"The lessons of this war are ours for the taking. Machines today are more important than men. I have always been of the opinion that if Mr Chamberlain had had 5,000 first-line planes at home when he conferred at Munich, we would have truly seen 'peace in our time.'" Ambassador Kennedy
From the age of the Greek triremes and the Roman legion to this war-wearied time, the world has been overrun and scourged by some conqueror with a new weapon or with a new use for an old weapon. The leader with a new twist to tactics or a new use for old weapons in his strategy was invincible until he had run his course or time had cut him down. There is no older lesson in military history.
Now, in our time, the rampant conqueror is Hitler; the new weapon is the airplane.
In 1914, but little more than a. decade after the first heavier-than-air flight, the more daring military leaders, using their initiative and imagination, were able to visualize the airplane as a new weapon as war broke savagely on battlegrounds centuries old. During the four turbulent years of that World War conflict the number of military airplanes in the combatant nations increased from less than 1,000 to more than 10 times that number. Aircraft did not, however, play the leading role in that conflict. Armies and navies settled that issue. There were some signs in the later days of that struggle which indicated that the next general war, if delayed a few years, might produce an important if not decisive air phase. These portents not plainly written, however, were largely overlooked by many of the foremost strategists of the world.
So far as is known, but three world-known military leaders came away from the first great war with a conviction that a new weapon, vital to modern warfare, had come into existence, and that the airplane was that weapon. One of these was our own Brigadier General William Mitchell. Another was Hermann Goering, now Marshal of the Reich. The third was Adm W E Sims, United States Navy.
General Mitchell came back to a nation which was tired of war, a people which had made a costly sacrifice and wanted to forget it. This was not a fertile soil for his teachings and pleadings for air power, and the time was far from ripe.
Hermann Goering worked under different conditions and upon an entirely different people and received a more attentive hearing. His people were smarting under the lash of adversity. Peace treaties closed opportunities to them for great armies and superior navies. They must turn to another expedient in order to rise from defeat. Goering proposed air power. A new German political school was just emerging and it seized upon his suggestion. The bloody sequel to this story is now being written in the skies above Europe.
What the final answer will be on the power and effect of the airplane in war no man now knows, but it should be read by every citizen of the world hot off the press. One thing already is clear, if the point of this sharp, new weapon air power is to be blunted, an anomaly will have appeared. The airplane may become the antidote to the air menace. The air fighter we know to be the stout shield which turns the bomber spear from the heart of mankind.
The airplane was not always a military weapon. Undoubtedly it is one of the great sorrows of the father of flight, Mr Orville Wright, to find his brain child turned to nefarious uses. Alert military men early realized, however, the latent possibilities of the airplane to bring new speed, new vision and new range to warfare. Some of the earliest students of the Wright brothers were officers of the United States Army. What could have been more natural than for these young lieutenants, after learning to fly, to carry machine guns, to put early radio sets in their frail craft and practice shooting from the air and sending messages to troops on the ground?
Now as we look back upon those early days in aviation it seems strange that all military leaders in all nations of the world did not realize at least the powers of extended vision and better communications and the increased influence of command which become possible, even with the earliest of those box kite airplanes. True, they could fly but 40 mph and could climb but a few thousand feet. But what a difference it would have made in warfare, looking back over history's campaigns and battles and combats, if the leaders could have seen a few more miles or could have delivered a message a little faster than the speed of a horse. If General Custer had had even the earliest of the Wright Flyers flying above him that morning in the Black Hills, he would not have been ambushed at the battle of the Little Big Horn. If Napoleon could have reached Blücher by aircraft, even at 40 mph, he might not have lost the battle of Waterloo.
We are less likely to condemn the old military masters for lack of vision and foresight at the turn of the century, when we remember that the Wright brothers were flying for several years almost daily at Dayton, OH, before the American public, generally, realized that human flight was possible.
Although surprising on some counts, it is none the less understandable now why so little use was made of the airplane during those 10 years from the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk to those dark days in August, 1914, when two great battle lines moved together from Verdun westward to the sea. The exigencies and emergencies of that conflict, the first great war, raised the curtain on the air era in armed conflict. The four years of that struggle saw the nations involved manufacture nearly 100,000 planes of all types. The haste with which those planes were constructed, and the status of the art in those times, caused many errors and many crashes to be built into those early war planes. Their own deficiencies and inadequacies, combined with the fact that the military leaders were old and were little disposed to welcome new weapons, prevented the airplane from developing into the stature of a full-fledged weapon of decisive consequence by Armistice time, 1918.
Had the war lasted another six months it is quite likely that the combined British and American bombing effort on German wartime industry would have revealed even to the most obtuse the fact that artillery had grown wings, that it was within the power of a military commander to dispatch a winged shot a couple of hundred miles into the enemy country and lay the destructive force of high explosives on munitions-manufacturing establishments, communication centers the sinews of war. In that event it would have altered current history. Mr Goering would not have been able to lift the depressed morale of the German people with the thought of a new weapon. The people of France would not have placed complete confidence in the greatest army and a stout wall of concrete and steel as the solutions to defense. The people of Britain would have been able to visualize a decisive battle which did not take place on the sea, with navies the vital factor.
Now that the fate of Europe turns on the Battle of Britain in a death struggle between German bombers and British fighters, now that we are engaged in a belated effort to make good our arrears and produce an air force capable of defense against any that exists anywhere in the world, it is well, it is wise, to examine this new weapon, the military airplane.
The style in fighting planes changes as rapidly as the hat and dress styles in Paris. The pendulum in aircraft design swings faster than a grandfather clock. The superior airplane today may be discarded as unsafe or unsound for air combat tomorrow.
The difficulty with the military airplane lies in the fact that it is always a compromise. How simple that would be, if one airplane type could serve as fighter, bomber, reconnaissance plane and cargo transport. There are some very different and widely varying tasks to be performed by the air weapon. The ultimate in efficiency for each of these tasks requires a different kind of vessel. It is extremely unlikely, therefore, that the all-purpose airplane will be developed soon one which will serve well all military functions and purposes.
The present trend in all the leading nations shows a breakdown into five different classifications the fighter, the bomber, the reconnaissance and observation plane, the cargo carrier or transport and the training plane. Each of these may have several subdivisions. In the fighter field we now find the tiny little single-seater, called an interceptor, which is really a flying machine-gun nest carrying one man, a limited number of guns, a small quantity of ammunition, and a tremendous amount of horsepower in the engine. It has one important quality and essential built into its compact little structure and that is the ability to climb rapidly to great altitude, 30,000 feet or more, to engage the oncoming enemy bomber. Speeds for such planes must be more than 350 mph for present-day combat if the air battles are to be won. [This prediction already has reached the 400 mph mark.Ed]
Then there is the multi-engine fighter, a bigger plane with two powerful engines, carrying a considerable number of machine guns and perhaps 20-mm or 30-mm cannon, and generally possessed of longer endurance for flight with consequent increased range. This type of plane is an air destroyer of a sort which cruises around the skies looking for heavy bombers and other worthwhile prey. The latest type may carry one or more in its combat crew.
There is a multi-seater fighter prevalent in some air forces, sometimes called an accompanying fighter, with 1,000- to 2,000-mile range, many guns and sometimes heavy cannon, a large supply of ammunition and generally two gunners and perhaps even a navigator, in addition to the pilot. The original conception in the design of this craft was to have a fighter to accompany bombers on long missions into enemy territory to ward off enemy pursuit or fighters. Most of those which have been developed to date have not shown great promise. They have been too slow and not sufficiently maneuverable to serve as the complete antidote to the smaller interceptor fighter.
There was a time in this country, and to a lesser extent in the air forces abroad, when many held that the fighter plane had passed from the picture. The events of the past year in the sky battles above Europe have settled all that and have left no chance for argument. The valiant stand of the fighter command of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain showed conclusively that the only reliable antidote to the enemy bomber is the fighter. In modern air combat it is the fighter that really brings disaster to hostile bombers. Other weapons tend to send the hostile planes higher in the air but do not consistently bring them down as do the pursuit or lighter pilots. Now there is a general feeling that 50 to 60% of the well-balanced air force of a nation will consist of the fighter type.
Despite the knowledge that the fighter under certain circumstances may be the superior of the bomber and capable of shooting it down, it is none the less a. fact that the bomber is the essential nucleus of an air force. The fighter is a defensive type of aircraft strategically, but the bomber is distinctly offensive in character. Battles and wars are won by a vigorous offensive and seldom, if ever, by the defensive.
Two things have served to retard the development of the bombing plane in this country. One is the feeling that the bombardment airplane, being a weapon of offense, brought into our war machine a device which operated in a manner contrary to our national military policy, which we have stoutly maintained for more than a century as defensive and mainly for the protection of our own shores. The other reason lay in the fact that the bomber, like a snake in the grass, is a particularly unpleasant fellow. He was unpopular with all and sundry because of his ability to drop high explosives, not always well aimed, at some establishments and peoples heretofore believed safe from molestation in warfare. Some years ago it was even proposed in international negotiations that the bombing plane, like poison gas, be labeled taboo in armed conflict.
Like the fighter, the bomber classification must be broken down into several types the heavy, or long-range bomber, the medium bomber, and the light bomber classified, as the names imply, largely according to the size and weight of deadly cargo carried.
The heavy bomber, the most prevalent model of which is four-engined, each giving out 1,000 or more horsepower, and around 40,000 pounds in weight, capable of carrying 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of bombs for about 3,000 miles, is, because of its power and range, the most important of all air force weapons. The ideal heavy bomber for any nation should be able to reach any part of the enemy country where military facilities may be located. If any nation can visualize its prospective enemy, it can tell without fallacy the range required for its bombardment.
The heavy bomber is at once a tremendous and a delicate mechanism. It carries more than 300 instruments, each important to the safety and operation of the craft and the performance of its mission. It carries a normal crew of nine men a pilot, copilot, navigator, bomber, aerial engineer, radio operator and three machine gunners. Later and heavier models will carry additional machine gunners. As the big bomber can cover a range of 6,000 to 8,000 miles or more, it will require alternate or replacement crews, since combat crews in flight cannot maintain reasonable proficiency for missions longer than six or eight hours.
A factor which influences large bomber design tremendously is the necessity for carrying tons of gasoline. Fuel is usually in wing tanks. This gasoline storage has of late become more complicated due to the necessity of housing fuel in bullet-resistant or self-sealing tankage. Some idea of this problem is conveyed by the fact that a bomber of the latest type carries 11,000 gallons of gasoline. For comparison, it is to be noted that a standard railroad gasoline tank car carries but 8,000 gallons. Extra fuel in drums can be carried inside.
Another influence on design is closely affiliated with the primary mission of the plane. It must nest in its bomb compartment four to 10 2,000-pound bombs, or their equivalent in weight of smaller types. This bomb compartment is more than a woodshed for cordage of logs. There must be a mechanism to permit bombs to be dropped instantly and in the numbers required, one or all as the size and character of the target demand.
Some of the auxiliaries of the heavy bomber are vital, too. A plane of this size must carry an auxiliary power plant in order to lift its great wheels into the wings on the fuselage and out of the air stream for greater speed, in order to provide lighting, power for several radio sets, the starting of engines, the lowering of landing flaps and other similar purposes. The plane must provide a chart room with facilities for celestial observation and complete navigational equipment. A vessel which can travel thousands of miles and fly at great height must be supplied with the direction of excellent navigation.
Affording suitable stations for defensive gunners is no mean problem. One lesson which has come out of the present war is the fact that fighters soon find the blind spots on bombers and invariably work their way into these blind spots for deadly attack. A weapon which costs a quarter of a million dollars or more and takes more than 100,000 man hours to build must be capably defended. There must be blisters, slide openings, turrets or other suitable apertures to permit the gunners aboard the bomber to see and fire at all angles.
The pilot's compartment now looks like a submarine control room. Its walls are surrounded by several hundred instruments, each with an independent duty to perform or message to give. The necessary provision for blind flight and blind-landing instruments lends further to the complication of this problem.
There must be provision also for housing radio equipment and a capable operations, maintenance and repair staff. Two or three, and even more, radio sets are often carried on the heavy bomber. This equipment must be carefully shielded from the noise of multiple engines and from the interference of surrounding metal structures.
Lastly, and most important of all, is the provision for the instruments and the men who will deliver the cargo of high explosives at the right time and at the right place. The sole purpose of heavy bombers is for the destruction of important targets. The reason for their existence is nullified unless adequate provision be aboard for aiming and dropping accurately the bomb load. Great secrecy shrouds this compartment and its contents, and well it should. For here in the tight little room resides the delicate trigger to the air weapon.
The reconnaissance plane is the observation plane grown to man size. The observation plane, long and rightly called the eyes of the Army, is designed to do a specific job to furnish intelligence of the enemy, his strength, his locations, his movements, his dispositions. The observation plane is the type furnished to division, corps and army commanders, of a range of 200 to 300 miles, which can reach any part of the army theater or the corps and division areas. It carries a pilot and observer who does part-time duty as gunner, and some types carry a third man, a photographer, who also substitutes as occasion requires as a tunnel gunner. He is the man who fires the guns which protect from attack from the rear and below.
The observation plane cannot and should not be dismissed lightly, because it is of tremendous importance to the military ground commander. It permits him to see over yonder hill, which the military leaders of old always longed to do. It gives him photographs and maps and carries messages promptly to all parts of his command.
Because the observation plane needs to cover only the limited area of army, corps or division, it is not of necessity a very large airplane. There is a tendency now to break the observation plane into two types, each requiring a different airplane. At first it was thought that one would do. The presence of enemy pursuit in the area where the observation plane must operate makes it necessary for a proper plane of this type to have great speed. This requires a big engine and, consequently, a larger airplane.
The campaign in Poland indicated a special use for a light, small plane, called a command plane, capable of landing in small fields or limited areas where it could carry staff officers between front-line units and permit the commander to look down on a battle scene. A slow plane permitted better observation, it was found, and also gave that short landing characteristic required. The command plane now is fairly well established, therefore, and will require a special plane type.
The reconnaissance plane exists for the purpose of searching over wide areas of land and sea. To be effective, therefore, it must have many hours and many miles of range. This necessitates a larger plane. The present tendency is to use a medium or light, or even heavy bomber and it appears thus far that such planes will be adequate and eliminate the necessity for building a special type for reconnaissance. The substitution of fuel tankage for bomb load will give the added range which is an inherent requisite in a plane which must scour the sea lanes for long hours in search for the approach of the hostile invader.
The reconnaissance plane must carry a pilot and copilot, a navigator, a radio operator and an especially skilled observer. The multiple crew also indicates a larger plane. Upon the success of the reconnaissance mission and the promptness and accuracy of its reports depends the initial dispatch of the bomber, thus furthering the air force objective in the destruction of the enemy target.
Fortunately, the requirements in the cargo plane are not unlike the civil air transport. This plane in its military application has a variety of uses which necessitate some change, for the most part in the seating arrangement or cargo compartments, over the normal civil transport. The military cargo plane must be equipped for conversion as an ambulance plane. There must be attachments in the passenger cabin for litters so that wounded men can lie horizontally and be treated while in flight.
Some planes of this type will be freight carriers. Others will be equipped as troop carriers and for the dispatch of parachute troops. The operations in Norway and in the Low Countries [and, recently, in Crete Ed] indicated a new importance and stressed a new emphasis on provision for parachute troops and air infantry. It is uneconomical to use bombers for this purpose and they are not designed and equipped to do the job as effectually as can transports or troop carriers.
While the civil transport plane with slight or no interior modification can be pressed into service as a military troop and freight transport, it is not wise to rely exclusively on these planes to augment the air force. They will not be present in sufficient numbers, for one thing, and they will be busily engaged in the transport of mail, freight and passengers, which will be an equally or more important function in wartime than in peacetime. The balanced air force will always, therefore, possess a large fleet of cargo and transport planes.
A problem which has not thus far arisen, but which may in the future air war take on great importance, is the armament which these freighter troop carriers must have. In the operations thus far they have carried little or no armament, and have relied upon operations over enemy country in the hours of darkness and the fact that much of their flying is done over their own territory where they come under the protection of friendly pursuit. The war of the future, involving intercontinental transport as against international transport on one continent, points toward a new factor, and that is the necessity for providing protective armor and armament for this type.
There is an important advantage in the Army developing its own cargo planes. It is important to any air force to simplify its supply problems by having as few types as possible in all this auxiliary and adjunct equipment. The radio equipment would thus be of a type which can work Army stations and the pilots and mechanics are more likely to be familiar with the engines and instruments both in operation and maintenance, if these are all of standard military type.
The Army Air Forces now is using two standard transport types, a C-33 Douglas, similar to the commercial DC-3, [the C-33 was the conscripted DC-2 JLM] and a C-45 Beechcraft, a light, twin-engine transport capable of carrying two pilots and six passengers. Both of these types do, however, use Government-furnished equipment in the accessory items such as propellers, engines, radio and instruments.
It is not unlikely that a new cargo type, the heavy freight carrier, will shortly appear in the military air arms of the leading nations. There is some evidence of it abroad and there is a general demand among the tactical units and in the supply agencies for such a type in this country.
The general use by the German air force of aircraft as a principal supply agency in recent campaigns, particularly in Norway and in the Netherlands and to a limited extent in Poland, started the military leaders seriously considering this problem. [German transports since have been used with great success in Greece, Africa and Crete. Ed] Such a plane would be a freight carrier. The designs submitted to date point to a fairly slow plane with great weight-lifting ability and particularly designed for the rapid loading and unloading of freight. A plane is visualized which would permit forward loading from ramps, of ambulances, staff cars and even tanks as regular cargo. Such a plane would also serve admirably as a troop carrier, since 30 to 50 men with their individual equipment could be accommodated in roomy but unfinished cabins without seats.
There has been some discussion and some experimentation in the employment of gliders in tandem trains to be towed behind aircraft, much as a railroad engine draws a string of boxcars, for use in freight and even in personnel transport. [This prediction, originally almost a year old, has been made a reality by the Germans in Crete. Ed] Several advantages have been pointed out for the use of gliders in this way. The first is economy. Without the necessity for engines, propellers, instruments, radio and many other expensive accessories, such gliders would be economical to construct and could be built in quantity at great speed.
A second advantage of the glider train lies in the fact that it could be towed over the enemy country during the hours of darkness at high altitude, the individual glider being cut loose and piloted to predesignated airdromes without alarm. The German air force demonstrated in Holland the great importance of early occupation of enemy airdromes with sufficient troops to hold those airdromes until reinforcements can arrive either by land or air. It is possible for a nation fighting a contiguous enemy completely to demobilize the opposing air force if it could occupy all airdromes simultaneously and without warning.
Designs of this giant glider have already been completed with sufficient size and carrying capacity to carry light tanks. One particularly forward-looking inventor used the tank as the motive power, to give the glider speed enough on the ground to take the air, thus to assist the towing airplane in the takeoff.
The use of the glider for transport and the employment of the glider train is something for the future, but an innovation undoubtedly worthy of serious study.
Any nation in building an air force cannot think of its fighting planes alone. This air transport service for troops, supplies, ambulances and medical service and for the transport of artillery and heavy equipment, is a necessary adjunct to the maintenance of any efficient fighting force in the field. The speed and range of modern air forces makes it imperative that they be self-sustaining. The speed of modern mechanized forces makes it distinctly advisable that at least a portion of their supply columns and agencies travel through the air.
There is a great danger, in times of economy and of relative international calm, in stripping military organizations of all save priority items. It will not be surprising, therefore, if the time comes when it seems advisable for those in authority to reduce the size of our flying fighting forces, that the transport plane will be the first to suffer. This is a danger which must be avoided. It is as true now as in the time of Napoleon, as the old master of military tactics and strategy said, that "an army travels on its stomach." The air arm is no exception to this rule. It will never be more efficient than its maintenance and supply agencies. The cargo plane, therefore, must always be considered as an integral and important part of any well-rounded and completely developed air force.
From 55 to 60% of the aviation strength of a modem air army is comprised of training planes. Under our own program, as the War Department has announced, for the procurement of 14,000 planes by April of 1942, roughly 6,000 of these will be of combat types and 8,000 training planes. [Since this was written, the quota has been raised to 50,000 planes. Ed]
Because the training plane does not perform a combat mission and since it tends to be a small, light plane more easily capable of rapid manufacture and mass production, it is all too frequently overlooked in laying plans for air force building. Since the personnel side of an air force is of equal importance to the materiel side and, since the training plane is the instrument for providing pilot personnel, it follows that the training plane is a sine qua non to the large and powerful air army.
There has been a feeling in some quarters of late, and particularly here in our own country, that the training plane did not need to be a distinct military type, since light commercial and sport planes would serve adequately and were already available in sufficient quantity to take care of the training need. There are several reasons why this is fallacious thinking. It is highly desirable, in order to have uniformity in training methods and a common standard for the pilot output, that all training planes for a given stage in training be of a common type. Also, this greatly simplifies the problem of maintenance, overhaul and repair, as is perfectly understandable. If, at one of our large primary flying schools, employing 100 planes, there were eight or 10 plane types, the supply problem, the spare parts problem and the mechanic training problem would be tremendous.
The same careful planning and intelligent designing must. be put into training plane production as is required for lighting aircraft, if maximum efficiency and competence is to be the rule. In our Army Air Forces three principal training plane types have been found to be necessary. The first of these is the primary trainer, the second the advanced trainer and the third the bimotored trainer.
The primary trainer is a fairly simple, light two-seater of about 2,000 pounds in weight, and powered by a 100- or 125-hp engine. It must be rugged and sturdy and must give excellent vision for both instructor and student and provide for their visual intercommunication. Much experimentation on tandem, as against side-by-side pilot arrangement, indicates the definite advantage in the present tandem seating arrangement in standard Army training planes.
Since students begin on the primary trainer, it is wise to have a plane with slow landing characteristics and with no tricks such as ground-looping tendencies after landing. A rugged undercarriage is an understandable essential. The instrument panels can be simplified to the barest minimum. A few engine instruments, an altimeter and an air-speed indicator, generally comprise this limited group.
The advanced trainer is necessary because it is too long a leap from the 125 hp primary trainer to the 1,000-hp or more, service type airplane. The advanced trainer is somewhat larger than the primary trainer and about double the horsepower 250 to 300 hp. The advanced trainer will generally also have a cockpit closely resembling the service type plane. It has a complete instrument panel, flaps to retard landing speed, adjustable pitch propeller in fact, all or nearly all of the duties required of the pilot in the service type plane will be represented.
Since a great majority of all service type planes now are low-wing monoplanes, it follows that the advanced trainer is of that design. A conscious effort is made to provide flying characteristics closely resembling those of the combat types. Being a smaller, lighter plane, however, than the majority of the combat type, it does have a somewhat slower landing characteristic which is advisable for the student who is still in the intermediate pilot-training stage.
The twin-engine trainer has but lately come to join the training plane group. The necessity for it is incident to requirements for economy and to afford training to the pilot personnel in multi-engine operation. It will be a reasonably light, low-wing monoplane with two engines of 3300 to 400 hp each and with an instrument panel closely resembling the service type, medium, twin-engine bombers. Until recent times, it was a practice in our Army Air Forces to use obsolescent bombardment type planes for this training. Since these are powered with two engines of at least 1,000 hp and since they are large and expensive airplanes, any mass pilot- production scheme develops the inherent weakness in this system and indicates the necessity for a light, twin-engine trainer. This new type appeared concurrently with the Army Air Forces expansion program 1939 to 1941 and is here to stay.
In considering our own airplane types, the question is naturally raised as to how they compare with foreign planes as to types, characteristics, and performance. Generally speaking, air experience which dictated several types in our own Air Forces had done the same thing to foreign air forces, and all agree as to the necessity for five general types fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, cargo and training.
In England the famous Spitfire, a single-seater, single-engine fighter which now is in the headlines as bearing the brunt in the Battle of Britain, is the English counterpart of our single-seater fighter. Its performance and characteristics are not unlike one of our own standard fighters, the Curtiss P-40.
In Germany the headlined Messerschmitt single-seater, single-engine fighter possesses characteristics and utility of the standard English and American fighter. These three fighters are similar in appearance, and are each powered with engines of between 1,000 and 1,150 hp. There are some variants such as fire power, instrument panels, radios and accessory equipment, but for the most part a comparison of these three fighting planes shows that in each country the ultimate has been built into the fighter insofar as lay within the power of the engineering genius of the nation concerned. The remarkable similarity is indicative of the fact that no nation has as yet been able to scoop the field in airplane design. The British light bomber is a twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with characteristics, bomb-carrying capacity and range consistent with the purpose and missions of a light bomber. They carry two pilots, a bomber and two gunners, and are equipped with radio, navigation aids and instruments, to permit their operation day and night in all kinds of weather. Except for a somewhat slower speed, they do not differ greatly from our A-20A, or standard light bomber.
The German air force's bomber types are low-wing monoplanes, powered by two engines of more than 1,000 hp each and carrying a normal crew of five. They carry fuel to give a range of about 1,000 miles and a bomb load of roughly 2,000 pounds. In speed they are slightly slower than our standard bombers.
In both England and Germany other types, not strictly bombers, are pressed into use as light bombers. In Germany the Messerschmitt Me-110, which is really a twin-engine fighter, often carries a bomb load.
In the heavy bombardment field neither the British nor the Germans have as yet produced, in quantity, four-engine, long-range bombers. It has been variously reported that both countries feel that the failure to follow our example in the production of a long-range, four-engine bomber was a shortsighted mistake and they now are working frantically to make good their arrears and may soon have in production planes similar in size, performance, characteristics and range to our Flying Fortresses. The lack of such planes has made it impossible for either of the principal combatants in the European air wars today to reach freely all parts of the opposing countries with the devastations of air bombardment.
In midsummer of 1939 when the Army Air Forces' first expansion program was launched, there had not been sufficient air fighting abroad to demonstrate completely the desirable and essential characteristics in each plane type. Speed, range, armament and many other factors were based upon theoretical considerations. By midsummer of 1940 it had become apparent that certain plane types were outstanding in the air fighting abroad, while others quickly passed from the battle scene. There was intelligent inquiry to determine the reason for these striking successes and outstanding failures. This inquiry showed that the air fighting in Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France had demonstrated the necessity for limited personnel armor, for bulletproof or self-sealing fuel tanks and for additional and, in some cases, heavier armament and a better disposition aboard planes for defensive guns. Army Air Forces experts were dispatched to the European battle fronts to secure the latest information on combat developments. Immediately the information was received in the United States, the Army Air Corps issued change orders on existing contracts in order to incorporate all necessary improvements. Trained observers continuously are being sent abroad to follow closely the air operations and watch the kaleidoscopic pattern of changing plane types. By rotating these experts, we are able to have available knowledge of the latest developments.
It is a matter of relief to our military leaders and it must be a matter of pride to all our citizens to know that as we stand today our planes, type for type, are in all cases equal to and in many cases superior to the aircraft now engaged in the bitter fighting overseas.
"The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Winston Churchill
The first flight piloted by a military man in the United States was made by Lieutenant, now Colonel, Frederick E Humphries. The second such flight, made but a few minutes later, was accomplished by Lieutenant, now Colonel, Frank P Lahm. That was in 1909. Both Colonel Humphries and Colonel Lahm made their initial flights at College Park, MD, after a brief course of training under the supervision and tutelage of the Wright brothers. Thus military airmen, our winged warriors, began.
Remembering that there now are more than a quarter of a million pilots in the world and considering the number and size of aircraft available in all the nations today, it is remarkable that the first man who ever flew still lives and that the United States Army officers who accomplished the first military flights yet survive.
The fathers of flight were not military men, but many of their early students during the first five years were from the military establishment. It was not long before the general realization that the airplane was a new war weapon caused army officers here and abroad to flock to the pilot ranks. The fact that two major and several lesser wars have occurred during this 31 year span has further served to lend to aircraft pilotage a distinct military tinge. In our Army, with but few exceptions, the pilots have been officers and that, until quite recently, has been the general vogue in the other armies of the world. The pilot generally has been looked upon as a professional because of the long period of training required and because of the basic educational and mental requirements.
In August, 1914, when the first World War began, there were about 1,000 trained flyers in the entire world. Four years later the military schools of the combatant nations had turned out more than 100,000. More than 95% of the airplanes in existence in 1918 were military planes. At the close of that struggle, as the armies of the world were disbanded, the larger proportion of these trained military flying men went back to civil pursuits but took this flying training, their pilot careers, back with them. These were the men who initiated civil aviation, who became the first airmail and airline pilots. These were the air gypsies who carried aviation to the countryside. They and their ex-Army training planes visited every hamlet and town in the country, making demonstration flights and carrying passengers. The military flying man, therefore, has left an indelible mark on the history of aviation in this country. For a long period of years, with few exceptions, the flight records, speed, altitude and endurance, the world's air marks, were established by these men.
