Longest-serving adjutant general of Colorado and famed Minute Men pilot to be interred with full military honors

  • Published
  • By Colorado National Guard
  • Public Affairs
Retired Maj. Gen. John L. France, the longest-serving adjutant general of Colorado, will be interred with full military honors to include a cannon and aerial salute Oct. 26 at 11 a.m. at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

France served as adjutant general and executive director of the Colorado Department of Military Affairs from 1979-1995, and was one of the last surviving Minute Men pilots.

The Minute Men were the first and only federally recognized aerial demonstration team in the history of the Air National Guard.
As a member of the famed Air National Guard's official precision demonstration team, France flew the F-86F jet aircraft during the late 1950s at air shows in the U.S. and five foreign countries. 

France's Minute Men jet is on display at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado.

He passed away Oct. 15 in Denver.

"We have lost a great American - a legend in our time. Our community, state, and nation owe so much to this Citizen-Warrior whose legacy will continue to inspire future generations of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen," said Adjutant General of Colorado Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards.

Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper will attend the funeral. Congressional delegates, former and current adjutants general, general officers and state senators and representatives are also expected to attend.

Among the military honors that will be rendered include a 13-round cannon salute provided by the Colorado Army National Guard at approximately 11:35 a.m.

Pilots from the Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Wing at Buckley Air Force Base will fly a missing-man formation of F-16 fighter aircraft over the cemetery in memory of France at approximately 12:23 p.m.

A memorial service will follow at 3 p.m. at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver.

The military funeral honors, interment, and memorial service are open to the public.

France enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in November 1952 during the Korean War. He attended aviation cadet training and received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant upon graduation in March 1955 at Webb Air Force Base, Texas. Later he was based at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and flew F-86F Sabre jets.

After separating from the Air Force in March 1958, he joined the Colorado Air National Guard.
He was mobilized for the Berlin Crisis in October 1961.

France mobilized again in April 1968 and flew his F-100C fighter jet for 239 combat missions while deployed with the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam.

After his return from Vietnam, he was assigned as commander of the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, then commander of the 140th Tactical Fighter Group. In 1974, he was appointed commander of the 140th Tactical Fighter Wing, located at what was then Buckley Air National Guard Base, the first Air National Guard base in the nation. He was also selected as commander of the Colorado Air National Guard in 1974.

He was promoted to major general June 18, 1982.

In 1993 he was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.

After retiring in 1995, France served as president and vice president of both the National Guard Association of the United States and the Adjutants General Association of the United States. He was also a former board member of the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. His A-7 aircraft is on display there.

France is survived by his wife, Carole, and his daughters, Allison and Amie.

There will be a walking procession from Staging Area A to Shelter A at Fort Logan beginning at 11:15 a.m. Members of the public who would like to walk in the procession should park on Montana Street or Logan Boulevard and arrive at Staging Area A by 10:45 a.m.
Members of the public who would like to drive in the procession should stage their vehicles on Kansas Street.

For Assignment Editors: To cover the interment, please be in place on Montana Street opposite Shelter A at Fort Logan National Cemetery no later than 10 a.m. Military coverage of the interment will be available on the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System by 4:30 p.m. To cover the memorial service, please arrive at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum no later than 2 p.m.