Quiet pioneer

  • Published
  • By Gerald White
  • Gerald White
Retired Maj. Gen. Dewey K. K. Lowe didn't set out to be a pioneer; like so many of his generation, he just wanted to fly. Lowe born in 1924, in Oakland, California to immigrant parents, his father died when he was2 years old, leaving his widowed mother to raise three small children.

The fact they were Chinese made it harder. His mother moved them to San Francisco's Chinatown and became a seamstress. By his own account, it was an otherwise normal childhood; he skipped second grade, graduated at 17 and left school after his first semester as an engineering student at University of California Berkeley.

He grew up making model airplanes, reading about flying and watching airplanes at San Francisco airport.  He and his friends took the tests for aviation cadet, which he passed.

Not yet 18 years old, he had to wait to enlist. After some technical training, he took a job winterizing P-38 Lightnings at the McClellan Field depot for several months, not knowing he would come back some 37 years later as a two-star general and commander.

Once called up, he earned his wings and commission in Arizona and California. He was training as a B-25 Mitchell pilot in mid-1944 when a new unit was formed. He and many of his classmates found themselves now flying the C-47 Skytrain in a new unit called Combat Cargo, headed for service in India and Burma.

His early missions were dropping supplies to British forces, then airlifting two Chinese divisions back to China that were fighting in Burma to help blunt the latest Japanese offensive in December 1944.

With the Hump Airlift becoming more successful, his flight from 4th Combat Cargo Squadron was reassigned to 1st CCS and those crews spent the rest of the war flying across China delivering Hump supplies and sabotage teams behind Japanese lines.

Released from active duty after the war, he went back to school, earning a Bachelor of Arts (his bio says Bachelor of Science)  in Economics from UC Berkeley and a law degree from University of San Francisco. He also worked for United Airlines and stayed in the Reserves at Hamilton Air Force Base, across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.

Recalled to active duty in 1952 for the Korean War, he trained first as a transport pilot, then in B-26 Marauders. But when the Armistice was signed, he found himself flying the B-45 jet light bomber in England. After three years there, he went to George AFB, flying B-25s as target towing aircraft, then Biggs AFB (now Army Airfield at Fort Bliss), Texas, flying a modified Martin B-57 Canberra light bomber for high-altitude radar testing, not really conventional assignments.

With selection for an Education with Industry position with Convair, he moved into the world of aircraft contracting. From there, he went to North American Aviation as their contract administrator and continued to fly, checking out in the F-100 Super Sabre and T-39, both built by NAA and delivering the Air Force's 100th T-39 Sabreliner to Yokota Air Base, Japan. 

He then went to Vietnam for a combat tour in 1966 as an EC-47 standardization and evaluation pilot.

When he returned, he spent the rest of his career in Air Force logistics in jobs of increasing responsibility, moving between different Air Force Logistics Command jobs and the Air Staff before assuming command of the Sacramento Air Logistics Center in 1979, where he served until retirement in 1985.

He was promoted to brigadier general in 1974 and major general in 1976; one of the first Asian Americans in the Air Force to become a general officer. Up to his retirement, he was also one of the last World War II combat veterans still on active duty.

After retirement, Lowe served on advisory boards for several colleges and universities in California, the Mather AFB base closure commission and other community activities. He passed away March 24, 1994.