Willis H. Hale was born in Pittsburg, Kan., on Jan. 7, 1893. He was a lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary from June 26, 1913, until March 2, 1917, when he accepted a commission in the Regular Army as a second lieutenant of Infantry. He was promoted to first lieutenant on that same date.
With the Constabulary Troops, he participated in the field against Oto and a band of outlaws from October 1916 to February 1917. When he was commissioned in the Regular Army, he went to China with the 15th Infantry on July 1, 1917 as Aide to General H.C. Hale. He went to France with the Air Expeditionary Forces while serving as Aide in April 1918, and returned to the United States in April 1919 for duty as Aide to General Hale at Camp Dix, N.J. He enrolled in the Signal School, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in August 1919, graduating in June 1920. After summer duty at Camp Vail, N.J., he became a Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Yale University, Conn.
He entered the Primary Flying School, Brooks Field, Texas, in July 1922 and graduated in May 1923. He successfully completed the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, in December 1923. He then served as Commanding Officer of the 20th Bombardment Squadron, and as Operations Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Va. During this tour he was transferred from Infantry to the Air Service on Nov. 13, 1924. He enrolled in the Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, and graduated in June 1928. He was then assigned to duty in the Inspection Division of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C. In the following December, he became Chief of the Operations Section of that office.
He entered the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in August 1932, graduating from the two year course on June 1, 1934, returning to Langley Field as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group. He was also Executive and Operations Officer of the 2nd Wing of General Headquarters Air Force, successively, until August 1936. He then enrolled in the Army War College, Washington, D.C., from which he graduated in June 1937.
He became Executive Officer of the 19th Wing at Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone, serving until September 1938 when he assumed command of the Air Base and of the 16th Pursuit Group at that station. He became Inspector General of General Headquarters Air Force, Langley Field, Va., on Aug. 12, 1939. On Dec. 20, 1940, he was assigned to duty in Hawaii, and in July 1942 assumed command of the Seventh Air Force. While in command of the Seventh Air Force, General Hale led its first bombing missions on strategic targets at Nauru and Tarawa. It was during the early stage of the Pacific air war that some magazine writers gave the Seventh Air Force the nickname, "Hale's Handful" because of the limited number of bombers which could be mustered in forward combat areas at that time.
By 1944 Admiral Nimitz had assigned him as Commanding General for Air, Forward Areas, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, and in January 1945 was made Deputy Commander for Operations for the Army Air Forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas. During these periods he was in command of land based aircraft involved in the campaigns in the Central Pacific, which resulted in the capture of the Elice Islands, the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas and Iwo Jima. Two months later he was assigned to duty in the same theater as Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, and Deputy Commanding General, Twentieth Air Force. In June 1945 he was announced as commanding the Fourth Air Force at San Francisco, Calif.
He is rated a command pilot and combat observer.
1942 Distinguished Service Medal with the following citation:
"For exceptionally meritorious service in a position of great responsibility. As Commanding General, *** Bomber Command, Army Air Forces, during the battle of Midway Island, June 1-8, 1942, he exhibited brilliant strategical concepts under adverse conditions in the use of heavy bombardment airplanes against naval forces. Despite the necessity of operating from a distant base, he so detailed the available airplanes as to maintain an effective striking force, which resulted in a decisive defeat of the enemy. His unceasing devotion to duty and inspirint leadership contributed materially to the outcome of that battle. The outstanding results obtained by the units of the *** Bomber Command were indicative of the high state of training maintained under the guidance of their commander."
1943 Navy Cross with the following citation:
"For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding General, Seventh Air Force. He led a heavy bombardment group against strongly held enemy bases on Nauru Island on April 20, 1943, and Tarawa Islands on April 22-23, inflicting great damage to personnel and material. By his superior airmanship, courage, and determination he was chiefly instrumental in the success of a most difficult operation. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States."
Other awards include the Army Legion of Merit, Navy Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star Medal.
Captain (temporary), Aug. 5, 1917; captain (permanent), No. 5, 1917; major, Dec. 1, 1929; lieutenant colonel (temporary), March 2, 1935; lieutenant colonel (permanent), June 12, 1939; colonel (temporary), March 1, 1940; brigadier general (temporary), Jan. 15, 1942; major general (temporary), June 15, 1942.