Section 1: The Early Heritage
Chapter 1: The Air Service in World War I
On the morning of 7 December 1941 two Signal Corps privates were operating a mobile air warning set at Opana in the island of Oahu. At 0702 they picked up on the radar screen a large flight of aircraft approaching from the north. They tracked the planes in from 130 miles only to lose them as they neared the coast. At 0755 the planes, soon identified as Japanese, launched simultaneous attacks against Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. Four days later Germany and Italy joined their Axis partner by declaring war against the United States.
The war ended, as it had begun, with an air attack – a single atom bomb loosed from a B-29 over Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Between those two bombardment missions the Axis powers had been decisively defeated by the combined arms of the several United Nations. This is a history of the United States Army Air Forces in that war. The present volume carriers the story to the end of the summer of 1942. The history does not begin with the abruptness of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. A more leisurely approach may lessen the drama of that Sunday morning but will make more intelligible the course of the war which followed.
This was the second time since the invention of the airplane that the United States had entered a major war as it approached a crisis. In the first instance there had been little psychological or material preparation. America’s contribution to victory was late and hardly commensurate with national resources. During the long truce between the two conflicts the nation turned resolutely from thoughts of war, but by 1939 it began to appear that peace might not be had at a reasonable price. There followed two years of hurried rearmament; when war
came, preparations were far from complete, and for months the United States fought on the defensive, pushed about by the Japanese in the Pacific and harried by German U-boats in the Atlantic. Before a year had run out, though, production and training programs initiated earlier were sufficiently advanced to support limited offensives in both the European and Pacific theaters.
The history of the Army air arm during the period 1917–41 reflects, sometimes in exaggerated form, the general pattern set by the nation’s military policies. Created virtually from whole cloth in 1917, the Air Service experienced a vast but tardy expansion. After a few months of combat in France came peace and, in 1919, rapid and thorough demobilization. Twenty lean years followed. National policy, in the interests of world peace and domestic economy, opposed a large and expensive military establishment; the air arm, as a junior member of the military team, suffered from lack of funds and personnel and enjoyed little control over its own fortunes. The period was not wholly sterile, however, and, when in 19 nation began again to gird for war, the expansion of the Air Corps was along lines conditioned by the experiences of two decades of peace as well as by those of World War I. And so, while the present volume deals largely with the air war which began at Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, the operational narrative is prefaced by a brief account of the development of the Army’s air organization in the quarter-century which followed the establishment in 1914 of the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, and by a more detailed description of the efforts made in 1939–41 to prepare the air force for war.
The present section, which deals with the early heritage of the Army Air Forces, is more in the nature of in interpretive essay than of a substantial history of the period. The intrinsic importance of those years for the development of American air power was sufficient to warrant serious study, but in a history of World War II no more than a rapid survey is appropriate. No effort is made here to present a well-balanced account of all phases of military aviation from 1914 to 1939 or to document fully and with equal regard for all points of view the story of those controversies which colored all air force activities during that era. Rather this and the following chapter purport to be no more than an attempt to sketch, in bold lines and from sources readily available, those salient features of aviation history which will help explain
the attitudes and convictions of the Army’s airmen on the eve of their second war.
From Aviation Section to Air Service
The story of the Army air arm in World War I was one of promise rather than of achievement. The combat record was excellent, but brief and on a scale far more modest than the public had been led to expect. This explains why most of the official reports of the Air Service’s war activities were compounded of statistics and apology. There is now little cause to wonder at the failure to make good the brave promises of 1917 – indeed, but for their extravagance, the feebleness of the air effort might have received far less public criticism, in order to secure support for unprecedented appropriations, those in charge of military aviation, civilians and officers alike, made rash predictions. Probably their claims were inspired by inexperience rather than by an outright lack of candor, but they were wholly unwarranted; and, when the failure of the program became a matter of common knowledge, reaction was bitter. Reorganization was swift and effective, and, had the war dragged on into 1919, the boasts might have been made good, if somewhat tardily.
