Chapter 16: Basic Military Training and Classification of Personnel
THE United States has traditionally fought its wars with a citizen army mobilized and trained after the emergency arises. Its members on their induction into the Army face an abrupt transition to a life and pattern of behavior altogether foreign to their previous experience. For their assistance the Army has provided an initial period of basic military training, a course of instruction intended to transform the raw recruit into a soldier. This basic training includes instruction in military discipline and courtesy, close order drill, first aid and protection against disease, physical conditioning, defense against enemy attack, and the care and use of weapons. Only after completion of basic training are recruits, in theory, advanced to instruction in the technical specialties of the particular Army arm or service to which they are assigned. In practice, however, it has not always been possible to follow the theory. Both in World War I and during the first year and a half of World War II, certain phases of basic training were sometimes slighted in order to speed the training in specialties for which a critical need existed.
Such acceleration was particularly true of the air arm. In theory, each man entering the Army received the same basic training, but the responsibility for such training was assigned to the several arms and services, and in the air arm much of that training, traditionally geared to the needs of the infantryman, had little bearing on the functions to be performed by its men. During the First World War, the Aviation Section had stressed technical instruction at the expense of military training in its two mechanics schools-at St. Paul, Minnesota, and at Kelly Field. Even after the war the Air Service had directed in 1921
that its personnel should receive only that portion of the training normally given the infantry which would permit them to move in a military manner from place to place. War Department directives, however, continued to assume that all recruits would be required to meet minimum standards in such subjects as close order drill and the handling of individual weapons, and mobilization plans of the 1930’s had assumed that basic training would be provided for all in training centers to be established in the several corps areas, with the recruits to be assigned to the several arms and services only after they had attained the required proficiency in a common training program. But the pattern which developed after 1939 was quite different from that planned.
As the number of recruits increased, it was decided in the summer of 1940 to establish a replacement training center for the Air Corps at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, an old Army installation made available for the purpose. To relieve the combat units and the technical schools of obligations for the training of the raw recruit, Jefferson Barracks was charged with the responsibility for basic military training and for classification tests that would govern his subsequent assignment. By the fall of 1941 additional centers had to be activated at Keesler Field, Mississippi, and Sheppard Field, Texas, to care for the increasing flow of recruits. Since the road ahead for most AAF enlistees led toward some specialized technical training, the replacement centers were placed under the jurisdiction of the Air Corps Technical Training Command, an arrangement thoroughly consistent with the long-standing tendency in the Army’s air arm to subordinate military to technical training.
The original staff for the Jefferson Barracks replacement training center was composed of a cadre of officers and enlisted men supplied by Scott Field. The Keesler and Sheppard Field replacement training centers were in turn staffed by cadres from Jefferson Barracks. At the time of Pearl Harbor the Air Corps had some 21,000 recruits at its three centers.1
With the coming of war, the pressure on existing facilities and staffs outpaced all efforts to keep up with the need. For more than a year Jefferson Barracks was forced to use a large number of tents, and the same situation prevailed at Keesler Field. Construction of new
barracks never seemed to keep pace with the flow of recruits, and early in 1942 the AAF began to use resort hotels at Miami Beach and St. Petersburg in Florida and at Atlantic City in New Jersey. Most of these structures proved to be suitable enough for troop quarters once the rooms were stripped of amenities furnished for the convenience of civilian vacationists. Room capacity was raised to four or five by use of double-deck beds. The increases in the number of occupants, however, exceeded the limit for which the buildings were designed, and it was difficult to keep water pressure adequate, especially in the evening, when there was a rush to remove the grime of the drill field before standing retreat. Moreover, the congestion made it difficult to evacuate the large hotels even when the men expected to be called, and hence fire drills were held frequently. Nevertheless, use of these luxury-type quarters materially eased the basic training center (BTC) housing problems when the need was greatest. By the spring of 1943 the number of basic training centers, as the replacement training centers had been redesignated on 7 August 1942, had been increased by seven.*
In this as in other phases of the training program, the peak load was reached and passed in 1943. Thereafter, some centers were inactivated, and others were moved to posts where technical schools had been located. Four basic training centers survived until 4 September 1945 – Buckley Field, Amarillo Army Air Field, Sheppard Field, and Keesler Field, with most of the trainees located at the two latter stations.
Prior to July 1943 basic military training apparently was the orphan of the vast AAF training organization. BTC’s were at the end of a long chain of command, they were given only rough outlines to go by, and responsibility for the program was in effect left to local authorities. Initially, the program was based mainly on the experiences of the pioneer BTC – Jefferson Barracks – which served as a testing ground for administrative organization and training policies. There, in the absence of clear-cut directives, the commanding officer and his staff had exercised their functions with comparative freedom. Three school squadrons constituted the administrative units for handling trainees at Jefferson Barracks in the fall of 1940. In theory the first
* Additional basic training centers were established at Kearns, Utah; Lincoln, Neb.; Fresno, Calif.; Buckley Field, Colo.; Greensboro, N.C.; Gulfport Field, Miss.; and Amarillo, Tex. A provisional center was also established at Seymour-Johnson Field, N.C., during the summer of 1943.
squadron received, clothed, and processed the men; the second gave them a three-week training course; and the third arranged for their dispersal to other stations. Because of the newness of the task and the large daily influx of recruits, efforts tended to be concentrated on problems of housing, clothing, and equipping the men, and training was neglected. In the spring of 1941, school squadrons became training squadrons, each of which assumed responsibility for processing, training, and shipping its own men.
After Keesler and Sheppard Fields began to function in the summer of 1941, the Technical Training Command sought to provide more effective supervision for the work of the training squadrons by establishing provisional school groups, with a group supervisor to coordinate the activities of the squadrons assigned to his organization. This officer had the status of an assistant post executive but was without command functions. Later, during the winter of 1942–43, training wings replaced the provisional school groups, and the groups took over the training function. Upon arrival at a BTC, recruits reported to a training group for assignment to one of its flights. For instructional purposes a flight was regarded as a class, and its members went through all phases of the training program together.
The first training schedule, issued at Jefferson Barracks in October 1940, covered a four-week period, with time allocated as follows:
|Articles of War||4|
|Personal hygiene and first aid||12|
|Wearing of uniform||8|
|Alpha and mathematics test||2|
|School of the Soldier||127|
|Interior guard duty||6|
A breakdown of School of the Soldier gave principal emphasis to physical training, squad drill, platoon drill, company drill, marching and ceremonies, and field marches. Two observations are pertinent – the emphasis on Infantry subjects and the absence of weapons training. Subsequent programs at Jefferson Barracks and at Keesler and Sheppard Fields followed this schedule in most respects, with modifications to meet local conditions.
