Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to General McKee

July 30, 1964

General McKee, and members of your family, Secretary McNamara, members of the Defense Department, Senator Symington, Members of the Congress who are responsible for the defense of the Nation, Chairman Vinson, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a kind of ceremony that I enjoy. We are not here to say goodby. We are here to say, "Well done on your first career, General McKee; and good luck on your second career, General McKee."

For 35 years General McKee has written a record as one of America's most distinguished officers. He is that rarest and most valuable of men, a genuinely good manager. He has made our resources stretch further and our dollars buy more, and our strength have more meaning and effect. I know him, and Members of Congress know him, and his fellow officers know him, as one of the chief architects of the modern Air Force.

He has earned all that a grateful Nation can bestow upon him, except one thing-retirement. I was pleased to announce earlier that his services will not be lost. The General will become Assistant Administrator for Management of our Space Agency, and America will be the beneficiary.

Since time began, all men have honored the courage of those who have faced death, and now in our times we honor no less the courage of those who help us face life, and all of life's changes. The test of courage for citizens of this age is not how fast we hold the past, but how unflinchingly we face up to the future. General McKee has faced a lifetime of change without ever flinching.

Born 1 year after the first aircraft flew at Kitty Hawk 852 feet in 59 seconds, today he leaves the Air Force with this country building an aircraft to fly at more than 80,000 feet, more than 2,000 miles per hour. Over this span, this officer's courage in challenging old concepts and testing new concepts must have given men like Tooey Spaatz of the military, and Stu Symington, both of whom are adventuresome fellows, a great deal of pride, because he has helped us build, and he has helped us organize, and he has helped us maintain the world's greatest air arm which has preserved peace through all these years.

His good management has helped us control events instead of allowing events to control us. We honor him for that. We look to him for more such leadership in new duties.

One day recently, some of us here were going over General McKee's record. I asked, I believe, Secretary McNamara, to look up what the General's father used to do. Punctual as always, brief as always, accurate as always, Secretary McNamara came back and he said, "Used to do? Why, the General's father is only 91 years old and he is still practicing medicine!"

Well, on that basis, the way I calculate it, some other President may have the General around here in 1990 to present him another award for his civilian career. Then I guess he will have truly earned retirement.

So today, on behalf of a grateful Nation, I am proud and I am privileged to present to this most valuable American his third Distinguished Service Medal. Our beloved Secretary of Defense will now read the citation. Mr. McNamara.

[Following the reading of the citation by Secretary McNamara, the President resumed speaking.]

One thing that I learned about the General, and I promised the new Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Chairman Rivers, of the House, and Chairman Stennis, that I would keep as classified information at least until he retired, his nickname and I have not divulged that. But from now on, we can start calling him "Bozo."

Note: The President spoke at 1 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to General William F. McKee, retiring Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, and Representative Carl Vinson of Georgia, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Later he referred to Gen. Carl (Tooey) Spaatz (USAF, retired), Representative L. Mendel Rivers of South Carolina, and Senator John Stennis of Mississippi.

Following the Presidents remarks, General McKee responded briefly. The text of his remarks was also released.

General McKee served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force from August 1, 1962, to July 31, 1964.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to General McKee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives