Looking Back, June 2024
By Mark Albertson

80 Years Ago:
Operation: OVERLORD

“D-Day has come. Early this morning the Allies began the assault on the northwestern face of Hitler’s European fortress. The first official news came just after half-past nine, when Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force issued Communique Number One. This said: Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France. This is the BBC Home Service—and here is a special bulletin read by John Snagge.”[1]

* * * * *

The strategic significance of Overlord is greater than the standard popular narrative of the Longest Day; that of serving the vulgar Austrian corporal his eviction notice from France and the Low Countries so as to bring to a speedier conclusion Man’s greatest industrialized global conflict. For what transpired on June 6, 1944, as well as on December 4-5, 1941, followed two days later at Pearl Harbor, and August 6 and 9, 1945, are among those decisive military developments underscoring the changing nature of the global dynamics of power. For Man’s greatest industrialized war, Total War, did not commence on December 1, 1939; rather, by August 4, 1914.[2]

Map of the D-Day, June 6, 1944.

But Overlord, too, was a product of history: Spring 1862, General George McClellan was to land a huge Union Army on the Virginia Peninsula. According to the Assistant Secretary of War, John Tucker, “121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries, 74 ambulances, pontoon bridges, telegraph materials, and an enormous quantity of equipage, . . .

“In his account, McClellan’s quartermaster reflected Tucker’s report on the scale of the effort when he listed the craft utilized in the move to the peninsula: ’71 side-wheeler steamers, 57 propellers (craft equipped with propellers), 187 schooners, brigs and barks, 90 barges, making in all 405 vessels, of a tonnage of 86,278 tons.’”[3] Included, too, was a pair of balloons from Thaddeus Lowe’s Balloon Corps, providing McClellan with air superiority of a type. A monumental effort considering the time, perhaps, but, which only ended in failure. President Lincoln was seeking a knockout blow: Get to Richmond, the Confederate capital and end the war. Then, perhaps, be in a better position to enforce the Monroe Doctrine and evict the French from Mexico.[4]

The Peninsular Campaign was a failure, owing, in part, to a lack of intelligence as to an accurate strength of Confederate forces and the fact that General McClellan was a cautious plodder. This will enable the Confederates to concentrate the forces necessary under the command of Robert E. Lee and cause the evacuation of Union forces. The war would continue another three years.

April 25, 1915, a D-Day prior to Normandy will take place, on the Turkish peninsula, Gallipoli. This amphibious operation on the southern flank of the Triple Alliance was to accomplish a number of things: Circumvent the stalemate of the trenches on the Western Front and attempt a war of movement. Two, knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war and free up the Middle East. Three, persuade Greece, Rumania and Bulgaria to side with the Triple Entente. Four, open a needed artery into Czarist Russia and supply this ally on the Eastern Front and perhaps draw off German troops from the Western Front. Churchill even considered that some Turkish soldiers might agree to serve as mercenaries against their former German and Austro-Hungarian allies. Five, a naval control of the Sea of Marmara might well effect a combined effort by the Royal Navy and Russian Navy for an attack on the Danube.[5]

Ill-fated amphibious operation by the Allies against Turkey and Gallipoli, 1915.

The ill-fated British attempt to alter the course of the war failed. Like the Western Front, the campaign on the Turkish peninsula degenerated into a stalemate. Precious resources were squandered and men used up. And by early January 1916 the last of the invasion force was evacuated from Cape Helles, the most remarkable success achieved under the noses of the defending Turkish troops. The cost was some 256,000 Allied troops. The strategic cost can be seen with Czarist Russia. Failure to open up the artery of supply and gain control of the Black Sea will help to bring on the collapse of Czarist Russia as an Entente power and lead to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bulgarians, seeing to the failure of the Allies in the Dardanelles and the decisive Austro-German victory over the Russians at Gorlice-Tarnow, May 1915, threw their lot with the Central Powers. Same will see to an Austro-German-Bulgarian campaign against little Serbia.

The political fallout shook the Asquith Government in Britain. Conservatives seeking equality in running the war resulted in Lord Balfour replacing Winston Churchill as head of the Admiralty. Lord Kitchener, now sporting a big political black eye, remained in the War Office, yet his control of munitions was transferred to a new ministry under the control of Lloyd George. And of course, British prestige was shaken with the withdrawal from Gallipoli.

Though OVERLORD occurred in 1944, political and military concerns of a significant magnitude were as real as they had been in 1862 and 1915 and play a role in the weighty decisions of the period in question. And the part played by D-Day in these weighty decisions of the period in question can be better appreciated by remarks made by FDR in January 1940. For the Good Neighbor Policy with Central and South America not only jumpstarted U.S. trade in this American sphere-of-influence, but at the expense of Axis Powers attempting to make inroads in America’s backyard. But what about Britain? Well in the words of President Roosevelt, January 1940, during a press conference concerning Britain’s plight, he speculated on the prospects of the United States: “As you know, the British need money in this war. They own lots of things all over the world . . . such as tramways and electric light companies. Well, in carrying on this war, the British may have to part with that control and we, perhaps, can step in or arrange—make financial arrangements for eventual local ownership. It is a terribly interesting thing and one of the most important things for our future trade is study it in that light.”[6]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was cognizant of the changing nature of the global dynamics of power. After centuries of global political, economic and military dominance, the downward trend of the Europeans was hastening to its inevitable conclusion. And December 1941 was the turning point of Man’s greatest industrialized war.

* * * * *

On June 22, 1941, Hitler hurled 3,300,000 troops against the Stalin’s Russia. On the first day, the Luftwaffe destroyed 1,400 Soviet aircraft, 600 the next. In 48 hours, the frontline strength of the world’s largest air force was eradicated. On the first day, Hitler’s spearheads annihilated three Soviet infantry divisions and cut five others to pieces. 100,000 Soviet troops were off the board. In a week, Heinz Guderian, in command of Panzergruppe II, was already one-third the way to Moscow, some 200 miles deep inside the Soviet hinterland. In two weeks, the Soviets have more dead than the United States will lose over the entire conflict. In a month, the Germans have captured an area twice the size of their own country.

But the Russians were not the French. And, Stalin was certainly not another Edouard Daladier or Paul Reynaud. And by geographic comparison, France in Europe has two time zones, compared to eleven in Stalin’s Russia. And, of course, Russia has an ally, ever faithful to Russia be it Czarist or Stalinist, General Winter. And he will rise to the challenge to defend the Motherland in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler.

Turning Point

December 1941 was the turning point. Beginning on the night of December 4-5, 1941, with lead German spearheads no less than 15 miles from the Kremlin, General Georgi Zhukov launched a devastating counterattack in temperatures forty degrees below zero. Two days later, Japanese naval air attacks crippled the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Now it was truly a global conflict. A protracted clash of arms which both Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan could not afford to wage. Pearl Harbor was a defeat, yes. But it was a tactical defeat. But strategically it proved a boon to what will follow by 1945. For America and Americans will come together in a giant community scene not witnessed again since 1945.[7] But what had commenced in 1898, the Spanish-American War, the transformation of Manifest Destiny from an agenda of continental expansion to that of a program for globalism, had been achieved by 1945. Indeed, by 1942, the two nations that will eventually win the Great War were beginning to take control of it. For instance, the Soviet Union.

In 1941, losses in the face of the initial German onslaught were staggering: 3,137,673 killed and missing; 1,336,147 wounded and sick for a total of 4,473,820 casualties.[8] Yet despite such losses, the Soviets were slowly taking control of the land war by attrition. Take 1942, Germany produced 5,997 tanks and assault guns.[9] By comparison, the Soviets will produce—without assistance from its Western Allies—24,668 tanks and assault guns (including 13,500 T-34s, the best Allied tank produced).[10] After all, Chelyabinsk and the Urals was the world’s greatest tank producing combine, not Detroit.

Yet it is America that is the Arsenal of Democracy. An economic dynamo that will out-produce all comers in almost every category, except tanks and artillery pieces, again these categories go to the Soviets. However overwhelming American superiority is seen with warship production. An astounding 71,062 vessels were produced, from landing craft to aircraft carriers. As well as over 295,000 combat aircraft. And to add to an already weighty advantage, the United States and the Soviet Union were swimming in that one resource that is a requirement to wage and win mass industrialized war, . . . OIL. Or as Lord Beaverbrook (Baron Max Aiken) observed, The Kingdom of Heaven runs on righteousness; the Kingdom of Earth runs on oil. . .

1942 saw the United States beginning to change the course of the Pacific War, at Coral Sea and Midway. Then on August 7, the First Marine Division hit the beaches on Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo in the Solomons, America’s first offensive land action of the war. That same month, on the Eastern Front, the epic battle of Stalingrad began. Both Stalingrad and Guadalcanal were battles of attrition that Germany and Japan could not afford to wage. By February 1943, the Germans had suffered a devastating defeat, losing enough war materiel to equip one-quarter of the German Army. While by the same time in the Solomons, both the United States and Japan each lost 24 men-of-war in those horrendous naval battles for Iron Bottom Sound. To which, of course, Japan lacked the industrial capacity to replace such losses compared to the United States, as well as trained crews.

1943, the Soviets will defeat the German Army in history’s greatest air-land battle, Kursk. More than 3,200,000 troops fitted out the orders of battle for both sides. This monumental Soviet victory charted the land campaign for the rest of the war. Meanwhile, the Western Allies had won in North Africa, taken Sicily and by September were on the Italian Boot. And, the Allied navies had decided which side would win the battle of the Atlantic, insuring the lifeline of supply to Britain.

The Tehran Conference, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met, November 28-December 2, 1943. Among the many issues discussed was that of the Allied invasion of northwest France. “The Big Three agreed on the Anglo-American plan to mount the second front between May (the preferred date) and early July, 1944.”[11] Two weeks afterwards, Stalin would launch an offensive on the Eastern Front.

June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops dropped by parachute, crash landed by glider and hit the beaches on a front some 50 to 60 miles across along the Normandy coast. Thousands of ships and thousands of aircraft supported the landings in the greatest amphibious invasion in history. The Germans were now facing two Allied armies in Western Europe, in France and in Italy. And in concert with the bombing campaign against the Reich, Germany’s resources and ability to wage war was being ground down by the unremitting attrition by an economically superior coalition. Yet the bad news continued for Hitler and, certainly did not allow for any respite.

June 22, on the third anniversary of Operation: BARBAROSSA, Stalin launched Operation: BAGRATION, the largest Allied land offensive thus far in the war. Four Soviet armies struck on a front 450 miles across, later broadened to 650 miles.

Operation: BAGRATION, June 22, 1944, the largest Allied land offensive in thus far in World War II. Lead Soviet units will be on the Vistula River, on the approach to Warsaw. Stalin’s troops were only 350 miles from Berlin.

German Army Group Center had been a force of 52 divisions totaling 800,000 men, 553 tanks and assault guns, 9,500 artillery pieces and mortars and 839 combat aircraft. For their attack, the Soviets had an array of 118 infantry divisions, eight tank and mechanized corps, six cavalry divisions, 13 artillery divisions, upwards of 2,500,000 men, 4,070 tanks and assault guns, upwards of 28,000 artillery pieces and mortars and over 6,000 combat aircraft.[12]

On June 22, 1944, a thunderous barrage opened up the massive Soviet onslaught. And in eight weeks, some 28 German divisions were destroyed and upwards of half the manpower lost. German Army Group Center no longer existed. Not only was Belorussia liberated, but the Red Army was on the Vistula River, just outside Warsaw. Soviet tank armies were only 350 miles from Berlin. This was the prelude to overrunning Eastern Europe including Poland and then to taking Prague and Berlin.[13] And such was the object of the exercise.

In episode 25, The World at War, narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier, showcased U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Averell Harriman. Harriman referenced a conversation he had had with Stalin following the defeat of Nazi Germany:

“Marshal, this must be a great satisfaction to you, after all the trials you’ve been through, the tragedy you’ve been through, to be here in Berlin.” The generalissimo eyed Harriman with a face as bland as the floor and replied, “Czar Alexander got to Paris.” Referencing, of course, Czar Alexander following the defeat of Napoleon.[14]

Despite the fact that agreements that had been rendered delineated where the armies would eventually halt, owing to the Nature of Man, none of what was agreed to mattered since it all depended, in the end, on to how long the struggling German armies could hold out. So landing troops at Normandy followed by the subsequent drive across the Continent into Germany assured that Western Europe would remain in the Allied camp in the postwar period. For France had a sizable Communist Party. Italy had a sizable Communist Party. Spain, despite Franco, had a Communist Party. Picture, if you will for a moment, how the Cold War would have looked with T-34s sitting on the Pas de Calais. Those men who risked life and limb at Normandy not only ended Fascist tyranny in Western Europe, they won the first big battle of the Cold War.

For it is as Joe Stalin observed, when in conversation with Joseph Tito and Milovan Djilas, “. . . whoever occupies territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise.”[15]


[1] See page 9, “Introduction,” D-Day: ‘Neptune,’ ‘Overlord,’ and the Battle of Normandy, by John Falconer.

[2] There is no World War I or World War II, only the Great War, 1914-1922; 1931-1945. Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 and the Versailles Treaty, June 28, 1919, bought merely a respite from conflict in Western Europe. However in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, conflagration and war still raged.

Otto von Bismarck’s once vaunted Teutonic Corporate State was in its death throes in 1919, what with the Rightist Freikorps on the streets combatting the Communists, while at the same time fighting vengeful Czechs and Poles on Germany’s eastern frontiers. The Russian Revolution had degenerated into civil war, 1918-1921. Newly-minted Poland, a short-term experiment of the horse-trading carried on at Versailles, desired more territory and invaded Ukraine, slaughtering Jewish people in a spreading pogrom as its army moved east; a preview, to be sure, of Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen in 1941 The Poles will be thrown back at Kiev by Trotsky’s Red Army. The vanquished Ottoman Empire saw its former holdings carved up and parceled out between the exploitive British and French, producing such colonies as Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan (Jordan), Palestine, and Iraq. Syrians rose up in 1919 to eject the French, but were crushed by 1920. Sunnis, Shias and Kurds in newly-minted Iraq rose up to throw out the British in 1920. They, too, were utterly defeated by 1921. Anatolia had been divided up by the greedy Italians, Greeks, British and French in a 20 th century crusade that will inflame the Muslim Turks. And in the 1919-1922 Turkish War for Independence, Kemal Ataturk and his army will kick out the Greeks, Italians, British and French and eliminate such colonial satrapies as Kurdestan and Armenia. And for good measure, the Afghans saw to the eviction of the British in 1922. 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne will fashion much of what we see today as the modern Middle East.

But it is the Japanese who will jumpstart the second chapter of the Great War with their invasion of Manchuria, September 7, 1931. Hitler assumed the Chancellorship of Germany, so as to become the ultimate heir to the Kaiser, January 30, 1933. 1935, Italy’s Sawdust Caesar, Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia. That same year Hitler expanded the German Navy with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, June 15, 1935 and, announced the Luftwaffe and expansion of the army, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. March 7, 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. And in 1936, the Spanish Civil War, a tune up for 1939. 1937, Japan invaded China, precipitating an eight-year war that would kill some 15,000,000 Chinese. 1938, Hitler was able to absorb Austria and the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia into his expanding Reich. Then in March 1939, he dismembered the rest of the Czech state. Then on September 1, 1939, Hitler—with Stalin’s connivance—invaded Poland. And the second chapter of Man’s grandest industrialized war unfolded, enabling Levee en Masse to blossom, as if on steroids.

It was a conflict which transformed the global dynamics of power. No longer were the White Christian colonial powers of Europe able to dominate the globe. Only two nations were able to wage industrialized war, on the size and scope upon which Total War could be waged, the United States and the Soviet Union. For it will be the Soviet Union which will win the land war by crushing the German Army. Leaving the United States to virtually do almost everything else. To which a new balance of power will be created. Many who lived the era of this new balance of power called it the Cold War.

[3] See page 24, “A Talent for Logistics: McClellan and Grant Sustaining the Army of the Potomac in 1862 and 1864,” Leavenworth Papers No. 25, by Curtis S. King, Ph.D.

[4] The situation with the French will not be addressed until following the defeat of the Confederacy. President Andrew Johnson will send 50,000 battle-hardened troops down to the Texas border, under the command of Phil Sheridan. But events in Europe will prevent war between France and the United States. In 1866, Otto von Bismarck’s war against Austria to unite the German states under Prussia’s tutelage proved successful. Napoleon III knew now he had a united Germany on his eastern frontier. He evacuated troops from Mexico so as to bolster his army at home. And the French satrap, Emperor Maximilian, will fall to Don Benito Juarez.