The BTC’s, handicapped by the absence of training directives and by shortages in personnel, equipment, and facilities, failed to attain desired standards of proficiency until more than a year after Pearl Harbor. Orders to fill technical school quotas even though recruits so shipped had not completed the training program also served to compound the difficulties. The length of the basic training program for most recruits remained fixed at four weeks, although there had been a general complaint that it was impossible to give more than superficial instruction in so short a period. The only exceptions to this rule applied to personnel from Arms and Services with the AAF (ASWAAF) and to enlisted men who were not to be assigned to technical schools; by directive from Headquarters, AAF the basic training program for these two categories was to be extended to eight weeks. Otherwise, the necessity for rigid compliance with the directive to keep the technical school quotas filled continued to be emphasized, a policy which its proponents justified by the hope that time could be found in the technical schools to make up at least part of the resulting deficiencies in basic training. Hence, for thousands of recruits during 1942 basic training centers were primarily reception centers where they were processed, given only the most superficial kind of training, and then shipped off to technical schools.
Changes in the basic training program began in 1943, and by 1944 a marked improvement was noticeable. Reports from overseas commanders pointed out that men reaching their theaters lacked training essential for survival, particularly in marksmanship, marching, and bivouac. With the training program approaching full tide and the demand for shortcuts to fill quotas lessened, it became possible on 1 May 1943 to lengthen the basic training period to eight weeks for all recruits, a period sufficiently long to allow more time for subjects already in the curriculum or the addition of new ones. In addition, the accumulated experiences of those in charge of basic training led to the adoption of improvements that enriched the program.
Although higher headquarters had long been aware of the deficiencies in basic training, it was not until June 1943 that Headquarters, AAF undertook to establish minimum requirements for training of personnel before their assignment overseas. Starting in July 1943 an attempt was also made to set up a standardized program for the eight-week basic training program in effect at the BTC’s. Emphasis was placed on subjects with a practical application to survival in the combat
areas – camouflage, chemical warfare, map reading, marching and bivouac, and marksmanship. A memorandum issued by the AAF Training Command in December 1943 prescribed an eight-week schedule of instruction for regular trainees and a five-week schedule for preaviation cadets. Only two revisions of this memorandum had appeared by the end of 1994, although supplementary memoranda on specific subjects in the schedules were issued from time to time.*
The initial processing period at a BTC lasted from four to six days. It was essentially an orientation period. Orientation talks given by commanding officers and other commissioned personnel afforded an excellent opportunity to ease the minds of men whose reception center experience had been disturbing. The value of such talks depended entirely upon the officer’s interest, personality, and effectiveness as a speaker. Other processing lectures on military courtesy, Articles of War, sex hygiene, war bonds, and life insurance were, except for the one on sex hygiene, given by enlisted men. Films were used whenever applicable. Processing also included blood-typing, immunization, a “showdown” inspection of clothing and equipment, elementary drill instruction, and tests and interviews at the classification section.†
Earlier failures to provide adequate training in marksmanship were attributable to more than the haste to get men on to the technical
* The last revision prescribed subjects and minimum hours as follows:
|Articles of War||2|
|Organization of the Army||1|
|Military discipline, customs, and courtesies||3|
|Medical aid (including 8 hours of military sanitation and sex hygiene, 8 hours of first aid, 4 hours of malaria control, and 3 hours of personal adjustment)||23|
|Close order drill||14|
|Camouflage and individual security (including scouting and patrolling and defense against air attack)||9|
|Interior guard duty||2|
|Care of clothing and equipment; and tent-pitching||5|
|Safeguarding military information||1|
|Defense against chemical attack||6|
|Marksmanship and small-arms firing||54|
|Army orientation course||5|
|Marches and bivouacs||24|
† See below, pp. 542-44.
schools and the often overwhelming burden of the administrative load. Possessed of the lowest priority rating of any training unit in the Army, the BTC’s lacked arms and ammunition; most of them had no firing ranges, and engineering difficulties slowed construction of such facilities as were made available; and they were woefully short on officers and enlisted men qualified to give marksmanship instruction. Reports streamed into Washington from overseas, from the continental air forces, and from air inspectors that troops had little or no training in the use of small arms; and on 31 December 1942 the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, Lt. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney, commented on the situation in a memorandum to the Chief of the Air Staff:–
I note that practically without exception all service units being shipped overseas have fired only a familiarization course with the weapon with which they are armed. As I understand it, this familiarization course consists of only twenty rounds. It seems to me that an individual who has fired only twenty rounds would be more dangerous to himself and his fellow-soldiers than to the enemy.2
In January 1943 the War Department responded by directing that no soldier, with the exception of certain normally unarmed technical specialists, would be transferred for movement overseas until he had fired the course prescribed for the weapon which he was issued – a directive that seems to have been aimed at correcting Army-wide, not merely AAF, training deficiencies.
It took time to give full effect to this directive, but by July 1943 schedules prescribed by AAF Headquarters stipulated an allotment of ninety-nine hours to marksmanship. Meanwhile, the burden of catching up on arrears fell heavily upon the technical schools, which were feverishly active during the latter part of 1943 providing the necessary ranges, weapons, ammunition, and instructors. The technical schools were relieved of most of this responsibility after mid-1944, by which time practically no recruits left BTC’s without having fulfilled all training standards for firing. By that time, too, the Training Command had discovered that a fifty-four-hour course at BTC was sufficient to assure the necessary proficiency.
In contrast with the difficulties experienced in marksmanship, the physical fitness program at the BTC’s was highly successful from the very first. Physical conditioning for trainees started immediately upon arrival and continued systematically and progressively until they left. The program was designed to develop strength, coordination, agility, and skill; it included both calisthenics and athletic games that developed
confidence and spirit. To an increasing extent, emphasis was placed on exercises which would have the greatest military significance – the obstacle course and hand-to-hand fighting. Individual physical fitness tests were inaugurated in 1942 to measure the progress made by recruits at intervals during the training period. Such tests spurred men on to greater effort. Research on cumulative physical fitness scores likewise enabled the training specialists to revise and enrich their programs. Doubtless many trainees considered the program too strenuous, but the policy implicit in training directives was that to achieve results men should “give until it hurts.”
Training in chemical warfare defense, although a part of the basic military training program from its inception, received little emphasis until 1943 when chemical warfare officers assumed charge of this instruction. From then on, recognition of the importance of the subject gradually replaced the lack of interest previously so evident among AAF officers. More equipment was made available, the course of instruction was lengthened, and its content varied. Instruction by lectures and films was supplemented by practical training in the use and importance of the gas mask, a phase of instruction carried on in specially constructed gas chambers. Gas-alert days were scheduled during which all personnel were required to carry their masks, since any part of a post area might be sprayed at any time. Extensive use was also made of training aids in the form of charts, posters, cartoons, and displays of equipment and protective clothing. An important part of the course included demonstrations of chemical agents such as incendiaries and smokes and of methods of combating them.
As lessons from combat theaters found their way into the training program, more attention was paid to camouflage, individual security, defense against air attack, scouting and patrolling, and recognition of American aircraft – subjects combined in 1949 into a nine-hour course. The importance of such subjects was reinforced by more time being given to bivouacs and marches. Living in the open under simulated field conditions, trainees were physically hardened, learned how to protect themselves from disease and the elements, and withal got realistic practice which supplemented the lectures, films, and demonstrations of their classroom instruction.
The task of orienting trainees in the ideology of the war was greatly aided when the armed services, in cooperation with the motion picture industry, began to issue feature-length war orientation films. Such films as “Prelude to War,” “The Nazis Strike,” “Divide and
Conquer,” and “Battle of Britain” were calculated to impress upon the men the threat to their cherished way of life. After mid-1943 basic training programs also allotted from five to eight hours to what was called an Army orientation course. The objectives were to provide factual information on the causes of the war; to discuss the war aims of the United Nations and the personal role and responsibility of the individual in total war; and by means of a wide variety of films and news maps, supplemented by lectures, to afford recruits a chance to follow the progress of the conflict. The course was well calculated to enlist the interest and enthusiasm of the personnel for whom it was intended.
All phases of basic training suffered from a shortage of qualified officer personnel, but nowhere was it so marked as on the drill field and in the classrooms. Many factors accentuated the problem. There was a great demand in 1942 for the services of competent men, especially for cadres to staff new installations, and this rapid turnover spread the experienced men very thin. Many officers, commissioned directly from civilian life, lacked military experience and were singularly unfitted for Army duties, particularly instructional ones. Mal-assignments were frequent, and capable instructors were as likely as not to be kept at administrative jobs in which their talents were lost in a maze of paper work, while officers with little interest in training activities received teaching assignments. Even more serious, when promotions were made, administrative officers were more likely to receive them. This hurt the morale of the instructional staff, and at times an assignment to the drill field was looked upon as a kind of exile for men unable to perform administrative duties.
From time to time schools for the correction of officers’ teaching deficiencies were set up in the BTC’s. The one held at Jefferson Barracks late in 1943 was significant because the course, material for which was derived from the training program then in use there, placed emphasis on teaching methods. Students were required to achieve a high level of proficiency, and their subsequent assignments at this post were exclusively in the instructional field. Schools like this one paid off by raising the level of recruit training. A similar course was revived in August 1945 when some 200 rated officers were assigned to BTC’s to assist in the training program. Before assuming duties as instructors, they were given a short course at the station level in order to qualify them for these duties.3
The shortage of assigned enlisted men at BTC’s was as serious as
that of officers. There was a continual drain on the permanent party for staffing cadres and to permit qualified men to attend OCS and to go into the aviation cadet program or to technical schools. Overseas combat duty eventually claimed most physically qualified men. As a result, there was a constant search for replacements among limited service men.
It was universally accepted that drill instructors made up the most important group among permanent party enlisted men. A drill instructor was first and foremost a teacher, but even aside from the formal instruction they gave, these men had it in their power to influence in marked degree the manner in which recruits accepted Army life. Many men who held this job, unfortunately, were unfit for it by training, inclination, and personality. To fill the ranks of drill instructors BTC’s found it convenient to choose recruits who had just completed their basic training and give them a course in a drill instructor school. When graduates were too few, a not uncommon situation, resort to other measures was necessary, and outstanding trainees, men who had some previous military service, and eliminated aviation cadets were put to work on the drill field while awaiting other assignments. Even preaircrew trainees who desired drill instructor assignments pending entry into preflight training were utilized in the fall of 1944, and in the summer of 1945 some 600 aviation cadets who had just graduated from preflight served as drill instructors while in an on-the-line status* at Keesler and Sheppard Fields.
Perhaps the most perplexing problem faced by the basic training centers in the last two years of the war was that of maintaining morale. As the trainee population became more diversified after 1942, morale problems peculiar to each new type of trainee developed. ASWAAF’s, who belonged to organizations not integral to the Air Corps, felt that they were being discriminated against. Pre-aviation cadets were apprehensive about possible elimination or delay in getting into the aircrew training program. Eliminated aviation cadets, sent to BTC’s from college training detachments and preflight and flying schools, found it difficult to make the adjustment to their lowered status. Those men who had been transferred from the Army Ground and Army Service Forces for aircrew training and then declared ineligible early in 1944 because of the curtailment of that program
* See below, pp. 564-66.
were particularly dissatisfied. Another disgruntled group consisted of the trainees and instructors formerly in the War Service Training program who had been sent to BTC’s for reclassification and reassignment after discontinuance of that program late in 1943. The most serious morale problem, however, arose from the presence of combat returnees who began to arrive in large numbers after mid-1943. Following processing, these men were compelled to make up any deficiencies found in their basic training records. It was often necessary for them to study subjects which they understood thoroughly as a result of their combat experience.
Evaluation of the AAF’s basic military training program during World War II requires that praise and blame be distributed in about equal proportions. Much that was poorly done must be attributed to the lack of experienced personnel qualified to administer such a vast program, to the haste that was attendant upon the establishment of the facilities for the training, and to the fact that responsible training officials were so intent on filling the quotas for special training that until mid-1943 they overlooked obvious defects in basic military training.
