Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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White, Thomas Dresser (1902–1965)

U.S. Air Force general and chief of staff (1957–1961). Born in Walker, Minnesota, on 6 August 1902, Thomas White graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, in 1920. Before World War II, he served in the U.S. Army's infantry and aviation branches and in a series of attaché positions, among them duty posts in China (1927–1931), the Soviet Union (1934), Italy (1934–1937), and Brazil (1940–1942), where he was stationed when the United States entered World War II. During the war, White served in a series of senior staff positions and rose to become deputy commander of the Thirteenth Air Force and commander of the Seventh Air Force in the Pacific theater.

After the war, White first commanded the Fifth Air Force in Japan and then returned to the United States to work in several staff positions on the air force staff. In June 1953 he was named vice chief of staff and promoted to full general. In July 1957 he was elevated to chief of staff of the air force.

During his tenure at the top of the air force, White was a strong advocate of the primacy of strategic nuclear airpower and the development of modern weapons-delivery technologies. He was especially aggressive in pursuing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities and military operations in space. He was responsible for inserting the term "aerospace" into air force doctrine and using the concept to claim a lead role for the air force in the military use of space. White retired in June 1961 and died in Washington, D.C., on 22 December 1965.

Jerome V. Martin


Further Reading
Watson, George M., Jr. Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff of the United States Air Force: Biographical Sketches and Portraits. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001.
 

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