Chapter 7: The Quest for Better Weapons
In the late summer of 1945 the second in command of the AAF summed up the central lesson taught by the varied experience of the war years in the simple statement that the “first essential of air power is preeminence in research.”1 This observation represented no momentary response to the recent explosion of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Constant change had characterized the aerial weapon from the first, and the thought of those who held responsibility for its employment naturally rested upon an assumption that the ultimate limits of performance had yet to be reached. In prewar years the Air Corps, although it kept in close touch with technological developments in the aviation industry, had been unable to exploit the full resources available for the support of its developmental programs, but the pressure of the war years forced greater attention to research and development.
Before 1939 it had become painfully apparent to Air Corps leaders that the pace of aircraft development had reached a stage calling for closer attention to the role of research in building American air power. But the expansion program launched in 1939 necessarily placed first emphasis on the acquisition of planes in sufficient number to offset our potential enemies’ time advantage. In circumstances requiring the most careful allocation of sharply limited resources, immediate large-scale production of the best contemporary models again and again had to be preferred to the expectation that far superior models might later be produced. General Marshall undertook to explain to Congress in January 1940 that no policy of mass procurement of the latest-type plane was possible “since there is always a later type being manufactured.”2
The German victory in western Europe during the spring of that
year reemphasized the contrast between the mighty Luftwaffe and the still tiny Air Corps. President Roosevelt, while calling for 50,000 airplanes, warned Stimson and Marshall that no contracts should be entered into “from now on for either planes or engines or for the development of new types of planes or engines without coordinating this with the general program as a rule.”3 Arnold responded to the new pressures on 6 June by ordering a first priority for “the continuous production of current types of airplanes.” He assured the Chief of Staff on 14 June that “every effort was being made to standardize equipment, increase production, expedite deliveries, and defer our present research and development.” Simultaneously he warned his staff that the Army’s interest was in planes to be delivered “within the next 6 months or a year, certainly not more than two years hence.”4 The Materiel Division at Wright Field received notice that research and development during fiscal 1941 must “of necessity be given a lower priority than the production program and that experimental contracts could not be permitted to interfere with or delay production.”5 This policy did not put a stop to all experimental work, but it did impose delays on more than one project.* During the summer, when deliveries of aircraft fell behind schedule, the manufacturers complained that developmental projects took the time of engineers needed to speed up production, and in September Arnold directed the Materiel Division to defer all such projects and to release the engineers until deliveries were once more up to schedule.6 He apparently found acceptable, however, the division’s report in October that production “ has been given first priority” and that no further deferments of developmental projects could in any way expedite production.7
By the end of 1940 a more satisfactory balance between production and development was being sought. Robert A. Lovett on 30 December called for “all possible speed on advance research and experimentation” and for study of the need for additional research facilities.8 And in April of the following year Arnold on a visit to Britain was greatly impressed by the progress of British research and the necessity of guaranteeing that the United States not lag behind the great air powers of the world in the quality of its equipment.9 By this time England’s improved military position and the progress achieved in America’s production program made a change of policy possible. In
* Among others, the Curtiss XP-46, the Republic XP-47, the Lockheed XP-49, and the North American XB-28.
May 1941 the Materiel Division was in position to urge upon manufacturers the need for full exploitation of all experimental resources.10
The involvement of the United States in hostilities a little more than six months later necessarily renewed the need for production. Until the production peak was reached in 1943, the all too familiar dilemma of how to get “more and better” weapons often had to be resolved in favor of quantity rather than quality. But the AAF had a two-year start on its expansion program, and at no time after Pearl Harbor did it become necessary to resort to the drastic research and development cutbacks that circumstances had dictated in 1940. As the war’s end approached, research and development stood in first priority.11
In retrospect two observations seem pertinent. Any decision to freeze aircraft models for purposes of mass production involves some sacrifice of advantages that might be gained by more research, which is merely to say that the critical decision in making an air force ready for combat must be a compromise between the demand for quantity and the requirement of quality. In view of the record, the decisions which shaped the growth of the AAF during World War II were sound. In certain areas, such as that of jet propulsion, the United States lagged behind other countries, and the AAF knew moments of the gravest apprehension because of this lag.* But in the end, events proved that the AAF had enough planes and that they were good enough to do the job. More than that could hardly be asked.
Organization for Research and Development
Traditionally, the Air Corps had depended chiefly upon close teamwork with the aviation industry for the development of its equipment. Through Wright Field agencies the Air Corps prepared detailed aircraft specifications, which were then passed on to the industry’s engineers for the construction of experimental articles. In the final stage of testing those articles, Air Corps agencies necessarily assumed the ultimate responsibility. It was a usage proved by time and facilitated by a variety of close personal associations. Not unnaturally, it continued to be the chief dependence of the AAF throughout the war.
In October 1939 the Materiel Division of OCAC served as the key agency both in the specification of requirements and in the testing of new equipment. With all operational elements at Wright Field and only a small staff at Washington, the whole division was commanded
until March 1943 by a single chief, first, Maj. Gen. George H. Brett and later Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols. At that time, Wright Field became headquarters of the Materiel Command, which thereafter operated as a subordinate of A-4 of AAF Headquarters.12 At Wright Field an experimental engineering section continued to serve as the hub of AAF research and development. Headed throughout the war by Brig. Gen. Franklin O. Carroll, this section coordinated experimental and testing work within the AAF. As projects multiplied, the Materiel Command acquired additional testing centers, of which the one at Muroc, California, became the most important.13
One of Wright Field’s major activities centered in its experimental laboratory, but two other commands directed testing operations more closely allied to the tactical demands of combat. The AAF Proving Ground Command, dating from 1941 at Eglin Field, Florida, and commanded for the greater part of the war by Brig. Gen. Grandison Gardner, evolved from a small organization for the testing of armament into a command charged with a wide variety of testing services which focused particularly on the suitability of equipment to the actual requirements of combat. Strictly speaking, the command’s distinctive function was to find the answer to tactical problems, as in the preliminary testing of the effectiveness of fire-bombing against Japanese targets and in the elaborate tests conducted in a search for the most effective means of attack upon German V-weapon launching sites in western Europe,* but naturally the results of such experiments served to lend direction to a variety of developmental projects.14 On a lesser scale, the same may be said of the AAF School of Applied Tactics† at Orlando, Florida, established in 1942.15
It was only natural that the Air Corps should enjoy virtual independence in the testing of its equipment, but a growing autonomy in the determination of its requirements spoke eloquently of the changing status of the air arm within the War Department. The Air Corps began its great expansion in 1939 still subject to the usual procedures for review of its programs by superior agencies of the War Department. But these procedures proved so slow that Arnold complained to Marshall on 1 March 1940 that “more time is consumed by the
† One informed observer expressed in retrospect the view that the two organizations had been designed to break the influence of Wright Field on the development of tactics through its control of aircraft development.
Army in the preliminary phases than is actually allowed the aeronautical industry for its preparation of designs and submission of bids in accordance with Circular Proposals.16 The President’s call for a 50,000-plane program soon gave such importance to the Air Corps’ development as to assure faster action by the General Staff, and after March 1941 G-4 no longer reviewed AAF programs of research and development. In fact, little effective control existed thereafter below the level of the Chief of Staff himself.17
This autonomy, though established well before our entry into the war, was generally limited to aircraft development. The AAF continued to depend upon the Ordnance Department for the provision of bombs, rockets, guns, and ammunition; upon the Chemical Warfare Service for incendiary materials; upon the Corps of Engineers for construction equipment; and upon the Signal Corps until the last year of the war for the development of radio and radar equipment. All this imposed upon the AAF a continuing necessity for coordination of its programs with a variety of agencies subordinate to the War Department. The increased independence of the air arm greatly facilitated the negotiations necessarily involved, and in most areas of development existing arrangements served to relieve the AAF of additional burdens. But in one area – radar development – the AAF continued to urge its right to independent control of developments peculiar to aeronautics. Not until October 1944 did the AAF succeed in acquiring responsibility for radar; the transfer of personnel and facilities was completed by late January 1945.18 In 1943 the War Department, increasingly alert to the overriding significance of research, established a New Developments Division. It was charged with very broad functions but concerned itself chiefly with gathering information on new and unconventional weapons, particularly guided missiles, and with arbitrating “competition between those tactical and procurement arms seeking to obtain a portion of the responsibility for developing and applying such weapons.”19
Within the Air Corps before 1939 the determination of requirements depended upon processes less formal and systematic than could be expected to meet the need thereafter. General Brett was quick to point out the necessity for a “fixed procedure” to determine “fixed requirements” that would serve as “a predetermined goal” of the Air Corps’ developmental programs.20 As the prewar expansion got under way, the determination of requirements was centered in the Plans Section of the OCAC and in the Air Corps Technical Committee, a
board consisting of representatives of the OCAC, GHQ Air Force, the General Staff, and the Materiel Division. The committee’s deliberations were necessarily slow, however, and after December 1939 the Chief of the Air Corps worked directly with his Plans Section and the Materiel Division to determine requirements.21 In June 1941 the Air Council, a new committee of ranking air officers, undertook the task of shaping over-all policy, but it did not survive the coming of the war.22 The frenzied activities of the months immediately following Pearl Harbor apparently called for swifter decisions than could be made by a deliberative body.
The Air Staff moved promptly to brief its engineers on the new requirements of active warfare. Within two weeks of the Japanese attack, the project engineers at Wright Field were summoned to Washington to be “realigned on our strategic plans and problems in general terms ... in order [that] they will know what our requirements will be in the future.”23 Strategic plans through the first months of hostilities were far from firm, however, and the engineers complained that necessary information on the development of plans reached them less promptly than was desirable.24 At AAF Headquarters the Director of Military Requirements, Brig. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, undertook to “control” a program of development which in its execution was charged primarily to the Materiel Command. In conference with representatives of the command in July 1942, he explained the need to draw upon the actual experience of tactical groups, a function his own office was in position to perform, and proposed the organization of a committee composed of representatives of the Air Staff and the Materiel Command.25 This body, known as the Air Materiel Planning Council and consisting of seven representatives of the Air Staff and one of the Materiel Command, was charged to review the “characteristics of experimental, service test, and production aircraft with the view of insuring the continuous integration of changing tactical and strategical requirements with aircraft development and production.”26 But after several months of activity the council went the way of its predecessors, and normal staff and command relations were substituted. When AAF Headquarters was reorganized in the spring of 1943, the Requirements Division of AC/ AS, Operations, Commitments, and Requirements (OC&R) inherited the function of prescribing “what” was wanted by the A. On occasion, OC&R showed some tendency to encroach on the function of AC/AS, Materiel and Services (M&S) and tell it “how” to do its job,
but consultation between the two staff agencies usually ironed out all such difficulties. With time it became possible to strengthen the latter agency by assigning it and the Materiel Command an increasing number of officers having operational experience in the several theaters.27
OC&R drew from strategic plans and records of combat experience the information necessary for a stated program of requirements. M&S made available the technical knowledge that permitted refinement of qualitative requirements into specific characteristics. Daily contacts, committee meetings, and the exchange of reports on activity gave the organization a necessary flexibility and coordination. Periodic reviews of projects under way made possible the elimination of those which were not “paying their freight or which do not give hopes of immediate or near future dividends.”28 Frequently Wright Field would suggest items for development to the Requirements Division and ask whether a requirement existed for such items. The Air Communication Office and a special civilian consultant group under Dr. Edward L. Bowles played key roles in determining requirements for radar and other electronic aids.29 For a period of several months in 1944. an informal committee on AAF development, broadly based in its representation of interested agencies, reviewed the whole subject of future research and development.30
As the war progressed and production drew abreast of demand, AAF leaders showed some tendency to allow scientific and technical possibilities, instead of strategic and tactical need, to shape developmental plans. Late in 1944 Arnold appointed’ a Scientific Advisory Group of distinguished civilian scientists under the chairmanship of Dr. Theodore von Kaman for the purpose of assembling “ideas for new weapons, possibly of the ‘Buck Rogers’ variety, for use during this war or for postwar development.” No idea, however impractical at the moment, was to be ignored so long as it was “not opposed to [the] natural laws of science.”.31 Thus did Arnold, who had developed a certain affection as well as respect for “the longhaired boys,” undertake to peer into the future of aeronautical development.
Cooperation with Other Agencies
Because it had to share the nation’s aeronautical resources with the air arm of the U.S. Navy, the AAF probably had more interests in common with the Navy than it had with the rest of the Army. Through its Bureau of Aeronautics and Bureau of Ordnance, the Navy conducted programs which sometimes complemented and sometimes
competed with those of the AAF. Many of the projects conducted by the two services overlapped, but such duplication of effort was defended on the ground that healthy competition could produce a better product.32 The Aeronautical Board, a prewar agency representing the Air Corps and the Navy, helped to standardize some of the equipment used by the two services and to provide encouragement for coordination of developmental programs. But the AAF rejected Navy proposals in 1940 and 1944 that the two services establish a committee for closer coordination of their research and development programs, and no such agency was established during the war.33 If the AAF complained of a tendency by the Navy to monopolize the developmental resources of certain industrial firms, it is likely that the Navy had cause for similar complaint against the AAF. There were occasions when production for one service appeared to suffer because of developmental work being done for the other in the same plant. In exchange of information between the two air arms the Navy probably benefited the more because of its vigorous and aggressive policy of assigning liaison officers to every possible AAF project while limiting access to its own projects.34
The NACA continued to be the most important government agency engaged in fundamental research for the advancement of aeronautical science. In response to the growing demands made on it after 1939, NACA expanded its organization and contributed significantly to most of the technical achievements of the war period. Under the pressure of military urgency, it may have become too much involved in applied research at the expense of its prime mission of fundamental research. The AAF enlarged its liaison staffs with NACA, creating permanent offices at the various NACA facilities to represent it in “all transactions and all matters of common interest with the NACA Laboratories.” The relationship between the two organizations was necessarily close, and the AAF generally supported the NACA vigorously in its requests for facilities, funds, personnel, and priorities.35
Other government agencies contributed much to the scientific and technical excellence of the AAF during the war. The National Bureau of Standards participated in projects of great importance to air operations, especially those concerned with fuses and guided missiles. Like the NACA, the Bureau of Standards conducted its research on behalf of other agencies which made funds available to it for continuing or special projects.36 The Civil Aeronautics Administration also performed
developmental research of importance to the AAF. Its projects were concerned chiefly with the human problems of flying and with technical development of aircraft instruments, airport devices, charts, and other aids.37
A new and especially important government agency for research and development came into existence on 27 June 1940 – the National Defense Research Committee. Modeled after the conspicuously successful NACA, the eight-member committee headed by Vannevar Bush was directed to “correlate and support scientific research on the mechanisms and devices of warfare, except those relating to problems of flight included in the field of activities” of the NACA.38 A year and a day later the committee became a part of the newly created Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), of which Bush became director with increased responsibilities and powers.39 Although aeronautical research had been exempted from the province of NDRC, it directed research projects of great importance to the AAF, many of whose greatest needs – communications equipment and armament, for instance – did not fall within the scope of aeronautics. Between June 1940 and March 1944, the OSRD undertook some 125 projects on behalf of the AAF, and in December 1944, it was conducting 79 such projects, not including 32 additional ones sponsored by the Signal Corps for the AAF. Liaison officers from the Materiel Command followed these projects, and the OSRD made available to the AAF, as to all other agencies dealing with it, reports of projects in progress.40
The AAF had opposed the creation of an over-all research agency only two months before the NDRC was established, and its initial reaction to the new agency was mixed. Although it was officially welcomed by General Arnold,41 some of the officers in the Materiel Division were skeptical of the need for such an organization. It was felt that the Air Corps could do well enough in a continuing collaboration with NACA and industry.42 The exclusion of aeronautical problems from the jurisdiction of the NDRC eliminated a potential conflict of authority, and the scientists who served with OSRD helped soon to make the AAF a willing, even eager, collaborator of the OSRD.43 In September 1944 the AAF protested that plans to begin the demobilization of OSRD upon the defeat of Germany were premature, and urged that operations be continued until after the defeat of Japan.44
The AAF also profited greatly from the policy of close collaboration
between the United States and Great Britain in the exchange of scientific and technical information. This policy, one of the most significant aspects of the Anglo-American coalition, had its origins in the prewar release of some of the latest Air Corps models for use by the British.* Such release, of course, did not in itself imply the adoption of a policy of full and free exchange of information, but the RAF was necessarily apprised of technical developments within the Air Corps, which in return enjoyed the benefit of combat tests on some of its more hopeful projects.45 If these mutual advantages served to lay the foundation for an increasingly close collaboration, they by no means eliminated at once the customary restrictions on the release of classified information. Early in 1940 the British agreed to accept American military observers, but these were as limited in their access to information as were comparable British missions in the United States. Only at the governmental level could a decision be made to remove the traditional security restrictions.
