Special Operations News

AFSOC Announces Passing of Founding Air Commando

HURLBURT FIELD, FL Retired Maj. Gen. John Alison, deputy commander for the 1st Air Commando Group, died early Monday morning. He was 98-years old and is survived by his wife Kathleen “Penni,” sons David and John Alison III, and three grandchildren.

“It is with deep sadness and respect that we mark the passing of one of the Air Force’s first Air Commandos,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy.

In 1943, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, head of the Army Air Forces, hand-picked then-Lieutenant-Colonel Alison and Col. Philip Cochran to lead the 1 ACG as deputy and commander. In that assignment, the team set the foundation for what would 50 years later become Air Force Special Operations Command.

Alison continued to mentor AFSOC’s Air Commandos well beyond his time in service. Even at age 95 he spoke to Airmen at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School here and continued to make appearances at significant Air Force and AFSOC events.

“General Alison was a gentleman first, and he forged the way for Air Commandos, past and present,” said Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, AFSOC commander. “He left a lasting mark on our command and will be greatly missed.”

His dedication to the Air Force and Special Operations earned him several accolades. In 1994, he was inducted to the Air Commando Hall of Fame, and he was selected to speak for the Air Command and Staff College’s “Gathering of Eagles” in 1985, 2004 and 2009. Then in 2005, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and most recently was the first inductee into the U.S. Special Operations Command, Commando Hall of Honor in October, 2010.

“General Alison was a superb Airman and an Air Force legend. As a highly decorated World War II combat ace, veteran of the Korean War, and father of Air Force Special Operations, General Alison paved the way for hundreds of thousands of warrior Airmen who followed in his footsteps,” Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz recounted General Alison’s contributions to the Air Force and nation.

“While we mourn his passing, we can all take solace in the fact that his heroic service and sacrifice during the Second World War and afterward endures in today’s Special Operations Forces and the Air Force Association, which may well be his greatest legacy,” General Schwartz said.

The 1 ACG consisted of bombers, gliders, transports, light planes, heavy planes and helicopters. The unit contained volunteers, which was to support and sustain the British commandos, or “Chindits,” by operating at primitive airfields in the China-Burma-India Theater. Alongside the “Chindits,” the 1 ACG executed Operation Thursday, conducting the first nighttime airfield seizure well behind enemy lines March 5, 1943.

Before helping to establish the 1 ACG, General Alison was a decorated fighter pilot. He went on to become an ace with six confirmed aerial victories during World War II.

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