Page 454

Chapter 14: The Foundations of a War Training Program

WHEN the Air Corps began to lay its plans for expansion in the fall of 1938, one of its major tasks was the provision of facilities for the additional thousands of men to be trained as flying cadets and for the even larger numbers to be taught to service and maintain aircraft and aircraft equipment. Training officers realized that existing facilities would have to be augmented, yet they expressed concern lest in the process of expanding, the quality of training suffer. Consequently, planners in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps maintained that if Randolph Field and its counterparts were inadequate for the job, the Air Corps should build more Randolph Fields. This emphasis on a continuance of high standards was understandable, but it took no account of the time lag that the proposed construction would entail, a factor that could not be overlooked.

Time was indeed all-important, and for this reason General Arnold decided to overrule the experts on his staff. Flight training, as it had been developed during the prewar years, was divided into several phases: in the first of these, primary, the student learned to fly a light and stable aircraft of low horsepower; in basic training he made the advance to a heavier plane with more complex controls; in advanced flight training he learned to fly a machine whose characteristics approximated those of combat aircraft; and in transition the student learned to fly the combat plane itself-usually after he had won his wings. It was General Arnold’s hope in 1938 that by turning over the responsibility for primary training to other agencies, he could free the Air Corps to concentrate its full resources on later phases of training, and thus in effect expand the capacity

Page 455

of its own training establishment. Accordingly, in October of that year he invited to Washington representatives of three of the nation’s best civilian flying schools – Oliver L. Parks, of the Parks Air College, Inc., East St. Louis, Illinois; C. C. Moseley, of the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute, Glendale, California; and Theopholis Lee, of the Boeing School of Aeronautics, Oakland, California. Out of this conference came the first tentative plans for what was to become the standard practice for primary flight training during the next six years. As General Arnold later related: “I made them a proposal. 1 told them 1 didn’t have any money but was sure 1 could get the support of Congress in the next appropriations bill. Would each of them be willing to go out and set up at his private school the facilities to house, feed, and train flying cadets for the Army Air Corps?1 Acceptance of the proposal would entail each school operator’s taking the considerable risk of investing several hundred thousand dollars in a venture backed only by Arnold’s word. After a long discussion, punctuated by General Arnold’s reference to the challenge that such a venture offered, the men agreed that they not only could but would do the job.2

Arnold then appointed a board of officers to survey civilian flying schools for the purpose of ascertaining how soon the schools could begin operations and to check on their potential capacities. The board brought in a favorable report on 25 November 1938 and proposed that under such an arrangement 4,500 pilots be trained within two years. The OCAC approved the report in principle, and its training staff took steps to define the responsibilities of the Air Corps Training Center and the corps areas in the event that authorization was granted to proceed with the plan.3 A parallel development was under way with respect to technical training. On 10 November 1938 Col. Gerald Brant, commandant of the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, initiated an inquiry as to the availability of civilian mechanics schools for Air Corps expansion, and by late December ten such schools in the western United States had been inspected. In the spring of 1939 four more excellent civilian schools were found in the East.4

Before entering into contracts with civilian schools, however, it was necessary for the Air Corps to obtain War Department and Congressional approval for the program, since there were rigid statutory limitations on the number of Army personnel who could be trained

Page 456

in nonmilitary schools. To sanction the proposed steps, drafts of legislation were submitted to the Chief of Staff on 14 December 1938 which embodied authority to: 1) train Air Corps personnel in civilian schools; 2) train flying instructors of civilian flying schools at Air Corps schools for standardization of instruction; and 3) furnish training planes for training of Air Corps personnel to civilian schools.5 In testimony before committees of the Congress it was explained that these steps would materially reduce the time required for the expansion of the Air Corps and that tuition costs and other expenses would be largely offset by savings in additional airfields, materiel, personnel, and equipment.6The civilian school operators also brought their influence to bear upon members of Congress, emphasizing the savings both in time and cost that would be effected by adoption of the proposed expedient.7 On 3 April 1939 Public Law No. 18 authorized the Secretary of War to detail Army personnel as students to any technical, professional, or other educational institution, if Army facilities were insufficient; at the same time the loan of government airplanes to civilian schools giving training to military personnel was also authorized.

The Civilian Schools

The Air Corps lost no time in putting its plans into operation. In May 1939 nine civilian schools* received nonce of their selection to give primary flight training starring in July.8 As early as 27 May 1940 General Marshall in a talk before the National Aviation Forum at Washington, D.C., emphasized the success which had been achieved by this Air Corps “experiment in making direct use of civil aviation schools for the training of Army pilots.” He added, with obvious reference to the new 7,000-pilot training program and the impending announcement of the 12,000-pilot training program, that the Army was “about to enlarge tremendously on this logical procedure, which both stimulates civil aviation and facilitates the development of the Army Air Corps.9

Each of the original nine schools was now directed to establish a branch. This assignment was more difficult than the original job,

* Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Okla.; Santa Maria School of Flying, Santa Maria, Calif.; Dallas Aviation School and Air College, Dallas, Tex.; Ryan School of Aeronautics, San Diego, Calif.; Alabama Institute of Aeronautics, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Grand Central Flying School, Glendale, Calif.; Parks Air College, East St. Louis, Ill.; Lincoln Airplane and Flying School, Lincoln, Neb.; and Chicago School of Aeronautics, Glenview, Ill.

Page 457

for it was necessary to prepare farm and desert land for flying activities and construct buildings and other facilities for planes and men. But by August 1940 nine more schools were in operation. By March of 1941, when the 30,000-pilot training program was announced, eleven schools had been added, and in October 1941 fifteen more schools began primary training. Included in the list was a small school established at Tuskegee, Alabama, exclusively for the training of Negro pilots. By Pearl Harbor the number of civilian primary schools totaled forty-one. Three of the original nine schools had been closed: those at Glenview, Illinois, and Lincoln, Nebraska, because of a climate which interfered with training; and the school at Glendale, California, because of congested air traffic.*10

In the contracts each primary school operator agreed to furnish equipment, flying fields, supplies and facilities for training, exclusive of aircraft and such airplane parts, equipment, and accessories as would be provided by the government; he was to furnish suitable facilities, with adequate heat, light, and ventilation in all buildings, plus an adequate sanitary system, and to make transportation avail-able for students whose place of instruction was more than one mile from lodgings. The contractor was required to carry full public liability and property-damage insurance. For its part, the government agreed to lend training aircraft, without obligation to repair or replace, but with an option to make major repairs and overhaul. By December 1941 over 3,000 planes were in use. The government also supplied textbooks, helmets, parachutes, goggles, and flying and mechanics clothing. The Air Corps was authorized to maintain constant supervision and inspection and had the right to pass judgment on the serviceability of planes and the adequacy of all facilities furnished by contractors. Air Corps representatives were to observe training methods and determine the proficiency of the students.11

For each graduate of a civilian primary flying school, the government originally agreed to pay the contractor $1,170. For students eliminated from the program, the contractor was to receive $18.00

* The peak of primary flight training was reached in May 1943, when there were fifty-six schools in operation. The peak graduation figure was attained in November 1943, when 11,411 aviation cadets were sent on to basic flying training schools. Retrenchment set in immediately thereafter, and only ten schools survived the year 1944. By August 1945, only Tuskegee, for training Negro students, and Orangeburg, South Carolina, a school which trained French students, remained in operation. The closing-out procedures were based on location, weather, performance records, as well as the financial status of the contractor. (See History, AAF Training Command, 1 Jan. 1939-VJ Day, III, 502–3.)

