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By Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, NJDMAVA/PA

Maj. Gen. Francis R. Gerard, the former Adjutant General of New Jersey, died on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008 at the age of 84.

Gerard commanded the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard from January 1982 to January 1990 during the administration of Governor Thomas Kean Jr. He was promoted to major general on Feb. 4, 1977.

General Gerard was born on July 11, 1924, in Belleville, N.J., and graduated from Lyndhurst High School in 1941.

In October 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps at 18 and on January 1, 1943, entered the Aviation Cadet Program. On August 30 of that year, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot’s rating at Craig Field, Selma, Ala.

During World War II, he flew the P-51 Mustang while serving with the 8th Air Force and completed two combat tours.

By the end of the war and before he was 21, he had logged 420 combat hours in 91 missions. It was during a mission over Annaberg Germany on Sept. 11, 1944, Gerard fought and shot down four German fighters and damaged another fighter in a furious 12 minute dogfight that confirmed his Ace status. By the end of the war, he shot down a total of eight aircraft, which earned him the Silver Star.

After the war, the General attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., and received his certificate of graduation from New Jersey’s John Marshall Law College in 1949. He passed the New Jersey Bar examination the same year. His professional military education includes Command and Staff College in 1956, National War College Defense Strategy Seminar in 1965 and 1973, Air War College orientation course in 1966 and 1972, National Security Management Course in 1971 and the ANG/USAFR Senior Officer Professional Military Education Course in 1980.

General Gerard joined the New Jersey Air National Guard in April 1947. During his career, Gerard was recalled to active duty twice. The first was during the Korean War where he commanded a fighter squadron with Strategic Air Command and then with Tactical Air Command. The second callup was for the Berlin Crisis in 1961-62. In that same period, he served as the Director of Operations for the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing. He later became the wing commander in 1971. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Special Assistant to the Commander of Strategic Air Command. Following that assignment, Gerard served as the Commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which he held until Governor Thomas H. Kean nominated him as The Adjutant General of New Jersey.

General Gerard’s major military awards and decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with six Battle Stars, National Defense Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Secretary of Defense Identification Badge and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In 1983, Governor Kean awarded him with the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal.

Excerpt from the Sept.11, 1944, encounter report where Maj. Gen. Gerard shot down four German aircraft.
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Volume 34 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2008 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs