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Robert F. Travis

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Subject: Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Travis Air Force Base, Air Mail scandal, 9th Reconnaissance Wing
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Robert F. Travis

For the Wisconsin politician, see Robert S. Travis.
Robert F. Travis
Brigadier General Robert F. Travis
Born (1904-12-26)December 26, 1904
Savannah, Georgia
Died August 5, 1950(1950-08-05)
Near Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army Air Force
United States Air Force
Years of service 1928 - 1950
Rank Brigadier General

Brigadier General Robert F. Travis (December 26, 1904, in Savannah, Georgia – August 5, 1950, at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California) was a U.S. Air Force officer who served during World War II.

Travis saw action in World War II as commander of the Eighth Air Force 41st Bombardment Wing, based at RAF Molesworth, England. He personally led his men in 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. The decorations that he received included the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with three clusters, the French Croix de guerre with palm, the Légion d'honneur, and the Purple Heart.

Travis was killed in the crash of a B-29 Superfortress, 5 minutes after takeoff on August 5, 1950, at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California.

Military career

Travis entered the University of Georgia in 1924, but received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated and was commissioned a second lieutenant, field infantry, in June 1928.

In September 1928, Travis entered the United States Army Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, and, upon completion of the course, enrolled in the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field. He graduated in September 1929, and was sent to the 1st Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York, as an engineering officer. In July 1932 he entered the Air Corps Engineering School at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, and completed the course in July 1933. In August 1933, he was ordered to the 59th Service Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia, to serve as supply engineering and operations officer.

From February to May 1934, during the Air Mail scandal, Travis served as the engineering inspector for the Eastern Zone of the Army Air Corps Mail Operation (AACMO) based at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, and Mitchel Field, Long Island, in New York. Upon completion of this assignment, he returned to Langley Field, where he became the engineering and armament officer of the 49th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, in December 1934. In March 1935, he was made a flight commander in the 49th Bombardment Squadron. By October 1937, he transferred to the headquarters staff of the 2nd BG as the group intelligence and armament officer.

In March 1939, Travis went to the 72d Bombardment Squadron at Hickam Field, Hawaii, to serve as operations officer and a flight commander. In July 1939, he became the Commanding Officer of the 72nd Bombardment Squadron. He was named materiel officer of the 5th Bombardment Group in September 1940.

Travis returned to the United States in May 1941, when he was assigned to the 29th Bombardment Group, MacDill Field, Florida, to serve as the Commanding Officer of the 43d Bombardment Squadron. He was subsequently elevated to Group Executive Officer and later to the position of Group Commander of the 29th Bombardment Group. He moved with the 29th BG in June 1942, when the unit was relocated to Gowen Field, Idaho. In September 1942, he became the Commanding Officer of the 15th Bombardment Training Wing, Gowen Field. The general moved with the 15th Bombardment Wing, when the unit was transferred to Sioux City AAB, Iowa, in February 1943. In July 1943, he became the Commanding General of the I Bomber Command, El Paso AAF, Texas.

Travis was next assigned to the European Theater of Operations in August 1943, and assumed command of the 41st Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force in September 1943. During this time, he flew 35 missions over enemy-occupied territory, including a mission to destroy the Focke-Wulf AGO Flugzeugwerke fighter plant in Oschersleben, Germany. He returned to the United States in September 1944 and was named Commanding General of the 17th Bombardment Training Wing, Grand Island AAF, Nebraska, which later moved to Sioux City AAB, Iowa. In August 1945, Travis was assigned to command the Sioux Falls Army Air Field in South Dakota.

Approximately one year later, Travis entered National War College. He graduated in June 1947, and in August he became the Chief of Staff of the Seventh Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He later assumed command of the 7th Air Division (formally the Seventh Air Force) at Hickam AFB. In September 1948, he was appointed Commanding General of the Pacific Air Command at Hickam. He would hold that position until June 1949.

On June 17, 1949, Travis became the Commanding General of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Fairfield-Suisun AFB, California. He assumed command of the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on November 8, 1949, commanding both wings at the base.

