History of OCS


An historical perspective of one of the significant chapters in the story of the Air Force, from the point of view of Officer Candidate School Class 60-B

The following information is provided to and by members of OCS Class 60-B for information only. It is an attempt to tell our story and celebrate what we accomplished. It is a compilation of some historical facts that might not be available to you from any other source. It is in no way intended to offend or embarrass anyone, least of all my many good friends from 60-B.

The beginning of Officer Candidate School (OCS) actually occurred on 19 February 1942 in several Miami Beach, Florida, resort hotels. Officer candidates were former aviation cadets, eliminated for medical or flying deficiency, active-duty warrant offices, and enlisted men under 36 years of age. OCS adopted the class divisions, student ranks, and hazing of the United States Military Academy, but, because of its four months’ duration, was as much a test of students’ endurance as academic proficiency.

OCS was relocated to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center (later to become Lackland AFB) in April 1944. After only 14 months at Lackland, the school was relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama. OCS was returned to the Army Air Forces Military Training Center at Lackland on 1 February 1946. The OCS that returned to San Antonio in February 1946 was a shell of its former self. It consisted of two classes (1946-B and 1946-C) that would graduate a total of 33 men. Classes during the second half of 1946 (i.e., 1946-G to 1946-L) averaged 48.5 enrollees per class.

When the United States Air Force was constituted in August 1947, the fledgling Air Training Command began work on organizing the 3700th Officer Candidate Training Group, which was finally established a year later in August 1948. The school remained at Lackland Air Base (so named on 3 February 1948) and was extended from four to six months in length. The West Point-type class system, with its attendant hazing, was subordinated in 1947 to a student organization with flights, squadrons, and groups as a means of inculcating military discipline and command.

After this transition year, the Air Force OCS, or officer candidate training program, continued to graduate newly commissioned reserve officers at a rate of 300-600 per year for the next 16 years. The Korean War saw a temporary increase in OCS production, from 970 graduates in 1951 to 1,494 in 1952 and then to 2,085 in 1953.

OCS, the main commissioning program for enlisted personnel, produced about 450 new officers annually between 1953 and the middle of 1957. Most went to non-rated duties, although a few did earn wings. Unique among the commissioning programs, OCS grew, if only slightly, during the last years of the decade when it’s annual quota was raised to 600 in 1958.

Then, with the Air Force Academy and ROTC, the Air Force found itself with two major sources of rated officers capable of furnishing numbers far in excess of need. Cuts had to be made, and the deciding factor on where to make those cuts was the service’s long-standing goal of having a college-educated officer corps. Since Aviation Cadets attracted few with college degrees, the cadet program was an obvious target. Once the primary source for rated officers, the Aviation Cadet program’s percentage of new rated officers fell from 70% in1957 to just 12% in 1959.

With all this turmoil, it also became obvious that the Air Force needed to develop a procurement program that could produce college-educated officers and still respond to the rapid changes in manpower needs. The answer was a program for which only college graduates or those within six months of graduation could apply. That program was the Officer Training School, or OTS. The first class of the Officer Training School (1960-A), consisting of 79 men and 13 women graduated at Lackland AFB on 9 February 1960. Quickly, the OTS shadow fell most heavily on the Aviation Cadet and OCS programs. They were, in a sense, waiting for the OTS numbers to catch up with them and for their status to change from obsolescent to obsolete.

With the success of OTS, the Air Force OCS program was terminated 1 July 1963 after twenty-one years of service and over 41,000 officers produced. The final OCS class (Class 1963-D) of 119 was graduated on 21 June 1963. Interestingly, in a study of undergraduate pilot training attrition for 1962, OCS-trained officers maintained academic, flying, and military grades equal to Air Force Academy graduates and superior to those of aviation cadets or officers from OTS and ROTC.

In January 1960 all Aviation Cadet inputs into pilot training ceased, and all assets were diverted into navigator training. Three months later, the entire program moved to Harlingen AFB, Texas. When the latter closed in 1963, the program moved to James Connally AFB, Texas, but that was the Cadets’ final move. All navigator training transferred to Mather AFB, California in 1965, and the Aviation Cadets did not follow. Three March 1965 saw the final pinning on of second lieutenant bars and navigator wings from the Aviation Cadet program. This marked the end of a program that had produced a half million fliers in a long history.

The retirement of many WW II officers, and changes in the procurement schools helped the Air Force with the goal of a college educated officer corps. In 1974 85% of the officer corps had a college education.

It was while all these changes were taking place that the stage was set for OCS Class 60-B to make our grand entrance. As we have seen, the first six months of 1960 had been a very eventful period for the Air Force officer corps.

---At Lackland AFB, we began our training 1 January 1960. Our orders read: "Will proceed in PCS pipeline status to Headquarters Squadron Section (OCS), USAF, Lackland AFB, Tex for purpose of attending USAF OCS Course Nr AM00100, Class 60-B; duration of course, twenty-five (25) weeks. Report to Base Reception, Door 20, Building Nr 5415 Lackland AFB, Tex not later than 27 Dec 59. EDCSA: 1 Jan 60."

---The first class of OTS graduated on 9 February 1960.

---Recognition Day for our change from Second to First Class was 11 March 1960.

---Our First Class-Class 60-A graduated 18 March 1960.

---On 2 May 1960 the final Aviation Cadet Class 61-02 (Navigator) of the Pre-Flight Training School graduated.

---In June 1960, the second class of the Air Force Academy graduated in Colorado

---Our commencement was held 12 June 1960 at Femoyer Hall.

