The Future of the AAF

by General Carl Spaatz

Throughout World War II, the Army Air Forces faced an inherently difficult and complex task. Its primary goal always was to assemble, organize, train, equip, transport, and maintain in far distant theaters of action Air Forces strong enough to apply the American doctrine of military air power against powerful and well-prepared opponents. The grim exigencies of war constantly interfered with and delayed the orderly attainment of that primary goal. Necessity dictated that air units be committed to battle in piecemeal fashion almost as soon as they arrived in the theaters. The losses in men and materiel which naturally accompanied such commitments resulted in considerable dissipation of strength. The necessity for sharing American production and training facilities with the Allies further complicated and delayed the task of building up Air Forces in the theaters strong enough to execute properly the tactical and strategical responsibilities of the Air Forces.

Under the inspiring and dynamic leadership of General Arnold, the Army Air Forces rose to magnificent heights in the successful accomplishment of its greatest wartime mission. The exceptional devotion to duty, the unselfish sacrifice, and the high courage in battle demonstrated by Air Force personnel of all grades and ranks, reinforced by the whole-hearted support of the men and women on the home front made it possible for the Army Air Forces to meet successfully its greatest test.

The Army Air Forces now is engaged in a program of transition from a temporary wartime basis to its permanent peacetime basis. During this interim phase, this period of reorientation, it must withdraw its major combat forces from overseas, screen its personnel, reduce the number of its units on a planned schedule, and redeploy its forces in accordance with current strategical requirements. This interim phase will end with the establishment of the stabilized peacetime Army Air Forces. A strong Air Force will go far to insure the peace.

Future Attacks Will Come Through Air

The mission of the Army Air Forces in peacetime is to develop and to maintain a military air force capable of immediate, sustained, and expanding application of the accepted American doctrine of military air power. It must cooperate fully and be geared to work in close harmony with the nation's ground and naval services in discharging the joint responsibility for supporting American foreign policy and for maintaining the peace.

The Army Air Forces can accomplish its mission only if it maintains an Air Force-in-Being of adequate size and proper composition, strategically deployed, and in a high and constant state of readiness. It must be supported by a well-balanced, forward-looking program of research and technical development, by an alert, readily expandable aeronautical industry, and by an informed and enlightened public opinion. It is extremely unlikely that the United States ever again will have time to prepare for war after war actually begins. The initial attack of World War II came without warning and from the air. Any future attack almost certainly will come from the air. The best insurance against unannounced aerial attack is an adequate, alert Air Force-in-Being.

The Army Air Forces can discharge its responsibilities to the people of the United States most effectively if, and only if, it is granted full parity and coequal status with the ground and naval services. The air arm is unique in that it possesses to a very high degree the military characteristics of mobility, speed, range, flexibility of employment, surprise, and firepower. World War II proved that air power can fatally weaken the enemy's power and will to resist by destroying systematically his military and economic potential. The attributes and advantages of air power can be exploited to the fullest extent only by men fully cognizant of those attributes and advantages, that is to say, by airmen. The best interests of the nation demand for air power an equal place and voice in the councils of war.

The Army Air Forces are in unanimous agreement with the view that a single department of national defense in which the Air Force attains parity with the other armed services under a unified command is definitely desirable. No one has stated this position more clearly than did the President in his message to the Congress on 19 December 1945 when he said: "Air Power has been developed to a point where its responsibilities are equal to those of land and sea power, and its contribution to our strategic planning is as great. Parity for air power can be achieved in one department or in three, but not in two. As between one department and three, the former is infinitely to be preferred."

Strong Air Striking Force Is Necessary

The Army Air Forces must have the type of internal organization that is best suited to the accomplishment of its mission. Studies now under way will produce a plan for reorganization that will permit the maximum efficiency of operation and the greatest flexibility of employment. This plan will be implemented by an orderly process of evolution.

The peacetime manpower requirements of the Army Air Forces have been submitted to and approved by the War Department, They now await the completion of studies to effect their integration with the overall manpower needs of the armed forces, after which they will be submitted to the President for final approval and transmittal to Congress.

The Air Reserve and the Air National Guard will form an integral part of the air defense structure of the United States. The mission of the Air National Guard is to proved a reserve component of the Air Force, capable of rapid expansion to war strength. The Air Reserve will provide, in an emergency, additional trained officers and men for replacements in and for expansion of the Air Force, as well as units organized and trained in time of peace for rapid mobilization, expansion, and deployment in time of war. These Reserve units will be of the types and numbers which will best supplement the regular Air Forces and the Air National Guard to round out a balanced Air Force.