General Classification Procedures
A system of classification of enlisted men, such as the Army later adopted for all personnel who were inducted into its various arms and services, had gradually been developed in the air arm in the interval between the two world wars. By the late 1930’s many of the jobs performed by Air Corps enlisted men had become so technical that trade-test centers for screening all recruits by test and interview were established at major Air Corps stations. These centers had World War I antecedents, trade-test boards having been used then to select qualified recruits for specialized training at the two air technical schools. After the war similar boards continued to operate at Chanute Field, under the supervision of a trade-test division. There, by 1939, applicants for specialist training, whether obtained on assigned status from Air Corps stations or directly from civilian life, were being sifted by tests and then assigned to any one of a dozen courses which were given at Chanute Field and its affiliated schools.4
After the start of the expansion program in 1939, trade testing was decentralized and a number of major installations – including Langley,
Mitchel, Barksdale, March, Hamilton, and Moffett Fields – were designated as recruit reception posts. All enlistees were tested during the recruit training and indoctrination period to determine their eligibility for assignment to meet the enlarged technical training goals. Recruits who qualified were earmarked for assignment to technical schools; those unqualified were slated for apprentice training which might later permit them to qualify for specialist training. All testing was supervised by the trade-test division at Chanute Field which acted as a clearinghouse to insure standardized administration of the examinations. By the fall of 1940 about two dozen trade-test centers were in operation. They supervised the filling out of information cards, administered and graded tests, interviewed each trainee regarding choice of school, and obtained a transcript of each enlisted man’s high school record. Tests included the Army’s revised Alpha mental alertness test, a shop mathematics test, and standard oral and pictorial trade tests. After the recruit’s general aptitude for technical training had been established by the test, he was interviewed to determine the course to which he would be assigned. Admission to some courses, particularly those which were more advanced and complicated, was restricted to high-scoring candidates.5
Meantime, a parallel development was occurring in the Army, a move that would supplement and, at times, complicate the classification system of the air arm.6 In 1940 the War Department, confronted with thousands of men brought into the Army through general mobilization and selective service, adopted an Army-wide classification system designed to insure the proper assignment of each individual. Under authority of Army Regulation 615–25, a network of reception and replacement training centers was established to process and screen recruits for suitable assignment to all arms and services. The reception centers were clearinghouses for the Army as a whole, while replacement training centers were arm or service installations designed to give additional screening to meet branch requirements.7 The main task of the reception centers was to distribute recruits in such a way that all arms and services got a fair share of men in terms of quality as well as numbers. To this end, every recruit was classified by civilian experience, aptitude, and intelligence so that requisitions for each branch might be met with an appropriate distribution of men with the desired qualifications.8
A soldier’s qualification card (WD AGO Form 20), which occupied a central place in the scheme of classifying and assigning enlisted men, was filled out partly at the reception center and more fully later at the BTC. This form, devised soon after the effective date of the Selective Service Act of 1940, was kept current through-out a soldier’s career by the addition of pertinent information; it followed him wherever he went until he died in the service or was discharged, at which time the form was forwarded to The Adjutant General for permanent filing. When Form 20 was recorded and coded, all data necessary for a comprehensive picture of the soldier’s abilities and background were always at hand; this form was intended to facilitate his successive placement in assignments well suited to his aptitude.
Army reception centers used a series of test batteries and interviews to ascertain the job experience and mental equipment of recruits. The standard battery included the Army general classification test (AGCT), a mechanical aptitude (MA) test, and a radio code aptitude test. The AGCT was introduced in the fall of 1940 to guide the Army in its training activities by identifying fast and slow learners. Test scores revealed the probable speed of learning and permitted recruits to be divided into five grades: Grade I (130 and above) ; Grade II (110 to 129); Grade III (90 to 109); Grade IV (60 to 89); Grade V (59 and below). The MA test was at first given only to those who scored above Grade V on the AGCT, but after March 1943, when the manpower pinch developed, it was given to all men except illiterates and non-English-speaking enlisted men. All men who scored eighty-five or above on the AGCT were given the test which indicated ability to master Morse code.9
An important phase of the classification of recruits was the interview which uncovered such civilian experiences as skills derived from employment or hobbies and the extent and type of schooling. The objective was to establish a relationship between civilian occupational experiences and a job specialty that would be most useful to the Army. The principal guide in ascertaining this relationship was AR 615–26, an index that defined and coded civilian occupations by specification serial numbers (SSN’s) and tried to match them with Army counterparts called military occupational specialties (MOS’s), which were also coded by SSN. Many civilian SSN’s, such as cook, could be converted directly to military SSN’s; other MOS’s, such
as aircraft armorer, were distinctly military and required varying degrees of training.10
After the interview a classifier reviewed the recruit’s papers and made a recommended assignment to an MOS within the arm or service that had a particular need for it. Army reception centers appear to have given more weight to occupational specialty than to aptitude and intelligence in making assignments, principally because they were guided by requirement and rate tables that indicated numbers and types of occupational specialties needed by each branch of the Army in rates per 1,000. The Adjutant General prepared the tables and revised them continuously to meet changing arms and services requirements. Each shipment of men from a reception center presumably contained the required percentages of occupational specialists but, when men with exact qualifications were not available, substitutions were made in related job specialties.11
The expansion of the Army after Pearl Harbor placed a staggering burden on the Army reception center classification system; within a year AAF enlisted personnel alone were to increase from approximately 330,000 to nearly 1,470,000, and by August 1942 a goal of 2,200,000 officers and men had been projected. Since all Army enlisted personnel would be channeled through the reception centers, the AAF faced a difficult problem. Assignments from these centers were based primarily on occupational specialties, and the majority of the specialties required by the AAF did not, in view of the relative newness of the aircraft industry, turn up in men secured through the draft. Moreover, the technicians needed in the AAF were to be put through a training course considerably more condensed than those of prewar years, and this speed-up presupposed trainees with intelligence superior to run-of-the-mine draftees. Air Corps experience with draftees in 1941 had demonstrated that almost half of those received had lacked the intelligence necessary for technical training, and the War Department was informed in January 1942 that unless this situation was corrected, the paramount mission of the Air Corps would be jeopardized. Consequently, the AAF sought and obtained a ruling that after 2 February 1942 at least 75 per cent of the reception center regular Air Corps allotment should contain men scoring 100 or better on the AGCT.12
With this ruling as a basic policy, the AAF next took steps to insure that it got all men from reception centers who had aviation experience and interest, and after March 1942 all recruits who had
previous training in aircraft factories, with airlines or in aeronautical schools, and as weather observers and weather forecasters were assigned to the AAF. By June 1942 draftees who had one month’s or more experience in any phase of airline operation and those employed immediately prior to entry into the service in the manufacture of aircraft, aircraft engines, and other accessories, were likewise tagged for AAF assignments. Special measures had also been taken in March to retain in the service of the AAF those thousands of civilians employed in a civil service capacity as mechanics, technicians, and other specialists who were liable to draft calls and thus might be lost to other arms and services. It was proposed that such persons when drafted should report to the nearest reception center for processing and then return to their station of origin as part of the AAF monthly quotas. This recommendation was accepted by TAG and broadened several months later to cover personnel employed by all arms and services at AAF stations.13
