O’Donnel Jr., Emmet “Rosie”, born 15-09-1906 in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Manual Training High School in 1924 where he was a member of Omega Gamma Delta fraternity and from the United States Military Academy four years later.Excelling in football, he played substitute halfback for All-Americans Harry Wilson and Chris “Red” Cagle at West Point. Appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry, he received flying training at Brooks Field and Kelly Field, Texas, earning his wings by March 1930. His initial flying assignment in the Air Corps was a six and one half year tour with the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan. During this time O’Donnell also served as an airmail pilot with the Army Air Corps mail operations at Cleveland, Ohio, in the spring of 1934. O’Donnell became a captain 20-04-1935. In December 1936 Captain O’Donnell was assigned to the 18th Reconnaissance Group at Mitchel Field, New York, until 1940. While with this organization, he attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, graduating in August 1939. He was also assistant football coach at West Point from 1934 to 1938. Transferred to Hawaii in February 1940, he was assigned as a squadron commander of the 11th Bombardment Group . O’Donnell became a major in January 1941. As Japanese designs in Southeast Asia became apparent in the fall of 1941, the Army Air Force sent air reinforcements to General Douglas MacArthur. Major O’Donnell and his 14th Bombardment Squadron set out from Hickam Field to the Philippines via Midway, Wake, New Guinea and Australia September 5. A week later all nine of the B-17s landed at Clark Field, Manila. This was the first mass flight of land planes to cross the western Pacific from Hawaii to the Philippines. After Pearl Harbor , O’Donnell’s group fought in the air and later with the infantry until they were forced to withdraw to Bataan and then to Mindanao. Major O’Donnell and some of his group later moved to Java. Before the war in the Pacific was two days old, O’Donnell had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. He left Clark Field during an enemy attack and flew to Vigan where he attacked a heavy cruiser and its destroyer escort. Due to faulty bomb releases he made five runs over the target, evading anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters. From January 1942 when he arrived in Java until the beginning of March, when the Japanese conquered the island, he served as operations officer of the Far East Air Force. He then evacuated to India, where he became assistant Chief of Staff for operations of the newly organized Tenth Air Force. O’Donnell became a lieutenant colonel in January 1942 and a colonel the following March. He returned home in 1943 as Chief of General Henry “Happy” Arnold’s. Advisory Council, a post he remained until he was appointed Commanding General of the 73rd Bomb Wing at Smokey Hill Army Airfield in Salina, Kansa a year later. O´Donnel became a Brigadier General in February 1944. He trained the B-29 Super fortress Wing for six months at Smokey Hill and then led it to Saipan. The B-29s began the campaign against the Japanese homeland on 24-11-1944 when O´Donnel led 111 B-29s against industrial targets in Tokyo. Only 88 of the planes were able to bomb and the results were poor, partly because of bad weather. This was the first attack on Tokyo since the James “Jimmy”Doolittle Raid in April 1942. O’Donnel piloted one of the three specially modified B-29s flying from Japan to the U.S in September 1945, in the process breaking several aviation records at that date, including the greatest USAF takeoff weight, the youngest USAF nonstop flight and the first ever nonstop Japan-U.S flight. The aircraft, all piloted by Generals, used up too much fuel fighting unexpected headwinds and they could not fly to Washington D.C. the original goal, decided to land at Chicago and refuel, then continue to Washington, where they all received Distinguished Flying Crosses. After the war O’Donnel was assigned to the Air Technical Service Command, later Air Material Command, Headquarters at Wright Field where he served as deputy of the Engineering Division. He remained there until August 1946 when he was made director of information of the Army Air Force.
O’Donnel was promoted to Major General in February 1947, after the U.S Air Force headquarters was established, he was designated deputy director of public relations. In January 1948 he was appointed steering and coordinating member of the military representation on the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, Canada-United States, the Canada-United states Military Cooperation Committee, the Joint Mexico- United States Defense Commission. O’Donnel became Commanding General on the 15th Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado in October 1948 and in November 1949 moved with that headquarters to March Air Force Base California. Early in 1950, as a result of United Nations actionn against communist forces in Korea. General O’Donnel took a nuclues of his 15th Air Force Staff for the Far East to Japan. Here he would organize and command the Far East Bomber Command with headquarters in Japan. His first B-29 units to arrive in Japan carried out a maximum bombing effort in Korea 36 hours after the first B-29 had arrived in Japan. As North Korean troops moved steadily down Korea outnumbered American troops retreated south.Gewneral Walton Walker decided to build a perimeter defense to shelter Pusan, the key port. As the Eight United States Army built up its defenses. Communist troops massed across the Naktong River for a thrust at Taegu, less than 100 miles north from Pusan. To lessen this threat O’Donnel led 98 B-29s on a bombing mission near Waegwan. During this period of temporary duty he retained command of the 15th Air Force with its headquarters at March Air Force Base. O’Donnel returned to the United states in January 1951. Two years later he was appointed deputy chief of personnel at Air Force headquarters in Washington and promoted to Lieutenant General, remaining in this position until August 1959. That month he was appointed commander in chief, Pacific Air Forces , Hickham Air force Base. Hawaii and promoted too full General. He retired from the Air Force on 31-07-1963. Two months later, President John F. Kennedy awarded O’Donnel the Distinguished Service Cross for Long and distinquished service to his country.
Death and burial ground of O’Donnel Jr., Emmet “Rosie”.
Emmet “Rosie” O’Donnel died on 26-12-1971 and is buried on the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery.