William M. Leary Papers

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10735.1/1919

William M. Leary was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1934. He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War, and was stationed at Kadena, Japan where he worked in operations. His duties included filing flight plans, logging arrivals and departures, and arranging parking and service for transient aircraft. After leaving the Air Force, he received his doctorate in American History at Princeton University.

He then taught at Princeton University, San Diego University, and The University of Victoria (Canada) before joining the faculty at The University of Georgia at Athens (UGA) where he worked for thirty-two years. In addition to teaching history, he authored several books and articles on the history of aviation. Dr. Leary retired from UGA in 2005 as the E. Merton Coulter Professor of History.

The aviation books Dr. Leary authored covered a variety of aviation topics. He coauthored a book with Leonard A. LeSchack titled Project Coldfeet, a book about a covert operation to recover intelligence from an abandoned Soviet weather station. He also wrote histories on the commercial airline industry as well as on airlines, one of which is about Mohawk Airlines. Other topics include articles and books on instrument flying, the Icing Research Tunnel, and a work about Allen Dulles.

Because of his scholarly works on aviation history, Dr. Leary won several awards including the Central Intelligence Agency’s Studies in Intelligence Award in 1995, four Fulbright grants, and held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum, 1996-1997.

According to Dr. Leary, while stationed at Kadena, he noticed an occasional Civil Air Transport aircraft arrive. These aircraft were “handled by an odd group of civilians who inhabited a far corner of the airfield.” These strange aircraft and men sparked a curiosity that eventually grew into a historical interest. The result was the beginning of a trilogy of books on the history of aviation in Asia.

The first volume of the trilogy is a book titled The Dragon’s Wings: the Story of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). Leary’s second volume of the trilogy is Perilous Missions: Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia, a history of Civil Air Transport. His final volume was to be a history of Air America, but sadly, he passed away on 24 February 2006 before he could write the book.


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