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John Edwin Upston was born at Tawas City, Michigan, on September 9, 1890. He attended the University of Michigan and was accepted as a flying cadet on 4 July 1917. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section of the Signal Reserve on February 19, 1918.

From July 1917 to February 1918, he attended the Schools of Military Aeronautics at Ohio State University and Atlanta, Georgia. Upon receiving his commission in February 1918, he was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics at Atlanta until April 1918, when he went to Camp Dick, Texas. In February 1919, he was transferred to Taliaferro Field, Texas. He became Post Executive Officer there in October 1919 and later became Post Commander.

He was ordered to Taylor Field, Alabama in December 1920, as Commanding Officer, and upon closing of that field became Assistant Engineer Officer at the Montgomery Air Intermediate Depot in Alabama. In July 1922, he was assigned to Maxwell Field, Alabama, for duty with the 22nd Observation Squadron, and in March 1923 was ordered to foreign duty at France Field, Panama Canal Zone. He served there with the 33rd Service Squadron until June 1923, and then with the 25th Bombardment Squadron.

Returning to the U.S. in February 1926, he was assigned to the 99th Observation Squadron at Bolling Field, District of Columbia. In December 1926, he was assigned to the Office, Chief of Air Corps, Washington, D.C. for duty as Chief of the Photographic Section, and in July 1929, he became Assistant Executive Officer of the Office, Chief of Air Corps. From January 1928 to June 1930 he served additionally as Aide at the White House.

In August 1930 he was assigned to Crissy Field, California, as Adjutant, and in July 1931 became Post Operations Officer. He went to Rockwell Field, California, in October 1933 for training at the Advanced Navigation Training Unit and returned to Crissy Field in December 1933. He became Operations Officer for one part of the Western Zone, Air Corps Mail Operations, in February 1934, and was stationed at Pearson Field, Washington.

He entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, in August 1934 and upon graduation in June 1935 was assigned to Langley Field, Virginia, as Assistant to the Plans and Training Officer of the General Headquarters Air Force. He entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in August 1936 and was graduated in June 1937. He then returned to Langley Field as Assistant to the Plans and Training Officer of the General Headquarters Air Force.

In September 1938 he entered the Army War College in Washington, D.C. and was graduated in June 1939, at which time he returned to the Office, Chief of Air Corps in Washington, as Assistant Chief of the Plans Division. From November 1939 to January 1940, he headed the Air Corps personnel which piloted members of the U.S. Congress on a 20,000 mile inspection trip of Army posts, continental installations, and South and Central American capitals.

He became a member of the Projects Group of the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff in Washington in January 1941. In March 1942, he was transferred to the newly-organized Operations Division of the War Department General Staff for duty as Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Theater Unit. In December 1942, he became Deputy (Air) Chief of the Theaters Group, Operations Division, War Department General Staff. In February 1944, he was assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as Operations Officer of the XX Bomber Command, the pioneer B-29 (Superfortress) unit which struck the first sustained aerial blows against the home islands of Japan. The following August he became Chief of Staff of that command. In February 1945, he returned to the U.S. for temporary assignment at Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.; and the following month assumed command of the 72d Fighter Wing at Peterson Field, Colorado. In September 1945, he was assigned to Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C. as Chief of Personnel, with additional duty as President of the Army Air Forces Promotions Board. In April 1946 he was named Deputy Assistant Chief of the Air Staff for Personnel Policy and Management, Headquarters, Army Air Forces.

In October 1947 he assumed duties as Director of Personnel in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and Administration, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. In January 1948 he was appointed Commanding General of the Fourth Air Force, Hamilton AFB, California.

He retired from the Air Force on September 30, 1950, in the grade of Major General.

General Upston died on August 18, 1952, at Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California.

He was rated a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, and Aircraft Observer.

Private 1st Class, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, Enlisted Reserve Corps, July 4, 1917, to November 24, 1917, and December 19, 1917, to February 19, 1918; Second Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps Reserve, February 18, 1918, to September 16, 1920; Second Lieutenant, Air Service, July 1, 1920; First Lieutenant, July 1, 1920; Captain, March 1, 1931; Major (temporary), June 12, 1935; Major, July 1, 1939; Lieutenant Colonel (temporary), December 30, 1940; Lieutenant Colonel, A.U.S., April 18, 1941; Lieutenant Colonel, November 4, 1941; Colonel (temporary), January 5, 1942; Colonel, A.U.S., February 1, 1942, Brigadier General, A.U.S., December 4, 1942; Brigadier General, February 19, 1948, with date of rank December 4, 1942; Major General (temporary), February 19, 1948, with date of rank October 9, 1947; retired with rank of Major General, September 30, 1950.

Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Air Medal, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal.