Army Aviation

80th Anniversary of Army Aviation, Part IV

Looking Back / Army Aviation, June 2012; By Mark Albertson

For the 80th Anniversary of Army Aviation:
Class Before One, Part IV

“The Charter of the Air Observation Post”

By Mark Albertson

john j mccloyJohn J, McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, 1942, supported Danford and L-4 Cubs for the Field Artillery in the face of Army Air Forces resistance.  And to Hap Arnold’s chagrin, Mr. McCloy even ordered Cub aircraft for the Ground Forces.  John J. McCloy, together with Charles Bohlen, Robert Lovett, Averell Harriman, Dean Acheson and the incomparable George Kennan, are considered the Wise Men of American Policy.  McCloy will serve eight presidents, from FDR up to and including Ronald Reagan.

The operational success of Lieutenant Colonel Ford’s flyers can be seen in two letters, one written by Brigadier General John B. Anderson, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division to Major Wolf.  And the other written by Brigadier General J.A. Crane, commander of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade to General G.R. Allin, commandant of the Field Artillery School.  [Both aforementioned letters are at the conclusion of this article.]

Generals Anderson and Crane no doubt helped the cause since they became fans of the Air OP concept.  But the real action took place in the nation’s capital.  Even before the March exercises in North Carolina, Florida and Texas, a meeting that had been convened in the conference room of the Secretary of War.  Participants included Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy; Major Joseph A. Green, Chief of the Coast Artillery; Lieutenant General Jacob A. Devers, Chief of the Armored Force; Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges, Chief of the Infantry; Major General John K. Herr, Chief of the Cavalry; Major General Richard C. Moore, a Deputy Chief of Staff and two major protagonists, Major General Robert M. Danford, Chief of the Field Artillery and General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the U.S. Army Air Forces.[1]

general henry hap arnoldGeneral Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the United States Army Air Forces, was an ardent opponent of organic aviation in the Field Artillery.

Much of the debate centered on Arnold and Danford.  One of the former’s major concerns—as always—was that the Ground Forces were trying to create a second air force in the Army.  And this was unacceptable.  At one point during the proceedings, Arnold queried Danford with, “Who will buy your planes?”  The artillery chief replied unequivocally, “You will.  Just the way the Quartermaster buys my trucks and Ordnance buys my guns.”[2]

General Danford further explained that the Air OP would be better served by personnel drawn from the ranks of the Field Artillery.  Optimum results would be gleaned from those who ate, slept and drank artillery work, as opposed to airmen who neither knew nothing about nor cared for the Field Artillery.  After all, they were airmen, not foot sloggers.  Secretary McCloy agreed.

Another meeting was convened on January 29, this time by the General Staff.  Here it was reported that General Arnold lambasted the Air Op concept.[3]  Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, stated that the Army’s Infantry, Armor and Motorized units needed access to liaison aircraft as well.[4]  “What General Arnold most feared seemed to be coming true:  An alternative air arm, beyond his control, taking root in the Army.[5]  And to add to the air chief’s concern John J. McCloy went ahead and ordered commercial light aircraft for the Ground Forces.”[6]  In the end, McCloy’s actions should have come as no surprise, since the Air Support Command squadrons of the Army Air Forces paled in comparison to the light plane squadrons in the recent maneuvers.

general robert m danfordMajor General Robert M. Danford, Chief of the Field Artillery.  Photo is of Major Robert Danford when Commandant of Cadets at West Point, 1920.

