Thomas W. Steed

Last updated
Thomas Webster Steed
Born(1904-10-18)October 18, 1904
Mineral Bluff, Georgia
Died October 21, 1973(1973-10-21) (aged 69)
Manchester, New Hampshire
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Years of service 1930-1954
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands held 456th Bomb Group
91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing
301st Bomb Wing
4th Air Division, SAC
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Army Commendation Medal (3)
Air Medal (7)

Thomas Webster Steed (October 18, 1904 – October 21, 1973) was a professional U.S. military officer in the United States Army Air Corps, Army Air Forces, and Air Force. During World War II he commanded the 456th Bomb Group (Heavy) throughout its combat service, one of only three bomb group commanders to train a group, command it overseas, and return it to the United States. [1]

United States Army Air Corps air warfare branch of the US Army from 1926 to 1941

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the aerial warfare service of the United States of America between 1926 and 1941. After World War I, as early aviation became an increasingly important part of modern warfare, a philosophical rift developed between more traditional ground-based army personnel and those who felt that aircraft were being underutilized and that air operations were being stifled for political reasons unrelated to their effectiveness. The USAAC was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926, and was part of the larger United States Army. The Air Corps became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, giving it greater autonomy from the Army's middle-level command structure. During World War II, although not an administrative echelon, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing the Department of the Air Force.

United States Army Air Forces Aerial warfare branch of the United States army from 1941 to 1947

The United States Army Air Forces, informally known as the Air Force,or United States Army Air Force, was the aerial warfare service of the United States during and immediately after World War II (1939/41–1945), successor to the previous United States Army Air Corps and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force of today, one of the five uniformed military services. The AAF was a component of the United States Army, which in 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces, the Services of Supply, and the Army Air Forces. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

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Background

Steed was born October 18, 1904, at Mineral Bluff, Fannin County, Georgia. His family later moved to nearby Etowah, Tennessee. Steed was educated in the public schools, and attended both Tennessee Military Academy and the University of Tennessee before entering the United States Military Academy in 1923 on a senatorial appointment. His initial efforts were unsuccessful and he was dropped from the Academy for academic deficiencies, particularly in required English, during the second half of his plebe year. Steed moved to New York City and worked as a digger in the building of the 14th Street Tunnel under the East River. Steed was reinstated in the autumn of 1924 as a plebe and successfully completed the four-year course as a member of the Class of 1928. Nicknamed "Sadie" and "Red", he was a popular cadet though older than most of his peers.

Fannin County, Georgia County in the United States

Fannin County is a county located in the north central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 23,682. The county seat is Blue Ridge. The county was created on January 21, 1854.

Etowah, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Etowah is a city in McMinn County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 3,490 at the 2010 census.

University of Tennessee public university in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

The University of Tennessee is a public sun- and land-grant university in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state, it is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, with ten undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges. It hosts almost 28,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. In its 2019 universities ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranked UT 115th among all national universities and 52nd among public institutions of higher learning. Seven alumni have been selected as Rhodes Scholars. James M. Buchanan, M.S. '41, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economics. UT's ties to nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, established under UT President Andrew Holt and continued under the UT–Battelle partnership, allow for considerable research opportunities for faculty and students.

Military service

2nd Lt. Steed underwent flight training at the primary school, Brooks Field, and advanced flying school, Kelly Field, Texas, receiving his wings in March, 1930. His first unit assignment was with the 99th Observation Squadron (9th Observation Group) at Mitchel Field, New York, from April, 1930 to December, 1932. In addition to the limited flying, he performed collateral duties as mess officer, armament officer, and squadron adjutant, and attended Cooks and Bakers Training School at Fort Slocum, New York.

Brooks Air Force Base Closed US Air Force base

Brooks Air Force Base was a United States Air Force facility, located in San Antonio, Texas. It was closed on September 30, 2011.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city in the state with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

From January 1933 to April, 1936, Lt. Steed was based at Clark Field, Philippine Islands, with the 3rd Pursuit Squadron. In 1934 he flew escort for the first non-stop flight from Tokyo to Manila. Steed was promoted to first lieutenant in October, 1934.

Tokyo Metropolis in Kantō

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2014, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

Manila Capital / Highly Urbanized City in National Capital Region, Philippines

Manila, officially the City of Manila, is the capital of the Philippines. It is the most densely populated city proper in the world. It was the first chartered city by virtue of the Philippine Commission Act 183 on July 31, 1901 and gained autonomy with the passage of Republic Act No. 409 or the "Revised Charter of the City of Manila" on June 18, 1949.