---And, of course, OCS Class-60B graduated on 17 June 1960.

---It all culminated with a parade on the base parade ground at 8:00 hours and graduation and commissioning at Arnold Hall, 10:00 hours on 17June 1960.

You will no doubt recall that at that time the Basic Pay for a 2ND Lieutenant was $222.30. This increased to $314.00 with over three years’ service, $335.00 with over six. Basic Allowance for Subsistence was $44.88, and Quarters Allowance was $85.50 with dependants, and $68.40 without. How times have changed!

Enrolled in the class were 142 prior service airmen and civilians. One hundred and thirteen graduated, for an attrition rate of 20%. Thirteen Women in the Air Force (WAF) were in Class 60-B. Eight were recruited directly from civilian life with no prior military experience or Basic Training. One was prior service and four were washed back from previous classes. Only four of the WAF graduated with our class. Of our four ladies, only Diane Batchelder, stayed to retirement. She had a very successful career in times of discrimination and turbulent changes for our military women, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Of the 113 who graduated and were commissioned, nine left the Air Force before we were promoted to Captain on 17 December 1964. An additional nine members separated prior to retirement. Some left to fly with civilian airlines after pilot training and their service commitment; others left for personal, family, or business reasons.

So, 95 of the 113 members of OCS Class 60-B remained in the Air Force long enough to retire. The last member on active duty, Dan Thelen, retired 30 June 1988, with over 35 years of active service. He was preceded by Darrell Nope on 30 April 1986, Jack Doughty on 31 May 1986, Don Wilkinson on 31 August 1984, and so on.

OCS was originally designed to produce support officers; however, many of 60-B became pilots and navigators. We flew nearly every major type aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory with perhaps the exception of the spy planes U-2, and SR-71 (Blackbird). One of our pilots, Ike Isenhart, and Bill Schart, a navigator, qualified in nine different aircraft.

We served in career fields across the board with engineers, scientists, missilers, maintenance, munitions, logistics, weather, supply, administration, personnel, protocol, finance, intelligence, and a large number in communication-electronics.

We served throughout the world wherever our Air Force served. Many served in Southeast Asia (SEA); we were in Vietnam as early as 1964. We have one member who served 730 days in Thailand. We also have one member who served over 700 days with tours in both Vietnam and Thailand. Gale DeSpiegler spent nearly 500 days in SEA, with a half-completed tour in South Vietnam and the remainder as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton.

Becoming a Regular officer was crucial for a successful Air Force career. We had 23 Distinguished Graduates in our class and, contrary to popular belief, not all made Regular right out of OCS. In February 1961 four of our DGs made Regular; three declined and later separated with less than four years of active service. In January 1962 nine made Regular; three were DGs. Seven more of our class made Regular in June 1963 of which two were DGs. By the time we made Captain in December 1964, we had 21 Regular officers and nine were DGs. Our other 11 DGs made Regular in 1967/68 with the remainder of us still on active duty. With few exceptions, all members of our class were Regular officers when we competed for promotion to Major in 1969. Most of those who declined Regular were passed for Major in 1969. Of our Distinguished Graduates, one retired as a Colonel, six as Lieutenant Colonels, 11 as Majors, and five separated prior to retirement.

The single most important criterion for promotion as an officer in the Air Force was performance. Add to this the necessity to complete Professional Military Education (PME) i.e. Squadron Officer School, intermediate, and senior service schools. It was also competitively important to continue academic education and obtain an undergraduate, or higher, degree. Many of our class members went to Squadron Officer School; 10 were selected for an intermediate service school in residence. However, only one was selected to attend senior service school in residence. We were in a time of the "Whole Man" concept. We were among the last of the young officers without degrees. In this environment there was no room for error; failure to "fill the squares", or a low effectiveness rating by one unhappy boss could result in limited career potential. Sadly, we have no General officers from Class 60-B, but we did have our successes. We have two Colonels, 26 Lieutenant Colonels, 57 Majors, and 10 Captains. We had two below-the-zone promotions, both to Lieutenant Colonel.

As of July 1, 2002, we have confirmed that 19 members of our class are deceased. The earliest death was in February 1972. This then, is our story. We point with pride to our successes as a great achievement for all. We lifted ourselves from the ranks to positions of leadership in the best Air Force in the world. We stood ready and exercised our leadership and skills in years of war, considerable national danger, and possible world destruction.

Our time in the arena was served with honor!

After 21 years of operation, OCS officially closed its doors on 1 July 1963.

Written and compiled by: Don Wilkinson, Officer Candidate Class 60-B, Third Squadron (Lima Flight) Cooperate to Graduate!


1. LACKLAND AFB ROLE IN INITIAL TRAINING OF OFFICERS FOR THE AIR FORCE, Lackland AFB, Texas, Office of History, 10 February 1989

2. Mitchell, Vance O. Air Force Officer Personnel Policy Development, 1944-1947. Air Force History and Museums Program, 1996

3. HISTORY OF AIR TRAINING COMMAND, 1943-1993. Randolph AFB, Texas, Office of History and Research, 1993

4. Information obtained from Air Force Military Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas

5. Personal files and knowledge of the writer

DISCLAIMER: Perceptible misspellings or improper use of syntax, capitalization, or other grammar are to be accepted as the author’s writing style. An abbreviated bibliography is used to give the impression the writer has more knowledge than, in fact, might be true. Anyone having corrections, updates, or additions to this information forget it! This is a one shot launch with no reentry vehicle.


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