On 13 June 1918 a spokesman for the newly created Aircraft Production Board said for publication: “We believe we have worked out a program which will make it possible for the United States to secure to the Allies next year the permanent supremacy of the air, and with that we hope to become an immediate, decisive factor in ending the war.”1 The program to which he referred was, by existing standards, huge. It had been suggested to the United States government by French Premier Ribot in a cable received 26 May. Ribot had asked that the Americans place at the French front by 30 June 1918 a “flying corps” of 4,500 planes, 5,000 pilots, and 50,000 mechanics. As elaborated by officers of the Aviation Section, this program provided for a total of 22,625 aircraft, including 12,000 of the latest service models, and a training establishment equipped to graduate from primary schools 6,210 pilots.2 Ribot had requested for the next spring campaign an air force larger by far than that which the French had been able to build in three years of war and wholly out of proportion, according to existing ratios of air to ground forces, to infantry troops then contemplated for the AEF. Perhaps the formidable demand was more than a tribute to American industrial capacity. It came close on the heels of
the British and French war missions to Washington, before any decision had been made as to what the American war contribution should be. Few in the United States as yet envisaged an expeditionary force of millions of men, and it is possible that the French, gauging the public attitude shrewdly, thought it easier to sell the idea of a war of machines.3 Certainly the deployment in France of a force of 4,500 combat planes would have entailed a more lavish use of aviation than had yet been employed in the close support of ground armies.
The new program, which immediately supplanted earlier modest estimates, called for an appropriation of $640,000,000. The necessary legislation was pushed rapidly through Congress in the Aviation Act of 24 July 1917. The bill was passed without roll call – also without concurrence by the Army’s general Staff, having been borne on a wave of public enthusiasm engendered by a high-powered publicity campaign. Slogans such as the “cloud of planes” and the “million roads to Berlin” became in anticipation concrete realities. Inspired news stories and editorials played on the speed and economy of life with which aviation could turn the scales against Germany; the capacity of America to fulfill the production, training, and tactical requirements was seldom doubted.4 As the New York Times put it editorially: “By no other means can we so quickly or so surely render valuable aid to our allies. ... Airplanes can be rapidly built. ... Money is all that is lacking.”5 A few experts thought differently, though rarely for publication: that “no amount of money will buy time. Even the most generous preparations do not open up the years that have passed and enable us to carefully lay the foundations of a great industry and a great aerial army.”6 Experience was to show the wisdom of this view.
Of all the requisites for air power, we had only raw materials, manpower, and enthusiasm. We had, literally speaking, no air force. Having invented the airplane, we had left to others its development and adaptation to military use. The Army had acquired its first plane in 1909; its first special appropriation for aviation, a sum of $125,000, in 1911.7 Shortly before the European war began, we had stood fourteenth in total funds appropriated – well below Greece and Bulgaria.8 In spite of the great development of aviation by European belligerents and of our own tactical experiences in Mexico, the Army from 1909 to April 1917 had been able to acquire only 224 aircraft.9 Not one of these was, by European standards, a combat model; few were still in commission. At two flying fields operated by the Army there were,
when war was declared, 55 trainers, of which General Pershing later said, “51 were obsolete and the other 4 obsolescent.”10
Nor was there in existence an aircraft industry which could remedy the deficiency. About a dozen companies were considered capable of filling government contracts, but their output was pitifully meager; in 1916 nine factories had contributed to the delivery of 64 planes out of 366 ordered.11 Because of exaggerated ideas of security and the rapid changes in combat models, the Allies had not turned to American industry for aircraft as they had for other munitions. Few Americans had seen a modern tactical plane; fewer still knew what went into its construction other than airframe and engine.