It is possible now to determine fairly well the basic essentials of the flying man, his predominant characteristics, the psychological and physiological requirements in short, the type of human being required for a military flyer. In the genesis of aviation the theory grew up that the flyer was a daredevil, a happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care type of individual. Even during the last World War he was looked upon as possessing more courage than wisdom, more daring than caution, more rashness than stability. Today's war pilots, however, are serious and very sober young men who recognize the importance of their jobs.
The individual selected for student pilot by our Army Air Forces must measure up to exacting standards. He must be between 20 and 27 years of age. He must possess perfect physique with a special emphasis on complete normality in eyes, heart, lungs and neuromuscular coordination. He must have had a college education or at least a minimum of two years' training in a recognized college or university. When our 135,000,000 Americans are shaken through this fine meshed screen, perhaps less than a million qualify. Only about 60% of those who begin training demonstrate a capacity to assimilate the required degree of proficiency in aircraft pilotage.
It is possible, therefore, for a nation such as ours to have a total of not more than 500,000 first-class military pilots. At that we are more fortunate than the other nations of the world because the American boy has a mechanical background. He has driven an automobile and handled many other mechanical or electrical appliances. He has a facility and adaptability for the plane and the engine and its myriad instruments which is not normal for other nationals. From the standpoint of manpower alone, therefore, the United States as we stand today, has the raw pilot material for the largest and the most superb air force in the world.
The present training program of the Army Air Forces provides an annual production of 12,000 pilots per year. In event of war, with that added incentive and under pressure we should be able to speed our pilot rate to 50,000 military flyers every 12 months.
For many years the Army Air Forces has been ably assisted in its pilot procurement programs by a highly-trained group of specialists called flight surgeons. These men have worked unceasingly for more than 20 years to determine and define the pilot type. They have been assisted in this work by modern medical organizations and several of the larger educational institutions. Stripped of all its verbiage and high-sounding scientific terms, the type of boy most likely to succeed as a military flyer is the normal, athletic, American college youth and our flight surgeons have developed a remarkable facility at picking the type after a brief interview and examination.
Many of our old flying instructors had a rough and ready system of their own. More than one has said he could observe a boy playing a game of tennis or driving a broken-down Ford, and tell whether he could be taught to fly. This was a crude way of saying that the flying type is a non-awkward youth who coordinates naturally, who has excellent and complete control over his muscular reactions as against one whose movements are awkward or studied and calculated. It was believed for a long time that a high-strung, nervous type of boy made the best flyer, certainly the best pilot of the single-seater pursuit plane. The more stolid, plugging type was not looked upon with favor. After years of sorting and sifting it has been found, however, that the latter, while not having the quick agility and facility for the high speed single-seater, may make the ideal big ship or bomber flyer.
Despite the intricate mechanisms which have been evolved and used by the flight surgeons, the psychological, neuropsychic and physiological examinations requiring several hours to complete, it is not possible at this time to label definitely and certainly the flying type. This is evidenced by the fact that for the last five-year period in our Army schools, there has been scarcely a change in the curve between 49% and 40% of each class passing through our schools have been eliminated for failure to meet our standards. This does not mean that some of the others could not be taught to fly. It does mean that they could not be taught to fly sufficiently well to make them safe and economical military flyers.
For a long time the term "flyer" was applied to the pilot only. Of late it generally has been recognized that all members of the combat crew in military aircraft must be classed as military flyers. The pilot's duties, the takeoff, the management, direction of the vessel in flight and the return of it safely to earth, have remained little changed. The duties and functions of the other members of the combat crew the engineer, the navigator, they gunner, the bombardier, the radio technician have grown steadily year after year with the advent of new equipment requiring an ever-increasing dependence, for successful flight missions, on a multiple crew of superior individuals trained in perfect team play and coordination.
There are three rated types of pilots in the US Army Air Forces the command pilot, the senior pilot and the pilot. The command pilot must have had 3,000 hours in the air and a minimum of 15 years of flying service. The senior pilot must have had 2,000 hours of flying and a minimum of 10 years' total flying service. The large mass of our pilots, with a flight time and length of service below these minimum requirements, are classified as pilot only. The flying cadet prior to graduation and the bestowal of the initial rating of pilot is, of course, a student pilot.
The adoption by the Army's flying branch of these pilot ratings is founded on a definite theory. That is that mastery of aircraft pilotage requires, in addition to a year's period of training, the supplement of actual air experience. It has long been recognized that although the flying cadet graduate may demonstrate a state of excellence in the handling of aircraft controls in landing, takeoff and acrobatic maneuvers, he still has a long way to go, a lot to learn before he reaches his peak as a military airman. This additional instruction cannot be gained from books or from instructors. It is obtained only by long hours in the air.
Flying ability of the finished type, we feel, necessitates a mastery in equal parts of flying skill and flying experience. It is a matter of some concern that it is no longer possible for the present-day flyers to learn by the cut-and-try methods of the early military pilot. It was not uncommon for a pilot of 1916, 1917 and even as late as 1925 and 1926, to have a forced landing due to faulty engine, effect a safe landing in a meadow or cornfield, repair his damage, let down a few fences and take off and return to his home airdrome. The speed of present-day aircraft is not conducive to forced landings on unprepared fields. The fast fighter and the heavy bomber can be flown safely only from prepared fields. The cost of the present-day airplane makes it impossible to stand the expense of the old trial and error method, where the pilot was both a mechanic, an engineer, navigator, radio operator and a maintenance man. Lack of facilities and skilled mechanicians required the old-timer to repair and check his own equipment for flight.
Although the present-day flyer has lost some of these old-time advantages and experiences, he has gained in some other important regards. His cockpit houses from 100 to 300 instruments as against the eight or 10 on the instrument board of the pre-World-War flyer. It requires almost constant study to maintain proficiency not alone in aircraft pilotage, but in the operation of these instruments and in acquiring the coordinated story that they have to tell. In addition, there is the oxygen equipment for high-altitude flying, the automatic pilot controls, the blind-flying instruments, the blind-landing equipment, the artificial horizons, the flares and other night-flying equipment, the controls for the operation of flaps and for the raising and lowering of landing gears, the controls for changing the pitch on propellers, the de-icers, the carburetor heaters.
This multiplicity of instruments and installations has added a significant complication to aircraft pilotage. The old-time flyer had little to do but to keep his feet on the rudder, one hand on the control stick and the other on the throttle. His eyes, except for occasional glances at the sparsely occupied instrument board, were free to roam the skies or to observe landing areas; His consciousness could be directed to the feel of the aircraft in takeoff and landing. That, however, was not all he had to do. He took off with a prayer, for he had a 50% chance of engine failure on each flight. The annual toll taken by the grim reaper was about 33-1/3% of all those who stepped in a plane. He had to fly his machine, for stability in the air was an unknown quality for a plane. Now there are numerous other distractions and the operation of a much more complicated equipment. Scientific developments have given us many more reasons for the requirement for long and thorough pilot training until we subconsciously read and take cognizance of our instruments. Undoubtedly divided attention has caused more than one accident and cost more than one pilot his life. There is reason to believe that more than one pilot has pulled the wrong lever and lowered a flap when he intended to lower a landing gear, with a consequent and succeeding crash. The famous Sir Kingsford Smith, who disappeared on one of his transcontinental journeys, and whose fate has never yet been discovered, told us in writing about his flight from Australia to New Zealand in a storm at night, that he was suddenly confronted with his air speed having dropped from 150 to less than 90 mph. This ship, he said, felt as though it was staggering through the air. It was several minutes before he discovered that instead of pushing the button to change the pitch of his propeller, he had pushed the button which dropped his flaps.
The pilot is a senior combat crew member. The ship during flight is under his control and direction. It is his responsibility that it accomplish its mission and return safely to its home airdrome. The pilot in multi-engine craft is assisted by a copilot and by the other trained members of the combat crew.
It will be an unfortunate day for national defense and, therefore, for the safety of our country, if we ever permit the pilot standard to be lowered. If we relax the requirements, if we ever treat the pilot as other than professional, if we ever require of him any but the highest standards of performance and efficiency. There is no military man outside the realms of command upon whom military requirements place a heavier load and a greater responsibility.
Consider the brief span in the life of a Royal Air Force pilot in a Spitfire above England. He is on alert; he sits parachuted, helmeted, hunched in the tight little seat of a single-seater fighter. The siren blasts. Crackling through his earphones comes the command to take off, followed by the altitude and direction of the German bombers sighted over Dover.
He taxis hastily to the runway, "pours coal" to full throttle and sticks his nose toward the overcast at maximum climbing angle. He takes a straight climb through the clouds on a course toward the coast. At 6,000 feet he breaks through. Now he is in bright sunlight, but there is little time to reflect on the beauty of the white carpet below. He must adjust carburetor temperature and wipe frost from windshield and gun sight. The bombers were reported at 25,000 feet so he still holds the nose up, adjusts fuel mixture, pulls back on the charging handle to arm his guns two, four, six minutes; six, 12, 18,000 feet. Over there is the channel, but where are the bombers?
There to the right, antiaircraft puffs may show dimly in the sunlight telltale indication to the enemy position. Then there is a glint of sunlight on a metal wing where the rain has worn off a patch of paint. The boy in the Spitfire heads for the formation, singles out the left rear bomber, moves in behind, opens up at 100 yards with all his guns. In an instant he pulls up to avoid collision. As he turns to look down at his prey, to go back for the next one, he smells petrol, there is a break in the deep-throated roar of his engine, now he can see his propeller. He knows the grim answer. As he flew over the enemy bomber, a bullet cut a gas line.
Below there is no land in sight. Water miles of it spreading below. It must be under the cloud bank to the west. He starts a flat glide toward shore, stretching it for land. At 3,000 feet it is quite evident he cannot make it. The Spitfire is too fast to set down in a rough sea safely, so he pulls back on the stick, rolls the plane on its back and tumbles head over heels through space. A pull on his parachute rip cord and he sits beneath a huge, white canopy. He sees his stout little plane hit the water with a great splash and is glad that he is not aboard. The next splash is his own.
As he tastes salt water and desperately fights his way from under the wet folds of his 'chute, he may reflect that life, and death, move swiftly in this air business. The hour hand on that broken clock in his Spitfire has made but half a journey since he sat warm and safe in his home airdrome.
The bombardier is an indispensable combat crew member on all types of bombardment aircraft, light, medium and heavy. He is intimately connected with the sole purpose of the existence of bombardment aircraft, viz, the laying of high explosives with accuracy on important targets, vital enemy objectives. War has demonstrated time and time again that bombers who cannot hit their targets are of little more than a nuisance value in war. Bombing units must be able not only to find a target, but they must be able to hit it.
In the past this combat crew member, like the pilot, has been an officer with the educational requirements, the pay and emoluments and the increased rank, with age and experience, on the same terms with the pilot. Of late there is a tendency to use an increasing number of enlisted men as bombardiers. Early trials indicate that especially selected enlisted men, possessing the requisite education, can be trained to function admirably as bombardiers. It is not unlikely that a proportion of bombardiers will always be officers at least one, the master bombardier, in each flight, generally in the flight leader's plane. The duties of this flying team member require a precise skill in the operation of delicate instruments and a facility at rapid mathematical calculation.
Physically and psychologically, the bombardier must be of the same stern stuff as the other combat crew members. It is probable that it is wise and well for him to be the most phlegmatic of the flying brotherhood. He generally has his back to the light. It requires a stiff spine, knowing that a fighter is on the bomber's tail pouring bullets into it, to sit with eyes glued to instruments, with back to the fray and observe the steady progress, the ticking of the second hand and the approach of the target, all the while being unmindful of the missiles of death crashing through the plane structure around him. The gunner faces the attacker; he has an outlet for his emotions in the trigger he can pull and the fire he can return. The pilots in the bombing plane also have their backs to the attack, but they have controls in their hands; a little outlet for emotion is provided in a steadying, continuing job to do. The bombardier sits and waits. On the return from the bombing mission, after the accomplishment of the attack, after he has released his "eggs," the bombardier may take up machine guns and serve as forward or tunnel gunner, but as the target approaches it is not his to observe or participate in the air battle. The target below and his means of effecting it must have his undivided attention.
In our Air Forces, we are offering training as bombardiers to the flying cadets who are eliminated from the pilot school. A considerable number of those who have failed to demonstrate a capacity to absorb pilot instruction are taking advantage of this opportunity to join the Air Forces as a combat crew member. It is a new scheme and seems to be working out well. These men will be commissioned reserve officers upon graduation from the bombardier course and, upon completion of training, will serve as the master bombardiers in the bombing formations.
The early pilots were their own engineers. There was not room in their frail craft for an engineering specialist. Moreover, the engines were not of a type to permit treatment of their ailments and whimsies while in flight. The advent of the larger airplane, the multi-engine, heavy bomber, brought the aerial engineer into his own as an essential combat crew member.
In our Army Air Forces the aerial engineer is generally an enlisted mechanic of seniority and long experience. Some of them on duty with the larger planes, at least one per squadron, will be officer graduates of engineering schools. The larger airplanes of 60,000 pounds or more, which are now coming into use, have engine locations and dispositions so that considerable maintenance work and repair can be accomplished in flight. Airplanes of the Flying Fortress type have more than 100 engine instruments, all of which must be scanned frequently. Each of the four engines has 12 to 15 controls and adjustments which can be accomplished in flight. The aerial engineer, even on the longest flight, is continually busy and occupied with essential duties important to the successful accomplishment of the mission. In landing and takeoff the aerial engineer has important responsibilities and often substitutes for or helps the copilot in operation of flaps, raising and lowering landing gears and many other mechanical adjustments.
Enlisted aerial engineers are selected from the ground maintenance crews. Outstanding men are given this as reward, for the old air soldier generally loves to fly and undertakes eagerly this combat crew assignment.
Of necessity, the early pilots were their own navigators. In those days of extremely short flights there was no use for celestial navigation and little for dead reckoning, for the "iron compass" as the airman called the railroad and other telltale landmarks guided the flyer; With full loads of gasoline the planes could fly little farther than the pilot could see on a clear day. Now, when military airplanes in common use can fly across the continent without landing, and often travel in the substratosphere, the navigator is one of the most important members of the combat crew.
One of the outstanding lessons from the current wars is the fact that it is highly important for the bombardment airplane to take cover in clouds and darkness and the navigator assumes an additional importance. For a long time it was believed that instruments could not be developed which would permit of accurate celestial navigation for aircraft. This belief has now been completely disproved. Trained and experienced aerial navigators can give the plane's position within an area of three miles, even though traveling at speeds in excess of 200 mph.
The proficiency which an alert and highly skilled aerial navigator can obtain from reading the heavenly bodies was demonstrated by Harold Gatty on his flight around the world in the Winnie Mae with Wiley Post. Upon their return Wiley told an almost unbelievable story of a landing in far Siberia. He had been flying for hours above one layer of clouds and beneath a high overcast. Gatty had been furnishing bearings by dead reckoning. They had reached a point near midnight when, by the dead reckoning calculations, they felt their landing point was approaching. Post signaled Gatty for a location of the landing field hidden by the solid clouds below. Gatty said, "Climb through the overcast and give me a few minutes to shoot the stars and I will tell you where you are." Wiley stuck the nose of the ship skyward and climbed through at 18,000 feet into a crisp, starlit Siberian night. Within a very few minutes Gatty gave the course, a rate of descent and a time interval which Post promptly put into execution, as was his stoical, methodical habit. The altimeter clicked off the descent 15,000, 10,000, 5,000. Post knew the elevation of the landing area and began to grow restless and show some concern, but at 2,000 feet Gatty's voice came through, "One minute on this heading at 110 mph, make a. turn to the left and land." Post says it was pitch dark and raining hard. There was nothing for him to do but trust to his navigator. He followed directions implicitly and when the altimeter as reset showed a reading of 100 feet, pancaked in. Shortly after he touched the ground he realized he was in mud. Eventually the plane nosed up gently. The only damage was a bent propeller. He was on the field he had headed for, but he had slightly overrun one end of it. He had missed by less than a mile an airdrome which he flew 2,000 miles to reach, and had landed upon it blind without ground instrument aid!
That is aerial navigation as the masters can do it. Very few of our navigators will master the art with such perfection as Harold Gatty and Commander Weems, but both these teachers tell us that our students upon graduation from our courses, with a reasonable experience, will be able capably to take care of this essential to long-range bombardment and reconnaissance.
Communications always has been one of the primary factors in military successes. The general whose communications have broken down generally has lost the battle. Communications are more important in air warfare than in military operations on the ground. This is due largely to two factors: one, the tremendous speed with which the air weapon moves; the other, the fact that the fighting airplane is not stationary aloft but must return to the ground and to a safe landing area before fuel supply is exhausted. Therefore there is a vital time element in all aerial communications. The radio operator and technician aboard the airplane is a vital link in the air communications scheme. He must be capable of operating efficiently any of the two or three radio sets aboard the plane and, in addition, he must be skilled in the operation of direction finders, radio compass and other instruments.
The radio operator generally will be an enlisted man, a graduate of the Air Forces Technical Schools and, before assignment to long-range bombardment, a radio operator of considerable aerial experience. In peacetime our airplanes tour civil airways and the radio operator must be familiar with civil technique and Department of Commerce radio procedure. In wartime he must be familiar with the codes and must be skilled in coding and decoding all messages.
More than one plane of our military service, as well as of the airline companies, has been saved from disaster by the skill and experience of the radio technician aboard. His is a dual mission. He gives to the operating personnel on the ground the necessary data from the plane and he receives weather and other information for the plane crew.
This is strictly a military specialty; there is no civil counterpart. It appeals to the old soldier type who likes a trigger in his hand and who likes to feel the power and effect of the whistle of the machine-gun bullet and the smooth operation of machine gun or cannon.
The machine gunner is a combat crew member on multi-seater fighters, observation and reconnaissance aircraft and is of a special importance on all types of bombardment. Some gunners will operate .30- or .50-caliber guns tiring at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute. Others will operate the slower firing, larger caliber, 20-mm and 37-mm guns with the bigger kick. Upon the shoulders of this air specialist rides the safety of the plane while in flight in areas infested by hostile pursuit. In combat the skill, coolness and courage of the aerial gunner spell the safety of the big bomber.
In our Army Air Forces aerial gunners are enlisted men especially selected and trained primarily in our technical and gunnery schools, with concluding courses involving much aerial practice in our tactical units.
The observer and the aerial photographer are combat crew member specialists on observation and reconnaissance type aircraft. Cameras are now being added as standard equipment on bombing aircraft, which will require skilled operators as additional crew members aboard these types.
In the observation airplane the primary assignment and duty of the observer is to glean military information on the ground. In addition, he may observe artillery fire and execute infantry liaison missions which require him to observe troop movements, traffic on highways, location of battle lines and the checking and correction of maps. The observer also serves as machine gunner and covers and protects the rear hemisphere of his plane when attacked by hostile pursuit. Many an observation pilot who came out of the last war confirms our belief that good observers are born, not made. The normal period of training for an observer in our Army is at least one year. Since there is no civil counterpart to this air combat crew member, he will generally be a professional soldier who likes the air and is willing to train himself in the many and varied functions of the aerial observer and in the tactics of ground and sea units. Under expansion plans now in progress in the Army Air Forces, it is proposed to take a number of artillery and infantry officers and give them this special observation training.
While the aerial observer sometimes substitutes as aerial photographer on observation planes, generally in the reconnaissance and bombardment planes a photographic specialist, a separate combat crew member, especially trained in the operation of the expensive and intricate multi-lens cameras, will be aboard. With his nine-lens camera he will make photographic maps more than 200 miles in length and several miles in width in a single loading. The photographic specialist in our Army Air Forces is generally an enlisted man or noncommissioned officer, a graduate of the photographic branch of our Air Forces Technical Schools.
With the success of experimentation in night photography, photographing through overcast and with colored photography now almost through the experimental stage and a practical actuality, the duties and responsibilities of the aerial photographer will greatly expand.
No phase of military work has made greater progress in recent years than aerial photography. With the discovery that photography can defeat camouflage and that it is not barred by clouds or darkness, new fields are opened in the realm of military science for the aerial cameraman and his new and powerful machines.
It has been said that in the air force it takes 10 men on the ground to keep one man in the air. In our projected Air Forces of 160,000 men, less than 12,000 of them will be pilots; this illustrates the soundness of the 10 to one ratio. Actually, however, with the increasing larger proportions of bombardment aircraft, with multiple combat crews, the ratio of the ground man to the airman is about five to one.
An old airman in extolling the virtues of the maintenance mechanic once said proudly, "These mechanics literally hold the planes aloft with their hands."
The success of an air force will depend in great measure on the skill, training and loyalty of its ground maintenance crews. There are a large number of ground aviation specialties, the principal of which are the airplane mechanic, engine mechanic, aircraft metal worker, aircraft parachute repair man, photographic technician, electrician, radio technician, armament expert and weather specialist.
The best quick insight to the operation of ground crews can be given by examining the process and procedure from the time an airplane lands until it is inspected and pronounced ready for the take-off on the next mission. As it taxis to its flying line and when its great motors are stopped, it is taken over by a ground crew of four to 12 men, depending upon the size of the plane. One of these men with a requisite number of helpers will check the airplane structure, its movable control connections and surfaces, its wings and fuselage, and its many constituent parts and see that they are oiled, safetied and made airworthy. Other members of the crew, the engine mechanics, will devote themselves exclusively to the power plants and their many accessories, their miles of electrical wiring, hundreds of feet of plumbing tubing and several hundred instruments. These men will work diligently six to 10 hours per day on their airplane, recording on visual charts each complete operation and inspection made and testify, by the certificate of their initials, that every mechanical part is in order. The radio specialist in the combat crew will check all radio equipment and try it out by calls to the airdrome station.
The crew chief, the boss of this skilled labor gang, watches and supervises over the whole operation and gives such advice as his long years of experience and knowledge of the plane deems necessary.
The Army Air Forces today has 5,000 to 7,000 of these trained airplane and engine mechanics and the Air Forces of the spring of 1942 will have five times that number. They range in grade from apprentices, who are privates and privates first class and air mechanics second class, to men of 10 to 15 years' service who are corporals, sergeants, master sergeants and air mechanics first class.
The crew chiefs generally are men of long service who hold the rank of master or technical sergeant. Over all these combat crews, each for its individual airplane, supervises a hangar chief and a line chief per squadron. These will generally be two master sergeants, men of 20 years or more of service and of long experience in the supervision of shops, overhaul, maintenance and repair crews; men who, in addition to their technical skill, possess considerable executive ability. The primary consideration for the maintenance man is dependability and trustworthiness, plus the application of a reasonable mechanical skill.
The Army trains its own mechanics in its own technical schools or in civil schools especially selected for certain courses. The great majority of Army maintenance specialties have civil counterparts and our Air Forces trained men are eagerly sought by airline operators and by aircraft manufacturing establishments. Not every man in the Air Forces is a trained specialist, but it is undoubtedly true that no other military organization has a higher percentage of trained specialists in its ranks. Under the Air Forces system every soldier is permitted to apply for any course of training; all he must do is demonstrate his ability satisfactorily to complete the course he desires. This is determined by a simple test, devised to insure that the man who can pass it possesses the ability and aptitude for the specialty he would follow.
The Army Air Forces, aside from its purely military function of providing air defense, is a ground training school, the largest aviation mechanics' training school in the country. It now has more than 70,000 men and two years hence expects to have 160,000 men in the prime of life to shelter, equip, feed, train and organize into a capable mechanical, technical and fighting force to man our air frontiers.
The aviation industry is new just one generation old, yet now nearly 150,000 men are employed in its factories, with 250,000 as the figure to be reached a year hence. A considerable proportion of them received their initial training in the Army Air Forces. Our military organization, therefore, plays an important role in supplying skilled labor to industry. During the next decade literally millions of men must receive this training if our industry is to reach the stature to supply the air force we will need. So, the Air Forces is not disappointed when several thousands of its men leave annually with Army training in Air Forces schools and squadrons and go to the civil industry.
No consideration of winged warriors would be complete, in the light of recent air experiences abroad, without a consideration of parachute troops and air infantry. There is a reasonable distinction between them. Parachute troops are placed "in the right place at the right time" by being delivered from airplanes by parachute. Air infantry is so-called merely because infantry soldiers use the air vessel as a means of transport from the camp and bivouac to the battlefield.
The tempo of battle, as many have observed recently, has speeded up tremendously, but the ultimate in our time will be reached not by the Panzer Divisions, not by the motorized, mechanized brigades, but by parachute troops and air infantry.
Gen William Mitchell returned from the first World War with this conception of parachute troops. At his direction it was demonstrated at Kelly Field, before the procedure became commonplace in Russia and Germany, that troops with machine guns could be and were landed by parachute with their automatic weapons, and could have them set up and in operation in a brief span of time less than three minutes by actual test. After these early experiments, the use of parachute troops languished in this country. Such was not the case abroad, however. It was well known to our military observers that there was tremendous emphasis placed upon this new form of troop movement, particularly in the Russian army. In one operation more than 1,000 men were dropped in a large-scale maneuver on the Russian steppes.
It remained, however, for the Germans to demonstrate in warfare the great power of this new weapon by their operations in Czechoslovakia, Norway, and later and more extensively in Holland [Not to mention Crete. Ed]
On the morning of May 10, 1940, the startled Holland burghers, as the mists cleared from their meadows, found German parachute troops widely scattered over their countryside, quickly moving to strategic points. They found their airdromes occupied by air infantry and held against their own troops, protecting safe landing areas for hostile aircraft.
Here in Holland was the ideal opportunity for this weapon, parachute troops and air infantry. By the nature of the terrain, long bridges and causeways cross streams and estuaries, without control of which an advancing army could be long delayed. It was necessary that the defenders of Holland be not permitted to destroy these bridges. German parachute troops were dropped from the air with their weapons, equipment and ammunition, in sufficient quantity to protect these bridge heads and hold these indispensable channels of communication for the use of incoming Panzer Divisions and the German mechanized hordes. Through the complete and thorough employment of these air troops, a conquest of Holland was made possible in a few weeks, a conquest which the boldest military tacticians would not have predicted as possible in less than months.
In our Army this striking example has not gone unnoted. In the summer of 1940 at Ft Benning, GA, there was begun the training of a parachute platoon. The Air Corps Materiel Division, Wright Field, Dayton, OH, developed special parachutes for jumpers and their heavy equipment. Many practice jumps have been made and that nucleus, the especially selected and highly trained platoon, has now been expanded to a battalion. Enlistment in the parachute battalion has been on a voluntary basis and there has been no dearth of volunteers. The American soldier is especially well suited to this precarious duty, since he possesses the courage, the aptitude and the technical background to develop it to ultimate efficiency.
The Army Engineers, the Chemical Warfare Service, the Ordnance Department, the Signal Corps, the Medical Corps and the Quartermaster Corps perform vital services for the Army Air Forces. Under the new program more than 40,000 of these men will be detailed to our Air Forces of 160,000 men. The Engineers build the airdromes and technical buildings in wartime. They are charged with the camouflage of airdromes and military installations to reduce their visibility and the likelihood of attack from the air. Air Engineering regiments have recently been organized to be trained in the new problems of airport construction and development, particularly in the building of wartime auxiliary airdromes, which will permit an air force to disperse and thus render it a less inviting target for air attack.
The Chemical Warfare Service has long been closely affiliated with the Army Air Forces in the development of chemical equipment to be carried on aircraft. Thus far in the second World War chemicals, except for smoke, have been little used. In the first World War, toxic chemicals were extensively used and it is unwise and unsafe to assume, because they have not been used thus far, that they will not be used again. The chemical soldiers on duty with the Air Corps are trained in decontamination of airdromes, airplanes and technical buildings and in the providing of forced air circulation in underground shelters.
There is of necessity a large and important Ordnance Department at each air base and a smaller detachment with each fighting squadron. These are the men who supervise the loading of bombs, the maintenance of machine guns and cannon. In short, they are the caretakers and technicians for the weapons the fighting plane carries. The Ordnance Department is responsible for the development of new types of bombs and new types of guns. They supply also flares and other illuminating equipment which make night operations effective.
A considerable detachment of the Signal Corps has been present with the Air Forces since it began. As a matter of fact, originally, the first Army Air Service was a section of the Signal Corps. The Signal Corps, as the name implies, supplies the radio equipment and other signaling devices which permit plane to plane and plane to ground and other communication. The Signal Corps, in conjunction with the Air Corps, maintains an experimental laboratory as a part of the Materiel Division, Wright Field, where the radio signaling devices are tested and applied to aircraft. The Signal Corps is charged with the procurement and supply of all signal equipment and devices.
The Quartermaster Corps will provide more than 30,000 men as a great army of housekeepers to supervise the messing, the sheltering and the clothing of the Army's air component.
The Medical Corps provides the trained doctors, nurses and specialists to care for the sick and wounded. They operate hospitals, ambulance service, and provide the physical examinations which insure the continued fitness of the flyer.
All of these services, representative of the older branches of the military service, have demonstrated one remarkable thing in common. They have applauded the strides and the advances of the air branch of the military service and have cooperated enthusiastically and efficiently toward the building of a proper air defensive establishment. To them must go in no small measure the just praise for the eventual accomplishment of an adequate air defense.
" this Government has acquired the right to lease Naval and air bases in Newfoundland, and in the islands of Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Antigua, and in British Guiana . It is an epochal and far reaching act of preparation for continental defense in the face of grave danger . This is the most important action in the reinforcement of our national defense that has been taken since the Louisiana Purchase." The President, in a message to Congress, Sept 3, 1940
Air bases as early as the Spanish Civil War three years ago were quite aptly termed the eagle's nest. In its broadest application and as the term is applied in our own Combat Command, an air base is an area and not a locality. It comprises a central airdrome with many outlying or dispersion airdromes, so that airplanes can be scattered when air attack is imminent. The soundness of such dispersion is being demonstrated daily in England, where airdromes are attacked with bombs of assorted sizes and yet comparatively few planes are destroyed.
In its strictest application and most limited sense, it is merely a landing and takeoff area for aircraft. By the light of this definition, aircraft carriers have sometimes been termed floating air bases. Of late with the development of powerful, fast landing, little planes and of heavy giant bombers, this landing area takes on added significance.
During the last war, when the average airplane weighed but little more than a ton and landed at a speed of 50 to 60 mph, many of the bases in France could be and were merely improved farm or pasture land. Runways and landing strips were unheard of.
Dotted all over the United States at the regular Army stations and near the great centers of population are establishments which are readily picked up and identified from the air as airdromes, because of the giant white concrete runway crosses splashed across their surfaces. Our military leaders have worried considerably that these airdromes are advertising their existence to all and sundry from far and near, merely inviting air attack.
Abroad, particularly in Germany, the airport builders have been more realistic, being closer to the struggle. They could smell the battlefires, consequently were farsighted enough to refrain from building concrete runways and landing surfaces difficult to camouflage or hide. The character of the soil and drainage permitted cultivation of a heavy turf surface. They even went further in their efforts to disguise their airports and built roads, walks and hedges, all camouflage, which broke their regular lines and made them almost impossible to pick up from the air. By the light of recent conflicts the wisdom of these precautions have become all too apparent, not only in Germany but in Great Britain as well.
In our country established military flying fields serve as the nucleus for our air bases. Here is developed the home airdrome, the center of the great wheel-like area which is the true air base, with the home flying field as the hub.
In addition to the landing area which is but a minor, although nonetheless important feature of the air base, here are located the hangars, the shops, the warehouses, the gasoline storage facilities, the bomb and ammunition depots, the permanent quarters for combat and maintenance crews, the messing and recreation facilities and the maintenance and repair facilities. These vast installations cost from $7,000,000 to $14,000,000 each and in peacetime serve as the home of one or two groups. Generally, our Air Forces prefers one-group air bases, following the principle of not having too many eggs in one basket.
Extending outward from this home airdrome on 50- to 60-mile radii of a circle are the other components of the true air base, the outlying or dispersion flying fields, the bombing and gunnery ranges, the night flying practice areas, the radar stations, the homing devices, the blind-landing systems, the under- ground gasoline and bomb storage and all the other tactical necessities and technical mechanisms necessary to military air operations.
Where the terrain affords an abundance of suitable flying fields, the air base generally will have outlying or dispersion fields for each squadron. Sometimes these will be broken down into fields for each flight. Every effort will be made to construct fields which will not require hard surfacing of the runways. Where that is impossible, the tendency now is to use metal strips or wire mesh. Grass grows up through the interstices, helps in camouflaging the field and shields from view the metal which provides an all-weather landing field for all types of planes.
Back now to a thorough inspection of the air base proper, or the nucleus airdrome, we find located generally along the parking mat, known in aviation parlance as the line, a series of great hangars, generally at least 125 feet in width and 250 to 300 feet in length. An endeavor is made to supply at least one hangar for each operating squadron, so that there will be housing for maintenance and storage of tools and airdrome equipment. In the middle twenties, in building Army flying fields, an effort was made to house all aircraft. Military airplanes are constructed almost entirely of metal now and they have reached a size which makes housing problems more difficult. They will be stored generally in the open at all of our military airdromes.
In front of the hangar line are parking areas for this open-air storage of aircraft, for their warmup before takeoff and for servicing and minor repair. Searchlights keep this parking area flooded at night to facilitate guard, fire protection and eliminate possibilities of theft and sabotage.
Leantos to the squadron hangars will contain operations offices, schoolrooms and mechanics' supply rooms. There also will be supply and tool rooms. Another essential and separate room will be devoted to the storage of machine guns and other detachable military equipment. The squadron hangar thus becomes the workshop for 150 mechanics and technicians and 30 to 40 pilots.
In the center of this hangar and flying line will be an especially constructed administration building, the seat of air base government and administration. Here are the offices of the commanding officer and adjutant, operations officer, quartermaster, flight surgeon and clerical and administrative personnel. Here, also, is located the central weather station, now an absolutely essential activity in each air base. Another indispensable unit in this central administration building, generally atop the structure, is the field control tower. Here trained observers note the air space in the airdrome area and traffic on the airdrome and, by visual signal or radio, contact all incoming flyers, greeting them with landing directions.
Back of the flying line are the shops and the supply warehouses. The shops will be equipped to make engine changes, to repair or change instruments and to do all second-line maintenance. First-line maintenance, minor repair, usually that which can be completed in a 48-hour period, is performed on the flying line by the squadron mechanics. Second-line maintenance, work of a more complicated nature, is done by the engineering establishments of the air base. Third-line maintenance, generally that requiring major repair work or replacements, is performed in the military depots, one of which is located centrally in each air district.
Generally, two great depot buildings serve as supply warehouses, one for Air Forces items of equipment, the other for Quartermaster or housekeeping supplies.
Other technical buildings in this second, or maintenance line, will house Signal, Ordnance, Engineering and Chemical supplies.
In this second-maintenance line, generally on a corner of the field somewhat separated from other structures, where its tall towers will not interfere with flying, is the post radio station.
Another important item on the maintenance line are the garages, both for Air Corps technical vehicles and staff and reconnaissance cars. The average group will have 50 to 60 technical vehicles to facilitate the rapid movement of its ground echelon. Quartermaster vehicles in almost equal number provide the necessary transportation for all housekeeping functions.
The technical structures on the maintenance line merit special consideration. The first is the parachute loft. On a group air base the parachute hut will maintain about 300 parachutes, requiring the employment of 20 to 30 specially trained parachute technicians.
The photographic building contains dark rooms, drying rooms, enlarging rooms, map-making and mosaic rooms and locked and specially ventilated storage houses for valuable cameras. On the average base group about 30 photographic specialists will be engaged. Formerly only observation or reconnaissance groups had photographic sections. Cameras now are standard equipment on all aircraft except lighters.
The morale of personnel, flying and mechanical, generally will be no better than the accommodations for food, shelter and recreation. Since the average group air base houses about 1,500 people in its third-line or housekeeping area, there is every provision usually found in the small American village.
Generally considerably removed from the flying and maintenance line and the quarters area is provision for underground gasoline, bomb and ammunition storage. The Air Forces have storage dumps located at strategic points in all operating areas.
Also generally removed as far as possible from high explosives' storage and flying-line activity, but reasonably accessible to the quarters area, is the air base hospital.
Ordinarily the subject of temporary air bases would concern a maneuver area or a battle area only. Early in 1940, however, temporary air bases became a vital concern to our expanding Army Air Forces. The 1940 Air Forces of 60 squadrons required but 17 permanent bases to house it. With the increased authorization by the 76th Congress, providing for Air Forces of 60 groups or 288 squadrons, additional bases were at once necessary. There was not time to build permanent air bases. The decision was made to select more than 30 temporary air bases, locating them on civil airdromes which had landing areas sufficient in extent and which were situated reasonably close to towns of sufficient size to afford quarters for married officers and noncommissioned officers. These temporary air bases, as are the permanent ones, generally are of a size to house a group, four squadrons, with the attendant necessary service personnel.
Temporary air bases have one advantage. They more closely resemble the advance or maneuver airdrome and give the flying personnel the advantage of semi-field experience. They have another advantage which eventually may become all too apparent. In time, when the war clouds pass and emergencies seem less imminent, these can be abandoned without great economic loss and the reduced flying establishment can be drawn back into its permanent bases.
The disadvantages lie in the fact that, having induced the temporary boom in the communities near which they were located, there is a consequent deflation upon their abandonment, with attendant pressure to maintain them on an operating status regardless of priority from national defense requirements. Also there are some additional hardships on military personnel housed in temporary bases, which make it a serious problem to maintain morale at the requisite high level. Training is never as satisfactory under field or temporary air base conditions as when units are housed in permanent bases.
Theoretically the air base should be located to serve the interests of tactics and strategy, particularly the latter. Undoubtedly political and other considerations have sometimes been allowed to color decisions as to the location of permanent air bases. Geographically air bases should be located well forward in the area to be defended, but not closer than 50 miles to the coast lines and territorial boundaries. This latter consideration is not always possible, but it greatly facilitates air base defense.
A consideration not so important in the past, but which will be paramount in the future, concerns the terrain. The ideal area for an air base would be a level plain, adjacent to a wooded area and hills, bluffs, or other elevations. The latter will allow for the dispersion of aircraft and their natural camouflage in lanes of trees to minimize damages and losses from bomb attack and will also afford a possibility for underground storage if necessary and if economic conditions permit.
Under the national military policy, which is defensive, it behooves the Government carefully to study diplomatic negotiations and international relations in short, to determine the direction from which the air threat will come. At least one major base and a large number of sub-bases should be located well forward in that direction. The defending air force must be between the marauding air enemy and the vital targets which are to be defended.
In the United States, if our military leaders believe that an air threat will come from across the Atlantic, they will probably make two determinations as to the route of advance that will be followed. The line of hostile air approach may be through Newfoundland and the North Atlantic, headed toward our critical industrial area. This consideration undoubtedly motivated the location of the new Northeast Air Base near Springfield, MA.
However, the air attack may come from across the Atlantic by way of the Caribbean theater in the South Atlantic. A major air base and subsidiary dispersion airdromes, then, should be located in the southeast section of the United States. Such considerations undoubtedly influenced the location of the Southeast Air Base at Tampa, FL.
In opposing a threat from the North Pacific area by way of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, air bases are indicated for the northwestern part of the state of Washington. Our Government is now completing a major air base at Tacoma, WA, which fulfills this requirement.
An attack by air from floating bases in either ocean should be met by aircraft dispatched from the closest point on the Atlantic and Pacific. To comply with this requirement we have air bases located at Langley Field, VA, and near San Francisco and at March Field, Riverside, CA.
Behind these forward major bases from which our tactical units, our bombers and fighter groups, will operate, are established a second line of tactical bases farther removed from imminent attack. In rear of this second line of tactical bases come the supply bases or depots and the training bases or flying schools.
Not all of our major bases are located at the most important points, measured by tactical and strategic standards with due regard to geographic locations from which possible threats may come. One reason for this is that several were located long before air power took its place in the present trinity of warfare. During the last war many ground flying schools were erected near centers of population. The Army bought these sites, erected base installations and, at the close of the war, when the training establishments were disbanded, these naturally were occupied by tactical units. With the peacetime, piecemeal appropriations, these wartime flying, training fields gradually were expanded into permanent, major air bases. That accounts for the location of such bases as Langley Field, VA, and Mitchel Field, NY, within range of naval gunfire if a hostile fleet were able to reach our shores.
While a coastal or border location for air bases is not the ideal, it is essential that the air base be located well forward in order to conserve fuel and extend the range of aircraft. It is necessary for the bomber and the reconnaissance plane to get as far out to sea as possible, in order to attack the enemy before he can dispatch his aircraft against our vital objectives. Where permanent air bases are established too far inland from coast line or boundary, forward or advanced airdromes will be necessary. Planes will be dispatched from permanent bases, alight on these temporary forward airdromes for refueling and for taking on bombs and, after returning from long-range or reconnaissance missions again will land on these advanced airdromes for refueling prior to return to permanent bases.
The establishment of air bases in the United States must consider one other important factor and that is the great industrial area which must be defended. A line drawn from Detroit to St Louis and thence eastward to Baltimore will outline the western and southern limit for the great majority of the manufacturing establishments whose continual operation is vital to preparations for war and to the continuing supply of armies and air forces. Our air bases must be located so that they will lie, where possible, between this vital area and the line of flight approach of the invading enemy bomber.
Two new and important geographical areas recently have come into our national defensive picture for air base construction. The first of these, Alaska, lies along the natural air route from the old world to the new. A belated recognition of the importance of Alaska in our air defensive scheme has caused us to build one major air base at Anchorage, AK, and a very important cold-weather experimental station at Fairbanks. No more important step has been taken in air base construction in our time.
The other theater of recent concern lies in the Caribbean. A chain of islands, the Lesser Antilles, comprising the Windward and Leeward groups, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, extends from Trinidad near the northeast coast of South America in a perfect arc to Cuba and Florida. Leading airmen have contended for years that the establishment of air bases properly dispersed in this island chain was a necessity for adequate air defense for our eastern seaboard.
Lately permission has been obtained for the leasing of land and the construction of air bases at Trinidad, Santa Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica and Bermuda. Hand in hand with these new bases two other important forward airdrome sites have been acquired, the one in British Guiana on the northeast coast of South America and the other in Newfoundland. The provision of these advance air bases will do more for the security of this country against any air threat coming out of the Atlantic or from Europe and Africa and in providing protection for the Panama Canal than any other phase of national defensive planning.
These, combined with our new base in Puerto Rico, will give our bombing groups complete command of the western half of the Atlantic and will build a giant fence to guard the airways extending from the northern coast of South America for 4,000 miles to the frozen coast of Labrador.
Rumors coming out of foreign lands have pointed consistently for a number of years to increased emphasis on underground air bases. No military secret has been so carefully guarded by foreign nations as the extent to which they have gone to underground bases and as to the type of construction and structures placed in these establishments.
Here in the United States we have not yet gone that far. The principal reason for our failure thus far to put air bases underground can probably be laid to two principal conditions: first, the fact that air attack is not immediately imminent; second, the great cost of such installations. An air base which costs from $7,000,000 to $14,000,000, if duplicated underground, would cost at least six times that figure. Our military leaders have believed thus far that such costs are prohibitive and that the danger is not sufficiently pressing to make this expenditure necessary. This matter of placing air bases underground is probably one which will not be squarely faced in this country until hostile bombs have begun to inflict serious damage and then, as some of the combatants abroad have found to their chagrin and dismay, it will be too late.
England has found that by dispersing the planes singly with earth embankments forming individual protective areas the necessity for underground hangars for operating airplanes is eliminated.
Since our national policy is to include hemisphere defense, a new air base problem is at once thrust forward. If our Air Forces is ever to operate successfully outside the United States, it can do so only if adequate provision has been made for air bases.
Perhaps the number one air base problem, now that the acquisition of the Caribbean bases is an actuality, concerns negotiation with the other nations of the Western Hemisphere for the mutual erection of adequate air base establishments. Location of these bases is easily determinable by applying tactical and strategic yardsticks.
The number one problem after the construction of an air base lies in its defense. Bases built on the surface of the ground which lie in the path of invading aircraft offer a serious problem if they are to be maintained and preserved from early destruction.
Many important defensive phases should be borne in mind during the building of an air base. These include particularly the dispersion of vital establishments, the camouflage of landing surfaces and buildings and the preservation of trees and other natural camouflage in the vicinity.
Airdrome and air base defense may be either passive or active. Passive defense measures include camouflage and dispersion. Active measures include defensive armament, antiaircraft and machine-gun fire, barrage balloon and fighters.
Our military leaders have learned much about the requirements for the building of suitable air bases and the necessary measures for their protection from a study of the air operations in Europe. They have learned many tricks in camouflage. Some of the more important airdromes in Germany have, by the ingenious application of paint, papier-mache structures, theater trees and other methods, been made to look like gardens, villages, orchards anything but airdromes. Some have reported that there is scarcely an airdrome in Germany which when viewed from the air does not appear to have a highway, a high tension line, or some other obstruction running across it, to deceive the eye of the enemy airman. An ingenious method of airport protection against air infantry and the landing of hostile aircraft was reported in Holland. On some airdromes nearby villages hastily had all their trucks and automobiles commandeered. These were parked at irregular intervals to make the airport unusable by aircraft. This use of trucks and automobiles to destroy a landing area has the great advantage that it is readily cleared on signal and there is no permanent damage to the flying field. The use of movable, dummy, papier-mache buildings for location on airdromes when not being actually employed in takeoff and landing, provides a device borrowed from abroad which is economical, timesaving and readily capable of accomplishment.
The use of steel planks or wire netting for runway surfaces as against telltale concrete strips is another European device which is reported to have worked satisfactorily, particularly in France.
The organization of engineer units supplied with road-building equipment in large quantities which can within the space of a few hours build a new airdrome from virgin terrain, leveling it, rolling it, providing drainage and otherwise making it suitable within a day, is one of the primary defenses against air base destruction. In this same connection, the building of dummy airdromes which are not suitable nor intended for aircraft use, but which from the air have the appearance of an airdrome, is an excellent way to misdirect the enemy's bombardment effort.
An observer back from the early air war in China reported that 1,000 coolies, immediately after a Japanese bombardment of a Chinese airdrome, were put to work filling the bomb craters. With this abundance of man power the airdrome was leveled and repaired and again available for aircraft use within a few hours after each daily attack. The same policy now is employed by the British to repair their landing fields after bombing attacks, with the variation that they have engineer troops stationed nearby to perform the required repairs. Modern construction methods can complete such repairs within 24 hours, although it was generally believed that much more time would be required.
Another important consideration in air base defense is the maintenance of channels of communication, railway lines and highways. Operating air bases require great quantities of sup- plies and stores, particularly gasoline and explosives. These must be delivered to the airdrome in heavy trucks or by rail. It is vital, therefore, that the highways and railroads leading to an airdrome also be camouflaged as thoroughly as possible and be so constructed that there are no bottlenecks such as bridges which would require much time for repair. Duplicate railway lines and highways should be provided for all major bases. This problem is relieved considerably where water transportation, as well as rail and highway, can be made available.
One airport problem which comes thundering louder than the rest from the air battles overseas requires for solution the provision of multiple flying fields and air bases. Never, our observers tell us, should an air force be committed to the use of a restricted area or a small number of air bases. In the light of this intelligence, the number of civil airports available as temporary bases takes on a special significance. Nearly $100,000,000 was made available to the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Department of Commerce in 1940 alone for the new airport construction program. One of England's weaknesses lies in the fact that her limited area makes it difficult to multiply airdromes. We in this country would not be so limited. We have far more extensive and better terrain and more opportunity for an adequate airport program than any other nation on earth. This is but another of our natural American advantages which we must not lose sight of and which our national leaders must be wise enough to utilize to the limit.
"What is needed now, I think, more than at any time in our history certainly more than at any time since the turn of the century, is an examination, or rather, a reexamination of our military policy on national defense on broad general lines, and its relation to the foreign policy which it is intended to support. This cannot be done by considerations by separate committees of Army and Navy. It must be done by a select joint committee of both Houses, to give a full examination in the face of situations now arising in the world." George Fielding Eliot
Organization is the governmental structure for management. It is the instrument through which the leader expresses his will and exercises his control.
An air force, like the older military organizations, the Army and Navy, requires a definite organization. Unlike the older branches, however, there is no ancient historical precedent for our air arm to follow. Air forces here and abroad have suffered from that lack of precedent and example. For that reason air force organizations in all the leading nations of the world have been in an almost constant state of flux since the first World War.
In our own country this instability in organization has been more marked than elsewhere. In the last 21 years there have been 19 separate investigations of the Army Air Forces by direction of the Chief Executive, of the Congress, or of War Department agencies.
The initial decision in determining the organization of an air force is whether or not it shall be given parity with the Army and Navy or whether it shall be treated as an adjunct, subordinate branch or subdivision in these older institutions.
At present, military aviation is an arm or branch in the Army, as are the infantry, cavalry, field artillery and other combat branches. In the Navy, aviation is also a subdivision of, but an integral part of the fleet. There has been a persistent movement since the first World War to alter these organizations. A bill has been presented to each succeeding Congress since 1924 to authorize what is called a separate air force an establishment composed of the aviation branches of the Army and Navy, but under the direct control of neither and operating as a separate military agency. Under this plan, instead of officers of Cabinet rank, called the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy, there would be a Secretary for National Defense with coequal subsecretaries for Army, Navy and Air.
The leaders in the Army and Navy are one in the thought that military aviation is a new weapon of importance. They acknowledge that any army, to be successful in the field of battle, must have its own aviation to protect the troops on the ground and to serve as winged artillery. The Navy calls its aviation the eyes of the fleet and most naval leaders are willing to admit that no naval action can be successful without air superiority in the theater of naval operations.
The proponents of the status quo feel that there must be unity of command in any theater and that all weapons must be subordinate to that commander, under his complete control and direction. They point out that there has seldom been in the past a long and sustained operation requiring the joint action in a limited theater of both the Army and Navy. On the other hand, any action involving either the Army or the Navy operating separately is certain to have its air phase. Therefore, they maintain, there is not the same reason for separating the air force which caused the early national fathers to separate the Army and the Navy.
It is contended that the Army and Navy, being old and well-established institutions with large, experienced and capable staffs and trained technical experts, are better able to develop this new weapon than any other agency which must necessarily include in its ranks relatively young men and which would at first be merely an experimental organization. They hold, also, that since an air force requires the support and cooperation of supply services Ordnance, Signal Corps, Quartermaster, Medical, Chemical and Engineer and since each of the services now well established can supply the needs of the air arm, in the interest of efficiency the flying branches should remain under the old establishments.
The leaders in the older services profess a fear that if the air force were made coequal with the Army and Navy, the two older services would not receive the efficient air cooperation essential to the success of either. As a final argument, both the Army and Navy point with pride to the air establishments each has built up as positive evidence of their respective abilities to create and control military and naval aviation.
The advocates of a separate air force have based their declarations for the most part on the following contentions: They say that the other leading nations of the world have gone to the separate air force idea. They point to Great Britain, with its Air Ministry and Royal Air Force coequal with the Army and Navy. They point to the separate air force in Germany. They contend that military aviation should be under the control, leadership and management of flying men, men with long military aviation background and experience. They state that our present War Department organization is conducive to delay and indecision.
The military leaders of the separate air force idea contend that every nation hard pressed in warfare eventually has been forced to go to the separate air force and that it is more efficient to work out this organization in peacetime than it is under the stress and strain of conflict. As evidence that flying men are submerged, they point to the fact that until recently there were but two general officers who were ex-airmen, of the total of more than 125. They contend that but a limited number of air officers are detailed to the General Staff and those are fairly junior in rank. "Flying leaders for flying fighters" is their battle cry.
During the past 20 years there have been schools of military thought who were not willing to go so far as to advocate a separate air force, but who believed that the military air establishment should be removed from the General Staff of the Army and set up as an independent corps on much the same status as the Marine Corps is organized in the Navy. They would have an Assistant Secretary of War for Air and an air staff and remove the air branch from the Chief of Staff and the General Staff of the Army.
As a result of the recommendations of the Morrow Board, an Act of Congress approved on July 2, 1926, provided for an Assistant Secretary of War who was to be charged with the direction of military aviation. The Honorable F Trubee Davison was appointed Assistant Secretary of War for this assignment and remained on that duty from 1926 to 1932. From 1932 to date, 1940, although the original act still authorizes an additional Assistant Secretary of War, the office has not been filled.
In the fall of 1940 a Deputy Chief of Staff for Air was created and made the direct advisor of the Chief of Staff for the control and direction of aviation matters. At the same time it was announced that the General Headquarters Air Force, comprising the combat side of military aviation, would be separated from the control and direction of the Chief of Air Corps and assigned to the Commanding General, General Headquarters.
In brief outline the channel of command runs as follows: from the President to the Secretary of War; from the Secretary of War through the Assistant Secretary for Air to the Chief of Staff of the Army. Here control divides. The channel may pass from the Secretary of War to the Chief of Air Forces or from the Chief of Staff to him, thence to the Air Force Commanders and the Commanding Generals of the Overseas Departments. These exercise their control through wing, group, and squadron commanders in that order. From the Chief of Air Forces, on the supply, pilot and mechanic training, and experimental side control passes to the Chief of Air Corps, to the Assistant Chief for Materiel, who is the Chief of the Materiel Division, on supply matters and to the Commanding Generals of the four training centers on the pilot and mechanic training side. They, in turn, exercise their direction and control through training school and air base commanders.
The Chief of Air Corps formerly headed the Army Air Corps, which had under its control all military aviation matters. Under the most recent organization, the Chief of Air Corps is in charge of aviation supply, procurement, pilot and mechanic instruction and experimental development. He is assisted in the performance of these functions by three Assistant Chiefs of Air Corps, one who heads the Planning Branch, another who is Chief of the Materiel Division and a third who is Chief of Training and Operations.
The Chief of Air Corps exercises his supervision over aviation matters through an organization in his office composed of nine major divisions and operated by a personnel of about 150 officers and 350 civilian employees. Under the old organization his staff was organized on the theory that the Air Corps, unlike the infantry, cavalry and other branches, was both a supply and combat branch. The Combat Commander is now charged directly with training and operating responsibility for the 54 combat groups within the United States.
The Chief of Air Corps as the head of a supply and training establishment has a task of great responsibility, as is evidenced by the fact that he was charged with the expenditure of nearly $2,000,000,000 in the Air Corps expansion inaugurated during the year following July l, 1939. He has three major responsibilities and functions: experimentation and research, supply and procurement. In the performance of this task he controls a vast organization, the Materiel Division, one of the finest aviation experimental plants in the world. It has an organization of about 200 officers and 6,000 civilian employees. The Materiel Division, under the direction of the Chief of Air Corps, carries out two vital functions, aviation experimentation, and procurement and supply. It is the function of the experimental department to do the necessary research, to make certain that our airplanes and aviation weapons and accessories are, if possible, superior to those in the other air forces of the world.
Aviation supply and maintenance, although controlled at the Materiel Division, is carried out by means of five territorial depots in the United States and three in the foreign departments, Puerto Rico, Panama and Hawaii, with a minor depot in the Philippine Islands. It is the responsibility of these supply agencies to insure the complete and continuous equipment of all aviation units in the essential Air Corps items and other War Department items peculiar to them. The Ordnance Department, for example, is charged with the supply of guns and ammunition to the Air Corps. The Signal Corps supplies the communications equipment, and the Quartermaster Corps supplies the personal equipment of the soldier and provides for his shelter and feeding. The Medical Department of the Army provides for the hospitalization and the care of the sick and wounded. The Chemical Warfare Service is charged with the supply of chemical items and with chemical instruction and protective equipment to the Air Corps.
The Chief of Air Corps, in exercising his supervision over the training establishment, has an Assistant Chief of Air Corps charged directly with the efficiency of our schools. He, in turn, directs the operation of four training agencies three Air Corps pilot training centers and one mechanics training school. Each of these establishments is headed by a brigadier general of the Air Corps.
The Chief of the Air Corps is a member of the Joint Aeronautical Board to insure cooperation between the air establishments of the Army and the Navy. He is also the advisor to the War Department and the General Staff on air matters affecting pilot training, mechanic's training, experimentation and research, and supply, where there is joint interest with any other Government bureau.
In carrying out his procurement functions, the Chief of Air Corps signs all contracts for the purchase of airplanes, engines, spare parts, fuel and lubricants, and other aviation items. Under the law the Assistant Secretary of War is charged with supervision of procurement for the Army.
The Chief of Air Corps works directly under him in the performance of his procurement and production functions. The Chief of Air Corps also is charged with the preparation of budget estimates and with the defense of these estimates before the War Department Budget Advisory Committee, the Bureau of the Budget and Congressional committees.
In 1934 the War Department organized the combat units in military aviation into a separate command called the General Headquarters Air Force. Initially it was separated from the Air Corps and its commander reported directly to the Chief of Staff. In 1939, the GHQ Air Force was placed under the Chief of Air Corps. In November, 1940, the Commanding General, GHQ Air Force, was elevated to the rank of lieutenant general, a grade formerly held only by the four field army commanders and the department commanders in Panama and Hawaii. The Commanding General has been added to the Air Forces Air Council, the Air Forces Headquarters Air Force; and has a separate section now called the Combat Command.
The creation of the Combat Command has proved a wise and forward-looking step.
As pointed out earlier, there is a dearth of precedent in military history to guide the formulation of air combat organization and training and the War Department evidently realized ·that much experimentation and maneuver experience was required in order definitely to settle upon the most efficient organization and combat training methods for military air units. The GHQ Air Force, for four years under the able leadership of Maj Gen Frank M Andrews, its first commander, eminently discharged the responsibilities and carried out the functions which had been visualized for this new establishment. Lieut Gen Delos C Emmons, chief of the Combat Command, is proving those first steps were correct.
Initially the GHQ Air Force was composed of five wings. In the Air Corps expansion inaugurated July 1, 1939, and with the increase of the Air Corps from 60 to 288 squadrons, there have now been activated 22 wings.
With the increase of the Air Corps from 1,800 officers and 18,000 men to 12,000 officers and 160,000 men, as provided for in current expansions, and with the increase from five to 22 wings, it was found necessary to divide the United States into four air forces, each of these air forces to be headed by a commanding general of the rank of major general. The War Department extended this organization in the summer of 1941 and placed all air combat functions in the Combat Command, a part of the new Air Forces. The territorial limits of these four air forces are indicated on a map in this book.
A wing is a tactical air unit composed of two or three groups. There are two types of wings, composite and heterogeneous. The composite wing will have one or two pursuit groups and one bombardment group. The heterogeneous wing will have two or three pursuit groups or two or three bombardment groups. The present trend is toward the latter, since it is believed to be more efficient tactically to have only one type of combat aviation in one command of that size.
The wing corresponds to the brigade as a tactical subdivision for the ground arms. It is envisaged as the largest air fighting unit which one commander can efficiently control and directly supervise. It is a tactical command as differentiated from an administrative command. The wing commander supervises the training and tactical operations of his groups and is not concerned primarily with administration and supply. These latter functions are performed by air base groups which are housed in peacetime on air bases with the tactical groups and which perform their administrative, supply and housekeeping functions for them. The location of the 22 groups and their types are indicated by the map on the front end sheet.
The Army Air Forces group is normally composed of three squadrons. It was conceived as the largest air unit which one leader can efficiently control in the air. Tactical groups are for the most part heterogeneous, in that their three component squadrons will be of the same tactical type, fighter or bombardment. The group corresponds to the regiment. It is both a tactical and an administrative unit. Its commander is generally of the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel and is always an experienced flying officer, capable of leading his unit in air combat as compared to one who directs his command from the ground. The bombardment group, for example, is composed of 60 officers and 800 men. It has attached small units of Ordnance, Signal and Medical troops for service in the field. In addition, forward echelons of the air base unit perform its housekeeping and airdrome functions when it is in the theater of operation. While stationed at a permanent air base, the air base group for that station performs these service functions for the combat group.
The squadron is the air unit corresponding to the battalion in the ground arms. It is commanded by a major and is the basic flying combat unit. Squadrons of various types have different composition; a fighter squadron is composed of 28 officers and 150 men and has for equipment 28 planes, while a bomber squadron has 21 officers, 180 men and 13 planes. The squadron is deemed essential, as is the battalion in the infantry, in order to have a unit sufficiently small in size to receive personal supervision, direction and control of one experienced officer and in order to provide for detailed training and first-hand direction of supply, discipline and combat methods. Squadron commanders are always flying officers of long experience and are selected for executive ability in the supervision of training and combat leadership. There are six types of combat squadrons with slightly different organizations and personnel strength, dependent upon the type of aircraft they fly. These are transport, fighter, light, medium and heavy bombardment and reconnaissance.
In 1939 the War Department authorized a new air organization called the Air Defense, Command, composed of two groups of pursuit aviation, a regiment of antiaircraft artillery and a Signal component for operation of the warning service. The initial experimental organization was designed to work out an air defense organization with suitable equipment and to develop methods for the protection of vital areas from attacking bombers. The headquarters of the first of those new commands is established at Mitchel Field, Long Island, NY. It has been engaged since inception in determination of the proper organization and the most efficient methods of defending the northeastern section of the United States. The Air Defense Command is not original in our Army. The necessity for it has been demonstrated time and again in several of the countries in Europe during recent air operations.
Several large-scale maneuvers, the latest being those of the first Army in the summer of 1940, have been employed to perfect the organization of the Air Defense Command. As a result, other Air Defense Commands will be organized, taking full advantage of European experience in actual combat operations and making such adjustments as our situation requires. The War Department has followed the precedent abroad and placed an air general as the commander of the Air Defense Command.
In its broadest sense the air forces of the United States include all military aviation of every character. In addition to the air units in the regular Army, there are naval aviation and civil air components, the National Guard and the Organized Reserve.
To insure proper coordination and cooperation between the air branches of the Army and the Navy there is a Joint Board and an Aeronautical Board. The Joint Board formulates, for submission to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy, joint plans for the operation of task forces, comprising both military and naval units. The Aeronautical Board is charged specifically with the coordination of the air activities of the two arms, particularly in the experimentation, development and procurement side for aircraft and their accessories. It also may advise the Joint Board on tactical joint operations.
The air arm of the National Guard is composed of 22 squadrons active and seven additional authorized but not yet organized. The National Guard squadrons are observation units designed to supply the reconnaissance requirements for the National Guard Divisions. They are organized and equipped on the same basis as the observation squadrons in the regular Army.
While the National Guard has heretofore had only observation squadrons, recently, with a view to broadening the scope of their operations, instructions have been issued to train certain National Guard flyers in pursuit units. Perhaps if the experiment proves to be a success, early formation of National Guard squadrons of that type may result.
The Organized Reserve contains about 5,000 flyers, Reserve officers organized into squadrons and other units on paper only. They have neither enlisted personnel nor airplanes. The original conception of the reserves was to provide personnel on Mobilization Day to be called to the regular Army squadrons to raise them from peace strength to war strength and to supply the initial pilot losses during the first 90 days of combat. At present there are more than 3,000 of these Reserve flyers on active duty. They comprise the majority of the pilots in many of our combat squadrons. This picture has changed somewhat during our present emergency, as we have speeded up our training schools and now have an annual output of pilots far in excess of the total number of Reserve officers on our rolls a year ago.
Under our system, graduates of Air Corps training centers are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Air Corps Reserve and called to active duty for additional organizational training. In order that the Reserve flyers who have returned to a civil status may maintain their flying proficiency, Reserve units are maintained at or near the principal centers of population. These units contain a regular Army instructor and a group of 20 to 30 Army Air Corps mechanics who maintain a number of advanced training type airplanes. Reserve officers utilize this equipment in spare time. Each Reserve officer flyer not on extended active duty may be given a period of 14 days active duty annually if he applies for such assignment. The Reserve aviation component is indispensable, as there are only about 2,000 regular Army flyers and the balance of the 12,000 necessary to furnish flying combat crews for the new Air Forces of 288 squadrons will come from the Reserves.
Reserve officers who are fairly recent graduates of the Army flying school are assigned to fighter and bombardment units. The older graduates are valuable in Air Corps transport groups. Pilots and copilots on our airlines would be very valuable for such service without any additional training.
The Army Air Forces has 30 observation squadrons assigned as the aviation for the Army divisions. These squadrons are not part of the Combat Command, but form what is termed cooperative aviation. The creation and organization of these units is a function of the Chief of Air Corps. He also is charged with the provision of their airplanes and flying equipment. The training of these air units is a function of division and corps commanders to whom they are assigned. These, with our 22 National Guard squadrons, make a total of 52 squadrons or a force of about 1,500 officers, 7,500 men and 750 airplanes available to the Army's corps and divisions for observation and command purposes. All our military leaders are now agreed that this cooperative aviation is essential to the proper training, tactical operations, maneuvers and combat in warfare of the ground arms.
It is not unlikely that military organization will see a decided change in this regard in the near future, with the provision of all types of aviation save heavy bombardment for close cooperation with the ground forces. Since military aviation is a weapon of great mobility and has far-reaching effects, it is probable that the fighter and bombardment units will always be maintained under the control of the Combat Command and be detached to the corps and armies for cooperative training during maneuver periods, and attached to ground units in actual warfare for a single operation only.
A review of the German campaign in Poland is convincing as to the necessity that mechanized and motorized units particularly will be required in warfare to cooperate closely with air organizations to secure the maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the accomplishment of their joint mission.
Some features of the organization of the air element of the military establishments now engaged in conflict in Europe are worthy of note. There is a tendency to group fighter aviation into a lighter command and to group bombardment aviation into one large unit called the bomber command. This separation undoubtedly is caused by the fact that fighters of the interceptor and night pursuit types usually form a defensive organization which operate in a limited theater at home, whereas the bomber element is offensive in character and is engaged in distant missions against enemy objectives. There has been no change in our organization to date along these lines.
In both the British and German military organizations, antiaircraft artillery is an integral part of the air force. In this country the antiaircraft artillery is retained under the coast artillery. It has, however, been detailed, as in the case of the Air Defense Command, in some cases to work in close co- operation with fighter aviation. Some contend that there would be closer cooperation and greater efficiency in our training if the antiaircraft artillery were a part of the Air Forces. This organization works out particularly well in Great Britain and has provided a remarkably efficient defense for Germany. Others feel that the principle of detachment is sufficient and that our organization, where the artillery and the aviation are separate establishments and not under common command, is satisfactory for our purpose. Then again, our geographic situation is so entirely different from that of European countries, where England and Germany are looking right down each other's throats.
Air Defense Commands and particularly warning services have had a much more thorough development abroad than in this country. Warning nets were established, and detection devices set up. Civil observers were organized and used wherever possible. These have worked well and have been essential supplements to air defense. Abroad there has been an organization of home defense units, to include anti-parachute troop units, air-raid precautions units and organizations charged with supervision over air-raid shelters, operation of air-raid warning equipment and particularly with the removal of debris as a result of enemy bombardment. Little has been done in this country in organizations of this character.
In the lower echelons there is little difference between any of the combat units of air arms in different countries. The organization of the squadrons, groups and wings in the combatant nations abroad is quite similar to our own. The German air force, particularly, however, has gone much farther in the development of higher organizations, as is understandable in view of the tremendous size of their air force. They have created air divisions and air fleets, combinations of wings such as ours grouped under a single command, apparently for more effective training and operational control. Any further expansion of our Air Forces will undoubtedly call for units similar to their air divisions and air fleets.
As nearly as can be ascertained, it seems that there is a much smaller percentage of staff overhead in the air organizations in England, and particularly in Germany, than in this country. The staff officer is a noncombatant. In order to be suitable for the staff he must be an officer of experience. Any saving, therefore, which can be made in staff personnel, can be used to augment the fighting forces. The air forces abroad have been subjected to the supreme test, that of air combat. If they have determined that they can operate efficiently with reduced staffs, it is a determination which we may well employ.
Another lesson from air organizations engaged in the European conflict is in the creation of task forces. When Germany determined to go into Norway, the staff of the supreme command determined what proportion of air, ground and sea elements should comprise this expeditionary force. It then designated a commander and thereafter there was complete unity of command and no interference from the three arms of the service thus combined. Here is a lesson which we must study well; it may supply the answer to the requirement for unity of command in many military situations which may develop incident to hemisphere defense.
It appears that despite the great pressure which has been placed on the air arms of the countries now in battle, each of them is maintaining a highly efficient, versatile, strong aviation experimental staff in order to insure that airplanes, engines and their equipment of the most advanced type are always ready for production. The wartime tendency to put in quantity production items which are then available and to close the laboratories as useless appendages must be resorted to only when quantity production is of vital importance. Even then, plans must be made to provide for reopening the engineering sections at the earliest opportunity.
Superiority of aircraft performance in combat is essential for us if we are to win. The organization and training of the civil populace will be an important factor in maintaining a stouthearted morale under the hail of enemy bombs. Much can be learned from the experiences of the present combatant nations in this regard.
One of the most important peacetime functions of the military establishment is the perfection of organization along sound lines. This applies to the air arm as to the other branches of the military establishment. It is the essence of proper national defense.
"Here, then, is the striking contrast between the German military system and all other systems: the Germans prepared for this war, the British (and the Americans) prepared for no war, the French prepared for the last war. The German tactics risk much to gain much quickly; the French risk little to gain little surely; the Germans use the tactics of speed, the French the tactics of time. It was these two fundamentally varying systems that clashed in Homeric struggle last week." Hanson Baldwin, New York Times, September, 1939
Air tactics may be defined as the employment of air units in battle. The tactician is frequently confused with the strategist. Tactics come into play only after strategy has run its course. The play, be it comedy or tragedy, is directed by the tacticians, the soldiers are the players.
When war comes, the first units to be joined in battle will be the air units. It was so in Spain, China, Poland, Norway, Holland, France and now in the Battle of Britain. The student and the practitioner of air tactics is not handicapped by centuries of illustrious lore as are those of the ground troops. His tactics are still in the formative period as, indeed, are his weapons. The air fighter today really is writing the first pages in the first chapter of aerial warfare, for airplanes during the first World War were so little developed that no definite principles could be permanently set.
Tactics are limited and proscribed somewhat by natural characteristics. For land armies and navies this has always been an important consideration. Seasonal, daily, and irregular habits of nature also effect air tactics. In the first World War and again in this one, the little air fighter hides in the clouds. It escapes in the overcast. It falls out of the blinding sun on its unsuspecting prey. Sodden airdromes can ground an air force.
Geographical considerations also have had a tremendous effect on battle lines and battlefields. Geographical forms mountains, rivers, land and sea, do not influence to the same delimiting extent the joining of air battles. Geographical considerations do, however, tremendously affect air strategy and play a considerable part in the tactics of air warfare. How many times have we heard the broad expanses of the Pacific and the Atlantic described as our best barriers? Much have we heard about the range of aircraft as the determining factor in permitting widely separated opponents to come to grips in air conflict.
National traits and characteristics have had their influence on land and sea battles. These, too, will influence air tactics as well. It is now generally believed that a people like the Germans or those of the United States, who have had considerable mechanical background, who have grown up from childhood in close contact with turning wheels, moving levers and motive power, will the more readily adapt themselves to sky fighting. It is undoubtedly true that the people of the Western world and of Europe come more naturally by the new art of human flight than the Orientals or those who have been touched less lightly by the machine age and modern civilization, as for example the Ethiopians.
Methods of fighting tactics have from the earliest times been greatly influenced by leadership and by weapons. Bold, aggressive, alert, intelligent leadership has generally won on the battlefield. The forces best equipped with powerful weapons in greatest quantity and those most familiar with the employment of the weapons of most modern type, usually also have conquered. The latest and most striking example is the success of the German Panzer Divisions.
Air operations are of two major types, independent air force operations and cooperative, air-ground, or air-naval operations.
A great many military leaders were rather reluctant to accept the air weapon as other than an agency to affect the land or naval battle. It was not until 1934 that our own Army, in recognition of independent air force operations, established the GHQ Air Force. Cooperative aviation concerns itself with the winning of a battle, independent air force operations with the winning of a war. There is always a grave danger that a leader, seeing only the battlefield, will win the battle but lose the war.
There are many types of observation missions. The observer may be sent forth to report on the course of a local encounter. He may be sent to discover the movement of ammunition supply on highways. He may go to photograph ammunition and supply dumps, or to gather evidence indicating a flank movement of an attacking force in a particular area.
A brief description of a typical observation mission will indicate how the air observation team works. Soldiers fear a turning movement on their flank. The general directs the G-2 subdivision of his staff to obtain immediate information which would indicate enemy intent. The G-2 or Intelligence Staff agent telephones the observation airdrome 25 or 30 miles to the rear and calls for a reconnaissance flight at a given hour over a given sector.
Observation aviation is now an integral and essential part of the forces and equipment of land armies. The air observer not only looks down on the maelstrom from above, but he brings home the unmistakable evidence on photographic plates.
There was a time when soldiers could be hidden in the woods. When the green leaves of the forest made the best camouflage and cover. Color photography has changed all that.
Within a few minutes the twin engines of the fast, light bomber used for observation work are turning over, the camera has been loaded, the crew pilot, photographer and gunners are aboard the plane. The plane goes by the most direct route to the area indicated on the map and, at an altitude which will avoid small caliber machine-gun and rifle fire, taking advantage of whatever cover the clouds afford, cruises throughout every part of the terrain in question. The observer records the numbers and character of troops observed, military movements on highways, types of trucks, character of cargo, volume of traffic; the great nine-lens camera grinds away steadily during the whole period, making a complete photographic map of the whole area. Gunners are at their stations to greet with machine-gun fire enemy fighters.
The mission completed to the satisfaction of the observer, he notifies the pilot by interphone and a straight course at maximum speed is set for the home airdrome. The principal safety of the observation plane lies in its speed and the quickness with which it can accomplish its missions. Immediately upon landing the observer will render his report to headquarters by telephone and in writing.
The airplane scarcely will have stopped rolling when the camera is pulled from the ship and hurried to the photographic darkroom. In less than an hour maps and plans at headquarters will be changed to conform to the latest information and the general, secure in the knowledge that he knows what the enemy is about, will lay his plans accordingly.
In particularly critical times the observer will report by radio as he flies and observes. As a result of new quick-method photographic equipment aboard observation aircraft, developed prints can be dropped at headquarters to save the half-hour delay in returning them to airdromes and dispatching them overland.
Observation aviation was used before the first World War to direct artillery fire, to report on the location of hits and help the artilleryman to get on his target. The airman is particularly valuable to the longer-range artilleryman who has no other method for observing the location and effect of the high-explosive shells he delivers. The aerial spotting of big guns is a worthwhile job for the trained air observer.
Some military observers feel that the Germans employed a new type of aviation in the Polish campaign. Small, light, slow-landing planes were used by commanders of divisions and corps to get them well forward with their troops and to observe the progress of the ground battle lines. It is necessary to have a plane of this type which can land in city streets or on small patches of ground and which can land so slowly as not to be disturbed by rough terrain, plowed fields, small shrubs or crops. The Germans developed the Fieseler Storch for such missions and were almost able to obtain the landing characteristics of the helicopter. It had not been realized in other countries that this was a military weapon. A considerable number of these planes were used in Poland for the execution of command missions, for intimate intelligence work by the commander himself and by the senior staff members.
The most modern thought in our Army holds that there is always some loss in the second-hand transfer of information. There is some coloration by the observer or there is the likelihood that some small detail will be overlooked which would be interpreted in an important way by the commander could he have seen it himself. This advent of the airplane particularly adapted to command missions is an attempt to solve this problem.
It was learned before the Battle of France had run its brief course that the old type observation airplane, a slow, lumbering craft, could not exist on the battlefield. Fast-flying pursuit planes were assigned with no other task than to clear the area over the battlefield of the hostile observation aircraft.
In the last war observation balloons played an important part in the collection of enemy intelligence in nearby front lines. Information received from the battlefields of Europe during 1939 indicates that the observation balloon has almost entirely passed from the scene. They can be destroyed with such ease and such rapidity by modern fighter aircraft with their six or eight machine guns that it is uneconomical to replace them and their trained crews at the rate at which they can be shot down.
It now appears that the observation airplane must have great speed. To be entirely effective it must carry considerable equipment and a crew capable of defending it and of recording the information desired. This calls for a plane of the light bomber type. To avoid multiplicity of types insofar as possible, planes of this category are being pressed into observation service.
Another type of cooperative mission which flowered into full bloom in the German-Polish campaign in September, 1939, is the cooperation between the light bomber and the Panzer Division. The tactics in Poland were duplicated in France on a larger .scale.
Some years ago our military school men drew the conclusion that tanks and mechanized forces were too vulnerable to artillery and infantry automatic weapons to be used in masses in warfare. The success of the German Panzer Divisions made many red faces among the instructors in tactics in our own schools.
Mechanized forces are vulnerable. They need the light or dive bomber ready at hand at their call to dislodge the road block, the strong points, the concealed automatic weapons, or the artillery behind barriers which could stop them and force them to dismount and deploy. It is reported that time and again when it appeared that a long, mechanized column would be forced to stop, dismount from its vehicles and light a land battle in order to clear its path on the highway, its commander, using the radio, called for help from his teammate on the airdrome and almost instantly dive bombers were pouring small bombs and heavy machine-gun fire into the personnel and materiel at the point of obstruction.
Many followers of the campaign in France and Belgium were stunned and dumbfounded when the Stuka-Panzer duet turned eastward from the coast toward Sedan and stuck out a long thin finger toward Calais and Dunkerque. It seemed impossible that even the boldest and ablest military leaders could hope for success in such a maneuver. Again the power of the bomber and its cooperative effect with motorized forces had been overlooked.
One decisive battle was fought in the first World War which pointed clearly to the success of the dive bombers in the fall of 1939 on the battlefields of France and Poland. General Allenby in the Palestine campaign in 1918 routed and cut to pieces a large Turkish army, employing attack aviation as it was then called light bombers armed with light bombs and machine guns. The British commander had at his disposal about 50 single-engine light bombers of the DH type. They fell upon the Turkish forces while passing through mountain defiles and completely annihilated or routed an entire army of more than 100,000 men. This battle, although not widely advertised because of the more extensive and headlined engagements in France at that time, was known to the military leaders of all the world for 20 years succeeding that war and prior to 1939. And yet apparently it stirred nobody but the Germans to a full realization that a new concept for employment of airplanes had come to land warfare.
The Stuka bomber, the type which the Germans used most extensively in their dive bombing and in cooperating with motorized, mechanized forces, did not come off entirely unharmed. Their low bombing and low attack methods subjected them to a withering fire from ground automatic weapons. The British have not been slow to learn that lesson. Their expeditionary force learned it in the escape out of Dunkerque. It is hinted by more recent operations that the Germans have learned the lesson too. They may be compelled to abandon dive bombing a type of aircraft employment never enthusiastically received by our own leading airmen in favor of low altitude horizontal bombing, where bombs are delivered from an altitude beyond the range of automatic small-caliber weapons.
Be that as it may, the power of the cooperation of light, fast tanks, scout cars and other mechanized weapons and light bombers remains as the principal tactical lesson to draw from the land fighting in most modern times.
Norway and Holland were the battle grounds for the first extensive use of air infantry and parachute troops. The air infantryman is merely an infantry solder transported in aircraft and set down in a remarkably brief time at an unexpected place where his presence and power will greatly embarrass his enemy.
Parachute troops are merely infantrymen dropped from an airplane by the use of parachutes. They are dropped either because the airplane cannot land or because its landing would disclose the operation. Once he is on the ground, the foot soldier discards or destroys his parachute and becomes an infantryman employing infantry tactics.
Tactically the great value of both air infantry and parachute troops in a modern battle is the surprise factor. There are many situations in the battles of the past when a limited number of men at a critical point would have been decisive. There will be many such situations in future engagements. The general who perceives this and appreciates his new power to bring pressure on his opponent will go a long way toward winning the battle.
A few men dropped in the vicinity of large ammunition stores in the darkness can easily destroy them. A few men with machine guns dropped near highways, particularly at bridges or in mountain passes, can rout a larger force, keep bodies of troops from crossing the obstacle, prevent the bridges from being destroyed, or can lead the enemy to believe a much greater force is present in his rear. Parachute troops also may be used as the leaders and organizers of dissident elements in an enemy country, sympathizers of the opposing country. This type of operation was designated in the Spanish Civil War with its now famous or infamous title "Fifth Column."
Aside from the transport of troops in limited numbers or in a particular situation, described above as air infantry, it is not unlikely that considerable numbers of men may be transported over great distances and that their equipment, even their heavy equipment and heavy artillery, may in future wars be carried on wings. The outstanding example of the employment of air transport in recent times was its use by General Franco to move an army of 12,000 men from Morocco to Spain. In less than three days, employing a dozen old German transport planes, General Franco transported his crack regiments from Morocco to aid the faltering revolt in Spain. These men carried their machine guns, their impedimenta, everything except their heavy weapons. It is generally believed that this was a decisive factor in the eventual victory for the Nationalists.
Other employment of troop transport occurred in the German occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Norway. In Norway infantrymen were set down at important localities to hold flying fields and key points. Many of the troops which were crossed to Norway from Germany on boats were later supplied in good part by the use of air transport. Wounded were evacuated, ammunition was laid down in isolated points where no other troop transport was available and in other ways land forces were supported in the field by aerial freight carriers.
Medical care in the evacuation of sick and wounded is a considerable factor in maintaining the morale of the fighting man. In Ethiopia,for the first time,air transport was used extensively for carrying large numbers of sick and wounded across long stretches of sand and water where other form of transport would have been too slow to save human life. It appears likely that the aerial ambulance will be a definite and integral part of a modern army. Many campaigns which can be envisaged, particularly in carrying out hemisphere defense, would necessitate evacuation of sick and wounded to military hospitals for hundreds of miles over water and jungle.
Another form of cooperative aviation of great value to the land army is the protection of the ground forces from air attack and the prevention of enemy observation aviation gleaning vital information. This is accomplished by the use of pursuit or fighter aviation a single-seater airplane equipped with six or eight machine guns and probably a 20- or 37-mm cannon.
It will be vital for the general on the ground or the admiral on the sea to have the assurance of his airmen that they will sweep the skies above him clear of enemy aviation and maintain that status until the land or sea battle is over. That is an important cooperative mission. It will be accomplished by bringing to that theater, the limited area above the battlefield, sufficient aviation to make it unprofitable or impossible for enemy observation planes and bombers to sneak through.
The classic example occurred at Dunkerque during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. There appeared the perfect target for attack by bombardment aviation. During those four days the British concentrated enough fighter aviation above and in the vicinity of Dunkerque to destroy the enemy bombers which attempted to sweep down on the embattled BEF or denied access into that area to the bombers. The Germans' pursuit airdromes were still in Germany or in Holland and much too far in the rear for them to bring superior fighter aviation into the theater to drive off the British fighters, to regain air superiority.
There are many mistakes which not only can be made but which are likely to be made by the ground army in the employment of a new weapon. The first of these, by a strange anomaly, may be over-anxiety, the employment of this weapon too soon or too extensively. The hard-pressed infantryman will be likely to call for air assistance when his own artillery would be more or equally effective. He knows that the airman can find and see the target. He can see the activity as the airman works against the enemy. It elevates morale.
As a matter of fact it will not be surprising if the swing of the pendulum toward the employment of cooperative aviation missions goes too far. Commanders are likely to take it up too enthusiastically. The mission of first priority for our air forces is not cooperative in character. The first priority missions are the destruction of opposing air forces and vital enemy objectives beyond the range or theater of influence of land forces To take all or a good part of the air force and remove it from these higher priority missions to missions cooperative in character would be a dangerous error.
There is also a likelihood that the infantry, once accustomed to air transport, no longer will want to walk or ride to battles. The airplane is an expensive mode of transportation for the foot soldier. It is a weapon of opportunity only and must be visualized as such only.
Above all, our military leaders, observing the success of a particular operation, like the Polish campaign, where dive bombing was used almost to the exclusion of other methods, must not jump to the hasty conclusion that dive bombing is the most profitable method of bombing attack. Several reasons may have motivated the Germans in the use of dive bombing. They may have had advance information that their opponents were not trained in ground strafing of aircraft. They may have been doubtful of the ability of their own untrained or partially trained airmen to do effective bombing at high altitudes. They may have been ignorant of the casualties which would be inflicted upon dive bombers by trained infantrymen with automatic weapons. Whatever the reason, the success they had obtained in Poland led them to use the same operation in France. There, in the early days, it was equally successful. Toward the end of the campaign, particularly against the British in and around Dunkerque, it became evident that it was not the completely invulnerable type of attack it was first believed. It appears that the Germans themselves now are revamping their methods of air attack on troops.
We have said that the first phase in the war will be the air phase. This air phase will consist of independent air force operations. Long before the battle lines have been joined on land or at sea, the air forces of the combatant nations will be engaged. Their first job will be to destroy each other. Their second task will be to influence as powerfully as they may the ability of the nations involved to continue the struggle. They will endeavor with all the influence at their commands to prove to the peoples opposing their nation that further continuance of the struggle is hopeless, that the cost will be too great, in other words break down the will to fight. If unable to accomplish this purpose and force an early peace, they then will be engaged in destroying those establishments of the enemy most vital to him in the carrying on of a prolonged war. Independent air force tactical operations may be divided into four principal groups: propaganda missions, reconnaissance missions, anti-air force operations and bombing missions against vital targets.
It was a considerable surprise, and led to the application of the term "phony war," when the belligerents in the second World War did not instantly engage in a series of strong air operations against each other. There was witnessed a new use for the air forces the leaflet war. Flying generally at night and at high altitude, formations of enemy bombers appeared over the centers of population of Germany, England and France and distributed leaflets pointing to the futility of opposition.
It is too early to take into full account the effect of the air propaganda mission. Some situations can be visualized in a war of ours where it might prove effective, indeed. It does supply an excellent method of communication with the secret agents of a nation inhabiting the territory of the opponent. It may be effective also where there are a considerable number of sympathizers in the opponent nation, or where a considerable proportion of the people speak the language of the attacking nation or have the hereditary ties of a once kindred people. At any rate, it was employed for almost a year in our most modern war and cannot be overlooked as a mission for the air force. Such missions give combat crews flying time, experience, a view of future battlegrounds and an experience on new airways.
To wage successful air operations against an opposing nation, it is necessary to know the location of the important targets. For many months the public press contained statements that German bombers were sighted over England at various points, but dropped no bombs. Similar reports came out of Germany. These were reconnaissance missions. It is not unlikely that every plane carried a powerful camera and that complete maps were made of the war theater on both sides, months before battle was actually joined.
Bombardment units make up what they call objective folders. These are envelopes that contain all possible information about enemy targets. The reconnaissance mission provides most of the information for these objective folders. This information tells the airman what to destroy, what will destroy it and what will be the result of its destruction. It also tells him how to find itday or night or in any kind of weather.
