Died May 24,2008
Major General Winton Ralph Close is the commander of Joint Task Force Two, Sandia Base, N.M., an all-service test organization serving directly under the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The mission of JTF-2 is to plan, direct and evaluate low-altitude penetration tests using combat aircraft from all services. The task force also conducts tests on defensive weapons used against aircraft attacking at low altitude.
General Close was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1917. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1934 and from Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., in 1938. He received his pilot wings and commission at Kelly Field, Texas, in August 1939.
After a year as a B-17 copilot at Langley Field, Va., General Close was transferred to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, where he served as a B-18 pilot and squadron commander. The general flew B-24s with the Atlantic Ferry Command in 1941. From 1941 until 1944, he served successively as squadron commander in B-17, B-24 and B-29 units in Panama, Guatemala and in the United States.
In 1944, the general became a B-29 squadron commander in the China-Burma-India theater. During 1945 he was a group operations officer in the Mariana Islands. He returned from World War II after 600 combat hours and 35 missions. Between 1946 and 1951 General Close served as base executive officer at Kirtland Army Air Field, N.M.; air attache at Belgrade, Yugoslavia; assistant chief of the Selection Board Secretariat at U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; and as assistant deputy commander of operations, Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force, Colorado Springs, Colo., and March Air Force Base, Calif.
General Close was named deputy commander of operations for the Fifteenth Air Force in 1951, and from May 1952 until November 1952 he commanded the 98th Bomb Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan. During the Korean War he participated in 21 combat missions in B-29s.
Between November 1952 and April 1956 the general was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. He moved to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in 1956 as deputy commander, and later commander, of the 93d Bomb Wing. In April 1958 he transferred to Pease Air Force Base, N.H., as commander, 100th Bomb Wing.
General Close moved to McCoy Air Force Base, Fla., in July 1959 where he commanded the 321st Bomb Wing until September 1961. He transferred to Plattsburgh Air Force Base, N.Y., in September 1961 as commander, 820th Strategic Aerospace Division. He became deputy director of plans, Strategic Air Command, in November 1963 at Omaha, Neb., and director of plans, SAC, in February 1964. In June 1966, he assumed command of JTF-2.
A command pilot with more than 7,000 flying hours to his credit, General Close is qualified in the B-47, B-52 and KC-135 aircraft.
The general's decorations include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
(Current as of Sept. 15, 1966)