A moment in Air Force history
USAFE’s first commanding general

Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Smith
435th Air Base Wing History Office

***image1***Gen. John K. Cannon is often remembered for his work in restoring Tactical Air Command from a planning headquarters back to a full major command. As a famous World War II tactician, General Cannon was brought in to recreate a tactical air capability desperately needed for the Korean War. No small task considering the years of neglect, but before he went to TAC, General Cannon had already been an important figure in U.S. Air Forces in Europe history. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the only person to ever have commanded USAFE twice.

Prior to General Cannon’s first USAFE command, he had to fight his way into the theater during World War II. Commanding the All Allied Air Forces in the Mediterranean, he assumed command of the 12th Air Force in December 1943. Leading the 12th supported by a variety of air units – including the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group, General Cannon got to central Europe by way of Tunisia and Italy. As the war drew to an end, many airpower reorganizations began to take place.

The War Department activated the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe in January 1944 and then re-designated it in August 1945 as USAFE and General Cannon became its first commanding general. While he only commanded it for seven months before he headed out to lead Air Training Command, he returned to USAFE again in October 1948.

By that time the Berlin Airlift had already been underway for five months. Working closely with Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner, Airlift Task Force commander; General Cannon led USAFE through the airlift’s conclusion and the expansion of the command’s role in Europe.

He drew on his ATC experience to establish the Academy of Leadership and Management. Established May 16, 1950, it is arguably the predecessor of all Air Force NCO academies – though Strategic Air Command’s 7th Air Division, NCOA (est. 1952) is generally cited as the first because General Cannon’s school later admitted junior officers as well.

He left USAFE in January 1951 to command TAC – a position he held until his 1954 retirement. In June 1957, TAC renamed Clovis Air Force Base, N. M., in his honor.

However, Ramstein already had a memorial to the former commander. Built in 1956, the 13,826-square foot hotel was dedicated in 1957. Attended by his widow, LaVon Cannon, the ceremony was fittingly hosted by the 12th Air Force which was based at Ramstein at the time.

More than a building, the Cannon Hotel stands today as a lasting memorial to a devoted Airman – a leader who truly dedicated his entire life to the betterment of the Air Force.