Other reconnaissance flights observe the movement of ships, rail and truck transport and troops. Some will be set to watch the habits and customs of the people. The airman flying at great altitudes can pick up valuable intelligence sometimes from the most inconsequential details. They will observe whether factories black out at night, whether business is being carried on as usual; whether populations still gather at race courses, athletic fields; whether the schools are still filled with children or whether the children have been evacuated to the country. In these and in a hundred other ways, the reconnaissance mission conveys intelligence as to the morale, preparations of the enemy for war and the location of his vital objectives.
The number of planes appearing daily on landing fields near an aircraft factory will measure its output. The number of freight cars leading from a munitions establishment will show not only how much it is producing, but where it is going, where it is being stored, where it can be destroyed.
The most vital of the reconnaissance missions, of course, are those which disclose information immediately before the air battle is joined. In our own country the most important reconnaissance missions will be those that locate the ships that bear the expeditionary force to our shores and which remain in con- tact with that expeditionary force until our own bombers arrive. Other valuable reconnaissance missions .will be those which disclose the location of the enemy airdromes, how many planes and what type habitually occupy them.
Tactically, the reconnaissance mission is accomplished by the dispatch of fast airplanes flying at high altitudes, armed with special camera equipment. Many valuable reconnaissance missions are accomplished at night and in future wars a great part of the reconnaissance work may be done during hours of darkness. This is made possible by recent development in night photography. The value of the reconnaissance mission is in ratio to the training and experience of its crew. A reconnaissance plane avoids combat and relies upon speed and upon incidents of weather or darkness for its safety.
Our military school books talk about destroying the enemy air force on its own airdromes "Shooting the eagle on its nest." It worked in Poland, it worked to a considerable extent in France. There is, however, positive evidence it has not worked so well in England. Why? How were the British able to do what Poland and France could not do? As much as we can say now, it was careful planning and preparation.
If the enemy does not conveniently leave his airplanes on his normal airdromes; if he is so uncooperative as to disperse them widely or move them to other airdromes, or if he puts them underground, antiair force operation against airdromes will not be so effective. Hangars and permanent airdromes will be destroyed but the vital part, the airplane, will be left for revenge.
It will then become necessary to destroy the enemy air force in flight. This can be done in two ways. First, by sending over bomber formations and then, when the enemy fighter aviation comes up to join battle, accompanying fighters can destroy the enemy fighters. The Germans employed this method extensively in the early days of the Battle of Britain.
Another and less effective method is to meet the enemy bomber when he flies over your own terrain with well-equipped and superior fighter aviation and shoot him down before he has reached his objective. Both sides in the present conflict have striven mightily to accomplish this purpose. So successful have they been that bombings are now largely reserved for the hours of darkness and for bad weather.
Another system lies in the destruction of enemy aircraft factories. It is not alone the air force in being, but the air force which can be kept in being as the war continues, which will determine the outcome. Enemy aircraft factories, therefore, have high priority as bombing objectives. If these are not placed underground and are not dispersed widely and are not given the protection of camouflage and concealment, they are relatively simple targets. They can be destroyed by high explosives or burned by thermite bombs. The extent of damage will depend upon the efficiency of the attacker and the excellence of his equipment and upon the industry of the attacked and his intelligence in concealing or protecting his factory.
A large air force will not require all of its bombers for operations against the air force of the enemy. Persistent attacks will be launched immediately on those manufacturing establishments, power plants and lines of communication which are vital to an enemy in its attempt to gird itself for war. The degree of success with which the opponent can prevent normal efficiency in munitions establishments will have a tremendous bearing on the outcome of the long struggle.
It is generally accepted that bombing attacks on civil populace are uneconomical and unwise. Many reports in the present war in Europe of attacks on civil populations either are propaganda or due to mistaken identity, or inaccuracy on the part of the bombardier in the plane. Dense populations which reside in the vicinity of industrial areas, airdromes, navy yards and docks undoubtedly will feel the effects of poor bombing on those docks. If either of the combatants has engaged in attacks on people, such missions cannot be classified other than as decided tactical errors. The most economical way of reducing a large city to the point of surrender, of breaking its will to resistance, is not to drop bombs in its streets, but to destroy the power plants which supply light, the water supply, the sewer lines. Bombers in far larger numbers than are available today will be required for wiping out people in sufficient numbers to break the will of a whole nation.
It might be well here to outline a typical air force bombing mission and the routine method of its accomplishment; GHQ calls the bomber command and says that an airplane factory thought to have been destroyed months before now is showing signs of operation, raw materials are flowing in, some new planes are appearing on an airdrome close by. It must be destroyed.
A trained bomber flight of six planes is assigned the mission. The target is 400 miles away; take-off is set for 12 midnight; the route is determined, the approach figured to avoid heaviest known concentrations of antiaircraft fire. Combat crews retire for rest, the maintenance crews continue to tune up motors, check all equipment.
Midnight comes; weather at home airdrome is soupy; individual takeoff is announced, with assembly above the overcast at a predesignated altitude and over a well-known geographical landmark when visible. The flight leader moves out from the flying line to the runway, pulls his heavily laden plane from the landing strip. At one minute intervals the others follow. The flight leader pulls up through the overcast at 10,000, moves by celestial navigation to prearranged rendezvous point. At 1 AM the flight is assembled in formation echeloned to the right and heads on its course. All lights are turned out except a dim running light in rear and on top of each fuselage. Succeeding planes in the stepped-up formation follow tiny star-like specks on the backs of the preceding gray ghosts.
An hour later there is a brief flash of leader's wing-tip lights. All pilots see the warning and watch for the order to attack. It is clearing now; clouds are broken. Motors are throttled; there is a slow descent to optimum bombing altitude. The planes drop back and take up one mile intervals. Gunners are vigilant at gun stations; bombers uncover sights and clear for action. Soon a bright light bursts thousands of feet below; the leader has dropped a bombing flare; there below, light as day, stand out the forms of buildings. Immediately rocket-like bursts fill the elements, planes are rocked by rough air. The enemy antiaircraft has gone into action.
Then, there is a red-specked white burst far below in that hapless factory yard; number two was a little short; number three readjusts; other bursts cover the plane plant as each succeeding plane drops its deadly cargo. The leader has moved to a predesignated assembly point at full speed, others follow, moving through the great cloud patches for cover. The last plane lags a little, as he must photograph the job, take a picture of the work of the four which bombed the target. Searchlights stab the night, looking frantically for the six ghostly visitors. Off to the left, telltale streaks of moving light indicate that hostile fighters with engines full out have left the ground hurriedly and pulled skyward in steep climbs to hunt the slower enemy bombers, guided by searchlight beam and antiaircraft burst.
A hundred miles back toward home and the friendly solid overcast lies below. The bombers fall into it like children into a feather bed. No longer can the enemy pursuit trail the retreating explosive freighters. At 3:30 AM the leader, breaking through at 500 feet, comes in on a long glide and taxis to its area on a corner of the field. Others follow, park in their revetted nests in scattered areas. Tired crews gather at squadron operations for the discussion of the mission, to complete reports. A telephone goes to GHQ, "Mission completed, successful, photos coming over."
Not always is there friendly cloud cover; sometimes the searchlights catch a luckless bomber, enemy pursuit dives into blindest defensive spot. Gas tanks burst with puffs of flame, crews bail out. On more than one occasion upon returning after long hours away from the home airdrome the fog has moved in. Then the slower process of riding in on beams for blind landing is required. The crippled and limping planes, with an engine out, land on any airdrome they can reach.
On the long, climbing flights to targets, crews are not idle. De-icers must be set pumping when frost first shows on wing or cabin canopy; oxygen must be fed to crews; engine carburetors must be kept free of ice; navigators must reckon rightly and follow courses precisely; time schedules must be met to the split second: machine guns and sights must be kept warm. Here is teamwork of high order. On these simple missions only trained crews catch the signals and each player must do his appointed task as he has been taught and trained.
Some principles of air tactics already are fairly well standardized for all air armies. The offensive, fighting spirit must be instilled in all combat crews particularly the pilots. The airplane is not a defensive weapon; crews must be bold and alert. Full advantage must be taken at all times of the element of surprise; surprise in time, direction, method and fury of attack. The lighter uses the cover of sun and cloud and falls on his prey in his blind spot. Speed, not maneuverability, is the prime method of escape from bad situations. Shooting is more important than flying; volume of fire at close range is what counts; long-range, hit-or-miss shooting wastes precious ammunition. Successful bombing is done largely at night; targets selected for night bombing must be illuminated. The size of the formation and the size of the bomb carried and its fusing must match the target to be attacked. Navigation is important; the target must be found before it can be destroyed.
The picture of the attack must be brought back; it shows crews their deficiencies; it may save the waste of further attacks. The greatest protection of the bomber, once it is discovered by enemy pursuit, lies in tight formation with the resultant grouping of defensive fire power; discipline in station keeping means safety; to scatter or break formation is disastrous.
The bomber must not turn and fight; his is not a fighting mission. His only objective is the destruction of assigned targets. He plows straight to the target, disdainful of bursting shells from below or lightning fighter thrusts from above.
Meticulous training and long practice are essential; the crew will never do better work when rocking in the tempest of antiaircraft fire or when enemy fighter bullets are tearing great chunks from their planes' metal sides. Untrained combat crews should never be entrusted to take bombers costing a quarter of a million dollars into tight situations.
Try new methods when an old method of attack proves costly; shift promptly to new experiments. Air tactics must be elastic, changeable to meet changing conditions; airmen must be alert and open-minded. They must learn tomorrow's principles of attack from today's air battles.
Stouthearted leadership is imperative; vacillation, indecision, delay mean disaster; split-second thinking is the rule. Bold, aggressive leaders win air battles.
Airplanes must be kept modern, up-to-date in speed, protective fire power and weapons. Good crews must not be exposed in inferior equipment. After a plane type has been demonstrated as unequal to latest enemy development in air fighting, it must be withdrawn, sent back to the training fields. It is uneconomical to keep tactical units equipped with inferior planes.
Morale is more important for the air fighter than for any other military man. He must be instilled with the offensive spirit; he must believe in the justice of his cause; he must be clothed and armed and fed and rested on a par with his opponent. Most important of all, all members of combat crews must have the will to fight. Airplane crews can be overworked easily; a worn-out crew will have little efficiency. In air fighting, crews and planes must be conserved and not frittered away on useless targets.
New, metal fighting planes are stouter than the flesh and blood of their crews. They can be made ready for a return engagement before their crews can be rested. Multiple combat crews are necessary if the maximum efficiency is to be obtained from the modern aircraft.
"Air power today has decided the fate of nations. Germany with her powerful air armada has vanquished one people after another. On the ground, large armies had been mobilized to resist her but each time it was that additional power in the air that decided the fate of each individual nation." Henry L Stimson
Strategy is the art of war; it concerns those principles which a nation employs to overcome an adversary not yet on the battlefield. It involves the determination of when, where and with what to fight; the girding of a nation for war, the composition of its fighting forces. Their strength, equipment, armament, all these lie in the field of strategy.
Air strategy is the method by which a nation expresses its will through the employment of air forces. The principles of air strategy will dictate the creation of an air force, the type of its equipment, its composition, size, and the time and direction of its employment. In fact, everything which concerns the air force falls in the field of strategy until the air battle is joined. Then tactics take up.
There is a greater likelihood that poor strategy will cause the overthrow of nations than poor tactics. The determination of Germany, when she found herself blocked in the creation of a great navy, to employ an air force instead, was a strategic determination of tremendous influence on the present course of history. The failure of England and France to prevent that German air force, or to build more powerful air forces of their own, were examples of defective strategy.
The failure of all the combatant nations now engaged in the war in Europe to supply a proper proportion of long-range bombardment aircraft capable of reaching any target in possible hostile countries was a basic error in national air strategy. The present frantic efforts of all these nations to supply great flying fortresses with the range and speed and power to apply the checks of air power to any portion of the adversary country is a recognition of that error in air strategy.
Correct thinking is the basis of all successful strategy. There are many avenues for the expenditure of profitable thought by the national fathers as they play the role of air strategists. They must ponder over our possible enemies and our likely allies. They must determine the size and character of our Air Forces. They must prescribe its training and provide its equipment. They must determine to what extent they will organize and direct the industry and economic structure of the country to provide and support adequate air defenses.
In conjuring our possible enemies our endeavor goes immediately into the field of diplomacy. The statesmen make and light the fire under the war witches' cauldron. The military men have but to stir and serve this brew.
There was a time in history when enemies and allies were traditional. One has but to look at the changing map of Europe, at the strange new bedfellows in the present conflict, to realize that that time has passed. In the 25 years since the line up for the first World War, adversary has become ally.
The present realization that allies, as opponents, are not fixed and definite and lasting, has a tremendous effect upon armaments, their size and structure. It appears that the only safe thing to do today is to prepare to meet the best combination which conceivably can be brought against us. That admission adds tremendously to the size of our military establishments. It adds greatly to the cost of armaments. But a second-rate air force, as Poland found, is worthless. In building our air forces we should make them competent for independent operation without any supporting allies whatever.
An air force, unlike a navy, has the mobility which permits it to fight on either boundary or in either theater simultaneously or within a few hours from the time of its presence on a distant coast or a widely separated theater. It makes it unnecessary to build a two-ocean air force. It is unnecessary to arrive at a determination as to whether our most likely enemy lies across the Pacific or across the Atlantic, or whether he will attack from east, west, north, or south.
Wise national leaders ask themselves the question, "What are our requirements by way of air forces? How big must they be to give us adequate protection? What types of aircraft must we build, and in what proportion ?"
Sound thinking should indicate these answers. An air force must be large enough to prevent the incursion of any foreign establishment. It must be able to concentrate more aircraft in any of our critical vital areas than can be concentrated for attack against these establishments. We know today what combination of air forces may conceivably attack us and we know their composition, their power, range and speed. We know the two methods that could be employed in reaching us, the one by direct flight by way of Newfoundland or South America and the other by transport on water-borne bases.
It is not only important to measure accurately the strength of the opponent today, but to look into his war chest to see what he will have in the near future, to study his plans and his intentions, his industrial establishments, his power for making war weapons. His state of mind, his national will, must be gauged, as well as the purposes which they indicate.
There are several limitations to the size of an air force. Fortunately most of these do not seriously limit us. The size of the aircraft industry, the quantity of raw materials, the proportion and numbers of the population suitable for air combat, all are limitations which greatly restrict or delimit the size of the air forces in most nations of the world. In our own case it lies within our power to build the greatest air force in the world.
There is always discussion of the relative merits of a defensive as against an offensive air force. It is possible to build an air force purely defensive in character, consisting entirely of fighter aviation, on the theory that if a nation has enough fighter aircraft it can prevent the incursion of bombardment aviation. Wise air leaders now know that this is an untenable theory. Bombers are winged, long-range artillery. They can no more be stopped completely once they have taken the air than the big shell can be stopped once it has left the muzzle. Some of them may, and probably will, always be shot down. Some of them under favorable conditions will be destroyed. Some will get through. Under certain conditions of weather and at night many will reach their targets. Air forces are strictly offensive in character. They are not Chinese Walls or Maginot Lines which can be stretched along the boundary and relied upon to turn back the invader. Their defensive powers lie in their ability to go out to meet the aggressor. They work also against the nest of the invader, the foreign air bases, and against the father and mother of air forces, the aircraft factory and industrial establishments.
Strategy considers the field of training. On more than one occasion it has been demonstrated that a small, superbly equipped and thoroughly trained air force can overcome without difficulty one superior in size but deficient in training, arms and equipment. Great pools of available possible pilots and mechanics are as far removed from effective airmen as mahogany trees from fine furniture. Combat crews must be highly trained; air leadership must be schooled in the ways of air fighting and perfected in technique and full-scale maneuvers. Air strategy teaches that the air weapon is an intricate mechanism, expensive and dangerous in the hands of the amateur and capable of effective use as a fighting weapon only when built and maintained and directed by skilled, schooled personnel.
Chronologically there are three phases in air strategy, the strategy of preparation, the strategy in fighting and strategy in peace negotiation.
The time for mobilization has undergone great change of late years. The personnel to be mobilized have also changed. In the time of our Spanish American War, mobilization was concurrent with the declaration of war. As late as the first World War there was little mobilization prior to the actual time of the engagement of armed forces. There was a time when only military men were mobilized. That is now not enough. Some of our military leaders now realize that the mobilization of uniformed man power is even less essential than the mobilization of industrial man power. They must be carried out hand in hand.
This time phase in mobilization is many sided. A determination must be made as to when industry will be mobilized. The yardstick for that determination is this: it must be mobilized in ample time to build the machines of war and have them ready at hand completed in adequate numbers when war is declared or invasion comes. We must, therefore, change our own concept on mobilization. It is not concurrent with declaration of war. It is not initial in the beginning of hostilities. It is a preliminary prerequisite. Correct thinking and sound air strategy will indicate when this mobilization must occur. If unsound conclusions are arrived at on this score, as France found out, the war will be lost.
There is another time factor in the provision of air defenses which must not be overlooked; that is the fact that air forces, like naval forces, must be at operating strength before the war starts if they are to be instrumental in turning the tide of that war. Maj Gen Frank M Andrews, first and for four years Commanding General of the GHQ Air Force, reiterated this truth in these words.
It must be realized that it takes time to build a force of modern military aircraft, and further time to train the men to fly those airplanes and maintain them on the ground.
The existence of potential air power is important if it is utilized to create actual air power before the necessity arises to use it. The most fertile agricultural region would be of no value to save a people from starvation if it were not sown with crops and those crops harvested before the specter of famine presented itself.
So it is with potential air power. Unless developed before the emergency occurs, it will be of little value afterwards, not only because of the time factor involved, but also because aircraft factories and engine factories are early objectives of a hostile air force. I repeat, adequate air power cannot be created after the necessity for it has arisen. Like a navy, it takes years to build an air force.
After the first shot is fired, after the first drums beat, when mobilization is complete, when the armed force is drafted to full strength, there are then strategic considerations concerning the waging of actual conflict.
When shall the air force enter the struggle? It should be the first force used. It is the shield which will ward off the first air blow of the enemy. And the first bolt the enemy hurls will come through the air. The effect of that destructive force can be minimized by proper strategic employment of our own air force. If its use is to be correct and timely, if it has the superiority which sound strategic thinking in the first phase would make likely, it will neutralize the air blow of the enemy, just as German employment of her air force on Sept 1, 1939, rendered the Polish air force powerless to strike back.
There is a defensive phase in air strategy, also. Most defensive concepts against the enemy air weapon lie in the field of strategy. These are examples: the maintenance of high morale of the home populace; the provision of adequate air-raid shelters; the placing of our vital establishments underground or of covering or camouflaging them so that they will not be seen and destroyed by the enemy; the provision of adequate warning nets; distribution of fighting aircraft in proper numbers in proper places; providing antiaircraft and balloon barrages. All these, like mobilization and like the building of an air force, are strategic concepts. The nation which provides clear, concise answers will come out on the winning side.
Generally, when wars are over, as in our own Armistice of 1918, there is a great immediate exultation. There are celebrations of victory. Armies are disbanded, air forces are thrown in the junk heap, and navies are tied up to piers to rust away. Despite the fact that wars, even for our own peace-loving people, have occurred in every space of 40 years we always celebrate the conclusion of one struggle by making it almost impossible to fight the next one.
There is another phase, too. During the long years of the struggle, we watched the enemy's every movement. We have parried every blow, but at last, having conquered him, we relax. He then can rebuild his battered war machine without our knowledge or notice. A victorious England and France permitted Germany to prepare the largest military establishment and the most effective air force in existence without raising a hand. England's capital and English support aided in the building of that tremendous war machine. Germany began to build up in 1933 in dead earnest. At any time prior to 1937 France and England could have called a halt. Yet no serious protest was made.
Sound thinking, correct strategy, indicates that it is unwise to dismantle or destroy all military establishments immediately upon the declaration of a given peace. It is now pretty generally conceded that a tremendous armament is the only assurance for peace in a world peopled by the inhabitants and controlled by the governments now existent. That being the case, it is unwise indeed, at a time of temporary lull, to throw away establishments and machines and armaments which have taken billions of dollars to build and millions of hours to fabricate. A wise nation will disarm slowly. It will continue, long after the blood has dried on the battlefields, to train skilled workmen in the factories, to train young flyers and drill young soldiers, and maintain a military might that will maintain it still as an uninviting target for ambitious attack. Likewise, national statesmen will continue to watch the beaten enemy and enforce vigorously provisions in the peace treaties against rearming. The snake under the heel must be kept under heel, lest he come to life again at sunrise.
In the realm of air strategy our primary problems are these: the determination of the air requirements in hemisphere defense; the development of a balanced air force sufficient in size and power for the destruction of any opponent or invader who attempts to reach our shores by air, land, or sea; the provision of an adequate industry, capital, structure and trained man power to maintain this air establishment in lighting trim.
Just as the Monroe Doctrine always has indicated the measurement of our Armies and Navies, now the annunciation of the principles of hemisphere defense cuts the cloth for our Air Forces indicates its size and composition.
Every citizen of the United States who is interested in his own Air Forces should study a globe of the world. He should note the extent and position of the Western Hemisphere. He should ponder well the stepping stones from the old world to the new. Modern bombers can reach our critical industrial, mobilization or strategic areas by using them.
Thus far, air aid from our neighbors presents a gloomy prospect. It is indicated pretty clearly that now and for some time the air forces which protect the Western world will have "US" painted under their metal wings. After the citizen has become familiar with this hemisphere he has vowed to defend, let him then ponder who is likely to attack it. When he has located those nations, eastward across the Atlantic or westward across the Pacific, let him consider how far our own bombers must fly in order to destroy the enemy air force on his bases and to demolish his factories to prevent him from making weapons he can float or fly to our shore. This will indicate an important strategic concept for the building of our own Air Forces. It will indicate that giant planes of vast range are required to do the work.
It has not been entirely due to faulty reasoning that 10,000-mile bombers have not been produced in quantity. The art of the aircraft industry and the size of the airplane power plant had not developed to a point where planes of this size were possible until relatively recent times. It is now evident, however, that no longer is this an adequate excuse. Germany found that the nation which builds the greatest air force first probably will be able to conquer Europe. It may be that the next national determination will be that the nation which produces 1,000 10,000-mile bombers first will be able to conquer or save the world.
Certainly the requirements of hemisphere defense, if thoroughly comprehended, indicate the kind of an air force which the United States must provide in order to enforce it. Not long since an American airman showed how Germany might determine how serious we are about hemisphere defense at little cost and effort.
"If Germany flew 1,000 bombers to Brazil," said he, "and landed them on airdromes prepared by the millions of Germans now resident there, supplying through the air the necessary bombs and fuel, it would be necessary for the nation which would enforce Western Hemisphere defense to drive those bombers out. But no land or water-borne army can approach Brazil under the sphere of influence of those 1,000 bombers until the bombers have first been destroyed or driven out. That means, then, that the nation which would dislodge those German bombers must have an air force with sufficient range to destroy those bombers on their Brazilian bases.
"If such an air force were available and were directed energetically at those Brazilian based Europeans, they might be flown home to Germany, or be reinforced. The ensuing air engagement would largely determine the issue. Certainly it would settle the first or the air phase. This," he pointed out, "is how easily an aggressive foreign power could test our doctrine of hemisphere defense."
Much has been intimated under hemisphere defense about the necessity for the long-range bomber. The provision of adequate air bases well distributed throughout this Western Hemisphere, reduces in a measure the necessity for long range. It indicates that a plane of 10,000- to 12,000-mile range, although desirable for direct action against any possible opponent, might be substituted for by a plane of 3,500-mile range, if adequate bases in all theaters are provided. Bear in mind also that the 5,000-mile bomber is still on the drawing board and even if purchased now, could not possibly be flown for another two years. That indicates how far in advance our plans must be completed.
Correct air strategy indicates the training of pilots and mechanics on a large scale to maintain the airplanes of the number required to insure the protection of the Western world against any coalition of adversaries.
In considering air strategy it is neither necessary nor wise to assume that the whole defense of the Western world is an air problem. That is not intended. It is now definite, however, that neither land nor sea forces can fight land and sea battles to successful conclusion unless the air above them is kept free of opposing air forces. The problem of hemisphere defense is a tripartite problem. It involves air forces, sea forces and land armies in correct proportion, under a common command and with a common objective. These forces must be trained to work together. Their orders, signals, codes, systems of communication, must be common in character and subordinate leaders of each of these three subdivisions must thoroughly understand the tactical employment of the others. Without these essentials there cannot be that true cooperation in the task force which is essential for success in modern warfare.
Civil industry created the original air force. Civil industry must maintain it. This business of healing the wounds and providing replacements to a fighting air force is no insignificant task. Some profess to believe, and the encounters in the European war lend some color to this belief, that engaged air forces will lose as much as 50% per month. That means that if we entered a war with 10,000 fighting planes and all those planes were engaged, 5,000 planes a month for every month the whole force was fighting would be the required capacity of our aircraft industry, merely to maintain those 10,000 planes in battle.
That is a staggering conception. Fortunately, it is not quite that bad. There is no sound military leader, who, possessed of an air force of 10,000 planes, would engage all of them at one time or continuously. No military leader has sent armies or navies all out to continuous battle. There may be considerable periods of time, however, such as have prevailed in England during the months of September and October, 1940, when a whole air force will be engaged for a considerable period of time. It is reasonably safe to say that a nation with an air force of 10,000 fighting planes, if attacked by a larger air force might well require a replacement of at least 30,000 planes per year. That means a tremendous aircraft industry. That industry must be operated continuously, three shifts per day, and its efficiency must be maintained under the conditions which are likely to pertain in wartime. The life of a nation may depend not on the success of the air fighting, but on the ability of the industry to maintain the fighting forces at full strength in arms and equipment. That industry is made up of three essential elements capital, labor and production facilities. Factories in sufficient numbers must be provided either by private industry or the government. There must be a quantity of skilled labor to fabricate 30,000 planes per year, and capital and leadership must be provided to pay the bills and control the establishments. These three must work together in harmony in a common accord. Since it is vital to the government that they do, it is a function of the Government to insure that they do.
No more important strategical problem faces a beleaguered nation. Failure to provide for union of these three elements caused the fall of France and placed England's back to the wall in a life-and-death struggle. The ability of the attacker, Germany, to coordinate these three essentials in proper proportions and to a common purpose, permitted her to build an air force for world domination. This is not a plea for a totalitarian government. Wise, farsighted leadership in a democracy can enforce the cooperation of these three elements to a common end. Only in this way will a large air force be maintained in continuous operation.
It is unavailing if a few men perceive the correct principles of strategy and go about a nation thundering them in vain. There has been no dearth in this country of a few outstanding leaders, who have realized correctly the principles of air strategy and who have propounded them to all who would listen and many who would not. Thirty years ago, Gen James Allen, the Chief Signal Officer of the Army, issued this warning to the American people: "Military aviation is a subject which we must seriously consider whether we wish to or not, and the sooner this fact is accepted, the better it will be for national defense." That statement was made by him to the Congress in a vain appeal for funds. The Congress of that year did not appropriate money for a single plane.
On the other hand, let us see what happened to a national strategist in another land. General Ludendorff, famous World War commander, retired from active service following the close of the first World War. He began to study the reasons for Germany's failure. Strategy was his passionate pastime. Finally he put his ideas on paper in the form of a book known as a Der Totale Krieg. There in that little volume which the German people took to heart, but which received too little notice in the rest of the world, the brilliant old strategist outlined all the principles of the Blitzkrieg.
As Mein Kampf was a widely publicized book of Hitler's declarations which were to be followed by him closely, so Total War by General Ludendorff outlined the strategic conceptions upon which the German army and air force were built and which governed their employment to the present time.
It is not enough for sound principles of tactics and strategy to be thoroughly instilled and inculcated into the military establishment. They must be known and followed by the political leaders. They must become the directing force, the motive energy behind the concerted effort of a united people.
Propaganda always has been employed by successful military leaders. It is the name, not the effect, which is relatively new. It is true, however, that it never was employed so energetically nor upon such a giant scale as has occurred in recent wars. This is due in part to what modern invention has done for the rapid dissemination of intelligence. The Germans were the first to realize the full importance of this weapon and the first to undertake it on a vast scale. It is particularly insidious because no walls can be built to keep it out. The antitoxin must be applied individually. Each mind which hears and construes the words coming over the radio and sees the printed word on the air leaflet is a subject for the disease, hence the requirement for individual vaccination.
The Western Hemisphere is a fallow ground for propaganda because of the many nationalities, differences in language and the differing historic backgrounds in the nations now occupying the Western world. Sound-thinking and well-planned strategy will not overlook the power of propaganda and will provide for an effective organization and machinery for its clever dissemination and for the rebuttal of foreign propaganda loosed on our peoples.