Page 458

for each hour of flying training given the eliminee. Government officials were to have the right to inspect all records and to terminate the contract on thirty days’ notice. In July 1940 contracts were modified slightly by lowering the standard compensation for each graduate to $1,050 and to $17.50 per flying hour for eliminees. After Pearl Harbor it was necessary for the government to increase the pay of the contractors in order to allow for more extensive guard service. Later, too, the government agreed to furnish gasoline, oil, and lubricants. When the program ended, the government was paying $10.00 per hour of instruction at some schools, and somewhat more at others. The government also decided, shortly after Pearl Harbor, to have the Defense Plant Corporation purchase all land, buildings, hangars, and unmovable equipment. The contractor retained ownership of what was left and paid the Defense Plant Corporation a rent of $3.70 for each hour of instruction and $1.15 daily for each cadet’s quarters.12

To help prepare the civilian schools for their job, the Air Corps Training Center set up a refresher course for civilian flying instructors at Randolph Field which was given during June and July 1939.13 By late 1940, when the original nine schools had established branch schools, the three training center headquarters* were sending out supervisors and assistants, with planes, to train the instructors and maintenance men who, in turn, would train others as the need arose. After war came, regional instructor schools gave training to civilian instructors for primary schools. Later, in 1943 and 1944, this training was given at the central instructors school established at Randolph Field.14

Starting 1 July 1939 classes were entered at primary schools every six weeks, the training program lasting twelve weeks. The length of the course was cut to ten weeks in May 1940, with classes entering every five weeks, and to nine weeks in March 1942. In all programs, however, the flying time was sixty hours, but drastic cuts were made in the ground-school phase of training. During 1939 a total of 225 hours had been devoted to ground-school instruction. This was cut to 140 hours in mid-1940 and to 84 hours early in 1942, as more and more of the ground-school training was transferred to the preflight schools.15

The size of each entering primary flying training class was 396 until 18 May 1940, when the number was jumped to 466. This was

* See below, p. 465.

Page 459

but a prelude to much greater increases, as the War Department announced that starting in June entering classes would number 605 flying cadets; in August, 900; in September, 1,100; in October, 1,234; and in November 1940 and thereafter, 1,292. Such progressive increases in the size of classes would make it necessary to procure more instructors; flying instructors, which then totaled 135, were to be increased to 430, and ground-school instructors from 20 to approximately 100.16

Perhaps the most important single factor in determining the efficiency of a civilian flying school was the quality of its flying instructors. When the program began, the experience level was high, the majority of the instructors being men with over 1,000 flying hours. As training expanded, however, the procurement of competent flying instructors became a major problem. Since pilots were everywhere in demand, the schools were also constantly being “raided” by the AAF, the Ferrying Command, the Navy, the commercial airlines, the aircraft manufacturers, and by selective service boards. To protect the primary school staffs from these inroads and to aid in overcoming a continuing shortage of properly qualified flying instructors, the War Department requested the airlines and aircraft manufacturers not to take men from school staffs without allowing adequate time for training replacements, a request to which the companies agreed. In May 1941 state selective service directors were instructed to give serious consideration to deferment of men required for operation of primary civilian flying schools, and both flying instructors and mechanics were classified as being engaged in essential occupations. But local draft boards did not always follow official recommendations and continued to call up men employed on civilian school staffs. Without doubt, however, the most serious competitor was a sister service; Navy recruiting officers held out very attractive offers to civilian flying personnel, and despite repeated promises not to proselyte, the Navy continued to do so as long as it needed pilots.17

The best protection for civilians employed by the contract schools was the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve, but this did not appeal to the instructors. The public was inclined to stigmatize reservists as draft dodgers; moreover, these men considered that they were performing a service that warranted a commissioned status. For these reasons few instructors had joined the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve before enlistment was suspended at the end of 1942. When enlistment was reopened in mid-1943, more, but by no means all, of the instructors

Page 460

and mechanics enrolled as reservists. The use of civilians for flying and ground-school instruction and for maintenance work at civil schools had one distinct advantage, however, since it brought many men into the program whose age and/or physical disability kept them out of the Army. It should also be noted that some schools solved the mechanics problem by employing women and by introducing labor-saving devices and production-line maintenance.18

Other problems faced by the contractors included some that increased their financial risk. A most perplexing problem for the contractors, for example, was the constant fluctuation in school quotas. Schools discovered that they could never be sure how many students they would receive. If too many, then the contractor had to make haste to get more instructors; if too few, then the contractor lost money. Some contractors sought to protect their investment by bickering over every point and were niggardly in supplying recreational facilities, which assumed a much greater importance in maintaining morale after the first year when additional schools were established in areas remote from urban developments. Some contractors recognized this obligation by operating busses without profit for the convenience of cadets in getting to town and to housing projects.19

The civilian school contractors did yeoman service when the fledgling AAF was most in need of help. When the program began, the Air Corps simply did not have the means to expand as fast as the situation demanded. The importance of the venture was put most succinctly by General Arnold in 1944, when he said: “We could not possibly have trained so many airmen so quickly without these schools.”20 Not until the pilot-training program had begun to taper off at the end of 1943 was it politic or practical for the Training Command to announce the results of studies it had made on the relative merits and costs of civilian versus military schools. Such studies showed that flying training would cost approximately $1.76 per flying hour more in military than in contract schools.* But

* Each school had, in addition to its civilian personnel, a small military detachment to supervise the military aspects of aviation cadet training and to act in a liaison capacity with training center and other AAF stations. A typical primary school (Santa Maria, California) early in 1944, with about 300 students in each class, had a military complement of 56, consisting of 1 major, 9 captains, 8 first lieutenants, 6 second lieutenants, 14 sergeants, 14 corporals, 7 privates first class, and 1 private. Its civilian personnel numbered 278 and was composed of 128 flying instructors, 7 ground-school instructors, 1 parachute rigger, 128 mechanics, and 14 civilian guards. (History, AAF Training Command, III, 508.)

Page 461

Training Command officials believed that military schools provided better pilot training, better care for the health and morale of the trainee, and incidental training for larger numbers of military personnel.21 The fact remains, however, that the civilian schools were not discontinued until the program for training pilots was safely “over the hump,” at which time the Training Command had surplus air bases that could handle the decreasing flow of pilot trainees.

In May 1939 the Air Corps had also turned to civilian schools for the training of mechanics. At that time War Department authorization was given for contracts with seven schools,* whose training programs were to begin on 7 August 1939 under the supervision of the commandant of the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field.22 By the end of the summer OCAC was circularizing additional institutions with a view to expanding the program, but found that many were reluctant to agree because civilian patronage of the schools alone exceeded their capacity. It was a different story, however, by March 1940. Schools were now anxious to obtain Air Corps con-tracts, and in October 1940 seven more civilian mechanics schools received contracts. In January 1941 the fifteenth school was added. There were no further additions before Pearl Harbor.23

The contracts for the training of these enlisted technicians specified the scope of the program to be offered, length of the course, payments, and the right of government supervision and inspection. The contractor agreed to furnish 960 academic hours of instruction in accordance with a syllabus issued on 21 April 1939. The courses were to run from twenty-four to twenty-eight weeks, the number in any one class was not to exceed forty-four, and there were to be no more than seven classes under instruction at any one time, new classes to be entered every two weeks. Instructors were to be at least journeymen in their trades and to have Air Corps approval. The contractor was to furnish textbooks, tools, facilities, and equipment, including airplanes and airplane engines. Lodging and board were to be provided at a cost not to exceed $11.00 per week, and the contractor was to furnish transportation between lodging and school when the distance was greater than a mile. The government was to furnish

* Contracts were signed with the following institutions: Aeronautical University, Chicago, Ill.; Casey Jones School of Aeronautics, Newark, N.J.; Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute of Aeronautics, Glendale, Calif.; New England Aircraft School, East Boston, Mass.; Parks Air College, East St. Louis, El.; Roosevelt Aviation School at Roosevelt Field, Garden City, N.Y.; Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Okla.

Page 462

mechanics clothing, and the loan of government property was permitted for instructional purposes. Each contractor was to receive an estimated sum not to exceed $101,836.80, which was based on a payment of $374.40 for each student graduated; the payment for eliminees was to be figured at 39 cents for each academic hour of instruction received.24 In the spring of 1940, when the OCAC Training and Operations Division prepared, in connection with the 7,000-pilot training program, the plans for training an additional 4,000 enlisted mechanics at civilian schools, a complete cost breakdown indicated that the total expense of training 4,000 mechanics would amount to $4,455,480,* which would make the cost of training each mechanic come to $1,113.87.25

Air Corps inspections of the caliber of training given at civilian mechanics schools indicated that at this time no civilian school had attained the standards of the Air Corps Technical School, although Colonel Brant, the school’s commandant, acknowledged that steady progress had been made toward such a goal. Discrepancies were caused mainly by lack of equipment and by unfamiliarity with the rigid system of Air Corps maintenance. In their efforts to match the training of the Air Corps institutions, the civilian schools sought and generally got instructors of high quality. Curtiss-Wright recalled outstanding graduates from industries; at Casey Jones in 1940 instructors were all technical or trade school graduates with years of experience at that school; at Boeing the original instructors were either Air Corps Technical School graduates or men who had worked in aircraft factories; at the New England Aircraft School all instructors were ex-Air Corps men with from one to six years’ experience.

* Specific items were as follows:–

Tuition-960 hours at $.40 per hour ($384.00 each) $1,536,000
Commutation of rations – 28 weeks at $1.20 per day ($235.20 each) 940,800
Commutation of quarters – 28 weeks at $.75 per day ($147.00 each) 588,000
Travel from replacement center to and from school – average distance 600 miles at $.03 per mile ($18.00. each) 72,000
Equipment-purchase of technical equipment 240,000
TOTAL $3,376,800
291 civilian instructors 629,400
312 clerk-stenographers 449,280
GRAND TOTAL $4,455,480

Page 463

Throughout the pre-Pearl Harbor period all men sent to the civilian mechanics schools as students were members of the Regular Army. In the early classes many trainees were men with extensive line experience; they were interested in their work and learned quickly. Gradually they were succeeded by men of inferior quality, some of whom had been haphazardly chosen and others who had no interest in the course.26 The wide use of aptitude tests during the war period resolved most of this trouble.

A variety of housing and messing arrangements was established by these institutions, improvisations made necessary by the urgency of the program and the kind of facilities locally available. Six schools constructed barracks; others used hotels, YMCA’s, apartments, auditoriums, and hangars. The Rising Sun School in Philadelphia used approved rooming houses within a one-mile radius of the school. Dispersion of students in 250 homes, however, made discipline difficult, and it was necessary to make frequent spot and bed checks at night. Rising Sun students ate their meals at these private homes; at other schools mess halls were established, or arrangements were made to mess the students at cafeterias, restaurants, hotels, and YMCA’s.27

By December 1941 the 15 civilian schools had trained 6,968 airplane mechanics, 356 aircraft sheet-metal workers, and 38 aircraft welders. During this period the elimination rate had been approximately 7 per cent. Chanute Field, by comparison, had turned out 17,945 airplane mechanics from 1 July 1939 to 31 December 1941. Enrollment figures for December 1941 show that there were 15,800 students in airplane mechanics courses at Chanute, Keesler, and Sheppard Fields, and 4,008 students at the civilian mechanics schools. Having demonstrated that a satisfactory training program could be accomplished at civilian schools, the venture was greatly expanded after war came.28

Even before Pearl Harbor the demands made on the Air Corps’ technical schools for an expansion of their output of skilled aviation technicians prompted OCAC to make arrangements to train other categories of specialists at civilian institutions. The Adjutant General had been asked in June 1940 to take steps to have pending legislation amended so as to suspend limitations on the number of enlisted men “who may be detailed as students at technical, professional and other educational institutions or as students, observers or investigators at industrial plants, hospitals or other civil institutions.”29 At the time

Page 464

this request was made, OCAC stated that the training of approximately 3,000 administrative clerks would have to be done at civilian schools because Lowry and Chanute Fields were to be operated at full capacity to train the more critically needed armorers and bombsight specialists.

The OCAC also found it practical to enter into contracts with universities and other institutions whose curricula offered training in certain specialties for which the Air Corps had urgent need. Thus, for example, contracts were made with Purdue and New York Universities and with the Academy of Aeronautics at La Guardia Field, New York, for the training of aviation maintenance engineers; and with New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and University of California at Los Angeles, for the training of selected groups of students in meteorology.30 As the program was enlarged in the fall of 1941, other contracts were made with commercial airline schools and with factory training schools. Further expansion came after war had been declared, and by October 1942 technical training for the AAF was being offered at thirty-four civilian mechanics schools, five universities, five commercial airline contract schools, and approximately fifty factory training schools.* Except for the mechanics courses, which absorbed almost half of the students entered into training under the 300,000-technician program adopted in January 1942, most of the courses offered by these civilian institutions were attended by relatively few students who in the aggregate constituted but 15 per cent of the total student group receiving technical training. Included in these minor programs were courses for machinists, metal workers, welders, Link trainer instructors, parachute riggers, teletype operators, weather observers, weather forecasters, and specialists in power plants, electricity, instruments, propellers, power turrets, and bombsight and gunsight maintenance.31

* The peak of the technical training program at civil schools was reached in the spring of 1943. The decision to close out many of the schools was made at this time because government-owned facilities would soon accommodate the decreasing flow of students. Contracts with all civilian mechanics schools were canceled in May and June; all civilian depot overhaul schools were eliminated; and all civilian clerical school contracts were canceled except for schools at Greeley and Fort Collins, Colorado. Factory schools were continued on a curtailed basis, while the program for training weather observers and forecasters was retained and expanded.

Page 465

Expansion of Air Corps Schools

The assumption by civilian contractors of responsibility for primary flying training left the Air Corps’ regular training establishment free to concentrate its efforts on more advanced training. Up to 1940 the Air Corps Training Center had experienced no serious difficulty in keeping up with the demands of an expanded program. Randolph Field had ample facilities to give basic flying training to the graduates of all nine of the civil schools. Nearby Kelly Field and Brooks Field were deemed adequate, with some improvement in facilities, to assume the burden of advanced training.32 But the picture changed abruptly in the spring of 1940 as Hitler’s armies overran western Europe. The Training and Operations Division, OCAC rushed to completion studies already under way for an increase in training objectives, and the new goal was promptly set at a rate of 7,000 pilots per year. In addition, it was concluded that bombardiers and navigators would have to be trained at a rate of 3,600 per year. And it was clear enough that these objectives could be met only through a major expansion of the Air Corps’ own training establishment.33

In May 1940 the Chief of the Air Corps was ready to propose a reorganization of flying training and the establishment of two additional training centers. Under the new arrangement, the nation was to be divided into three geographical zones. All flying schools located east of the 92nd meridian were to be placed under the jurisdiction of a Southeast Air Corps Training Center with headquarters at Maxwell Field; those situated between the 92nd and the 108th meridians were to be administered by a Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center with headquarters at Randolph Field; and those west of the 108th meridian were to be under the jurisdiction of a West Coast Air Corps Training Center located at Moffett Field, California. The proposal received War Department approval late in June, and the new training centers were activated on 8 July 1940, each of them to operate under the immediate jurisdiction of OCAC. The order establishing the centers stipulated that the headquarters personnel would consist of a commanding officer and not more than five additional officers.34 In view of the vast amount of supervisory and administrative work connected with the establishment of new schools and training programs, the procurement of instructional supplies and equipment, the selection and training of instructors, and the hiring of civilian personnel, such

Page 466

a small staff proved to be altogether inadequate and each of these headquarters eventually grew many fold.*

The most urgent of immediate tasks confronting the new centers was to assist OCAC in the selection of sites for new schools, and since training objectives continued to be pushed ever higher, there was to be no early relief from the responsibilities thus imposed.35 Each center appointed boards, normally composed of four officers each, to inspect sites, report their findings, and make recommendations to the War Department for final decision. Since it was important that stations be located where flying training could be conducted during the greatest number of days in the year, weather was a prime consideration in site selection. The boards adopted a general policy of confining their choices to sites south of the 37th parallel when experience demonstrated that weather conditions there were most conducive to uninterrupted flying. Other factors that had to be considered included provision for housing of station personnel, both military and civilian, in nearby communities; transportation facilities as these affected supply; the availability of water; and the possibility of further expansion. These factors became the more limiting as successive expansions narrowed the number of areas that had not already been exploited. The training center that found itself most seriously restricted both by these considerations and by competition from other military agencies who were also expanding their activities was the West Coast Training Center. Consequently, its eastern boundary was shifted from the 108th to the 103rd meridian in 1941, in order to permit the establishment of training fields in the mesa country of eastern New Mexico and western Texas. Headquarters of WCTC was shifted to Santa Ana, California, early in 1942.

The first plans for increasing flying training depended chiefly upon the adaptation and expansion of older installations. Two bases formerly used by other units of the air arm – Maxwell Field and Moffett Field – were assigned to the Air Corps for use as additional basic flying schools. Three new advanced flying schools were projected – at Montgomery, Alabama; San Angelo, Texas; and Stockton, California. Eglin Field at Valparaiso, Florida, and what was to become Craig Field at Selma, Alabama, were designated as sites for specialized pursuit

* This was particularly true after the establishment of the Flying Training Command early in 1942. At that time the training centers were removed from the immediate jurisdiction of the OCAC and made subordinate to the new command.

