William Hugh Blanchard (February 6, 1916 May 31,
1966) was a United States Air Force officer who attained
the rank of four star general and served as Vice Chief
of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1965 to 1966.
native of Boston, Massachusetts, General Blanchard received
his high school education in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and
graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy before entering
the United States Military Academy in 1934. He graduated
and received his commission in 1938.
completing pilot training at Randolph and Kelly Fields,
Texas, in 1939, he held assignments as a flight instructor
and as chief of advanced pilot training in the Flying
Training Command, before his selection in 1943 for duty
with the initial B-29 bomber wing then being formed in
1944, General Blanchard, as deputy commander of the 58th
Bomb Wing, flew the first B-29 into China to begin his
participation in strategic bombing operations against
the Japanese mainland. Later, assigned as commander of
the 40th Bomb Group (B-29) and subsequently as operations
officer of the 21st Bomber Command in the Marianas, he
planned and flew low-level fire raids against major Japanese
the climaxing phase of World War II, then Colonel Blanchard
was directed to prepare and supervise the detailed operations
order for the delivery of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
He was the backup pilot for the Hiroshima A-bomb drop,
which was ultimately delivered by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets,
Commanding Officer of the 509th Atomic Bombardment Group
the war, on January 20, 1946, Blanchard became Commanding
Officer of the 509th, succeeding Tibbetts. By this time,
post-war demobilization had reduced the 509th to a skeleton
crew. But Blanchard and the 509th were immediately ordered
to commence operations for the "Operation Crossroads"
atomic tests at Bikini atoll. With highest priorities,
crews were assembled and in March the 509th was transferred
to Kwajalein, Marshall Islands for the Bikini atomic bomb
tests, that ultimately took place that July.
the conclusion of the Crossroads tests, on August 23,
1946, Colonel Blanchard assumed the duties of Commanding
Officer of Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico (renamed
Walker Air Force Base in 1948), which became the permanent
home of the 509th, though now again reduced to skeleton
operations after the Crossroad tests. However, in September
1946, they received orders to remain at Roswell and train
and equip a very heavy bomber air force with nuclear strike
capability, which became fully operational in February
July 8, 1947, Colonel Blanchard issued an official Army
Air Force press release stating that the base intelligence
office had recovered a so-called "flying disc"
or "flying saucer" from a nearby ranch, it had
been found "sometime last week," and they were
flying it to "higher headquarters". The press
release and the media feeding frenzy that followed it
triggered the so-called Roswell UFO Incident. Higher headquarters
turned out to be Brigadier General Roger Ramey, head of
the Eighth Army Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, who quickly
pronounced it a misidentified weather balloon. Ironically,
Blanchard's press release and the Roswell Incident it
triggered are perhaps what Blanchard became best known
for by the public at large decades later when the event
was reopened and investigated, with many books written.
(see also Walter Haut, Blanchard's public information
officer, who put out the press release)
year later, in 1948, Blanchard was assigned to Strategic
Air Command's Eighth Air Force Headquarters in Fort Worth
as director of operations. Blanchard helped direct the
atomic training of crews for B-36s, the United States'
first intercontinental bombers. After commanding B-50
and B-36 bomber units of SAC, he was assigned as deputy
director of operations for that command in 1953.
June 1956, he was a member of a group of U.S. Air Force
officers who accompanied General Nathan Twining, then
chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, on an official visit
to the Soviet Union which included a conducted tour of
points of military interest in the Moscow and Stalingrad
Blanchard assumed command of SAC's 7th Air Division in
England in 1957. Returning to SAC headquarters three years
later, he was assigned as director of operations.
15 years of continuous service in SAC, he was appointed
the inspector general, U.S. Air Force, and was promoted
to the rank of lieutenant general. In August 1963 he was
named deputy chief of staff, programs and requirements
in Headquarters U.S. Air Force, and assumed the duty as
deputy chief of staff, plans and operations, in February
1964. He was assigned the additional duty as senior Air
Force member, Military Staff Committee of the United Nations,
later that year.
February 19, 1965, General Blanchard became Vice Chief
of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, with promotion to four-star
died at the Pentagon on May 31, 1966 of a massive heart
attack while still on active duty. He was buried on 3
June 1966 at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery.
His wife, Anne Hutt Blanchard, his daughter, Mrs. Dale
Brown, and sons William Hugh Blanchard II & Donald
H. Blancard attended the interment ceremony. There is
a building at Bolling Air Force Base named in his honor.