, DD/S&T during Project Oxcart
and Operation Blackshield. At the Area it was not unusual for the General to
join and visit with the enlisted personnel during meals at the mess hall. To
some, the General was much, much more. Some of these special feelings have
surfaced since the General's death. In keeping with the mission of the
Roadrunners, i.e. recording our Cold War legacy, these comments are worthy of
being shared with the rest of you.
CIA: "We hope that General Ledford knew that the A-12 came home....we wish
he could have been here with us in Sept."
Dr. Bud Wheelon, DDS&T during Project Oxcart and Operation Blackshield:
"Jack was flying B29's out of India where LeMay and Blanchard first took
the unit (I believe that Tinnian was not yet available). Returning from a Japan
bombing run Jack and his crew were shot down over China. He was badly wounded in
his side, for which he received the Purple Heart. Fortunately they came down in
an area controlled by Chinese irregulars who carried Jack on a litter for almost
one week. They finally got to a place that was relatively secure and found an
old school bus, but no gasoline. There was however a large cache of Kaoliang,
which worked just fine in, the bus and they finally drove to a China base, where
Jack was evacuated to India. For this and other leadership qualities, Jack was
given the DFC. When Jack was newly assigned to CIA and led OSA in 1962 (about
the same time I showed up at CIA) he was the one who took the request to the
Special Group to get authorization for the 14 October 1962 flight over Cuba. He
met stiff resistance but held his ground against the "do-nothing, worry a
lot crowd" that were apprehensive because a SAC U-2 had strayed slightly
over Russia and we had lost a CIA U-2 over China that summer. Interestingly
enough, Bobby Kennedy came to his rescue and insisted that they vote up or down
--- and the mission was approved. This was the mission that caught the Russian
missiles in Cuba and the rest was history. When Mel had to bail out on takeoff
Jack and I immediately flew to Los Angeles and picked up Kelly en route to Area
51. On the way up Kelly started bitching bout the quality of our operational
pilots. Jack took issue and I had to break up a fistfight in the plane's small
cabin. Jack always stood up for his people and for good reason. We all
learned soon enough that Kelly's people had put the two augmentation rate
gyros in backwards on Mel's plane."
Lt. Col. Michael R. Weeks, USAF (Ret) says: I recently received a group of family pictures from the WW II era. Some were of my great uncle, Bill Cadle. Bill was an instructor pilot during WW II and was killed in a training accident. Among the pictures I received was an autographed picture of his instructor pilot, Jack Ledford. Out of curiosity, I did an internet search on the name and found the bio of Jack Ledford on the Roadrunners Internationale website. The inscription reads “Good luck to a good student, Jack Ledford”.
Jude BK Pao, M/G ROC AF Ret from Taipei, Taiwan. "I am extremely sorry to
hear, from Roadrunners Internationale, the loss of the late General Jack C.
Ledford. I was General Ledford's friend from Taiwan, the Republic of China air
force since the early sixties." He was a great man with great personality.
My sincerest sympathy to Polly and family.
B/G Dennis Sullivan, A-12 Project Pilot: "I am very sorry to learn of
General Ledford's death. He was a great friend to all of the pilots and did me
a great favor by letting me move to Las Vegas about halfway through the program.
The L.A. smog was getting to me and he told me to move which I did. He was a
great help to all the pilots and we could not have had a better person looking
Col. Hugh Slater, commander of the 1129th SAS: "I first met General Ledford
when I was been interviewed for assignment to the Central Intelligence Agency
for an unknown overseas assignment. After several trips to Langley and various
tests and security screening I was told I was being assigned to Taiwan and the
Chinese Nationalist U-2 program. With a stop at Edwards AFB and the Agency's
North Base I was checked out and had four flights in the U-2. Jack Ledford
visited the U-2 unit in Taiwan and was a favorite with the Chinese and always
set an example for all. He was the one who told me I could have the job at the
Area if I desired. Who wouldn't take that . . ." Slip
Col. Ken Collins, A-12 Project Pilot: "We have lost a genuine patriot and a
great leader of men. Jack and I have been close friends for 45 years. When Jack
and Polly were married it was in our parish church and their reception was in our
home. I could say lots more, but this is a real loss for us."
Col. Frank Murray, A-12 Project Pilot: "Sorry to hear of the passing of Gen
Jack Ledford. He was my sponsor in the OXCART program, seeing that I got to be a
Project Pilot selected from inside the organization. All the others were
selected by a lengthy way of getting people for a mission. General Jack Ledford
was one of the first USAAF guys to fly combat missions against Japan in the
B-29. He flew from bases in China and bombed Japan, and then went on to land at
Tinnian. These were the first B-29 missions against Japan. When General Ledford
first started visiting the Area he expressed a desire to fly the F-101. I was
one of the resident Instructor Pilots on the F-101. They (Slater I think)
assigned me to be his IP. So I started his schooling on the F-101 systems and
flew with him on his training missions. He was a good pilot and had no trouble
with the F-101. On many occasions he would show up at the Area for a couple days
and decide he wanted to fly back to Andrews at night. So I was the chosen one to
play IP while he flew home to the CIA. He would get on the horn with a friend of
his that was the Air Division CO at Blytheville, AR. His buddy would arrange to
have a tanker around to give us some gas and we would make it non-stop from the
Area to Andrews. On some of these flights we discussed whether I should be or
want to be an OXCART pilot. I told him "put me in that briar patch."
He said he would look into it..... You know the rest of the story.... He thought
I was a damned good pilot and should have the chance to fly the fastest airplane
the country had. I have not had many sponsors, but Jack Ledford sure was one, -
Slippery Slater another.... Nice to have friends like that........."
Chris Pocock, British author, 50 YEARS OF THE U-2: "I had the honour to
meet Jack and his gracious wife Polly on three occasions. Twice at the
Roadrunners Reunions, and finally at the Ledford residence in the foothills of
Tucson, AZ. He was a pleasure to interview: careful in his recollections,
anxious to ensure accuracy, and modest about his own achievements. Jack and
Polly were also delightful hosts, and I recall with pleasure the splendid lunch
that we shared at his club nearby to the house. In my book on the history of the
U- 2 aircraft, he is mentioned nine separate times in the narrative. This is an
indication of his importance to that program. Shortly after he became director
of the CIA's Office of Special Activities (OSA) in 1962, the Cuba Missile Crisis
erupted. Jack's sage and practical advice to the policy-makers ensured that
inter-agency rivalries in Washington did not delay the vital reconnaissance
missions that discovered the missiles. During Jack's subsequent four-year tenure
at the OSA, there were other occasions when his political skills were tested,
just as much as his skills as an airman! Of course, during those years he played
a key role in the introduction of the OXCART, the first of the fantastic
Blackbird series. And I know that the rest of his Air Force career was also
noteworthy. I am truly sorry to hear of his passing, and express my sincere
condolences to Polly and the rest of the Ledford family."