Page 467

schools and were to be readied to relieve the GHQ Air Force of responsibility for this phase of training by February 1941. Barksdale Field at Shreveport, Louisiana, was concurrently designated as a school for training one class of pursuit instructors during the autumn of 1940, after which it was to become a specialized school for bombardment pilots, bombardiers, and navigators. Ellington Field, an older and previously abandoned base near Houston, Texas, was to be rebuilt for use as a second specialized multiengine bombardment training school. Funds amounting to $6,092,650 were provided to finance construction of new facilities at these stations. Then, just as the public was being informed of the steps to be taken to put the new expansion into effect, the fall of France on 22 June 1940 prompted Congress virtually to invite the Air Corps to expand its program even more.36 During July the Secretary of War authorized a raise in the pilot-training rate to 12,000 per year, the planning was finished in August, and the funds were appropriated in September.37 Included in the facilities for this program were eight new flying training schools, two new gunnery stations, and five cadet reception centers.* Most of the new schools were ready for use in June 1941, and the cadet reception centers were occupied in the fall and winter of 1941–42. Even before these facilities had become available, however, the Air Corps had plans drafted for a still larger goal, a training rate of 30,000 pilots per year. Known as the Army’s Second Aviation Objective, this expansion was directed by the Chief of Staff on 14 February 1941, and funds were voted on 5 April to provide twenty additional new flying training schools, one more new gunnery station, and one additional cadet reception center.† Very few of these installations were ready for use by 7 December 1941, but they were all in operation by June of 1942.

As time progressed, the lagging in the training of bombardiers, navigators, and gunners gave training staffs their chief cause for concern.‡ In the old Air Corps the training of bombardiers had been left to the tactical units of the GHQ Air Force.38 Because of the priority given to pilot training by the combat units, however, instruction in bombardment techniques when given was performed “coincidently”

* For locations of these additional facilities, see above, pp. 137n, 138.

† For locations of these new facilities, see above, p. 139n.

‡ Training in flexible gunnery was especially retarded; instruction at specialized schools did not begin until 9 December 1941.

Page 468

there was neither standardized instruction nor a complete manual to follow.* Curiously enough, in view of the Air Corps’ emphasis on precision bombardment, few records of what was actually done were extant when Headquarters, AAF sought them late in 1942.

OCAC had been authorized in July 1940 to inaugurate a training program for bombardiers, not as a substitute for the work done in the combat units but as a supplement to it. Lowry Field was selected as the site for a school which, between 16 July 1940 and 15 March 1941, trained, in three classes, 122 bombardier instructors. Next, a “test class” of cadet bombardier students was trained from which thirty-four were graduated. Because the weather was not conducive to training of bombardiers in the Denver area, it was then decided to transfer the school to Barksdale Field, where training began on 3 May 1941. By the end of November 144 men had been graduated in four classes, but the climate here was no better than it had been at Lowry. It was therefore decided to transfer bombardier training as quickly as possible to Texas, where it was hoped that weather conditions would be better for the flying phases of bombardier instruction. The first Texas site selected was Ellington Field, where training began 4 October 1941. Once again, however, the weather proved to be unsuitable, and only one class of twenty-six bombardiers was trained at Ellington Field. Thus, during a period of approximately eighteen months and after experimenting with three schools, the number of graduates consisted of but 122 bombardier instructors and 204 cadet bombardiers. When the United States entered the war, “it could hardly be said that the program for bombardier training was even well begun, though some expensive lessons had been learned.”39

The first step in the development of a wartime bombardier-training

* Perhaps the most interesting example of bombardier training by tactical units was that conducted by a station outside the continental United States. During November and December 1939 Hickam Field, in Hawaii, gave individual bombardier training to a class of enlisted men, an experiment that led to the conclusion that carefully selected men with a high school education could be trained in the art of bombing. This idea was ultimately adopted, not only for bombardiers but for pilots and navigators as well, when the aviation cadet qualifying examination replaced the two-year college requirement in January 1942. (See AHS-2, Initial Selection of Candidates for Pilot, Bombardier, and Navigator Training.) This should not be confused with the question of the commissioning of bombardiers. Prior to 1941 some consideration was given to the idea of training bombardiers for duty as enlisted members of the aircrew. (See, for example, requirements for the 12,000 pilot training program, which included training of 1,269 officer bombardiers and 1,868 enlisted bombardiers, contained in R&R, B. K. Yount, Chief, Plans Division to Training and Operations Division, 17 October 1940.)

Page 469

program was the transfer of Albuquerque Air Base from the Air Force Combat Command to the West Coast Training Center in December 1941 for use as an advanced bombardier school. Construction was also rushed on ten new schools, the first of which was opened at Midland, Texas, in February 1942 as a replacement for Ellington Field. One year later the last of the new schools began training. All were located in the southwestern states where weather was excellent for practice bombing runs.* By February 1943 a total of 7,378 bombardiers had been graduated, and the bombardier schools were turning out graduates as fast as they could be absorbed by the operational training units.40

The development of a program to train a separate member of the aircrew as a navigation specialist followed a pattern very similar to that of bombardier training. Before 1933 there had been no necessity to offer navigation training beyond that included in the pilot-training courses. In the next six years, however, combat units performed a varying amount of specialized navigation training, and when the expansion program was inaugurated in 1939, plans were formulated to accentuate this type of training. By now, the prospect of long-range bombing had prompted a decision to include a competent officer navigator in the crew of each medium and heavy bombardment squadron and the attached reconnaissance squadron. At the time the decision was made, there were 166 qualified navigators on hand in the GHQ Air Force. The number needed to implement the program was 506. Not until the United States was well into the war period did the supply of trained navigators catch up with the demand, a demand that shot upward with each increase in the pilot-training rate upon which the directives for such specialized training programs as this were based.41

One thing that held up the production of navigators in the prewar years was that practically all individual training of navigation specialists was carried on in the GHQ Air Force and its successor, the Air Force Combat Command. Training programs conducted by these units had to be fitted into a highly crowded work load, for, in addition

* The sites of the other bombardier schools, and the month when training was begun, are as follows: Victorville, Calif., March 1942; Roswell, N.M., and Higley, Ariz., June 1942; Big Spring, Tex., San Angelo, Tex., and Hobbs, N.M., September 1942; Carlsbad, N.M., October 1942; Deming, N.M., December 1942; and Childress, Tex., February 1943. The school at Carlsbad became a central bombardier instructor school in January 1943.

Page 470

to carrying on their regular operations, they were all engaged in one or more types of other specialized training. Moreover, until the training centers could set up their own pilot schools, the GHQ Air Force units were given the responsibility for the transition of advanced pilot trainees to combat planes. The navigation training programs were therefore less detailed and less academic than those ultimately conducted by Air Corps schools. Of necessity, this training was designed to effect the earliest possible attainment of combat proficiency.42

Since the Chief of the Air Corps had made no provision for setting up specialized navigation schools when the 7,000-pilot training program was launched, it was decided to use the facilities of an existing civilian school, and a contract was made with Pan American Airways System (PAA) to train 850 students at its navigation school at Coral Gables, Florida, during the period between August 1940 and December 1941. Plans were also made to train navigators at Maxwell and Barksdale Fields as soon as Air Corps schools could be set up at these stations. Since Maxwell was destined to be used for other training, it never functioned as a navigation school, but training did begin at Barksdale in November 1940, and by July 1941 this school had graduated three classes which totaled fifty-two navigators. This number, when added to the 287 graduated from the PAA school, was 410 short of the goal of 749 navigators that had been scheduled for 1 April 1941. Moreover, it was hardly a beginning on the new goal of 4,888 navigators per year which had been authorized early in 1941, and no increases in the numbers trained could be expected from the two existing schools. The trouble was that in May 1941 the British had been granted permission to contract for the training of 150 United Kingdom students per class at the PAA school, thus limiting the number of United States students per class to 50; and at Barksdale bad weather and the competition of other training programs made it impractical to expand the navigation courses sufficiently to make any real progress toward the new goal.43