However an impediment seemed to rise when General Danford, who had turned 64 on February 28, 1942, retired.  In addition, the War Department commenced a reorganization of command.  The Offices of the Chief of the Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, Cavalry and Infantry, etc., were abolished.  Their offices were now incorporated in the new Headquarters, Army Ground Forces.  The Chief of the Air Corps was closed and its responsibilities were included into the Headquarters, Army Air Forces.[7]

Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair became commander of the Ground Forces within the HQ Army Ground Forces.  And at this point, General McNair was not entirely sold on the Air OP concept.  Fortunately Dwight Eisenhower recently had been promoted to brigadier general, and, had been assigned to the War Plans Division of the General Staff, in September 1941.  He reiterated his support for Field Artillery aviation to the Secretary of War for Air, Robert Lovett.  Eisenhower, on February 16, 1942, was named Chief of the War Plans Division, which in turn was re-designated the Operations Division.[8]

However Eisenhower was not HQ Army Ground Forces, McNair was.  And again, McNair was not totally sold on the Air OP concept.  “On March 7 he wrote to Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. McCloy, that he ‘favored in the main air observation by air forces.’  But, he added, these Cub planes are something new and well worth considering in a different light than the standard combat airplane of the air forces.’  When informed of the results of the tests and of the action of the Army Ground Forces, which, to meet a deadline, had been taken in his absence, he was still doubtful.  His view was that the report in the tests ‘proved little’ and that the conclusions were ‘opinions.’[9] And it was to McNair’s office that the recent test results of Flights A & B had been forwarded.

However Lady Luck smiled upon the Air OP crowd.  On April 18, 1942, Major General Mark Clark arrived at Camp Blanding, Florida.  Flight A’s exercises had just ended.  But Clark met with Lieutenant Colonel Ford.  Ford took the General on a short flight in a Cub.  General Clark, an infantryman, readily grasped the possibilities offered by the light airplane.[10]

The review boards of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Division Field Artillery, turned in their post-maneuver analyses rating the performances of the light planes.  Both reports approved the Air OP concept.  Lieutenant General Walter Krueger of Third Army heartily endorsed the reports.  The reports were then forwarded to Headquarters, Army Ground Forces.  General McNair was unavailable, off as he was on an inspection trip.  But his chief of staff was on hand, General Mark Clark.  Clark endorsed the reports and then forwarded them to the War Department.  The reports, in turn, were endorsed by Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall.[11]

* * * * *

Letter Written by Brigadier General

J.A. Crane, CO 13th Field Artillery Brigade
May 5, 1942

I cannot adequately express my admiration for the skill and enthusiasm with which all the personnel of the flight performed their work here.  Never once did they fail to carry out the often seemingly impossible task assigned to them, and their record of eight weeks of continuous operations from roads and small improved fields under all conditions of weather and terrain without personal injury of any kind and with only one accident that resulted in any damage to their ability to fly and maintain the airplanes provided them.  Their energy, initiative, and cheerful co-operation contributed immeasurably to the successful completion of the test; and if our report on it is approved and air observation is made an organic part of the Field Artillery, the credit will be due to them, and the Field Artillery arm of the Service will owe them a debt of gratitude.

Letter Written by Brigadier General
J.B. Anderson, CO 2nd Infantry Division
to Major Wolf and General Allin,
Commandant of the Field Artillery School,
May 7, 1942

During the period you have been attached to the artillery of the 2nd Infantry Division, you and your detachment have been a credit to the Field Artillery . . . . The outstanding work of your detachment in maintenance and a record free of serious accidents are indicative that long hours and total disregard of personnel convenience must have been the rule rather than the exception in carrying out your duties.

I especially desire to commend you as the Detachment Commander, and Captain Robert M. Leich as the Engineering Officer for the outstanding performance of duty and for the splendid results obtained while your detachment was under my command.

Source:  See pages 23 and 24, “The Army Aviation Story,” Part I, United States Army Aviation Digest, by Richard K. Tierney, June 1962.

* * * * *

Air Observation Post Charter

War Department Memorandum (WDGCT 320.02)

WDGCT 320.02 (2-5-42)
June 6, 1942

Subject:  Organic Air Observation for Field Artillery.

1.  Reference is made to letter War Department, February 25, 1942, AG 320.02 (2-5-42) MT-C, subject:  Service Test of Organic Air Observation for Field Artillery, and 1st Endorsement, thereto.