Lord Lothian, British Ambassador to the United States, and his scientific attaché, Archibald Vivian Hill, had been convinced by May 1940 that a scientific interchange would be mutually beneficial and had urged the necessary action on their government. Before the end of July 1940 President Roosevelt in response to a message from Lord Lothian had approved the proposal.46 In a swift follow-up the British dispatched to Washington in late August a mission including Canadian members and headed by Sir Henry Tizard, scientific adviser to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The mission was authorized to exchange secret data on communications, radar, underwater detection, fire control, turrets, superchargers, rockets, explosives, and chemical warfare. The interest of the American military services in these important fields was obvious, and they readily joined the NDRC in discussions with the British. Each country revealed much information of value to the other, and the “result was a great stimulus to research on new weapons on both sides of the Atlantic.”47 At that time, the British unquestionably had more to offer than did the Americans.
As a result of the visit of the Tizard mission, arrangements were made for a continuing exchange of information among Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. When these arrangements proved inadequate to the need, the passage of the Lend-Lease Act early in
* See Vol I, pp. 127-35.
1941 helped to overcome the initial British hesitancy to accept proposals for the exchange of scientific offices in the two capitals. In March 1941 President Conant of Harvard met a cordial reception as he established an office of NDRC in London, and in April the British Central Scientific Office was established in Washington. Thereafter, both countries expanded their scientific missions, and the NDRC later established in England laboratories which were of great assistance to the AAF.48
Air Corps missions to Great Britain, composed of some of the best officers in the service, followed each other in rapid succession during 1940–41.* In May 1941 the Army established a permanent military mission (Special Observer Group) in London, with an air officer in command. SPOG’s air staff section eventually evolved into the Air Technical Section of Headquarters, European Theater of Operations in July 1942 and, under the able leadership of Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Lyon, and later Col. Howard G. Bunker and Col. Donald L. Putt, served as the AAF’s permanent technical liaison office in the United Kingdom until the end of the war† The AAF continued to send special technical missions to Great Britain throughout the war to secure information on particular projects.49
Meanwhile, the British had maintained technical personnel in the United States since early in the war. Combined British-American agencies were established in Washington in 1940–41 to coordinate problems of production and standardization of equipment, and these inevitably became concerned with aeronautical research and development. The most important of these agencies for the AAF was the joint Aircraft Committee, originally established in September 1940.50 All concerned agreed on the desirability of pooling British combat experience and American technology as early as possible in the development of materiel, and AAF policy eventually settled on the mock-up‡ stage as the point at which the British would be permitted to examine new projects. Special British missions visited the United States during the course of the war, supplementing the work of the resident missions.51
* Among the Air Corps officers who visited England during 1940–41 were Arnold, Brett, Spaatz, Eaker, Royce, Saville, Chaney, Emmons, Gardner, Carroll, and Marriner.
† In February 1944 it was transferred to Headquarters, United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe.
‡ A mock-up is a full-scale ground model of an airplane, made of wood or some other material, and is used by the engineers to check questions involving access, space, arrangement of installations, visibility, etc.
The exchange of information between the AAF on the one hand, and the RAF and the Ministry of Aircraft Production on the other, was beset by the same difficulties which characterized virtually every other phase of the Anglo-American wartime collaboration. The British, standing in the front line against the Germans, alone until December 1941, felt, perhaps justifiably, that they were fighting for the United States as well as for themselves, and that it was to our interest to supply them with the best weapons in quantity. If, during the early years of the war, they assumed the role of senior partner in the firm, they had a strong foundation in experience which the United States could not yet match. On the other hand, the AAF detected early and complained often of British disinclination to grant the Americans full access to technical information and to materiel under development. The British made similar complaints about the AAF, and it is evident that both countries showed some inclination to retain for themselves as long as possible the fruits of their more advanced scientific and technical thought. AAF resistance to more active British participation in its aeronautical research and development program stemmed from the fear that British, rather than American needs, might shape that program. It stemmed, too, especially in the early years, from a desire in the Air Corps to enhance its own prestige and to attain a stature at least equal to that of the RAF.52
In spite of the caution with which both countries conducted the interchange of information, it was equally notable for its large measure of success. In 1940–41 the British made available to the AAF a number of outstanding items of equipment, including the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, radar for aircraft detection, and the Whittle jet-propulsion power plant. By September 1940 the AAF had permitted the British access to the latest American aircraft models and equipment, with the exception of the Norden bombsight (withheld at the insistence of the Navy) and certain turret data. After Pearl Harbor the British had much freer access to AAF projects, including eventually those for the development of jet propulsion and guided missiles.53
The tremendous expansion of research and development in the United States between 1940 and 1945 was especially notable in the field of aeronautics.54 The nation’s annual expenditures for this purpose rose from approximately $250 million in 1939 to more than
$800 million in 1945. In 1944 the federal government was spending some $600 million* on research in the physical sciences alone.55 For that fiscal year the AAF budgeted a total of $121,647,605 as against the $3,574,290 allotted to research and development in 1939 and the $10 million in 1940; in addition, the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics received almost $80 million and the NACA over $45 million for aeronautical research during the same year.56 Other agencies – among them the Ordnance Department, Signal Corps, and Bureau of Ordnance – also expended large sums on work bearing directly on problems pertinent to the AAF. In all, it is likely that almost half of the total research and development appropriations of the federal government for the war years was spent by or on behalf of the air arms of the Army and Navy. The AAF alone spent more than 25 per cent of the total expended by the federal government on research and development between 1939 and 1944.
By far the greater part of the funds expended went to contracts with industrial firms. Of the $418,755,020 spent for research and development by the AAF between 1939 and 1944, $337,448,692 underwrote research contracts with industry; for university contracts the total was only $2,453,659. Expenditures within the AAF reached $53,759,308, a sum that does not include costs of administrative overhead. The OSRD, apparently with the agreement of the other government agencies, monopolized university resources to the extent of almost 98 per cent of the dollar value of all government research and development contracts with universities. OSRD spent $220 million with the universities and $110 million with industry. Of the $95 million expended by NACA, almost all was directed to the support of work conducted within NACA’s own establishment.
The generous appropriations of funds during World War II permitted the AAF, the Navy, and the NACA to expand their research and development establishments beyond their fondest prewar dreams. Between 1939 and 1944 the capital investment in plant at Wright Field grew from about $10 million to nearly $54 million, divided almost equally between technical equipment and laboratory structures. Besides adding at least four testing stations in various parts of the country, in October 1944 the AAF also acquired the Signal Corps facilities at Wright Field. The expansion of test facilities at Eglin Field and at Orlando, Florida, was extensive after 1940, almost $20 million
* This does not include the cost of the Manhattan Project.
being spent on construction at Eglin for the four years 1941–44.57 The NACA’s growth was of special importance to the AAF. In addition to greatly enlarging its facilities at Langley Field, Virginia, NACA constructed new laboratories at Moffett Field, California, and at Cleveland, Ohio. NACA’s $70 million plant in 1945 was certainly the finest of its kind in the United States and possibly in the world.