The organization of military aeronautics in the United States was wholly inadequate for fighting a large-scale war. The Army’s air establishment consisted of 131 officers, practically all pilots and student pilots (11 were reservists on active duty), and 1,087 enlisted men.12 The first Army aviation office had been set up as the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps on 1 August 1907; and since 1914 control had been vested in the Aviation Section of that corps. The Chief Signal Officer, no aviator, was swamped by the rapid increase of responsibilities more properly in his ken, and, as a critic later said, “a colossal air arm cannot be organized as a section of a section of another arm.”13 With so small an officer corps the Aviation Section was unable to furnish direction for the expansion program or commanders for the combat units. It turned naturally to civilian sources for leadership, and, while many of the industrial and professional men who were recruited were able enough, few had knowledge of aviation requirements or of military procedure. A ready source of technical advice existed in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and early in the war a number of joint Army-Navy aeronautical committees were formed. most important of these was the Aircraft Production Board, a subsidiary of the Council of National Defense. By a law of 1 October 1917, the former was given legal status as the Aircraft Board, headed by a civilian and containing two other civilians and six officers, three each from the Army and Navy. Modeled apparently after the Cowdray Air Board in England, this committee was “to supervise and direct” the purchase and production of all aircraft, engines, and related materials, “as authorized by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy.”14 The Aircraft Board lacked the authority of its English prototype. Organization and training of air units was a
responsibility of the Chief Signal Officer, who not have a controlling voice in production of material. Both these functions, for Army aviation, were under jurisdiction of the War Department but without clear-cut lines of responsibility or arrangements for coordination. The General Staff was without experience in formulating air policies and more interest in other matters. Hence, in effect, the air program assumed a position of semi-detachment from the rest of the war effort with a s organization and with no precedent to serve as a guide.15
W ample purse but no precise knowledge of their aviation requirements, American leaders had to turn to the European Allies for advice. The counsel received was not always divorced from selfish national and private interests, and it was rarely given with a true understanding of the situation in America. Coordination with the overall military program was faulty. On recommendation of an American mission sent to Europe in June under newly commissioned Col. Raynal C. Bolling, it was decided to forego for the present the development of purely American de and the manufacture of pursuit planes, whose models changed too rapidly for standardization in factories so distantly removed from the front. Toward fulfilling the objectives set for July 1918 the United States should concentrate mainly on production trainers, of the English-designed De Havilland 4, a two-place reconnaissance-bomber, and of the newly developed Liberty engine. Other types, including pursuits in great numbers, were to be purchased abroad.16 An extensive training program was inaugurated, entailing the use of American universities for ground-school work and newly built fields for primary flight instruction. Advanced training was for the most part scheduled for overseas schools, where combat experience of the Allies could be more readily exploited. Instruction of mechanics was similarly divided between American and European schools.17
The program got off to a late start and suffered a number of unanticipated interruptions. Amid the general confusion which characterized the early war effort, aviation was especially handicapped by slow communications between the combat line and the factory, by lack of centralized control, and by difficulties inherent in attempting to build an aircraft industry overnight. Public hopes, fanned by reports more enthusiastic than accurate, continued high throughout 1917. Early in the new year, amid the widespread criticism of the administration
of the war, adverse rumors began to be noised about. Rumors were followed by disclosures, disclosures by congressional and presidential investigations. In the spring it became obvious that, in spite of the patent falsity of charges of graft and sabotage, the program was failing; the huge cloud of planes which was to have darkened German skies by June was as yet hardly larger than a man’s hand. Actually the first U.S.-built DH-4 with Liberty engine was shipped from Hoboken on 15 March and was airborne in France on 17 May, two months after the great German offensive had been launched.18 In the meanwhile, the widely advertised threat of American air power had spurred German plane production; the enemy sardonically dubbed his intensified efforts of 1917 the Amerikaprogramm.
Disillusionment in the United States was painful, but it brought speedy reform. With legislative authority granted by the Overman Act of 20 May 1918, President Wilson by executive order removed Army aviation from the jurisdiction of the Signal Corps. Responsibilities for training and operations were vested in a Director of Military Aeronautics (Maj. Gen. William L. Kenly). A new executive agency, the Bureau of Aircraft Production, was “to exercise full and exclusive jurisdiction and control over production of aeroplanes, engines, and aircraft equipment” for the Army; the bureau was connected with the Aircraft Board by interlocking membership. The new organization was soon officially recognized as the Air Service, U.S. Army; but, inasmuch as its two components reported separately to the Secretary of War, there was in reality no common policy for the makers and users of planes. This functional duality was long to plague the Army air arm; for the time bit was mitigated by the appointment on 27 August of the civilian head of the Bureau of Aircraft Production, Mr. John D. Ryan, as Director of Air Service (over both phases of aviation) and as Second Assistant Secretary of War.19 The latter appointment was a move in the direction of separate cabinet representation for air, a measure which had been previously suggested in Congress and which was proving successful in England. But the arrangement was only a wartime expedient which recognized a cleavage within the War Department without providing a permanent solution for the problems involved.