By summer the Army Ground Forces and the Services of Supply had complained so vigorously about this preferential treatment of the AAF that the War Department decided to rescind the 75 per cent rule on 18 July 1942, and an allotment system of assignment was reinstituted. The return of this “grab-bag” system, as the AAF called it, caused General Arnold to appeal directly to the Chief of Staff for reinstatement of the former policy. On 29 August, Arnold told Marshall that the rapid and continued commitment of air units to combat, in accordance with over-all strategic plans, could only be accomplished by a great acceleration of training, and that the speed-up was feasible only if men of a high order of intelligence were as-signed to the AAF. Ten days later the War Department put the AAF back in a favored position and ordered that during September and October (later extended through November) the monthly quotas for the AAF should include 50,000 men who scored 100 or better on both the AGCT and the MA tests. This new preferential policy turned out to be even better for the AAF than the old 75 per cent rule, since only about 33 per cent of the men tested scored 100 on both tests. As a consequence, the top third of the available man-power received at reception centers was assigned to the AAF during these three months. These high-scoring inductees constituted almost three-quarters of the new personnel received by the AAF from reception centers in this period.14
Later in November 1942 the AAF warded off another threat to
return to the “grab-bag” system, and General McNarney, deputy chief of staff, ruled that preferential assignment to the AAF would remain in effect until 30 June 1943. The ruling, made on 28 November, provided that 55 per cent of the men assigned by reception centers to the AAF should have scores of 100 or better on both the AGCT and the MA tests. This took the AAF past the peak of its enlisted personnel expansion program, a peak reached in May 1943; by that time, too, its technical training projects were “over the hump.” The 55 per cent rule was voided on 1 June 1943, a month before it was scheduled to expire.15
Once an enlisted man reached an AAF basic training center, the process of classification continued until the type of training or duty to be given each recruit was determined. Recruits were first divided into three categories on the basis of an examination of Form 20’s and a physical examination which determined physical classification (highly significant in 1943 when men with superior physical qualifications were needed in combat-crew training programs): “potential” specialists, nonspecialists designated for technical training, and basics. Specialists included those with civilian or military training which fitted them for immediate assignment to a unit and those with an authenticated ability in a rare specialty needed by the AAF. Non-specialists were those whose AGCT and MA scores met the minimum acceptable standards for technical training. Basics were men who possessed no special abilities and had made low aptitude scores; they were assigned to units for immediate on-the-job training commensurate with their ability. About half of the AAF enlisted personnel during the period from 1939 to 1945 fell into the second category. For this group the round of testing and screening continued until they were assigned to a particular course of instruction. If quotas permitted and other requirements were met satisfactorily, trainees were encouraged to volunteer for the type of training they desired. Orientation lectures, generally slanted so as to encourage interest in courses with large personnel requirements and continuously revised as demands shifted from one program to another, outlined the types of training available (including aircrew, combat-crew, ground-crew, and ASWAAF schools) and the prerequisites for assignment. During 1942 the emphasis was placed on the advantages of ground-crew training as airplane mechanics, armorers, and radio operators; in 1943 combat-crew programs were stressed.16
Although the AAF had insisted that it must have men with a minimum score of 100 on both the AGCT and the MA tests for initial selection as trainees in most of its technical courses, it was forced to modify these entrance requirements in mid-1942 when preferential assignment to the AAF was temporarily discontinued. The first breach occurred when standards for gunnery training were lowered to admit men with a score of seventy-five on the AGCT and a score of eighty on the MA tests. Later, in the fall of 1942, a score of eighty-five on the AGCT would admit men to most basic courses, and in the winter of 1943 recruits with a score of eighty on the AGCT could take the radio code and mathematics tests. By May 1943 classification officers had been directed to use their own discretion in relaxing standards for selection of eligible men to be entered in technical training courses. Anticipating a rush of inductees with lower AGCT scores, classifiers were told to follow this criterion: “Will the recruit be of more value to the service after under-going technical training, even though he may ‘wash-back’ one, two or three phases of technical training?”17
The classification of technical trainees was also affected for a period of about four months during 1943 by General Weaver’s campaign to do away with conventional classroom teaching methods and substitute a system of practical demonstration and performance. All means of instruction dependent upon words – books, written examinations, lectures, and blackboard demonstrations – were eliminated from all courses except a few where language was essential. To bring classification into line with this policy, a battery of sixteen practical performance tests was adopted as a partial substitute for paper and pencil tests.18 The experiment ran into all sorts of difficulties: in obtaining equipment and machinery, in servicing the test equipment, in standardizing and validating tests, and in administering the program in the BTC’s. The resulting confusion called forth an investigation by The Adjutant General’s office, and when the Flying and Technical Training Commands were consolidated in July 1943, the Training Command junked all but two of the performance aptitude tests and a large number of paper and pencil tests. After 15 September 1943 the following battery was used through-out the remainder of the war: weather-aptitude test, cryptography-aptitude test, general technical test, and trade information test. Minimum AGCT scores for basic courses were established at eighty-five,
and classifiers were told to consider carefully past skills and hobbies as well as test scores in selecting eligibles for training.19
After classification had been accomplished at basic training centers, the next step was assignment to a training program. At this stage, particularly during the first year and a half of the war when changes in programs, allotments, and school quotas were sudden and unexpected, whole groups of trainees classified and tentatively ticketed for one assignment might be reassigned for entry into a training program that had been given a higher priority.20 The fault was not at the BTC’s but at higher headquarters where school quotas were “prepared in many cases without regard for the number of enlisted men of the desired categories actually on hand.” Under these circumstances, assignment officials had no choice; keeping quotas filled was paramount and “outweighed abilities and aptitude in the matter of assignment. Thus inevitably the careful work of the classification sections frequently came to naught.”21
Better coordination was achieved after July 1943 and was brought about by two factors. In the first place, the training of technicians had reached a stage where the programs could begin to taper off, and more emphasis could be placed on quality than on quantity in the classification and assignment of personnel. In the second place, the consolidation of the two training commands eliminated a great deal of duplication and resulted in a much needed centralization of authority. Gradually, the most pressing problems incident to control over flow and assignment of personnel were smoothed out at Training Command headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas.
After 1 April 1944 control of student flow and assignment was greatly improved by the adoption of the consolidated training directive (CTD). Consisting of a basic communication and accompanying tabs prepared by AC/AS, Training, the CTD gave figures and dates upon which the Training Command was to base its plans. Approximately two weeks after receipt of the CTD, a report, based on data obtained by the Training Command from its subcommands, was made to Headquarters, AAF showing the number of men in the flying and technical* training pipelines and the number that would be available for meeting commitments. To assist its subcommands in planning to meet future commitments, the Training Command
* The CTD, applicable at first only to aircrew trainees, was broadened to include technical student requirements in February 1945.
issued to them monthly an enlarged condensed flow chart which amounted to a directive, since it enumerated the sources of personnel, set the number to be entered in various training programs, and established the graduation dates.22 These steps taken by the higher headquarters made it possible to eliminate the snarls that plagued the classification process in the earlier years of the war.