2.  Your recommendation that organic air observation units must be included in Field Artillery organizations is approved.

3.  It is desired that you take immediate steps to effect the necessary changes in organization, equipment and training entailed by this action.  The following will govern:

a.  Organization:

1.  Liaison airplanes will be authorized for Field Artillery units at the rate of 2 per light
and medium Artillery Battalions, 2 per Division Artillery Headquarters and Headquarters
Battery or Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Battery.

2.  Personnel will be authorized at the rate of 1 pilot and ½ airplane mechanic for each
liaison airplane authorized.

3.  The required changes in T/Os and TBAs will be submitted as soon as practicable.

          b.  Procurement and Maintenance:

1.  The Commanding General, Army Air Forces will be responsible for the procurement and issues of airplanes, spare parts, repair materials and the necessary auxiliary flying equipment required by this program.  The airplanes will be commercial low performance aircraft of the “Piper Cub” type.

2.  All maintenance, other than that requiring facilities of base shops, will be accomplished by Army Ground Forces.

3.  Maintenance requiring the facilities of base shops will be a responsibility of the Commanding General Army Air Forces.

4.  It is desired that you confer with the Commanding General, Army Air Forces regarding the number of aircraft required under the 1942 Troop Basis, the anticipated delivery rate, the estimated requirements for spare parts, repair materials and auxiliary equipment, as well as the procedures and policies regarding their issue and delivery.

c.  Personnel:

1.  Qualifications:

Recommendations for the detailed qualifications and specifications for both
commissioned and enlisted personnel will be submitted for approval.  These will fall into two general categories:  a pilot capable of piloting the liaison-type airplane as well as assisting in the normal maintenance; and a mechanic qualified to service the airplane and perform repairs incident to 1st and second echelon maintenance.

2.  Source of Personnel:

a.  Pilots:  Volunteers, now under your control, who are qualified to pilot liaison-
type aircraft will be utilized to the maximum as pilots.  Additional pilots needed to fill
requirements of the 1942 Troop Basis will be made available by the Commanding
General, Army Air Forces.

b.  Mechanics:  Mechanics will be procured from sources under your control.

3.  Extra compensation and ratings:

a.  Pilots will be authorized additional compensation for frequent and regular aerial
flights.  A rating generally similar to that of a liaison pilot will be established for pilots.

b.  Appropriate ratings for mechanics may be Technician, Grade 3, or lower.

d.  Training:

1.  The basic flight training of pilots will be the responsibility of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces.  This training will be limited to that necessary to enable safe operation of low performance aircraft and qualify a student according to the standards established for liaison pilots.

2.  You are authorized to organize at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, or other stations selected by you, a course of instruction for the operational training of pilots, mechanics and observers in tactical employment of organic air observation in Field Artillery units.

4.  Changes in training literature will be prepared at the earliest practicable date.

5.  A copy of the directive to the Commanding General, Army Air Forces is attached hereto.  The Commanding General, Army Air Forces has been furnished a copy of this letter.

By order of the Secretary of War

I.H. Edwards,
Brigadier General
Assistant Chief of Staff

Source:  See page 23, The Army Aviation Story, by Richard Tierney.


[1]  See Wednesday, January 14, 1942 entry made by Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy, in his diary of 1942.  Diary of John J. McCloy, John J. McCloy Papers (DYI folders 4-7), Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library.

[2]  See page 75, Chapter 2, “The Field Artillery Acquires Its Own Aircraft, July 1941-June 1942,” Eyes of Artillery:  The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, by Edgar F. Raines, Jr.

[3]  See page 75, Edgar F. Raines, Jr.

[4]  See page 55, “Tug-of-War,” Part II, Army Aviation, June 30, 2012, by Mark Albertson.

