Horace M. Wade (1916–2001)

Horace M. Wade was a United States Air Force officer whose thirty-nine-year career concluded with him holding the rank of four-star general and serving as vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force.

Horace Milton Wade was born in Magnolia (Columbia County) on March 12, 1916, one of five children of the Reverend Junius Wade and Ira Antoinette (Nettie) Torbet Wade. The family lived briefly in El Dorado (Union County) before moving to Wortham, Texas, where Wade graduated from high school. He returned to Arkansas, where he graduated in 1936 from Magnolia Agricultural and Mechanical Junior College (now Southern Arkansas University) in Magnolia.

His military career began in Magnolia in 1934 when he served in Company D of the 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard. In 1937, Wade entered the U.S. Army Air Corps Flying School at Texas’s Randolph Field, graduating in 1938 as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve.

He married Christine Murphy of Magnolia in 1940; they had no children.

He was assigned to the Eleventh Bombardment Squadron of the Seventh Bombardment Group in California, which was ordered to Hawaii in December 1941. Because his bomber was delivered late, he missed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by one day. Wade would serve in the China-Burma-India Theater and in the Middle East during World War II, flying thirty-six combat missions and participating in the Air Corps’s transition from B-17 to B-24 bombers.

Wade briefly commanded the Twenty-ninth Bombardment Group in Idaho and served as a tactical air inspector for the Second Air Force before joining the general staff of the War Department in mid-1944. Two years later, he became deputy chief of staff of the Headquarters Air Transport Command.

Wade then attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), graduating in 1948 with a BS in business administration.

In August 1949, Wade joined the Strategic Air Command, serving with the Fifth Strategic Reconnaissance Wing in Idaho and the Ninety-first Strategic Reconnaissance Wing in Louisiana before taking command of the 301st Bombardment Win at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in early 1951.

Wade graduated from the National War College in 1955 before serving as the Strategic Air Command’s head of personnel in Omaha, Nebraska. Four years later, he took command of SAC’s 4310th Air Division in Morocco. In 1961, he became deputy commander of the Eighth Air Force in Massachusetts and, a year later, served as the assistant deputy chief of staff, plans, and programs at the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon.

Promoted to lieutenant general, Wade took command of the Eighth Air Force in late 1964, a position he held about two years before returning to the Pentagon.

Wade became a four-star general in July 1968 and was appointed to concurrent roles as commander in chief of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, Allied Command Europe. On November 16, 1968, he stopped in Fayetteville to attend a game between the UA Razorbacks and Southern Methodist University; at half-time, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller declared “Horace M. Wade Day in Arkansas.” The following year, Wade was made chief of staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

The Magnolia native reached the pinnacle of his career on May 1, 1972, when he became vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. He retired the following year.

Horace and Christine Wade made their retirement home in Tucson, Arizona, where he died on June 14, 2001. He is buried in the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His wife died in 2014.

Wade was the recipient of military honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, and Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster. In 1997, the U.S. Air Force created the Gen. Horace M. Wade Innovation Award, which recognizes an individual at an installation, operational, or staff level who initiated innovative change that enhanced operational support to combat troops.

For additional information:
“Gen. Horace Milton Wade.” Find-A-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19085542/horace-milton-wade (accessed May 5, 2023).

“General Horace M. Wade.” U.S. Air Force. https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/105330/general-horace-m-wade/ (accessed May 5, 2023).

“General Will Be Honored.” El Dorado Times, November 16, 1968, p. 3.

“General’s Career Star-Studded.” Tucson Citizen, November 14, 2000, p. 2C.

“Promotion for Gen. Horace M. Wade.” Shreveport Journal, June 1, 1968, p. 2.

“Retired Four-Star General, Horace Wade.” Tucson Citizen, June 23, 2001, p. 6B.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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