In July 1941 a new tack was attempted. In lieu of schools devoted exclusively to navigator training, now recognized as essential but which were nonexistent, the Air Corps decided to operate navigation schools in conjunction with advanced pilot schools. To put this plan into effect, the school at Barksdale ceased to train navigators on 1 July, and its personnel was split three ways to form the nuclei for navigation schools at Turner Field, Georgia, Kelly Field, Texas, and

Page 471

Mather Field, California, where navigator classes of about twenty each began their studies on 1 August, with succeeding classes scheduled to enter every three weeks. By 1 November 1941 it was obvious that this plan, too, was falling short of meeting the requirements set forth in training directives. These schedules had called for 1,269 navigator graduates by that date; but the total number of navigators that all schools – civil and military – had been able to train was 460. Various measures were taken during the rest of the year to energize the Air Corps’ training program. In the Southeast Training Center plans were made to increase the size of classes at Turner Field, and a second navigation school was projected. The Gulf Coast Training Center planned to concentrate navigation training at Brooks Field, in order to overcome the handicaps under which the navigation program was forced to operate at crowded Kelly Field. And the West Coast Training Center expanded navigation training by removing the pilot school from Mather Field, thus permitting the navigation school to use the entire capacity of that station and increase the size of classes to 240 students. In March 1942 plans were announced for a new navigation school (Selman Field) at Monroe, Louisiana, to replace the one at Turner Field, and for another new school at Hondo, Texas, to replace the one at Kelly Field. The facilities at Hondo alone were planned for a student enrollment of 1,800, an indication that the days of half-way measures were over. Delays in construction and shortages of materiel and personnel, however, prevented these two new schools from starting training until late summer of 1942. By October of that year the navigation schools were reported to be going “all out” insofar as equipment would permit, but the record shows that it was 1944 before the navigation training program reached a production rate that would begin to match the requirements.44

There were no specialized flexible gunnery schools prior to 1941, and such training as was given was somewhat superficial and not highly specialized. Part of the difficulty stemmed from differences of opinion on armament equipment, differences which, the Chief of the Air Corps reported in 1935, affected almost every phase of flexible gunnery training. For this and other reasons, chiefly lack of funds, it was September 1940 before the Chief of the Air Corps initiated plans to establish specialized schools. The Southeast Training Center was then asked to suggest a course of study, and in the summer of 1941 a team of officers was sent to England to study the RAF gunnery system.45

Page 472

Meantime, a site for what was to become the first flexible gunnery school was chosen in the Nevada desert not far from the town of Las Vegas. A lease was arranged with local authorities on 25 January 1941, troops to staff and man the post arrived on 17 June, and three classes of instructors totaling slightly more than 100 were graduated before war broke out. On 9 December 1941 the training of aerial gunners was ordered to begin immediately, and facilities were quickly expanded to permit classes to enter every week. In 1942 the Las Vegas school graduated 9,117 gunners; during 1943 the number of graduates was 18,071. Plans for a second flexible gunnery school at Harlingen, Texas, were approved by the War Department on 6 May 1941. Although school personnel reported to the post on 1 September 1941, training did not begin until after 7 December, and the first class did not graduate until January 1942. Harlingen graduates totaled 4,953 in 1942; 15,682 in 1943; and 4,009 during the first two months of 1944, the latter figure suggesting the rapid expansion of the school, since Harlingen had originally been designed to train a student body of 600, with a class of 120 graduating every week. A third site, which Army authorities planned to use for a flexible gunnery school, was Tyndall Field at Panama City, Florida. Arrangements were started as early as September 1940, but authority to set up the school was not given until 15 April 1941. Although troops arrived at the school before 7 December 1941, it was not until 23 February 1942 that classes began training. During the balance of the year 8,091 gunners were graduated. By 31 August 1944 this school ranked second to Las Vegas in number graduated, having a total of 39,452 compared with 44,246. In addition to these three schools, four others were established after hostilities began: at Fort Myers, Florida; Laredo, Texas; Kingman, Arizona; and Yuma, Arizona. By August 1944 the seven flexible gunnery schools were producing graduates at a rate of 3,500 per week or approximately 180,000 per year. They had produced a total of 214,826 gunners by September 1944 in spite of many handicaps – including lack of planes, turrets, trainers, cameras, sights, and other training essentials; shortages of qualified instructional personnel; and the apparent inability of the planning echelons to make up their minds on student assignments to flexible gunnery classes.46

It had been assumed in 1938 that the Air Corps Technical School, with some improvement and extension of facilities, could take care of current objectives. Those objectives called for a force of 2,320 planes

Page 473

and 24,968 enlisted men; estimates based on the assumption that 7 technicians would be required for each plane resulted in the round figure of 16,250 enlisted men that should receive technical training.47 Chanute Field served as headquarters of the school and provided facilities for departments giving instruction in mechanics, communications, clerical work, and basic military training. The departments of photography and armament were situated at Lowry Field, an installation recently developed in Colorado. When legislation in April 1939 raised Air Corps goals to 3,251 planes and 45,000 enlisted men, with a presumed requirement for the technical training of over 22,000 men, OCAC moved promptly to enlarge the resources available for this purpose. First, as has previously been noted,* it contracted with civilian schools for much of the additional training that would be required. At the same time, it took an initial step toward expanding the Air Corps Technical School by transferring to its jurisdiction an old balloon school at Scott Field for use by the department of basic instruction. For a year training in several technical specialties was conducted at Scott Field while facilities at Chanute and Lowry were being expanded, and late in 1940, with the transfer there of the department of communications, Scott became a radio school exclusively.48

The trend of the European war in the spring of 1940 brought quick realization of the inadequacy of the existing program. In conjunction with officers of the War Plans Division of the General Staff, the OCAC drafted a series of plans,49 two of which affected the technical schools, for a greatly expanded training program. The first of these plans, which became operative in July 1940 and was known as the WPD 2,726-airplane program, provided for an Air Corps enlisted strength of 94,415 men, and established a goal of 28,278 airplane mechanics to be trained by 1 January 1942. The plan contemplated no additional schools but would require that existing facilities be utilized at capacity. A second plan, substituted for the above in September 1940 and known as the WPD 3,873-combat airplane program, called for an Air Corps enlisted strength of about 135,000 men and established a goal of approximately 52,000 airplane mechanic graduates by 1 January 1942. Acceleration of the first plan, General Arnold was informed by his staff, could be accomplished by the expenditure of a million and a quarter dollars to increase the existing technical schools to maximum capacity, but he was advised that this

* See above, p. 461.

Page 474

added capacity would produce only 40,531 graduates by 1 January 1942 and hence fall approximately 12,000 short of meeting the goal projected in the second plan.50 To overcome the deficiency it was recommended that two new technical schools be established.

Confronted in July 1940 with the need for immediate acceleration of the technician-training program, OCAC shopped around for Army facilities that it could put to early use to augment its existing schools. The first accession was Jefferson Barracks, an old Infantry post, which was acquired on 30 July 1940, and to which the basic military training program for Air Corps recruits was shifted from Scott Field. This move freed facilities at Scott for mechanic and radio training. Then early in 1941 Fort Logan, Colorado, was acquired, making it possible to move the clerical school there to release facilities at Lowry Field for expansion of armament and photography training.51 By this time a third over-all plan had set the training objective for technicians at a rate of 110,000 per year, with provision for recruitment of 11,000 men each month, beginning in July 1941.52 Additional funds were secured for expansion of facilities at all three technical training stations and for the construction of two new aviation mechanic schools – Keesler Field at Biloxi, Mississippi, and Sheppard Field at Wichita Falls, Texas. These installations were ready in September 1941. In addition to serving as mechanic schools, they were also designated as Air Corps replacement training centers (subsequently redesignated as basic training centers) and, as the tempo of recruitment picked up in the fall of 1941, gave much-needed relief to Jefferson Barracks.53

These, then, were the facilities for technical training when war began. Geared to a training rate of 110,000 per year, they were to be expanded by the Victory Program in January 1942 to provide 300,-000 technicians by 1 January 1943, and in September of 1942 additional facilities were made available that by June 1943 would provide technicians at a rate of 600,000 per year. This was the peak objective, a training rate that was reached in March 1943 when 62,000 students were entered in technical schools. By November 1941 students were entering the technical schools at a rate calculated to produce the de-sired 110,000 graduates per year.54 At the close of that year the graduates trained since 1 July 1939 numbered 57,589. Of this total 1,588 had been trained in 1939; 14,375 in 1940; and 41,626 in 1941.55 The figures were disappointing, but at least the groundwork had been laid for a more adequate program.

