Daily Items

 

Topic Hap Arnold:  Autonomy for Arnold
Date 07-Mar-2014

 

From Time Magazine, 30-Jun-1941

The rising clamor for a separate, independent U.S. air force last week impelled the War Department to take action. Reporting this action to Congress, in an effort to stave off more drastic changes, Secretary of War Stimson announced:

  • That the present Army Air Corps and its separately commanded striking arm (the General Headquarters Air Force) have been grouped into a unified, autonomous organization to be called The Army Air Forces.
  • That Major General Henry H. ("Hap"') Arnold, who used to be Chief of Air Corps but was kicked upstairs to the General Staff last year, is now the one & only commander of The Army Air Forces. General Arnold is responsible to Chief of Staff George Marshall, but subject to this condition he now has more range of authority, more freedom of decision than was ever before granted any U.S. Army airman.

Said Mr. Stimson: "We favor autonomy of the air arm rather than segregated independence." His primary reason for this preference was thoroughly realistic: a completely independent air force would be effective only under a supreme command like the Nazis' Great General Staff, directing Army, Navy and Air. The U.S. has no such supreme command, and any effort to set one up in the midst of emergency would require "a general reorganization and redesign of the entire defense organization of this nation."

Mr. Stimson argued that this was too big a job to undertake in emergency, held further that the U.S. form of government did not lend itself to a supreme command. If this reasoning was correct, his autonomous air force obviously made more sense for the U.S. than a completely independent force would make, and the few, long-sighted observers who thought that the U.S. would some day have to come to a real high command for all its forces might as well give up hope for the duration.

Nevertheless, such critics were bound to remember and throw back at Mr. Stimson one passage in his letter (to Military Affairs Committee Chairmen) explaining last week's compromise. Said the Secretary of War: "The successful conduct of war depends directly on the controlled and coordinated application of all types of military power against vital objectives. This requires unity of command."


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