"What a depressing commentary on the follies of human nature that in the year of Grace 1939 civilization should be forced to defend itself with gas-masks and underground cellars, that human beings should be taught how to become once again cave-men, and to shelter themselves in darkness and in the bowels of the earth. The cynic seeing these things would abandon all hope.
"But detest as they might, the need for this expenditure and the causes that led to it, as practical men and women they must set their teeth and see to it that until the world regains its sanity, the priceless treasure of British civilization, should not be endangered by ruthless and inhuman raids." Sir Samuel Hoare, Home Secretary for Britain
Napoleon is alleged to have said that a vigorous offense is the best defense. It will appear, before this chapter has run its course, that Napoleon's observations about defense in warfare are as true for an air warfare as for land battles.
The first World War closed before very serious consideration had been given to a checkmate for air attack. The years of peace that followed found experts in all military research laboratories working overtime to make the modern airplane a better, a more efficient, a much greater destructive weapon.
In the Ethiopian campaign there was little opportunity to employ modern methods against hostile aircraft, since the Ethiopians had no modern military planes, These semi-civilized nomads did, however, learn to scatter at the sound of airplane motors and to take to cover in the luxuriant vegetation of their native land. They were wont, also, to concentrate rifle fire on low-flying attack aviation. Dispersion, concealment, camouflage and small arms fire were their only answers and these were employed in the crude ways to be expected of a people whose armaments had not kept pace with civilization. They were but half schooled in killing, half skilled in defense.
Ethiopia was not a fruitful target for air attack except against troop concentrations and primitive supply columns, since there were no manufacturing establishments, no real lines of communication, few ammunition and supply dumps and depots and no great centers of population and industry. Little can be learned, therefore, from the Ethiopian campaign, about air defense.
The Spanish Civil War, which has often been termed an air proving ground, was the next modern theater for study by the military student in defense phases of aviation. Both the Loyalists and the Nationalists felt sufficiently the sting from the skies to be moved to defensive measures. Both sides soon learned that transportation, rail and road, must move at night and without lights. Both learned that unprotected surface water craft must not be exposed to bombardment aviation too often or too long. Both found that an air force has a peculiar liking for docks, railway stations, railway bridges, troop concentrations, powder plants and supply depots.
Their answer was an industrious employment of the hours of darkness. They learned dispersion, both of airplanes on the ground and of soldiers on foot and in trucks. They practiced considerable of the art of camouflage. Dummy airplanes were reported on some airdromes. They used trees and natural cover and developed some artificial and painted cover to hide essential installations. They learned to move their airplanes from one airdrome to another frequently. They found it wise to employ temporary airdromes as against the permanent variety.
The Spanish Loyalists found to their surprise, and incidentally it was brought home with surprise and confusion to military men in other nations, that steel and reinforced concrete are not a complete barrier to the heavy bomb. This was discovered at Bilbao when the Germans freighted in heavy bombs and melted down a modern concrete "little Maginot" line around that city.
Here in Spain were the first crude air warnings, the first faint evidence about what could be expected later in some other and more important localities.
The Chinese discovered that heavily populated areas such as theirs are especially vulnerable and are inviting targets to the misguided airman who desires to attack civil populations. They found that wood, pasteboard and paper cities burn readily and are easily ignited by the thermite bomb. They confirmed many of the discoveries which had earlier been made in Spain about the enthusiasm of the air attacker for railroads, highways, supply ships and factories. Their weak little air force discovered that the first target for enemy air attack is the airdrome and the aircraft factory.
The stoicism of the Chinese people under Japanese air attack deserves the commendation of the world. Many of their responses were prompt and highly intelligent. After the first attack they moved their two aircraft factories far inland and dispersed the buildings of those factories so that one bomb would destroy but one building. When the drone of the bomber was heard overhead the airdrome detachments moved airplanes out of hangars and around the perimeter of the field, scattering them widely. Then, when the rain of bombs had ceased, they took up their crude tools, put thousands of coolies to work on a single field and had its landing surface smooth again by sunset, removing all telltale scars of a noon attack.
The Chinese discovered also that wartime industry survives best at night. They found it necessary to break up long truck columns, to run the railroad trains through at night without lights and not to mass troops in tight concentrations. The people learned after a couple of years not to huddle in masses like frightened quail when noises came from the skies, but to stay inside and off the streets when explosions were heard in the public square and down by the railway station.
From the limited air operations in Ethiopia, Spain and China, many keen observers in many foreign lands drew many lessons. There were some generalizations about air defense, but no very concrete, definite doctrine was developed.
Then, the air cavalcade moved to Eastern Europe. The Austrians saw how air troop transport and the cooperation of attacking aviation with motorized, mechanized forces can conspire to bring lightning war. They sat in at the birth of the blitzkrieg. The collapse and surrender of the Austrian forces and the lack of opposition prevented reliable conclusions from that theater as to how best to combat the air invader. Poland was therefore the first real air battleground. The Poles discovered that a weak air force, like a weak navy, is scarcely an asset and may be a liability. They did find, however, that an air force, whatever its size, will be the first target an alert enemy air force will attack. They discovered that airplanes concentrated in the hangar or inert on the flying fields will be bombed or burned. The Polish government made an important, new discovery. They found that horses and men of an army harassed from the sky cannot walk to battle. What is more important, they cannot walk away from battle. Airplanes and tanks tanks on the ground and airplanes overhead can surround and cut to pieces men who must rely upon their own agility or the speed of horses to carry them to or from the conflict.
They rediscovered many of the lessons which might have been drawn from Spain and China. They found that rail lines and key bridges will early be destroyed. That transport, rail and road, must move at night. That supply and ammunition concentrations must be concealed or placed underground. They were the subject of another initial test. At one point in their battle when two land forces were tightly locked and it appeared that the Poles were gaining an advantage, Germany shifted her air force from its normal targets of materiel objectives and transportation and factories and moved it for six hours to direct attack against the Polish front-line troops. That swung the tide of battle. The great flexibility of the air weapon, its power against troops when unopposed in the air, was thus demonstrated conclusively.
The ill-fated Poles discovered also how a beleaguered city may be taken despite Chinese walls and stout defenses of earth, concrete, and bayonets. By the merciless aerial bombardment of a limited area, a city like Warsaw can be sacked and burned by winged artillery, they found.
Unreeled before their eyes was a perfect picture of close coordination and cooperation between mechanized forces and flying forces. The Poles found no adequate answer because they were unprepared initially and because they had failed properly to appreciate the full effect of the spear which was to be thrust through their flimsy shield. Some observers who watched their plight chanted some old lessons and suggested some new ones. They said air forces must be in being when war starts. It was quite clear that fighting aircraft cannot stop bombers unless the fighting aircraft is present in sufficient numbers and takes the air under skilled, valiant leadership with trained combat crews in the cockpits. Foreign observers were disappointed at the inability of antiaircraft fire and small arms fire to close the flaming mouth of the flying dragon. They engaged in some speculation and calculation as to what a tremendous number of antiaircraft guns and weapons would be required to stop a large and vigorous air assault.
Next comes Norway, then Holland, Belgium and France. In these theaters there was not a new show, merely the old act with a bigger cast. Everybody says now, "Why did not the Dutch, the Belgians, the French read promptly and correctly from the misfortunes of Spain, China and Poland, and prepare an adequate antidote ?" There are plausible answers. In the first place, they did not read and interpret the lessons correctly. In the second place, they did not evaluate the industrial progress and air units and motorized ground forces created by their nearby neighbor with accuracy, nor attach to these things the importance they deserved. In the third place, time was not given them properly to revamp their structures, discard outmoded ideas, prepare new mail and shields.
So, we come to the Battle of Britain. Here for the first time, an invading air force has met a stouthearted air force, a sturdy foe and a stiff-spined opposition. Thus, from the beginning of the Battle of Britain in the late summer of 1940, a new chapter is being written, outlining the best antidote against air attack. From all of these modern engagements we here in America may draw some standard conclusions and prescribe some definite theories on air defense with practical illustrations on every other page.
Counter air force measures have been subdivided by the military school men into two principal categories and labeled direct and indirect. Direct measures are those in which positive forceful action is taken against the attacking vessel; indirect means are those by which an effort is made to circumvent or minimize the danger, such as by hiding it from the bomber or by scattering it so as to make an uneconomical target.
In organized conflict, as in personal encounter, it is generally better to take positive action against the opponent, to injure or damage him in a direct way, than to attempt to hide or evade. There was much discussion until recent times about the best direct form of counter air force operations. This generally developed into heated arguments between airmen and antiaircraft artillery men. The recent wars in Europe, as well as the earlier struggles in Spain and China, demonstrated conclusively that although quite a few planes can be brought down by antiaircraft artillery, the only sure way to destroy an air force is with fighter aviation. A bigger and better air force is the only effective answer to opposing air power. There have been estimates from many sources as to the relative number of airplanes shot down in aerial combat as against all types of small arms and artillery fire from the ground. They range from about 85% chargeable to fighter aircraft and 15% to artillery, to a 70-30 ratio. It is now quite clear, however, that by long odds, the largest number of enemy aircraft have been destroyed by opposing fighter aviation. This does not mean that all other forms of counter air force operations should be discontinued or discarded. The best policy is to hurl everything, including the water bucket, at an invading air force fighter aircraft, antiaircraft artillery, barrage balloons and bombardment of airdromes. Everything must be done which will disconcert the pilots and bombers and render their bombing less accurate.
So far as is known, the tactical doctrines of most of the air forces of the world held, until recent times, that an air force was most vulnerable on the ground and that it was of primary importance, therefore, to make the first objective destruction of enemy air bases. "Shoot them on the nest," was the cardinal slogan. The events in Europe in the late summer and fall of 1940 considerably changed that doctrine. It was found that the attack of airdromes is uneconomical and unsound if the opponent takes reasonable precaution to disperse planes between airdromes and to scatter them widely on individual fields. However, planes aligned with military precision or concentrated in groups or in hangars are still fine targets for any bombing outfit.
We are back then to the recognition that an air force in being must be destroyed in the air or while being constructed in factories. The light, fast, maneuverable fighter, single-motored or bimotored, carrying six, eight or 10 machine guns and a couple of 20-mm or 37-mm cannon, is the best antidote to bombardment attack. The Royal Air Force has demonstrated that a well-equipped and courageous fighter command can, until it is worn out or greatly reduced in strength and efficiency, make the attack of bombing formations expensive and uneconomical.
The pursuit plane or fighter has a distinct advantage over the bomber. It can select the time and place of attack and it can elect the direction of attack. Experienced fighter pilots always elect to attack the bomber from the angles where offensive bombardment cannot aim his guns or make hits in the blind spots. It is remarkable how quickly fighter pilots determine from what angles they can fly in close to bombers with least likelihood of damage to themselves. Some types of bombers in both England and Germany have suffered such serious losses that they have been quickly withdrawn from daylight attacks and have either been discarded or reserved strictly for night operations.
During daylight in good weather, when pursuit aviation is present in strength in an area, it can pretty nearly bar the air to the bomber. Night fighters making attacks are greatly handicapped, however, in locating enemy bombers. The searchlights and listening devices of the antiaircraft aid materially in this regard, but do not provide an infallible means of obtaining a position from which the kill can be made. They also disclose the locations of the fighters and incur enemy retaliation with machine guns.
The outstanding example in all the annals of aerial warfare to date where the fighter swept the skies of hostile aircraft in a given area occurred above Dunkerque during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. However, the fighting pursuit plane cannot take all the credit for this brilliant British withdrawal as the fog a natural enemy to all aircraft played a most important part. It may now be said that until new air battles disclose new methods and weapons that the fighter airplane is more than a match for the enemy bomber in daylight and is a very good counter measure even at night.
Antiaircraft artillery as a counter air force weapon is important and cannot be overlooked. Aside from its actual destruction of opposing bombers it has three outstanding advantages. It cooperates with friendly pursuit aviation by revealing the location of the enemy bomber formations. Many a fighter pilot has been steered directly to his prey by the puffs of white smoke from bursting antiaircraft shells. It tends to keep bomber formations at high altitudes and to confuse their aim and accuracy. While it is undoubtedly true that skilled bombardment personnel can bomb with great accuracy from any altitude it can reach, each type of plane and each group of pilots will have an optimum altitude, a preferable elevation from which they bomb most effectively. The third great advantage of antiaircraft artillery lies in the fact that it elevates morale of ground forces and of the civil populace. The blast of the guns around London has done much to maintain the morale of the defending forces and the nonmilitary subject.
The greatest limitations to antiaircraft lie in the fact that great quantities of guns and ammunition are necessary. In order to give an important military objective reasonable protection with the use of antiaircraft fire alone, a tremendous number of guns and on inordinate quantity of ammunition is an essential requirement. Inclement weather and darkness also serve to render less potent the barrage from the antiaircraft artillery.
Antiaircraft artillery is aided in its night operations by searchlights and listening devices. Searchlight batteries can illuminate bombardment planes at night and can retain them in the illuminated area. It not only guides to their targets friendly fighter aviation, but makes it possible for the ground gunner to locate his target. Listening devices enable the defenders accurately to spot aircraft long before they normally can be picked up.
A form of antiaircraft fire which has gained a new respect from airmen, first in France and later in England, is the .50-caliber and 20-mm automatic weapons. Thirty-caliber machine gun fire and even rifle fire in heavy concentrations is effective against low-flying aircraft. The recognition of this principle has caused the number of automatic weapons to be greatly increased in all infantry and cavalry units.
Our Infantry School at Ft Benning and our Cavalry School at Ft Riley have done much to work out systems for the use of light machine guns and rifle fire against low-flying aviation. Our ground arms now are spending much time in perfecting and instilling in our divisions these practices.
An indispensable adjunct to all direct counter air force measures is the warning net. It is composed of a well-spaced group of listening posts, scattered over an area, interconnected by telephone and communicating with a central headquarters. The efficient net will have observers so spaced that it is impossible for aircraft to move to the target without being observed. A good warning service will have a system of communication so well established that it can supply instant notification of the location, size and direction of flight of the invading bomber formation. The warning service in England from the coast to London appears very effective. This is undoubtedly attributable to the fact that it was established long before required, its personnel was drilled and trained and its communication lines were direct and effective.
The warning net is necessary to alert antiaircraft artillery so that it can be ready to meet the enemy when he comes within range. A 300-mph bomber is such a fleeting target that it is very important for antiaircraft to receive the earliest possible advance information of its elevation, direction and speed.
Such a net is an absolute essential to the proper operation of fighter aviation. It takes several minutes for an airplane of the latest type to climb to 20,000 feet. Obviously, the fighter cannot engage the bomber until it has reached the same or a higher elevation. Warning must be given pursuit so that the takeoff can occur several minutes prior to the arrival of the enemy formation at the point selected as the target.
Several maneuvers have been held in this country within the past few years which have afforded extensive practice in temporary warning-net installations. Undoubtedly one of the early tasks of the Air Defense Command will be the establishment of permanent warning services from our coasts inland toward all our vital objectives.
Prevalence of barrage balloons in large numbers in a limited area tends to keep bombardment aviation away or at altitudes above the ceiling of the balloons. The cables suspended from barrage balloons can and do wreck aircraft. The principal handicap of the barrage balloon is the same as that for the antiaircraft artillery weapon. It must be present in such enormous quantity in order to be effective that it is not always economical.
Our Army is preparing to test out thoroughly the barrage balloon as an antiaircraft defensive measure. From our present vantage point it appears that it is a weapon of limited application. It cannot be relied upon entirely for the defense of an area, but it has definite advantages as a cooperative measure.
The ideal situation for the employment of barrage balloons is for installation in concentric rings about absolutely vital targets of small area which must be defended. When the weather conspires to assist, as for example, when there is a 5,000 or 6,000-foot overcast of considerable depth, the barrage balloon can be raised into the clouds and be invisible to the attacking aerial formations. In such a case the damage to invading aircraft is likely to be heavy.
However, if the overcast is thin and the barrage balloon personnel allow the balloon to stick through the top, opposing pursuit can pick them like daisies. In this case the miles of cable come tumbling back on the barrage balloon winch crew.
The best information to date leads to the conclusion that the barrage balloon is not to be discarded as ineffective, but that it is to be used for the imperative defense of small installations of priceless importance. It would be impossible, of course, to supply enough balloons, cables, trucks and personnel to offer any reasonable measure of security to all the important targets in a large country such as ours, where manufacturing establishments, rail terminals and other inviting targets are numerous and widely scattered.
A method of protection against aircraft which has been all too generally overlooked both abroad and in this country lies in camouflage. The art probably has reached its highest development in Germany. Several months before September, 1939, an American observer in flying over the German countryside had several fields pointed out to him. They looked like villages, orchards, roads and many other installations, but not like flying fields. The clever use of the art of camouflage can for a limited period and until broken down by color photography or by experimental bombing, lend a considerable measure of protection.
Camouflage is particularly effective as a protective measure for aircraft factories, munitions plants and other fixed installations which cannot be moved and must be concealed or covered.
The best protection against aerial bombardment, of course, is underground shelter. It has economic limitations, however, and there are some places where it cannot be used. Obviously it is impossible to use underground cover for transportation when in motion, such as ships at sea, railroads on tracks and truck transportation on highways. The best principle to follow, apparently, is to provide for underground installations wherever the attack is so imminent and the target is so valuable that it is worth the expenditure of considerable time, effort and funds to render it inviolate.
Bombardment aviation can readily locate illuminated targets at night. The night bomber is guided unerringly to great cities by the illumination in the heavens.
The principal European cities have now had several years of practice and, of late, nightly trials in the blacking out. Street illumination can be controlled from a central source and operated by military personnel as a part of the defense command. To be effective, however, blackouts must have the wholehearted cooperation of the whole civil populace, and it generally requires the strong arm of the law to insure 100% compliance throughout a community.
A string of automobile headlights on a highway or on a street divulges human habitation quicker on a dark night than when the landscape is partially lighted. The lights from shops, factories and private dwellings must be hidden from view by drawn shades, or switches must be thrown if a city is to be blacked out. Shutters are more effective than shades and many new establishments, particularly aircraft factories and other essential munitions manufacturing plants, are being completely equipped with a system of venetian blinds so that they can be completely darkened to outside view.
Cooperative blackouts are ineffective. A city or an area will not be completely blacked out until there has been long practice and with the strict enforcement of definite regulations. It requires a trained and perhaps a frightened populace to make this measure entirely effective.
An unmeasurable factor of tremendous importance in withstanding the air onslaught is what we may term civil morale. If one who had stood in the streets of Barcelona or in the streets of Warsaw when the German Stukas charged, could now stand in Trafalgar Square in London, quite likely he would be able to define civil morale. It has long been known that the courage of soldiers on the firing lines is greatly affected by the hunger or the sickness or the endangering of their families far behind the lines. One of the devastating innovations of air attack is its ability to bring that pressure. A stout-hearted civil populace will be a tremendous factor in the success of any nation to withstand heavy and continued air raids.
The government can have an important influence on civil morale in several marked ways. One is by the provision of adequate air-raid shelters and an effective warning system. Another is in a propaganda or public information campaign to inflame the civil populace to a firm belief in the rightness of their cause and to a hatred or scorn for the attacker. Another is by instilling into a people the conviction that their cause will prevail, that they are being well led and that victory is inevitable. They must also be shown clearly that the sacrifice is worth the cost.
The morale of a civil population, like most things, is the result of planning and organization. A whole territory must be laid off into small sections; alert leadership must be selected and designated duties and functions according to a prearranged plan. There must be local organizations for fire fighting, hospitalization, medical care, air-raid warnings and for building, street and communications repair.
Finally, this organization must be drilled until every required action is reduced to routine. People do not act normally when bombs are falling. If they have been well taught and well trained and well led, they will habitually do the right thing and the result will be high morale and a stout defense which may be of great help in winning the war.
"I have long known that while in warfare the heartaches will be on the firing line, the headaches will be on the production line." Louis Johnson
The three gauges for the air strength of a nation are: air force in being; reserves of planes and combat crews; and productive capacity for airplanes and trained personnel. The last of these is by no means the least. A nation likely and able to win a war will enter it not only with the largest and most efficient air force, but behind that first line will stand the second line, the ability to maintain that superior strength in men and machines.
Several things determine and proscribe the aviation production capacity of a nation. The most important of these include raw materials, manufacturing plants, machine tools, skilled workmen, supervisory personnel in plants, appropriations or capital, and national will, sometimes called national policy. The United States is superlatively endowed in the first four of these essentials. It possesses more of the necessary raw materials than any nation of the world. While its aeronautical industry is not as large as some of the warring nations, it has the capacity for building these facilities in greater proportion than any other nation. While it does not now have as many experienced workmen in aircraft plants as Germany, it undoubtedly has men with equal aptitude and probably greater; it has a class of labor, skilled and unskilled, which can be more quickly trained. It has a pool of manpower more familiar with mass-production methods than any found anywhere else in the world.
Until relatively recent times, the great handicap to the provision of a large and thriving aeronautical industry in this country suitable for the modern needs for a war reserve has been the lack of suitable appropriations for plants. The Federal government appropriated less than $25,000,000 annually over a long period of years for the procurement of military aircraft. Civil capital was not attracted to the aircraft industry because it did not appear there would be a great enough demand to warrant large capital investments, since there were no airplane consumers of any consequence except the Army and Navy.
Now, as to national policy the will of the nation and its leaders which is in reality the crux of the matter. The United States until 1939 had no strong nor definite policy favorable to the building up of a great aviation industry. Our nation has always been traditionally peace-loving. Its military policy has always been one of defense. The great majority of the people who thought on the subject at all, considered long-range air weapons as offensive weapons, when our military policy was a defensive one, and were therefore lukewarm, if not cold, to their production in quantity.
During one brief period in our history, the first World War, we had earnestly and ardently desired to produce airplanes in quantity and we had bent our national will and effort toward that end. During that period we built our industry from almost microscopic proportions to a point where it was able to produce within a little more than 18 months, 20,000 planes and 32,000 engines, or the equivalent of 8,000 1,000-hp engines. At the conclusion of that period, however, misguidedly believing we had made the world safe against destructive aggressive forces for all time, that great aviation industry was allowed to disintegrate.
Several factors late in 1938 induced this nation under the able leadership and aggressive direction of its President to set about increasing its aircraft industry. As a result of the Chief Executive's 1939 message to the Congress, an appropriation of $170,000,000 was made immediately for the procurement of 3,000 additional modern planes for the Army, of which more than 1,600 were to be of the latest combat types, this to give the Army a total plane strength of 5,500.
To the prerequisites essential for a great aircraft industry raw materials, factory capacity and skilled labor were thus added the remaining essentials, funds and a national will or policy, a determination to build a greater air force.
That was the picture by midsummer, 1939. Sept 1 Germany invaded Poland. Sept 3 England and France declared war on Germany. The Polish campaign demonstrated unmistakably that air forces had added a third dimension to warfare; that a new fighting force had come to join armies and navies to control the destiny of nations. Small nations with little air forces fell with remarkable ease and startling rapidity to the crushing combination of air forces and mechanized, motorized divisions.
These startling international events indicated further revisions of our air strength on a rapidly rising curve. Three supplemental estimates to the regular appropriation bill for 1940, which had provided less than 200 airplanes for replacements, were passed by the 76th Congress. These authorizations swelled unfilled orders of planes for the Army to some 21,000, a peak procurement requirement for all time.
Appropriations were made increasing the Navy's total strength by about 6,000. Foreign orders which had been placed with the aircraft industry for about 12,000 planes, made a total requirement suddenly thrust upon the aircraft industry of about 40,000 new planes, about half of which were of combat types. Fortunately for the industry, however, the orders for the Army's first 3,000 had been placed 12 months earlier than the others and production was well under way. Training planes were rolling out of the factories by hundreds each month.
The national will was suddenly alive. It decided, in the slow but normal American manner, that money being the answer to everything, appropriations for $2,000,000,000 would insure the instant creation of a new and powerful air force.
Manpower suddenly jumped from 32,000 men employed in the production of aircraft in 1939 to 125,000 by September, 1940, and it was quite evident, with the rate of training in progress, that skilled manpower would not prove a serious bottleneck. There was a real problem in delivery of machine tools. We had not speeded up our production along that line to meet requirements and deliveries for the larger and more complicated machines could not be secured for periods of from six to nine months after orders were placed.
United States appropriations totaling almost $2,000,000,000, plus foreign purchases of an additional billion, stimulated the industry, but facilities were not ready to absorb the orders. We found that there was really no substitute for time. There was a shortage of aeronautical engineers and it requires time to train them. Supervisory and administrative personnel for factories cannot be picked up overnight. Six to nine months are required to build and equip new aircraft factories.
The American industry came through, as it usually does, and built up a firm base then the superstructure and now is showing the results of careful planning. We are on our way.
The American aircraft industry from the time the Wright brothers built their first frail craft, including the production for the first World War, during the whole 36 years of its existence, had been required to build less than 45,000 planes. Now it was asked to deliver, within a period of two years, nearly this total with all the modern improvements and complications of design.
Raising the aircraft production capacity from less than 1,000 planes per year during the lean years in aviation the twenties and thirties to 3,600 military planes per month is a many-sided problem. Here are a few of the factors involved:
In 1938, the last normal year, aviation factory capacity was approximately 5,000,000 square feet, with about 27,000 workmen employed in airplane construction. There were an additional 7,000 working on engine production. During that year 3,675 planes of all types were built. Of these 150 were transport planes, 30 private planes, 1,425 light planes and 1,800 military planes, including those produced for export. With this base, the industry agreed that it could step up production to meet the 5,500 plane program of the Army and at the same time take care of the Navy's and foreign business then in prospect, without any tremendous expansion in floor space and factory facilities. It could do this, it contended, by adding two eight-hour shifts. It had been for the most part theretofore on the one-shift-per-day basis.
In the summer of 1939, the Chief of Air Corps, after careful survey of the capacity of the industry by military aviation experts, was able to tell the Congress that he expected the American aircraft industry to be able to reach a production of 1,200 planes per month by October, 1940. Some in the industry felt that this figure was much too low. The total actual production for the month of October, 1940, was 1,170 planes.
There was much discussion before Congress and between Army and Navy and industrial leaders as to the possible methods for reaching, in the quickest possible time, the necessary plant expansion required. Three plans were carefully weighed. The first was to leave the plant expansion entirely to private industry. The second was to have the plant expansion built by the Government. The third method was to have the Government build the additional plant facilities required and to have them operated by private enterprises.
The one eventually selected was the compromise plan, although there have been some instances of the employment of all three methods. For the most part, the principal establishments have built their factory additions with funds lent by the Government, but to be operated by private industry. At the close of 1940, production not having reached the rate of speed-up desired, there was serious discussion of building at least two exclusively Government-owned plants of vast size, to be operated either by aircraft industry management or by the automobile industry.
By late summer of 1940, aircraft production had become a political issue. There were charges that the civil aircraft industry had sat down in the road and refused to budge until excess profit limitations had been erased from the statutes and other Governmental assurances given.
The Assistant Secretary of War, the Honorable Louis Johnson, answered these critics in this fashion:
"American industry has cooperated and is cooperating with us wholeheartedly in our industrial mobilization planning. The War Department has taken the initiative and our industrial leaders have responded. Patriotism is not the exclusive possession of the fighting man. The worker and the factory manager have shown that they too realize their responsibilities and the import of their post-wartime tasks."
This much is now certain. The American aircraft industry was, as 1940 drew toward year end, well under way toward making the necessary plant expansion to reach an aircraft production capacity of at least 2,600 planes per month no later than the fall of 1941 and 3,600 by the fall of 1942. That is a remarkable increase, an increase of 25 times, bearing in mind that the monthly production average for the 10 years succeeding 1920 was less than 100 planes a month.
When the demand for the phenomenal increase in aircraft production became evident in the summer of 1939, many felt that skilled labor would prove the neck of the bottle. Starting with less than 35,000 employes in our airplane and engine factories, we had reached by the late fall of 1940 a total employment in these industries of over 150,000.
Our manufacturers were employing the apprentice system. High school graduates and graduates of technical schools were placed beside trained employees as understudies, both in the airplane and in the engine factories. It is now apparent that this system will prove entirely effective.
Time is an essential factor in preparedness for war. Since 1939, despite the most thoroughgoing effort of the Government and industry to cooperate in raising the production level of military aircraft, we now find, more than a year after the genesis of that effort, a production capacity of only about 1,200 planes per month.
It takes more than 100,000 man hours to build and equip a modern Flying Fortress; 12,000 for the average plane. Multiply this figure by 25,000 airplanes per year and there is a time and labor total which is staggering.
This is the basic reason why air forces must be in being when a war starts. There will not be time after the bombs begin to fall to build either the factories or the planes for the creation of a larger air force. All the time and all the facilities will be required to maintain the air force with which we start at its initial strength.
There has been considerable discussion concerning foreign plane orders. Some have contended we should build up our own air force first. Others have thought that we should delay building our own air force until England is supplied with all she needs to fight the Battle of Britain.
