graduate

Brett, George Howard (1886-1963)


Photograph of George H. Brett

Australian War Memorial #011744

George Brett was born in Ohio and graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1909, joining the Philippine Scouts before accepting a regular commission in 1911 in the cavalry. Completing flight training in 1916, he went to France in late 1917 and was in charge of purchasing and distribution of all aviation materiel. As a result,  he never saw combat.

Brett rose rapidly through the ranks in the years just before the war, acting for Arnold as chief of the Army Air Corps when Arnold was temporarily transferred to the Army General Staff. When Arnold became chief of the newly-created Army Air Forces, Brett retained the old title, spending his time in this post touring airfields in Britain and Russia and fighting for greater autonomy for the Army air forces. Following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, Brett visited China to explore the use of heavy bombers in this theater, then took command of U.S. forces in Australia.

Brett worked to cultivate a close relationship with John Curtin, but was approached by the Country Party with the offer of their political support for obtaining the top Southwest Pacific command if the Country Party regained power in the next election. Thereafter Brett added a number of Australian officers to his staff and attempted to integrate Australian personnel into American aircraft crews. This did not work out well, as cultural difference were exacerbated under the stress of combat. In the end, the Southwest Pacific command went to MacArthur.

Brett recommended that no further resources be expended in what he saw as a losing cause on Bataan. When ordered to fly MacArthur out of Mindanao, Brett tried unsuccessfully to persuade Leary to make available the relatively fresh B-17s under Navy control, and Brett's attempt to make the rescue using battle weary Army bombers was a debacle. Leary was then ordered by Washington to turn his aircraft over to Brett, and the second attempt to fly MacArthur out was successful. However, the episode permanently soured Brett's relationship with MacArthur. One of MacArthur's staff described Brett as "a rather easy-going Air Force officer who was probably a better flyer than administrator" (Gamble 2010). Brett had the support of his old friend, Marshall, but Secretary of War Stimson had little confidence in Brett, and Marshall finally saw to it that Brett was replaced by Kenney in August 1942. Brett spent the remainder of the war commanding patrol units in the Caribbean.

Service record

1886-2-7     

Born at Cleveland, Ohio
1909

Graduates from Virginia Military Institute with a degree in engineering
1910
Second lieutenant     
Philippine Scouts
1911

Receives Regular Army commission in the cavalry
1916

Flight training
1916
First lieutenant
Office, Chief Signal Officer
1917-10
Captain
Purchasing mission, France
1933

Instructor, Command and General Staff School
1935

Army War College
1936

Commander, 19 Composite Wing, Panama Canal Zone
1938
Brigadier general
Chief of staff, General Headquarters Air Force
1939

Assistant chief of the Air Corps
1939

Chief, Air Corps Material Division
1940-10-1
Major general
Acting chief, Army Air Corps
1941-5

Chief, Army Air Corps
1941-12-25     

Deputy Commander, ABDACOM
1942-1-5

Commander, U.S. Army Forces in Australia
1942-1-7
Lieutenant general

1942-4-18

Deputy Commander and Commander, Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area
1942-7-13

Commander, 5 Air Force
1942-11-12

Commander, Carribean Defense Command
1945

Awaiting assignment
1946

Retires
1963

Dies

References

Boatner (1996)

Craven and Cate (1954; accessed 2012-11-9)

Gamble (2010)

Generals.dk (accessed 2007-12-15)

Pettibone (2006)



Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional