Section 3: Recruitment and Training
Chapter 13: Broadening the Basis of Procurement
In the preceding section of this volume attention has been directed to the problem of providing equipment in sufficient quantity and quality for the use of combat forces operating on schedules determined by over-all strategy. In these chapters the focus falls upon the parallel problem of recruitment and training. Though the order in which the two topics are presented is intended to suggest the fundamental importance of the machine to air warfare, it should not be assumed that the task of providing skilled manpower can be regarded as in any way of secondary significance. Indeed, the superior qualities of a given aircraft may be more than offset by the inferior skill of the man who flies it, and it can well be argued that the AAF’s training program was its outstanding achievement on the home front. Although the AAF provided a necessary leadership in the development and production of aircraft, it had at its command the vast resources of a highly industrialized nation and could at critical points depend heavily on other organizations, military and civilian. But the task of training thousands of young men in the highly specialized skills required for military aviation was one that was borne entirely by the limited resources of the Air Corps itself.
How limited those resources were at the outset, and how great the demands made upon them, is quickly suggested by the contrast in two sets of figures. On 30 June 1938 Air Corps strength was only 20,196, a figure which represented 11 per cent of the total strength of the United States Army.1 Six years later the Army Air Forces had 2,372,292 commissioned officers and enlisted men, and that total represented 31 per cent of the huge army recruited to fight World War II. A marked feature of this tremendous growth was the increase which, at
its peak in May 1945, gave the AAF 388,295 commissioned officers on active duty.2
The Air Corps before 1939 had been a small, close-knit organization bound together as much by the enthusiasm of its members for the airplane and for flying as by any other consideration. Depending upon volunteers for recruitment, it had many of the qualities of an elite corps. Flying training was centered in the region of San Antonio – mother-in-law, it was commonly said, to the Air Corps. There, where good flying weather prevailed, three fields served to base the Air Corps Training Center: Kelly, Brooks, and Randolph, the latter developed after 1928 and highly publicized as the “West Point of the Air.” In no year prior to 1939 did its flying cadet graduates number more than 246, and in only four years did the total exceed 200.3 Since Air Corps strength was rigidly limited by legislative and budgetary restrictions, all but a very few of these graduates received their commissions in the Air Corps Reserve. After a tour of duty with a tactical unit that might last from six months to two years, they returned to civilian status. Many of them found employment with the civil airlines.
Even after the President’s expansion program had begun to affect the strength of the Air Corps, it remained at the beginning of the European war in September 1939 a small force. Its regular officer strength at that time was 2,058 to which were added 669 reserve officers on extended active duty. Enlisted strength was 23,779.4 In all components of the Army there were 4,502 officers who had qualified as pilots; of this number 2,187 were reserve officers and 308 were in the National Guard. The Air Corps had fewer than 50 officers of high rank: 2 major generals, 8 brigadier generals, and 39 colonels. Of the regular officers, almost half were in the grades of captain and first lieutenant.5 The GHQ Air Force, which assumed the major responsibility for all advanced training in addition to its defensive obligations, had just over 1,000 officers and some 7,000 enlisted men.6
To train a variety of technical specialists, the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field in Illinois gave instruction in such subjects as mechanics, communications, photography, and armament, with the last two departments recently transferred to the newly developed Lowry Field near Denver, Colorado. Basic military training for the new recruit was considered a mere preliminary to all other training and was given usually by the organization responsible for later phases. To develop the more advanced skills required by Air Corps mechanics,
heavy dependence was placed upon “on the line” training, which is to say that the men learned their jobs by working under the supervision of more experienced men. The only postgraduate course of study was given in the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama, where officers on special assignment to the school got instruction not only in tactics but in other subjects, such as air doctrine, pertinent to staff work. If one may judge by the product, Air Corps training programs were good, but they were also wholly inadequate for the great expansion brought about by the war.
Not only were the numbers to be trained greatly increased after 1939, but the raw material itself was basically different. Though for some time yet the Air Corps was in position to depend upon volunteers and was fortunate in drawing perhaps more than its share of the more promising recruits, the motivation of the new volunteer was quite unlike that of the old. Under the pressures of a national emergency, he had chosen the Air Corps in preference to service in the Army or the Navy, and not because of the appeal to him of a career in the air service. He was, in short, as much a citizen soldier as were most of the others then entering the armed services. To fit Air Corps training to his particular needs and psychology would require many adjustments in the traditional pattern.
The Air Corps was fortunate in the priority accorded its claims on the available manpower resources of the country. Those resources, it should be remembered, were by no means unlimited, and the number of men of military age who combined the physical and educational qualifications considered requisite for flight training was comparatively small. That number was further reduced, in terms of those available for use by the Air Corps, by the competition offered by opportunities in other arms and services, especially the Navy and Marine Corps. But so fundamental to plans for strengthening national defense was the prewar program for Air Corps expansion that it was given preference over all other parts of the Army in the recruitment of personnel. Even after the attack at Pearl Harbor had precipitated full-scale mobilization, the AAF carried so large a share of responsibility for early defensive and offensive action that it got continued support for its claim to preferential treatment. Through 1942 men of draft age might by voluntary induction choose their own branch of the service, a policy which operated overwhelmingly in favor of the AAF; and thereafter it still enjoyed an advantage over the ground and service
forces. During 1943 over 41 per cent of the men falling into the two top classes, according to the Army General Classification Test, of those processed and assigned at reception centers went to the AAF.7
AAF requirements at all levels emphasized the need for special aptitudes or for special occupational skills. Its operations depended upon one of the more complex products of the machine age, and the men who serviced the airplane as well as those who flew it necessarily had to represent in some degree the intelligence of the society which produced it. But the most critical problem was that of procuring and training aircrews. Experience would show, as has been suggested in preceding pages, that there were many opportunities to copy industrial mass production devices that would permit the effective employment of unskilled or semiskilled men, but the pilot who flew the plane had to be trained to standards that permitted little compromise. Personnel objectives during the great expansion were commonly stated, and are most easily followed, in terms of the programs successively established for pilot training.
In the fall of 1938, when plans for the initial expansion were being shaped, General Arnold called to his assistance at Washington many officers who subsequently gained distinction in the war. Among them were Carl Spaatz, Joseph T. McNarney, and Ira C. Eaker, but none was destined to carry a heavier responsibility than did Brig. Gen. Barton K. Yount, upon whom fell the heaviest obligation for the development of the AAF’s training program. At the time of his call to Washington he was serving as commandant of the Air Corps Training Center; from January 1942 to July 1943 he headed the Flying Training Command and thereafter the tremendous educational venture of the AAF Training Command. Having been relieved of his duties at Randolph, General Yount in January 1939 assumed the leadership of a “training group” in OCAC which included Col. Gerald C. Brant, who had commanded the Air Corps Technical School, and Col. Rush B. Lincoln, who subsequently served as commanding general of the Technical Training Command.
In planning the new program the closest attention had to be given questions of balance. The President’s promise of additional planes could have little practical value for the Air Corps without trained crews to man them and without the facilities necessary for their employment.
The expansion of training would in itself require additional facilities, just as the manning of those facilities would impose new requirements on the training program. This training program, more-over, would present its own special requirement for aircraft, a demand necessarily affecting the percentage of total aircraft production that could be allotted to combat units. However considered, the shaping of a balanced program with provision for the proper synchronization of its several parts was difficult enough. But it became still more difficult because no single program of expansion was to be completed before world events compelled the adoption of yet another and larger project.
Although the objective in each instance was set in terms of a specified number of combat-ready units, particular parts of any program might conveniently carry their own separate designation. Thus the 24-group program of 1939, first in the series, tended to be known among those offices which were primarily concerned with recruitment and training as the 1,200-pilot program. After Congress in April 1939 had authorized for the Air Corps a total strength of 3,203 officers and 45,000 enlisted men, the War Department approved an Air Corps plan for a force of 24 groups by 30 June 1941. To achieve this goal it would be necessary for pilot training to be stepped up to a rate of 1,200 graduates per year, and for the training of enlisted technicians to be advanced from the estimated 1,500 graduates in 1939 to 9,000 in 1940, and by 1941 to a rate of 30,000 annually.8 Whether one talked of 24 groups, 1,200 pilots, or 30,000 technicians depended on the job in hand.
The 24-group or 1,200-pilot program, which officially was dated 1 July 1939, served to guide the Air Corps’ expansion for less than a year. Growing concern over the world situation produced in the spring of 1940 a new 41-group program calling for a training rate of 7,000 pilots per year. This 7,000-pilot program, submitted to WPD on 28 March 1940 with a schedule for completion by 31 December 1941, specified an Air Corps strength of 7,137 officers and 94,415 enlisted men.9 War Department authorization to proceed with the new program had hardly been received when the startling success of the German invasion of France precipitated a new flurry of planning. Consequently, the 41-group program served chiefly to ease the transition to a still more ambitious 54-group program in the summer of 1940.
This program, also described as the First Aviation Objective, established
a pilot-training goal of 12,000 cadet graduates per year.10 The new rate had not been set without some discussion as to the immediate need for so high a figure. Over-all plans called for a force of 4,000 combat planes by December 1941, by which time it could be expected that the 7,000-pilot program would provide a sufficient number of pilots for a force of that size. It could be argued that a more gradual move toward a higher rate of training would be more economical, an argument that is understandable enough at a time when the nation was still a year and a half away from actual involvement in the war. But Arnold countered, in a memo of 23 June 1940 to G-3, with a characteristic view: “Such economy is obtained by the irretrievable loss of time.” An immediate shift to the higher objective, he admitted, would advance the date for completing the 4,000-plane force by less than two months – specifically, to 20 October instead of 15 December 1941. But it took from six to nine months to provide additional facilities for any expansion of training and, after the necessary facilities had been added, it would take another seven and a half months to train the first pilot. Nor were facilities the only factor imposing an unavoidable delay upon the realization of any new training goal. Training could be conducted only if the necessary planes were available, and this called for advance planning to fit the requirement into a tight production schedule. Moreover, any expanded pilot-training program increased the demand for service personnel, whose training in itself took six months to complete. Everything considered, Arnold concluded that it required “a year to augment the training facilities before any appreciable augmentation in the number of trainees can be obtained.11
By March 1941 a still more ambitious program, calling for 84 groups, boosted the objective in pilot training to 30,000 a year and the rate for enlisted technicians to 100,000.12 This was the official program on which the AAF was working when war came in the following December, but in September 1941 the ultimate goal had been placed even higher in one of the more significant documents of the war period. Prompted by the passage of the Lend-Lease Act, the War Department in the spring of 1941 had begun a more systematic study of national resources available for war than had yet been undertaken, a study which provided the basis for the Army’s section of a Joint Board Estimate of United States Over-all Production Requirements submitted to the President in September 1941.13 The AAF presented its own separate estimates for inclusion in the Army section of the
report through a document which carried the serial designation AWPD/1. Based on the assumption that Germany would be the principal foe and that the AAF would mount a major strategic bombing offensive against Germany, AWPD/1 proved to be a remarkably accurate forecast of requirements for the accomplishment of missions actually undertaken by the AAF during the war.
