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Thomas D. White Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: circa 1970

Biographical History

Thomas D. White (1901-1965) was an American Air Force officer and Air Force Chief of Staff, 1957-1961. He retired from the military in 1961 with the rank of General.

Born at Walker, Minnesota, August 6, 190, he graduated from St. John's Military Academy, Delafield, Wisconsin, and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduation from the Academy in 1920, he entered the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and in July, 1921, went to the Panama Canal Zone for duty with the 14th Infantry.

Returning to the United States in September, 1924, he entered the Air Service Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas. Upon completion of the course, he transferred to the Air Service Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, from which he was graduated in September, 1925. He then joined the 99th Observation Squadron at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C.

In March, 1927, he transferred from the Infantry to the Air Corps and was assigned to the Military Attaches' office in Peking, China. He returned to his duties at Bolling in March, 1931, and was assigned to Moscow, Russia, as Assistant Military Attache. A year later, he became Assistant Military Attache to Italy and Greece.

White returned to the United States in May, 1937, to enter the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, and upon graduation in September, 1938, entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Following completion of the course in June, 1939 he was assigned to the office of the Chief of Air Corps in Washington.

In April, 1940, he became Military Attache at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the following August was named Chief of the U.S. Military Air Mission to Brazil. It was during this time that General White developed his interest in ichthyological research.

Returning to the United States in March, 1942, he became Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the Third Air Force and subsequently was appointed Chief of Staff. In January, 1944, he was named Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Intelligence at American Air Force headquarters in Washington.

In September, 1944, White was assigned to the South Pacific as Deputy Commander of the 13th Air Force. In this capacity he served in the New Guinea and Southern Philippines campaigns, and participated in the assaults in Palawan, Zamboanga, in the Philippines, and Tarakan, Borneo. During the latter operation he was temporarily in command of the 13th Air Force.

In June 1945, as commanding general of the Seventh Air Force, General White established it as a component of General George C. Kenney's Far East Air Forces. The Seventh, then on Okinawa, engaged in the air assault on Japan and was charged, in addition, with the air defense of the Ryukyus. General White was transferred with the Seventh Air Force to the Hawaiian Islands, in January, 1946, and the following October was appointed Chief of Staff of the Pacific Air Command in Tokyo, Japan, which was redesignated the Far East Air Forces in January, 1947.

In January, 1948, White became Commanding General of the Fifth Air Force in Japan, and the following October he returned to the United States to become director of Legislation and Liaison in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. General White contributed greatly to the Air Force programs by defending before Congress the position of the Air Force during this period. His success on this assignment was due in a great measure to the various diplomatic and political friendships gained throughout his numerous tours of duty abroad and in Washington.

In May, 1950, White was appointed Air Force member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In November, he became Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Air Force Headquarters. The following February he was appointed Director of Plans Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. In July, 1951, General White was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.

General White received his four-star commission in 1953, and was assigned to duty as Vice Chief of Staff, USAF, Pentagon. He continued in this assignment until 1957, at which time he was appointed Chief of Staff, USAF, by President Eisenhower.

In 1961, General White retired from the Air Force, but he continued as a military analyst and became a member of the boards of directors for various corporations, such as Eastern Air Lines, and Aeronca Manufacturing Corporation. He was also a member of the General Advisory Committee of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and a contributing editor of Newsweek magazine.

General White was married to the former Constance Rowe. He died in December, 1965.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Thomas D. White Papers consist of communications, memorabilia, and personal office files.

Communications, 1948 to 1961, consists of correspondence and memoranda. In general, correspondence deals with semi-official military topics, such as Air Force appropriations, budget difficulties, establishment of the Air Force Academy, and congratulatory messages concerning promotions. A substantive portion of correspondence, however, deals with ichthyological research and recreational fishing, two of General White's main interests. Correspondence also includes original indexes, prepared by General White's staff, of incoming and outgoing letters arranged chronologically. Although the indexes are incomplete, they provide abstracts of the subject matter of each indexed letter. A brief list of notable correspondents and the inclusive dates of their correspondence is included at the end of this description. A selective card file index of additional correspondence may he found in the "Finding Aids" file under General White's name. Memoranda includes interdepartmental communications, mainly dealing with questions of protocol and temporary duty, assignments.

Memorabilia dates from 1945 to 1954, and includes biographical and miscellaneous printed materials.

Personal office files consist of official forms, public statements, and miscellaneous material dating from 1953 to 1961. Public statements include transcripts of General White's oral explanations of Air Force policy and its relationship to other branches of the armed forces. This section also contains clarification and corrections of the statements by the Departments of Defense and State prior to their release to news agencies. The miscellaneous category consists of various types of material dealing with travel and information on fishing campsites.

Noteworthy correspondents and the inclusive dates of their communications are as follows:

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence and memoranda are arranged chronologically. Remaining material is arranged alphabetically, except for the subset of public statements which are arranged chronologically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has a number of collections relating to military personnel and military history. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Baldwin, Hanson Weightman, 1903-1991.
Bradley, Omar Nelson, 1893-1981.
Bullitt, William C. (William Christian), 1891-1967.
Burke, Arleigh A., 1901-1996.
Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969.
LeMay, Curtis E.
Leach, W. Barton (Walter Barton), 1900-1971.
Lemnitzer, Lyman L. (Lyman Louis), 1899-1988.
Myers, George S. (George Sprague), 1905-1985.
Power, Thomas S. (Thomas Sarsfield), 1905-1970.
Rivers, L. Mendel (Lucius Mendel), 1905-1970.
Robertson, A. Willis (Absalom Willis), 1887-1971.
Spaatz, Carl, 1891-1974.
Symington, Stuart, 1901-1988.
Taylor, Maxwell D. (Maxwell Davenport), 1901-1987.
Thomas, Lowell, 1892-1981.
Twining, Nathan F. (Nathan Farragut), 1897-1982.
White, Thomas D. (Thomas Dresser), 1901-1965.
Wulff, Lee.

Corporate Bodies

United States. -- Air Force, Officers.
United States. -- Air Force.


Aeronautics, Military -- United States.


United States -- History, Military -- 20th century.
United States -- Military policy.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Press releases.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Thomas D. White Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents



Personal office files