Lyon, William, Maj Gen

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Last Rank
Major General
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
26-Organization Commander
Last AFSC Group
Command and Control
Primary Unit
1975-1979, Air Force Reserve Command
Service Years
1943 - 1979
Officer Collar Insignia
Major General

 Official Badges 

Headquarters Air Force Air Training Command Master Instructor (pre-1966) Commander Air Force Retired

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
What are you doing now:


General William Lyon, without question, has led an achievement-filled life. Even more impressive is the fact that General Lyon's many accomplishments are wide ranging, as he has made his mark as a successful businessman, a decorated member of the military and an active supporter of the community.


More than 50 years ago, William Lyon started building homes for returning military personnel and others attracted to the Golden State. This modest effort evolved to become William Lyon Homes, Inc., which is now one of the nations largest private homebuilders. Headquartered in Newport Beach, William Lyon Homes has constructed more than 100,000 new residences in Arizona, California and Nevada.

General Lyons business success isnt limited to homebuilding. During the 80s, General Lyon established a multifamily real estate company to further diversify his real estate holdings. Today, three privately-held companies, Lyon Capital Ventures, Lyon Realty Advisors and Lyon Management Group, acquire, develop and manage over 10,000 units. In 1981 he and a partner purchased AirCal, a regional air carrier based in Newport Beach, California. General Lyon served as their Chairman & CEO until 1987 when he merged AirCal with American Airlines. His love of flying then led him to purchase Martin Aviation, a fixed based operator, at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, as well to establish the Lyon Air Museum. Most recently, General Lyon, along with other investors, opened Commercial Bank of California, which he chairs.

William Lyon generously shares his business expertise by serving on the boards of several companies, including Fidelity National Title Group, Inc. and Woodside Credit. He is a retired director of American Airlines.


During General Lyons distinguished military career of more than 35 years, he flew combat missions in Korea, as well as several assignments in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa during World War II. General Lyon received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (with three oak clusters), and the Presidential Unit Citation.

General Lyon's military contributions further extend to serving as Chief of the Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979. In this position, he was responsible for managing a $700,000,000 budget as well as the activities of some 53,000 Air Force reservists.

William Lyon's military affiliations further include his service as board chairman of the United States Air Force Academy Research and Development Institution, chairman (and later chairman emeritus) and director of the USAF Falcon Foundation, as well as a member of the Air Force Academy Foundation.

General Lyon is the current chairman of the American Air Museum in Britain.


William Lyon has always been an active supporter of community organizations. He currently serves as a director on the Orange County Performing Arts Center Board (having been a former chairman of that board) and is on the board of Operation Smile (Los Angeles Chapter). General Lyon is the founding chairman of the Orangewood Children?s Foundation, and past chairman of Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council. Additionally, he has served as board chairman of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of The United Way.

General Lyon attended USC in the 40s and currently serves as a Lifetime Trustee. Additionally, he serves on the board of USC Marshall School of Business and is a member of the President?s Cabinet of Chapman University.


Given his long history of achievement, William Lyon has deservedly received numerous honors, including: the United States Air Force Academy Distinguished Service Award (November 2005); Ernst & Young?s National Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Real Estate category, November 2005); Operation Smile?s Corporate Humanitarian Award (October 2005); USC Marshall School of Business Leadership Award (September 2005); Distinguished Public Service Award presented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (May 2005); Chapman University?s Presidential Medal in Business and Entrepreneurship Award (2004); and, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California (May 2002).

A Los Angeles native, William Lyon, and his wife, Willa Dean Lyon, have five children and six grandchildren.
From DoD:

Myers Recognizes 'Operation Smile' Stalwart

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2005 ? A retired Air Force major general today received the Chairman's Distinguished Public Service Award in part for a smile - Operation Smile.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers pins the Chairman's Distinguished Public Service Award onto the lapel of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lyon at the Pentagon on May 10. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman honored Lyon for his work with Operation Smile and other endeavors. Photo by Mamie M. Burke
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Retired Maj. Gen. William Lyon received the award from Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers at a Pentagon ceremony. Lyon served as the chief of the Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979.
Lyon received the award for his continued service to the nation following his retirement. Part of that is his support for Operation Smile. The group provides free reconstructive surgery to children and young adults worldwide. It has been involved in providing surgery for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan, and has worked to train Iraqi surgeons in the latest medical techniques.
"Your service has made a difference to people around the world," Myers said during the award presentation.
Lyon stood with his wife, Willa Dean, as Myers recited the general's accomplishments. In addition to helping fund Operation Smile, Lyon also endowed a professorship in ethics at the U.S. Air Force Academy - the first such position in the military academies. He also works with the Academy's Research and Development Institute, which funds visiting professors to the school in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He and his wife have been involved in Boy Scouts, the Orange County, Calif., Performing Arts Center and the Orangewood Children's Foundation.
This followed a "great military career," the chairman said. Lyon tried to enlist in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, but the service wouldn't take him. "Huge mistake," Myers said. In 1943, Lyon did enlist in the Army Air Force and flew in both Europe and Asia. He remained in the reserves following the war and flew in Korea, where he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He held a number of commands and jobs in California and rose to be the chief of the Air Force Reserve. "I know you worked very hard to make sure the Air Force Reserve and the active duty Air Force were integrated the way they needed to be," Myers said. "You instituted many changes."
Lyon, 82, still flies a Gulfstream 4 business jet, and owns an enviable collection of old warplanes and classic automobiles. He had a successful business career in Southern California, where he built more than 100,000 homes in the last 50 years.
He also bought and ran AirCal, an airline that merged with American Airlines, and has served on numerous company boards.
Operation Smile is one of Lyon's signature charities. The group has been around since 1982, and has provided free surgery for thousands of children and young adults from the Philippines to Central America. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the group has paid for numerous surgeries to correct cleft palates, reconstructive surgery and surgeries to help burn victims.
The group also is training Iraqi surgeons, who missed a whole generation of medical education under Saddam Hussein. "It's not just getting the surgery done, it's the whole medical process - the delivery of medical services," Myers said during the award ceremony.
The chairman called the work Operation Smile surgeons and trainers are doing "critically important." He said that humanitarian aid is "just as important as having our folks on patrol rounding up insurgents. It's the fabric of what it's going to take to be successful in the world we live in today."
Lyon thanked Myers for the award. He said it was an unexpected honor. And he has plans to continue his service. "When we were first married I made two promises to my wife," he said. "I said I'm never going to quit flying and never going to retire. I've certainly proved both to her."
Other Comments:
Founded by Major General William Lyon, Lyon Air Museum is located on the west side of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Lyon Air Museum is collocated with Martin Aviation, an Air/Lyon Inc. company and award-winning general aviation repair facility established by the famed Eddie Martin back in 1923.

