The McInerney Family is a family of West Point graduates who exemplify the spirit of “Duty, Honor, Country”. The McInerney’s served in the air and on the ground during nearly every major conflict in the 20th century- and one member family made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Members of the family served with distinction in World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, The Berlin Airlift, The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the 1986 bombing of Libya and the Afghanistan War. This room dedication is for five West Point graduates and their extended families: James, Sr (USMA ‘23), James, Jr. (USMA ‘52), John and Tom (both USMA ‘59) and Richard, KIA Vietnam (USMA ‘60)
James E. B. McInerney. The original patriarch was James E. B. McInerney, USMA 1923. He enlisted in the Army in May 1917 and served in France from July 1917 to May 1919, serving in five major battles at the Somme, Lys, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. He entered West Point in 1919 and graduated in 1923. He married Rose between the wars and they had five children, four boys and a girl. All four boys attended and graduated from West Point (1952, 1959, 1959 and 1960).
In 1944 Jim returned to combat in Europe as a Colonel, where he helped introduce the M-24 light tank to units in the field. He served in England, France, and Germany as part of the 9th Army and then returned home after the war. Jim returned to Europe in February 1949 as the commander of all of the ordnance rebuild shops in Western Europe in what preceded the Marshall Plan. He remained on active duty for 37 years and retired as a Colonel in 1954.
James E. McInerney, Jr. Jim and Rose’s first son, James E. McInerney, Jr. enlisted in the Army in 1947 and attended Airborne school and the 82nd Airborne Division. He entered West Point in 1948 with the class of ’52 and was the Eastern Intercollegiate Boxing Champion in 1951 and 1952. He was commissioned as a fighter pilot flying F-86s and was the last Air Force pilot to shoot down a North Korean MiG-15 when he was attacked 10 May 1955 well after the armistice had been signed. He was a command pilot with thousands of hours in F-86s, F-100s, F-105s and F-4s. In 1967, as a Lt Colonel, Jim was assigned to be an F-105 Wild Weasel squadron commander at Korat RTAFB, Thailand. Sadly, Jim arrived at Korat on 11 March 1967 ferrying an F-105 from the US on the same day as his younger brother Dick was killed in action on the Bong Son Plains in South Vietnam while serving as a company commander with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). After a quick trip home for the funeral at West Point, Jim returned to Korat to fly during the spring and summer of 1967, which turned out to be some of the heaviest fighting in North Vietnam by our tactical fighters.
Jim led the Air Force’s toughest mission and largest fighter squadron in the USAF, comprised of 18 Wild Weasel F-105F aircraft (a 2 seat configuration with a weapons system officer in the back) and a full compliment of 18 single seat F-105D aircraft for strike operations. In his tour as the Wild Weasel commander Jim did not lose any squadron pilots in combat, an enviable record of leadership. He flew 101 combat missions, personally destroyed 17 SAM sites (a world record) and was awarded the Air Force Cross, 3 Silver Stars, and 7 Distinguished Flying Crosses. He served in consecutive positions of command and retired as a Major General. Jim became a VP for Membership Development at NDIA and played a crucial role in the funding of the American Air Museum in the UK. For this effort he was designated a Commander of the British Empire(CBE) by the Queen in 1999.
Jim and his lovely wife Mary Catherine were married in July 1963 at West Point and had two children, Anne and Jake. On 8 July 2011 Mary Catherine passed away from a fatal stroke just short of 48 years of a wonderful marriage with Jim.
John A. McInerney John entered West Point in July 1955 as a member of the Class of 1959 along with his twin brother Tom. Shortly into his 3rd class year at Camp Buckner, a routine physical discovered that he had incurred Hodgkin’s disease in his left lung. John endured a very successful operation that put the Hodgkin’s disease into remission. John returned to West Point, where he resumed academics and played B squad football and lacrosse as if nothing had happened. During John’s commissioning physical in the fall of 1958 that the doctors determined the Hodgkin’s disease had returned, so again he returned to Walter Reed for treatment during part of his 1st class year. Despite the difficulty John still managed to complete all his academics and graduate with his class on 3 June 1959. John was not granted a commission because of the Hodgkin’s disease and he returned to Walter Reed during graduation summer for further treatment in the hopes that he again would go into remission. John passed away on 27 December 1959 with his dad and brothers Jim and Tom there for his last Christmas.
Thomas G. McInerney (Tom) graduated with his brother John with the class of 1959 and was commissioned in the infantry. He attended the basic infantry officers’ course as well as airborne school before receiving the first inter-service transfer to the Air Force. His first fighter squadron was in F-104s at George AFB in California, where he participated in a number of Cold War hot spots. The first was the Berlin crisis in 1962 where Tom flew with his squadron out of Hahn Air Base in West Germany on contingency escort missions for the Berlin Airlift flights in case the Russians tried to close the vital air links to Berlin.
Upon his return to George AFB in the early fall of 1962 his second hot spot suddenly appeared. Tom and his squadron were deployed to Key West Naval Air Station in Florida two days ahead of President Kennedy’s October 22nd announcement of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the world. Tom was actually flying escort missions three miles off the coast of Cuba just before the President made this historic announcement.
By the time Cuban Missile Crisis was over Tom received orders to go to Vietnam in April 1963 as part of the first Air Force Forward Air Controllers (FAC) permanently assigned to Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) divisions. Following this incredible experience as a FAC Tom debriefed the AF Chief of Staff General Curtis Lemay and proceeded to the newly formed Tactical Air Warfare Center (TAWC) at Eglin AFB in Florida where the Air Force was training pilots and ground controllers for joint combat operations. In April 1964 Tom was assigned to fly the brand new Air Force F-4Cs that were doing weapons testing at the time. It was here that Tom met the love of his life Mona Hunt and they were married in Jan 1966 just prior to being assigned to Nellis AFB to Fighter Weapons School where he later served as an F-4 instructor pilot.
