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Giles, Barney McKinney (1892–1984)

Anne Giles Kimbrough Biography

Barney McKinney Giles, chief of the Air Staff and deputy commander of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, was born on September 13, 1892, on a farm near Mineola, Texas, to Richard Portlock and Louisa (Read) Giles. He and his identical twin, Benjamin F. Giles, attended East Texas State Teachers College to obtain teachers' certificates. For the next three years they taught in Ochiltree and Gray counties and then decided to go the University of Texas to study law. In 1917 Giles enlisted as a flying cadet and took basic training at the University of Texas, at Mitchel Field, New York, and at Ellington Field, Houston. In September 1918 he was sent to Issoudun, France, and later was assigned to the 168th Observation Squadron.

He returned to the United States in September 1919 and became an engineer officer at the Aviation Supply Depot at Morrison, Virginia. During the next ten years he served as an engineer in the aviation-repair depots in Dallas and San Antonio, as a flight engineer at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, and as a flightinstructor and engineer at March Field, Riverside, California. By 1930 he was the chief engineer officer at Rockwell Air Depot, San Diego, California, and was promoted to captain. With Ben he got an appointment to the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Alabama. In 1935 he was assigned to command the Twentieth Bombardment Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia. In 1936 he became operations officer of the Second Bombardment Group at Langley Field. That same year he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading the rescue of seven men stranded on an ice floe near Cape Cod Bay. In 1938 Giles graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth, Kansas, and then was assigned as chief of the Inspection Division in Washington, D.C., where he was instrumental in organizing the army air force safety program, which meant overseeing the records of all pilots and the maintenance of all aircraft. In 1939 he was promoted to major and in December 1941, with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel, was ordered to California to take over the Air Service Area Command. He became brigadier general in charge of the Fourth Bomber Command in February 1942 and took over the Fourth Air Force in September of that year with the temporary rank of major general. In July 1943 Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold appointed Giles chief of the Air Staff and later promoted him to be deputy commanding general of the air force. During this time General Giles was active in promoting the development of the long-range fighter planes, the P-38s, the P-47s, and the P-51s, that profoundly affected the course of the war in Europe. General Giles often served as acting head of the army air force because of General Arnold's prolonged illness. In the spring of 1945 Giles went to the Pacific battle zone as the deputy commander of the Twentieth Air Force. He helped direct the B-29 raids on Japan and formulate plans for dropping the atomic bomb.

After the surrender of Japan he attended the signing of the treaty, on the battleship Missouri. He retired on July 1, 1946, after twenty-nine years of service as a command pilot, and took a position as first vice president of Air Associates in New York, a position he held for three years. For the next ten years he worked with the Lear Jet Corporation, where he helped to perfect the automatic pilot and other instruments.

Giles married Hollyce Thomas, daughter of John Covington Thomas, in San Antonio on April 18, 1922. She died in 1968, and in 1969 he married Laura Edwards. After her death, he married Katherine Elizabeth Gregg, on October 11, 1975. General Giles died on May 6, 1984, in San Antonio and was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. In his early years he was a member of the Christian Church and later a Methodist. His honors included the degree of doctor of aeronautical science from the Pennsylvania Military College, the Distinguished Service Medal with clusters, the Air Medal with clusters, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Mexican Military Medal of Merit, the Honoris Causa from the Royal Yugoslavian Government, and the Special Cloud Banner Decoration presented to him by President Chiang Kai-shek. He was knighted by King George with the Order of the British Empire and was a member of the Daedalians.

Thomas M. Coffey, Hap: The Story of the U. S. Air Force and the Man Who Built It, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold (New York: Viking Press, 1982). Barney M. Giles, "Early Military Aviation Activities in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54 (October 1950). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 10, 1943. San Antonio Express, May 8, 1984.

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anne Giles Kimbrough, “Giles, Barney McKinney,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 29, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.