Lt. Gen. William K. Martin
Into the wild blue yonder has passed a true giant of a gentleman, a leader and a humanitarian. William Kemp Martin, Lieutenant General U. S. Air Force (retired), was born in Washington D. C. on 27 August 1915 and died on 22 October 2014. General Martin grew up in Washington D. C. and Warrenton, North Carolina where he lived with his Uncleafter his father died when he was four. He attended Augusta Military Academy, Colgate University and graduated from West Point in 1939. Upon graduation and completion of pilot training, he was assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (B-17) at Hamilton Field, California. The Unit was then transferred to Salt Lake City where he met and married Mary Fister of Ogden, a graduate of the University of Utah. When war was declared, Bill spent two years training B-17 and B-24 crews for combat at Pueblo, Tucson, and Clovis Air Force bases. In October 1943 he was transferred to England and assigned to the 8th Air Force. For the next two years until V-E Day, he flew 23 missions over the European continent. He was Director of Operations of the 3rd Air Division, under General Curtis E. Lemay, andlater became Commander of the 487th Bombardment Group at Lavenham Airfield from December 28, 1944 – May 29, 1945.
After the war he commanded Bombardment Wings in Roswell, New Mexico, Limestone, Maine, Puerto Rico and attended the Air War College in Alabama. He was privileged to fly the first B-52C from the factory in Seattle to Loring A.F.B., Maine on the 16 June 1956. Under his leadership the 42nd Bombardment Wing, became the first SAC base to convert from B-36 to the B-52 Stratofortress. After a tour at Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska and a four-year tour at the Pentagon, he was assigned Commander of 15th Air Force at March Field, California and promoted to Lieutenant General. General Martin was known throughout his long and distinguished military career as a “soldiers General”. He engendered the utmost respect and devotion from all he served with regardless of rank and situation and maintained life long friendships with many of them. Throughout all chapters of his long life, he had the great gift of personality and the ability to make everyone feel important and appreciated. In 1968 he brought his military service to a close by retiring. Among the service medals awarded to him were two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legion of Merits, Distinguished Flying Cross with cluster, Air Medal with four clusters, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre and the Bronze and Silver stars. Bill’s long military career led to a great passion for flying, including the B-17, B-24, B-29, B-36, B-52, and the SR71, in retirement he piloted a Cessna 182 and the Aerostar from Ted Smith Aviation.
After retirement, he was President of the Snowmass American Corporation in Aspen.From 1980-1990 he worked with Tom Clark as a partner in Clark’s Market. He and Mary lived twenty-five years in Aspen, Colorado. They relocated to Park City, Utah in 1994 to be near their three sons. He was a great sportsman, an avid skier (last run age 90), loved golf and passed those passions on to his children and grandchildren.
His wife, Mary Fister Martin and his daughter-in-law Kathlyn Snow Martin preceded General Martin in death. He is survived by William K. Martin Jr.(Jean), daughters Laurie Brooks (Heath) and Brenda, J. Michael Martin, Mary Martin Gill (Charlie), daughters Shelley and Aly, Robert Charles Martin (Polly), and daughters Jessie Thompson (Charlie) Jenna Landward (Johnny). His nineties were enriched by the companionship of Lucile Bennion and her wonderful family. Bill did not have a sick day in his life but needed assistance the last few years. The family would like to thank Adolph’s Restaurant, Park Lane Senior Living, Right at Home and Cornerstone Hospice staff for their dedicated care.
General Martin will receive a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to Bill’s favorite charity,Children International (www.children.org),or the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (www.mightyeighth.org) are appreciated.
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