[5] See pages 134 and 135, Chapter 7, “Stalemate and the Search for Breakthroughs,” The First World War, by Martin Gilbert.

[6] See page 311, Chapter 14, “The War Before the War (I),” The Forging of the American Empire, by Sydney Lens, 1974.

[7] Per the VA, total number of American service members, 1941-1945, amounted to 16,112,566. 405,399 would be killed. See page 1, “America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Fact Sheet.

[8] See page 164, Chapter 9, “Conclusion,” Stalin’s Keys to Victory, by Walter S. Dunn, Jr. And these figures do not include civilian dead.

[9] See page 212, “Appendix 4: Production Statistics 1939-44,” German Tanks of World War II, by F.M. von Senger und Etterlin.

[10] See page 180, “Soviet AFV Production,” Russian Tanks, 1900-1970, by John Milsom.

[11] See page 31, Chapter 3, “The Road to Tehran,” Such a Peace, by C.L. Sulzberger.

[12] See pages 22-33, “The Opposing Armies,” Bagration 1944, by Steven Zaloga.

[13] It cost the Red Army 100,000 dead and 200,000 wounded to subdue the seat of Nazi gangsterdom. A major inducement for Churchill and Roosevelt so as not to risk the lives of Anglo-American troops.

[14] See episode 25, The World at War, narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier.

[15] See page 114, II, “Doubts,” Conversations With Stalin, by Milovan Djilas.


“America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Badsey, Stephen, The D-Day Invasion: Normandy 1944: Allied Landings and Breakout, Barnes & Noble, Inc., in arrangement with Osprey Publishing Ltd., New Yok, 2000.

Blizard, Derek, The Normandy Landings, D-Day: The Invasion of Europe, June 6, 1944, Bounty Books, imprint of Octopus Publishing Ltd., London2004.

Department of Veterans Affairs, “America’s Wars,” Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Djilas, Milovan Conversations With Stalin, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1962.

Dunn, Walter S., Jr., Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army in WWII, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2006.

Etterlin, F.M. von Senger und, German Tanks of World War II: The Complete Illustrated History of German Armoured Fighting Vehicles, 1926-1945, Lionel Leventhal Ltd., J.F. Kehmanns Verlag, Munich, Germany, 1968.

Falconer, Jonathan, D-Day: ‘Neptune,’ ‘Overlord,’ and the Battle of Normandy: Operations Manual, J.H. Haynes & Co., Ltd., Somerset, UK.

Gilbert, Martin, The First World War: A Complete History, Henry Holt & Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1994.

Keegan, John, The First World War, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1998.

Kimball, Warren M., Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War, William Morrow Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1997.

King, Curtis, Ph.D., “A Talent for Logistics: McClellan and Grant Sustaining the Army of the Potomac in 1862 and 1864,” Leavenworth Papers No. 25, Combat Studies Institute Press, United States Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, August 2002.

Lens, Sydney, The Forging of the American Empire, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1974.

MacDonald, Lyn, 1915: The Death of Innocence, Henry Holt and Company7, Inc., New York, NY., 1993.

Marshall, S.L.A., Brigadier General, U.S. Army Reserves (Ret.), The American Heritage History of World War I, Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1966. Originally published by American Heritage Publishing, Inc., 1964.

Milsom, John, Russian Tanks, 1900-1970: The Complete Illustrated History of Soviet Armoured Theory and Design, Galahad Books, New York, NY., 1970.

Sulzberger, C.L., Such a Peace: The Roots and Ashes of Yalta, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York, NY., 1982.

Zaloga, Steven, Bagration 1944: The Destruction of Army Group Centre, Campaign Series 42, Osprey Military, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1996.

Looking Back, May 2024
By Mark Albertson


Her date of birth seems to be an open question, ranging anywhere from 1906 to 1911[1]  Date of death is fixed, though, as of August 10, 1980.  So is the place of origin, a small mill town in Florida, Muscogee.  And so was the name she was born with, Bessie Lee Pittman.

The Pittman family was mired in poverty.  Mr. Pittman, a journeyman worker, moved his family of seven from town to town throughout Florida and Georgia.

However Bessie, by the time she was eight, was working in a cotton mill, “where by the age of nine, she supervised the other children and earned five dollars a week.”[2]

By the age of ten, Bessie had quit school and, commenced working at a beauty shop that was family owned; to which her employers owned several such establishments.  And so while Bessie’s family moved back to Florida, she remained in Georgia learning the rudiments of the beauty trade.

Bessie moved to Montgomery, Alabama and, found employment in a department store beauty salon.  By fourteen she was married to a Robert Cochran, and within three months had a son, Robert, Jr.  But in need of money, Bessie quickly returned to work, with her son being taken care of by her family in Florida.  But Robert, Jr. died four years later.  Then her marriage to Robert Cochran came to an end.  So, with no immediate family ties to service, Bessie decided to change her life.

* * * * *

Bessie boarded a train bound for New York, arriving at Grand Central Station.  In a new city, she divorced herself from her brief but past life.  The new biography was that of an orphan, a stray who found her name in a phone book.  Her “foster family name” was not really hers at all.  It was a story Bessie stuck with for the rest of her days.  Indeed, for the most part, she never acknowledged her family.[3]  Thus, Jacqueline Cochran had been born.

Jackie found employment with Saks Fifth Avenue and, was soon splitting her time between New York City and winters in Miami.  With a good business sense, she built up a book of clients and contacts.  It was during this time that she met her future husband, Floyd Odlum, a successful venture capitalist who managed to preserve his wealth during the depths of The Depression.  And it was he who planted that seed about flying.  Air travel would open up the field of clients and contacts.

Jackie decided that she wanted to do more than just fly, how about becoming a pilot?  Having little in the way of formal schooling, Jackie enlisted the assistance of a friend who helped sharpen her reading and writing skills.  A willing student, Jackie accomplished in three weeks in what was normally a three month program of flight training.  She was now a licensed pilot as of August 17, 1932.

Jackie found her niche with air racing.  In 1938, she won the Bendix Trophy Race and was twice accorded the Harmon Trophy.  And by 1939, she was rated the top female flyer in the country.  And, with her own cosmetics lines, the enterprising Jackie marketed her products by flying creating, “Wings to Beauty.”[4]

But the resumption of the Great War was gathering momentum.  Beginning in 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria; Italy attacked Ethiopia, 1935; the Spanish Civil War, 1936, which proved a tune up for 1939; Japan invaded China, 1937; Germany absorbed Austria into the Reich, 1938; followed by the Sudeten Crisis, 1938; German break up of Czechoslovakia, March 1939 and finally, September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded western Poland, while the Soviet Army crashed into eastern Poland on September 17.

Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a P-40 Warhawk, World War II.

Back in the United States, Jacqueline Cochran had been presented with the Aviatrix trophy by the International League of Aviators for the third year in a row.  But following the combined Nazi-Soviet elimination of Poland as an independent state, America’s premier aviatrix wrote to the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in which she urged that women pilots will be required to take up the slack in a national emergency.

“In the field of aviation, the real bottleneck in the long run is likely to be trained pilots.  Women could be used effectively in all sorts of helpful back of the lines work, as for instance, in flying ambulance planes, courier planes, and commercial and transport planes, thereby releasing male pilots for combat duty.

“This required organization and not at the time of emergency but in advance.  We have about 650 licensed women pilots in this country.  Most of them would be little used today, but most of them could be of great use a few months hence if properly trained and organized.  And if they had some official standing or patriotic objective (rather than just around an airport occasionally for fun) there would be thousands more women pilots then there are now.