In shaping its own programs of research and development, the AAF depended at first upon the traditional device of a special military board – a representative group of qualified officers appointed to study a particular problem and to make recommendations. Thus the Kilner Board in 1939 had undertaken to provide a blueprint for Air Corps research and development through fiscal 1945.* As early as April 1940 Arnold felt it necessary to appoint a new board, headed by Maj. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, to “revise the Five-Year Experimental Program.”58 A secondary responsibility for review of the current modernization program, in the circumstances, tended to dominate the work of the board, which promptly determined that the “main factor for immediate consideration” was the “determination of priorities of various types of aircraft for immediate expansion procurement.”59 With the aid of Wright Field engineers, who already had undertaken a review of the priorities set in the Kilner report, the Emmons Board agreed in June 1940 on the following priorities: for aircraft engines, units ranging in horsepower classification from 1) 1,700–2,400, 2) 2,500–4,000, and 3) 4,000–5,500; for aircraft, 1) a heavy bomber with range of 5,333 miles, 2) a two-engine interceptor, 3) a medium bomber with 2,667-mile range, 4) an escort fighter with 1,500-mile range, 5) a single-engine interceptor, 6) a dive bomber (adaptation of Navy type), 7) a light bomber, 8) a long-range bomber, 9) an observation plane, and 10) a two-engine trainer.60 On receiving the report, Arnold promptly interchanged the first and fourth priorities, giving the escort fighter first place.61
His action was symptomatic of the influences that during this period of rapid expansion would force repeated adjustment of priorities and make of any over-all plan nothing more than a general guide to ultimate objectives. Thereafter, Wright Field engineers opposed all proposals for the drawing up of new programs, including a suggestion
* See above, pp. 178-80.
that the Air Corps join with the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics in requesting NACA to prepare a five-year research and development program for the Army and Navy.62 Normal staff procedures were soon substituted for the special board under circumstances which made changes of priority the rule rather than the exception. Sometimes changes were directed by Arnold; sometimes they were suggested by the Materiel Division as a result of engineering experience. In November 1941 the OCAC reported to the Office of the Secretary of War that the highest priority in the development program was being given to long-range heavy bombers – the XB-29 and XB-32. Ranking next were pursuit aircraft, engines, superchargers, propellers, fire-control apparatus, and detection equipment.63
By December 1941 Wright Field was directing a developmental program which included some 2,000 projects.64 Requirements fluctuated rapidly with the coming of the war, and in an effort to provide guidance to the program, the AAF appointed another board in January 1942 to review “recommendations and plans relative to the development and procurement of aircraft required under the Victory Program.65 Under the chairmanship of Col. Earl L. Naiden, A-3 of the Air Staff, the board considered characteristics for transport and cargo aircraft, a 10,000-mile bomber, a bomber with a range between that of the B-29 and the 10,000-mile bomber, and various other categories of aircraft. But its report could be regarded as a recommendation of no more than temporary utility. The volume of research and development projects grew so great as 1942 progressed that the Materiel Command had difficulty in knowing the back-ground and keeping abreast of the status of even its major projects. In an effort to establish necessary controls, the Engineering Division compiled and published on 1 July 1942 the first edition of “Research and Development Projects of the Experimental Engineering Section.” Issued semiannually thereafter, this publication became the standard guide to developmental projects in progress.66 The exigencies of war produced a sharper distinction between short-term and long-term projects, and emphasis on weapons that would be of use in “this war, not the next one,” tended to push aside projects for less immediately needed equipment. A list of “super-materiel projects” drawn up for the Chief of the Air Staff by the Materiel Division of AC/AS, MM&D in January 1944 indicated the following priorities: 1) fighter range-extension tanks, 2) guided missiles, 3) flying clothing,
4) the XP-75, 5) computing gun sights, 6) fire control for B-29’s, and 7) 20-mm. gun turrets.67 Of these, only one – guided missiles – could be regarded as a long-term undertaking. Periodic reviews by representatives of AAF Headquarters and the Materiel Command eliminated the least promising projects and readjusted the order of priorities from time to time in accordance with changing demands. These reviews were full-scale examinations of the program, sometimes lasting as long as two weeks and involving scores of experts from every field of research and development.68
By the spring of 1944 a change was to be noted as the AAF turned its attention increasingly to postwar plans. In May a program, designated Project B-7 and covering the fiscal years 1946–50, called for annual expenditures ranging from $125 million in 1946 to $80 million in 1950 and provided for some expansion of facilities at Wright Field. The program provided for expenditure of the largest single allocation of funds for experimental and developmental aircraft. The major fighter projects would include a jet-propelled stratosphere fighter, a transonic experimental plane, and a supersonic experimental plane. Among the bomber projects, there was a provision for an experimental medium jet bomber and for design studies of attack and heavy jet bombers and a supersonic bomber.69 In a memorandum to General Marshall in May 1945, General Arnold outlined the awesome potentialities of future AAF research and development. Long-range experiments “in the field of advanced physics with elements capable of releasing unmeasured forces ... revolutionizing the field of explosives to the ultimate point of ending human survival” were but a part of the destructive forces research promised to unleash – all of them “peculiarly adapted to air employment.”70
Among the wartime projects which did not come to fruition in time to affect the combat activity of the AAF, special interest attaches to the effort to develop an intercontinental bomber. The idea of such a bomber had intrigued Air Corps leaders for several years prior to 1941; both the XB-15 and XB-19 had been planned on a scale and with a range far in excess of that achieved by any of the World War II bombers. An 8,000-mile bomber found place in the reports of both the Kilner and Emmons Boards, but developmental resources were concentrated first on the interim goal of a 5,000-mile
bomber – which is to say, on the B-29 and B-32. By late 1940, however, the world situation was peculiarly favorable to a renewed effort in search of a truly intercontinental bomber. Should Germany force Britain to capitulate, the United States probably would be left to face its potential enemies alone and without oversea bases. Accordingly, on 1 January 1941 the Assistant Chief of the Air Corps, General Spaatz, directed the Air War Plans Division to review the problem of bomber development with attention to a possible “radius of action such as Point Barrow to Berlin.”71
Three months later, on 11 April, the Air Corps invited Boeing and Consolidated to submit preliminary design studies for a bomber of intercontinental range, and on 3 May Consolidated submitted proposals for a high-wing, single-tail, pressure-cabin bomber with a range of 10,000 miles carrying a 10,000-pound bomb load.72 The spectacular success of the German invasion of Russia during the summer months prompted a new study of long-range bomber requirements in the event of Britain’s collapse. By 14 August, when the problem was reviewed at a special meeting attended by Lovett, Brett, then Chief of the Air Corps, and representatives of Wright Field in addition to a number of key staff officers, four companies were already at work on designs: Boeing, Consolidated, and Douglas on conventional planes and Northrop on a tailless flying wing. The magnitude of the project – Echols commented that no company could build even the prototype of such a plane in less than two and a half years – and the necessity for an overriding priority at the expense of other important developments were fully appreciated, but the word given the Wright Field representatives was to expedite the project “to the greatest possible degree.”73 A new directive to the Chief of the Air Corps called upon him to take prompt steps to assist the four interested companies by giving them the most up-to-date information on desired characteristics.74 Plans included provision for the development simultaneously of an escort plane of the bomber type,* but defensive firepower in the bomber itself ranked second only to range in the preliminary specifications.75
In October 1941, after reviewing data submitted by Boeing, Douglas, and Consolidated, the Air Corps awarded a contract to the last-named for two experimental six-engine bombers, designated XB-36, with delivery dates set at thirty and thirty-six months later.
* See above, pp. 217-18.
A cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with Consolidated was signed on 15 November 1941.76 Northrop, which had begun work on its flying wing (XB-35) in September, received a contract for the first experimental article one week later.77 By August 1942 the two projects had passed the mock-up stage, and Wright Field felt that “both airplanes are feasible and that both projects can be brought to a successful conclusion.” The XB-35 showed “considerably more promise in performance and bomb-range capabilities on the basis of gross weight,” but continuation of the XB-36 was justified as insurance against trouble with the unconventional flying wing. Engineering difficulties were attributed partly to a personnel shortage, a deficiency the Materiel Command undertook to remedy by securing additional engineers, especially for Northrop, the smaller of the two companies. Transfer of the B-36 project from the Consolidated plant at San Diego to Fort Worth imposed a further delay, but the company expected the plane to fly in May 1944. Arnold on 28 September 1942 directed that the two planes be given the “highest priority.”78
By July 1943 the potential characteristics of the XB-36 had become reasonably clear. It was to have a design gross weight of 265,000 pounds and was to be powered by six 3,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines. With a pressurized cabin and heavy armament, including 37-mm. guns and .50-caliber machine guns, it would have a range of 10,000 miles with 10,000 pounds of bombs and 4,600 miles with a maximum bomb load of 72,000 pounds. The XB-35 would be smaller, with a gross weight of 155,000 pounds and a range of 7,600 miles carrying 10,000 pounds of bombs. It would be powered by four 3,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines and would have a high speed of 418 miles per hour.79 As of 24 December 1943 the Materiel Command estimated that the engineering of the XB-35 was 29 per cent complete and that the first plane could probably fly in April 1945.80
On the initiative of Under Secretary of War Patterson and with the authorization of the Secretary of War, Arnold in June 1943 ordered the procurement of 100 B-36’s. Consolidated was given a letter of intent in July 1943, and on 19 August 1944 Patterson approved the contract for 100 B-36’s at an estimated cost of $154,250,000 plus a fixed fee of $6,170,000 for Consolidated.81 But development of the XB-36, and the XB-35* as well, continued to lag: as
* The AAF had contracted for two XB-35’s and thirteen YB-35’s.
the tempo of the war quickened and Japan was brought within range of the B-29, production requirements for other types of planes – particularly the B-29 and the B-32 – were given higher priorities which siphoned off engineering and production resources from the bigger bombers.82
As the end of hostilities approached, postwar plans for American air power gave first place to a strategic striking force. Both the B-35 and the B-36 were still under construction; the former made its first flight on 25 June 1946, the latter on 8 August.83 But advance studies already had picked the B-36 as the plane around which to build the postwar air force,84 and subsequent tests confirmed the decision.
