Retired Air Force Gen. Laurence Sherman Kuter, 74, who commanded the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) from 1959 to 1962, and was a principal author of the plan for using air power during World War II, died of emphysema Friday at his home in Naples, Fla.
His aviation service included combat duty in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and as military delegate to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
A 1927 graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, Gen. Kuter served in the field artillery before being accepted for pilot training. He graduated as a bombardment pilot in 1930.
While serving as operations officer with the 2nd Bombardment Wing at Langley Air Base in Texas, he flew alternate wing position with Capt. Clair L. Chennault's acrobatic group, the Flying Trapeze. During this period, Gen. Kuter also played a leading role in the operational development of the Boeing B9 twin-engine bomber, which pioneered high-altitude bombing techniques and tactics.
In 1935, he graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama, which was then developing and studying strategic bombing. He remained at the school as an instructor in bombardment aviation until 1939.
He then was assigned to the operations and training division in the War Department here. In 1941, he was one of the four principal authors of the U.S. plan for using air power during World War II.
Gen. Kuter was 36 years old and an assistant secretary of the War Department General Staff in November 1941. It was then, on the eve of America's entry into World War II that Gen. George C. Marshall made him a brigadier general, one of the youngest in U.S. history.
In 1943, he went to North Africa as commander of the Allied Tactical Air Forces and later became American deputy commander of the newly consolidated Northwest African Tactical Air Force.
Later in 1943, he returned to Army Air Forces Headquarters as assistant chief of Air Staff for Plans and Combat Operations.
During this time, plans for the strategic bombing and air offensive for the defeat of Japan were developed under Gen. Henry H. (Hap) Arnold and the Army Strategic Air Force was organized in the Pacific. Gen. Kuter was Arnold's chief of staff and deputy for planning. He also served with the 20th and 8th Air Forces in the Pacific theater during this time.
In 1946, Gen. Kuter was appointed by President Truman to represent the United States at major civil aviation conferences in Europe, Egypt and South America and also was representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
In 1948 Gen. Kuter was named the first commander of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) -- the first integrated military service -- and was primarily responsible for its charter and organization.
He became commander-in-chief of the newly created Pacific Air Forces in 1957, where he served until being named chief of NORAD in 1959. He retired in 1962.
Gen. Kuter was born in Rockford, Ill. and had lived in Florida in recent years. His military decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and the Commendation Ribbon.
Survivors include his wife, Ethel, of Naples; a daughter, Roxanne Williamson of Austin, Tex., and three grandchildren.