The War Department had estimated that the total pool of able-bodied men available for service in the Army stood at 8,795,658.14 Of this total the AAF claimed over 2,000,00.15 Computing its requirements first for an interim air force that would operate with existing equipment or with aircraft soon to be available, and secondly for eventual needs in the use of aircraft that should be ready by 1944, the AAF broke down its estimates for officers as follows:
The estimated need for nonflying Air Corps officers was presented as 39,214 and 40,798, respectively. These figures brought the totals for the Air Corps to 160,791 and 176,324. In addition, it was estimated that the AAF would need officers commissioned in other branches to the number, first, of 18,607 and later 19,355. The grand totals thus came to 179,398 and 195,679. For enlisted men the figures were:
|Technicians Air Corps||813,951||862,439|
|Non-Technical Air Corps||588,267||614,403|
|Total Air Corps||1,402,218||1,476,842|
The grand totals for both officers and men stood at 2,061,119 and 2,164,916. To meet these goals it was estimated that pilot training would have to reach a rate as high as 85,236 per year, and that as many as 72 schools would have to be provided over and above those required for the 30,000-pilot objective.16
Although the AAF recruitment and training programs would not be geared to any such objectives as these until after the nation was
actually at war, projects already authorized proved to be heavy enough. Past experience indicated that only one out of every five applicants for flying training would be able to meet the high physical and mental qualifications, and that of those accepted no more than 40 to 50 per cent could be expected to finish the course. Procurement objectives accordingly came to be fixed at figures double those used to designate the several programs, as may be seen in the following table:17
|Program||Annual Graduation Rate of Pilots||Number of Students To Be Entered Annually||Number of Applications Needed|
Eliminees from the pilot-training program would not be lost to the Air Corps, for they could be used to fill its requirements for bombardiers and navigators. These requirements were fixed with reference to pilot goals at a ratio of one to five and one to three, respectively.18
To clear the way for recruitment on any such scale as this, it was necessary to seek special legislative aids from Congress. In the summer of 1940 Congress suspended a legal limitation that restricted the number of flying cadets in any one year to 2,500. A second obstacle to Army Air Corps procurement was eliminated in June 1941 when the pay, allowances, and insurance privileges of Army flying cadets were placed on a par with those established for the Navy and Marine Corps,19 thus ending a discrimination favorable to the other services just in time to prevent the Army recruiting program from bogging down. The legislation also substituted the grade of aviation cadet, Army Air Corps, for the grade of flying cadet, a grade that had been created on 11 July 1919 to permit the payment of flying pay to pilot trainees during the hazardous instructional period. The new grade embraced, in addition to those engaged in pilot training, students in such nonflying specialties as engineering, meteorology, armament, communications, and photography, and thus made it possible to avoid a loss of status by those eliminated from pilot training for transfer to other programs.20
As procurement objectives rose, new sources from which to obtain the necessary personnel had to be tapped. The high physical and mental qualifications required for appointment to aircrew training were severe limitations. Although physical standards were not altered, their interpretation was eased considerably by such devices
as granting waivers, and the percentage of candidates disqualified for physical reasons declined from 73.2 per cent in 1939 to 50.3 per cent in 1941.21 The educational requirements – two years of college or passing a difficult examination – were more formidable obstacles in the path of many otherwise qualified men. Consequently, the examinations were modified to make it easier for a greater number of applicants to qualify by passing the educational test.22 In addition, local and state boards of education and, particularly in the summer and fall of 1941, many colleges sponsored “refresher courses” to help candidates prepare for the examinations. Junior chambers of commerce and the American Legion were also active in promoting special courses of instruction and in securing the cooperation of educational institutions. Such review courses, coupled with the modification of the educational examination, greatly increased the man-power pool from which personnel could be procured for flying training. In the fiscal year 1941 9,272 took the educational examination. From July to December 1941 twice as many candidates took the examination as had applied for it during the preceding year.23
Meanwhile, the Air Corps was put under considerable pressure by the War Department to substitute a high school diploma for the two-year college requirement.24 An editorial in the New York Daily News entitled “Rickenbacker Didn’t Go to College,” was indicative of the feeling on the part of a segment of the population. Questioning the desirability of college experience as a prerequisite for pilot training, the newspaper recommended:
We move that these college requirements be discarded and that our flying forces be permitted to pick their material wherever they can find good material. The object, in building up our fighting equipment, is to get planes that can fly better than anybody else’s planes, driven by pilots that can pilot and air fight better than anybody else’s pilots. The possibility that we may pick up some pilots who don’t know a cosine from a dodecahedron, or the proper way for a gentleman and an officer to navigate a teacup, is of very minor importance. We bet there are a lot of taxicab drivers who could be turned into swell combat pilots.25
While conceding that such a step would widen the field of potential trainees, the Air Corps opposed it on the ground that aviation cadets were prospective commissioned officers and leaders; therefore, certain cultural and educational prerequisites were important. However, in order to forestall further pressure while also widening the supply of manpower available for assignment to flying training,
plans were made to give flying training to enlisted men who did not meet the educational requirement. The Air Corps plan called for training in an enlisted grade, as soon as legislation would permit, 20 per cent of the total number of pilots required. The necessary law was enacted on 3 June 1941, simultaneously with the passage of the aviation cadet bill. Enlisted men in the Army could now be detailed for training as aviation students in their respective grades, but the regulations differed from those for aviation cadet training with respect to age, education, and disposition upon graduation. The age limits were eighteen to twenty-two, instead of twenty to twenty-seven. A candidate had to be a graduate of an accredited high school, be ranked in the upper half of his class, and have at least one and a half credits in mathematics. After completing pilot training, the student was to be given the grade of sergeant pilot. Brig. Gen. George H. Brett, Acting Chief of the Air Corps, told a Senate committee that the Air Corps contemplated using these men as primary flight instructors, probably as basic flight instructors, as utility pilots, and as pilots of troop and cargo transports.26 The first group of enlisted students entered training on 23 August 1941.27
The pool of manpower available for flying training was further augmented in the summer of 1941 when provision was made for the training in grade of officers of the Army of the United States. Previously, only Regular Army officers had been eligible for training in grade, and Army regulations had required that all other officers train in the grade of flying cadet and then accept the rank of second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, regardless of the rank held before.28 Not surprisingly, the number who sought the training was very small. Legislation authorizing reserve and National Guard officers to take pilot training in grade was enacted on 3 July 1941. The first class of officers training in grade entered primary flying school in November 1941.29
Procurement of personnel from military ranks had increased with the passage of the Selective Training and Service Act in September 1940, and its extension in August 1941, together with additional legislation passed that year, added substantially to a manpower pool upon which the Air Corps could draw. Each successive increase in Army strength made the military pool a progressively more important source from which to draw pilot trainees, whether as aviation cadets, aviation students, or officers training in grade. By the time the United
