As a Major, Potts led his squadron on the August 1, 1943 low level attack on the oil fields at Ploesti, Rumania. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day.
There is no better way to look at the career of someone than an narrative written by one of his peers, A tribute by Maj. Gen. John H. Huston, USAF (Ret.). Published in and copyright by "Air Power History" (Vol. 53, Issue 3) by the Air Force Historical Foundation.
Ramsay D. Potts 1916-2006
The former president, trustee, and patron of the Air Force Historical Foundation and publisher of Air Power History, Maj. Gen. Ramsay D. Potts, USAF, (Ret.), died on May 28, 2006 in Boynton Beach, Florida, following a stroke.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, where he was born on October 24, 1916, he graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1941. There, he was a star on the varsity tennis team, a sport he continued to enjoy as a ranked amateur the rest of his life. He also was a starting guard on the varsity basketball five.
Immediately enlisting in the Air Corps, he became a pilot and was commissioned as a second lieutenant five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ramsay transitioned into B-24 aircraft and flew with the 44th Bombardment Group as they moved to England and then temporarily to North Africa. He flew in the famed August 1, 1943, low-level raid against the Ploesti, Rumania, oil refineries. After the war, he used to banter with Gen. Leon Johnson, his group commander, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the mission. "Leon," he teased, "you got my medal."
Following his return to England, he continued to fly combat and as a colonel age twenty-seven, first commanded the 389th Bomb Group at Hethel and later the 453d at Old Buckenham. At the latter, actor Jimmy Stewart was Ramsay's executive officer, beginning a lifelong friendship. Ramsay's final wartime service was as director of bombing operations for the Eighth Air Force. With the European war ended, Potts was assigned to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, where his extensive combat experience was valuable in assisting in the interrogation of Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goering, Adolf Galland, Alfred Jodl, and Karl Doenitz.
Although urged to remain in the active military, Colonel Potts chose to return to civilian life and in 1948 graduated from Harvard Law School. In 1958, with three other partners, he formed Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge in Washington, D.C., a law firm he managed until 1986. Today, through growth, mergers, and name changes it has offices in D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and London and employs more than 900 lawyers. Ramsay earned a great reputation for his collegiality and respect for his associates, the law, and his clients. One partner recalled that Ramsay, "saw the humanity and potential of every young lawyer with whom he worked." In the words of another colleague, "Ramsay allowed each individual to achieve his or her fullest potential." While he managed the organization, "not one partner left the firm to join another."
Modest almost to the point of reticence about his war record, Ramsay was not a "hand flyer," who embellished how thick the flak coverage was over the target or the lethality of enemy fighters, even though his B-24 "Duchess" had limped back to its North African base from Ploesti riddled with fifty fist-size holes in the fuselage and wings. His many wartime heroics were recognized by the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals, the Bronze Star, the British Flying Cross, and the French Croix de Guerre.
Among the myriad activities in which the tireless Ramsay Potts participated were these: president, Military Air Transport Association; faculty member at the Air War College; chairman, Air Force's Air Reserve Policy Committee; director, Emerson Electric Co.; associate counsel, Senate Armed Services Subcommittee; special assistant, National Security Resources Board; assistant, Reconstruction Finance Corp.; member, Hudson Institute; member, Virginia Board of Higher Education; and vice chairman, Physicians for Peace.
I had the privilege, as a young officer, to serve on his staff when he commanded a Reserve transport wing at Andrews AFB, Maryland. Despite the heavy demands of his law practice, Ramsay maintained his pilot proficiency in the unit's C-119 aircraft. During a summer encampment at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, Gen. William Westmoreland, commanding the 101st Airborne Division, had scheduled a courtesy call on Ramsay. I was instructed not to allow any interruptions during the visit. One of Ramsay's group commanders arrived and announced that he had to see the boss immediately. I followed my instructions precisely, even declining to inform the by now irate colonel who was closeted with Ramsay. He stormed out telling me that I hadn't heard the last of this. After relating the details, feeling I was destined to serve at my existing rank forever, Ramsay smiled, congratulated me and asked how I had managed to insult the insufferable, pushy, insensitive colonel with the hide of a rhino.
Later, during the 1970s, as an executive secretary of an advisory committee on which Ramsay served, I arranged for him to park at the Pentagon. However, when I appeared the guard explained his reluctance to clear Ramsay's VW Beetle adorned with peace symbols--the only wheels Ramsay said had been left at the house that day by his children. Of course, Ramsay was much less disturbed by the matter than was the bewildered guard.
Most importantly, readers of this journal and members of the Foundation owe a great deal of gratitude to Major General Potts. During the 1970s, when the angst over the ongoing Vietnam War impacted adversely on most military activities and related studies, Ramsay, although listed as president, was in effect the Foundation. Its declining assets and membership resulted in the Foundation physically operating pro bono from Ramsay's law office for the crucial years 1970-1974. Without his moral, financial, and administrative support, as well as his dedication, it is doubtful the Foundation could have survived.
His memorial service on June 23, in the District of Columbia, was attended by several hundred mourners. He is survived by four children, six grandchildren, a brother, and three sisters. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery beside his wife of forty-eight years, Veronica Raynor Potts, who predeceased him in 1993.
Major General Potts, modest patriot, intrepid war hero, prominent lawyer in a praised generation, stands tall. He was a man who loved his family, his country, the law, and history. He will be missed as well as fondly remembered.
---- A tribute by Maj. Gen. John H. Huston, USAF (Ret.).
Following his graduation from UNC in 1941, he enlisted as an aviation cadet and went through flight training at Randolph and Brooks Fields in Texas. Potts earned his pilot wings and commission just days after the December 7th Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii. Re-assigned from the 44th Bombardment Group to the 330th Bomb Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (BG), by August 1942 he became the Squadron Operations Officer and then promoted to Squadron Commander by the summer of '43. The 93rd BG was known as “Ted's Traveling Circus” after its commanding officer Edward Julius "Ted" Timberlake because it was detached from the Eighth Air Force three times and moved to North African bases for a number of missions. Timberlake was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1931. He retired in 1965 as a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General.
In mid-1943, the Group moved to North Africa and on 1 August participated in the second, and most famous, raid on the refineries at Ploesti, Rumania. This mission, comprised solely of B-24 aircraft was launched from bases located surrounding Benghazi, Libya, was flown at an unheard of couple hundred feet in altitude. These refineries were the major source of petroleum that fueled the German-Axis war machine. US fliers would return to Ploesti for 20 more missions during the summer of 1944, but at traditional bombing altitudes.
Artifacts: MG, Vietnam Era Fatigue Shirt and Pants.
#Leadership #Duty #LifelongLearning
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Air Corps) Ramsey Douglas Potts, Jr., United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commander of a Squadron of B-24 Heavy Bombers of the 330th Bombardment Squadron, 93d Bombardment Group (H), NINTH Air Force (Attached), while participating in a bombing mission on 1 August 1943, against the Ploesti Oil Refineries in Rumania. During a long and hazardous attack against a vital enemy oil installation made at low-altitude by a formation of B-24 type aircraft, Major Potts commanded his squadron gallantly as they flew through heavy enemy fire against impossible odds. In confusion while approaching the target, and with the primary target out of range, Major Potts directed his bombers to attack targets of opportunity, inflicting heavy damage on the German oil installations. The heroic leadership, personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Major Potts on this occasion, even when confronted with practically certain destruction, exemplified the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 9th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.
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