Under the new regime production increased rapidly, though it is only fair to point out that many of the most stubborn difficulties were already yielding on the eve of the reorganization. Statistics emanating
from the several official sources are difficult to reconcile, but a fair estimate might include about 7,800 trainers and 3,500 service planes, largely DH-4’s, built in U.S. factories by 11 November 1918, and 5,000 planes bought abroad.20 At that date 499 DH-4’s were assigned to squadrons at the front 2,925 planes reaching the AEF’s Zone of Advance during the war, only 696 were of American make. perhaps about 30,000 service and training engines were produced. The rate of production was rapidly accelerating at the end of the war, standing then at 260 DH-4’s per week, or about 13,500 per year.21 Six months more of war might have seen an Army air force such as had been promised in June 1917; but actually the regiments and brigades of winged cavalry mounted on gas driven flying horses” never arrived to “sweep the Germans from the sky.”
Air Service, AEF
The activities of the Air Service in the AEF were inevitably affected by the poor showing made at home. When General Pershing arrived in France in June 1917 he had only the most rudimentary elements of an air staff. Nevertheless, an ambitious AEF Aviation Project was formulated and dispatched homeward in a cable of 11 July. As amended on 18 September, this plan called for the deployment in France by 30 June 1919 of 260 tactical, 36 training, and 90 replacement squadrons. With auxiliary services it would require about 125,000 men.22 Preparations were initiated to care for this large force. Pershing as early as June 1917 had removed aviation from control of the signal Corps, setting it up as the Air Service, AEF, with a chief and with separate divisions for the Zone of Advance and the Zone of the Interior. he arranged for the purchase from the French government of some 5,000 aircraft, largely pursuits, and for the establishment of airfields, depots, and training schools.23
The administration of the ambitious project was far from perfect. Liaison with the Aviation Section in the States was poor, and air commissions sent to Europe sometimes acted without coordinating with the AEF. In November, Brig. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois, an aviator who had been prominent in instigating the $640,000,000 program at home, arrived to become Pershing’s Chief of Air Service. Foulois brought a large staff which included more recently commissioned civilians than Regular Army officers.24 Individual ability hardly compensated for lack of experience in staff work. Internal jealousies
flared up, and friction occurred with air officers who had been in France for some time. There was as well, mutual antipathy between air and ground officers. The Air Service was loath to take advice from men who resolutely refused to enter a plane; ground officers accused the aviators of being temperamental, lacking in the “garden variety of home-made discipline,” of substituting a “hodgepodge of independent personalities for an ordered administration.”25 Pershing spoke of Foulois’ staff as comprising a “lot of good men running around in circles.”26 At any rate, they proved incapable of building an effective organization; their failure, aggravated by production delays at home and tardiness in French deliveries, threatened to wreck all projected aviation schedules. it was 1 April 1918 before the first combat squadron was assigned to the front. By the time the 1st Division got its baptism of fire at Cantigny on 28 May, Pershing could write in his diary, “Our aviation doing well at the front.” Only six squadrons had then been sent forward; by promises of the previous spring, achievement of the 4,500-plane objective should have been in sight.27
Pershing, at the instigation of some of the air officers, instituted a thorough reorganization which followed immediately that in the United States. On 29 May he appointed as Chief of Air Service Brig. Gen. Mason M. Patrick, an engineer who had never been in an airplane. Other officers were transferred, lines of authority were made more precise, and the whole administrative structure of the Air Service was revamped.28 A more modest objective of 202 combat squadrons was substituted for the AEF Aviation Project of 386.29 The reorganization proved salutary, and with renewed efforts at home the Air Service was able to accelerate the rate of deployment of combat units. By Armistice Day forty-five squadrons had been assigned to the front.30
But with delays at home and in the AEF’s Zone of the Interior, the combat echelon hardly assume the decisive role so confidently predicted in the spring of 1917. Even at the war’s end the American air force was dwarfed by that of the Germans, the British, and the French. Air Service units were in combat just seven months; during that time the weekly average of squadrons assigned to the front was about nineteen. The official Air Service record carried a score of 781 enemy planes shot down for a loss of 289.31 If the scale of combat activities was limited, the ratio of victories was remarkable for a fledgling air force. When war was declared, the Aviation Section was
as ill-informed of the combat as of the matériel phase of aeronautics, and it was necessary to learn from the Allies all but the very rudiments of flying. By Armistice Day the basic lessons had been absorbed, and the Air Service, AEF, had shown some evidence of boldness of concept in the application of air power; here, as in production, there was great promise if only limited achievement. It is no reflection upon the bravery and skill of American pilots to suggest that achievement and promise owed much to the genius of Brig. Gen. William Mitchell, who was in a very real sense the founder of American air power.32