States entered the war, 25 to 35 per cent of the total number assigned to flying training were coming from military sources. The class of 20 December 1941, for example, was composed of men in the following categories and proportions: enlisted men assigned to training as aviation cadets, 27 per cent; enlisted men assigned as aviation students, 8 per cent; Regular Army officers and officers of the Army of the United States assigned to flying training in grade, 2 per cent; and aviation cadets assigned directly from civilian life, 63 per cent.30
The bulk of recruits obtained from civilian sources in the pre-Pearl Harbor period were college students. The Air Corps consistently maintained that men with at least two years of college training were the most desirable personnel in terms of health, intelligence, and general background. Recruiting drives and publicity during this period were therefore aimed directly at this particular group, and procurement machinery was used to promote an increased interest in flying training at the college level.31
Responsibility for recruiting personnel for the Army was theoretically a function of The Adjutant General. Prior to the expansion of the Air Corps, however, procurement of flying cadets had largely devolved upon the OCAC. Since the college men whom the Air Corps wanted to enroll as flying cadets were rarely attracted by normal recruiting methods – routine advertising on billboards, poster displays in front of post offices and federal buildings and in the seamier districts of cities – the Air Corps had to resort to special techniques, both official and unofficial. The official method was to have The Adjutant General write letters to the presidents of the leading colleges and universities, especially those with ROTC units, requesting that the Air Corps flying program be brought to the attention of their students. In other instances regular Air Corps officers, through personal contacts, urged promising engineering students to seek a flying career. The Air Corps also secured personnel for its cadet program through the intercession of prominent civic and professional leaders-members of Congress, newspaper editors, lawyers, and Army officers – who sought appointments for their “bright boy” protégés.32
Once the prospective candidate became interested in the Air Corps
program, he submitted an application, with supporting papers, for appointment as a flying cadet directly to The Adjutant General who forwarded it to the OCAC. If the OCAC approved, the applicant was authorized to appear before one of the twenty-eight flying cadet examining boards located at Air Corps stations and posts in the United States and in certain overseas possessions (one board each was established in the military departments in Hawaii, Panama, and the Philippines). The examining boards passed initial judgment on the physical, mental, character, and personality qualifications of applicants, and the results of this examination were forwarded to OCAC for final determination of the candidate’s qualifications. If the applicant was accepted for pilot training, his name was placed on an eligible list which was arranged in accordance with a system of priorities established in 1928.* Because the number of qualified applicants before 1938 was always greater than the authorized quotas, OCAC had been able to exercise its prerogative of picking outstanding college graduates.
* List of priorities for appointment to flying cadet status in Army Air Corps:–
a. (1) Graduates of the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, and the United States Coast Guard Academy who apply for appointment as flying cadets within year from date of graduation, who fail to receive commissions because of lack of vacancies and are recommended for appointment as flying cadets by the respective superintendents of those academies.
(2) Enlisted men of the Air Corps of the Regular Army who at time of appointment have served at least 11 months.
b. Other enlisted men of the Regular Army who at time of appointment have served at least it months.
c. Officers and enlisted men of the National Guard who at time of appointment have been assigned to Air Corps units for at least 11 months and who are favorably recommended by their commanding officers.
d. College graduates who are graduates of the Air Corps Reserve Officers’ Training Corp units.
e. College graduates who are graduates of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps units of other arms or services.
f. Graduates of recognized colleges and universities.
g. Other officers and enlisted men of the National Guard who at time of appointment have had at least 11 months’ service.
h. Students in Air Corps Reserve Officers’ Training Corps units who have completed their junior year.
i. Reserve officers and members of the Enlisted Reserve Corps who at time of appointment have served at least 11 months.
j. Students in good standing of recognized universities who have completed their sophomore year.
See Flying Cadets of the Army Air Corps (1937), pp. 10–11, as cited in USAF Historical Study No. 15, Procurement of Aircrew Trainees, p. 4.
In 1938 certain changes in recruiting policy were instituted. In the first place, it was decided to decentralize procurement from the office of The Adjutant General to corps area headquarters where applications for flying cadet examinations were henceforth received. Although the decentralization was necessitated by the impending expansion of the Army, the processing of a flying cadet application now became a slow and often confusing business. The prospective trainee was required to submit to the recruiting officer in his district a properly filled out application form, supported by three letters of recommendation from citizens of prominence in his place of domicile, legal evidence of his place and date of birth, and a registrar’s certificate of college or university credits. Those who did not have the two-year college background had to pass a difficult examination prepared and graded by the department of ground training at Randolph Field. Since parts of the examination consisted of essay questions, grading the papers was slow and delays were inevitable. When these details were out of the way, the next step was for the candidate to appear before a flying cadet examining board. The applications and allied papers of those approved by the boards were then forwarded through recruiting channels to the OCAC which made a recommendation to The Adjutant General. Those applicants favorably recommended were appointed flying cadets by the War Department. Those who received appointments were then ordered by their corps area commander to report at the Air Corps Training Center on a given date to start training.33 Every corps area was made responsible in 1938 for furnishing a minimum number of qualified candidates for each training class. Corps area quotas were derived from existing training requirements and the character and extent of population in each corps area. These quotas rose sharply in 1939 and 1940 as the expansion program got under way. Procurement now became dependent largely on the interest and energy displayed by individual corps area commanders, acting under the general supervision of The Adjutant General.34 But the successful development and completion of successive expansion programs depended ultimately upon the initiative of the Chief of the Air Corps. His was the primary interest, and upon his influence in the War Department depended the direction recruiting efforts would take and the pressure that would be put behind them.
His influence was especially important in the development of an
intensified program of publicity in support of the recruiting campaign. Although there had been little need for elaborate publicity in order to fill the limited quotas of recent years, and although it may be true, as Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews charged in 1937, that the Air Corps had failed to exploit fully existing opportunities for favorable publicity in support of its objectives,35 this was nevertheless an area of activity for which airmen long since had shown a certain proclivity. It had also been repeatedly demonstrated that the public in general was receptive to Air Corps publicity. With the focus of the whole program for strengthening national defense concentrated so sharply on the role of the airplane, it could be expected that Air Corps advertising would reach an audience even more receptive than usual.