“Ms. Cochran noted that Germany, Russia, England and France had already begun to use women pilots in their air forces.  As for the United States, she did not believe that it was ‘public opinion that must be touched, but rather official Washington,’ particularly Army and Navy officials.”[5]

Early skepticism eventually gave way to serious concern and interest in the use of women pilots.  Indeed, Jacqueline Cochran participated in the flight of a Lockheed Hudson bomber to Britain; and once there, engaged in research as to the role of women in aviation in Britain.  She shared her experiences in Britain during a luncheon at Hyde Park with the First Lady.  And soon Jackie was assigned to the office of Colonel Robert Olds, commander of the Air Corps Ferrying Command.  Jackie was billed as the “tactical consultant,” and was assisting Ferrying Command in “collecting necessary data on which to base recommendations . . . relative to the feasibility of forming a corps of women pilots to ferrying military training type aircraft in the continental United States to relieve combat pilots for essential gunnery and bombing training.”[6]

The result will be two organizations:  Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron or WAFS, directed by Nancy Love and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment or WFTD, directed by Jacqueline Cochran.  Then on July 5, 1943, the groups will be combined to form the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, directed by Jacqueline Cochran.  It will be disbanded on October 1, 1944.

Though Jackie never stopped flying, she finished the war as a correspondent.  Her husband, Floyd Odlum, purchased Liberty magazine.  And with use of this literary platform, she traveled the Pacific covering the war.  In Europe, she went to Buchenwald for a better understanding of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  She covered the Trial of the Century at Nuremberg.  But for her service during the war, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.[7]

In 1946, she was back racing, her mount was a surplus North American P-51 Mustang.  That year she finished second in the Bendix Race.  She also set a new women’s speed record of 428.828 mph.

Jackie proved an ardent supporter for a separate air force, which will become a reality with the National Security Act of 1947.  In 1948, she was a commissioned lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves (seen as a consultant, for women will not be allowed to fly in the Air Force until 1976).

In 1952, Jackie was beginning to pilot jet aircraft.  She readied herself to become the first woman to break the sound barrier.  And her trainer, the man who broke the sound barrier in 1947, Chuck Yeager.  And he schooled her on flying the F-86 Sabre jet.

Jacqueline Cochran, standing on the wing of an F-86 Sabre jet, talking with Chuck Yeager and Canadair chief test pilot, Bill Longhurst.

“On May 18, 1953, Jackie and Yeager took off, each in an F-86.  As Jackie began to near Mach 1 (the speed necessary to break the sound barrier), she saw shock waves roll off of the canopy of her aircraft.  As she hit Mach 1, two sonic booms shook the ground beneath her while the air around her fell silent.  When she landed, Jackie learned the men in the tower had not heard the sonic booms to confirm her feat.  Undeterred, she took to the sky that afternoon and reached Mach 1 again.  That same day, Jackie set another world speed record for a 100-kilometer course.  Jackie was not done with setting records, and with limited time left to use the Sabre, she broke several more records over the next week.  When the week was over, she held all but one principal world speed record at the age of 47.”[8]

In 1964, she “went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph.[9]  She also received her helicopter pilot’s license at age 61.  But by the end of the 1960s her long and exciting career was over.  She also retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1970 as a colonel.

In 1976, her husband of many years, Floyd Odlum, died.  Jackie will follow on August 10, 1980.


[1]  Interesting commonality she shares with another famous lady, the Oscar-winning actress, Joan Crawford.  However, different sources have different dates as to Bessie’s birth:

  1. The Florida Division of Historical Resources has her born May 11, 1906.
  2. National Army Museum, United States Army, shows May 11, 1910, based on Air Force records.
  3. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum has the date fixed in 1906.
  4. Yet according to the U.S.A.F. Fact Sheet:  “Jacqueline Cochran,” birth date ranges from 1905-1908.

[2]  See page 2, Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 25, 2021.

[3]  At the same time, she kept in touch with her family and provided for them financially.  Apparently the professional career was kept separate from her family roots.

[4]  The Bendix Trophy Race, a long distance competition from Los Angeles to  Cleveland, was won by Jacqueline Cochran in 1937, to which she covered the distance in eight hours.  See page 4, “Women with Wings:  Legacy of WASP,” National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian, August 5, 2018.

[5]  See page 2, Chapter 1, “Institution of the Program,” Women Pilots With the AAF, 1941-1944, AAF Historical Office, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, March 1946.

[6]  See page 6, Women Pilots With the AAF, 1941-1944.

[7]  See Fact Sheet, “Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/iformation/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

[8]  See page 7, Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 25, 2021.

[9]  See Fact Sheet, ”Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481


Cochrane, Dorothy, “Flying on the Homefront:  Women Airforce Service Pilots [WASP],” 75th Anniversary of World War II, National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 20, 2020.  airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/flying-home…

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home, “Jacqueline Cochran and the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/researchonline

Fact Sheet, “Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

Florida Division of Historical Resources, “Jacqueline Cochran,” dos.fl.gov/…/women-in-history/jacqueline-cochran

Johnson, Caroline, “Women with Wings:  The Legacy of the WASP,” 75th Anniversary of World War II, National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2018.  airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/women-wings…

National Army Museum, United States Army, Biographies:  Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, www.themusa.org/…/jacqueline-jackie-cochran

Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 26, 2021, www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/aviation

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944, Army Air Forces Historical Studies:  No. 55, AAF Historical Office, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C., March 1946.  Air Force Historical Research Agency, Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

Looking Back, March 2024
By Mark Albertson

Parochial Thinking / Seeds of Contention

On June 4, 1920, the National Defense Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. The Act saw fit to organize the United States Army as an aggregate of three subdivisions: The Regular Army, National Guard and the organized reserves of civilians or Officers’ and Enlisted Reserve Corps. The Regular Army was to have a manpower strength of 17,726 officers and 280,000 enlisted. Of course, this was dependent upon Congress and whether it appropriated enough money for a ground force of even this size. And this is precisely what the august body did not do, as pointed out by Rebecca Robin Raines in her study of the Signal Corps, Getting the Message Through:

“Despite a booming economy, the Army did not prosper during the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ Budget-minded Congresses limited the Regular Army to 12,000 commissioned officers and 125,000 enlisted men, only slightly more than had been in uniform when the United States entered World War I. Eventually Congress reduced enlisted strength to 118,000, where it remained until the late 1930s. Army appropriations, meanwhile, stabilized at around $300 million, about half the projected cost of the defense act if fully implemented. The Army remained composed of skeleton organizations with most of its divisions little more than ‘paper tigers.’”[1][2]

The General Staff lost much of its authority to the Bureau Chiefs again. “Specifically, the General Staff was to prepare plans for mobilization and war, ‘to investigate and report on the efficiency and preparedness of the Army,’ and to ‘render professional aid and assistance to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War.’ It was not to assume or engage in of an administrative nature that pertains to the established bureaus of offices of the War Department which might imperil [their] responsibility or initiative, impair their efficiency, or unnecessarily duplicate their work.”[3]

General of the Army, John J. Pershing.  As Chief of Staff, he felt frustrated that his authority was blunted by the Bureau Chiefs, stifling innovation in the U.S. Army following World War I.

The Chief of Staff was not merely demoted in stature, he shared power with the Bureau Chiefs who exercised prerogatives with regards to departmental budgets, and who could and did run to Congress when their turf was “threatened.” General Pershing, who was Chief of Staff following World War I and who was used to wielding his authority as an overall commander, felt frustrated at having his authority compromised by the Bureau Chiefs.

The National Defense Act saw the Chemical Warfare Service added to the masthead of Army branches. This was a reflection of the importance chemical weapons came to enjoy during the Great War. Ditto the Air Service, which became an Army branch with a manpower strength slated for 1,514 officers and 16,000 enlisted. In fact, the growing importance of airpower can be seen in 1926 with the advent of the U.S. Army Air Corps. However a lack of understanding of the importance of Combined Arms Warfare became clearly evident with the demise of the Tank Corps.

Dwight Eisenhower, future Commander-in-Chief of Allied armies in Europe, was threatened with court-martial for his written and verbal support of a greater use of the tank in 1920.

