General Robert M. Lee 1909-2003.
Born in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, he grew up in Augusta, Maine, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in June 1931. After attending Air Corps Flying Schools at Randolph and Kelly Fields, Texas, General Lee earned his wings in October 1932.
Assigned to the 55th Pursuit Squadron (20th Pursuit Group), at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, he performed pilot and squadron officer duties. In early 1934, he was among the Air Corps pilots who flew the perilous airmail routes in the central zone.
In May 1937 he was assigned to the First Cavalry (Mechanized) at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he commanded detachments guarding gold shipments to the fort. The following year he was assigned to the 12th Observation Squadron, Godman Field, also at Fort Knox. During 1939 and 1940, Lee served as an aide to Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, the "father" of the Armored Force. During this time, Lee helped develop cooperation between air and ground forces. In 1940, Captain Lee attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama. During 1940-1941 he commanded the 12th Observation Squadron.
In late 1941, Major Lee became chief of corps aviation, Headquarters, I Armored Corps, and later air officer for Armored Force headquarters. Back to Godman Field in 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Lee organized and commanded the 73d Observation Group. In January 1943, he was promoted to colonel and became chief of staff of the First Air Support Command at Morris Field, North Carolina. He continued in this position through successive reorganizations and redesignations of this command as I Tactical Air Division and the Third Tactical Air Command.
In August 1944, Lee joined the Ninth Air Force in France, where he served as deputy commander for operations under Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg and shared credit for defeating Germany in four major campaigns: Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes, and Central Europe. He rose to brigadier general in January 1945. After the war, the Ninth Air Force took up its occupation role, Lee served as chief of staff.
Late in 1945, General Lee was assigned to the air section of the Theater General Board at Bad Nauheim as it completed its analyses and reports on the European campaigns.
In January 1946, Lee returned to the United States and in April he became the first chief of staff of the newly organized Tactical Air Command (TAC) at Langley Field, Virginia, where he remained until August, when he entered the first class of the National War College. In July 1947, after graduation from the NWC, Lee was assigned to TAC, as deputy commanding general. During this assignment, in February 1948, he was promoted to major general. He served as commanding general from November 1948 until July 1950.
From Langley AFB, Lee went to Eglin AFB, Florida, and assumed command of Air Task Group 3.4, a special assignment to Operation Greenhouse that culminated in the atomic bomb test at Eniwetok, during spring 1951. Following this assignment, General Lee was named the deputy director of plans under the deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., with a simultaneous duty as the Air Force member of the Joint Strategic Plans Committee. Shortly thereafter he became the director of plans.
In November 1953, General Lee was assigned to command the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force and the Twelfth U.S. Air Force in Europe. The former constituted the largest tactical air forces in Allied Command Europe, consisting of all United States, French, and Canadian air forces on the continent of Europe committed to the Supreme Allied Commander. In June 1956, command of the two air forces was separated. General Lee retained command of the Allied Tactical Air Force. When he returned to the United States in July 1957, he became commander of the Ninth Air Force, (TAC)
One year later, on July 15, 1958, General Lee assumed the rank of lieutenant general and arrived at United Nations Command, headquarters, Seoul, Korea, to become chief of staff, United Nations Command and U.S. Forces, Korea. In September 1959 he returned to the United States to become vice commander of the Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, becoming commander in March 1961. He was promoted to general on June 4, 1963 and became air deputy to the supreme allied commander, Europe, on August 1, 1963.
A command pilot with more than 9,000 hours flying time, General Lee included among his awards and decorations the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal. He also wore the French Legion of Honor in the grade of Commander and the Croix de Guerre with Palm.
General Lee is survived by his wife, Mary F. Lee, of Rockledge, Florida.