Nation-wide publicity was handled through the Appointment and Induction Branch of The Adjutant General’s office and by the War Department Bureau of Public Relations, with active cooperation from the Chief of the Air Corps. Printed recruiting material was distributed from the Recruiting Publicity Bureau headquarters at Governor’s Island, New York. The War Department also furnished weekly radio transcriptions, and local stations augmented this service with announcements of interest to their particular audience. Interest in flying training was also fostered through newspaper and magazine advertisements and by the use of films, window displays, and other exhibits. Local publicity, the responsibility of corps area commanders, was supervised and conducted by corps area public relations and recruiting officers, assisted at lower echelons by district and local recruiting representatives. Pamphlets and posters were given general distribution. Feature stories and information about enrollment, appointment, departure, and training activities of local residents were supplied to newspapers in the corps area. When the time came for the cadet to receive his commission, a special article accompanied by a photograph was sent to his home-town newspaper. Thus in story and picture the Air Corps sought to glamorize the life of the flying cadet.36
While top echelon officials and corps area commanders were all directly or indirectly concerned with publicity for procurement and recruiting, prospective candidates came into actual contact with members of the regular flying cadet examining boards. The number of these boards increased from twenty-eight to over fifty in the
pre-Pearl Harbor period. Administratively, they were under the supervision of corps area commanders although actually located at Air Corps stations. These regular boards had occasionally been supplemented in certain corps areas during the period from 1936 to 1938 by traveling examining boards which were equipped both to disseminate information and to examine applicants on the spot. The success of these early ventures, particularly in reaching colleges not located so as to be conveniently serviced by the regular boards, led to the use of mobile boards to cover colleges throughout the entire United States. When means of intensifying recruiting were discussed with General Arnold in the fall of 1937, he had recommended that five traveling boards – each composed of a pilot, a flight surgeon, and two assistants – be dispatched to canvass the nine corps areas. In January 1938 specific authority was granted by The Adjutant General to the commanding generals of the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth Corps Areas to appoint boards to visit as many colleges and universities as could be surveyed satisfactorily within a two-month period. The president of each board was instructed to coordinate his plans with the respective corps area commanders so that no conflict or duplication in the recruiting effort would arise.37
The boards started on tour in the spring of 1938 and visited sixty-three colleges and universities located from coast to coast. These visits were well staged. A board, wherever possible, arrived by plane, an event usually well covered by the student newspaper, and the presence in the community of Air Corps pilots usually was enough in itself to evoke a certain interest and enthusiasm. The approach to the students, whether by formal address before a general assembly or otherwise, was one of offering information on opportunities open to qualified applicants; the boards were so constituted that they could review the qualifications of interested students on the spot and before enthusiasm might wane. The results were so gratifying that the experiment was repeated in the spring of 1939 when fifty-four campuses were visited. In the first year 485 examinations were authorized and 388 candidates qualified for flying training. On the second tour 2,369 examinations were authorized and 406 candidates qualified. Concurrently, regular boards examined 4,556 applicants and qualified 836 in 1938, and examined 2,240 and qualified 571 in 1939. The success of the traveling boards in tapping the best material available for flying training guaranteed their continued existence, and during
the spring drive of 1940 the number of boards was increased from five to eighteen, two being assigned to each corps area. The increased number of boards made for a greater flexibility in schedules, and the Air Corps got a wider coverage of potential candidates. Traveling boards examined 2,726 candidates and qualified 733 between April and June of 1940, while regular boards qualified 670 out of 1,935 applicants. Under the pressure of mounting procurement objectives, the scope and activity of these boards were considerably expanded in the year and a half before Pearl Harbor. They operated continuously, and although the primary emphasis of the traveling boards continued to be on colleges and college towns, they also visited cities not conveniently served by regular boards, and Amy posts, where men who had been drafted were enabled to apply for flying training. By the time the United States entered the war, traveling boards were obtaining the majority of cadets procured.38
The Army also received generous cooperation from many civilian groups during its drives to recruit flying cadets. World War I pilots and aviation enthusiasts among the membership of such agencies as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, junior chambers of commerce, and fraternal organizations made substantial contributions. Their officers and leaders made public addresses, appeared on radio programs, lent their support to special demonstrations and exhibits, and supplied material for feature newspaper articles – all with the purpose of making the public aware of the Air Corps and its needs. After the adoption of selective service some of these auxiliary organizations proved very useful in working with local draft boards to screen out young men having the special qualifications desired by the Air Corps. To committees established by the American Legion, draft boards often furnished the names and addresses of those men classified 1-A who possessed the educational qualifications for Air Corps training. The men were then approached by the committee and advised of the advantages of enlisting in the Air Corps for cadet training. Eventually, the Selective Service Systems itself gave official recognition to procedures whereby, after 15 September 1941, lists of 1-A registrants were submitted to recruiting headquarters of the state thirty days before induction notices were mailed. In the interim, recruiting officers were given freedom to solicit these registrants for aviation cadet training.39
Other groups, such as the American Flying Services Foundation,
sponsored projects to rehabilitate men previously rejected for flying training because of slight physical disabilities. Even the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, through its aviation committee, gave substantial aid to procurement by organizing an educational program to acquaint mothers with the need for flying cadets and to overcome the fears of those who might have sons interested in a flying career.40
A novel scheme to meet the rising procurement goals was hastily launched in the spring of 1941 to counter the anticipated effect of a Navy program for recruitment of flying cadets in the colleges.41 Young men who had attended the same college or who resided in the same city were advised that they could form themselves into flying cadet units of approximately twenty men, be assigned in a body to the same elementary pilot training school, and continue together insofar as possible through later stages of training. The scheme promoted competition between individual college units, between one college and another, and between neighboring cities; it was an excellent source of publicity; and it increased the flow of promising cadets. Air Corps stations detailed young Air Corps officers to assist corps area recruiting officers in organizing the units. These officers spoke before fraternity groups, college assemblies, and to public gatherings; they secured prominent campus figures and well-known young men associated with civic enterprises to act as organizers and leaders of the flying cadet units. By continual publicity the Air Corps built up among units a lively competition which multi-plied the number of applications, and as a result the units were rapidly brought up to the desired strength. All applications were sent directly to corps area authorities, each plainly marked with the name of the college and the number of the unit to which the candidate belonged. Because more efforts were concentrated on the colleges than on cities, twenty-six colleges and universities had reported the formation of one or more flying cadet units by 10 June 1941 when completion of the first city unit was reported by Pittsburgh. The entire program had proved so popular and rewarding that the OCAC suggested in July 1941 that various civic and patriotic organizations be allowed to sponsor flying cadet units, too, a recommendation accepted by The Adjutant General.42