The deployment of air combat units must be consistent with the concept that the Air Forces must be prepared to meet, at points well beyond the continental limits of the United States, any attack aimed at the national security. The consequent disposition of the Air Forces necessitates bases on which, as circumstances demand, offensive force can be poised well within reach of the war potential of any possible enemy. The number of units held on overseas bases will be kept to the minimum in order to prevent dissipation of strength. A strong air striking force must be readily available for rapid concentration and employment. While a certain number of combat groups may have their primary stations in advanced strategic areas, a program of rotation will insure the presence of a strong, mobile air striking force in the continental United States. The units based in the United States will serve to meet tactical requirements and will form the bulk of a mobile striking force quickly available to reinforce and to complement units in forward areas.

Will Form Three Combat Commands

The Army Air Forces must contain a number of components within that fundamental unity which characterizes its singleness of design and purpose for the fulfillment of its mission. In the new organization, there will be three major combat commands and five supporting commands operating under Headquarters, Army Air Forces. No more than eight individuals will report directly to the Commanding General, thereby insuring simplicity of structure. The three combat commands will be:

  1. the Strategic Air Command, which will embody the combat groups of the long-range striking forces;
  2. the Air Defense Command, which will be responsible for the air defense of the continental United States and for the coordination of the continental air units, including the Air National Guard and Air Reserve, into effective fighting forces; and
  3. the Tactical Air Command, which will be charged with cooperative missions with the surface forces.
Immediately under these commands will be the numbered Air Forces.

In addition to the three combat commands, there will be

  1. the Air Materiel Command, which will perform normal maintenance and supply functions as well as research and development;
  2. the Training Command, which will provide all phases of individual training except the higher education carried on in the Air University and the unit training conducted in the three combat commands;
  3. the Air Transport Command, which will provide the global systems, including military air transport, air signal communications, flight service, weather, rescue, flying safety, and aeronautical chart service; and, finally,
  4. and
  5. the Air-University and the Air Force Proving Ground Command, two agencies whose functions will be to crystallize and to disseminate the latest Air Force doctrine through training programs and through tactical experimentation.

The Commanding General of the Army Air Forces ordinarily will exercise only administrative, training, and. tactical supervision over the air units assigned to a theater. Under certain conditions of employment of units of the Strategic Air Command, however, his function may be extended to the exercise of complete command control, as was the case originally with the 20th Air Force. The objective of the Army Air Forces organization is, in the final analysis, to form the most effective military machine possible.

A strong Air Force which daily demonstrates high efficiency of operation is a most powerful instrument for the defense of the national security and for the prevention of war: The development, procurement, and operation of high performance aircraft costs money. The rate of obsolescence is high compared to other types of weapons. Their operation requires highly skilled crews and technicians whose training is exacting and requires considerable time as well as heavy expenditure of funds. These factors challenge every member of the Air Force. An effective, hard-hitting Air Force must be built with maximum economy of manpower and public funds.

The American military establishment, however strong it may be internally, must be supported by means outside itself. It cannot function efficiently unless and until it receives the wholehearted support of the American people. The degree of support given the Air Force depends upon the extent to which the public is informed. The American people provide the men, the money, and the machines; the military must guarantee the security of the nation. The Army Air Forces must have a broad, strong, progressive, intelligent, and continuing policy of public relations and information service. The public has the right to be informed on the capabilities of the Army Air Forces and its state of readiness. At the same time it must be made continually aware of its responsibility to supply the Air Force with the means to accomplish its mission.

Air Force Has Role in Atomic Warfare

World War II clearly and conclusively demonstrated the fundamental soundness of the American conception of the function and potentialities of strategic air offense. The atomic bomb has provided a weapon which tremendously increases the effectiveness of air power. From this it follows that any future conflict will begin with air action, and may well be concluded by it; but, despite this possibility, the Air Forces must be able to participate with the surface forces in coordinated action. The Air Forces must fulfill its role in these joint tasks with the same high degree of efficiency which characterizes its ability to accomplish a purely strategic air mission. To this end, the Tactical Air Command will be equipped and trained to perform joint air-surface training and field exercises with the surface forces, to perform demonstrations at service schools, to carry out tests of new procedures of joint air-surface operations, and to develop techniques of tactical air operation. Each commander is enjoined to hold uppermost in his mind the thesis that regardless of the soundness of any organization which may be created, cooperation will not be achieved unless the will to cooperate is present. Cooperation is assured only when Air Force commanders maintain close personal relationships with the commanders and staffs of the other services.

During the war, civilians constituted a large and important segment of the Air Forces personnel. In the performance of their tasks they contributed heavily to the achievement of victory. The services of civilians will continue to be required throughout the postwar period to free military personnel for exclusively military duties. Both soldiers and civilians are needed to solve the problems immediately ahead and Air Force commanders in the field will stress the desirability of employing veterans as civilian personnel, in accordance with existing laws and usages.

A vigorous recruiting campaign for the rapid procurement of the greatest possible number of three-year enlistments will provide the chief source of Air Force military personnel. This campaign is of the utmost importance to the future of the Air Forces.

