Retired Gen. John Dale Ryan, 67, the Air Force chief of staff from 1969 to 1973, who was a decorated combat veteran of World War II and a former head of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), died Oct. 27 at Wilford Hall Air Force Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base, Tex. He lived in San Antonio, Tex.
He was chief of staff during one of the country's most troubled eras. War in Southeast Asia demanded a large and capable Air Force, while the constant strategic threat of the Soviet bloc also required attention. Gen. Ryan's jobs included reconciling these threats with limited budgets and explaining Air Force policy to a divided Congress.
He also was involved in the continuing development of missile technology and the increasingly complex topic of arms control, and the need for new generations of interceptors, attack planes, and bombers.
Perhaps the hardest job he had in these years was to explain to an angry Congress how a commanding general of air forces in Southeast Asia bombed targets that were off limit. Gen. Ryan informed Congress of the errors as soon as he found out about them, and took action against the general.
Gen. Ryan was a native of Cherokee, Iowa. He was a 1938 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he starred at fullback on the football team. He earned his pilot's wings at Kelly Field, Tex., in 1939. During World War II, he flew 58 combat missions in Italy, where he commanded the 2nd Bombardment Group and was operations officer of the 5th Bombardment Wing, of Gen. Nathan F. Twining's 15th Air Force.
After the war, he participated in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, and held a variety of assignments with SAC, including the post of materiel director. During the 1960s, he commanded the 16th Air Force in Spain and the 2nd Air Force in Louisiana. He was named inspector general of the Air Force in 1963, and a year later became commander-in-chief of SAC.
He became head of Pacific Air Forces in 1967, and a year later, vice chief of staff of the Air Force. In August 1969, he succeeded Gen. John P. McConnell as Air Force chief of staff, a post he held until retiring in July 1973. Gen. Ryan was succeeded by Gen. George S. Brown.
Gen. Ryan's decorations included five Distinguished Service Medals, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Air Medals, and the Purple Heart Medal.
Survivors include his wife, the former Jo Carolyn Guidera, of San Antonio; a daughter, Patricia Jo Cornell, and a son, Air Force Col. Michael E. Ryan. A second son, Air Force Capt. John D. Ryan Jr., was killed in 1970 when the F-4D fighter-bomber he was flying crashed on takeoff in California.