The fledgling Tank Corps was the result of the promise offered by the tank as a medium of mobile warfare. But with the National Defense Act of 1920, the Tank Corps was consigned to the Infantry.[4] This retarded the potential of the tank as a viable component of an American Combined Arms Team. Much of the postwar outlook on armor in the United States was based on experience garnered from the battlefields in France. The U.S. Army, like the French Army, came to view the tank as an infantry support weapon. This line of thinking was based upon the unreliable pot-bellied stoves which literally crawled across the churned up French landscape. Battlefields pockmarked with thousands of water-filled shell craters which, at times, were traversed more quickly by the infantry than the tanks which had been sent to support the advance.[5] Indeed, American thinking was so parochial, that Dwight Eisenhower, in 1920, “was rebuked by the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry after having advocated a stronger tank force for infantry divisions and then was threatened with a court-martial if he continued publishing in that vein.”[6]

The Germans, having lost the war as well as being on the receiving end of a weapon that helped to breach their defenses, came to a different conclusion. Officers such as Ernst Volkheim, Oswald Lutz and Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg gave serious thought to the possibilities of the tank as a spearhead in a new form of mobile warfare that was to become known as Blitzkrieg. Aircraft, artillery and infantry would blast a hole in the enemy’s front. The breach would be exploited by the swift-moving panzer columns, taking the war to the enemy’s rear. This new mailed fist would not be equipped with the battlefield plodders of the previous conflict; rather, speedy, radio-equipped armored fighting vehicles able to attain speeds of 25 to 30 mph. This meant supporting infantry had to be motorized to keep pace with the advance. And the armored spearheads would enjoy Close Air Support provided by Goering’s Luftwaffe.

Some Soviet theorists drew lessons not to unlike those of the Germans. Lessons they would share with their former enemy as a result of the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Soviet Deep Operations called for deep thrusts into the enemy’s front. And the Soviets would eventually latch on to the tank as the vehicle for advance. One of those who championed mechanization was Mikhail Tuchachevsky, veteran of World War I, the Civil War and later marshal in the Red Army. But just how advanced Soviet thinking was in comparison to America can be seen in their view of the tank.

According to Eddie Rickenbacker, the Shturmovik was the best ground support/tank busting aircraft of World War II.  Owing to the prominence of  strategic aviation in the U.S. Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces, such a plane of similar effort would not be entertained.  The Il-2 went on to become the most produced combat aircraft in history at 36,183 copies.

During the later 1920s and early 1930s, American designer J. Walter Christie was designing light and medium armored fighting vehicles which were miles ahead of the battlefield plodders of the Great War. The War Department evinced little interest, unlike the Soviets. The Russians bought copies of Christie’s designs and during the 1930s, produced a string of models that would eventually evolve into the superlative T-34. This medium tank was without a doubt the best armored fighting vehicle produced on the Allied side during World War II. And when mated with the IL-2 Shturmovik—arguably the best ground support plane of the Second World War—gave the Soviets a formidable battlefield punch.[7]

The American lack of foresight in tank design, coupled with the lack of appreciation offered by the potential of armor, was unveiled for all to see with the new reality of mobile warfare on September 1, 1939. The Wehrmacht’s crushing of western Poland was a wake up call; a view of the new reality of modern war that was bolstered by the fall of France in June 1940. The latter is of particular importance because the U.S. Army came to view the tank just like the French Army, as an infantry support weapon. And despite the fact that tanks like the French Char B could take more punishment and dish it out in comparison to German types, the vaunted French Army went down in decisive defeat. And this despite the fact the Germans operated at a deficit of some 900 tanks versus the Allies, they massed their armor at those points chosen for their armored spearheads. This local superiority backed by Close Air Support aviation burst out if its tactical confines to produce a strategic victory . . . the humbling of France and the Low Countries. And to add insult to injury, the British Army had been kicked off the Continent barely a month after the start of the campaign. A vindication, to be sure, of an earlier prognostication by Hitler. “The next war would not be fought like the last war.” In this the Fuhrer was proved correct; for unlike the French, Hitler was fighting to the timetable of 1940 not 1914.

Hitler’s lightning victories in 1939 and 1940 were a vindication of Billy Mitchell’s ideas of air supremacy. Luftwaffe fighters swept the skies of enemy pursuits while bombers and ground support squadrons worked over enemy airfields, supply columns, troop concentrations, rail lines and rolling stock. Ju-87 (Stuka) dive-bombers and German artillery worked to blast the way open for the swift-moving panzer columns. Airpower, infantry, armor and artillery working together to produce victory. In other words, modern Combined Arms Warfare.

* * * * *

Air Corps Act of 1926

With the Air Corps Act of 1926, the Air Service attained a level of enfranchisement not previously enjoyed. For the evolution towards an independent air force can be seen with the progression of Army airpower since it early days:

  • Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps.
  • Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.
  • Division of Military Aeronautics.
  • Air Service.
  • U.S. Army Air Corps.
  • U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • U.S. Air Force.

Free of its second-fiddle status within the Signal Corps, through its sojourn as the Air Service, the name Air Corps came to denote the next step towards autonomy. And it is important not to lose sight of this concept. For Army airpower had come from being an insignificant afterthought—featuring Ben Foulois holding the fort as the Army’s sole pilot flying the Army’s only aircraft in 1910—to an air contingent that was to have representation on the General Staff and see to the reappointment of an Assistant Secretary of War for Air, such as there had been during the World War. In addition, the Air Corps Act called for Congress to fund an air fleet of 1,800 aircraft within five years. Indeed, since 1910, Army airpower had come a long way by 1926.

America’s aviators enjoyed a decisive advantage in their quest for autonomy: Military aviation came to be considered state-of-the-art technology. And what the battleship did for the Navy aircraft will do for the Army Air Corps. And the expression emblematic for the idea of an independent air force was the strategic bomber.

The round-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet, 1907-1909, was seen to have justified the monies spent on the battle fleet.[8] The success of this demonstration of American sea power helped to sell the Navy to the public and cemented its image as America’s first line of defense. And the cornerstone of the sales pitch was the battleship. The battleship was the crowning achievement in weaponry of the Industrial Revolution up to that time; affixing the image in the collective mind of a floating steel fortress able to hurl tons of ordnance out to as far as the eye could see. Cutting-edge technology indicative of the Nation’s quest to see its burgeoning economic and military power able to forge its rightful place on the world stage.

Aircraft came to be viewed in a like manner. Airmen in bombers winging their way unassailably to rain down death and destruction upon an enemy’s potential to wage war was considered top-shelf technology. Airpower, like naval power, came to be seen as a way of keeping enemy forces distant. Indeed some of the champions of strategic airpower saw the Air Corps as a challenger for the mantle held by the Navy, that of the Nation’s first line of defense.

Conversely the Ground Forces enjoyed no such esteem.[9] Edgar Raines, in his Eyes of Artillery, sums up the plight of the Ground Forces pretty well: “During the years between the wars, responsibility for the organization, doctrine and training of combat arms rested in the first instance with their respective branch chiefs. They achieved their goals in these areas in part by shepherding funding requests for their branches through the War Department, Bureau of the Budget and Congress. The equipment category of the War Department budget provides eloquent testimony to the Air Corps’ favored status. In 1931, one of the few years for which detailed figures survive, the Air Corps received $35,823,473. By way of contrast the Infantry received $65,623, the Field Artillery $20,610 and the Cavalry $26,685. This was not autonomy—the Air Corps’ portion of the budget was still subject to General Staff control—but its size in comparison to the other branches did represent a substantial measure of power within the narrow confines of the War Department.[10]

The new Air Corps was to have 1,514 officers—spanning the ranks from lieutenant to colonel—and 16,000 enlisted. The aforementioned Assistant Secretary of War for Air was resuscitated to represent Army airpower needs.[11] The Air Corps Act established a commander known as the Chief of the Air Corps, with the rank of major general. He would have three brigadiers as assistants, two of which were flying officers. The budget was to be controlled by the Office of the Secretary of War.

Unlike Eisenhower, ardent proponent of an independent air force, Billy Mitchell, will be court-martialed in 1925.  He will incur another setback in 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt will not choose Mitchell as Secretary of War for Air.

As might be expected, the Air Corps Act did not go far enough to appease some of the ardent practitioners of airpower. One such was Billy Mitchell, by then a civilian.[12] He “intimated that in some nations, ‘air, land and water are under separate ministries,’” Obviously the Air Corps Act did not go far enough for the champion of airpower. Unlike General Mason Patrick, who observed it was “a long step in the right direction.”[13]

There is an old saying, “What‘s in a name?” Well with regards to this discussion, everything. As mentioned in the preceding pages, the name Air Corps itself denoted a certain air of independence. The march towards an independent air force during the 1930s should have been obvious. For Mitchell’s idea of an air force was to take the fight to the enemy . . . offense. This meant going beyond the battlefront to take the fight to the enemy’s territory . . . to his homeland itself. To strike at his means for waging war. To paralyze and even destroy his ability to not only produce the implements of war, but to transport them as well. This was the essence of strategic airpower. And the emphasis on strategic airpower would increase exponentially by the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War.