In May, 1936, Steed transferred to the 32nd Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, March Field, California. He remained with the group to February 1941, also serving in the 93rd Bombardment and 38th Reconnaissance Squadrons. He also had temporary duty as a student at the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Alabama, in the second of its "short courses" held in 1939-40.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 8.8 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

The Air Corps Tactical School, also known as ACTS and "the Tactical School", was a military professional development school for officers of the United States Army Air Service and United States Army Air Corps, the first such school in the world. Created in 1920 at Langley Field, Virginia, it relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama, in July 1931. Instruction at the school was suspended in 1940, anticipating the entry of the United States into World War II, and the school was dissolved shortly after. ACTS was replaced in November 1942 by the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics.

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

While assigned to the 19th Bomb Group he received promotions to captain (June 1938) and major (February 1941). On February 10, 1941, he was named commander of the 30th Heavy Bomb Group, one of a dozen new groups created in January 1941 in preparation for World War II. While commanding the 30th Group, Steed was promoted to lieutenant colonel (January 1942), and to colonel (March 1942). Major Steed received the Distinguished Flying Cross in May 1941, as a member of the first flight of B-17s from Hamilton Field, California, to Hickam Field, Hawaii.

In the United States uniformed services, captain is a commissioned-officer rank. In keeping with the traditions of the militaries of most nations, the rank varies between the services, being a senior rank in the naval services and a junior rank in the ground and air forces.

Major (United States) rank in the United States uniformed services, O-4

In the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, major is a field grade military officer rank above the rank of captain and below the rank of lieutenant colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of lieutenant commander in the other uniformed services. Although lieutenant commanders are considered junior officers by their respective services, the rank of major is considered field grade in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.

Lieutenant colonel (United States) U.S. military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel

In the United States Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force, a lieutenant colonel is a field-grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.

World War II service

From August 1942 to July 1943 Colonel Steed was assigned as Chief of Staff IV Bomber Command, Headquarters Fourth Air Force, San Francisco, receiving the Legion of Merit. He commanded the Bomber Command for several days in November, 1942, in a caretaker status. From this assignment he was selected to command the 456th Bomb Group.

Colonel Steed took command of the 456th at Gowen Field, Idaho on July 14, 1943. In five months of training he supervised the development of the group from a small cadre of transferred personnel without equipment to a unit of 2,300 officers and men and 61 B-24 Liberator bombers. Included in the training period were four changes of station that forced a reduction of phase three training, normally three months in length, to a month at Muroc AAF, California.

At Muroc the 456th had only half the number of aircraft it required for training and was unable to secure equipment for high altitude bombing and gunnery practice which were necessary to prepare the crews for combat. When the Preparation for Overseas Movement inspectors asked Colonel Steed to certify his group as ready for combat, Colonel Steed replied that, as a professional airman, he could not comply. According to the group history of the 456th, Steed added that he knew the group would be sent anyway, that its members wanted to get into combat, and that the 456th would "fight one hell of a war." Despite efforts to have him change his position, the 456th was sent overseas without POM certification.

The 456th, based at Stornara, Italy, was assigned to the 304th Bomb Wing, headquartered at Cerignola, as part of the Fifteenth Air Force. There it flew 249 combat missions from February 10, 1944 to April 25, 1945, with Steed as its only commander. On its final mission the 456th achieved the only 100% bombing accuracy by a Fifteenth Air Force group (and only the second in Europe). The group earned two Distinguished Unit Citations and seven campaign streamers. Its members were awarded one Distinguished Service Cross, 19 Silver Stars, 215 Distinguished Flying Crosses, over 2,000 Air Medals. While at Stornara, Colonel Steed met and married his wife, Julia, a captain and army nurse with the 34th Field Hospital, Cerignola. Colonel Steed returned to the United States in May, 1945.

USAF service

His post-war assignments for the USAAF and after September 18, 1947 the USAF were:

(The headquarters of the 91st SRW and 301st BW were integrated after April 1950 and Col. Steed commanded both simultaneously, rotating command tours with Col. H.M. Wade)

Colonel Steed medically retired from the Air Force on October 31, 1952. In July, 1950 Colonel Steed had been severely injured during an RB-50 training flight in England when a crewman went berserk on the flight deck of Steed's aircraft. During the attempt to subdue the airman Colonel Steed was struck on the head with a wrench, causing a bone splinter that eventually forced his early retirement.

Following his retirement, Colonel Steed resided in Pelham, New Hampshire, and became a contract realtor and an appraiser for the Veterans' Administration. Colonel Steed died October 21, 1973 at the Veterans Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, from meningioma.

Awards and decorations

Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross (with oak leaf cluster)
Silver oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Air Medal (with six oak leaf clusters)
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg
Army Commendation Medal (with two oak leaf clusters)

American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg    American Defense Service Medal

American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg    American Campaign Medal

Silver-service-star-3d.png
Bronze-service-star-3d.png
Bronze-service-star-3d.png
Bronze-service-star-3d.png
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with eight battle stars)

World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg    World War II Victory Medal

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References

  1. The others were Col. Paul L. Barton (483rd BG, 15th AF) and Col. Albert H. Shower (467th BG, 8th AF).