Travis was killed on August 5, 1950, while acting as command pilot on a B-29 Superfortress (44-87651) bound for Guam at the request of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, carrying one MK-4 atomic bomb[1] but with the uranium core carried on another plane.[2] The aircraft suffered two runaway propellers and landing gear problems 5 minutes after takeoff at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base. The crew attempted an emergency landing but the aircraft crashed, and the high explosives in the bomb detonated during the fire 20 minutes after the crash. Of the 20 persons on board, 12 were killed in the crash. An additional seven people who were not part of the crew died on the ground in the ensuing explosion.[2]

Fairfield-Suisun AFB was officially renamed Travis Air Force Base on April 20, 1951, in his honor.[3] Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport's former name was Travis Field, named in the native son's honor.


  • 1928 Bachelor of Engineering, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
  • 1947 National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.


  1. 1928, student, Air Corps Primary Flying School, Brooks Field, Texas
  2. 1929, student, Air Corps Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, Texas
  3. September - November 1929, field artillery officer, 1st Observation Squadron, Mitchel Field, N.Y.
  4. November 1929 - July 1932, Air Corps officer, 1st Observation Squadron, Mitchel Field, N. Y.
  5. July 1932 - July 1933, student, Air Corps Engineering School, Wright Field, Ohio.
  6. August 1933 - February 1934, engineering, and operations officer, 59th Services Squadron, Supply, Langley Field, Virginia
  7. February - May 1934, engineering Inspector, Army Eastern Zone of the Air Mail Service, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, and Mitchell Field, N. Y.
  8. March 1935 - October 1937, 49th Bombardment Squadron, Langley Field Virginia
  9. October 1937 - March 1939, armament and Intelligence Officer, Second Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Virginia
  10. March 1939 - July 1939, operations officer and flight commander, 72nd Bombardment Squadron, Hickam Field, Hawaii
  11. July 1939 - September 1940, Commander, 72nd Bombardment Squadron, Hickam Field, Hawaii
  12. September 1940 - May 1941, materiel officer, Fifth Bombardment Group, Hickam Field, Hawaii
  13. May 1941 - unknown, Commander, 43rd Bombardment Squadron, MacDill Field, Florida
  14. Unknown - March 1942, executive officer, 29th Bombardment Group, MacDill Field, Florida
  15. March 1942 - August 1942, Commander, 29th BG, MacDill Field, Florida and Gowen Field, Idaho
  16. September 1942 - July 1943, Commander, 15th Bombardment Training Wing, Gowen Field, Idaho; Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa and then Gowen Field, Idaho.
  17. July 1943 - August 1943, Commander, 20th Bomber Command (formerly 1st Bomber Command), El Paso, Texas.
  18. September 1943 - October 1944, Commander, 41st Combat Bombardment Wing (H), Molesworth, England.
  19. November 1944 - August 1945, Commander, 17th Bombardment Operational Training Wing, Grand Island Army Air Field, Neb.
  20. August 1945 - November 1945, Commander, Sioux Falls Army Air Field, S. D.
  21. November 1945 - August 1946, Commander, 17th Bombardment Training Wing, Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa.
  22. August 1946 - June 1947, student, National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
  23. August 1947 - July 1949, Chief of Staff, Seventh Air Force, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
  24. May 1948 - September 1948, Commander, Seventh Division, Hickam AFB, Hawaii
  25. September 1948 - June 1949, Commanding General, Pacific Air Command, Hickam AFB, Hawaii
  26. June 1949 - August 1950, Commander, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing; then Commander, 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and 9th SRW, later designated 9th Bombardment Wing, Fairfield-Suisun AFB, California

Flight information

Rating: Command Pilot, Combat Observer, Expert Bombardier, Aerial Gunner and Celestial Navigator Aircraft flown: B-17, B-29

Major awards and decorations

Effective dates of promotion

  • Second Lieutenant: June 9, 1928
  • First Lieutenant (permanent): June 1, 1934
  • Captain (temporary): April 20, 1935; permanent: June 9, 1938
  • Major (temporary): January 31, 1941; permanent: June 9, 1945
  • Lieutenant Colonel (temporary): January 5, 1942
  • Colonel (temporary): March 1, 1942; permanent: April 2, 1948
  • Brigadier General (temporary): May 4, 1943


External links

  • Official Air Force Biography
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