The United States lagged behind Germany and Great Britain in the development of jet propulsion, and this failure has been properly described as the “most serious inferiority in American Aeronautical development which appeared during the Second World War.”85 The principle of propulsion by reaction is an old one, but until the 1930’s gas turbine and aircraft design were insufficiently advanced to encourage the development of a jet-propulsion unit. Sustained work on the problem began at approximately the same time – 1935–36 – in Germany and Great Britain. The original British jet engine, developed by an RAF engineering officer, W/C Frank Whittle, powered an aircraft in flight for the first time on 15 May 1941. The Germans had made the first jet-powered flight on 27 August 1939, but the British and Germans were actually more nearly abreast in their progress than this time difference would suggest.* Both countries put a few jet fighters into combat as early as 1944, though their numbers were insufficient to have significant effect. No American jet fighters flew in combat during World War II.
The Air Corps had been aware of the potentialities of jet propulsion before the war, and in 1939 the Chief of the Air Corps reported that the National Academy of Sciences had been requested to study the problem of “compression-ignition engines and rocket or jet propulsion as a sole prime-mover and as an augmenter to the main power plant, to improve aircraft performance.” Jet research was undertaken
* The Italians also worked on jet propulsion in the late 1930’s and eventually produced the Caproni-Campini CC-2, which flew for ten minutes on 27 August 1940 and once again on 30 November 1941, this time from Milan to Rome. The Italians made no further progress of significance in the field of jet propulsion during World War II.
by the California Institute of Technology under contract with the National Academy of Sciences, but this was a long-range project from which the Air Corps apparently expected no early returns.86 In 1940 the Air Corps sought to persuade the NDRC to assume responsibility for the entire jet-propulsion problem, “figuring that the increased funds, facilities, and scientific personnel available to the NDRC might serve to give the necessary impetus to research work on this problem, at least to get it up to the point where the Air Corps could take over and attempt a test installation on some type of aircraft.” But the NDRC was reluctant to assume the responsibility, arguing that it belonged properly to the NACA.87 Two aircraft manufacturers – Northrop and Lockheed – had launched independent investigations into the development of gas turbines for use in aircraft. The Northrop development, which was intended to drive the propeller on the plane rather than to provide full jet propulsion, was supported by a joint Army-Navy development contract awarded in 1941. Lockheed’s project, begun in 1940, looked to the development of a gas turbine jet-propulsion engine. Preliminary plans were completed in 1941, and in 1943 the AAF gave the company a developmental contract.88
Intelligence reports in early 1941 of jet-propulsion progress in Germany impelled the Air Corps to make another effort to persuade the NDRC to undertake this important work, but that agency once more refused to enter the field except insofar as it affected its study of rockets and guided missiles. Meanwhile, an additional $8 million was authorized for accelerating the research undertaken by the California Institute of Technology.89 But nothing concrete could be expected from this project for perhaps two years, and General Arnold asked the NACA to study the subject. In March 1941 the NACA established a special committee on jet propulsion under the chairmanship of William F. Durand which included representatives from the Air Corps, the Navy, the Bureau of Standards, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the manufacturers of turbines – General Electric, Westinghouse, and Allis-Chalmers. It has been asserted that the regular aircraft engine manufacturers were not included because Arnold feared that they might be opposed to unorthodox power-plant developments.90 According to Dr. Jerome Hunsaker of the NACA, the “regular aircraft companies were approached but were not one bit enthusiastic” about joining the committee.91
When Arnold visited England in April of that year, he was told of the existence of the Whittle engine by Lt. Col. Alfred J. Lyon, Air Corps technical liaison officer in England, and D. Roy Shoults, technical representative of the General Electric Company. Arnold, on seeing the engine and the plane in which it had been installed, was tremendously impressed and determined “then and there” that he “must get the plans and specifications of that jet plane back to the United States.”92 Fortunately, the British were willing to make the Whittle engine available to the United States, and it became possible for the Air Corps to plan a comprehensive program for the development and production of jet engines in anticipation of receipt of the plans for the Whittle engine. In June 1941 Arnold requested that the Durand committee give first priority to jet-propulsion devices for assisting take-off of heavily loaded aircraft and second priority to development of devices and engines as primary sources of power. The Durand committee decided that the three turbine companies should proceed with studies of turbojet engines and in September recommended that contracts be signed for development of engines by all three companies. Allis-Chalmers and Westinghouse projected turbojet engines, while General Electric initially worked on a turboprop* engine.93 In September Secretary of War Stimson and Sir Henry Self, Director General of the British Air Commission, agreed on the conditions under which the Whittle engine would be made available to the United States. The AAF agreed to special precautions for the preservation of secrecy, among them severe restrictions on the number of individuals and industrial firms to be involved in work with the engine.94 One result was to keep from Northrop and Lockheed, which built the AAF’s first successful jet plane, full information on the AAF’s interest and activity in this field until 1943
On 4 September 1941, at a meeting with General Arnold, representatives of the General Electric Company agreed to undertake production of the Whittle engine and to carry on further research to improve its design and performance. On the following day the Bell Aircraft Company agreed to produce three articles of a twin-engine plane to be powered by the jet engine. General Electric agreed to build fifteen engines, to be designated “I” superchargers.† Bell, which
* The turboprop, as the name suggests, combines jet propulsion with a propeller.
† For security reasons the early jet engines were called superchargers.
was selected partly because of its proximity to General Electric, was to collaborate closely with the latter.95
The British dispatched production drawings of the Whittle engine (W2B) which reached General Electric at the beginning of October 1941. Although the company found it necessary to make changes in the original design, its first engine was ready for testing in March 1942.96 Meanwhile, Bell was building the XP-59A* to carry the new engine, and on 18 October 1942 at Muroc Dry Lake, California, it made its first flight, powered by two I engines and piloted by Col. Laurence C. Craigie. Additional engines and aircraft were ordered from the two companies, whose prosecution of this project the AAF regarded as worthy of commendation, and testing continued at a rapid pace. But the P-59, although an important step in AAF jet development, did not have the performance desired and was relegated to the status of a training plane by 1944.97
This initial success in adapting the Whittle engine to AAF needs, however, had led to the assumption that “important tactical possibilities are imminent.”98 In October 1942 Col. Benjamin W. Chidlaw directed that the Materiel Center at Wright Field establish an organization to coordinate and supervise all aspects of the jet-propulsion program.99 At a meeting with Navy and NACA representatives in November 1942, the AAF agreed to exchange progress reports with the other two. In addition to the I engines at General Electric and the XP-59A at Bell, NACA sponsored for the AAF the I-16 and TG-100 engines at General Electric. The Navy had four jet-propulsion projects under way. The AAF urged still closer collaboration with the British, who had at least a half-dozen jet engines under development, but NACA and the Navy, which was particularly secretive about its projects, rejected the proposal. The problem of bringing the major engine manufacturers – Wright, Pratt & Whitney, and Allison – into the picture was also discussed, and the conclusion was reached that although they were overloaded, they would have to be brought in sooner or later. Whatever the attitude of these companies had been in the spring of 1941, they since then had made many “indirect approaches to the Matériel Command as to possibility of participation in event any sizeable jet program were planned.100
* Also for security reasons, the AAF had decided to call the first jet airframe the XP-59A. The original XP-59 was a conventional experimental plane, and it was thought that the use of the same designation would hide the true identity of the new model.