Mitchell, after a varied career in the Signal Corps, had become interested in military aeronautics in its infancy and had followed its progress in the European war through such information as was available in Washington. He had learned to fly in 1916 and, as a major, had for a while been in charge of the Signal Corps’ tiny Aviation Section. Sent to Spain as a military observer in March 1917, he had moved up to Paris with the American declaration of war. With characteristic energy and disregard of military protocol, he had plunged immediately into the task of learning at first hand the true nature of the air war. Until Pershing’s arrival he was something of a free-lance, and his inspections took him to various headquarters, to depots and airfields, to – and over – the front lines. Sentiments which were later to stud his public utterances began to appear in his diary: “The only real defense against aircraft is other aircraft.” “A very significant thing to me was that we could cross the lines of these contending armies in a few minutes in our airplane, whereas the armies have been locked in the struggle, immovable, powerless to advance for three years. ... They get nowhere, as far as ending the war is concerned.” After experiencing a night raid by German planes, he had come to have a wholesome respect for the material and morale effects of bombardment: “No one can ever tell me that there is nothing in airplane bombing. It will have a great effect on all the operations, if efficiently carried out.” “Several generations will have to be born and pass away before people can adopt and maintain the same attitude toward this form of warfare as they exhibit toward the old familiar ones.”33
In May, Mitchell visited Maj. Gen. Hugh M. Trenchard, then commander of the Royal Flying Corps, and was profoundly impressed by his advanced ideas of air power. Mitchell quoted approvingly Trenchard’s dictum that “an airplane is an offensive and not a defensive weapon” and the views the latter expressed on behind-the-line bombardment
and on a unified air command.34 Mitchell’s respect for Trenchard was significant, for it was to be British rather than French concepts which were to guide his own development and, through him, were to affect American doctrines of air warfare.
Mitchell’s active curiosity drove him to study the logistical and administrative foundations of air power. Within a few weeks of his arrival in France he had, on his own initiative and with French aid, drawn up and submitted to the War Department a detailed plan for the organization of an AEF air force. Receiving no reply to his recommendations, Mitchell had turned to the French government as an effective channel for his ideas and, according to his own statement, had been largely responsible for Ribot’s cable of 24 May which launched the U.S. aviation program on so ambitious a scale.35 Joining Pershing’s staff in June as an aviation officer, Mitchell had at the latter’s direction helped frame the estimates of 11 July which formed the basis of the AEF aviation project. Later, when that program had bogged down, he had lent his influence to the administrative reorganization of the Air Service which was effected in May 1918.36 More to his liking, however, was his service at the front, where his colorful personality and exploits soon made him a legendary figure. In the rapid shifting of commands that was characteristic of the AEF, he served successively as commander of Air Service for the Zone of Advance, the I Corps, the First Army, and the First Army Group, advancing in grade from major to brigadier general.
Mitchell never received an American air force commensurate with the ambitious ideas of air power which he was developing, but he tested those ideas with such units as were put at his disposal. American aviators were fed into quiet sectors in April 1918, achieving their first individual victory on the 14th. The Air Service had its initial lesson in the use of organized air units in July in a sharp engagement during the battle of Château-Thierry. Throughout the war some squadrons fought with the British or French; for those under U.S. command much of the air action consisted of routine reconnaissance and patrol duty.37 In two battles the force under Mitchell’s command was powerful enough to indicate something of his imagination and tactical skill.
The initial objective of the First Army was the elimination of the St.-Mihiel salient, planned for September 1918. Charged with control of that army’s aviation, Mitchell determined to insure complete air superiority over the field of battle. The plan, drawn and executed by
himself and a small staff, called for a tremendous force of 1,500 planes – the largest air show of the whole war. Of the 1,481 actually engaged, only 609 were from American squadrons, the remainder being made up of aircraft from the RAF’s Independent Force, the whole of the French Air Division (strategic reserve), and Italian and Portuguese units. Preparations for so large a battle could not be hidden completely, but a certain degree of tactical surprise was achieved. only about a third of the aircraft were attached to the ground forces. The rest, divided into two air brigades, struck alternately at the right and left flanks of the salient and at communications and supplies at the rear. Local air superiority was maintained according to plan throughout the battle, and the air component contributed effectively to the American victory in spite of unfavorable weather.38 Mitchell’s skill in marshaling and controlling so large and heterogeneous a force was surprising; in short, St.-Mihiel was as promising a debut for the Air Service as for the First Army.