The release policy for foreign sales was explained by Colonel Louis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of War, as follows:
"We will permit our manufacturers to sell to foreign buyers our late models of aircraft and engines and they will receive in turn not only an adequate monetary compensation, but we will get improved planes for our own air force and an aviation industry capable of producing them in quantities required. In addition, we shall receive promptly the latest information from foreign proving grounds, technical and tactical information vital to our own war plans.
"There will be no delay in the delivery of sufficient military aircraft to equip our own air force adequately and to arm our own squadrons. We shall permit a reasonable delay in the delivery of some of our reserve airplanes in order to incorporate in them the necessary changes to make them superior fighting aircraft. It is a fair exchange one of those fortunate bargains where both sides gain their desired ends. Our foreign customers get the planes they desire when they need them; our industry is built with foreign capital to the proper size and our air force is equipped with superior combat planes."
To amplify, let us assume that the British Purchasing Commission desires light bombers from the Douglas Company of a similar type to those now being produced for our own Army Air Corps. Our Government authorizes the British to have them after sufficient have been produced to equip all of our light bombardment squadrons. Let us assume that it takes 200 light bombers to equip our squadrons. When the production has reached the 200th bomber, the British order cuts in. It takes its quota and then the ensuing number are our light bombers for our reserve.
From the standpoint of the size and efficiency of our civil aircraft industry, it has been fortunate for us that several of the foreign nations have been forced by the inadequacy of their own aircraft industry to come to us with plane orders.
In industry, as in military operations on the battlefield, a definite plan with bold leadership is a principal requirement. When the present emergency at first became apparent, leaders in civil industry were assembled at the request of the War Department to perfect a definite plan. Soon thereafter the Chief Executive appointed a National Defense Commission of outstanding industrial and labor leaders, to serve in an advisory capacity and for liaison purposes between capital, industry, labor and the Government consumers. Excellent results have been obtained. The Commission has cooperated wholeheartedly with the Army Air Corps and has shown no disposition to dictate types or requirements, or otherwise to infringe upon the responsibility of the military. The labor leaders in the Commission have rendered indispensable service in the avoidance of damaging strikes in aircraft and munitions factories.
There is always a danger in instituting a new organization to meet a national crisis. Too often it makes for confusion and there is always the possibility that in its desire to secure standardization and production, it will freeze types and thus prevent changes necessary to achieve the performance dictated by combat. Such an organization also breaks down routine and established procedure. It speaks volumes for the quality of industrial and military leadership that the creation of the National Defense Commission and the necessary changes in the procurement procedure as a result of the formation of the new commission have not had these effects.
There has been much discussion as to whether Government plants, Government-owned and -operated, should provide the additional facilities and establishments required for increased wartime production. Those favoring this method contend that these additional establishments could be closed promptly at the end of the war or emergency period and the civil industry would not be faced with the serious deflation which normally occurs when the war emergency is over. The opponents to that system have contended that Government ownership of aircraft factories is a new departure and a dangerous precedent. They have contended that the Government does not possess the skilled engineers and designers and industrial management requisite to the operation of such plants. This latter contention is undoubtedly true. At present it appears that the system which in general will be followed is a cooperative give-and-take whereby the Federal Government builds the plant only when private industry does not desire to do it. In all cases the augmented establishments will be operated by an old and established manufacturing institution.
In the summer of 1940, there was a delay of several months in construction of plant expansion in several of the older and larger aircraft factories. It was charged in some quarters that this showed an improper spirit on the part of industry, a failure to cooperate, a desire to hold a club over the Government in time of emergency, a demand for excess profits. Actually this delay was taken by the companies to await additional pending legislation and for the pronouncement of certain legal decisions on amortization and tax matters which would enable them to arrange their finances. The passage by Congress and the signing by the President of the tax legislation cleared up this difficulty in September, 1940. With the passage of excess profit legislation and the pronouncement by the Treasury Department of the exact status on amortization and tax structure, the 90-day delay was at an end. By November, 1940, contracts had nearly all been signed and plans completed for all proposed expansion.
The Chief of Air Corps recommended to the War Department in the fall of 1940 that it would be impossible to reach and maintain maximum production in the aircraft industry without definite assurance of what business was to follow. An airplane factory could not well enlist a payroll of 10,000 employees and build 500,000 or 1,000,000 square feet of additional floor space, required to complete a plane order in six months or a year, with no prospect in sight for work for this great factory or its employees at the end of that period.
Funds have been appropriated for the delivery of 21,000 Army planes by July, 1942. If the American aircraft industry is to maintain a production rate of 36,000 planes per year, it will be necessary for Congress to provide funds for many planes for the fiscal year 1943. How much of the productive capacity must be kept in operation if we are to have its maximum available when we need it at some unknown date in the future? The great danger is that some sudden cessation of hostilities or some impending peace trends may lead the public mind to provide inadequate funds to maintain the production capacity which has been so difficult to obtain.
Obviously, an aircraft production capacity of 36,000 planes per year cannot be maintained indefinitely, involving as it does a cost to the Government of a billion dollars per year.
Serious economic questions will confront the nation as to how to dispose of the surplus. Some have suggested that the field of hemisphere defense will be a part of the answer. Most certainly if we have a large reserve of planes, it would seem to be a far better plan to sell at a reduced price to our South American neighbors than to have them become unusable standing on our flying fields.
If a period of peace and international stability should settle upon the world, the great aviation production capacity in Germany and in England will search diligently for foreign markets. It is fairly definite that both of those nations, wise from the experience of recurrent wars, will not wish to allow their aircraft-manufacturing establishments to disintegrate and decay. This is a problem which our Government and our aviation industry should now attack with all the intelligence they command.
The truth of the matter is that a nation which builds definitely toward a war at a given time has a definite advantage over a peace-loving nation with a defensive military policy. It will require greater diplomatic acumen in the future if nations peacefully inclined are to survive. It takes time to build airplane production capacity, time to build air forces; therefore, it is imperative either to know when war will come, or to know when enemies begin to prepare for war.
One of the first determinations to be made when a nation decides to build an aircraft industry and an air force is to arrive at an intelligent conclusion as to the types of planes needed and to reduce these to the smallest possible number of types. It is much easier to build 1,000 planes of a single type than to build 100 each of 10 types. On the other hand, it has been conclusively proven that we have not yet reached the happy day of the all-purpose airplane. Military requirements demand several types of fighters and several types of bombers. An ineffective air force will be provided if ease and speed of manufacture only are accepted as the criteria. Likewise, there will be delays in the production of aircraft if there be indecisiveness as to types and quantities of each type required. Types must be frozen as far as changes are concerned for production of a definite number of planes. Then the advantages of changes must be weighed against the loss in production.
Military leadership must always make the determination based on military requirements and necessity as to the types of planes which are to be built; no one else can do it. The National Defense Advisory Committee has been wise, indeed, in refraining from attempting to exercise any determination over the types of planes to be built. At one time in our recent military history the development of the heavy bomber was quite definitely opposed. Since our national policy was one of defense, attempts were made to meet our requirements with medium and light bombers and pursuit aircraft only. That might have been a serious, almost a tragic blunder. Both Germany and England delayed the building of large four-engine bombers too long, by their present admission, and are now frantically engaged in making good those arrears.
In a nation such as ours where the factories of our aircraft industry are engaged in the production of foreign orders as well as those for our own military establishments and where the foreign buyers are hard pressed in battle, there will always be an insistent demand to forgo delivery to our own military forces in favor of those hard-pressed foreign purchasers. An executive decision must be made after a careful study of the diplomatic and international situation as to the proper course to pursue. Our own involvement, the time when our air force may possibly be required either for fighting or to influence other countries in international negotiations, are two determining factors. A faulty guess or unsound reasoning may mean national disaster during future years.
It has been suggested that the aircraft industry in the United States has or will conspire with the foreign purchaser to give him priority of delivery because of greater profits which can be expected from foreign orders. There is no evidence to date that the leaders in our aircraft industry have been unpatriotic in this regard.
The most serious bottlenecks in the aircraft industry have not been in airplane production but in some of the vital accessories, particularly in the engine field. When our own expansion increased the annual engine demand from 3,000 to 30,000 engines, with thousands under contract for foreign delivery, it soon became apparent that many planes would be held up on the production lines for want of suitable power plants. The National Advisory Commission for Defense has cooperated mightily with the War Department in an effort to solve this serious problem. There has been great expansion in the old airplane-engine companies and an effort has been made to extend the facilities of some of the minor companies to provide for larger engines and to induce automobile manufacturers to enter this field. However, it will be at least two years before engines will be available for all the planes rolling out of the factory doors.
Delivery on many of our military airplanes may possibly be held up for shortages in some of the vital instruments and accessories. There is very little civil demand for many of these products and the expansion to meet the greatly augmented military requirements is approached cautiously because of the consequent deflation which may occur when the emergency no longer exists. Here it is necessary for the Federal Government to intervene promptly and order and pay for the necessary expansion for the instruments, the armament, the radio and other accessory equipment vital to the production of the completed fighting plane.
There are definite steps in the production of the military airplane and these are in a regular sequence and each has an important time element.
The first phase is the experimental period. A designer has a vision. He reduces these ideas to drawings. The drawings, when completed, are submitted for analysis to the experimental section at the Materiel Division, Wright Field, to determine whether the new plane represents a sufficient advance and is desired by the Air Corps as a new plane type. If found to have merit and if planes of that type are desired, a proposal is made and widely publicized to the industry for a new plane having the characteristics and performance desired. Care must be taken in all of our dealings that we never knowingly or unknowingly disclose any confidential information received from a manufacturer. All manufacturers who believe they can comply with our requirements and specifications submit designs. An evaluation is then made and the best of the types is selected for order. The experimental contract is then let.
A minimum of from three to five months will have elapsed in arriving at the determinations, the issue of proposals, the examination of bids and the letting of the experimental contract.
The winning manufacturer then begins to build the experimental article. Since there is but one of the type and since it represents a new departure, it will be in all essential regards a handmade article. It will require, for the simplest type, the single-seater fighter, at least six months to build this experimental plane. For the heavy bomber or multi-engine fighter from nine months to a year will generally elapse.
This experimental plane is then flown from the factory for flight test at the Materiel Division. The test pilots flight check it for performance and airworthiness. The aeronautical engineers examine it for strength factors, arrangement of armament, as to suitability for combat crew operation, and to determine whether it meets with the terms of the bid. This third examination or acceptance phase will require an additional 60 to 90 days. Thus, nearly two years have elapsed in the building and testing of the first airplane, the experimental model.
A second or production contract is then let as a result of proposals and bids from all manufacturers who have the facility to build a plane of that type. The winning bidder then is given a contract for a definite quantity, as required. Another period of one year to 18 months will be required for the production of the order. Thus, it requires, in peacetime, from three to five years to produce a military airplane in sufficient quantity to arm the fighting units with an appreciable number.
In time of war or national emergency every possible effort is made to abbreviate these periods. It probably will never be possible, however, to produce a new type in large numbers in less than two years and it will generally take longer, particularly for the larger types of aircraft.
One disturbing factor which will always be injected into American aircraft production, both in times of peace and during war, is the question of changes. The British industry has accomplished miracles in this respect. The manufacturers may be in the middle of the period outlined in the foregoing section. The experimental plane will have just been produced and flown, or the first 100 of the production order will have been built when it will be discovered that the type is not entirely satisfactory because it should have a 20-mm gun instead of a .30-caliber, or there should be better visibility for the pilots, or it should carry bombs or have bulletproof tanks. It will be necessary then to stop production, redesign the tanks, or the armament, or the armor, throw out the old tanks and fit in the new before the production flow can continue.
There is always an executive determination to decide whether the new changes recommended are sufficiently important for the delay they will cause. Generally, it is wise to pursue a middle course, eliminate all changes which are not absolutely essential in order to enable the new airplane to live under the battle conditions it will meet.
In England the Supermarine Spitfire, although ordered from the drawing-board model late in 1934, was still in the experimental stage in 1938, and only the prototype had been flown. Some observers report that despite the great emphasis in England on aircraft production, including the tryout of the shadow factory scheme, her production was about 2,000 planes per month late in 1940.
It is unlikely, German observers state, that France's strike- ridden aircraft industry ever reached a production of 1,000 planes per month. These facts should be borne in mind by the critics of our own industry who are now impatient of the efforts being made to reach in a period of two years a production capacity of 36,000 planes per year.
In our effort two considerations must be borne in mind. If we entered a war there would be no industry anywhere in the world, upon which we could draw save our own. The other factor which we must never forget is this: England worked under supreme pressure and at maximum effort and in more than four years was able to get a production rate of about 2,000 planes per month.
Air forces are thus limited by the size and efficiency of the manufacturing establishments and the plane-production capacity. The strength of our air force, therefore, has two limitations: first, the requirements for our own protection and for hemisphere defense; and second, the maximum capacity of our industry. If the latter can be built to meet the former and maintain it in a fierce .struggle against equal adversaries, it will likely mean victory and a hard-won peace. If we cannot accomplish those desirable ends, it will mean defeat and all that entails, if, indeed, air forces have come to be the decisive factor in warfare, as many now believe, and as the tide of battles now raging seems to indicate.
"Research is the reconnaissance party of industry, roving the unknown territories ahead, indefinite yet not without purpose, seeing for the first time things that all the following world will see a few years hence." S M Kintner
Airplanes, unlike the Greek mythological weapons, do not spring full blown from the head of Jove. No airplane, with its instruments essential to air navigation and its guns and bombs, takes off from mother earth and points its nose skyward until it has been conceived by the dreamer, until drawings have been made by the designer and until it has been fabricated by the expert builder and tested by scientific specialists. There are important trinities in aviation progress. There is the trio of the laboratory, the workshop and the test pilot, which conceive and build and fly the experimental plane. There is the triumvirate of the plane, the engine and the accessories, which go to make the flying weapon, but the field of research and experimentation covers the whole subject of scientific development like a circus tent.
Research has been defined as a systematic investigation of some phenomenon or series of phenomena by the experimental method, to discover facts or coordinate them as laws. This is a dry definition which fulfills the requirements of the scientist, but the air forces of the world today are interested in the objective results of the mathematician, the physicist, the aeronautical designer, the aviation engineer and the skilled craftsman in the factory. There is a dramatic, objective quality when a sleek, new, metal fighter rolls from a factory door, climbs like a rocket and streaks through the air. That is dynamic, that is a visible accomplishment which writes its own headlines.
Too frequently the tedious and painstaking work of the scientist, the fevered brain and the cramped body in some remote laboratory cell, receives little acclaim. There is nothing spectacular or romantic there. So when great pressure is put upon a nation, when an emergency comes, when the war clouds gather, there is a natural, but fatal tendency to cut off support for the laboratory technician, for the designer, for the engineer and put all effort into production.
There is always the tendency that the experimental divisions of the factories be closed so that the skilled workmen and engineers may be taken from experimentation and set to swell the needed additional army of plane builders.
Germany did not make such a mistake. While building the greatest air force the world has yet seen, she maintained the most extensive laboratories and research facilities available to any nation. That accounts for her being able to bring out new models at frequent intervals. That accounts for the fact that she could get up off the floor in 1933 and build superior fighting planes in unheard of quantity by 1939.
In the US we spent three times as much in 1939 on experimental development as for any previous year in our history. There has been appropriated more than twice as much in 1940 for experimental development as was available in 1939. This is a healthy sign and this points to a maintenance of our leadership in quality while we strive for quantity.
Research, experimentation and development require four vital things objectives, facilities, personnel and money. It is now opportune to review the available resources in this country in these four indispensable regards.
"Public No 271-63rd Congress, June 30, 1916. . That it shall be the duty of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution, and to determine the problems which should be experimentally attacked, and to discuss their solution and their application to practical questions."
The charge has been broadcast on more than one occasion that there is a duplication of effort between the Army, Navy, the industry and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The Committee has steadfastly stuck to the task assigned it by the Congress at the time of its creation. Its objectives and efforts are directed and devoted to the problems of fundamental research, leaving to the Army and Navy the task of applying the data obtained to military aircraft and to the civil industry the field of applying these principles to development of new types and to production. An illustration will serve to indicate the narrow line for this theoretical subdivision.
One of the outstanding accomplishments of the National Advisory Committee was the discovery of the effect of turbulent air in the wake of an aerodynamic body. NACA scientists, as a result of wind tunnel experiments, discovered that an engine cover or cowl of particular design smoothed the flow of the air over nine hot cylinders and at the same time improved cooling. The industry and the Army and Navy took the seeds of this discovery and applied them to the building of engine cowlings to fit particular engines, for installation and adaptation to particular planes. The Committee's effort was fundamental research. The effort of the armed services and the civil industry was applied research, development and experimentation with air-cooled installations.
The original home for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, its first laboratories, was established at Langley Field, VA. During the past year an additional aerodynamic laboratory has been provided for erection at Sunnyvale, CA. In these plants are installed remarkable collections of scientific equipment and there work daily mathematicians, physicists and chemists, wrestling with new problems, looking always ahead, miles ahead, to the airplane coming up six, eight, or 10 years hence.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics has not received the publicity and there is not the general popular knowledge of its accomplishments to which its work, its progress and its success have entitled it. It is an institution essential to the maintenance of our leadership in the flying world. On the economic side, it has paid for the appropriations which have supported it many times over. Its research in spinning characteristics and its spinning tests alone have saved the Army, Navy and civil industry millions of dollars. Its discoveries have been instrumental in adding many miles per hour to the speed of American aircraft. Its discovery of new aerodynamic principles used in propeller design has helped to crack one of the knottiest problems facing the airplane designer. Its contribution to engine experimentation has resulted in recognition of the importance of fundamental research in engine design. The last Congress appropriated $10,000,000 for a new laboratory, the primary purpose of which will be power plant research.
The work and objectives of the laboratories are directed by a committee composed of a group of outstanding scientists and includes also the Chief of Air Corps of the Army and the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics of the Navy, the head of the United States Bureau of Standards and the Weather Bureau and outstanding representatives from industry. It now employs about 600 scientists and engineers. With the opening of the new laboratory, this figure will be almost doubled. It is our primary reliance to keep pace with the numerically superior research establishments in Germany which are provided military objectives by the famous German flyer, General Udet, and on which the Germans are relying to maintain and retain supremacy in the air wars.
While the Langley Memorial Laboratory is our outstanding institution devoted exclusively to fundamental aeronautical research, several of our larger universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan, have important laboratories and are devoting much time and effort to particular phases of aeronautical scientific problems. The Bureau of Standards is another Government agency which has done much scientific research on problems closely related to the aeronautic science.
Fields in aerodynamics now receiving serious consideration, according to an eminent aeronautic authority, are the problems of air flow at the speed of sound and the peculiar phenomena and the aerodynamic characteristics exhibited particularly in the high-speed wind tunnels, as the planes approach the speed of sound.
We come now to the institutions which take the basic discoveries from the scientists and turn them from fine metal fabric into completed airplanes and engines.
At Wright Field, Dayton, OH, stands the Army's experimental aviation center, the Materiel Division. It has long held definite distinction as one of the principal aeronautical experimental centers in the world. It is devoted, with few exceptions, to "applied" rather than "fundamental" research problems. It consists of a series of laboratories equipped and designed and operated by trained and skilled technicians to supervise the development of superior fighting planes.
The exceptions are those problems concerned with the peculiar requirements of military aircraft that have no application or counterpart in commercial aircraft.
There is the airplane division, which busies itself with studies in airplane design and with tests of airplane structures. This laboratory initially receives all new designs submitted to the War Department for forward-looking experimental aircraft. This branch also makes experimental airplane contracts with established manufacturers for production of types of aircraft embodying the new discoveries coming out of the laboratories of the National Advisory Committee.
The airplane branch has a Structures Division which completes the breakdown tests on new models to determine whether strength factors have been met. It tests to destruction the principal parts of all new aircraft before the test pilots take the completed model for trial runs over speed courses.
Another equally important laboratory at Wright Field is the Power Plant Division with its separate sections devoted to testing the design of engines and their accessories. At present it is the largest and most complete engine test laboratory in this country. The aircraft engine industry will be the first to say that this institution supported by the Army Air Corps, has made possible the tremendous strides during the last few years in engines of ever-increasing size and reliability. Every inventor who submits a new engine idea to the Army knows that it will go promptly to this laboratory and receive a thorough, impartial trial. The power plant division has been first to test the barrel engine, the flat engine, air-cooled engines of 2,000 and 3,000 hp, the "W" engine of multiple banks, better propulsion and many another newcomer to the power plant field during the years from 1917 to the present time. To this laboratory go promptly foreign engines. In the first World War all the power plants available from the foreign nations who were Allies, and engines which powered captured planes, went promptly to the Army's experimental engine laboratory to determine whether they contained any advances in new ideas or metals.
Many a struggling inventor with a good idea who cannot raise the large sums required for experimental engine construction has found that our experimental division will take up his problems, have them incorporated in trial engines and built to the inventor's specifications. No other advance has contributed so directly to the progress and speed, range and size of aircraft as has the advent of new and ever more powerful aircraft engines.
While the two or three outstanding civil aircraft engine manufacturers in this country have carried their share of the load in experimentation and development, they have used the laboratories at Wright Field freely and have found the skill and experience located there ever interested and on the alert to help them through their problems.
Every engine intended for use in military aircraft is tested on the stands at Wright Field and nursed through long hours of trial runs. Before any engine is accepted by the Government it must pass a 150-hour endurance test, part of which is at the maximum horsepower output. It is a killing, grueling grind, but from it come the dependable power plants required for Army fighting planes.
The equipment laboratory, part of the Materiel Division experimental department, has been responsible for the development of many new devices now considered essentials in aircraft equipment and manufacture. It has tested all of them. The problems of automatic control, blind-flight instruments, blind-landing equipment, earth inductor compasses and pressurized cabin equipment; these and countless others were tried out and proved or developed and first installed on military aircraft under the supervision of this laboratory. There are sections which have been largely responsible for the development of pilot clothing, parachutes, goggles, oxygen equipment, photographic equipment and many other adjuncts and accessories without which military personnel could not operate effectively at the speeds and altitudes now required, and without which the airplanes and the engines could not be controlled and directed.
The armament section of the experimental laboratory, although by the nature of its work devoted exclusively to equipment for the military establishment, has, in close cooperation with our Army Ordnance Department, been responsible for the adaptation of the present powerful and effective guns, pyrotechnics and chemical equipment, gun sights, bombsight and armor plating found in our Army airplanes. Here are tested all foreign cannon, machine guns, bombs, fuses, flares and other items of ordnance, to make sure that no trick of the trade is known or employed abroad which has any superiority over our practices and principles. An important late development conducted by this laboratory, as a case in point, is its tests during the fall of 1940 of armor and bulletproof and self-sealing tanks. Limited tests have been in progress for many years on this subject, but since it appeared from captured German planes that pilot armor, bulletproof glass and leakproof or bulletproof tanks were a part of German aircraft, the efforts of this laboratory were redoubled to match or surpass foreign progress in these fields. It is divulging no secret to say that our modern fighting planes, as they roll from our factories, will be equipped with armament, armor and tankage having no superior in any of the foreign air powers. Our self-sealing tanks can be penetrated by a .50-caliber bullet that crashes through two sides, but the hole seals itself with little if any loss of gasoline and very little chance of fire.
The accuracy of gunfire from aircraft and the accuracy of bombs dropped from airplanes are dependent not alone on the training of operating personnel, but also and perhaps to a. greater degree upon the sights, the release mechanisms, the controls and the turrets from which or by means of which these missiles are discharged. These matters are of grave concern to our air force. They determine its power, its precision and efficiency, thus emphasizing the importance of this branch of our experimental laboratories.
The propeller experimental laboratory has been engaged in increasing the size and improving air screw efficiency and in the application of new metals and materials to propeller construction at a time when it was practically the only agency in this country doing this work. It has maintained a leading position in the propeller field. On its torque stands have been tested every propeller developed in this country suitable to military aircraft and every foreign propeller obtainable. It has experimented with new metals, with wood, fabric and many plastics in propeller construction to the end that no other country, so far as is known, can quite match our development in this tremendously important accessory aeronautical field.
The flight test branch of the Air Corps experimental laboratory has flown all experimental military aircraft since before the first World War. There is a long list of intrepid test pilots whose premature deaths are attributable to their willingness for human sacrifice on the experimental field of honor. Many of our flying fields in the Army Air Corps have been named from this gallant little band. The first and many other members of the Caterpillar Club have been Army test pilots who leaped from broken planes in trial flights. No other flying organization in the world has so many firsts to its credit as the flight test section at Wright Field. Its pilots have held more of the World's records for speed, altitude, endurance than any other group of flying men in this country or abroad.
Now, today, as piloting has settled largely to routine air discipline and formula, a group of 20 to 30 pilots at Wright Field day after day go through the grueling task of testing new airplanes, putting them through their early paces, proving their flight reliability.
The history of the Materiel Division at Wright Field is the history of military air progress in this country. There have been those who have charged that this progress should have been faster. The principal answer to these harping critics is to point out that in spite of the lean years, when this country made very little money available for our experimental division, we can point with pride to the results achieved and improvements made. No critic has ever been able to show that maximum effort was not obtained from the funds which the country was willing to devote to aeronautical experimental development as expressed in the annual appropriations from Congress.
It is not a personal bias, but personal knowledge that permits the statement that America owes more to the Army's Air Corps experimental division at Wright Field for its present high place in world air leadership than to any single institution or group in this country.
The Navy air arm has done much experimentation and development, particularly with large flying boats, adapting their power plants, accessories and equipment to meet aircraft carrier requirements. It has also established an enviable leadership in the development of mechanisms such as arresting gears, catapults and other devices for floating airdromes. The naval air arm and the Army Air Corps have cooperated freely and frankly for the mutual exchange of all developments. Of late, as the experimental institutions of the services expanded and as the pressure of the emergency dictated new economies, the Army and Navy flying branches have divided experimental projects wherever possible. As a case in point, it was agreed not long ago that the Navy would supervise the Diesel engine development. The general principle has been followed that whatever experimental device or item of equipment was most closely related to a particular branch of the service, that branch would supervise its development and make available to the other any progress made, or any resulting new discoveries or developments.
The widespread standardization of engines, materials, processes and accessories by the Army and Navy has helped tremendously in securing quantity production during this period when maximum efficiency is required.
The principal manufacturing establishments of the civil air industry have conducted much experimental development. This includes not alone the airplane manufacturers, but the engine manufacturers, the builders of instruments and the suppliers of fuel and lubricants. There are those who have contended that the civil industry should bear the lion's share of the load in aeronautical experimentation. There is an easily ascertainable reason to the contrary. At the close of the first World War, airplane establishments which had expanded to turn out many thousand airplanes per year, in one case as many as 100 airplanes per day, promptly, after the Armistice, saw their contracts canceled. The average number of airplanes ordered both by the Army and Navy and by civil agencies and export, for the 10 years succeeding the Great War, was less than 1,000 planes per annum. It was not economically possible for an aircraft industry of that size and income to support large research staffs devoted to experiments in production methods.
Now with business, domestic and foreign, for the aeronautic industry running to a figure of nearly $5,000,000,000 annually, the industry is meeting the challenge for mass production, with each of the principal manufacturers providing large experimental and engineering staffs devoted both to production methods and the improvement of quality.
The Army and Navy systems of procurement tend to encourage work in this latter field. Airplanes are bought for the armed services largely on a competitive basis. The manufacturer which can demonstrate the best new design with performance gets the business. It therefore behooves the aircraft manufacturers to maintain a sufficient design staff to make certain that its airplanes are superior. The same is true in the airplane engine field and in accessories and equipment. There are no monopolies. The Army and the Navy buy the best airplane obtainable at the cheapest price possible.
No review of aeronautical experimental facilities in this country would be complete without a careful survey of the purely civil aviation establishments of our Government.
Aeronautical development includes development of airline transportation operational methods and procedure and the provision of adequate airports and airways. The military establishments owe much to the Civil Aeronautics Board of the Department of Commerce and the leading American airlines for valuable work in these fields. The Civil Aeronautics Board has made preeminent studies in the field of safety of flight, accident investigation and accident prevention. The transcontinental and intercontinental airlines have evolved, through a period of 10 remarkable years, new operational systems which are of great value to the military establishments since they permit the rapid movement of air forces from base to base and from one geographical section of the country to another. Our Government, through several of its Federal agencies, CAA and WPA particularly, has made permanent advances in airport layout and construction. These agencies have also built more than 300 fields, always with an eye to their possible utility by the military air forces. This is an outstanding contribution to national defense.
The civil airways which link our great cities had early requirements for night lighting beacons, radio transmitting stations and other aids to aerial navigation. These also are usable by military planes and aid mobility of the air forces.
On the other hand, the developments at Wright Field not purely military in character have been made readily available to the civil air operators. They have incorporated promptly the new engines, the new propellers, the new landing gears, the new instruments, the new accessories which have been brought to maturity in the Army's experimental plants.