Retention of the Bell and General Electric projects in a Secret classification had hampered the AAF in its effort to attain an effective organization of the over-all effort. By 1943 hundreds, if not thousands, of people at Bell and General Electric were working on the project. Accordingly, and sensibly, the security classification was lowered to Confidential.101 The way was now open to bring Northrop and Lockheed into full collaboration. Northrop had been authorized in January 1943 to proceed with construction of the XP-79, a small flying-wing type rocket-propelled interceptor that was destined never to fulfill its original promise and was written off after the war.102 In May 1943 the Materiel Command invited Lockheed to submit a design for a fighter plane built around the British Halford engine, by DeHavilland, which the British then considered to be their most promising jet engine and had agreed to make available for production in the United States. Allis-Chalmers undertook production of the engine, and plans were made to use it in the first P-80’s, which Lockheed was to produce. Although the contract for the XP-80 was not actually approved by the War Department until 16 October 1943, Lockheed already had begun work on the plane and completed it in 145 days.103
The XP-80 made its first flight at Muroc Dry Lake, California, on 8 January 1944. The single Halford H-1 engine delivered 2,250 pounds of thrust at sea level, and during its subsequent flight-tests the plane attained speeds of 500 miles per hour in level flight, the first AAF plane to attain this distinction.104 But it was already apparent at the beginning of 1944 that for a long time it would not be possible for Allis-Chalmers to produce the Halford engine in quantity; nor would it be possible to get large numbers of the engine from the British. Under these circumstances, the AAF decided to use another engine in the XP-80 and settled on the General Electric I-40, an improved unit which had its first tests in January 1944 and appeared to be capable of delivering 4,000 pounds of thrust, considerably more than the Halford. Lockheed was asked to build two XP-80A’s to accommodate the I-40, and thirteen YP-80A’s were subsequently added to the contract. The final engineering development and production of the I-40 received the highest priority.105 The XP-80A made its first flights with the I-40 engine in June 1944, by which time the AAF had already placed production orders for 500 planes. Unfortunately, the engine had a much higher rate of fuel consumption
than had been anticipated, a defect which materially reduced the range of the plane.106
Anticipating that these engine difficulties would be overcome, the AAF proceeded with plans for expanding production of both the engine and the airframe for the P-80A. The Allison plant at Indianapolis became associated with General Electric in the production of the I-40, and North American made its plant at Kansas City available to supplement Lockheed’s airframe production at Burbank, California.107 The P-80 program was assigned top priority, given in fact equal footing with the B-29 in February 1945. In January 1945 AAF Headquarters had made plans to place the P-80A into combat by the fall of the year, and 115 P-80’s had been accepted by the AAF by the end of 1945, but only 45 were actually on hand and none of them saw combat service.108
Development of additional jet engines and aircraft had, of course, been continuing at a rapid pace while the AAF was trying to get the P-80 into production. In January 1944 the Materiel Command had on order experimental numbers of eight types of jet-propulsion engines other than the I-40, and three aircraft other than the XP-59A and XP-80. Attaining speeds of 500 miles an hour was certain, but reports of German progress up to 650 miles per hour spurred the AAF to further activity. During the course of 1944 NACA and the Materiel Command laid the groundwork for the transonic and supersonic aircraft which became a reality after the war.109
General Electric, profiting immensely by the head start it had gained in its work with the Whittle engine, dominated the American jet-engine field at the end of the war. It had in production or under development the I-40, TG-100 (turboprop), and TG-180 engines. The Westinghouse 19A, which was first flown in 1944 in a Navy FC-1 Corsair, was the only engine of original American design to be flown before the end of the war. Although successful, the engine was small, developing less than 1,500 pounds of thrust, and was not put into quantity production. Other engine projects were the Northrop Turbodyne, the Lockheed L-1000, and the Pratt & Whitney PT-1 turboprop, none of which were flown before the end of the war. The Pratt & Whitney engine was the only fully private venture represented among the jet engines developed during the war.110
Although fighter aircraft had been the first to be equipped with jet engines, the AAF was fully aware of the importance of acquiring
jet bombers. By the end of 1944 the AAF had contracted for three jet-propelled bombers-the Curtiss-Wright XA-43, the Douglas XB-43, and the North American XB-45, all to be powered by the General Electric TG-180 engine. Only the B-45 was ever produced in numbers greater than test quantity. By the end of the war other jet bombers under development were the XB-46, -47, -48, and -49, of which only the Boeing B-47 survived the experimental and test phases to be put into production in the postwar period as the AAF’s first strategic jet bomber.111
The AAF pushed the development of jet fighters with increasing vigor as the end of the war approached. The Consolidated-Vultee twin-engine XP-81 first flew in February 1945 but was never put into quantity production. Bell constructed the XP-83, powered by two I-40 engines, but it did not meet the needs of the AAF. Design of the McDonnell XP-85, a small parasite fighter to be carried in-side the B-36 bomb bay, was begun before the end of the war, but only a few postwar articles were produced. The single-engine XP-84 Thunderjet, which the AAF regarded as the most promising successor to the P-80, was not flown until after the war was over, when it attained a speed of more than 600 miles per hour. The outstanding American fighter of the postwar years, the F-86 Sabrejet, was in the design stage on V-J Day.112
Several factors help account for the United States lagging behind Great Britain in turbojet development at the end of World War II. The AAF and the Navy, particularly the latter, did not permit, in fact discouraged, collaboration among the companies participating in the jet-propulsion program. This was done largely for the sake of secrecy and was in direct contrast to Britain’s practice of encouraging a full exchange of information among her own agencies. The American military services, moreover, gave the highest production priorities to existing engines, thus effectively preventing the established aircraft engine companies from entering the jet-propulsion field. The British, on the other hand, brought their engine companies into jet-propulsion work as early as 1942, and according to an AAF authority, this collaboration was a major reason for British success.113 As for Anglo-American collaboration on jet propulsion, the United States got more than it gave. Although American progress in jet propulsion during 1941–45 was in many ways comparable to that of the British for the same period, it must be conceded
that this was so only because the British had made available in 1941 the design and actual articles of the Whittle engine. The successful jet engines produced by General Electric through 1945 were all adaptations of the Whittle engine.114
Guided missiles constituted the third of three major AAF programs on the frontiers of research and development. More than any other AAF program, it promised to have a revolutionary effect on future warfare.
Americans had discerned the promise of the guided missile at least as early as World War I, when the Air Service had tested power-driven “flying bombs” or “torpedo planes,” developed by a group of outstanding engineers including Charles F. Kettering. Efforts to continue this work during the years between the wars were ineffectual, largely because of lack of funds.115 In 1938 the Air Corps’ interest in remotely controlled missiles was revived, and during the next two years General Arnold explored the possibilities with Kettering, then vice-president of the General Motors Corporation. A design competition for aerial torpedoes in 1939 produced no satisfactory data, but in February 1940 the War Department approved a set of characteristics for an aerial torpedo which was to be capable of striking a target with a half-mile diameter at a range of twenty miles. One year later the AAF contracted with General Motors for ten such aerial torpedoes, subsequently designated controlled bombs, power-driven. Actually, these were to be remotely controlled aircraft carrying bombs in the fuselage. It was expected that they would be small and inexpensive.116
The contract with General Motors for the GMA-1 power-driven bomb initiated a guided-missiles program which grew steadily in scope and importance during succeeding years. Development of these missiles was destined to fall, in general, into three major categories. The first included all types of power-driven bombs, ranging from the embryonic GMA-1, through the “war-weary” B-17’s and B-24’s, to the jet-propelled JB-2’s, which were copies of the German V-1. Various types of controls, including preset and remote, were used to guide these ground-launched missiles to their targets. The second group of missiles were glide bombs launched from aircraft. In their simplest form these were bombs, equipped with wings and gyrostabilizers,
which would glide into the target after being launched from a plane. In their more advanced forms, the bombs would be controlled from the launching aircraft by means of radio or radar. The third major group of missiles consisted of standard bombs which could be controlled from the launching plane in azimuth and/or range. Bombs from this last group were the only guided missiles used in combat in more than experimental quantities by the AAF.