Interest in strategic bombing caused a corresponding shift in Close Support-type aircraft. Single-engine types gave way to twin-engine light and medium bomber aircraft, such as the Douglas A-20. The affect of the Spanish Civil War cannot be understated here. For this tune up to the main event in 1939 instilled the belief that CAS should target airfields and anti-aircraft artillery to support strategic bombing in lieu of supporting infantry and artillery. This rationale certainly retarded the Air Corps’ development of CAS. For the United States Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces will never field a ground support/tank busting aircraft of a similar effort to the Soviet IL-2 Shturmovik. Question here is, where did that leave the foot slogger and breech loader?

Well on the heels of the first chapter of the Great War, the performance of the Field Artillery was reviewed. Major General William J. Snow, Chief of the Field Artillery (1918-1927), convened three boards: The Westervelt Board, so-named for Brigadier General William I. Westervelt, chair of the board which reviewed gun types and calibers, ammunition and transport of the Field Artillery. For the short duration America was engaged in the conflict, Yankee artillerymen relied heavily on field pieces largely of French manufacture. This was not to be in the second chapter of the Great War. For most of the recommendations on gun types and calibers put forth by the Westervelt Board were adopted by the Army.

A second board, too, chaired by Brigadier General Westervelt was the Trench Artillery Board. Like the previous effort, this commission was put together to study the affects of mortars in the Great War and to offer recommendations for the future. Among the findings was that there must be a greater reliance on light and medium calibers of mortars. Another was that the Army should make use of tubes of 160 mm and 240 mm in support of the Field Artillery; and there should be an independent Trench Artillery Branch in the Army. However in an era of military downsizing and too few dollars, little if anything was done to act upon the recommendations of the Trench Artillery Board.

Forerunner of those such as William Wallace Ford.  As chair of the 1919 Hero Board, General Hero urged that organic aerial observation assets be applied to Field Artillery units.

The last of the trio of panels was the Hero Board, so-named for its chairman, Brigadier General Andrew Hero, Jr. This commission shared some of the same concerns as those of the Westervelt Board such as gun types and calibers, training, ammunition, supply, communications and transport. But this board also brought out the necessity of aerial artillery spotters of the organic variety.

Organic aerial artillery spotters would solve the problem inherent with the observers of 1917-1918. Here aerial observers and pilots were spotting for the field artillery as well as being assigned to other duties; hence the lack of continuity which affected their performance as spotters. Instead of rotated personnel, organic aerial artillery spotters would perform no other function but that of adjusting artillery fire. Here, it is plain to see, that a recognition of the evolution of the specialization of tasks in modern, industrialized war is taking place.

In addition, the Hero Board went a step further by recommending that artillery commanders should maintain control over their observation assets. That each division should have an observation squadron attached to it. Aerial artillery spotters should come from the ranks of the Field Artillery; same with pilots, who would train with the units to which they were to be attached. Note, though, the configuration of the Board’s recommendations: The committee’s suggestion was that the Air Observation Posts of the Field Artillery would remain two-man affairs. The Hero Board still saw things based on experience from the Great War. Understandable when one considers that the staffers of the Board were products of the era. But the fact remains that the spotter planes would be flown by two-man crews.

Undoubtedly many of the Hero Board’s recommendations were a decided step forward in the evolution of that process that would produce William Wallace Ford’s Air Observation Post, and to which Army Aviation would be the eventual result. But it also sowed the seeds for that contention between the breech loaders and airmen for control of the Air Observation Post with America’s entry into war, 1941. A political contest over roles and missions between the Army and the Air Force that would last for decades to come. . .


[1]  See page 218, Chapter 6, “Between the Wars,” Getting the Message Through:  A Branch History of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, by Rebecca Robin Raines.  Also see page 408, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.

[2]  See page 16, Chapter 11, “Prewar Settlement and Its Effect on the Army,” U.S. Army in World War II, The War Department, Chief of Staff:  Prewar Plans & Preparations, by Mark Skinner Watson.  Watson basically agrees with Raines.  In 1923, the U.S. Army totaled 131,959 men.  For virtually all of the interwar period, American manpower strength in the Army never approached the 297,726 men specified (17,726 officers and 280,000) enlisted.  In 1940, U.S. Army strength was at 267,767.  It jumped in 1941 to 1,460,998 with the growing threat of war.

[3]  See pages 50 and 51, Chapter 1, Special Studies:  From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, by James E. Hewes, Jr.

[4]  See page 409, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.

[5]  In an effort to defend the tank’s value by expounding on its wartime use, George Patton published an article in the Infantry Journal, May 1920.  In pleading the Tank Arm’s cause, he  showcased the tank as supporting infantry in overcoming or circumventing the stalemate of trench warfare.  He did not, however, elaborate on the tank as the vehicle of battlefield mobility as it would come to be used in World War II.  This was hardly an appreciation of the view held by J.F.C. Fuller of Britain.  His “Plan 1919” saw masses of armor striking deep into the enemy’s rear as a way of sowing mobility on the battlefield.

[6]  See page 141, Chapter Six,” The Development of German Armor Doctrine,” The Roots of Blitzkrieg, by James S. Corum.

[7]  Famed American World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, observed the Shturmovik and stated, “that it was the best aircraft of its type in the world.”  Stalin chimed in with, “Our Army needs the IL-2 as much as it needs bread, as much as it needs the air it breathes.”  See pages 12 and 13, The Ilyushin IL-2, by Witold Liss, Profile Aircraft No. 88, Profile Books Limited, UK, March 1982.

[8]  Refer to They’ll Have to Follow You!  The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, by Mark Albertson.

[9]  The Army’s image was negatively impacted during the summer of 1932, with the suppression of the “Bonus Marchers.”  See pages 412 and 413, Chapter 19, “Between World Wars,” American Military History, edited by Maurice Matloff.  “The most notable domestic use of Regular troops in the twenty years of peace happened in the nation’s capital in the summer of 1932.  Some thousands of ‘Bonus Marchers’ remained in Washington after the adjournment of Congress dashed their hopes for immediate payment of a bonus for military service in World War I.  On July 28, when marshals and police tried to evict one group encamped near the Capital, a riot with some bloodshed occurred.  Thereupon President Herbert C. Hoover called upon the Army to intervene.  A force of about 600—cavalrymen and infantrymen with a few tanks—advanced to the scene under the leadership of Chief of Staff MacArthur in person, two other generals, and, among junior officers, two whose names would in due course become much more familiar, Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, Jr.  The troops cleaned up the situation near the Capital without firing a shot, and then proceeded with equal efficiency to clear out all of the marchers from the District of Columbia.  From a military point of view the Army had performed an unpleasant task in exemplary fashion, and with a few minor injuries to participants; but the use of military force against civilians, most of them veterans, tarnished the Army’s public image and helped to defeat the administration in the forthcoming election.”

[10]  See page 15, “Prologue,” Eyes of Artillery:  Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, by Edgar F. Raines.

However the reader is cautioned not to construe the situation in the early 1930s as a one-way street for the Air Corps.  Despite the budget numbers reported by Raines, the Air Corps did not yet have the bombers to wage a strategic campaign.  Far from it.  But even more  important, the examples of Mussolini’s air force in Abyssinnia, the Japanese in China, German and Italian bombers in Spain were as yet to occur.  Such events in a few years would bolster the arguments posed by the practitioners of bombing; that is, carrying war to the enemy’s homeland.

[11]  The position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air did not give the new Air Corps the hoped for latitude within the War Department.  For as explained on page 79, Chapter III, “Creation of the Army Air Corps,” Organization of Military Aeronautics, Army Air Forces Historical Studies No. 25, “The Air Corps was to be under the immediate supervision of the Secretary of War in spite of the fact that the air faction had repeatedly requested administrative freedom from War Department dictation.  True, an additional Assistant Secretary of War to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was provided for in the bill; the implication was that he, instead of the Secretary of War, should have the direction of the new corps, but since his duties were not specifically outlined, his power was necessarily restricted to that which might be delegated to him by his superior.  The budget also was to be managed entirely from the office of the Secretary of War.”

