James H. Douglas, Jr. - Eisenhower Administration

Eisenhower Administration

Douglas quickly became was one of President Eisenhower key military advisors. He served as Under Secretary of the Air Force from 1953 until 1957. In May 1957, President Eisenhower appointed him as the fifth Secretary of the Air Force. He was the first Secretary of the Air Force to have previously served as a military air service officer.

As Secretary of the Air Force, Douglas helped establish the United States Air Force Academy. He authorized the Air Force Commendation Medal to replace the Army version of the award. Douglas advised the President regarding a course of action in response to The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I in October 1957. He also reaffirmed the 1925 court-martial verdict against air power advocate Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. He said the court was correct to have been found Mitchell guilty of publicly attacking his superiors, but noted that time had proved Mitchell was right about the unique value of air power. In April 1959, the secretary of the air force issued implementing instructions to USAF to deploy two Jupiter squadrons to Italy. The two squadrons, totaling 30 missiles, were deployed at 10 sites in Italy from 1961 to 1963. In October 1959, the location of the third and final Jupiter MRBM squadron was settled when a government-to-government agreement was signed with Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey concluded an agreement to deploy one Jupiter squadron on NATO's southern flank. The deployment of US nuclear armed missiles in Turkey triggered the Cuban Missile Crises.

Douglas served as Secretary of the Air Force until the end of 1959. In January 1960, he became Deputy Secretary of Defense, filling the position left vacant since the sudden death of Donald A. Quarles in May 1959. He served as Deputy Secretary of Defense until the close of the Eisenhower Administration in January 1961.

On January 18, 1961, President Eisenhower presented Douglas with the Medal of Freedom for his distinguished service to the United States. The citation recognized Douglas for his "many contributions to the nation's security". It also cited his "sound judgment, wise leadership and great devotion to his country", and his "firm and unyielding dedication to principles of good government".

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