Interest in power-driven bombs persisted throughout the war, even though the GMA-1, often referred to as the “Bug,” was abandoned in August 1943. The “Bug” was tested extensively, beginning in 1941, but the problem of controlling it was never successfully solved. Furthermore, its capabilities – speed, range, and bomb load – became steadily less impressive as the tactical capabilities of all types of aircraft increased. Other power-driven bomb projects begun during 1942 and 1943 included Fleetwings’ XBQ-1 and XBQ-2A and Fairchild’s XBQ-3. These were all conventional planes capable of carrying bomb loads ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, but none of them met AAF requirements. They were too expensive and their tactical utility was limited because they required clear visibility, fighter protection, and highly trained crews. In short, they appeared to have no real advantage over the piloted bombing plane and had the disadvantage of being expendable. For these reasons and because other developments of greater utility and promise were under way, the BQ program did not survive the war.117
In 1944 the AAF showed a great deal of interest in the possibility of using obsolescent combat planes, known as war-wearies, as power-driven bombs. By that time a large number of B-17’s and B-24’s had outlived their usefulness in combat. It seemed desirable to make some effective use of them against the enemy, and the extent to which the Eighth Air Force by this time had resorted to an area type of attack against German cities prompted a suggestion that the war-wearies might be expended as power-driven bombs. The Materiel Command at home and the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe undertook experiments with plans to load the plane with up to 20,000 pounds of explosives. The idea was that a pilot would take the plane into the air, set all the necessary controls, and then bail out. Thereafter, the plane would be controlled to the target from another aircraft. But the control equipment behaved erratically in tests conducted against German targets in the fall of 1944. Accordingly, it
was decided to switch to ground radar control of the “Weary Willies,” as the planes had come to be known. The revised project was given the highest priority in the guided-missiles program in October 1944. NDRC joined in the search for effective control apparatus in the hope that the problem might be solved in time for use against German cities during the winter when flying conditions would be none too favorable for standard bombing procedures. Again, however, the program never got beyond the experimental stage; by the end of the year its priority had been drastically lowered. It was discovered that war-weary aircraft were usually not in condition to permit their use for the purpose, and there was no point in diverting other bombers in good condition from their standard use.118 In 1945 the search for a power-driven bomb turned to the fighter plane and the possibilities of using P-38’s and P-47’s were investigated. It was suggested that the planes be launched rather than taken aloft by pilots and that a form of ground radar control be used to guide the plane. The termination of the war killed this project before it had reached the developmental stage.119
Meantime, the German use of the V-1 jet-propelled pilotless bomb against England, beginning in June 1944, had given a powerful impulse to AAF efforts to develop a tactically useful guided missile. The AAF reacted immediately to the news of the German attacks on southern England by concentrating its main effort in the guided-missiles field toward development of a similar weapon. Prior to this time the military services and the NDRC had already made plans to apply jet propulsion to some of the guided missiles under development. But this work was still in the planning stage in June 1944, and the AAF desired a retaliatory weapon that could be produced in large numbers with a minimum of delay.120 This desire reflected no grave concern over the current tactical situation, for the Allies enjoyed a strategic position, particularly in the air, which was far superior to that of the German. Both Spaatz and Eaker, from their commands in the ETO and MTO respectively, advised that they could “foresee no immediate requirement for the use of pilotless aircraft.” But there was concern to catch up with a development promising serious potentials for the future. Already, too, the problem of control of guided-missiles development had become a subject of debate within the War Department. The AAF believed that it would be in a strong position if it could develop and actually use in combat
as spectacular a missile as the V-1.121 Vannevar Bush subsequently concluded that such a weapon “probably would at no time have been worth its cost, which was not inconsiderable when all factors such as handling and launching sites were included.”122 But at the time the AAF felt otherwise. Its top leaders, including Robert A. Lovett, personally supervised the initiation of the program. While Northrop received a contract to develop a jet-propelled pilotless aircraft superior in range, accuracy, and bomb load to the German weapon, the chief emphasis was placed on reproduction of the German V-1, an already proved tactical weapon.123 Using parts salvaged from crashed V-1’s in England, Wright Field engineers built a duplicate of the propulsion unit used in the “flying bomb” and tested it in August 1944, less than three weeks after the first parts were brought from England. Encouraged by the rapid progress, the AAF ordered 1,000 of these JB-2’s, or “Chinese copies of the buzz bomb” as they were called. By 8 September the first complete JB-2, an all-steel jet-powered monoplane, had been assembled at a plant of the Republic Aviation Corporation;124 the first JB-2’s were launched at Eglin Field, Florida, in October, and tests continued for many months thereafter.125
Technical problems, particularly in launching the weapon, still remained to be solved, but the AAF decided to ask for a major production program. In October 1944, Arnold directed Wright Field to procure enough JB-2’s to permit a launching rate of 1,000 per month, and even though it was well known that production facilities to meet the requirements for the rockets used in launching the missile did not exist, the AAF decided in January 1945 to expand the program enormously. Lt. Gen. Barney M. Giles, Chief of the Air Staff, requested that the War Department establish overriding priorities which would permit production of JB-2’s in sufficient numbers to allow 500 launchings per day by February 1946 or sooner. But the request was denied by the General Staff on grounds which seem to have been sufficient, from both the logistical and strategic viewpoints. Production of JB-2’s on the scale requested by the AAF would have seriously interfered with the war effort: it would have required a reduction of 25 per cent in the field artillery program and 17 per cent in bomb production, it would have cost one and one-half billion dollars, and it would have required 25 per cent of all shipping space to the United Kingdom.126
After restudying the question in the light of its effect on other production, the AAF reduced its requirements to a comparatively modest 2,000 JB-2’s per month, one-fifteenth of its earlier requirement. The total production requirement was set at 20,000. The uncertainties connected with production planning had communicated themselves to potential manufacturers, who became reluctant to participate in the program, which proceeded slowly. The end of the war in Europe made it clear that no immediate use existed for the JB-2, and the War Department directed that the production goal be lowered to a maximum of 5,000. Developmental work continued and test launchings, using a variety of devices, had reached 213 by 8 August 1945. Production contracts were terminated on 15 September 1945, after 1,391 JB-2’s had been delivered. Developmental work continued until 1946.127
Meanwhile, Northrop had proceeded with the development of its flying bomb, a jet-propelled flying-wing type. The JB-2 was launched in December 1944, but the experiment revealed an incompatibility between airframe and engine. The airframe was then modified, but the new version – now designated the JB-20 – proved to be little more satisfactory than its predecessor. In view of progress on other missiles, the AAF in March 1946 dropped it from the re-search and development program.128 One other jet-propelled guided missile – the JB-3 – was still under development at the end of the war. This was an air-to-air missile, developed by the AAF in conjunction with the NACA. Full-scale testing did not begin until after the end of the war.129
Glide bombs constituted the second major category of guided missiles developed by the AAF during the war. The AAF’s interest had been prompted early in 1941 by information of British work on “aerial gliding torpedoes, gliding bombs, and aerial mines.” Although the information secured from the British was not complete, General Arnold directed AAF engineers to proceed with the development of a glide bomb. Because torpedoes were also involved, the Navy became interested in the project and agreed to test such equipment as might be used in connection with torpedoes.130
In contrast to the V-weapons subsequently developed by the Germans, which were surface-to-surface missiles, the glide bomb was to be launched from the air. The problem broke down into two parts: the development of a winged structure to carry the bomb and
of controls to direct it. Wings for a glide bomb were procured as early as June 1941 and had been tested by the end of the year. More difficult was the problem of control. Maj. George V. Holloman, in charge of the project, concentrated his attention therefore on the development of a radio device that might guide the bomb against predetermined points up to a distance of thirty miles or of some seeking device through which the bomb might be made to home on the target itself. The utility of such devices was not limited exclusively to glide bombs, and the work was consequently of importance for most types of missiles then under development.131 But Arnold was impatient for a missile which would be available for combat use in the near future. After a personal review of the project in July 1942, he ordered that development of complicated controls be stopped until a simple glide bomb with wings and an automatic pilot had been built – one that could glide into a large built-up industrial area. A lack of precision shown in tests of the resulting bomb in August perturbed members of the Air Staff at AAF Headquarters, but officers in charge of the project replied that it had never been assumed that the bomb could be used for pinpoint bombing. They ventured the opinion that it would be possible to “place one hundred per cent of them [the bombs] inside a city the size of Dayton, Ohio, from any altitude up to thirty thousand (30,000) feet, and ... from altitudes up to five thousand (5,000) feet, the greater percentage of them could be placed inside a large factory area.” After further consideration, AAF Headquarters directed in October 1942 that the glide bomb, designated GB-1, be produced in quantity and that a group of B-17’s equipped to launch them be ready for action in England before the end of 1942 – a time schedule that proved decidedly optimistic.132
