Retired Air Force Gen. George Churchill Kenney, 88, who held top combat commands in the Pacific in World War II, died Tuesday at his home in Bay Harbour Island, Fla., after suffering a massive heart attack.
As air commander under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, he directed the air war against the Japanese in the Pacific through some of the toughest battles.
They included the desperate days of fighting, ranging from Guadalcanal and New Guinea through the liberation of the Philippines.
Gen. Kenney's commands included the Allied Air Force and 5th U.S. Army Air Force and later the Far East Air Force, which combined the 5th and 13th Army Air Forces.
He was short of stature but brusque and emphasis with his orders, and he held the devotion of the men who served with him.
Gen. Kenney was known for his resourcefulness and his willingness to experiment.
"Hell, let's try it" became hs motto - a motto that led him to land up planes beyond normal capacity in support of desperate troop actions, to develop new skip-bombing techniques, and to perfect a paratroop drop unequaled then in technical excellence.
Along with the motto, he carried with him a pair of yellowed ivory dice, their spots almost worn away.
They dated back to World War I, WHEN HE SERVED IN France with the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps. He bought them from a French priest at a charity affair.
Luck was with him when he shot down two enemcy planes. Then he left the dice behind and was shot down himself. It was the only time during his long career that he was without them.
For downing the two planes, Gen. Kenney won the first of the many decorations, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.
When he retired in 1951 as commander of the Air University at Maxwell Field in Alabama, he was honored at ceremonies there and then at a second ceremony at Bolling Field here.
It was at the Bolling ceremony that Gen. Kenney, then second-ranking air general with the serial number 2A, was decorated with a third Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
He had won his other medals for bravery in action in World War II - the Distinguished Flying Cross, another Distinguished Service Medal and Oak Leaf Clusters to most of those medals.
After V-J Day in 1945, Gen. Kenney was given command of the new Strategic Air Command with headquarters at Andrews Air Force Base.
Gen. Kenney, who was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had entered the aviation section of the Signal Corps in 1917.
He had lived in Florida since 1973.
He is survived by his wife, Jeannette, of the home; a son, retired Air Force Col. William R. Kenney, of Oxon Hill, and eight grandchildren. A daughter, Julia Churchill Kenney Hoagland, died last year.