During World War II, he flew B-29s in the Southwest Pacific area. In May 1945, he was assigned as a B-29 pilot at Clovis, New Mexico. From August 1946 to May 1947, General Huyser was an aircraft commander in the 307th Bombardment Wing, MacDill Field, Florida. He next became an aircraft commander in the 93d Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, California, and in 1950 was assigned to the wing staff as chief of training.
During the Korean War, General Huyser was assigned to the Far East Air Forces Bomber
Command as chief, combat operations. During that period, he flew combat missions in B-29s with the 98th Bombardment Wing. He returned to the United States in September 1953 and was assigned chief, Combat Crew Section, Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force, March Air Force Base, California. In February 1957, he became chief, Training Division for the 92d Bombardment Wing, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and later was named director of operations.
General Huyser returned to Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force in January 1959 as assistance chief, and then as chief, Combat Operations Branch. In July 1960, he became chief, Operations Plans Division. He entered the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, in August 1962. After his graduation in July 1963, he served as chief, Concepts Branch, Operations Plans Division, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In July 1966, he assumed duties as vice commander of the 454th Bombardment Wing at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, and in December 1966, he assumed command of the 449th Bombardment Wing at Kincheloe Air Force Base, Michigan.
General Huyser returned to Headquarters SAC in April 1968 and was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, as director, command control, and in February 1970 he assumed duties as director of operations plans and chief, Single Integrated Operational Plans Division, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff.
His principal involvement in the Vietnam conflict was administering the contingency war plans for SAC headquarters. He planned the B-52 missions, weaponeered the target boxes and executed the strikes. He also managed the SAC tanker support for the Southeast Asia area. To insure a complete understanding of the operations, he flew B-52 combat missions over Vietnam and tanker support sorties out of Thailand.
In June 1972, General Huyser was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, as director of plans. In April 1973, he became deputy chief of staff, plans and operations. He participated in the decision-making processes that resulted in C-130 resources being assigned to the Military Airlift Command and the designation of the Military Airlift Command as the Department of Defense’s third specified command.
General Huyser became deputy commander in chief of the United States European Command, Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany, in September 1975, where he was one of the major users of Military Airlift Command airlift support. The European Command is the senior United States military headquarters in Europe and has operational command over Army, Air Force, and Navy elements assigned to the command by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There are more than 300,000 personnel assigned from all the services. Its area of responsibility extends from Western Europe through the Mediterranean,, the Middle East land mass and North Africa.
In June 1979, General Huyser became commander in chief of the Military Airlift Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. As commander of a specified command, he was responsible to the president and the secretary of defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the planning and performance of airlift missions during wartime, periods of crisis, and peacetime exercises.
America lost a true patriot and a senior statesman on September 22, 1997, when General Huyser passed away. General Huyser was a command pilot and had flown more than 5,000 hours in SAC bombers, nearly 2,000 hours in SAC tankers, about 1,400 hours in single engine jet aircraft, and 1,500 hours in B-25, C-54, T-39, and various light aircraft. His military decorations and awards included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship ribbon and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation ribbon. He was promoted to general September 1, 1975, with same date of rank and retired from active duty 1 July, 1981.
Lifelong Airlift Advocate
General Robert E. Huyser was the last Commander in Chief, Military Airlift Command (MAC), to have served in World War II. Although he spent much of his career in the Strategic Air Command, General Huyser became an articulate advocate of airlift in an era of reduced defense spending. During his two years as the commander of MAC from 1979 to 1981, General Huyser devoted much of his time meeting with Senators, Representatives, and congressional staff members, Through hundreds of visits and five major hearings, he consistently stressed the importance of three priorities for MAC. The first concerned realizing the full potential of existing resources, including people, parts, and support equipment. The second involved enhancing current airlift capabilities through programs such as the C-5 wing and the C-141 stretch and aerial refueling modification. Lastly, General Huyser advocated procuring new systems to overcome the airlift shortage. He championed what eventually became the C-17 as the missing factor in the airlift modernization equation and was instrumental in helping define the characteristics and performance requirements for the new transport aircraft.
Under General Huyser’s leadership, MAC began the Civil Reserve Air Fleet enhancement program, which modified wide-body passenger aircraft for conversion to cargo operations during wartime.
General Huyser was the leading spokesman for consolidating all helicopter and most Air Force special operations under MAC following the abortive April 1980 attempt to rescue the US hostages held in Iran. Also in the wake of the Iran hostage crisis, MAC focused greater attention on the Middle East and support for the Rapid Deployment Force. During General Huyser’s tenure, the command participated in numerous humanitarian missions, including the dramatic return of the hostages from Iran and earthquake relief to Algeria and Italy.