Administration of the training program of these college and city units presented certain difficulties, however, which had not been taken into account. The OCAC had publicly promised to permit, if
possible, members of a unit to complete training together. It was often unable to keep this promise, and when that occurred, the publicity boomeranged. The difficulty arose because the applicants’ papers were forwarded individually to OCAC from corps area headquarters rather than as a group. Some papers were delayed; some arrived incomplete; sometimes upon review several candidates scheduled for a particular unit were found to be unqualified. It was impractical to postpone the assignment of an entire group because of a few deficient or delinquent applications. Consequently, it was often necessary to make up the deficiency by combining two or more potential units. Subsequently, in October 1941, it was decided to have all applications for training in one unit submitted simultaneously. Then, after the application and board proceedings had received final approval in the OCAC, the number found qualified for appointment would be sent to the same primary school and assigned to the same class regardless of the numbers originally accepted by the aviation cadet examining boards. Whether this simple change in procedure would have corrected the difficulties in the unit program was never tested, for the project had to be abandoned when war came. After Pearl Harbor the procurement and training of the greatest number of men in the shortest possible time was imperative. The cadet unit program was sacrificed in the interest of achieving this goal.43
Procurement rates generally managed to keep pace with training requirements in the period from 1938 to 1941 despite the inevitable clashes in policy which stemmed from the way the program was administered. The Chief of the Air Corps, the official most interested in these procurement policies, was forced to work through The Adjutant General on the one hand and corps area commanders on the other. Differences of opinion arose over methods of publicity and how it should be financed; over delegation of responsibility for and standardization of recruiting procedures; over who should give advice and assistance to volunteer civilian agencies; over the lack of facilities for examinations and the intervals at which board meetings were convened. The fault was sometimes with local commanding officers at Air Corps stations who failed to give active cooperation to the recruiting officers. Regular examining boards located at these stations were under the jurisdiction of corps area commanders and outside the control of station commanding officers. Thus some Air Corps stations showed no particular interest in the functioning of
the boards, and in one instance a combat-crew station (Mitchel Field) had so little time to devote to examining candidates that it considered the board a nuisance and sought to get rid of it.44 Fortunately, such episodes were few.
Although the Army’s air arm had been pilot-oriented from the beginning, and so continued during the early stages of the expansion period, it should be emphasized that the Air Corps had requirements reaching beyond those merely for pilots. To insure efficient performance of its functions the Air Corps had always required some nonflying personnel trained in such fields as aeronautical engineering, armament, communications, meteorology, and photography, but peacetime budgets and other considerations had seriously limited their number. As a consequence, and in order to provide an adequate number of officers familiar with the work of ground technicians, pilots were detailed to Air Corps mechanics and advanced technical schools where they took special courses to qualify themselves as engineering officers for all levels of command. Such training, however, was often incidental or superficial, intended primarily to enable pilot officers to supervise the work of enlisted technicians. Officers responsible for aircraft maintenance and the proper use and repair of aviation equipment frequently voiced their concern over this policy. Thus in 1930 Maj. H. H. Arnold, then executive officer for the Materiel Division at Dayton, bluntly declared there was something “fundamentally wrong with the educational system and assignment of personnel in the Air Corps.” His concern at the moment was with depot engineer officers. Such personnel, he wrote, had to have a “fundamental engineering education,” but officers so trained were then at a premium in the Air Corps and little or nothing was being done to develop them.45 The situation described by Major Arnold had not been corrected, and the expansion program found the Air Corps with a serious shortage of technically trained ground-duty officers.
The origins of the problem went back to 1920 when Congress had authorized the Army to detail not more than twenty-five officers to take aeronautical engineering and allied courses in colleges and universities. This limitation had forced the Air Service to depend upon the Corps of Engineers, the Signal Corps, and other branches for skilled technicians to round out its personnel.46 In 1926, when
the Air Corps Act was passed, the nonpilot permanent officer personnel in the Air Corps was limited to 10 per cent.47 These limitations seem to have led many pilots to accept as normal the burden of providing engineering and other technical services, a belief that was most pronounced among those senior officers who held administrative posts in the OCAC at the time of the expansion. On two occasions in 1940 successive chiefs of the Plans Division ruled that “Air Corps officer pilots have always performed these duties in addition to their duties as members of combat crews and there appears to be no reason for departing from this practice at this time.”48
By September 1940, however, it was becoming evident that this policy would have to be abandoned. At that time the Training and Operations Division, OCAC had decided to recommend to The Adjutant General that 100 men with degrees in engineering be enlisted as flying cadets and sent to New York University for a three-month preliminary course in engineering theory relating to aircraft maintenance. They would later be sent to the Air Corps Technical School for the regular enlisted mechanics course; after completing the course they would be commissioned for assignment as squadron engineering officers. The proposal was promptly approved, and the whole program placed under the direction of the commanding general of the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field.49
To work out details of this and other programs now agreed upon as necessary for the 54-group program, a conference, at which representatives from various universities were present, was held at Chanute Field in November 1940. The conference faced the problem of arranging for the technical training of 1,631 officers by the end of June 1942; of the total number, 561 were to be trained in engineering, 528 in communications, 392 in armament, and 150 in photography. Later, fifty meteorology officers were added to the procurement objective.50 It was decided to enter the first classes in engineering at New York and Purdue Universities in January 1941; those in communications, at Scott Field in January and April 1941; and those in armament and photography, at Lowry Field in April and July 1941; and it was stressed that first priority for training in these four ground-duty categories was to be given to eliminated flying cadets. Until the fall of 1941 these training programs were restricted mainly to eliminees. Only in meteorology, a field in which few eliminated cadets had the educational background, was there a preponderance of candidates with no previous military experience.51