The GB-1 consisted of a 2,000-pound bomb attached to a high-wing structure with two booms and a tail surface. Controls, carried by the bomb itself, were preset and could not be adjusted by the launching airplane. Because of its simplicity and lower cost, Arnold decided to give this type of bomb priority over power-driven missiles.133 Revised plans called for use of the GB-1 from the United Kingdom in 1943. Planes and missiles were available before the end of that year, but the new bomb was not tried in combat until 25 May 1944, when 116 bombs were launched against Cologne. Results were unimpressive and no more attacks were attempted. The Eighth Air Force had never been enthusiastic about the GB-1, which was
satisfactory only for area bombing, and had stated in May 1943 that it had no use for it at the time. The one combat test seemed to confirm the conclusion that the bombers could accomplish more with conventional bombs. Subsequently, the whole GB-1 program was canceled.134
Other projects included a glide torpedo – the GT-1 – which was tested before the end of 1943. The Far East Air Forces used it in the Pacific during 1944–45, but on only a few occasions, the chief objections being the lack of range when carried by the B-25 and its usefulness against large targets only.135 Two remotely controlled bombs were also developed, after cooperation among a number of agencies, including NDRC, the Radio Corporation of America, and the National Bureau of Standards. The GB-4 combined radio control and visual observation, while the GB-8 combined radio control with television. Progress on these two bombs had been delayed because of the priority accorded the GB-1, and not until the summer of 1944 were they tested in combat in Europe. The results were unsatisfactory and quantity procurement of the bombs was canceled. The AAF and the Navy sponsored a number of other glide bombs during the war, using a variety of control or seeker devices. None of these were used in combat by the AAF, although the Navy made limited use of two radar-controlled glide bombs – the “Pelican” and the “Bat.”136
In a third category of guided missiles, the controlled vertical bomb proved useful. The first of this type, the azon bomb (VB-1) could be controlled in azimuth only. Developed under the auspices of the AAF by NDRC, the azon was a 1,000-pound general purpose bomb fitted with an extended tail which carried a flare, a radio receiver, a gyrostabilizer to prevent rolling, and rudders for steering to right or left at the will of the bombardier in the launching plane. The bomb was intermittently used in the European and Mediterranean theaters in 1944–45 without conspicuous success. But it was employed with excellent results against bridges in Burma late in 1944 and during 1945. In little more than two months the 7th Bombardment Group claimed 27 bridges with an expenditure of 459 azon bombs, and direct hits with 10 to 15 per cent of the bombs.137 When the war ended, the AAF dropped its plans to make extensive use of azon, perhaps because of the progress by that time achieved with a variety of other such projects. Since 1942 experiments had been under way with a bomb that could be controlled visually in range as well as in
azimuth.138 Seeking and homing devices were also being tested on a variety of the standard vertically dropped bombs.139 At the end of the war the Army Air Forces had a guided-missiles program which included air-to-surface, surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, and air-to-air missiles.140
The return of peace removed considerations of short-term expediency which frequently had affected the program during the war and opened the way for the establishment of objectives that were truly revolutionary in their implications for the future of warfare. If during the heat of battle some officers, especially those charged with immediate combat responsibilities,141 tended to dismiss all “Buck Rogers” devices in favor of weapons of proved utility, the German V-1 and V-2 and the American A-bomb had destroyed the very grounds upon which this skepticism rested. It was clear enough now that even the wildest flight of the imagination might hold a suggestion that no nation dared ignore.
No less clearly perceived were the implications affecting service interests. The guided missile, even more than the airplane, called into question traditional assumptions regarding the assignment of functions to the respective armed services. The problem was twofold: 1) who would develop the weapon? and 2) who would use it? – with the answer to the latter tending to govern the decision on the first. In 1943 the Ordnance Department of the Army had begun studies which led early in 1944 to a contract with the California Institute of Technology for the development of a long-range rocket, and in February 1944 the AGF had requested Ordnance to develop a guided antiaircraft missile.142 In August of that same year AGF submitted to the AAF for comment a tentative guided-missiles program which included ground-to-air as well as ground-to-ground missiles. The Assistant Secretary of War for Air, Robert A. Lovett, had previously expressed his concern about the possible duplication of AAF programs by the Army Service Forces performing development work for the AGF and had suggested that Arnold look into it. Arnold and his staff initially felt that there was no threat of duplication since Ordnance was working on rockets and the Materiel Command on pilotless aircraft. Where the two programs overlapped, they had a “common laboratory meeting ground” at the California Institute of Technology. “There appears to be ample room in the rocket field,” Arnold informed Lovett on 19 August 1944, “for both Air and Ground Forces.” But Echols and the Materiel Command disagreed and predicted that there would
be duplication which would result in competition.143 It was not long before such duplication became apparent to the AAF. The development of ground-to-air missiles, in particular, became a subject of controversy, since the AAF had for some time been seeking control of antiaircraft artillery. Development of a successful antiaircraft guided missile by the AGF would insure it of continued control of the antiaircraft function. Furthermore, the AAF believed that it might be excluded from developmental work in this field if the concept of the operational user controlling development of the weapon were followed. When it considered also the possible development of a long-range self-propelled rocket by the Ordnance Department, the AAF saw a distinct threat to its strategic bombing mission. By early September Arnold, Giles, and the operations staff of AAF Headquarters had recognized the far-reaching significance of the coming straggle for control of the guided-missiles program.144
On 7 September 1944 Giles proposed to the Under Secretary of War that the Materiel Command “continue to direct the development of guided missiles, including any joint development.” He contended that “guided missiles generally fall within the developmental jurisdiction of the Army Air Forces.” At the same time Giles proposed to the Ordnance Department that it participate in a joint program with the AAF, which would “monitor the program” in order to avoid duplication and competition.145 The AAF failed in this effort to secure control of guided-missiles development although the Chief of Staff had indicated in July that the AAF should have responsibility for research and development of all guided missiles. The AGF and the Ordnance Department were successful in arguing their case in the conferences on the subject which took place during September. On 2 October the Chief of Staff directed that the AAF have research and development responsibility for guided or homing missiles launched from aircraft and for such ground-launched missiles as depended on the lift of aerodynamic forces. The Army Service Forces would have responsibility for ground-launched missiles which depended on momentum.146
This directive provided only a temporary solution to the problem, which had ramifications outside of the Army. The NDRC had a major role in the basic research for guided missiles, and there was competition for resources not only between the ASF and the AAF, but with the Navy. No effective coordination of the guided-missiles program was attained although in January 1945 the JCS established the Guided
Missiles Committee of the Joint Committee on New Weapons and Equipment. This committee had representatives from the Army, Navy, NACA, and OSRD and concerned itself with broad policy direction of the guided-missiles program.147
As development of guided missiles quickened, the problem of responsibility for operational employment of the weapons became of major importance since the fate of several combat arms of the Army might depend on the solution. The question was thoroughly explored during the spring of 1945, but no definite decision was reached. In June the Deputy Chief of Staff decided to withhold any decision on assignment of operational employment of guided missiles because they had not yet been developed to the point where it was possible or necessary to make the decision. Meanwhile, research and development responsibilities would remain as previously allocated.148 The end of the war found the AAF still engaged in attempting to secure a key position in the guided-missiles field against competition from other elements of the Army. The problem of duplication of effort and competition with the Navy for resources was also a continuing one.
In another field of research and development – atomic energy – the AAF had no part whatsoever during World War II, except to carry the atomic bomb to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only a few AAF officers, including Arnold, of course, had any knowledge of the atomic-energy project prior to the formulation of plans for dropping the bomb. At the end of the war, the AAF had no plans or programs for atomic-energy research and development. But staff officers were quick to recognize the implications of atomic energy and to raise the proper questions about it. In August 1945 AC/AS-4 asked the Requirements Division of AC/AS-3 what would be the effect of atomic-energy development on the guided-missiles program.149 Shortly after V-J Day, Maj. Gen. Edward M. Powers, AC/AS-4, proposed to the Chief of the Air Staff that the AAF “establish formal channels at the earliest practicable time by which sufficient technical data on atomic energy can be disseminated within the Army Air Forces to permit research and development leading to possible applications to existing, as well as future aeronautical weapons and equipment.”150 Before the end of 1945 the initial steps were taken to revise the AAF research and development program to include applications of atomic energy. These applications promised to include, in addition to atomic warheads for projectiles, propulsion of aircraft and missiles.151