Gen. Bruce K. Holloway, 87, Head of Strategic Air Command



By Richard Goldstein,, October 9, 1999


General Bruce K. Holloway, who shot down 13 Japanese planes in World War II flying a propeller fighter, then oversaw the giant jet bombers of the Strategic Air Command, America's nuclear strike force, a quarter-century later, died on September 30, 1999 at his home in Orlando, Fla. He was 87.

Holloway flew against the Japanese in China as commander of the 23rd Fighter Group, the successor unit to Gen. Claire L. Chennault's Flying Tiger volunteer force. Soon after World War II ended, Holloway commanded the Air Force's first jet-fighter outfit. In the Vietnam War, he was commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, whose eight-engine B-52s, equipped to carry nuclear bombs, flew conventional bombing missions in support of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops.

Bruce Keener Holloway, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., studied engineering for two years at the University of Tennessee before entering West Point. He graduated in 1937, received his pilot's wings a year later, then served with a fighter unit in Hawaii.

In January 1942, he went to China for fighter missions with the Flying Tigers, Americans who flew P-40s with distinctive tigershark-teeth markings in missions against the Japanese while under contract to the government of Chiang Kai-shek.

Holloway was formally an observer on his missions until the Flying Tigers were absorbed into the 14th Air Force in July 1942.

On Nov. 27, 1942, Holloway, then a major, flew in support of a bombing raid on Canton, China, in which 23 Japanese planes were shot down without the loss of a single U.S. plane.

He downed a Japanese Zero fighter with his first burst of fire that day, was thought to have shot down another fighter in a dogfight and then destroyed a Japanese bomber.

In January 1943, he replaced Gen. Robert L. Scott Jr., remembered for his wartime memoir, "God Is My Co-Pilot," as commander of the 23rd Fighter Group. Scott, one of America's most celebrated fighter pilots, said later that "General Holloway did an even better job leading the group into combat and shot down just as many planes as I did."

Holloway returned to the United States in 1944 after being shot down on a mission and making his way back to his base. In New York in March 1945, he said he had been "almost killed" by the Chinese "with hospitality." He recalled how, on his trek back to his base, the mayor of every town he passed through had insisted on dining with him. "What with the wine I drank, I was careful to pick the broadest horse available to ride away on," he said.

When World War II ended, Holloway became commander of the 412th Fighter Group at March Field, Calif., America's first jet-fighter outfit, flying Lockheed Shooting Stars.

Holloway, who received his first star in 1953, was named deputy commander of the U.S. Strike Command, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, in 1961, assumed command of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe in 1965 and became vice chief of staff of the Air Force in 1966.

As commander of the Strategic Air Command from 1968 to 1972, Holloway oversaw more than 1,000 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 500 long-range jet bombers, which by 1971 provided 85 percent of the American strategic nuclear strength. Holloway was also head of a multiservice staff that provided the president with war plans by listing potential targets and suggesting what weapons might be used for each.

Holloway, who retired from military service in 1972, received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He is survived by his wife, Frances; three daughters, Candace Boyce and Amy Bunger, both of Memphis, and Taylor McMaster of Lincoln, Neb., and four grandchildren.

Go to: Vietnam Medal of Honor Citations

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© 1999 by Neil Mishalov