Large Funds Needed For Research

The advance of air power depends peculiarly on scientific progress. Research must be continued in order to derive from new scientific developments their military application. Recognition of the commanding importance of science is indicated by the designation of a Deputy Chief of Air Staff whose sole duty will be to guide and control a program of research and development, and to maintain close liaison with government research agencies. To further the education of technical personnel, selected young officers must be given the opportunity to take advanced technological courses, at both military and civilian institutions. There must be no stinting of expenditures in the field of research and scientific development. Military doctrines must be continually altered to conform to and to take full advantage of scientific discoveries and developments.

Industrial planning is similarly important. To insure a maximum production of weapons in a minimum of time, production to meet any contingency must be planned in advance. This is especially true for military aircraft and related components, which cannot be stockpiled because they become obsolete quickly in this era of rapid technical advancement.

The high operational mobility of the Air Forces must be matched always by a corresponding logistical mobility. Unless an organization attains logistical mobility, its attainment of operational mobility is nullified. Operational plans and programs will be evolved, therefore, with close reference to logistical plans and programs. Means, methods, and techniques for the distribution of personnel and materiel must be constantly improved to attain maximum mobility.

Army Air Forces personnel policies and plans are many and varied. Only a few may be mentioned here. The betterment of the situation of the enlisted, man is one of our primary objectives. Good results already are apparent. Plans have been prepared to offer opportunities,to enlisted personnel to secure not only training in technical skills but also to earn degrees in civilian educational institutions. This subject will continue to receive careful attention.

Opportunities for Technical Specialists

The functions of research, procurement, production, supply, maintenance, and related activities call for the services of trained technical specialists who are not rated as flying personnel. In order to insure that such specialists are given the rewards they merit, it will be the policy of the Air Force to provide them with opportunities for promotion comparable to those enjoyed by flying personnel. There are many important stations and commands available in the Air Forces which will supply a suitable career incentive to non-rated officers.

The future Air Forces will include a greatly increased proportion of non-rated officers, who, it is anticipated, will be eligible for both command and staff positions. It is thought, too, that the present Air Forces strength of 3,200 Regular Air Corps 0fficers will be greatly increased. Congress already has authorized an increment of 4,100 additional Regular Air Corps commissions. This expansion, which reflects the immensely increased stature of air power, points out a new opportunity for young men of America to establish themselves in a career of honorable service.

Air Force Has Own Tradition

Education is of prime importance to the furtherance of air power. The establishment and maintenance of an educational system to assure high standards of professional education for military personnel will be a significant contribution toward the establishment of an Air Force trained and equipped to meet any eventuality. To that end, the Air Forces already has begun to formulate a complete education system, the Air University. The Air University will function directly under the Commanding General, Army Air Forces and will be concerned with the formal schooling of all Air Forces officers. The courses offered will include graded professional training in subjects above the level of those studied by the officer in the acquisition of his primary military specialty or rating.

The prototype of the Air University is the Army Air Forces School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, which will begin an Air Command and Staff Course in September, 1946. A course in basic tactical training and a course in advanced strategy and logistics are planned. The Air Force Institute of Technology has been established. at Wright Field, Ohio, under the Air Materiel Command. This will be integrated into the AAF School System on the Command and Staff Course level to meet the need for officers trained in technology and research. The complete Air Forces plan calls for progressive training in three main phases, each phase adjusted to the responsibility and experience level of the individual officer as he moves upward in his career.

Military history clearly demonstrates that when military personnel depart from the highest standards of conduct, the force which they comprise experiences a corresponding decline in strength because of the resultant weakening of discipline and the general undermining of authority. Discipline must flow from within and must be controlled from without. Individuals of the Army Air Forces must, therefore, observe the rules of discipline and dress, and the customs of the service in a manner consistent with the high standards which have been established.

Although the Air Forces is the youngest of the armed services, it has a tradition and a glory of its own, stemming from its heroic accomplishments in the air battles of two World Wars. Its officers and men, its component air forces, wings, groups, and squadrons, have added new bright chapters to the glorious history of mankind. From this tradition of gallantry springs the esprit de corps which gives powerful coherence and unity to the Air Forces. From this pride in achievement springs confidence that the Air Forces will continue to fulfill its mission with distinction.

The officers and men of the Army Air Forces will continue to work with the zeal and energy shown in the past, to the end that the history of their day-to-day efforts will contribute immeasurably to the advancement of American air power.

This article was originally published in the April, 1946, issue of Air news with Air Tech magazine, vol 10, no 4, p 17-20, 22-23, 85.
The original article has a portrait of General Spaatz and 9 photos.
Photos credited to MATC, Press Association, British Combine, International, Acme, Langley Laboratories, Boeing, North American, Air Service Command.

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