Uzal Girard Ent was a United States Army Air Forces Officer and Commanding General, Second Air Force, headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO. He first became Chief of Staff of this Air Force in 1943, and then Commanding General in 1944. The primary mission of Second Air Force was the training of heavy and very heavy bombardment groups, the latter of which being the B-29 Superfortress groups.
Uzal Girard Ent was born on March 3, 1900, in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Infantry from 1917 to 1919, and then was released to attend West Point (ASN: O-15604) with a commission in the Air Service. At the academy he earned the nickname “The Dutchman” or just “P.D.” (Pennsylvania Dutch) from his friends. Ent married Eleanor R Marwitz on November 27, 1929 in Manhattan, New York. They had one son together, Girard Wellington Ent, born in 1934.
After graduating West Point, he was initially stationed at Brooks Field, Texas. He then enrolled in the Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, in Maryland. Upon graduation in May of 1925, he was ordered to Scott Field, Illinois. There, he entered the Balloon and Airship School, and completed that course the following June.
Ent remained at Scott Field until August of 1927. He then transferred to Langley Field, Virginia, to join the 19th Airship Company. In June of 1928 he enrolled in the Special Observation Course at the Air Corps Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, in Texas. Upon completion, he returned to Langley Field as post personnel adjutant and recruiting officer.
From July to November of 1929, Ent attended the School of Navigation at Wright Field, in Ohio. He then returned to Langley Field as an Engineering Officer of the 19th Airship Company. In May of 1930 he was assigned to Crissy Field, in California, as a Post Inspector. He served there until October, when he went to Nichols Field, Rizal, in the Philippine Islands, for duty with the 2d Observation Squadron. After serving as the Chief Engineering Officer and the Chief Inspector of the Engineering Department at Nichols Field from September 1931 until January 1933, he returned to Langley Field. Here he worked as an assistant Post Adjutant for two years.
Ent then entered the Observation Section, Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, in Texas, graduating in 1936 with a heavier-than-air pilot rating. The next year he graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, and a year later, from the Command and General Staff School, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He then joined the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron at Mitchel Field, in New York, as an Engineering Officer.
He became military and air attaché, for American Embassy in Lima, Peru from July of 1939 to October of 1942. During this service, he acted as senior neutral military observer on the Peruvian side during the settlement of the recent Peruvian-Ecuadorian boundary dispute.
Ent then served as a Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Forces, under General Frank Andrews in the Middle East. Ent’s most spectacular exploit, during this period was when he led more than 175, B-24 Liberators of the Ninth Bomber Command, Ninth Air Force, in the daylight air attack that destroyed the oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania, on August 1, 1943.
Returning to the United States in September of 1943, Ent was assigned to Headquarters Second Air Force, in Colorado Springs. He then became a Chief of Staff.
Ent was first introduced to the Manhattan Project on August 28, 1944 during a conference with Lt. General Barney M Giles, the Assistant Chief of Air Staff. Here, Giles advised Ent what his work would consist of in cooperating with operations to develop an operational squadron and make available certain of his facilities for development of the combat group.
During this meeting and an earlier conference with other Air Force officers on August 26, 1944 the Air Forces was moving at an extremely rapid pace advancing their phase of the Project in coordination with other Manhattan Project goals.
For example, the 393rd Squadron of the 504th BG in training at Fairmont Field had already been selected. In addition, Wendover Field at Utah had been selected as the training base of the yet unnamed atomic delivery force. The Glen L. Martin modification center at Omaha, Nebraska had been selected to modify B-29s to the Silverplate configuration with a set delivery timetable. Roscoe C. Wilson had requested 300 blockbusters “Pumpkin Bombs” in order to permit the 393rd squadron to train.
General Ent visited Wendover Field on September 20, 1944. No record except for the planning of this visit has been found. The bulk of the 393rd Squadron arrived at Wendover from Fairmont by September 15, without B-29 aircraft. Furthermore Wendover Field had never hosted a B-29 group before and therefore was lacking in all manner of facilities to support such a group, including a B-29 hanger.
On October 10, 1944, Ent was piloting a B-25 bomber, which developed trouble on take-off near Fort Worth, Texas, and crashed. A propeller cut through the cockpit. He suffered a broken back and ten fractured ribs, causing paralysis from the waist down. The co-pilot and five enlisted men on board sustained injuries. He was hospitalized until his retirement in 1946. On March 5, 1948, Ent passed away as a result of the injuries he sustained in the plane crash, at Fitzsimons General Hospital, in Denver.
Major General Robert B. Williams was appointed Commanding General of Second Air Force as the replacement for General Ent.
General Carl Spaatz, wrote to Ent just prior to his retirement, and expressed high esteem:
“It is with sincere sorrow that I am writing this letter; I feel that the Army Air Forces is about to lose one of its soldiers due to your unfortunate accident at Fort Worth, Texas, on October 10, 1944.
During the years you served the Army Air Forces you established an admirable record, you proved to be accurate, aggressive, and thorough in your work, but primarily you were always a good soldier. Your distinguished career is well known, and your excellent leadership and command qualifications have always reacted most favorably with the units in your command. Your complete and thorough knowledge in all phases of the Army Air Forces has left a gap which is difficult to fill.”
In 1951, an Air Force base opened near Colorado Springs, and was named in Ent’s honor. Ent AFB was home to NORAD from 1957 until 1963, when the command center moved to a highly secure facility within Cheyenne Mountain. Ent AFB then became the Ent Annex to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in 1975, and the facility was closed in 1976.
Ent has received numerous awards, including: An Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, a Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, a Distinguished Service Cross with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, a Distinguished Service Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, an American Campaign Medal, and a European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.