Evolution of Aircrew Classification
The aircrew classification system adopted by the AAF in December 1941 was not a new development. Similar procedures had been in use by the Army air arm for a quarter of a century, although the high educational and physical requirements then in favor and the low quota authorized for the peacetime Air Corps had kept the number so processed small. Still, every effort had been made to improve the procedures for ascertaining characteristics that make for success in military aviation. The advent of war, however, brought a tremendous expansion of the Air Corps and resulted in the adoption of the assembly-line technique in the processing of candidates for aircrew training.23
The Air Corps had planned for such an eventuality. A psychological research project for making a study of pilot selection was established in the OCAC Medical Division on 14 June 1941. Six weeks later, an initial program of tests designed to ascertain the psychological characteristics which contribute to success in flying was ready to be administered to aviation cadets at the projected Air Corps replacement centers (aircrew). The original test battery included some standardized tests plus others constructed especially for use in this program. Although test results were to be used for research purposes only, the intent was to develop practical procedures that could be used at the time of induction to identify candidates with the requisite characteristics.24
When the first Air Corps replacement center was opened at Maxwell Field, Alabama, on 6 September 1941, a thirty-hour initial processing and military indoctrination schedule was established for incoming aircrew candidates. Authority was granted to include in this schedule six hours for psychological examinations to be given in three periods of two hours each. The on-the-spot administration of these tests was delegated to a psychological research section established at Maxwell Field. Similar sections were later established at San Antonio,
Texas, and at Santa Ana, California. The immediate objective of this research program on pilot trainees was the development of means for measuring those aptitudes, special abilities, and psychological characteristics associated with subsequent success or failure of cadets in flight training. It was planned that after each class had completed its flight training, a statistical analysis would be made of the test scores of the successful and unsuccessful cadets to determine which tests should be retained as predictive devices for the selection and classification of future classes.25 This research on psychological testing of pilot trainees was begun at Maxwell Field on 13 October 1941. Both written and psychomotor tests were included in the test battery. Psychomotor tests sought to measure such characteristics as steadiness, balance and equilibrium, reaction time, and ability to think clearly and read directions under conditions of confusion. Early test equipment included jigsaw puzzles, mechanical gadgets, and a device consisting of a panel of lights manipulated by a set of airplane controls. Other special machines and apparatus were being manufactured and readied for use during this period.26
Meantime, the Air Corps had become greatly concerned over the high elimination rate among bombardier and navigator students. Specialized training programs for these members of the aircrew, unlike that for pilot trainees, were little more than a year old. Previous to 1940 bombardier, navigator, and gunnery training had been an incidental, though necessary, part of the training given to pilots, on whom the Air Corps had always centered its attention and to whom it had given all publicity. But the development of fast, maneuverable, multiengine planes, particularly the medium and heavy bombers, had given new significance to responsibilities other than those of piloting in aircraft which required for their operation aircrews of trained specialists.27 Originally, it had been planned to utilize as either bombardiers or navigators those eliminated pilot trainees who were willing to volunteer for further training and who could meet the particular educational qualifications required for these specialties. The policy was not working satisfactorily, partly because the morale of eliminated pilot trainees was low, but mainly because of classification experts’ ignorance of the psychological characteristics which made for success in bombardier and navigator training.
In the spring of 1941 the Assistant Chief of the Air Corps sought and obtained from the National Research Council results of its
research on the testing of Navy flying personnel, and in May 1941 he directed that a study on bombardier and navigator aptitude be undertaken by the Air Corps Technical Training Command, then located at Chanute Field. The study was conducted during the summer and fall of 1941 by a personnel technician who rode in Army aircraft, inspected and familiarized himself with bombardier and navigator equipment, and tested cadets undergoing training at Barksdale, Maxwell, Ellington, and Kelly Fields, and at the AAF Navigation School at Albany, Georgia. Although the preliminary report of the study was encouraging, it was clear that further experimental testing on a larger number of trainees was needed before the Air Corps could rely upon a test battery for selection and classification purposes. Accordingly, the Technical Training Command continued with its study during the rest of 1941.28
While both the pilot-selection project and the bombardier-navigator aptitude study were still operating on an experimental basis, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. On 8 December 1941 General Arnold directed the chief of the Medical Division to begin using the new processing tests and gadgets right away.29 Although the psychologists in the Medical Division had not had time to validate all phases of the testing program, enough data had been analyzed and verified to permit early conversion from a peacetime and experimental project to a wartime classification system. Heretofore, men appointed as aviation cadets had decided the type of training they would receive. Final determination between the alternatives presented was now assumed by the Air Corps rather than the individual. In line with this decision, the Medical Division was given complete responsibility for the preparation of tests to be used in the selection and classification of aircrew personnel and for research connected therewith.30
The administration of the psychological testing program was organized as follows: psychological personnel in Headquarters, AAF formulated general plans and directed research; actual test operations necessary to the classification of aircrew members was performed by a psychological research unit stationed at each of the three Air Corps replacement centers. In addition, a psychological section to coordinate the program was established in the office of the Flying Training Command surgeon.31
Many problems beset the Flying Training Command in getting the
classification program under way. The replacement training centers at Maxwell and Kelly Fields were so crowded with aviation cadets during the first six months after war was declared that many men had to be housed in temporary “tent cities,” and some were even farmed out to nearby airfields until facilities could be provided for them at the centers. The Santa Ana Army Air Base in California was still under construction during 1942. Preflight schools shared the facilities at all three locations. Much of the equipment needed in psycho-motor testing was not yet available, and resort was made to devices and gadgets of local construction.32
The establishment of separate classification centers for aircrew candidates was recommended by a training conference convened at Randolph Field on 12–13 January 1942. Such installations were to be essentially pooling places where the thousands of civilians coming into the Army for aviation cadet training would receive a physical examination and inoculations and be quarantined for several weeks. During this period cadets would receive uniforms and equipment, be indoctrinated in the ways of military life, and be classified for air-crew training in one of the three specialties, or, if eliminated from aircrew training, be assigned to one of the enlisted combat-crew training programs or to ground duty.
The Flying Training Command desired to locate these “pooling” installations near its training schools which, with few exceptions, were strung out across the nation in the area south of the 37th parallel where weather conditions were most conducive to year-round flying. Moreover, the distribution of population in the United States had to be considered. Training officials therefore wanted one classification center in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, another in Texas, and a third at Santa Ana, California. This division took account of the fact that four-ninths of the total population of the nation would be served by the Tennessee location, three-ninths by a Texas site, and two-ninths by a California site.33
The final decision to establish classification centers at Nashville, San Antonio, and Santa Ana was made concurrently with the start of the 50,000-pilot training program in March 1942. The function of these establishments was to be twofold-to serve as processing and classifying units and to enable the creation of reserve pools of classified students. Pools would facilitate the formation of preflight classes, since there would accrue a backlog of classified men to meet
any expansions in the training program. Aircrew candidates would flow into the classification centers at a relatively uniform daily rate; processing would require a minimum of three weeks, and the anticipated average length of time spent there would total twenty-six days. The elimination rate for physical deficiencies and other reasons was estimated at 15 per cent.34
Construction of the classification centers began in the spring of 1942. Meantime, processing continued at existing facilities. A temporary classification center was established at Maxwell Field on 25 April and continued to operate there until mid-July when it was moved to its new location at Nashville.35 At San Antonio the classification center established on 30 April shared facilities with a pilot preflight school on Kelly Field until September when its new quarters in the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center were ready for occupancy.36 At Santa Ana the classification center, activated on 15 June, occupied facilities constructed for it at the Santa Ana Army Air Base.37 Thus, by the fall of 1942 all three classification centers were operating in facilities designed and constructed especially for the purpose of classifying aviation cadets.