Page 475

Administrative Adjustments

The heavy burden of the greatly expanded program for technical training had forced the Air Corps to establish a Technical Training Command in March 1941. Not only was the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute – which in addition to control of activities at Lowry, Scott, and Jefferson was responsible for supervision of fourteen civilian contract schools.56 – inadequately staffed and poorly organized for its heavy responsibilities, but the OCAC Training and Operations Division needed relief from its supervisory obligations. Staff officers there saw the need for early decentralization of authority in what was becoming an unwieldy organization of the schools, and as soon as plans for the 110,000-technician training program were assured, the Chief of the Air Corps directed the establishment of an Air Corps Technical Training Command.57 Temporary headquarters for the new command was established at Chanute Field on 26 March 1941, with Maj. Gen. Rush B. Lincoln as commanding general. In September a permanent headquarters for the command was selected at Tulsa, Oklahoma, a move that relieved congested Chanute Field and which also enabled General Lincoln to gain a fresh perspective of his job.58

Further decentralization of authority was achieved by grouping the technical schools into two districts, each commanded by a general officer. In a functional arrangement which placed basic military and aviation mechanic training under one command and remaining specialties under another, the first district included Scott Field, Lowry Field, and Fort Logan; the second district was composed of Chanute Field, Keesler Field, Sheppard Field, and Jefferson Barracks.59 The district organization was abruptly abandoned on 11 December 1941, but the principle of decentralization was revived on 10 March 1942, this time on a geographical basis, when it was announced that four technical training districts would function under the jurisdiction of the Technical Training Command. Headquarters for the first district was at Greensboro, North Carolina; for the second at St. Louis, Missouri; for the third at Tulsa, Oklahoma; and for the fourth at Denver, Colorado. Later, in November 1942, a fifth district with headquarters at Miami Beach, was created to supervise the numerous technical training activities in Florida. One other change had occurred in the spring of 1942 when the headquarters of the Technical Training Command was moved from Tulsa to Knollwood Field, North Carolina,.60 where

Page 476

the facilities of a plush country club were converted for use by this command, now under the direction of Maj. Gen. Walter R. Weaver.

The advent of war had also turned the spotlight upon the urgent need for a further reorganization of flying training. The establishment of the three training centers had only partially accomplished the changes which certain OCAC staff officers had been urging since January 1940. Col. Walter F. Kraus, executive officer of the Training and Operations Division, on 27 June 1941 proposed to General Arnold through the Chief of the Air Corps that a flying training command be established and that its commander be responsible directly to the Chief of the Air Corps for the individual training of Air Corps pilots and other flying specialists.61 The Kraus memorandum described the administrative ramifications inherent in the job of directing the tremendous expansion, reviewed the multitudinous and increasing responsibilities of the Chief of the Air Corps, and called attention to the discursive responsibilities of the chief of the Training and Operations Division who, in addition to directing the huge training effort, was involved in a wide variety of important staff functions which occupied much of his time. In the light of these considerations, it was suggested that the flying training program had reached such proportions as to require one commander unencumbered by other duties. It was stressed that in a period of two years the number of flying training establishments had increased from two to forty-five (including thirty civil contract schools); that airplanes at these stations had increased from 400 to 2,700; and that personnel had increased from 3,300 officers and men to 37,000 officers and men. Moreover, the scope of training had increased. Formerly, aviation specialists such as aerial navigators, bombardiers, and gunners had been trained solely within combat units; now they received individual training at special schools. Over and above these responsibilities, the Training and Operations Division had to provide additional facilities, equipment, and personnel for the British pilot-training program, which was itself four times the size of the entire Air Corps pilot-training program prior to 1939.

It was recommended that the proposed command be given jurisdiction over the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and West Coast Training Centers; that it be organized along general staff lines; and that its commander be given full authority and responsibility under the Chief of the Air Corps for the accomplishment of War Department directives

Page 477

for training of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, observers, and other flying specialists. In short, the new command would serve for flying training in a capacity similar to that of the Air Corps Technical Training Command. Moreover, its establishment would be “an important step in effecting that decentralization which is so increasingly necessary for the accomplishment of the Air Corps expansion program.” Months passed, however, with no action taken by General Arnold to implement the proposals of the Kraus memorandum.

After war broke out, the plan for establishing a flying training command was revived. The Kraus memorandum was resubmitted to General Arnold on 23 December 1941 by Maj. Gen. Walter R. Weaver, Acting Chief of the Air Corps.62 Buttressed by his experience as commanding general of the Southeast Air Corps Training Center and as Acting Chief of the Air Corps, General Weaver declared that he had become firmly convinced of the wisdom of the recommendation. General Arnold’s approval was given on 29 December 1941, and on 5 January 1942 the Chief of the Air Corps was authorized to establish the command. Shortly thereafter the War Department ordered Maj. Gen. Barton K. Yount, commanding general of the West Coast Air Corps Training Center, to Washington where he assumed his duties as head of the new command on 28 January 1942.63

A problem of major significance to the Flying Training Command during the early months of its existence was the best location of the permanent headquarters, since it was imperative that as many government agencies as possible be moved from the war-crowded capital. The first question that had to be decided was whether to move to a site near Washington, thereby having the advantage of close, quick contact with Headquarters, AAF or to a location which, because of its central position in regard to installations of the Flying Training Command, would permit better control and direction of the activities of the entire command. After weighing the two opposing factors, Yount decided that a location distant from Washington but central to its own activities was the best solution, and General Arnold gave his approval. Fort Worth, Texas, was chosen. The move there was made on 1 July 1942.64

The heavier burdens which came with the opening of hostilities had also forced the AAF to give new consideration to the problem of training in the combat units. Prewar developments had followed a

Page 478

traditional pattern. The responsibility of flying and technical schools was to train men as individuals for the performance of specific jobs. Graduates were then assigned to GHQ Air Force units, where the last stage of individual training was completed in the transition to full combat equipment and where the trainee learned to function as the member of an air or ground crew and to cooperate with other such crews. The crews were formed into squadrons and groups, and by the procedures of unit training taught to work together. This unit-training activity, a phase of training no less important than the earlier one of individual instruction, was at the outset of war beset by a variety of difficulties.

The establishment of the Army Air Forces in June 1941, with control over the Air Force Combat Command (successor to the GHQ Air Force) as well as the Air Corps, had served to reduce in some measure the difficulties arising from the dual organization of Army aviation,* difficulties that were especially apparent in the development of the training program. But the AFCC, like GHQ Air Force before it, had many other duties to perform. The very location of its four air forces – the First Air Force with headquarters at Mitchel Field, New York; the Second at Fort George Wright, Spokane, Washington; the Third at Tampa, Florida; and the Fourth at Riverside, California – testified to the paramount importance of the defense mission assigned to each of them. Bases chosen for defensive reasons were often ill suited to training purposes, particularly at the more northern bases where snowfall might handicap flying or even prevent it for as much as fifty days out of the year. Training facilities were inadequate even at long-established air installations like Langley and March Fields. As late as the spring of 1941 it was reported that bombing ranges lacked observation towers and night bombing facilities; that there were no ground machine-gun ranges; that Link trainers were crowded into hangars and barracks; that bombing trainers were in short supply and there was no hangar space for those that were available. The list of shortages included machine-gun ammunition, maintenance equipment, signal equipment, cameras for scoring bombing results – the list could be extended almost without end.65

Such difficulties must be attributed in no small part to the unavoidable pressures of a constantly accelerating program of expansion. But these pressures were felt with double effect in the combat units because

* See above, pp. 24-25.