[12]  Billy Mitchell resigned from the Army on January 27, 1926, following his court martial on December 17, 1925.  However a potential for righting this blow against Mitchell has been put forth by Roger Burlingame with reference to Mitchell entering government as a representative of airpower:

“In 1932 he had high hopes of a position in which he could work actively for airpower in the government.  As a result of his repeated testimony certain concessions had been made.  The Air Service had been made the Army Air Corps and given more autonomy, or changes to operate on its own.  It had been permitted high-ranking officers—even generals such as the enthusiastic air-minded Frank Maxwell Andrews.  But most important to Mitchell, a new office had been created in the War Department called Secretary of Air.  When the overthrow of the Republicans came in November, Mitchell believed that he would be given the job.  He was, after all, a Democrat by inheritance and faith; he had not fared well in Republican hands.

“Naturally [he wrote his friend General Fechet] I will have something to say in the councils of the Democratic Party.  As soon as Franklin Roosevelt is relieved from his job as Governor of New York, I am going to take up the whole matter of national defense with him. . .   I have plans already worked out for these things and when they are made public, they will certainly make some people jump.

“What followed was perhaps the greatest disappointment of Mitchell’s life.  Everywhere during 1933, the rumor ran that the post of Assistant Secretary of Air would surely be given him as compensation for what he had suffered and to bring about real reform in air defense.

“If the job is offered you [wrote his old flying friend] for God’s sake accept it and take out the Air Corps . . . and Civil Aviation that our broken bodies has made possible out of the hands of politicians. . . .

“When the new President came into the White House, the Mitchells were invited to lunch.  Mitchell went by himself for several interviews.  Mr. Roosevelt was always cordial.  Mitchell’s visits were reported to the press.  It was repeatedly stated that the job was practically in his pocket.  Influential members of Congress and advisors to the President recommended his appointment.  Yet it was never made.

“Several theories about it have been advanced.  It is said that Roosevelt was so strongly under the influence of the Navy that he could never bring himself to favor Mitchell.  Plausible explanation perhaps; yet, the President proved air-minded in the end:  for 1941 and 1942 the sky became black with planes under his urging; he advocated unity of command in the field and independent strategic air missions in World War II.  But in 1933 he was still in love with ships.  His desk and the walls of his White House office were covered with pictures and models of them; there were no airplanes there in 1933.”  See pages 137 and 138, Chapter 15, “Vision of the World,” General Billy Mitchell, by Roger Burlingame.

Going beyond Burlingame’s analysis, one is certainly left with the possibility here, that FDR understood his predicament.  The Army and Navy were institutions, reactionary institutions; institutions whose importance had been inflated by the World War.  By 1933, Hitler had attained power in a resurging Germany.  The Japanese had invaded Manchuria two years before.  Mussolini and his Fascists had taken control of Italy.  Stalin was taking the Soviet Union through the hellish episode of Collectivization and Forced Industrialization.

At this early period in his presidency, FDR needed the support of the Army and Navy.  So FDR was not going to put into government a strong-willed individual ready to ostracize such pillars of power and perhaps publicly flaunt their shortcomings.  Such transgressions were not to be rewarded with a seat at the table of power.

[13]  See page 60, Autonomy of the Air Arm, by R. Earl McClendon.


Albertson, Mark, They’ll Have to Follow You!  The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, Mustang, Oklahoma, 2007.

Army Air Forces Historical Studies:  No. 25, Organization of Military Aeronautics, 1907-1935, Prepared by the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence, Historical Division, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Report Date, December 1944.

Burlingame, Roger, General Billy Mitchell, Champion of Air Defense, Signet Press, 1956.

Corum, James S., The Roots of Blitzkrieg:  Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.

Hewes, James, E., Jr., Special Studies:  From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, CMH Pub 40-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1975.

Kirkpatrick, Charles E., Writing the Victory Plan of 1941:  An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present, World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, CMH Pub 93-10, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1992.

Liss, Witold, The Ilyushin IL-2, Aircraft Profile No. 88, Profile Books Limited, Berkshire, England, March 1982.

Matloff, Maurice, General Editor, American Military History, Army Historical Series, Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1969.

Messenger, Charles, The Blitzkrieg Story, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1976.

Miller, Donald L., Masters of the Air, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, NY., 2006.

Munson, Kenneth, Aircraft of World War II, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1968.

Raines, Edgar F., Jr., Eyes of Artillery:  The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, Army Historical Series, CMH Pub 70-31-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2000.

Watson, Mark Skinner, The War Department, Chief of Staff:  Prewar Plans and Preparations, CMH Pub 1-1, U.S. Army in World War II, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1991.  First published in 1950.

Looking Back, February 2024
By Mark Albertson

Air Defense Tactics of Soviet Airborne Units

By Thomas M. Salisbury, III
Edited by Mark Albertson

[Thomas M. Salisbury, III, an Intelligence Analyst with the Red Team, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, HQDA, attended the Virginia Military Institute and served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1966 to 1970.]

* Army Aviation, pages 49-52, Vol. 29, No. 11, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1980.

* * * * *

Soviet military journals categorize the primary threat to parachute and heliborne assault forces on landing to be an immediate attack by armored units or attack helicopters.[1]

Since the adoption of the forward defense strategy by the U.S. Army in Central Europe, the attack helicopter unit’s quick reaction time, mobility, firepower, and availability to the commander make it the most likely asset for immediate response to Soviet airborne battalion or regimental parachute landings in the corps rear area. Therefore, the air defense tactics and weapons of Soviet airborne units warrant the attention of both air cavalry scouts and our attack helicopter crews.


Recent major Soviet exercises such as BEREZINZA, held in the Belorussian military district in 1978, and NEMAN, held in the Baltic military district in 1979, indicate an intent to use airborne battalions and regiments, equipped with the BMD airborne combat vehicle, to carry out parachute assault landings within the tactical zone of defense.[2]

BMD Vehicle

These assaults would probably occur beyond the 50 kilometers from the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) advocated by the Soviets for heliborne landings of motorized rifle units[3] but considerably short of the 300 kilometer depth advocated for division size operational landings.[4]

A Soviet landing force does not normally drop and hold an objective in static defense until link-up; rather it conducts an offensive battle of maneuver in the rear area.

In addition to initial objectives, the Soviet landing force may raid targets of opportunity (usually nuclear missile, command and control, or air defense related targets) along the route of maneuver to a final objective or area many kilometers from the original landing area.[5] The direction of maneuver in the enemy rear area is usually oriented towards friendly ground formations carrying out the offensive in the enemy main battle area.

Organic Support

SA-7 Launcher

A Soviet airborne battalion has one man-portable SA-7 surface-to-air missile (SAM) squad,[6] probably three launchers,[7] organic to each airborne company for a total of nine SA-7 launchers in each battalion. Thus, a minimum of 27 SA-7 launchers would be organic to a Soviet airborne regiment. In addition to other organic light automatic weapons, each BMD is capable of providing short range air defense fire from a turret mounted 7.62 mm machine gun.

ZU-23-2 23 mm Mount

One air defense battery of six towed ZU-23-2 twin-barreled 23 mm anti-aircraft guns (each weapon providing a combined rate of fire of 2,000 rounds per minute) is organic to the Soviet airborne regiment.[8] Altogether, a Soviet airborne defense is credited with 200 SA-7 and 36 ZU-23-2 air defense systems in its table of organizations.[9]

Other Support

Although this low-level air defense umbrella only provides effective coverage out to about 3,000 meters, or a maximum of 7,000 meters, air defense weapons not organic to airborne divisions have at times been associated with Soviet airborne troops.

For example, SA-4 GANEF SAM launchers with airborne markings were displayed offloading from AN-22 transports at the July 1967 air show in Moscow.[10] Also, one Soviet airborne battalion as described as having been reinforced during a recent exercise with unidentified mobile SAM launchers (which could be interpreted to suggest a platoon of SA-9 GASKIN missiles).[11]

Neither of the above systems is known nor likely to become organic to the Soviet airborne division. However, special tailoring of a combat force with attached weapons should never be ruled out. Soviet authors have consistently pointed out since the 1960s that airborne forces will be reinforced by air-landing whatever weapons, equipment, or non-airborne personnel are deemed necessary to carry out specific missions successfully.[12]

Additional support is provided by frontal aviation fighters which escort the airborne transports to the landing area and may provide limited air cover during the course of rear area operations by the airborne unit.[13] Advancing Soviet units that begin to close with the airborne troops also bring an increasing number of army and front level SAM’s into range to extend air defense coverage over the airborne unit prior to link-up.[14]


During the maneuver in the rear area the Soviet airborne unit takes these basic air defense measures:

  • Routes of movement are used which offer tree cover or masking terrain for concealment.
  • Folds in terrain are used to assist in breaking up low level anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) fires delivered from long range.
  • Security on the flanks, rear, and front of the column give advance warning of the approach of scout or attack helicopters.
  • One SA-7 gunner is usually attached to each group of patrol vehicles deployed in a column security role.[15]
  • All-around observation is conducted by designated personnel in the column.
  • Scout helicopters may not be engaged if the column or security elements have reached concealed positions before discovery. If a delay in movement is not feasible, scout helicopters will be engaged on order of the commander.[16]
  • All fires, including small arms, are used to engage helicopters.

