Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Tunner, William Henry (1906–1983)

U.S. Army Air Forces general who served in the Air Transport Command (ATC) during the war. Born on 14 July 1906 at Elizabeth, New Jersey, William Tunner graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1928. He earned his pilot's wings the following year and served in a variety of capacities in the Army Air Corps throughout the 1930s. In 1939, he was assigned to the Ferrying Command, tasked with organizing the delivery of military aircraft from industry to user. Ferrying Command later became Air Transport Command, where Tunner ultimately managed the flow of 10,000 aircraft monthly.

Through his ferrying exploits, Tunner, who was promoted to brigadier general in June 1943, won recognition as an innovative organizer and command of the India-China Division of the ATC in the summer of 1944. He reorganized and made more efficient the operation commonly known as "the Hump" Airlift, named for the 16,000-foot gap in the Himalayas through which aircraft had to pass. This operation ultimately supplied Nationalist Chinese forces with more than 71,000 tons of cargo, as overland routes were impassable because of difficult terrain and the Japanese. Tunner's crews often operated with dated aircraft in poor conditions, working at the end of a logistical trail in a low-priority theater; nevertheless, the operation's success furthered Tunner's reputation as an efficient and effective commander.

In the summer of 1948, Tunner went to Germany to organize the Berlin Airlift. He quickly imposed a highly structured system of air routes with precise airspeeds and timing procedures, nearly doubling the number of aircraft flowing into Berlin. The Soviets lifted their blockade in May 1949 after the airlift had delivered over 2 million tons of coal and food to the city.

In the 1950s, Tunner headed Combat Cargo Command, responsible for the Korean War's intratheater airlift. Promoted to lieutenant general in July 1953, he eventually commanded the entire Military Air Transport Service until his retirement in 1960. Tunner died in Ware Neck, Virginia, on 6 April 1983.

John D. Plating


Further Reading
Craven, Wesley Frank, and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. 4, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, August 1942 to July 1944. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983.; Tunner, William. Over the Hump. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964.
 

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