Page 479

the heavier responsibilities for training came as but one part of the new load imposed by the expansion program, and this without any real reduction of normal obligations. Training might be interrupted by orders to photograph Indian reservations, to make flight-checks of U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey charts, or to put on reviews and demonstrations for higher authority. At the same time, it was necessary to provide for each cadet examining board a rated flying officer – a duty assignment that took men away from training assignments at a time when replacements were not available. Training was also being constantly interrupted by the draining of personnel to form cadres to staff the additional units being organized. The level of experience among enlisted men at GHQ Air Force stations sank low and remained at an unsatisfactory point for months on end. To add to the confusion at these stations, there came a steady influx of recruits who were without any basic military training.66 These men had to be given during the first month of their enlistment the necessary training and the processing required by regulations. GHQ Air Force stations were also required in 1939 to establish trade-test units to facilitate the selection of enlisted men for technical training.67

By 1941, when the combat units began to receive large numbers of graduates of the accelerated training programs at Air Corps training centers, it was noted that these men were less well prepared-that they needed additional instruction in ground subjects and in the duties of officers. The Fourth Air Force complained that its training program was less than 25 per cent complete by June 1941 because Air Corps training schools had failed to send graduates in sufficient numbers to sustain the scheduled rate of combat training.68 On the other hand, the First Air Force reported that it was receiving new pilot graduates and would start training them under an existing directive only to receive a new directive, before the training had been completed, requiring that the group be split up into new units. After this had been done, the amount of training equipment per group, in short supply even before the split, was so inadequate that unit training fell far behind schedule. All stations also reported serious shortages of qualified airplane mechanics, radio operators, and other technicians;69 and the schools were short of textbooks for use in ground-school courses, particularly in such subjects as celestial navigation.

In April 1941 an attempt was made to resolve the difficulty of competing claims on the combat units by a directive requiring the four air

Page 480

forces to be divided into fixed and mobile echelons. The fixed echelon was intended to act as a central training supervisor and was to carry on all normal administrative functions, with only minor participation in air operations and then only in the absence of the mobile force. The shortage of trained officer personnel was so acute throughout 1941, however, that it was impossible for the air forces to carry out this directive. During that year new calls for units and equipment to take up defensive stations in Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland, and for the reinforcement of garrisons in Panama and the Philippines, added further to the drain on the resources of combat units. When the coming of war brought new demands for dispatch of combat units overseas and for the employment of U.S.-based units in antisubmarine patrols, the situation required some division of function that would permit the domestic air forces to concentrate their efforts. Accordingly, late in December 1941 the Second and Third Air Forces were designated as training air forces – the Second to concentrate on producing bombardment crews and the Third to prepare the greater share of pursuit pilots. The defense mission was assigned to the First and the Fourth Air Forces with the understanding that their training responsibilities would be restricted to a minimum.70

Lessons from Combat-Real and Simulated

When he became Chief of the Air Corps in 1938 General Arnold thought that the weakest area in the entire air program was the air intelligence organization. The blame for this situation, Arnold contended, could be laid in part upon the lack of cooperation received from the G-2 section of the War Department General Staff; in part upon the Air Corps itself, which was tardy in recognizing the need to develop its own system of air intelligence.71

In return for the right to buy American planes, the British and French governments, and especially the British, agreed to make available to the United States data on their own equipment and procedures.72 With the passage of time, this source of information came to be of great value to the development of AAF training and organization. As soon as war broke out in the fall of 1939, General Arnold sent Lt. Cal. Carl Spaatz and Maj. George C. Kenney to Europe as combat observers. During the ensuing months these two officers supplied many accurate reports which affected Air Corps plans and preparations. In August 1940, after the Battle of Britain had begun,

Page 481

more air officers were rushed to England to learn everything possible about British and German tactics in this first great battle for air supremacy. Later, in April of 1941, General Arnold himself went to England to observe the air war at first hand and to confer with RAF leaders and British government officials.

At first, no Air Corps agency existed for the evaluation of intelligence received except the Air Corps Board, a body already weighed down by other responsibilities. It did its best to incorporate the tactical and strategical lessons derived from the information received by making frequent revisions in Air Corps field manuals and technical manuals, and by publishing such material as the British “Hints for Fighter Pilots” for use in training and in educating combat personnel on how best to conduct specific war operations. Within the limitation of personnel available on the Air Corps Board, it functioned satisfactorily, but there was real need for the establishment of an intelligence division at the Air Staff level. A first step was taken in November 1940, when the OCAC Information Division was redesignated the Intelligence Division and the scope of its activities was correspondingly enlarged.73 The division became A-2 on the staff of the newly organized Army Air Forces in June 1941 with responsibility for both assessment and dissemination of intelligence.

Of more significance perhaps for the AAF training program were the direct contacts encouraged by the increasingly close cooperation between U.S. and British staff agencies in 1941. Thus, as a step toward defining the training program for AAF gunnery schools, two Air Corps officers, Majs. William L. Kennedy and D. W. Jenkins, spent the summer of 1941 in Great Britain where they made an intensive study of RAF gunnery schools and of the aerial gunner in combat. Simultaneously W/C E. B. Beamish of the RAF, an expert on flexible gunnery training, came to the United States and visited each of the developing schools where he gave advice on methods, prepared syllabi for ground school and for firing, and gave more or less formal instruction to enlisted men assigned to teach in the first schools.74 Another Englishman, W/C E. M. Donaldson, an RAF fixed gunnery expert, performed a similar task in his specialty. The RCAF likewise supplied the Air Corps with gunnery training outlines as a result of a visit to their schools by Air Corps officers during the summer of 1941.75

The AAF training program came to reflect many practices which British experience had shown to be necessary, particularly in the training

Page 482

of combat crews. An example suggestive of the extent of the AAF’s indebtedness to the RAF is provided by the recommendations presented to the Air Staff in September 1941 by an American officer returned from an assignment to study British employment of the B-17. He recommended: 1) that crews should be trained together after reaching a certain point in their training; 2) that gunners should be more versatile; in the RAF the gunner was “a pretty important Brother”; in contrast, “we have assigned boys who can’t be used on the ground”; 3) that radio operators should get gunnery training in addition to training in their specialty; 4) that crews should have more night training; 5) that the AAF should test for high altitude to insure that only men physically qualified would be assigned to high-altitude crews; and 6) that the AAF should consider adoption of the RAF practice of having three intelligence officers with each squadron to brief crews and question them on their return. Eventually, all these suggestions were incorporated in the AAF training program, although some of the changes could not be made until equipment could be procured and installed.76 Col. Ira C. Eaker, after spending the month of September 1941 in England, urged upon his superiors the need for greater emphasis in the training program on gunnery, instrument flying, and night flying. He also commented enthusiastically on the effective use of motion pictures by the British for instructional purposes.77

The AAF also learned some valuable lessons from the Army maneuvers held in the fall of 1941. These maneuvers, in which 400,000 men participated, were by far the largest the Army had ever held in peacetime. They began in August and lasted until the end of November, extending over an area that stretched from Texas eastward to the Carolinas. In addition to the combat units of the Air Force Combat Command, air base groups, who were to provide first and second echelon maintenance, and certain air depot groups participated. The Maintenance Command looked upon the maneuvers as offering a chance to discover deficiencies in its existing system for these more highly specialized service units.78

A sudden decision to send air depot groups left little time for proper preparation before the groups were required to be at the scene of the maneuvers. After the 4th Air Depot Group had moved from Patterson Field to the Jackson, Mississippi, airport early in September, it was discovered that some tools and many spare parts were missing

Page 483

even though fifty carloads of equipment had been shipped. Moreover, no provision had been made to relieve critical supply shortages by air transport. The blame for these faulty arrangements was laid to inexperience of the key personnel, almost all of whom were second lieutenants with no previous supply experience. Engineering officers, unfamiliar with existing Air Corps supply procedures, added to the confusion. To cap it off, the communications system was hopelessly inadequate – messages were delayed anywhere from two hours to three days. Maintenance difficulties, fortunately, were not so pronounced as supply, and of thirty-two wrecked airplanes reported to the 4th Air Depot Group, all but one were shipped to San Antonio for extensive repair. Those planes that could be repaired at the scene of the crash were worked on by civilian technicians.79