Several military organizations other than those enumerated have made outstanding contributions to the science of aviation. The Army's Signal Corps has been responsible, in cooperation with the Army Air Corps, for many of the communication devices now so essential in modern air operations. Its great laboratory at Ft Monmouth spent a large proportion of its funds and time in the development of air signal equipment and accessories. In addition, the Signal Corps established as a branch of the Materiel Division, Wright Field, a signal section devoted exclusively to the improvement of aircraft radios and radio-activated instruments. One lesson which definitely has come out of the current wars in Europe is the absolute necessity for reliable communication between planes in flight and from planes to ground.
The Army Ordnance Department which supplies the Army with its guns, bullets, shells and powder, has joined eagerly and efficiently in the proper equipment of air weapons. It has developed the cannon and machine guns which now equip our planes. It has developed the bombs which are dropped. It has developed the flares by which our bombers see their targets and illuminate their bombing objectives. It has developed many of the sighting and control mechanisms which make these instruments effective weapons.
Our Chemical Warfare Service, mindful of the fact that chemicals played an important part in the first World War and notwithstanding the fact that they have not been used extensively to date, continued to adapt chemicals to aircraft, just in case. The chemical laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal have spent much time and money in equipment aboard aircraft for the discharge of smoke and for chemicals with greatest efficiency and safety to aircraft personnel.
The Army Medical Corps joined military aviation in the early days, first in an effort to perfect systems and devices for the economic determination of those who could fly or be taught to fly, without the costly and dangerous method of trial and error. Today, the Army Medical Corps examines all our prospective flyers and makes semiannual examination of all our flying personnel. It has developed many original devices for accomplishing these purposes. At Wright Field, Dayton, OH, it has maintained a Physiological Research Laboratory which is the outstanding institution of its kind anywhere in the world. It has made original studies and determinations on the effects of flying, the effects of extreme altitudes and the effects of noise and strain on flying personnel. It has developed new and excellent oxygen apparatus and has cooperated in the production of the pressurized cabin.
The development by the Flight Surgeons of the Army Medical Corps, in close cooperation with the Army Air Corps' experimental laboratories, of suitable ambulance aircraft, of litters for use in aircraft and for the conversion of airplanes for the transport of sick and wounded, is another important undertaking of the flying doctors.
The Physiological Research Laboratory at Wright Field has made some invaluable studies on the presence of toxic gases in aircraft, byproducts of aircraft engine operation.
For a long time it was thought that all that was required to preserve the life and health of the flyer at extreme altitudes was an adequate supply of oxygen. The experiments of the doctors at Wright Field showed that this was not the case. The maintenance of sea level pressure is equally, if not more important than a permanent supply of oxygen to prolong the life and health of the flyer.
The French found at the outbreak of the present war that it was necessary to relieve the combat crews of fighting aircraft every month or six weeks, because of the loss of efficiency and physical breakdown from hours spent at 20,000, 25,000 and 30,000 feet. Our own medical officers in their experiments have shown the loss of control of faculties by men at the higher altitudes. Our medical scientists know the physiological reasons for this and they have taken the lead in the development of pressurized cabins as the only suitable answer. In a similar manner, the engineering bureaus of the Navy, the steel, the aluminum, the electrical, the oil industry and the many specialty manufacturers have made equally important contributions.
A discussion which of late has occupied the minds of the military logicians, upon which experimental development has a tremendous bearing, is the argument between quantity and quality. There is a school of air thought which holds that it is better to have a few superior airplanes than large numbers of inferior airplanes.
A German air general when reminded recently that the Spitfire was proving more than a match for the Messerschmitt, is alleged to have replied, "We know it. But we have a thousand Messerschmitts to every hundred Spitfires. We figure if the first Messerschmitt is not successful or even if the second falls, the third will overcome its enemy."
It is probable that the truth of this argument between quantity and quality will be found somewhere near the middle ground. It has been shown definitely in the air wars thus far that an airplane considerably inferior to those it will meet in the skies is practically worthless. On the other hand, a few hundred very superior airplanes eventually will lose against an unlimited number of a considerably inferior type. Sufficient of the superior ones will be lost in combat, in landing accidents, or be worn out through the normal wear and tear of service, so that their total effect will eventually be nullified. There is another factor too frequently overlooked in this argument. Quality must be. sacrificed somewhat if it prevents quantity production, for it is not alone the numbers on the flying fields today, but the numbers which can be kept coming up from the factories, which will eventually prevail.
The production of aircraft in quantity should not be delayed too long awaiting the perfect article, for never has there been an airplane put into quantity production when there was not an experimental airplane already in the air or just around the corner. The true answer probably is this: at a given time, when the necessity for sufficient aircraft to equip all tactical units arrives, put into production the best airplanes of the types required which are available. Thereafter, on that type, stop all changes and discontinue every improvement which would interfere in any way with the production of that type in quantity. The new experimental plane of higher performance should be rushed to early completion, thoroughly tested, and then it, too, should be put in quantity production, to go to the fighting units as replacements for the older, inferior plane.
Tomorrow's airplane is on the drawing board and in the laboratories today. The military leaders, the aircraft designers and officials of leading aircraft manufacturing establishments know all about it. They know the engines it will have, the propellers which will pull it through the air, what it will weigh, what its wing spread will be, the guns and bombs it will carry everything down to the last detail. But a year hence, or even five years from now, when it first takes the air, it will be a startling new creation to the rest of mankind. The public will call it tomorrow's airplane.
We could describe in rather intimate detail the Army Air Corps plane of every type which one, two, or three years hence will replace those now believed to be modern fighting planes which are in the hands of our tactical units. That must for the moment remain a secret. Our guessing would be too close to actuality. It would not be disclosing too much of a military secret to say, however, that our fighters will be smaller and faster. They will in the course of routine operations approach, or possibly exceed the present world speed record 400, 450, mph and yes, even more. Our heavy bombers will be larger, many times larger than any airplane which as yet has been seen in the world. The 40,000-pound Flying Fortress will grow into a giant of 200,000 or more pounds of intricate machinery capable of spreading death and destruction 5,000 miles away from its base.
All our multi-engine craft will have the pressure cabins, the instruments and equipment and power plants greatly to exceed today's maximum altitudes. Substratosphere flying will move toward stratosphere flying. Present ranges will seem puny. The power of these new weapons will be doubled many times, for they will carry new and heavier guns. They will carry ammunition loads and bomb loads which now seem impossible.
All this raising of the lid of the treasure chest of the air for the future will be made possible by the scientists, the designers, the engineers and the test pilots. It will move from fancy to fact, from dreams to accomplishment, as a result of aeronautical research, experimentation and development.
"I should like to be able to offer the hope that the shadow over the world might swiftly pass. I cannot. The facts compel my stating, with candor, that darker periods may lie ahead." Franklin D. Roosevelt, President (Message to Congress, September 21, 1939)
The temperament of the American people, as reflected in appropriations of the last Congress, seems to indicate that we are to be prepared for those darker periods which our President warns may lie ahead. If this be the case, if our national leaders have received a mandate from the people to build adequate defensive establishments for the United States, then a national program or plan must be followed. Here are some facts and suggestions which bear upon this problem.
It is of primary importance that we evaluate accurately what we now have, the point from which we must start. Our Navy has an efficient air service, our Army now has 42 observation squadrons of cooperative aviation to work directly with its land components. In addition, our Army has about 1,500 training planes which are in daily use at its flying schools.
Funds were appropriated from 1939 through 1940 for an additional 21,000 planes and for the equipment for 288 combat squadrons. Those 21,000 planes will give us nearly 10,000 trainers and slightly more than 10,000 combat planes of all types. This will equip the 288 squadrons with modern combat aircraft and will leave a reserve capable of supplying almost one complete replacement.
That is not a large air force measured by standards of modern warfare. It is not as large as the German or the British. It will be third among the world's air forces.
Standing behind that fighting air complement, we have schools capable of turning out 10,000 mechanics and 5,000 pilots a year. By midsummer, 1941, these schools will have a capacity of 20,000 mechanics and 12,000 pilots. Behind the flying line stands an aircraft industry now capable of producing about 1,2000 planes per month and which, by late in 1942, will be producing about 3,000 planes per month.
By way of air bases, three new ones are now nearing completion, the Northeast, Southeast and Northwest in the United States, with three additional ones in Puerto Rico, Panama and Hawaii. We have a total of 19 permanent air bases and 23 temporary air bases, the latter of which are now being hastily constructed and occupied.
The Congress appropriated funds for the Civil Aeronautics Authority for the establishment of civil flying schools for the elementary training of 50,000 pilots. It also made funds available for the improvement of about 100 landing fields so that they will be available as temporary air bases and as dispersion fields.
A sound organization, as is evidenced in the present war, greatly promotes the building of an air force and its efficiency. It promotes, also, the facility with which it may be supplied, equipped, and operated efficiently under war pressure.
Many feel that eventually the defensive air component of the nation will be given a status coordinate and commensurate with that of the Army and Navy. When that time will come, if it does come, is not yet clear. We shall be fortunate if our time for that reorganization comes in the relative calm of peace or at worst, in the preparatory and not in the fighting stage. Those changes are always more efficient if they can be made calmly and when there is adequate time.
The separate air force idea must not be approached with the state of mind that everything now in existence, or which has been done is wrong. The Army and Navy, the older services, deserve great credit for the tremendous strides they have made in the development of military and naval aviation. There are many essential services which older and established bureaus, departments, or subdivisions of the Army and the Navy now perform for the air arm.
It may be that eventually air forces for all countries will be separated from land and sea forces for the same reasons that sea and land forces were separated more than a century ago. There is as much diversity in equipment, strategy, technique and leadership between air and land or sea operations as between land and sea fighting. It requires a different type of fighting man operating in a different type of vessel, differently equipped, differently trained over a long period of time and instilled with different ideas of technique, tactics and strategy.
This long step should be taken, if it is taken at all, only after careful planning and mature thought and not with a zest for radical reform. There should be a stage of gradual evolution as against an overnight cutting of binding ties.
In the light of European battlefields, it appears that our squadron, group and wing organizations are sound. When our air force grows to giant size more comparable with the air forces abroad, it will be necessary to do as they have done, to create air divisions and air fleets.
Present experience in Europe points clearly to the wisdom of separation of air fighting echelons into three subordinate commands, the fighter command, the bomber command and the home defense command. These are three radically different air tasks requiring different equipment and different concepts of tactics and strategy. Here again we can wisely emulate the British military model.
The recent institution of air districts as territorial commands is sound, particularly for the supervision of training and the coordination of many ground functions and base duties. These, for air forces, play the same role as Corps Area commands have played in peacetime for our land army. They are similar in their duties and responsibilities to the naval districts, long familiar to the naval arm.
The requirements of hemisphere defense and a study of German and British air operations indicate the importance of unified command in task forces. If it ever became necessary for a part of our military forces to go to the defense of a beleaguered hemisphere neighbor, a supreme commander should be named. First, there would be a determination by the high command as to whether the undertaking had a more important and relatively larger air phase or sea or land phase. This determination would indicate the selection of the supreme commander. After the highest command had made a determination as to the ratio of forces, land, sea and air, which would be required for the operation, those forces would be separated from their establishments and organized into a task force. Thereafter, it would be a unified command completely under the jurisdiction and control of the task force commander. Thus would be accomplished the unity of command which is one of the primary lessons many of our military leaders have drawn from close observation of recent conflicts.
Before it is possible to say with assurance what the size and composition of our air force should be, some determinations must be made. First, when will that air force be required? Second, where will it be needed? Third, who are the enemies which it will operate against and with what will they be equipped? A survey of world conditions today indicates rather clearly that we must match in size and efficiency and surpass, if possible, the largest air force which could be brought against us. The present range of aircraft indicates that the line of approach to us is more likely to include aircraft from floating bases or from land bases temporarily established within striking distance of our shores. The time factor is more difficult to evaluate. During 1939 and 1940, the speed with which nations were ravaged makes it apparent that the briefest possible time in which we can build an air force will not be too soon to have one ready at hand. If the Battle of Britain turns favorably to our mother country, such an air force in our hands will be a tremendous diplomatic weapon at the peace tables. If it turns unfavorably, it will be imperative that there exist in the Western Hemisphere an air force of sufficient power, speed, range and performance to match the air forces which will be riding high in the Eastern Hemisphere.
How large should that air force be? There is a general agreement now that the present size of our air armaments is deficient. It is not unlikely that Germany has an air force of at least 7,000 combat planes in fighting units, with two or three times that number in reserve. Her allies can possibly raise that figure to 12,000 first-line aircraft. We are now launched on expansion programs for which funds have already been appropriated which will give us 4,000 combat planes in the hands of tactical squadrons and another 5,000 in reserve in our Army. There will be another 6,000 with our Navy. Those planes will not be completed before the early summer of 1942. Prior to that time a determination must be made as to whether that force is sufficient. Our Army will then have 288 fighting squadrons of all types. That is a wise first step toward an ultimate objective. Further study may make it necessary to increase that to a total of at least 400 squadrons divided, perhaps, into 100 heavy bomber squadrons, 100 medium and light bombardment squadrons, 100 fighter squadrons of all categories and 100 squadrons of miscellaneous types transport for parachute troops and air infantry, for ambulances and for the delivery of fighting cargoes, the supply of air troops. Among these latter 100 squadrons will be also the reconnaissance squadrons, long- and medium-ranged, for scouting and the supply of air intelligence. These 400 squadrons should be able to implement hemisphere defense to meet effectively the air forces now rampant in the world which we may conceivably be forced to meet in the skies somewhere above the Western Hemisphere.
It is not possible to predict accurately the types of planes and size, fire power, speed and range, for any long period. Conditions in the air realm change so quickly, the discoveries and accomplishments of science and industry are so rapid, that the indomitable flying fortress of today may have to be withdrawn from the air fighting a few months hence for lack of speed, ability to reach a sufficient altitude, or because of inferior armament or armor.
This much is certain, however: the prime characteristic of fighter planes, their speed and multiple-gun power, must be kept abreast and if possible superior to that found elsewhere in the world. The great strain on the human physique incident to fighting at altitudes above 20,000 feet, points clearly to the desirability of the development of the pressurized cabin.
The clearest lesson which has been written in the skies concerning the bomber in recent air warfare is the fact that range is of tremendous importance. The heavy bomber should be able to reach any part of the enemy territory so that it can threaten with destruction the building of armaments in any section of the enemy nation. The range of heavy bombers in all the forces of the world has been much too restricted. Our heavy bombers must exceed the range of enemy aircraft if that desirable end is attainable. If we have that superior performance, the bases from which any foreign aircraft could be launched against us can be destroyed or harassed by our bombers before enemy planes can be brought within range of our critical areas. Name our enemy with definiteness and one can say with assurance what the range of our bombers should be. Within three to five years, there is every probability that this range must be between 8,000 and 12,000 miles. This requires an air vessel of tremendous size measured by our present standards. The largest production bombers at the present time do not exceed 60,000 pounds in weight. The 10,000-mile bomber will of necessity be an airplane of 100,000 pounds with some as large as 200,000 pounds.
Thus far, airplanes for the most part have been operated by single crews. A definite determination can now be reached that the airplane can be made ready for a second mission before its crew can be sufficiently rested to operate with efficiency. This indicates the necessity for multiple crews. It is not unlikely that there will be required pilots, bombers, gunners, navigators and radio technicians to three times the number of fighting aircraft available.
The necessity for multiple crews and the predicted expansion of our air force point to the requirements for additional aviation schools for combat and maintenance crews. Our present objective of a capacity in our schools of 20,000 mechanics and 12,000 pilots a year may require additional enlargement. A per annum capacity of 50,000 mechanics and 50,000 combat crew men is not beyond the possibility of our accomplishment and appears reasonable as a wartime requirement.
The combat training of our air fighters is now proceeding along modern lines. The changes in technique and tactics, demonstrated as necessary in late air engagements, are being applied as rapidly as possible to the training programs of our tactical units. There must be continued stress on this program and some phases of training must receive increased emphasis. The slogan of the Combat Command, to "fly, bomb and shoot" must never be forgotten. Adequate bombing and gunnery ranges must be provided so that all combat crews will fly, bomb and shoot every week of every year. Only by actual use of modern weapons can the required degree of efficiency be attained.
Lack of sufficient cooperative aviation in the past, as well as the shortage of motorized, mechanized forces in the ground branches, has led to insufficient cooperation between aviation and the motorized forces to insure the degree of training and efficiency indicated as necessary by the campaign in Poland. Steps have already been taken to remedy this deficit and ever-increasing emphasis must be placed on full-scale maneuvers between the airman and the soldier in the tank or combat car.
It has been demonstrated more than once in Europe in recent months that there are frequent episodes in combat when there must be thorough cooperation between air forces and sea forces. It appears likely that any task force organized incident to the requirements of hemisphere defense will be made up of all three of the principal arms, land, sea and air. This indicates the necessity for more frequent joint problems between the Army and Navy and the Army Air Forces and the surface fighting elements.
A matter of concern to thoughtful airmen is the question of military air leadership. It is impossible for any organization or activity which has existed but one generation to have inculcated the principles of leadership in any large numbers of its officers.
Success in air battles, success in building up air power, will depend in a large degree on the quality of leadership. The number of men who have trained for a period of 25 to 30 years in military air organizations is extremely limited not more than 500. This small group, augmented by a few outstanding men in civil aviation, alone has the experience to be our air leaders in the preparation, planning and building of this greatly enlarged air force.
Judging by the trends in Germany and in England, there is a new conception for age in air leadership. The air generals abroad average about 45 years of age. There is a definite tendency toward more rapid promotion in the air arms and an insistence on relatively young men in high places. Also the higher wastage rate in active air operations makes for quicker advancement. This question of age in leadership is one for serious consideration by any nation now determined to build a great air force along new and modern lines.
One requirement for leadership in the air, which has been held to steadfastly, is that of the flying leader for flying men. It starts with the lowest unit, the squadron, and runs to the highest unit in most of the foreign air forces. It is contended that in no other way can proper morale be maintained and proper knowledge and experience be developed for leadership in the flying arm.
An air force is of little value, no matter what its size, unless it be kept modernized. An air force will not be long of value in the heat of war unless there is adequate provision for supplying the wartime battle wastage rate. The obsolescence factor in aircraft is largely due to the ever-recurring model of superior performance and design. Aircraft losses in air warfare between two equally matched air powers will probably be no less than 25% a month and it may be as great as 50% a month.
All this points to the fact that the second line of planes is of almost equal importance to the first line. The first line is the air force in being, the second line is the reserve and aircraft industry.
Our aircraft industry possesses possibilities superior to any other in the world. That is demonstrably true by the fact that our aircraft always have had superior performance and foreign markets have always preferred our planes and engines. It is hinted anew by the avidity with which foreign nations now engaged in war's struggle buy our military planes.
The only matter for grave concern is whether or not our industry can be built to sufficient proportions to develop and maintain an adequate air force and do it in time. Plans are now in progress for the development of an aircraft industry in this country capable of producing 36,000 planes a year. That might not be enough. In the event of a war between the United States and a coalition of the leading powers of the world now unsympathetic to our Government and our economic policy, it is quite possible that an aircraft capacity of more than 50,000 planes a year might be brought against us.
That means that by 1942, when we have reached our 36,000 plane rate, we might have to double it. It is better, unless war is imminent, in the meantime to perform that expansion by gradual steps and thus avoid the hectic period of mushroom growth such as we witnessed in the first World War. There are those who believe that the aircraft industry as it now exists, composed of men who have been brought up and trained in aircraft design, in engineering, in shop management and in production methods, should continue to supervise this expansion, that it should be built around them, that they should be the seed for the new giant plant. Others profess to believe that allied mechanical producers, such, for example, as the automobile industry, should be called in and set to augment the overworked aircraft industry.
We believe that a compromise, as is the usual American way, will be the eventual solution. Experience, already, in the aircraft industry is being spread thin indeed. Those 32,000 skilled workmen, engineers and designers, who comprised the personnel of the aircraft industry in 1938, have in the short period of two years been increased to more than 150,000. If we are to go to a production of 50,000 per annum, it would be necessary to more than double that figure. This means that only one man in nine in the aircraft industry will have had an experience of more than a few months.
On the other hand, the British or shadow-factory scheme where widely separated plants, usually with no prior aircraft experience, are set to building vital components of the airplane, with their assembly elsewhere, is fraught with many dangers. It has been pointed out that it took four years to make the scheme workable in England and even there the production rate generally is not believed to exceed 2,000 planes per month at the end of that four-year period of pressure trial.
It is useless to build a vast horde of fighting planes unless they are supplied with the military equipment, the guns, the bombs, the ammunition, the radio, the navigational instruments and the many other accessories to make them fighting weapons. This problem will require definite planning and strong governmental leadership, plus the complete cooperation of private industry.
There is another civil phase in this air business of primary importance, too, and that is the question of civil morale under air attack. The value of stout morale has been demonstrated recently to the whole world in the Battle of Britain. Wars are fought to bring pressure on peoples so that they will demand of their leaders a cessation of hostilities, no matter what the cost.
There are many ways for maintaining high morale even under this new pressure attack of modern air forces. Propaganda and public education will play prominent roles. The people must believe in the justice of their cause. They must believe in the soundness of their leadership. They must continue in the hope that victory will be the ultimate result.
The accomplishment of all these objectives dictates the cleverest use of that new weapon in warfare called propaganda. The word propaganda usually carries an evil stigma, a bad odor. It need not. There can be education for good as well as evil. It behooves our nation to develop these agencies for education and for the dissemination of news to the fullest extent.
High morale is extremely difficult to maintain after bombs begin to fall in the streets in quantity, unless there is organization and planning to insure air-raid shelters, blackouts, prompt repair of bomb damage, adequate fire fighting in short, rigid civil discipline. Have we that civil discipline now? Can we build it up in time? The selective service training now about to be put into operation will go a long way to build it up.
The provision of an adequate air force will be a strong factor in maintaining civil morale. It was true in the first World War that our troops on the front line, although machine-gunned by enemy planes, were of high spirit and morale when our own fighters promptly shot down the enemy marauder attacking them. It has been reported that now in England there is a smile on British faces when the invading bomber is violently attacked by British fighters. Bombs may have dropped, houses may have burned, but the homeless will look skyward with renewed resolution as long as their own fighting planes are tearing into every attacker.
The sound of friendly antiaircraft guns is a wonderful palliative to the nerve-racking screech of the air-raid siren. A people like to know they are giving blow for blow. When it appears that defenses are poorly organized or inadequate, that leadership is uncertain, it will be difficult to maintain civil morale at the requisite level for effective resistance.
It has been charged that we have been lax in civil training for air defense. Our deficiencies may have been largely because the air attack appeared far distant. It requires time, much planning and the provision of much ground equipment, this business of indirect air defense, and it is too late to wait until enemy bombers can be heard overhead to begin this important phase of training and preparation. Blackouts should be practiced seriously in all our cities. Provision should be made for the rapid installation of air-raid shelters, warning devices and a full complement of antiaircraft defense.
The part which commercial aviation plays in warfare is too frequently not clearly understood. There are conflicting views which need to be compromised. There are those who feel the commercial airplane can be made a satisfactory military weapon by hasty improvisation. There are others who contend that increased numbers of civil airlines will be required for the carrying of mail, valuable cargo and passengers in warfare and that these planes will be unavailable to augment the military air forces.
Both of these views are in part correct. The civil air transport is not a military weapon and cannot be changed to a satisfactory fighting craft. It must, however, be used for ambulance purposes, for freight and troop transport, for carrying officials, dispatches and mail and in many other important ways. Such service will be augmented, not decreased, under war conditions. Furthermore, a thriving civil airline industry has airports which can be used by the military and trained mechanics and pilots which could be used in event of dire emergency to operate and maintain fighting planes. It calls for the building of airways with facilities which are equally usable by squadrons and groups for rapid transfer from one air theater to another.
A most important use of commercial aviation lies in the fact that it is a vital customer to air industry. There will be periods in peacetime when the military consumer will be a poor customer. Relying upon him alone, the air industry would be forced to dangerous deflation. New civil uses for aircraft are developing daily. It behooves us to stimulate the use of the airplane commercially in order that there may be a market for the industry to keep it in being in safe size in peace periods.
The operation of commercial international airlines is invaluable to a nation which may have to wage intercontinental warfare. The British have reported that the presence in their country of a German airline during the years of peace preceding the present war now is aiding the Germans tremendously in the location of targets.
Foreign airlines will be established, linking our shores and our principal cities with the rest of the world, unless we are there first with American airlines and unless we operate those airlines so efficiently and so successfully as to drive the foreign competitor from the field. An important element of national defense lies here. It must not be overlooked.
A definite national plan, thoroughly prepared, publicly announced and followed implicitly, is an absolute essential to adequate air defense. This must include not only the actual development of the air force, the schools for the training of its technicians, the factories for the building of its planes, the provision of adequate appropriations to pay the bill, but it concerns many other phases of national life.
We have had in this country many plans for the production of airplanes in a given number and for the formulation of an air force of a certain size. None of these plans has ever been long maintained and each has concerned only airplane numbers and air force size.
A real national plan would coordinate every phase of the air industry, every phase of civil life relating to aviation, and integrate these with our whole existence. In Germany, as an example, all the highways are constructed with a view to their utility for the transport of armies and as well for the conversion of certain sections into wartime landing fields. It is doubtful whether, in either of the nations now engaged in a life-and-death struggle, a single dollar of public funds has been spent without the national defense angle being carefully considered. Funds spent for public works, funds expended for relief, are potential assets for the provision of adequate defense.
A national air plan should include also protection for factories and industrial establishments. If included in the original factory plan, many devices can be incorporated which will make the factory represent a poor target for enemy air bombardment. They can be camouflaged, shutter arrangements can be included for instantaneous blackout. They could, at considerable additional cost, be built underground. Certainly they can be located geographically where they will be less exposed.
The principal thing about a well-defined plan, which should be widely publicized and made known to the whole people, is that it will unify them, give them a common purpose. It will furnish a focal point toward which all can work toward a common desire, the provision of adequate defense for them, their homes and their country.
William B. Courtney, writing in Collier's Weekly on how to build an air force, said:
Those of us who have seen the German Navy, Army and Air Force, know that whatever else may divulge, Chancellor Hitler's real ‘secret weapon' is team work; attained to a degree never before seen in military operations.
It permeates the entire organization from General Staff to lowliest squad; it ties the fighting man to home industrial backgrounds, civilians, farmers and squires.
The building of an adequate air force will require the expenditure of vast sums. It will require the coordinated effort of many thousands of citizens and heavy taxation for all of them. Popular support cannot be maintained over the long period of time required for the completion of such an effort unless we have a definite program and strong, able leadership.
We are blessed more than any nation with all the basic essentials required in the building of a superior air armament. It but remains for us to demonstrate that we have the requisite national will, the universal public determination to have one. National defense in reality is a national state of mind. All of our citizens must be imbued with an intelligent concern for the safety of their country and with a firm determination to maintain its safety.
It is now apparent, as the world rides toward the middle of the twentieth century, that air forces may completely disrupt nations; that air forces can dictate terms at peace tables; that the threat of air forces can accomplish without dropping a bomb the breakdown of opposing diplomatic morale. There are abroad in the skies of this troubled world tremendous air forces of remarkable power and efficiency. It is unlikely that a nation such as ours can maintain its integrity and continued existence in its present way of living unless it establishes and maintains the world's strongest air force.
This book excerpt was originally published in the September, 1941, "Special US Army Air Forces issue" of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 29, no 3, pp 219-282.
The original article includes 44 photos, 5 of them portraits, 3 maps, and 2 charts.
Photos are not credited.
The Authors of Winged Warfare
Maj Gen Henry H Arnold
General Arnold graduated from West Point in 1907 and promptly joined the infantry. Four years later he was assigned to the Air Corps, which then consisted of one plane and a handful of pilots. He was one of the Wright brothers' first students and holds Pilot License No 29 and Expert Aviator Certificate No 4. Twice during his flying career he has been awarded the Mackay Trophy; he also holds the Distinguished Flying Cross. Since 1935 General Arnold has successively been commanding officer of the Air Corps' First Wing, Assistant Chief of the Air Corps, Chief of the Air Corps, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and, recently, Chief of the entire Army Air Forces.
Col Ira C Eaker
Colonel Eaker also began his military career in the infantry. He was detailed to the aviation section of the Signal Corps in November, 1917, and has been flying ever since. In 1926 he was a pilot in the Army's Good Will flight around South America. In 1929 he set a world's endurance flight record as chief pilot of the Question Mark. In 1936 he made the first transcontinental blind flight and, in 1939, made two nonstop transcontinental flights, refueling in the air. He also holds the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf cluster, many citations for outstanding service. A Texan, he is 45, holds a journalism degree from the University of Southern California.
Dedicated by the authors to the intrepid and courageous flyers of Britain's Royal Air Force, whose matchless exploits in the skies above Europe deserve the praise of the civilized world, this volume is dedicated in admiration and respect admiration for the boldest battles yet fought in the air, respect for fearless airmen for whom duty is the Holy Grail.
The abridged version of Winged Warfare which appears above is adapted from the original volume published by Harper & Brothers, New York ($3.50) and is presented by special arrangement.