In general, it was felt that eliminees were better material for these programs than civilians. Not only had they been screened by two examining boards – briefly by a cadet examining board on entering service and more closely by an elimination board when washed out of flying training, to give the Air Corps an extensive file of their qualifications – but they had also received their basic military training and indoctrination, a phase of training that placed an additional hardship on the specialized school in the case of men recruited from civil life. One official summed up the advantages, when he said:
We give priority on all appointments to specialized training to washed out pilot trainees. The doggone flying schools are still eliminating between 40% and 50% and it helps our pilot boys when they enter to know that if they can meet the educational qualifications for specialized training such training will be given them ahead of civilians. In addition to this we have the advantage of having them under close military supervision for a period of time and the judgment of the officer who has just had him under supervision in regard to his suitability for these types of specialized training.52
The use of eliminees, however, posed a problem which the planners had not taken into account. It had been the Air Corps’ intent that, after finishing specialized training, these nonpilot cadets should receive reserve commissions and assignments to duty as squadron officers in their particular specialty. Since some of the specialized training programs lasted only ten weeks, it was possible for cadets who washed out from pilot training, which normally took nine months to complete, to get their commissions before their pilot classmates had completed training. This practice came under attack in the OCAC as being “unjust to the most important of the various training groups,” and it was decided not to issue commissions to nonpilot cadets until they had completed six months’ additional training with a tactical or other unit following graduation from specialized training classes. Not until the fall of 1941 was a way opened to permit earlier commissioning. The issue was then taken all the way up to the Chief of Staff, and later the Secretary of War directed that commissions should be granted to duly qualified and recommended aviation cadet graduates upon completion of courses of instruction prescribed by the Chief of the Air Corps.53
The job of procuring personnel for these ground-duty specialties was lodged with the flying cadet examining boards. Since most applicants in 1940 and 1941 were eliminees who had already appeared before a board, applications received by the boards were sent immediately to the Personnel Division, OCAC, the agency authorized
by The Adjutant General to monitor the procurement, appointment, and assignment of these trainees. Applicants had to meet the same general requirements as for pilot training: to present evidence of citizenship ten years before the date of application, be single and between the ages of twenty and twenty-six. Educational requirements, however, were another matter; in every instance they were higher than the requirements for flying cadet training. In engineering, the requirement was a degree in engineering, or senior standing in an engineering school; in communications, a college degree with credits in electricity or radio; in armament, where eliminees were to be the exclusive source, a college degree and a special recommendation for such training by the commanding officer of the previous training detachment; and in photography, a college degree with course work in either geology or chemistry. Those found qualified for the ground-duty program were then directed to take physical and character examinations administered by the flying cadet examining boards. The physical examination was the same as that required of reserve officers on extended active duty; the character examination was the type given to all officer candidates. Upon receipt of the results of these examination, the Personnel Division determined the names of those who should be placed on eligible lists maintained for each specialty.54
Because the first classes were small, the lists of pilot eliminees qualified for ground-duty training far exceeded the quotas, and as early as February 1941 training center commanders were urging that either the quotas be enlarged or that these eliminees be discharged. A few were discharged and sent home to await reappointment and assignment to specialized training, but in March 1941 the OCAC directed that those eliminees qualified for ground-duty training and waiting for classes be transferred to reception centers to await assignment to a definite class. The OCAC reasoned that it was preferable to “store” this personnel and run the risk of creating a temporary morale problem among those awaiting assignment than permit them to return to a civilian status which might give the public the impression that the Air Corps had more cadets than it could use.55
Two other sources supplied qualified applicants for the ground-duty programs, but the numbers obtained from them were fewer than might have been possible in view of the fact that the potential applicants were under military control. One group consisted of National Guard and reserve officers with technical qualifications and
experience who, after July 1941, could take aviation cadet training in grade. The War Department, however, lacked funds to finance their training and would permit only officers on active duty to apply for transfer to regular status in the Air Corps. The other group who might have qualified by reason of education and experience were the skilled enlisted technicians, but for them the outlook before the war was anything but favorable. Unit commanders were reluctant to lose their most competent enlisted men and in one way or another discouraged them from applying for aviation cadet training.56
It was not until October 1941 that the modest procurement goal of 1,631 ground-duty officers was increased. Then, in connection with the announcement of the 84-group, or 30,000-pilot, program, training center commanders were instructed to tell aviation cadets that current Air Corps policy was to train as many of them as possible as flying officers, but that those eliminated from pilot training should apply for training as bombardier, navigator, engineer, armament, communications, photography, or meteorology officers. Here was a clear indication that all restraints on the numbers of eliminees to be trained were to be removed and that a greater emphasis was to be placed on the ground-duty programs. An announcement in November confirmed the new policy, and it was stated that aviation cadets would be given preference forms to fill out and would have an opportunity to change preferences when eliminated from any training program. Finally, on 1 December 1941, an appeal was made by radio for more ground-duty recruits, a plea in which the point was made that for every plane in the air from six to twenty-two maintenance men were required on the ground.57
By December 1941 the number of students who had been enrolled in the aviation cadet ground-duty program since the expansion began totaled 2,586. The number entered in each category is shown in the following table:
By the end of 1941 graduates totaled 1,402 and 46 cadets had been eliminated from training.58
With the outbreak of war, restrictions on numbers to be recruited for all programs were swept away with a rush. On 13 December 1941 the War Department announced it would seek a quota of 20,000 applicants a month between the ages of twenty and twenty-six for aviation cadet training. Before another year had passed there was a definite surplus of accepted candidates awaiting ground-duty training.
It would be difficult to overemphasize the important part played by reserve officers – both Air Corps and other – in the expansion of the air arm after 1939. By the end of 1940 there were some 2,300 Air Corps reserve officers on active duty. In addition, almost 1,500 officers holding reserve commissions in other arms and services had been detailed to the Air Corps for administrative duties. These figures may be compared with the 2,270 regular Air Corps officers then active.59 The chief of the Personnel Division in January 1941 estimated that by the end of the fiscal year on 30 June no less than 82 per cent of the officers on duty would be reserves.60 Not only did reserve officers supplement the flying personnel available for training and tactical assignments, but they made it increasingly possible to relieve experienced flyers of purely administrative duties.
