Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Robert B. Williams

Commanding General of the Second Air ForceLos Alamos, NM

EuropeWendover, UT
Manhattan Project Veteran

Robert Boyd Williams was a Major General in United States Army Air Forces and Commanding General, Second Air Force, headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO.

Early Life

Williams was born in Albany, Texas in 1901. He graduated from Texas A&M College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1923. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Service on June 6, 1923. Williams entered flying training in June 1923 at Brooks Field in San Antonio. In January 1924, he began advanced flying training at nearby Kelly Field.

Williams then served as Squadron Adjutant at Kelly Field and attended the Photography Course at the Air Service Technical School at Chanute Field, Illinois. From 1925 to 1926, Williams served with the 5th Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field in New York.

Williams was then transferred to France Field in the Panama Canal Zone, where he served with the 6th Composite Group and the 7th Observation Squadron. In 1928, he made an emergency landing in a crater lake in El Salvador. He was flying an OA-4 Dolphin and spiraled his plane out of this hazardous area after refueling. While in Panama he married Amy Ruth MacIntyre.

In May 1930, Williams and Amy returned to the U.S. He spent time as a flight instructor, until 1936, when he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School in Kansas. In 1937, he became the Operations Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group, at Langley Field in Virginia. The 2nd Bomb Group received the first 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses delivered to the Air Corps in March of 1937.

In May of 1938, Williams was assigned to the 49th Bombardment Squadron at Langley Field and became the Squadron Commander the following year. He then spent time (September 1940 to January 1941), as a military observer in England, witnessing the Battle of Britain and RAF tactics.

He briefly served as the Commanding General of the 16th Bombardment Wing in April of 1943 in El Paso, Texas, before becoming the Commanding General of the 1st Bomb Command. In June of 1943 he was deployed to the 8th Air Force in Great Britain, subsequently becoming the Commanding General of the 1st Bombardment Division.

Manhattan Project

Upon his return to the U.S. Williams was appointed Commanding General of Second Air Force, replacing General Uzal Ent, who was severely injured in an airplane crash. The primary mission of Second Air Force was the training of Heavy and Very Heavy bombardment groups, and replacement crews.

At that time, the Manhattan Project was in its beginning stages at Wendover Field. The 393rdSquadron combat element had already relocated but the task of forming and acquiring the rest of the composite group elements of the 390th Air Service Group: the 603rd Air Engineering Squadron, the 1027th Air Materiel Squadron, the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, the 1395th Military Police Company, and the First Ordnance Squadron, still lay ahead.

All equipment and manning tables still had to be processed through the 2nd Air Force Headquarters with General Williams’ approval. Even after the 509th CG deployed to Tinian, Williams continued to support the 216th Flight Test Section, and the Special Ordnance Detachment at Wendover, as the Los Alamos weapons development program expanded. Williams remained CG of Second Air Force until November 1945.

Williams spent his retirement years living in San Antonio, Texas until his death from a heart attack at the age of 75. He received the following awards and decorations: a Distinguished Service Cross, a Distinguished Service Medal, an American Defense Service Medal, an American Theater Medal, a WWII Victory Medal, a European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and a Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross.

Robert B. Williams's Timeline
1901 Nov 9th Born in Albany, Texas.
1923 Graduated from Texas A&M College.
19231924 Trained at Brooks Field and Kelly Field.
1924 Served as Squadron Adjutant at Kelly Field.
1924 Oct1925 Jun Attended Air Service Technical School.
1925 Jun1926 May Served at Mitchel Field.
1926 May Transferred to the Panama Canal Zone.
1927 Nov 11th Promoted to First Lieutenant.
1928 Jul Became the Operations Officer of the 24th Pursuit Squadron at France Field.
1929 Assigned to command the 12th Photo Section.
1930 Served as an instructor at March Field.
1931 Aug Transferred to Randolph Field, and served as an instructor.
1933 Aug1934 Jun Attended Air Corps Tactical School.
1934 Served as an instructor in the Advanced Air Navigation Training Unit.
1935 Promoted to Captain and assigned to the 30th Bombardment Squadron.
1936 Aug1937 Jul Attended U.S. Army Command and General Staff School.
1939 Nov Participated in the Goodwill Flight to Brazil.
1940 Awarded Order of the Southern Cross by the government of Brazil.
1940 Mar 11th Promoted to Major.
1941 Nov 8th Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
1941 Dec 10th Assigned to the I Bomber Command.
1942 Mar 1st Promoted to Colonel.
1942 Sep 21st Promoted to Brigadier General.
1943 Aug 17th Led the Schweinfurt Factory Mission.
1944 May 28th Promoted to Major General.
1944 Oct Returned to the U.S. after serving 14 months in Europe.
19441945 Worked at Los Alamos.
1946 Jun 30th Retired from military service.
1977 Feb 10th Passed away.

9/23/1943

Williams (Left) talking with J.J. Nazzaro, 9/12/1943.

Williams (Left) Congratulates Robert F. Travis, 5/31/1944.

Williams (Left) Congratulates William M. Gross, 2/23/1944.

Inspection Tour of the 91st BG, England, 4/9/1944.

Assignment Documents, 1 of 2.

Assignment Documents, 2 of 2.

1945.

1946.

Related Profiles

J. P. McInerney

Hanford, WA

F. T. Rutherford

Oak Ridge, TN

F. T. Rutherford worked for the Edenfield Electric Company.

Jack H. South

K-25 Plant

Attended Carnegie Technical Institute.

E.H. Judkins

B Reactor/100 Area

Judkins worked at the 100-D Area at Hanford during the Manhattan Project.