The Aircrew Classification Process
Men who qualified for aircrew training were a carefully selected group. After 15 January 1942 the aviation cadet qualifying examination was used in lieu of the former two-year college requirement, and it proved to be an excellent initial screening device. Even so, the number selected by this method turned out to be more than could be successfully trained as future pilots, bombardiers, and navigators. It therefore became possible, and desirable, for the Training Command to apply a second and more sensitive selective screening designed to select only those with a better-than-even chance of success in aircrew training, and to make sure that those so selected were channeled into the specific type of aircrew training in which they had demonstrated the highest aptitude. The task of administering the second selective screening was given to the classification centers.
The method of selection adopted by the Army Air Forces was known as “the classification battery” and consisted of a series of psychological and psychomotor tests prepared by expert professionals. Psychologists first had to decide what abilities or aptitudes promised success in each of the three types of aircrew training. To
this end, a job analysis was performed for each specialty. Information was obtained from every possible source – by talking with pilots, instructors, aviation cadets, flight surgeons, and others acquainted with aircrew activities and difficulties; and by making exhaustive studies of the ground-school courses which these men had to pass, of the planes they had to fly, and of the instruments and controls they had to read and manipulate. In an effort to discover causes of failure, careful studies also were made of the reports on 1,000 aviation cadets who had been eliminated from elementary flying schools.38
With these job analyses at hand, tests were constructed which it was expected would measure the extent to which each cadet possessed the required aptitudes. The only way to be certain, however, that each was a valid test was to try it out on a large group, admit all members of the group to training, and then keep score on them during their training career. If the test was a good one, only a small percentage of those who did poorly on it would graduate, while a large percentage of high scorers would do so. Every person who took the battery was given three scores, each of which was used to predict success in one of the chief aircrew positions: pilot, bombardier, and navigator. The three scores varied because the tests composing the battery were given different weights as applied to each of the three aircrew positions. The weights were assigned experimentally at first, but were later derived from actual correlation of results.39
Test scores were converted into “stanines.” The term was coined from the words “STAndard NINE,” and referred to the aptitude rating given each man on a scale that ranged from one to nine. A stanine of nine meant an individual was among those in the top scoring category on tests that predicted probability of success in the specialty for which the stanine was determined; a score of five meant he was in a group scoring in the middle category; a score of one placed him in the lowest category of scorers.
As soon as the psychological research units had accumulated sufficient evidence to demonstrate that stanine scores were reliable criteria upon which to base predictions, authority was granted to use the stanine as a selective device. After 2 July 1942 all men assigned to navigation training had to have a navigator stanine of five or above, and on 28 November 1942 a minimum stanine score of three was made prerequisite for assignment to either bombardier or pilot
training. At first stanines had been used only as a means of supporting recommendations to help determine whether cadets qualified for aircrew training should be trained as bombardiers, navigators, or pilots. When the training pipelines filled up at the end of 1943 and retrenchment began, the minimum qualifying stanine scores were successively revised upward so as to admit fewer aircrew trainees.40
Aviation cadets encountered two severe tests during the classification process. The first was a stiff medical examination requiring two days of the cadet’s time. Cadets who were found to have defects which under Army regulations could be waived were required to complete a special waiver form. This delayed their final classification until the waiver had been granted. Included also was a psychiatric interview to determine each applicant’s adaptability for military aeronautics. When all phases of the physical examination had been completed, the results for each cadet were recorded and the papers were reviewed by medical officers. When approved, these records were transmitted to the surgeon and the psychological research unit for use in preparing recommendations as to the types of training for which cadets were qualified.41
Aptitude testing also required two days and usually began about the fifth day after the cadet’s arrival. The tests were designed to measure speed and accuracy of perception; ability to read and understand technical information, including tables, charts, and graphs; degree of judgment and resourcefulness in practical problems; and knowledge of general mathematics, of general information, and of mechanical principles. All questions used in the tests were of the multiple-choice type, and those for each test were arranged in separate booklets. Answer sheets were of a special type which could be rapidly checked on electric scoring machines.
Psychomotor tests, unlike the “paper and pencil” tests, were administered to each cadet individually and were designed especially to measure motor coordination, finger dexterity, divided attention, steadiness under pressure, and ability to react quickly and accurately to constantly changing stimuli – in short, the extent of coordination between eyes and hands and feet. Much of the equipment was especially designed and constructed under the direction of the School of Aviation Medicine. During much of 1942, however, because of manufacturing bottlenecks equipment was in short supply, and temporary devices of local construction were utilized. One such
device, the finger dexterity apparatus developed at Santa Ana Air Base, proved so successful that it was adopted as a permanent part of the test battery.42
Classification centers soon discovered that cadets accepted the ordeal of classification best when they understood what the processing meant, why it was necessary, how it operated, and that it was a means of protecting the interests of the trainee himself as well as of the government. As a consequence, illustrated booklets were published which explained the purposes, methods, and function of each phase of the program.43 Trainees were cautioned that all parts of the psychological examinations would have a bearing on the selection for each of the aircrew positions, and that the deciding factor in determining the type of training to be given an individual was the relationship between grades on the different tests. Taken in the aggregate, test scores would show the things the applicant could do best.
Since an applicant would ordinarily do better in a type of training he desired, his own preference remained an important factor in classification. Cadets were told, however, that as a rule the trainee would not be classified for the type of training of his choice if his chances of success in that category were thought to be small. If displeased with his classification, the cadet could appeal to a board of officers.
Classification centers became extremely efficient installations. Carefully drafted schedules stipulated in minute detail every step of the classification procedure and military processing.44 The scheduled program normally lasted eighteen days, although in some instances it was lengthened to twenty-six. Medical and psychological examinations consumed the majority of the first week, but the processing schedule also included a multitude of required training and indoctrination features – military training, personal orientation, war orientation, mess management (a dressed-up term for KP), and a plenitude of other housekeeping duties. Cadets who had finished classification processing for bombardier, navigator, or pilot training discovered that their remaining days at the classification centers were just as filled as before. Each squadron was carefully checked for degree of military proficiency, and drill periods were much more frequent. In addition, emphasis was placed on physical training as the daily grind of rigorous conditioning exercises got under way. One half-day was also devoted to high-altitude indoctrination in the low-pressure chamber.
Approximately two weeks after the processing program began, each man learned what disposition was to be made of him. Those classified for aircrew training were directed to appear at the personnel office for notification of their specific assignments as pilot, bombardier, or navigator. If satisfied with their assignment, they signed a certificate of acceptance. Those men assigned contrary to their preferences had forty-eight hours in which to appeal their cases to a board of officers. The board also interviewed all cadets who had not qualified for aircrew training before making disposition of their cases. Normally, a cadet was classified and assigned without seeing a board.