Without this help it would have been impossible for the Air Corps to meet the extraordinary demands upon its limited resources, but the help was secured only at the cost of certain additional difficulties. The problem of the Air Corps reserve officer had long been a knotty one. Although the Air Corps Act of 1926 had stipulated a strength of 1,650 commissioned officers, the Air Corps, for budgetary reasons, had consistently operated at approximately 400 officers under strength. As a result, the vacancies for appointment in the regular establishment usually had been sufficient only to take care of applicants among the graduates of the Military Academy, who had preference. All but a few of the other graduates of the flying training center received reserve commissions. Congress in 1926 had authorized a maximum of 500 reserve officers to be called to active duty each year, 90 per cent of them to serve not less than six months nor more than one year, and the remaining 10 per cent to serve not less than one year nor more than two years.61 With 200 or more annual
graduates from flying training, the opportunities for active duty after the initial tour remained decidedly limited.
The decision in 1939 to undertake a major expansion of the Air Corps eliminated this aspect of the problem for all practical purposes. Indeed, as early as 1936 pressure from the Air Reserve Association, combined with a need to meet the requirements of the newly established GHQ Air Force, had brought action by Congress authorizing the call to active duty of 1,350 reserve officers each year.62 In April 1939, the statute which implemented the President’s new program specified that a total of 3,000 reserve officers might be on extended active duty in any one year with the Air Corps. These officers were to be called, with their consent, for a year’s service but with the understanding that the tour might be extended for a period not to exceed seven years.63
The difficulty now was that the opportunity to secure a regular commission remained limited at a time when the very plans for the Air Corps’ expansion greatly increased the opportunities open to trained flyers in civilian life. An act of April 1938, while allotting 2,092 regular commissions to the Air Corps, had stipulated that to per cent of the number trained each year should be eligible for commission in the regular establishment.64 One year later Congress authorized the immediate appointment in the Regular Army of 300 second lieutenants from the reserves, who had to be graduates of the training center and under 30 years of age. Later, The Adjutant General announced that 100 additional commissions would be granted in the fall. Thereafter, the plan was to commission some 128 officers annually, with half of these vacancies held for reserve officers.65 This policy opened the way for some of the younger pilots, but the prospect for older men remained poor.66 Moreover, many of the younger men had to consider that seven years of extended duty would carry them past the thirtieth birthday, which would make them ineligible for a regular commission.67 Consequently, there were some who refused to accept the call to active duty and many of those on duty requested relief in order to accept the better paying jobs offered by flying schools, civil airlines, aircraft manufacturers, or other organizations in which flying experience stood at a premium.
As late as August 1940 it was still established policy to grant all requests for relief upon completion of the initial tour, a policy supported in part by the knowledge that most of the officers relieved
would continue in a civilian activity of vital importance to the attainment of Air Corps objectives.68 But the Air Corps’ own need for trained officers was becoming such that vigorous opposition to the practice had developed in some staff offices.69 The problem was eased by legislation of 27 August 1940 which authorized the President to order into active service all reservists, with or without their con-sent. The length of service was to be for a period of twelve consecutive months. The Judge Advocate General ruled that under the terms of this legislation reservists who were called to duty with their consent would be subject, as were those called under the act of April 1939, to having their tours extended each year until they had served seven years. Only reserve officers who had been ordered to active duty without their consent would be eligible to apply for relief at the expiration of a twelve-month tour.70 However, the President’s proclamation of an unlimited emergency on 27 May 1941 made this ruling inoperative before any reservist could benefit from it.
Efforts to secure reservists from other arms and services began in the spring of 1940. By November an original allotment of 1,497 had been exhausted, and additional assignments were being requested.71 In September 1941 over 3,500 officers from other arms and services were on duty with the AAF within the United States; at the time of Pearl Harbor the number was close to 4,000. Figures for those then serving overseas are not available.72 By July 1941 the AAF had called to active duty all of its own reserves who voluntarily accepted extended active duty, and was calling the remainder without consent.73 It could be anticipated that new graduates of the expanding training program would soon add greatly to the number of flying officers on active duty. But this was the period when no Air Corps program could be met before some higher goal was set. On 26 July 1941 Arnold urged upon the Chief of the Air Corps the continuing necessity to relieve all flying personnel “at the earliest possible date from administrative duties not requiring the background of flying experience.74
With only a small force of regular officers and with its own reserve strength limited almost entirely to the earlier graduates of Randolph, the AAF during the next two years would resort to virtually every device to fill its growing requirement for officers. At the end of 1943 its regular officers represented only 1.3 per cent of the total number of officers on duty, as against 2.6 per cent for the Army
Service Forces and 3.5 per cent for the Army Ground Forces.75 The difference is explained in part by a proportionately higher requirement in the AAF of officers with reference to the total number of enlisted men; according to the 1944 troop basis, for every 1,000 men the AAF needed 156 officers, ASF 97, and AGF 54.76 Since the relative requirement for officers was higher in the combat units than elsewhere, the AAF met its most critical need for officers through its expanding flying training program. But each new tactical unit multiplied the administrative posts that had to be filled and increased the requirement for nonflying specialists. Of the 388,295 officers who in May 1945 represented the AAF’s peak strength in this category, over 48,000* had been commissioned in some arm or service other than the Air Corps.77 The 335,909 Air Corps officers, more-over, included many specialists who had been commissioned direct from civilian life, and who were the products of special officer training and candidate schools established soon after Pearl Harbor.†
The direct contribution made by the National Guard to AAF strength was a small one. At the beginning of the expansion there had been a total of 19 National Guard observation squadrons. In 1939 Congress showed some inclination to underwrite a program for the establishment and maintenance of approximately 100 National Guard aviation units. But the Air Corps successfully opposed the proposal as one that would seriously complicate plans for the projected expansion of its own facilities.78 The addition of ten new observation units was accepted as sufficient. The National Guard units were inducted into federal service at intervals following the executive order of 16 September 1940 which called up the Guard. As they were received, they were attached to various armies and corps as reconnaissance squadrons.79 A postwar evaluation of the contribution made to the AAF by the 29 National Guard units credits them with supplying 468 rated pilots.80
* In November 1943 the total had been 56,188.
† See below, pp. 680-84.