Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Stratemeyer, George Edward (1890–1969)

U.S. Air Force general and commander of the Far East Air Force (FEAF) during the Korean War. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 24 November 1890, George Stratemeyer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915 and served briefly in the infantry before beginning flight training. During and after World War I, he held various instructional and training positions, gaining a reputation as an effective administrator. During World War II, he served in the China-Burma-India theater as air advisor to Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell and then commanded the Eastern Air Command. He became a major general in 1942. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1945, Stratemeyer took command of the U.S. Army Air Forces in China before returning to the United States in February 1946 to head the new Air Defense Command, later the Continental Air Command.

In April 1949 Stratemeyer assumed command of the FEAF, comprising the Fifth Air Force in Japan, the Thirteenth Air Force in the Philippines, and the Twentieth Air Force on Okinawa. By 1950, 75 percent of the men under his command were products of the Air Force Reserve training program he had organized. Known for his ability to get the most from his subordinates, Stratemeyer displayed effective leadership following the invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) on 25 June 1950. When President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. forces into action, Stratemeyer directed FEAF aircraft in the critical early days of the war, ordering attacks on the North Korean forces and providing air cover for the evacuation of Seoul. He then directed strategic bombing of North Korea to include the destruction of lines of communications, installations, and factories.

Following the Chinese military intervention in Korea, Stratemeyer opposed General Douglas MacArthur's flouting of directives. In late November 1950, after MacArthur unilaterally ordered the bombing of the Yalu River bridges, Stratemeyer informed his superiors in Washington, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) then restricted air raids to the southern side of the river. Stratemeyer believed, however, that his air forces should be permitted to conduct operations against Mainland China.

In May 1951 Stratemeyer suffered a heart attack, and he retired from active duty in January 1952. Thereafter, he became a public advocate for unlimited military operations against the People's Republic of China (PRC), complaining in an interview that Washington had "handcuffed" MacArthur. "We were required to lose the war," Stratemeyer told a Senate subcommittee. He also lobbied for expanding U.S. airpower as the most economical way to win wars and maintain a strong defense, and in 1954 he tried to dissuade the U.S. Senate from censuring Senator Joseph McCarthy for his reckless anticommunist witch-hunt. Stratemeyer died in Orlando, Florida, on 9 August 1969.

James I. Matray


Further Reading
Futrell, Robert F. The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950–1953. Rev ed. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Air Force History, 1983.; Stratemeyer, George. The Three Wars of Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer: His Korean War Diary. Edited by William T. Y'Blood. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program.
 

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