Maj. Gen. Walter H. Baxter III is commander, 3rd Air Force, United States Air Forces in Europe, with headquarters at Royal Air Force Station Mildenhall, Suffolk, England.
General Baxter was born in southern Texas in 1926 and graduated from high school in his hometown of Weslaco, Texas, in 1943. He then attended what is now the University of Texas at Arlington and in 1944 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. In 1946 he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and upon graduation in 1950 was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. General Baxter is also a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
He entered flying training at James Connally Air Force Base, Texas, and received his wings at Craig Air Force Base, Ala., in 1951. He went through gunnery school at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and went on to South Korea where he flew F-51s with the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group. As a lieutenant he became a squadron operations officer and led group strikes deep into North Korea.
The general returned to the United States in August 1952 and was assigned to Clovis Air Force Base, N.M., where he served with the 10th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing. A year later General Baxter transferred to Langley Air Force Base, Va., with the 509th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 405th Fighter-Bomber Wing. While there he wrote many of the plans and procedures for tactical mobility that continue today in the Tactical Air Command.
In June 1955 he joined the 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Royal Air Force Station Wethersfield, England, where he served as both flight commander, and wing gunnery and bombing officer until May 1958. He was then assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., as course director and executive officer in the department of military studies.
General Baxter became director of officer training and an instructor pilot in August 1961, flying T-33s and T-38s at Webb Air Force Base, Texas. In September 1963 he entered the Air Command and Staff College. Upon graduation in June 1964, he was assigned to Williams Air Force Base, Ariz.; where he served at various times as wing executive, director of plans and T-38 operations officer.
In early 1966 General Baxter went through F-4 training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and in June transferred to the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, Bitburg Air Base, Germany, where he served as operations officer of the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron for one year and as commander of the squadron for two years.
General Baxter returned to the United States to enter the Army War College. Following graduation in June 1970, he went to Southeast Asia with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. He flew 125 combat missions in F-4s while serving as deputy commander for operations and later as vice commander of the wing.
In September 1971 General Baxter transferred to Reese Air Force Base, Texas, as deputy commander for operations. In January 1972 he took command of the 64th Flying Training Wing at Reese. He became vice commander of Keesler Technical Training Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., in July 1974. In March 1975 he was selected to command the 13th Air Force advance echelon at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, which in July 1975 was renamed the 17th Air Division. It was during this assignment that these forces played a significant role in the evacuation of Phnom Penh and Saigon, the reclaiming of American equipment in Southeast Asia and the rescue of the "Mayaguez."
General Baxter served as vice commander of 13th Air Force with duty at U-Tapoo Royal Thai Naval Airfield, Thailand, from January to June 1976. He then became commander of the 313th Air Division and the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing on Okinawa.
From September 1978 to August 1979, he was commander of the 24th North American Air Defense Command and 24th Aerospace Defense Command Region at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. He then served with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as air deputy, Northern European Command, at Kolsas, Norway. The general assumed his present command in July 1981.
He is a command pilot and has more than 4,700 hours flying time in 24 types of aircraft - primarily fighters. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. For his service on Okinawa, he was awarded the 3rd Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government.
He was promoted to major general June 1, 1978, with date of rank Sept. 1, 1974.
(Current as of August 1981)