In the more extended Meuse–Argonne offensive of 26 September–11 November, Mitchell was unable to rally so large a force, being usually dependent upon American units only. The principle of concentration which had been so successful at St.-Mihiel continued, however, to guide his tactics. In the Meuse–Argonne it was the Americans who occupied the salient and the German air force which struck at the flanks, trying, in Mitchell’s words, to “make our infantry insist on splitting up our pursuit aviation so as to give local protection everywhere.” Mitchell refused to “spread a thin veneer of airplanes all along the front through which they could break easily at any point with a large group formation.” To intercept German “battle squadrons” of attack planes, the Americans organized a special branch of their forces known as “low-flying pursuit.” Patrols of five planes each were assigned ten-kilometer fronts. Flying at two levels and using friendly antiaircraft fire to spot enemy intruders, the patrols proved successful in breaking up their attacks on ground troops.
The rest of his offensive forces Mitchell concentrated along the axis of the American advance. Since the Germans had numerical superiority in the air and were flying in large formations, he used where possible a force of two groups of pursuits and one group of day bombers. Those struck at troop concentrations and communications and attacked airdromes behind the lines with the purpose of destroying the enemy’s installations and planes on the ground or forcing him to come up and
fight at a disadvantage. One day mission was sufficiently large and successful to draw more than passing attention. On 9 October, with some French reinforcements, Mitchell was able to employ a force of about 200 bombers escorted by some 110 pursuits and to three-place planes. With these he attacked and disorganized German army reserves gathering in the rear for a counterattack. The German air defense was overwhelmed, and the area bombed with telling effect. Thirty-two tons of bombs were dropped in this mission; subsequent operations during the same day and the following night brought the total for twenty-four hours to sixty-nine tons.39 It was probably the Air Service’s most notable bombardment effort during the war.
An Associated Press dispatch of 10 October gave a contemporary judgment of the importance of this mission:
The bombing squadrons which made up this air fleet probably represent the first definite American unit of major importance in the independent air forces which are being built up by the Entente powers. This navy of the air is to be expanded until no part of Germany is safe from the rain of bombs. it is a thing apart from the fighting, observation, and bombing squadrons attached to the various army corps. The work of the independent force is bombing munitions works, factories, cities, and other important centers far behind the German lines. it has been promised that eventually Berlin itself will know what an air raid means, and the whole great project is a direct answer to the German air attacks on helpless unfortified British, French, and Belgian cities.40
When war ended, the Air Service had not begun such attacks. Their total “rain of bombs” for the war was about 138 tons – or, to use the more impressive figure of the official report 275,000 pounds. Their deepest penetration behind German lines was 160 miles.41 Even by the correspondent’s own definition the attack of 9 October was hardly an independent mission. The sudden collapse of Germany made him a false prophet, but his predictions were better grounded than those of early 1917. On 6 June 1918 the RAF’s Independent Force had been established with its commander, Trenchard, directly responsible to the Air Ministry. Its mission was strategic bombardment – in Germany when possible – and its operations had slowly mounted in intensity. The principle behind this organization had been grudgingly accepted by the French, and on 3 October the constitution of an Inter-Allied Independent Air Force, also directed by Trenchard but “under the Supreme Command of Marshal Foch for operation,” had been agreed upon.42 The Air Service was to have participated in this combined force, which was still a paper organization when the Armistice came.
Early in 1918 the Air Service, AEF, had entered into an arrangement with the British for the combined production of the large Handley-Page night bomber and the training of U.S. crews for its employment. This project, like so many others, had lagged, and the Air Service was never equipped during the war with aircraft specifically designed for strategic bombardment.43 Again, the deficiency might have been overcome in 1919.
Had the war lasted long enough to provide the Air Service with some experience in a bombardment program conceived independently of the movements of ground armies, its postwar history might have been far different. For in the interim between the two wars the relative importance of such an air mission became the crucial issue in the development of air power. Advocates of an air force tied closely to ground troops could speak authoritatively from experience; Americans who talked independent air operations could cite only theories. But in 1943 the correspondent’s dream was to be fulfilled almost to the letter.