Died June 25,1982
Frank O. Hunter was born on Dec. 8, 1894, in Savannah, Ga. He was educated at Hotchkiss School, Conn., and in Lausanne, Switzerland. He enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve, as a flying cadet on May 18, 1917. At that time, training to fly was simple. If you could take off and clear the fence six times running, you qualified; but if you failed once, there was no second chance.
He went to France in September 1917 with the 103rd Aero Squadron, and received further training at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun France. On his first World War I patrol, General Hunter downed two German planes and landed safely despite being wounded. By the end of the war he had eight German planes to his credit, thus qualifying him as an Ace. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with four oak leaf clusters. His acts of extraordinary heroism in air combat over Europe earned him the French Croix de Guerre with palm. He left the Army for a short time after the war, but returned with a commission in the Regular Army Air Service in 1920.
When he entered the Regular Army in 1920 he attended Field Artillery School and Air Service Observation School at Fort Sill, Okla. He graduated in September 1921 and transferred to Ellington Field, Texas, for duty with the 1st Pursuit Group. In July 1922, he went to Selfridge Field, Mich., as Commanding Officer of the 94th Squadron, and in October 1922, entered the Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, Va., returning to his command of the 94th Squadron when he graduated in June 1923. In July 1925 he became Operations Officer of Selfridge Field.
He transferred to Camp Anthony Wayne, Pa., in September 1926 as a pilot with the Composite Air Corps Squadron, and returned to Selfridge Field in December 1926. He next served in Washington, D.C., in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, and in December 1930 went to Rockwell Field, Calif., as Commanding Officer of the 95th Pursuit Squadron. He assumed command of the 17th Pursuit Group there in October 1931.
In November 1933 he was assigned as Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Wing at March Field, Calif., and in February 1934 became Chief of Operations, Western Zone Air Mail Operations, with headquarters at March Field. In May 1934 he returned to his duties as Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Wing. He was ordered to Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone, in July 1934, as Adjutant and Operations Officer of the 19th Composite Wing. In December 1934 he became Operations and Training Officer and Intelligence Officer at Albrook Field.
He transferred to Barksdale Field, La., in November 1936 as Commanding Officer of the 79th Pursuit Squadron, and in July 1937 became Operations Officer for the 3rd Wing there. He then went to Maxwell Field, Ala., in July 1939 as Commanding Officer of the 23rd Composite Group.
In July 1940 he was attached to the Office of the Military Attaché in London, England, as a Military Observer. He returned to the United States in December 1940 and was stationed at Orlando Air Base, Fla., as Commanding Officer of the 23rd Composite Group. In February 1942, he was assigned to Headquarters Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C., and in May 1942 joined the Eighth Air Force at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. That same month he accompanied that organization to the European Theater of Operations, with headquarters in London, as Commanding General, Eighth Fighter Command. In this position he affected the first trans-Atlantic flight of AAF planes without the loss of life or equipment. He also directed the first P-47 fighter bomber sweeps over the continent.
He returned to the United States in August 1943 and was named Commanding General of the First Air Force, where he was charged with training replacement combat crews in defense of the eastern seaboard. In 1944 the Earl of Halifax, then Britain's Ambassador to the U.S., presented to General Hunter, in the name of the King of England, the CBE, "Commander of the military division of the most excellent order of the British Empire." Just a year earlier the general had been awarded the Legion of Merit for "exceptional services" in planning and executing the movement of air echelons of the Twelfth Air Force from Great Britain to North Africa. His other awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.
In October 1945 he was assigned to a detachment of patients at Air Force Regional Hospital, Miami District, and later was admitted to Walter Reed General Hospital.
He is rated a command pilot, combat observer and technical observer. Throughout his lengthy flying career he survived three bail outs, once of which was from an altitude of 500 feet over a frozen lake, and two broken backs, both of which kept him in the hospital for a year. He became known as one of the Army's top stunt, test and racing pilots.
In May 1940 the citizens of Savannah, Ga., named the Savannah Municipal Airport the Hunter Municipal Airfield, later Hunter Army Airfield, in his honor.
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Captain Jan. 17, 1921
Major (temporary) March 15, 1935; (permanent) Nov. 1, 1936
Lieutenant Colonel (temporary) March 1, 1940; (permanent) Oct. 9, 1940
Colonel (temporary) April 19, 1941
Brigadier General (temporary) April 20, 1942
Major General (temporary) Nov. 3, 1943