In making assignments to aircrew training, officials charged with this responsibility considered three factors, which until late in 1943 were, in order of priority: 1) aptitude, 2) individual preference, and 3) quota availability. Thereafter, assignment officials had progressively smaller quotas to fill, and the order of priority shifted to: 1) availability of a quota, 2) aptitude, and 3) individual preference.45
Before taking the psychological tests each cadet filled out a preference blank on which he indicated his first, second, and third preferences as to type of training.46 The great majority of aviation cadets, however, indicated a strong preference for pilot training and since the need for pilots was preponderant, it was possible to assign most cadets to the type of training which was their first choice. The urge to become a pilot was a natural result of the long build-up which had been given to this phase of air training and coincided with the normal desire of youth for speed and adventure. This was manifest also in the preference which many showed for fighter over bomber pilot training.
At the conclusion of the psychological testing phase of processing, the director of the psychological research unit made recommendations for assignment of each cadet and submitted them to the S-(personnel) office for use in making the actual assignment. It was the chief responsibility of S-1 to see to it that quotas were filled.47 The assignment procedure worked smoothly when quota requirements were in accord with aptitude recommendations and individual preferences. When these factors could not be reconciled, difficulties were bound to arise. In order to make up quota deficiencies, arbitrary assignments were made without regard to the recommendations of the psychological research unit. Students assigned in this manner suffered a drop in morale, became easily disgruntled, and had a
higher rate of elimination. This practice was generally caused by sudden and unexpected increases in the bombardier and navigator quotas.48 Three developments rectified this situation. By the end of 1942 the classification centers were using minimum aptitude scores to select men for each of the aircrew categories and this meant placing more emphasis on the recommendations of the psychological research units.49 By this time, too, the bombardier and navigator programs had become better organized and the flow of students to these schools was easier to anticipate. Finally, it should be noted that a good job had been done in selling the public on the importance of the bombardier and navigator positions in the aircrew team. There was a greater willingness to accept nonpilot assignments and this was especially true of those men whose aptitude indicated that they would be more successful in bombardier or navigator training.
The disposition of eliminees at the classification centers followed a fairly constant pattern. The elimination rate at first was low, about 5 per cent, and was caused mainly by failure to meet the physical standards for aircrew training. A rapid rise in the number of eliminees occurred, however, during the latter half of 1942 when minimum stanine requirements for assignment to aircrew training were inaugurated. By the end of that year the elimination rate had more than doubled50 and it continued to increase with each raising of the minimum stanine requirements.
Eliminees were informed by a board of officers of the alternative types of training available to them. Usually an eliminee was sent to a basic training center for reassignment to gunnery or to technical training in preparation for combat-crew or ground-crew assignment as an enlisted man. Those who could qualify for training as administrators were given the opportunity to be sent to officer candidate school. It was important for morale, both of the eliminee and of the men who had been classified for aircrew training, to dispose of eliminees as quickly as possible.51
By midsummer of 1943, eliminees were being reassigned directly from classification centers to gunnery or to technical schools. Those sent to technical schools were to be trained as radio operator mechanics, aviation mechanics, or aircraft armorers. After September 1943 admission to these technical training schools was dependent upon the eliminee’s ability to pass tests in four subjects: code, mathematics, mechanical information, and mechanical movement. Those who
passed the tests with the prescribed scores were evenly distributed among the three types of technical training schools.52
The inauguration of a college training program for aircrew trainees in the spring of 1943 introduced new problems. Thousands of Air Corps reservists received a call to immediate active duty. After issuance of uniforms and routine processing at basic training centers, the trainees were sent to colleges where they were given from three to five months of academic training. From the colleges the students went to classification centers for aircrew assignment, and thence to preflight school for the type of aircrew training for which the testing showed them to be best adapted.
This procedure was inefficient, however, because many men when tested were found to be unqualified for aircrew training. It was soon realized that the assignment of personnel by selection accomplished most when aptitude testing was done early and the training departments were relieved of inept students. It was suggested, therefore, that men be classified at basic training centers and only those who met the stanine requirements for aircrew training be sent to colleges. This plan, estimated to save over 1,000,000 man-days per month, was adopted and placed into effect following the amalgamation of the Flying and Technical Training Commands in July 1943.53
Pre-college testing was begun on November 1943 by seven new medical and psychological examining units. These were installed at basic training centers located at Greensboro, North Carolina; Miami Beach, Florida; Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; Keesler Field, Mississippi; Sheppard and Amarillo Army Air Fields, in Texas; and Buckley Field, Colorado. Shortly after these new testing installations got under way it was announced that the three big classification centers would be inactivated. Aircrew classification ceased at Nashville in March 1944 and at San Antonio and Santa Ana on 31 May 1944.54 Moreover, the reduced training program, plus the decreased elimination rate in flying training during 1944, made it possible to abandon some of the medical and psychological examination units. By the close of 1944 only three – those at Keesler, Sheppard, and Amarillo Army Air Fields-continued to classify cadets.
Other changes also occurred as the size of training classes began to decline. In the spring of 1944 assignment to a particular type of aircrew training was placed in the hands of an assignment board located at each preflight school.55 The decision on type of training
was made by the end of the fifth week of preflight training. The new policy took account of the fact that future requirements for specific positions in the aircrew were difficult to gauge. By putting off the actual assignment as long as possible, assignment officials could cut their cloth to fit any desired pattern.
Minimum qualification scores, which were gradually raised during the second half of 1943 as the validity of the testing program became evident and quotas began to decline, were further increased in December 1943. The bombardier aptitude standard was set at 6, plus a navigator aptitude of 5; the pilot minimum was 6; and the navigator was 7. For those who had been eliminated from one type of aircrew training the minimum qualifying score was 7 for reassignment to training in any aircrew category. This high standard was applied to all classes of candidates in October 1944* The minimum qualifying score for bombardiers was increased from 7 to 8 in August 1945.56
During the last year and a half of the war a great deal of attention was devoted by the psychological research units to special studies and projects. These included the development of tests to provide criteria for the selection of other members of the aircrew: the radar observer, the flexible gunner, the armorer gunner, and the flight engineer. Studies were also made by special teams sent to transitional training schools and to overseas combat areas where the records of Training Command graduates were examined and data gathered in order to correlate the results of the test batteries and the actual performance record of the individual in his later training or in combat.57
The commanding general of the Army Air Forces paid tribute to the program when he said: “The Aviation Psychology program paid off in time, lives, and money saved, and through its selection of the raw material has aided in the establishment of an effective combat air force. This has been done at a total cost of less than $5 per candidate tested.”58 The psychological testing program was one of which both the AAF and the professional psychologists who engineered this mass study of aptitude could well be proud.59