Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."


Major-General Joseph A. McNeil

Wilmington Native and Air Force Navigator

Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers 



Major-General Joseph A. McNeil

While a Reserve officer in the United States Air Force,

Joseph A. McNeil's business, then Federal Aviation Administration career was paralled with training

as a flight navigator, and rising in Air Force rank to

major-general. His posts included several

administrative, advisory and command positions.


1959 graduate of Wilmington’s Williston High School,

McNeil attended North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College on an alumni scholarship, graduating in 1963

with a degree in engineering.

Founded in March 1891 as the Mechanical and

Technical College for the Colored Race, the school

at Greensboro, North Carolina was the first

historically-black college in the State.

While a student McNeil enrolled in

the Reserve Officer Training College

(ROTC) program.

Upon graduation in mid-1963 he was commissioned

second-lieutenant and began initial navigation

training at Connally Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas.

In pre-computer navigation days both

celestial and radar methods were utilized to

direct tanker aircraft to rendezvous with those

requiring in-flight refueling, as well as avoiding

threatening weather.

From 1964 to 1969 Lt. McNeil pursued a

civilian career in computer sales, commerical banking

stocks, as well as developing business diversity and

affirmative action programs, with part-time Reservist

status, while assigned to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

At the latter he was a Reservist assigned as a KC-135

airborne refueling tanker navigator.

In 1968 Lt. McNeil was deployed for several months to

Anderson AFB on Guam as the bombing of North

Vietnam intensified. B-52's returning from

high-altitude bombing missons and low on fuel.

They met tanker aircraft like Lt. McNeil's over the

South China Sea for fuel to reach their base at Guam.

During this time he was elevated to

the ranks of first lieutenant, then captain.

combatindex.com: KC-135 Stratotanker

Following this duty though remaining a Reservist,

McNeil re-entered federal service for a long career with

the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards

office while living in New York.

As a Reserve officer, Captain McNeil

becaame assistant to commanders at McGuire

AFB in New Jersey while rising to the rank of major,

and colonel. From 1992 to 1995 he served in

vice-command and command positions at

Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base, as well as

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

In 1994, McNeil was promoted to brigadier-general;

major-general in 1996, a rank he held when retiring

in 2000 after a career of thirty-seven years in the

Air Force Reserve. As navigator and crewmember

aboard KC-135's, General McNeil is credited

with 6600 flight hours, and is the recipient of

the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.  

General McNeil’s additional honors include the

Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, National

Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal,

Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force

Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation

Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal

with Silver Star, Southwest Asia Service Medal

with Bronze Star, Air Force Longevity Service

Award with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Armed Forces

Reserve Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry

Cross with Palm, and Republic of Vietnam

Campaign Medal.

Personal Life

General Joseph Alfred McNeil was born in Wilmington,

North Carolina on March 25, 1942, and is a 1959

graduate of the all-black Williston High School.

He married Lakota Sioux Ina (Brown) McNeil of

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 1967 while

stationed at Ellsworth AFB, she the great-great-

granddaughter of Sitting Bull and accomplished

quilt artist. They have five children.


Notes and References:

WIKI online, accessed Sept. 4-5, 2021