[5]  See John J. McCloy’s diary for Tuesday, January 8, 1942, 4:40 PM.  McCloy telephones General Somervell about the issue of “puddle jumpers” and in the course of their conversation McCloy notes in his diary, “General Arnold was against them because if in the hands of the Infantry, Artillery, etc., they might encroach on jurisdiction of the Air Corps.”
General Brehon B. Somervell was Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, appointed on November 25, 1941.  With the Reorganization of the War Department on March 9, 1942, General Somervell was chosen to command the Army Service Forces.  See “Introduction,” The Army Service Forces:  The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces, by John D. Millett.

[6]  See page 55, Mark Albertson.

[7]  See Executive Order 9082 Reorganizing the Army and War Department, February 28, 1942,” Franklin D. Roosevelt, XXXII President of the United States:  1933-1945, The American Presidency Project,

[8]  See page 85, Chapter V, “Transition Into War,” Washington Command Post:  The Operations Division, by Ray S. Cline.

[9]  See page 24, Chapter III, “Organic Aviation in Field Artillery,” Army Ground Forces and the Air-Ground Battle Team, Including Organic Light Aviation, Study No. 35, by Colonel Kent Roberts Greenfield, Infantry Res.

[10]  See page 126, Chapter VIII, “Wings for Santa Barbara,” Wagon Soldier, by William Wallace Ford.

[11]  See page 126 and 127, William Wallace Ford.

Bibliography for Class Before One Series

Brown, Major Robert S., USA, The Development of Organic Light Aviation on the Army Ground Forces in World War II, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, June 2000.

Cannon, Hardy D., with Stratton, Bill, Box Seat Over Hell, San Antonio, Texas, June 1985.

Eyck, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Ten, Jeeps in the Sky, Commonwealth Books, Inc., New York, 1946.

Ford, Brigadier General William W. (U.S. Army, Retired), “History of Army Aviation:  Grasshoppers,” U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.  Originally published in Army Aviation Digest, June 1982.

Ford, William Wallace, Wagon Soldier, Excelsior Printing Company, North Adams, Massachusetts, 1980.

Francis, Devon, Mr. Piper and His Cubs, The Iowa University Press, Ames, Iowa, 1973.

Greenfield, Kent Roberts, Colonel of Infantry Reserve, Army Ground Forces and the Air-Ground Battle Team, Including Organic Light Aviation, Study No. 35, Historical Section, Army Ground Forces, Department of the Army, Fort Monroe, Virginia, May 17, 1948.

Holly, Captain Irving, B., Jr., Evolution of the Liaison-Type Airplane, 1917-1944, Historical Studies No. 44, Army Air Forces Historical Office, Headquarters, Army Air Forces,  April 1946.

Kitchens, Dr. John W., Aviation Branch Command Historian, “Organic Aviation in World War II,” U.S. Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.  Originally published in Army Aviation Digest, May/June 1992.

Kitchens, Dr. John W., Aviation Branch Command Historian, “Organic Aviation in World War II:  The Class Before One,” U.S. Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.  Originally published in Army Aviation Digest, May/June 1992.

Raines, Edgar F., Jr., Eyes of Artillery:  The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2000.

Tierney, Richard K., “Fort Rucker and Army Aviation History:  The Army Aviation Story,” Part I, United States Army Aviation Digest, 20th Anniversary of Army Aviation, Fort Rucker, Alabama, June 1962.

Tierney, Richard with Montgomery, Fred, The Army Aviation Story, Colonial Press, Northport, Alabama, 1963.

Wakefield, Ken, The Fighting Grasshoppers:  U.S. Liaison Aircraft Operations in Europe, 1942-1945, Midland Counties Publications, Leicester, England, 1990.

Williams, Dr. James W., History of Army Aviation:  From its Beginnings to the War on Terror, iUniverse, Inc., Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005.

Williams, Lieutenant General Robert R. Williams, (Ret.), “From Balloons to Air Mobility:  The Early Years of Struggle, 1942-1954,” Army Aviation, Vol. 41, No. 13, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., December 31, 1992.