Chief of Staff of The United States Air Force - List of Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Air Force (1947–present)

List of Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Air Force (1947–present)

Prior to the creation of this position, General Henry H. Arnold was designated first Chief of the Army Air Forces and Commanding General of the Army Air Forces during World War II.

No. Image Name Term of Office Primary Background Secretaries served under:
Began Ended Days of Service Air Force Defense
1 Carl A. Spaatz September 26, 1947 April 29, 1948 216 Fighters Stuart Symington James Forrestal
2 Hoyt S. Vandenberg April 30, 1948 June 29, 1953 1887 Attack and Fighters Stuart Symington
Thomas K. Finletter
Harold E. Talbott
James Forrestal
Louis A. Johnson
George C. Marshall
Robert A. Lovett
Charles E. Wilson
3 Nathan F. Twining* June 30, 1953 June 30, 1957 1461 Fighters and Bombers Harold E. Talbott
Donald A. Quarles
James H. Douglas, Jr.
Charles E. Wilson
4 Thomas D. White July 1, 1957 June 30, 1961 1460 Observation aircraft and Staff James H. Douglas, Jr.
Dudley C. Sharp
Eugene M. Zuckert
Charles E. Wilson
Neil H. McElroy
Thomas S. Gates
Robert S. McNamara
5 Curtis E. LeMay June 30, 1961 January 31, 1965 1311 Bombers Eugene M. Zuckert Robert S. McNamara
6 John P. McConnell February 1, 1965 July 31, 1969 1641 Fighters Eugene M. Zuckert
Harold Brown
Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
Robert S. McNamara
Clark M. Clifford
Melvin R. Laird
7 John D. Ryan August 1, 1969 July 31, 1973 1460 Bombers Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
John L. McLucas
Melvin R. Laird
Elliot Richardson
James R. Schlesinger
8 George S. Brown* August 1, 1973 June 30, 1974 333 Bombers John L. McLucas James R. Schlesinger
9 David C. Jones* July 1, 1974 June 20, 1978 1450 Bombers John L. McLucas
Thomas C. Reed
John C. Stetson
James R. Schlesinger
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
10 Lew Allen Jr. July 1, 1978 June 30, 1982 1460 Bombers John C. Stetson
Hans Mark
Verne Orr
Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
11 Charles A. Gabriel July 1, 1982 June 30, 1986 1460 Fighters Verne Orr
Russell A. Rourke
Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Caspar Weinberger
12 Larry D. Welch July 1, 1986 June 30, 1990 1460 Fighters Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Donald B. Rice
Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
13 Michael J. Dugan July 1, 1990 September 17, 1990 78 Fighters Donald B. Rice Dick Cheney
14 John M. Loh September 18, 1990 October 29, 1990 41 Fighters
15 Merrill A. McPeak October 30, 1990 October 25, 1994 1456 Fighters Donald B. Rice
Sheila E. Widnall
Dick Cheney
Les Aspin
William J. Perry
16 Ronald R. Fogleman October 26, 1994 September 1, 1997 1041 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall William J. Perry
William S. Cohen
17 Ralph E. Eberhart September 2, 1997 October 5, 1997 33 Fighters William S. Cohen
18 Michael E. Ryan October 6, 1997 September 5, 2001 1430 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall
F. Whitten Peters
James G. Roche
William S. Cohen
Donald H. Rumsfeld
19 John P. Jumper September 6, 2001 September 2, 2005 1457 Fighters James G. Roche Donald H. Rumsfeld
20 T. Michael Moseley September 2, 2005 July 12, 2008 1044 Fighters Michael Wynne Donald H. Rumsfeld
Robert M. Gates
21 Duncan J. McNabb July 12, 2008 August 12, 2008 31 Airlift Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
22 Norton A. Schwartz August 12, 2008 August 10, 2012 1459 Airlift and Special Operations aircraft Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
Leon Panetta
23 Mark A. Welsh III August 10, 2012 Incumbent 99 Attack and Fighters Michael B. Donley Leon Panetta

*: Three former chiefs of staff would later serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

  • Twining served as the Chairman from August 1957 to September 1960.
  • Brown served as the Chairman from July 1974 to June 1978.
  • Jones served as the Chairman from June 1978 to June 1982.
  • The fourth air force officer to have served as the Chairman, General Richard B. Myers, did not serve as Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

McPeak is the only Chief of Staff of the Air Force to date who has served as Acting Secretary of the Air Force (from July 14, 1993 to August 5, 1993 before Sheila Widnall took office as Secretary), thus being the only uniformed Air Force officer to have truly been the "head of the Air Force".

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