Frank Alton Armstrong Jr. was a brigadier general in the United States Army Air Forces and the inspiration for the main character in the novel and subsequent film, “Twelve O’Clock High”.
After the war he became a lieutenant general in the United States Air Force.
Armstrong commanded two B-17 Flying Fortress groups and a wing of B-17 and B-29 Super Fortresses in combat operations against both Germany and Japan. He personally led the first USAAF strategic bombing attack from England in August 1942, and the last strategic raid on Japan three years later. He also led the first attack by the USAAF against a target in Germany.
In June 1949, the Korean War began. I was assigned to Sampson Air Field, New York, in December 1950 to set up the base’s printing department. This base would train men from the eastern United States for this new war.
On May 13, 1951, General Armstrong was named base commander of Sampson Air Force Base. His office was directly upstairs of the wing in which the base printing department was located in the base headquarters. The noise from our shop was too much for him.
When my printers turned the equipment on and they were yelling to each other above the noise, he wanted me to report to him now.
The old building was the headquarters for the Navy during World War II, and looked like it would fall apart at any time.
The General was known to always get his way. He knew my roommate was his driver, and he also knew there was no other place to put 17 printers. He talked very nice to me.
With the base just opened, there was lots of room in this big building. The General asked me to take his aide and find a better office space for him.
I did as he asked and found a nice spot overlooking New York’s Finger Lakes. He loved it.
When warm weather came and I was playing softball on the base team, he came out and watched us play.
We talked a lot until he became the commanding general of the sixth Air Division at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
I missed him.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.