Earl Hedlund was born on July 16, 1916, in Valparaiso, Nebraska. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army Reserve through the Army ROTC program at the University of Nebraska on June 6, 1938. Lt Hedlund went on active duty with the Army Air Forces on August 20, 1941, and entered flying training on December 21, 1941. He was awarded his pilot wings at Foster Field, Texas, in August 1942, and after completing P-38 Lightning Training, he served in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska from October 1942 to July 1943. Hedlund then served stateside at Santa Ana and then Glendale, California, as Commander of the 428th Fighter Squadron from October 1943 to October 1944. During this time, he deployed with the squadron to England in February 1944. He then served as Deputy Commander of the 474th Fighter Group from October 1944 to February 1945, and Commander of the 474th from February 1945 until he was shot down and taken as a Prisoner of War on April 18, 1945. Maj Hedlund escaped from his captors on April 29, 1945, and after making it back to allied lines, he was hospitalized before serving as Chief of Staff for the 70th Fighter Wing in Germany from August 1945 to November 1946. During World War II, Hedlund was credited with aiding in the destruction of 1 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, and with the destruction of 15 enemy aircraft on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. He flew 170 total combat missions during the war. His next assignment was as Assistant Plans Officer for Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley Field, Virginia, from January to July 1947, followed by an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to the University of Illinois from July 1947 to August 1948. Col Hedlund was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from August 1948 to July 1952, and then attended the Naval War College from August 1952 to June 1953. He then served as Director of Transportation at Headquarters Far East Air Forces in Japan from the closing days of the Korean War in June 1953 to April 1956, when he became Deputy Director of Transportation and then Director of Transportation at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Gen Hedlund's next assignment was as Deputy Commander of Odgen Air Material Area at Hill AFB, Utah, where he served from July 1961 to August 1963, followed by service as Commander of Warner Robins Air Material Area at Robins AFB, Georgia, from August 1963 to August 1966. He was Deputy Director and then Director of the Defense Supply Agency from August 1966 to September 1971, and he then became the U.S. Representative to the Permanent Military Deputies Group of the Central Treaty Organization in Ankara, Turkey, where he served from October 1971 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1973. Earl Hedlund died on July 21, 2002, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For heroic and outstanding achievement while participating in aerial flight in the European Theater of Operations. Major HEDLUND led his squadron of P-38 type aircraft on a difficult and hazardous dive bombing mission in enemy territory. Upon arriving at the target area the overcast was such as to make location of the objective extremely difficult. Major HEDLUND gallantly determined to complete the mission, and, in spite of the severe handicap present he flew down through the overcast to search for the target. Flying at a dangerously low altitude Major HEDLUND located the target and dispatched his bombs with telling effect, and, although his right engined sustained severe damage, he exhibited brilliant skill in piloting his crippled plane safely back to the home base in instrument flight. The conspicuous valor and flying ability with which Major HEDLUND carried the mission through to successful completion are exemplary of the highest traditions of the Army Air Forces.