Maj. Gen. Byron E. Gates, Founder Member #7

Byron E. Gates was born at Aberdeen, South Dakota, on May 6, 1895. He attended the University of Montana at Missoula in 1915 and served successively as private, corporal, and flying cadet. From April 29, 1917, to July 31, 1918, when he was commissioned a temporary second lieutenant in the Air Service. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Service, Regular Army, on July 1, 1920.

Maj. Gen. Gates was known throughout the Air Force by the nickname “Hungry”. It was not so much that he had an insatiable appetite but that he always had “that lean and hungry look.”

His first service was with the 19th Aero Squadron in the Air Service, at Kelly Field, Texas. He transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, in August 1917, and in January 1918 entered the Ground School at Urbana, Illinois. He was graduated in February 1918, and the following month became a flying cadet at Love Field, Texas.

He became an instructor at Brooks Field, Texas in September 1918, and returned to Kelly Field, Texas, in January 1919 for duty with the Air Service Mechanics’ School. He became a Motor Transport Officer at Chanute Filed, Illinois in July 1921 and in October 1921 again returned to Kelly Field, Texas and joined the 2nd Bombardment Group.

He was assigned to the 3rd Attack Group, Kelly Field, in November 1921, and in February 1922 joined the 26th Attack Squadron at that field. In January 1923 he joined the 90th Attack Squadron also at Kelly Field, Texas. From February 1924 until January 1926, he was an instructor at the Air Service Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field.

He went to the Philippine Islands and joined the 28th Bombardment Squadron at Camp Nichols. Upon his return to the United States in April 1928, he went to Mitchel Field, New York, for duty with the 5th Observation Squadron. He moved to Miller Field, New York, in January 1930, to become an instructor with the 27th Division Aviation of the New York National Guard.

In October 1933 he became assistant to the Second Corps Area Air Officer at Governors Island, New York. He transferred to Maxwell Field, Alabama, in January 1934 as Fourth Corps Area Property Auditor, and entered the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Alabama, in September 1934. Following graduation in June 1935 he became an instructor at the school. During his time at Maxwell, Gates was among the group of WWI aviators that became the Charter Members of the Order of Daedalians.

In July 1940, he became a member of the Plans Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C. He was transferred to Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C., a year and a half later as Director of Management Control. In September 1943, he was appointed to the Personnel Matters Board, on which he served in addition to his regular duties with Management Control.

His Washington assignments were challenging tasks, but by wise selection and persuasive charm, he recruited some remarkable management talent for the new and semi-autonomous Army Air Forces. Among them were such men as Robert S. McNamara and Charles B. “Tex” Thornton. Gates’ team developed the management techniques and the standardization and control of reporting procedures which permitted efficient growth of the rapidly expanding AAF.

In June 1945, he was senior air member of the United States mission to Brazil and the following month was appointed Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces in the South Atlantic.

In April 1947, he became Chief of Staff of the Flying Division, Air Training Command at Randolph Field, Texas.

In October 1949, he assumed command of the pioneer Technical Training School of the Air Training Command at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois.  He retired in May 1955. He was awarded the Legion of Merit.

General Gates remained in nearby Rantoul shortly after his retirement where he served as mayor, reflecting a long and successful relationship with the civilian community. He died on April 18, 1970 in San Antonio, Texas.