Former chief of staff laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The 10th chief of staff of the Air Force was laid to rest in a full-honors ceremony March 22 at Arlington National Cemetery, but his legacy lives with today's Airmen through his emphasis on developing camaraderie, pursuing history and recognizing excellence.

Gen. Lew Allen Jr. passed away Jan. 4 in Potomac Falls, Va. He served as chief of staff from July 1978 to July 1982.

The general left an indelible mark on the Air Force, whether it's singing the "U.S. Air Force Song," knowing airpower history or receiving one of the annual awards named in his honor.

"The 'Army Air Corps' song was originally written by Robert Crawford in 1939 and selected by Maj. Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, chief of the Army Air Corps, as the official song," wrote Brig. Gen. H.J. Dalton Jr., director of information, in a 1978 staff summary sheet to designate it as the official Air Force song. General Allen made it official with a memorandum dated Sept. 27, 1979.

"The United States Air Force inherited many fine traditions from the Army Air Corps," General Allen wrote. "Among these was the song 'The Army Air Corps.' Although this song was retitled 'The U.S. Air Force' in 1947, there was no accompanying formal action to adopt the song or secure a copyright release for its use. Recently, however, the copyright holder very generously granted the Air Force permission to designate 'The U.S. Air Force' as its official song. Thus, I hereby declare that 'The U.S. Air Force,' popularly known as 'Off We Go Into The Wind Blue Yonder,' to be the official song of the Air Force. In keeping with our tradition, let us stand proudly when it is played or sung."

His interest in tradition led him to encourage Airmen to study the past to understand today. General Allen created Project Warrior Sept. 1, 1982, as a professional development program to help Airmen better understand and apply airpower and warfare history.  Project Warrior was a voluntary program for base units to develop as they saw fit "to create and maintain an environment for Air Force people to think and plan in warfighting terms," wrote F. Clifton Berry Jr, in August 1982. Mr. Berry was Air Force Magazine's editor in chief in August 1982.

"General Allen told Air Force Magazine just before he retired that Project Warrior 'is an informal, voluntary program that units can tailor to their own organization and their own interests,'" added Mr. Berry. "He went on to say, 'In general, we are trying to inspire in our people a desire to understand more and to explain better how airpower really contributes to modern warfare.'"

"Project Warrior seeks to create and maintain within the Air Force an environment where Air Force people at all levels can learn from the past and apply the warfighting experiences of past generations to the present," wrote General Allen's successor, Gen. Charles A. Gabriel, 11th chief of staff, in 1984 in a foreword to "The Literature of Aeronautics, Astronautics, and Air Power."

"When Gen. Lew Allen, Jr. initiated this project in 1982, he called for the 'continuing study of military history, combat leadership, the principles of war and, particularly, the applications of air power.' All of us in the Air Force community can benefit from such study and reflection. The challenges of today and the future demand no less," General Gabriel continued.

Maj. David W. Keith wrote "The Warrior and the Pachyderm" in the January-February 1984 issue of Air University Review about Project Warrior. "Through Project Warrior, General Lew Allen challenged everyone connected with the Air Force to become serious students of how to fly, fight and, by the way, win," wrote Major Keith. "Technical skill alone will not hack it anymore, he indicated, because modern war is complex; it is interrelated. Because it is interrelated, technical expertise confined to one specialized field is simply not enough."

General Allen's heritage also lives on in two awards bearing his name. An Air Force award in General Allen's name is presented annually to a base-level officer and senior NCO in aircraft, munitions or missile maintenance directly involved in aircraft sortie generation. According to officials, the award was established as a tribute to General Allen's focus on attention to detail and technical expertise, attributes reflected in the nominees honored.

The other award named after him is at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Following his retirement from the Air Force in July 1982, General Allen became director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory National Aeronautics and Space Administration Center in Pasadena, Calif., and remained in that position until 1990. The Lew Allen Award for Excellence recognizes significant accomplishments, leadership in scientific research, or technological innovation, in the early years of an individual's professional career, according to JPL.

Following announcement of his death in January, readers of the obituary on described the type of Airman the general was.

"I retired from the (Air Force) in 1981," wrote Bill Woleslagle of Woodbridge, Va. "My last duty assignment was with the 2044th (Communications Group) in the Pentagon. I met General Allen several times in the old (National Military Command Center). Mr. Woleslagle added General Allen was "a very intelligent and down-to-earth man."

One anonymous Airman recalled meeting the general early in his Air Force career.

"As a new Air Force 2nd (lieutenant), I had a chance to meet him at a dining in at Loring AFB, Maine," wrote the anonymous reader. "He was wonderful to all of us 'butterbars' when we got brave enough to approach him during the pre-dinner festivities."

Military members, retirees and family members gathered at General Allen's final resting place to pay their last respects.

Among those in attendance were Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff; as well as General Allen's wife Barbara and family.

The full-honors funeral continued with a three-volley salute and Taps despite heavy rains. As the funeral drew to a close, General Schwartz presented Mrs. Allen with a folded flag on behalf of the Air Force and took a moment to offer a few words of condolence.

(Airman 1st Class Susan Moreno, 11th Wing Public Affairs, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., contributed to this story.)