President Nixon presents the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal to General John P. McConnell, July 17 1969.

The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal recognizes exceptional meritorious achievements in a duty of great responsibility. General John P. McConnell, who began his military career with the Air Force under the Army Air Corps (later Army Air Forces) and retired as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of staff to the U.S. Air Force, achieved the merits of exceptional duty.

On July 17 1969, President Nixon presented the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal to General McConnell, stating that “on this occasion we think of the service he has rendered, in war and in peace.”

That service included 40 years in the Air Force, serving in key positions in Europe and Asia. During World War II, General McConnell was chief of staff of the China-Burma-India Air Force and later a senior air staff member at Air Command Southeast Asia. He participated in aerial operations against the Japanese in Burma.

After serving a year as Senior Air Adviser to the Chinese government in 1946, General McConnell became Chief of the Reserve and National Guard Division. A year later, he was appointed Chief of the Air Force’s Civilian Components Group. In 1950, he began his time in Europe, traveling to England to serve as Deputy Commander and subsequently Commander of the Third Air Force.

He returned to the United States and assumed a four-year tour as Director of Plans at the Headquarters of SAC, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. During his time there, General McConnell was promoted to Commander of SAC’s Second Air Force and later to Vice Commander in Chief.

The General once again returned to Europe serving as Deputy Commander in Chief of the United States European Command in 1962. It was then that he was promoted to General of four-star rank.

In August of 1964, General McConnell was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force and shortly after assumed his position as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. He served in this capacity until his retirement in July of 1969, upon which President Nixon found this occasion to honor General McConnell.

The President emphasized General McConnell’s service in peace, believing that his “whole life, his service in the Joint Chiefs…bears out what General Twining once said, that if our air forces are never used, they have served their finest purpose.”

And that is what General McConnell served his country for, in the duty of great responsibility for maintaining U.S. military strength, and “maintaining it for peace.”