The Carolina phase of the maneuvers went off much better for the depot groups. Langley Field was the air base for the I Air Support Command, and Drew Field at Augusta, Georgia, served as the air base for the III Air Support Command. The 4th Air Depot Group moved by rail and motor convoy from Jackson, Mississippi, to Herbert Smart Airport at Macon, Georgia, early in October to service the organizations deployed in these areas. By now the supply system was operating with more efficiency-a thirty-day level of supplies being maintained at Langley Field, a ten-day level at Drew Field, and a twenty-day level at the air depot at Macon. Among the more important lessons learned by the service units engaged in the Carolina maneuvers was the danger of inadequate protection on the ground and in the air. Specifically, it was quite evident that greater antiaircraft protection as well as more ground troops were essential for defense of an airdrome. Experience had also demonstrated that a fighter unit should be designated to protect a base from attack by enemy bombardment; that transport units assigned to bases for the purpose of ferrying supplies to field combat units should be relieved from administrative and command functions; and that a mobile machine shop should be installed in a truck of not less than five-ton capacity for use by the materiel squadron of an air base group.80

The incisive criticisms voiced by observers of the maneuvers indicated faults of such significance as to make the training problem a formidable one. Lt. Col. Barney M. Giles reported to the Chief of the Air Corps on 3 October 1941 concerning the unrealistic nature of the exercises that he had watched. He felt that they should have included

Page 484

the firing of guns, the dropping of bombs, and the testing of oxygen facilities for high-altitude flight. Giles also suggested, as did all observers, that air depot groups should include detachments from other branches of the service, especially weather, quartermaster, signal, ordnance, and engineer sections. First Air Force personnel felt that the maneuvers emphatically stressed the ground commanders’ ignorance of the value of aerial photography. Few camera missions were requested, and First Air Force felt that this was the fault of officers who did not understand what was to be gained from photo intelligence. Similar comments were made at a conference called by the Secretary of War at the termination of the maneuvers. This meeting, held on 3 December 1941 and attended by the “top brass,” was intended to highlight the lessons learned from the maneuvers, serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas, and enable those responsible for troop training to determine what aspects needed attention. Two points having to do with the participation of air units were brought out: one was the poor coordination between the tactical air forces and the ground units they were supposed to support; the other was radio communications from ground to air which, in General Arnold’s judgment, were “awful.”81

It was clear that the optimism which General Marshall had shown the previous April, when testifying before the Truman committee, had been premature. Neither the air nor the ground elements had achieved that degree of coordination which the Chief of Staff had then said was on the way. The primary reason, perhaps, was the unresolved question of the primary mission of the air arm. Was its main purpose that of assisting the ground forces in reaching their objective? Or was it to defeat the enemy air force and execute independent air missions against enemy ground targets? Proponents of the air force contention were convinced, as a result of their studies of the Battle of Britain, that Germany might be brought to her knees by air alone.82 But these last prewar maneuvers clearly demonstrated that both sides in the air-ground controversy needed to be reminded of what the Germans had done in their campaigns on the continent. The Germans, observed General Marshall, had “introduced air as artillery on the battlefield ... they coordinated a heavy bombardment preparation with a very rapid movement of ground troops,” and thus gave a new application to a fundamental principle of warfare.83 It was a principle that the Americans were to apply in a devastating way in the summer of 1944, thus giving ample proof that the lesson had been heeded.

Page 485

The AAF Balance Sheet on the Eve of Hostilities

At the end of November 1941 the personnel strength of the AAF was just under 300,000. Included in this total were 22,524 officers and 274,579 enlisted men. The total strength of the AAF increased sharply in the weeks immediately after Pearl Harbor – the figure stood at 354,161 officers and men by 31 December 1941. At that time, there were 49¼ combat groups in the continental United States, and of these groups 20½ were engaged in operational training, 28½ were assigned to the strategic reserve, and ¼ of a reconnaissance group was in a manning phase.84 As General Arnold was later to state for the record, the outbreak of war found the AAF “in low gear” but prepared to shift “into second”; when the Japanese struck, he noted, “we may not have had a powerful air force but we knew that we soon would have one. We had the plans, and our organization was growing every hour.”85

This potential that General Arnold referred to was indeed reflected in the statistics for the previous two and one-half years of augmented training effort. By 31 December 1941 a total of 36,638 men had been graduated from flying training schools operated under OCAC’s jurisdiction, and of that number 9,572 had already received their wings. Some of these officers had been retained by the training centers for duty as instructors, but the majority of them were completing their transitional or operational training in one of the four continental air forces; those that had already finished these later phases of training were serving with the Air Force Combat Command, or were overseas with a combat unit. Most of the total were pilots – 9,030 – but there were also 224 bombardiers, 181 navigators, and 137 nonpilot observers. The technical training schools had graduated 1,402 ground officer technicians, and 57,589 enlisted technicians.86

The Japanese attack came while the AAF was gearing its training system to meet the Army’s Second Aviation Objective, the 84-group program. It established an annual production goal of 30,000 pilots, 5,590 bombardiers, 4,888 navigators, and 110,000 enlisted technicians. Authorized in March 1941 and initiated in October, this fourth expansion of the prewar training rate was launched, as had been the case with both of the 1940 expansions, before the goal of the previous program had been achieved. Thus when war began, many of the new bases and training facilities that would make this latest goal possible

Page 486

of attainment were still under construction. The sudden turn of events meant that not only would these facilities have to be pressed into service at the earliest possible moment, but they would have to be vastly augmented. In many instances, training was scheduled to begin at these stations while the construction gangs were completing their job, and “it was not unusual to find a training field with dozens of planes flying above it, bulldozers on the ground finishing the earth-work, cement mixers turning out concrete for runways yet to be built, and men in the open still clearing the brush off what had been grazing land a few weeks before.”87

Most retarded of the programs, as previously noted, were those for training specialist members of the aircrews. General Arnold, who was on the west coast when war began, held a hurried conference with Fourth Air Force officials and then ordered an immediate expediting in the training of bombardiers, navigators, turret gunners, and radio operators. His radiogram from Hamilton Field on the night of 7 December carried the injunction: “Insure that they are available in large numbers.”88 In response to another directive the Chief of the Air Corps prepared a revision of the 30,000-pilot program under which, by using existing facilities to the maximum, the production goal was expanded 24.6 per cent, thus making it a 37,000-pilot program. And before the end of December it was announced that planning was under way which would create “Army Air Forces that are relatively enormous as measured by past conceptions.”89 This was in reference to the three wartime pilot-training programs authorized in 1942 which would step up pilot production in stages – first to 50,000, then to 70,000, and finally to 93,000 annually, with corresponding jumps in technical training, first to 300,000, then to 475,000, and finally to 600,000 annually.90

A major problem of the training establishments during the previous programs, and one which the vastly enlarged wartime programs would aggravate, was the lack of experienced personnel. Instructor shortages existed at every level. Except in the civilian primary schools, all flying instructors had to be rated officers. It was considered feasible, however, to use civilians in the rapidly expanding ground-school phases of flying training, and during 1940 and 1941 ground-school instructors, most of whom were poorly qualified, were procured from several sources. Some were rated officers who were assigned to teach ground-school subjects without any consideration

Page 487

of their teaching ability, some were civilians, some were enlisted men, and some were eliminated cadets with no professional qualifications whatever. Civilians were generally ignorant of flying and technical subjects, and many were not even teachers. Because of a general lack of understanding of the requisite qualifications of ground-school instructors, this early procurement policy was a failure.91 Equally acute, because of the acceleration of pilot training in 1940 and 1941, was the shortage of flying instructors. To meet this situation, the Air Corps had followed a policy of assigning new graduates of advanced schools to instructional duties, but the number available from this source depended upon the demand for combat pilots in the tactical units. Many graduates who did receive assignments as flying instructors were poorly qualified, but because of the emergency they were used anyway. Graduates of Civil Aeronautics Administration courses constituted another source of flying instructors. Such men served almost exclusively in civil contract flying schools, but War Department regulations provided that if a graduate of a CAA pilot course could pass the Army service pilot test, he became eligible for commission and assignment as a flying instructor at an Army school. The rub here was that instructors obtained in this manner were handicapped by their lack of an adequate military background.92 The shortage of rated pilot instructors was a serious bottleneck to a rapid increase in pilot training in December 1941.93

In the months that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, however, there was no question but that “the Army Air Forces had to become the largest single educational organization in existence in a very short time.”94 Recruitment of a “faculty” to staff such a huge training effort was a major undertaking, and one beset with pitfalls, as any college dean could have testified. And after the instructor personnel had been procured, the AAF discovered that it was, of necessity, in the teacher-training business as well, since many of those who had been recruited had to be “retooled” to qualify for teaching the AAF school curriculum. These and other problems concerning the individual instructor are discussed in the following chapter.