The Lyon Air Museum exhibit is comprised of authentic aircraft, rare vehicles and related memorabilia, with emphasis on the defining event of the 20th century ? World War II. Through captivating and thought provoking exhibits based in historical scholarship, visitors gain a better understanding of the important role the United States plays in shaping world history.

The Mission of Lyon Air Museum is to provide a quality venue of inspiration where the stories of aviation?s past can touch the lives of its visitors through educational exhibits, authentic historical aircraft and related memorabilia.


Major General William Lyon is chief of Air Force Reserve, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington D.C., and commander, Headquarters Air Force Reserve, a separate operating agency located at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. As chief of Air Force Reserve, General Lyon serves as the principal adviser on Reserve matters to the Air Force Chief of Staff. As commander of AFRES, he has full responsibility for the supervision of U.S. Air Force Reserve units around the world.

General Lyon was born in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1923. Prior to entering the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, he attended the University of Southern California, and the Dallas Aviation School and Air College. He completed Air War College in 1971 and the Air War College; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Senior Officers Orientation Course in 1972 and 1974. Additionally, he attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces National Seminar in 1973.

General Lyon enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a reservist in 1943 and continued serving as a civilian flight instructor until he received a direct appointment as a flight officer in June 1944. During World War II, he was assigned to the 6th Ferrying Group and ferried aircraft to the Pacific and European theaters. In 1945 he was assigned to the North African Division of the Air Transport Command, returning to the United States in 1946.

In 1947 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and participated in various Reserve assignments until his voluntary recall to active duty in 1951. He was then assigned to Headquarters Air Training Command as a staff pilot and was later transferred to the Military Air Transport Service, flying air evacuation and ferrying missions. In 1953 he volunteered for a tour of duty in Korea and flew 75 combat missions in the C-46 and C-47.

From 1954 to 1963, General Lyon was assigned to various positions in the Reserve and served as a flight commander and operations officer. In 1963 he was named commander of the 929th Tactical Airlift Squadron, March Air Force Base, Calif., and subsequently served as commander of the parent unit, the 943d Tactical Airlift Group.

General Lyon was assigned as mobilization assistant to the commander, Sacramento Air Materiel Area, McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1970, and in February 1972, he became mobilization assistant to the commander, Fifteenth Air Force at March Air Force Base. In March 1974 he was appointed mobilization assistant to the commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., where he was involved in the planning of the transfer of designated KC-135 units to the Reserve Forces.

In April 1975 General Lyon was ordered to active duty to serve as chief of Air Force Reserve, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

He is a command pilot. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hour glass device, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

He was promoted to the grade of major general on April 24, 1974, with date of rank May 24, 1972.

(Current as of April 1978)
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Aviator (Command)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
8th Air Force9th Air Force5th Air ForceUnited States Army Air Forces (USAAF)
Air Corps Ferrying Command 15th Air ForceStrategic Air Command (SAC)Military Air Transport Service (MATS)
943rd Tactical Airlift GroupAir Training CommandAir War College (Student) Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National War College
Air Force Reserve Command
  1942-1944, 8th Air Force
  1942-1944, 9th Air Force
  1942-1945, 5th Air Force
  1942-1945, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)
  1943-1946, Air Corps Ferrying Command
  1943-1979, 15th Air Force
  1943-1979, Strategic Air Command (SAC)
  1943-1979, Military Air Transport Service (MATS)
  1943-1979, 943rd Tactical Airlift Group
  1944-1946, Air Training Command
  1971-1971, Air War College (Student)
  1973-1973, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National War College
  1975-1979, Air Force Reserve Command
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1943-1944 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Air Offensive, Europe Campaign (1942-44)
  1952-1953 Korean War/Third Korean Winter (1952-53)
 Colleges Attended 
University of Southern California
  1945-1949, University of Southern California
 My Aircraft/Missiles
C-46 Commando  C-47 Skytrain/Dakota  KC-135 Stratotanker  
  2003-2003, C-46 Commando
  2003-2003, C-47 Skytrain/Dakota
  2003-2003, KC-135 Stratotanker
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