This experience led to his being assigned to the operational test and evaluation section of the Fighter Weapons School where Tom ran the category 3 testing on the F-4D and the F-4E models, as well as led the combat evaluations for both aircraft in Southeast Asia (SEA). Combat evaluations involved four month long deployments into SEA flying these newly arrived fighters in all kinds of combat conditions and reporting back to tactical air command and the air staff on their operational evaluation.
In Jan 1969 Tom volunteered to return to Korat RTAFB to fly with the first F-4E combat squadron that he had introduced into theater. By then Tom’s older brother Jim had left Korat and his younger brother Dick had been killed in action more than a year earlier. This final SEA tour and 407 combat missions was invaluable and served Tom well in future command assignments both in Asia and Europe.
Tom was assigned to the air staff in the Pentagon to work on the newly designed but not yet flying F-15 air superiority fighter. Thus began a long relationship with the world’s best air superiority fighter. In July 1973, after graduating from the National War College and George Washington University, Tom was assigned to be Director of Operations at the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing at Luke AFB in Arizona which was the largest Air Force base in the world. Tom was then assigned to London as the Air Attaché’ to the Court of Saint James under three different American ambassadors: Walter Annenberg, Elliott Richardson, and Anne Armstrong. Following London Tom was assigned to be Vice Commander of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Upper Heyford in the United Kingdom. The 20th TFW flew F-111s with a tactical nuclear strike mission that was extremely important for NATO’s deterrent mission in the Cold War. He returned to the Pentagon to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) as the senior military assistant to Ambassador Bob Komer, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown’s advisor on NATO Affairs. Ambassador Komer was responsible for NATO’s long-term defense plan and the NATO summit of 1978 in Washington, DC.
Tom took command of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines in March 1979. Clark was one of the largest air bases in the world, with numerous military tenants, two F-4E squadrons, an aggressor squadron comprised of T-38s, and 35,000 people on the base including the Philippine civilians. Tom was promoted to Brigadier General in December 1980, along with his assignment to be the 313th Air Division Commander at Kadena AB in Okinawa which was comprised of 3 F-15 Squadrons and 1 RF-4 squadron plus all joint housing on the island.
As a Major General, Tom took command of the Third Air Force at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. On 15 April 1986, President Reagan directed air strikes on Tripoli and Colonel Ghaddafi by planes from the Third Air Force and carriers of the US Sixth Fleet. The predominant strike forces were F-111Fs from RAF Lakenheath, with EF-111s from RAF Upper Heyford and Navy A-7s providing SAM suppression for the over 70 plus missiles fired at the Tripoli strike force. In addition two other RAF bases were used to launch the largest KC-10 tanker refueling force assembled to date.
In July 1986 Tom was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned as Vice Commander in Chief at Headquarters, US Air Forces Europe, at Ramstein AB in West Germany. On 30 June 1994 Tom retired after 35 years in the Air Force and moved into the civilian world. He was a vice president successively for Unisys and Loral and president of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS). Tom also was successful in assisting the Clinton Administration in securing passage by the Senate of the Chemical Warfare Treaty in 1997. In addition Tom played an instrumental role in moving BENS towards generating a terrorism strategy before the global war on terror struck us on 9/11. He has been a Fox News Military Analyst for over 10 years.
Richard N. McInerney. Dick entered West Point following in his father and three older brothers’ footprints. Dick excelled in all endeavors, from being on the 150-pound football team and lettering for 4 years to becoming an airborne ranger infantry officer upon graduation in 1960. His first assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division as a platoon leader was symbolic of his desire to follow the sound of the cannons.
In January 1963 Dick volunteered to go to South Vietnam at a time when most of America did not even know where Vietnam was. As an advisor to a battalion of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalion stationed at Dak To in the northern highlands Dick spent a year in combat gaining a clear understanding of the challenges America would face in its endeavor under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Dick returned to be the S-4 and then a company commander for the Third Infantry Division, the Old Guard, at Fort Myer. The Old Guard is world famous for what they do and only the best command their companies.
In 1966 Dick proceeded to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) at An Khe. Initially he was assigned as headquarters company commander for the 2nd Battalion, but Dick persisted in requesting a rifle company. This happened after six months and Dick was given command of D Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Calvary Regiment. D Company was his pride and life for the next 2 ½ months. His battalion was conducting numerous operations against regular units of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) as the NVA escalated their efforts to destabilize South Vietnam.
On 11 March 1967, as older brother Jim was flying into Korat RTAFB, Dick’s company was airlifted into an area adjacent to another company that was pinned down by an enemy force of unknown size. Dick led his men into immediate contact with the enemy force. When one of his platoons was pinned down in an open area by hostile fire, Dick – realizing that a quick fix on the enemy positions was necessary due to the steadily increasing casualties – seized a machine gun and ran forward 25 meters where he was wounded by a rifle bullet. He asked casualties of his unit in a ditch nearby to indicate the location of the enemy position. His men said the enemy was 20 meters to the front. Ignoring the hostile fire, Dick rose up to throw a grenade and was mortally wounded by enemy fire. For his gallantry in action Dick was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Dick and Mary Grace had three children John, Mike and Julie. Dick was a true warrior and his son Mike is of the same mold, Mike having been awarded the Silver Star himself for combat action in Afghanistan.