The Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the renaming of the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Helicopter (H) New River airfield in honor of Gen. Keith B. McCutcheon, considered to be the “father of Marine helicopter aviation,” and the rededication of the Station Chapel to the Memorial Chapel for all those who served with the Marine Corps’ first four-star aviator and to honor all aviation Marines who served and paid the supreme price.
At a dual site ceremony, on June 8, 1972, attended by the McCutcheon family and high-ranking officials from Washington, the field will be named McCutcheon Field. A plaque will be dedicated in memory of the general, a portrait depicting him in a flight suit will be unveiled and a stained glass window in the chapel honoring all Marine helicopter personnel will be dedicated.
A plaque dedicating the airfield in his name was unveiled by his widow; General E.E. Anderson, assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; Maj. Gen. P.J. Fontana, commander of Marine Corps Air Bases Eastern Area; and Col. J. A. Nelson, commanding officer, Marine Corps Air Station (H) New River.
Following the first ceremony, participants and more than 400 spectators moved to the Station Chapel for further dedication ceremonies.
The presentation and acceptance of the book of remembrance was conducted by Sgt. Maj. E.J. Huff, MCAS (H) New River sergeant major. The sergeant major was the general’s last senior enlisted man when the general commanded the III Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.
The book of remembrance contains the name of Gen. Keith Barr McCutcheon, a pioneer aviator in Marine Corps helicopter aviation. It states that the Good Samaritan window, located in the chapel, is dedicated to his memory and the rich heritage of help in our neighbors throughout the world. It commands, as the general would have urged us, to “go and do thou likewise.”
The scene depicts a man helping his fellow man during a time in need. It depicts the mercy missions of Marine Corps helicopters. The book represents those Marines everywhere in helicopter aviation, those on the ground, on the sea and in the air; the civilians of this community; and the Protestant and Catholic congregations of the chapel. Col. Nelson accepted the window on behalf of all air station Marines.
Mrs. McCutcheon unveiled a framed oil portrait of her late husband in flight clothing, which was placed upon raw canvas and is an inspiration of a man in another man who had served and loved him. It depicts a husband, father and general, who had honestly, professionally and zestfully served his country. The framed oil portrait of Gen. McCutcheon in flight clothing is hung in the Chapel entrance. The oil was done by Marine Reserve Lt. Col. A.M. Leahy.
General McCutcheon had served at New River as commanding officer, Marine Aircraft Group 26, from 1957 until 1959. Col. Nelson stated that during Gen. McCutcheon’s long years of service “there were few Marines who did not come to know, admire and respect him personally as one of the finest officers and leaders” in Marine Corps history. He added that it was only fitting that this air station “should bear his name in the full true meaning of the Marine air-ground” concept.
In 1950, as commander of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, at that time the only helicopter squadron in the Corps, he designed programs that served as a focal point for the expansion of the Marine Corps helicopter program.
In high-level staff billets through the years, Gen. McCutcheon pioneered many of his modern techniques now in use by Marine aviators. His last major command was in Vietnam, where he headed the III Marine Amphibious Force.
At the time of his retirement, just before his death, he was serving as special assistant to the commandant of the Marine Corps. McCutcheon, who died in July of 1971 of cancer at 55, was to have become the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Failing health kept him from assuming that post.