HomeAbout UsBiographiesDisplay

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM E. KEPNER

PRINT | E-MAIL

Famed pioneer balloonist: born Miami, Ind., in 1893. William Kepner's leadership of the 8th Fighter Command was a key factor in the World War II destruction of the German Air Force.

He served from 1909 to 1913 in the Marine Corps and by 1916 was a second lieutenant in the Indiana National Guard. He served with the 28th Infantry on the Mexican Border and in 1917 was commissioned in the Cavalry. He transferred to the Infantry, with rank of captain in August 1917, and in World War I commanded a company at Chateau-Thiery. He lead the 4th Infantry's 3rd Battalion in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and also participated in the Aisne, Champagne, Marne, and St. Mihel combat actions. After the war he stayed in Germany for Infantry assignments at Plaidt and Coblenz.

Kepner was a 27-year-old captain when he entered the Air Service in October 1920 and he was not promoted to major until 10 years later. By then he had become outstanding in balloons, qualifying as balloon observer and dirigible pilot after attending many service schools including those at Ross Field, Calif., and Langley Field, Va., as well as the Naval Ground Course at Lakehurst, N.J., which he completed in 1925. He commanded several airship school detachments and from 1927 to 1929 flew in four national and international balloon races.

He placed first in both the National Elimination Balloon Race and the International Gordon Nennett Race. He finished third and second in similar faces at Akron, Ohio, and St. Louis. Mo. Promoted to major in October 1930, he went to Wright Field as chief of the Materiel Division's Lighter-than-Air Branch. He learned to fly conventional aircraft at March Field, Calif., and Kelly Field, Texas, in 1931-32; went back to Wright Field as chief of the Purchase Branch, and entered more balloon races.

In the summer of 1934 Kepner was at Rapid City, S.D., as pilot and commander of the National Geographic Society - Army Air Corps Stratosphere Flight. He took the course at Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Ala., and then escorted Major Ira C. Eaker in an experimental all-instrument flight of 2,600 miles across the United States. In June 1937 he graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and went to Langley Field as commanding officer of the 8th Pursuit Group.

He commanded all defense aviation during the Fort Bragg Maneuvers in 1938 and was advanced to lieutenant colonel in June 1939. In February 1940, he went to Mitchell Field, N.Y., as executive officer of the Air Defense Command and promotion to colonel. He organized and commanded the 1st Air Support Command and during the Carolina Maneuvers in the fall of 1941 he commanded all aviation under the First Army.

In February 1942, he was promoted to brigadier general, and became commanding general of the 4th Fighter Command and then the 4th Air Force in the San Francisco area. He was promoted to major general in April 1943, and in September took over the 8th Fighter Command in the European Theater. As escorts for the strategic bombers, the fighter planes under him provided protection and also bombed and strafed the enemy, equipment and communications. During and following the Normandy Invasion, the 8th Fighters established a circular protective screen around the beachhead to prevent German counterattack.

In August 1944, Kepner became commanding general of the 8th Air Force's 2nd Bomb Division and a year later headed the 9th Air Force. He personally flew 24 combat missions in fighter and bomber planes and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and decorations from Great Britain, Belgium, France, Poland and China.

After the war he took over the 12th Tactical Air Command. In January 1946 he returned to Headquarters Army Air Force, Washington for duty with Joint Task Force 1 as deputy commander for Army and Navy Aviation with Operation Crossroads in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Six months later he became commanding general of Air Technical Training Command at Scott Field, Ill., and went back to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as chief of its Atomic Energy Division. He also served as chief of the Special Weapons Group and in July 1948 was named assistant deputy chief of staff, operations for Atomic Energy. Next month he became commanding general of the Air Force Proving Ground at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

On June 14, 1950, Kepner was promoted to lieutenant general and named commander in chief of the Alaska Command, with headquarters at Fort Richardson. The holder of six ratings - command pilot, combat observer, senior balloon pilot, zeppelin pilot, semirigid pilot, and metal-clad airship pilot - he retired from active duty Feb. 28, 1953.
 

Engage

Twitter
The #DAFArticStrategy discussion happens today. Register for free: https://t.co/A1r9lOlW0y https://t.co/WTLtyEt8jX
Twitter
A new Tactical Air Control Party program is now combat ready. Using multi-channel communications equipment in Humve… https://t.co/ihY1nXf9X2
Twitter
RT @SecDef: As America’s 26th Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall III’s decades of expertise and impact in service to our national se…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Mr. Frank Kendall has been confirmed by the Senate as the 26th Secretary of the Air Force! In this role, he will lead ho…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The Honorable Gina Ortiz Jones has arrived! “Serving as the Under Secretary of the Air Force is an absolute honor! I’m…
Twitter
A little #MondayMotivation from the 33rd Fighter Wing “Nomads,” @TeamEglin flight line ops-- are the graduate flyin… https://t.co/Ua0opwxkWH
Twitter
The 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conducted a mobile training team engagement with the Jamaican Defense… https://t.co/mLoRIEZxu1
Twitter
Another week clear for take off. #AirPower A crewchief marshals an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Combat Raider Exerc… https://t.co/avL8z6c33J
Twitter
One step closer... #AirForce Officer Training School candidates complete a four-phase, nine-and-a-half week progra… https://t.co/gQNQ2IMlim
Twitter
You got this! 💪 https://t.co/WnevIeJbQ4
Twitter
Not a bad way to cool off in the summer. The 815th Airlift Squadron's Reserve #Airmen visited Alaska to airlift o… https://t.co/DElqEx4JwJ
Twitter
RT @USAFRecruiting: Built different 😤 These @airforcespecwar exercises will put your strength to the test and show you what muscles these…
Twitter
Another Air Force week complete, and we've got it in photos! View the rest here: https://t.co/OkjRFKvDjz https://t.co/HXcWkJN35U
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: On behalf of our #Airmen and families, congrats and welcome to Ms. Jones, our new Under Secretary of the @usairforce. #…
Twitter
Jumping into the weekend Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron pe… https://t.co/VLRxCb90mw
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Getting ready for the big leap into civilian life? #Airmen preparing to separate from active duty service can take steps towar…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary Roth on the confirmation of Gina Ortiz Jones to serve as the Under Secretary of the Air Force. ⬇️ https…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Confirmed yesterday by the Senate, Gina Ortiz Jones will be the next Under Secretary of the Air Force! Read more ⬇️ @US
Twitter
The Senate unanimously confirmed Gina Ortiz Jones to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, clearing the way for the… https://t.co/Q8SFw2fq45
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,354,502
Follow Us