Richard H. Ellis
July 19, 1919 – February 28, 1989 (aged 69)
General Richard Hastings Ellis (July 19, 1919 – March 28, 1989) was commander in chief of the
Strategic Air Command and director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff with headquarters
at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. He was also director of the Joint Strategic Connectivity Staff.
Ellis was born in Laurel, Delaware, where he completed elementary and high school. He received
his bachelor of arts degree in history from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1941 and
juris doctor degree from Dickinson School of Law in 1949. He was awarded an honorary doctor of
science degree from Dickinson College in 1961; honorary doctor of laws degrees from Dickinson
School of Law in 1974, from the University of Akron in 1979, and from the University of
Nebraska, Omaha, in May 1981.
Ellis entered active military duty in September 1941 as an aviation cadet at Maxwell Field,
Alabama. He received his commission and pilot wings at Turner Field, Georgia, in April 1942.
During World War II he served with the 3rd Bombardment Group in Australia, New Guinea and
the Philippines, and flew more than 200 combat missions in the Western Pacific area. He served as
a pilot, commander of the 90th Bombardment Squadron, group operations officer and, from
September 1944, as group commander. In April 1945 General Ellis was assigned as deputy chief of
staff, United States Far East Air Forces, in the Philippine Islands and Japan.
He requested release from active duty, became a member of the Air Force Reserve and entered
Dickinson School of Law in 1946. He graduated in 1949 and, after admission to the Delaware Bar,
practiced law in Wilmington, Delaware. He was recalled to active duty in October 1950 and
assigned first to Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; then as
deputy for operations, 49th Air Division, Sculthorpe, England; and later as chief, Air Plans and
Operations Section, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
From January 1956 to May 1958, Ellis was deputy chief of staff, operations, Headquarters
Nineteenth Air Force, Foster Air Force Base, Texas. He was then assigned to the Directorate of
Plans, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., first as chief, Weapons Plans Branch, then
as assistant director of plans for war plans, and later as assistant director of plans, joint matters.
In July 1961 Ellis become executive to the chief of staff, U.S. Air Force. From August 1963 to June
1965, he commanded the 315th Air Division, Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. He returned to
Washington, D.C., and served as deputy director, J-5 (Plans and Policy), with the Joint Staff. In
August 1967 he returned to the Air Staff, this time as director of plans. He assumed command of
9th Air Force with headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in September 1969.
He was appointed vice commander in chief of U.S. Air Forces in Europe in September 1970.
General Ellis become commander, 6th Allied Tactical Air Force, with headquarters at Izmir,
Turkey, in April 1971; and commander of Allied Air Forces, Southern Europe, with headquarters
at Naples, Italy, in June 1972. He assumed additional duty as commander, Sixteenth Air Force,
Torrejon Air Base, Spain, in May 1973.
He served as vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, from November 1973 to August 1975. He was then
appointed commander, Allied Air Forces Central Europe, and commander in chief, U.S. Air Forces
in Europe. He assumed command of SAC in August 1977.
Ellis was a command pilot and earned the Master Missile and the Parachutist badges. He has been
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with three oak
leaf clusters, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross,
Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart and Grand Officer of the Italian Republic. He
was awarded the State of Delaware Distinguished Service Medal by Governor Walter W. Bacon in
1946. In September 1980 he was presented the Air Force Association's highest honor, the H.H.
Arnold Award for significant contributions to national defense. As the recipient of this award he
was also named as the association's National Aerospace Man of the Year. General Ellis received the
Korean Order of National Security Merit, First Class (Tong Il Jang) on May 13, 1981, at the Korean
Ministry of National Defense in Seoul. This award, the highest honor given by the Republic of
Korea to a foreign military leader, was presented to the general for his important contributions to
national defense of the Republic of Korea.
He was promoted to general November 1, 1973, with date of rank September 30, 1973. He retired
from the Air Force August 1, 1981 and died March 28, 1989 at the age of 69.
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