If a decision is made to move to cover when helicopters are engaged during the march, SA-7 gunners may dismount and cover their BMDs until the vehicles take position and their 7.62 mm fires to the engagement.[17] During an attack, SA-7 gunners cover tactical command posts and the main enveloping platoons of the companies in the attack.[18]

ZU-23-2 (23 mm) firing platoons have the mission of covering the main body of the airborne regiment during the march or in the attack. When the regiment is in march column the ZU-23-2 firing battery marches between the two battalions of the regimental main body.[19]

During the attack, ZU-23-2 platoons deploy in positions to cover the main attack of the regiment or, more often, are attached to those battalions attacking separate objectives that are of the most importance to the regiment’s mission.

Some Words of Caution

The 3,000 meter effective range of the airborne battalion or regiment’s air defense barely reaches maximum standoff ranges of current U.S. Army attack helicopters, yet some tactical methods and other factors increase the lethality of this short range Soviet air defense.

In Central Europe masking terrain not only shields the approach of attack helicopters—it will also make engagement at maximum standoff range difficult.

Soviet parachute assault training, as described in their military journals, indicates that wartime jumps will be carried out mostly at night or in low ceiling/poor weather conditions. These factors, combined with the airborne unit’s ground mobility and its tactical intention to move and maneuver during most of the operation, make the early fixing, engagement at maximum range, and destruction or containment of the airborne force before it can accomplish its missions a difficult task.

Unconventional Tactics

Soviet airborne troops can be expected to employ some unconventional tactics to defeat attack helicopters. The Chief of Staff of Soviet Airborne Troops, General Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, recently stated that airborne units had experimented with using BMD 73 mm main guns and anti-tank guided missiles against helicopters.[20] Although no details were given, such experimentation indicates the degree of attention being given to defending airborne troops from attack helicopters.

Although the main body of a Soviet airborne regiment or battalion will be a lucrative target for attack helicopters while in march column—caution should be exercised. While the scout may escape untouched by ground fires to report and guide in the attack helicopter flight, attack helicopters may be ambushed while approaching at nap-of-the-earth altitudes by undetected SA-7 and BMD 7.62 mm fires from security elements deployed well out from the main body.

Finally, unlike heliborne insertions of motorized rifle companies and battalions stripped of their usual air defense umbrella provided by regimental ZSU-23-4 and SA-9 systems, Soviet airborne operations in the rear area will be well covered by air defense systems.

These systems are a threat at the low altitudes and varying ranges at which attack helicopters would be forced to engage in Central Europe. Soviet airborne unit organization, air defense tactics, and training all reflect an awareness of U.S. Army attack helicopter tactics and the measures necessary to counter them.

Figure 1. Air Defense Weapons Organic to Soviet
Airborne Battalions or Regiments

AD Weapon Effective Range Maximum Range
BMD Turret 7.62 mm MG Up to 1,000 meters Up to 3,000 meters
SA-7 Man-portable SAM 45 to 3,000 meters 5 to 6,000 meters
ZU-23-2 23 mm AA Gun 2,500 meters 7,000 meters

NOTE: Data is based on the USAITAC Report IAG-13-U-78, Soviet Army Operations, 1978; Understanding Soviet Military Developments, OACSI, 1977; Artillery of the World, C.F. Foss, 1974; FM 30-40, HQDA, 1975; and Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, Defense Intelligence Agency, 1980.


[1] Colonel I. Kabachevskiy, et al, “The Anti-Air Defense of Airborne Landings,” Voyennaya Mysl, USSR, No. 8, 1968, pages 42-49.

[2] Lieutenant Colonel I. Dynin, et al, “A Front Line Tradition,” Krylya Rodiny, Moscow, No. 10, 1979, pages 16-17, and “The Chords of Combat,” Sovietskaya Rossiya, Moscow, 11 February 1978, page 4.

[3] Soviet Army Operations, IAG-13-U-78, USAITAC, 1978, page 7.

[4] ibid, page 7.

[5] This emphasis on maneuver and raid by parachute units has intensified in Soviet open-source military journals since about 1974. Maneuver in the rear area instead of static defense has been part of Soviet airborne tactics for some time, but it is the BMD that makes this tactic a reality.

[6] Lieutenant Colonel V. Sinoshenko, “When a Landing is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1978, pages 43-44.

[7] The Soviet Motorized Rifle Battalion, DDB-1100-197-78, DIA, 1978, page 31.

[8] USAITAC, op. cit., pages 2-18.

[9] Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, DIA, 1980, page 9.

[10] General-Lieutenant I.I. Lisov, Parachutists: Airborne Landing, (translation) USAFSTC, 1969, page 274.

[11] General-Lieutenant P. Chaplygin, et al, “If an Assault is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1974, pages 51-54.

[12] Colonel Kabachevskiy, and Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, op. cit.

[13] Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, ibid.

[14] Colonel Kabachevskiy, op. cit.

[15] General-Lieutenant Chaplygin, op. cit.

[16] Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.

[17] Sr. Lt. O. Oleynik, “Behind Aggressor Lines,” Krasnaya Zveszda, 23 May 1979, page 1.

[18] Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.

[19] Colonel M. Muslimov, “A Battalion Captures a Mountain Pass at Night,” Voyennly Vestnik, No. 5, 1979, pages 39-43.

[20] General-Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, “The Great Patriotic War and Postwar Period,” Voyenno-Istoriccheskly Zhurnal, No. 1, 1980, page 9.

Looking Back, December 2023
By Mark Albertson

Philosophy of Command

By Brigadier General George P. Seneff, Jr.

General George P. Seneff, page 38, Army Aviation, January 31, 1999 issue.

The following was written by Brigadier General George P. Seneff, Jr. in 1966, while he was commanding the 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam.

* * * * *

A World War I division commander whom I knew fairly well, and who was a great gentleman and fine commander, said to me one evening in 1945, “I have finally come to realize that the only way to be a good commander in wartime is to be a first-class SOB.”

I have thought this statement over many times in the past 20 years because it has had very special lessons for me. I know, thanks to excellent hindsight, that he was voicing his disappointment with others whom he had led—and who were not as high principled and devoted to duty as he was—had let him down, and unnecessary cost in life and with damage to the furtherance of the effort.

Nicholas Monsarrat, in his superb accounting of human relationships on wartime, “The Cruel Sea,” traces the development of the same philosophy in the words of a British corvette command: “At the beginning, there was time for all sorts of things–making allowances for people like sensitive human beings, and wondering whether they were happy, whether they liked you or not—but now—the war has squeezed out everything except the essentials. You can’t make any allowances now, you can’t forgive a mistake. The price may be too high. It’s too serious now for anything except a 100 percent effort—a 100 percent toughness.”

This is a point in the philosophy of leadership with which successful combat leaders have always had to come to grips: You can’t afford to be a ‘nice guy’ if this means letting standards of training and performance slip, because in a combat situation slippage means death.

Now the point of all this, as far as we aviators are concerned, is that we are always in a combat situation—because we are always fighting the sky; which with great impartiality as we all know, can be intensely beautiful and serene one moment, but which can kill you (and the people you’re responsible for) deader than a mackerel the next.

I’ve personally investigated a lot of accidents in the past few years and I’ve read the reports on a lot of others. In 90 percent of the really nasty ones I’ve seen—where people were killed or maimed or burned—regardless of the immediate cause of the accident, command supervision had a lot to do with allowing it to become a nasty one as opposed in just resulting in bent equipment. The guy’s emergency procedures weren’t good enough, or he tied it up, or he just wasn’t sufficiently well trained to cope with the situation that confronted him.

Practice Often Avoided

There is a tremendous tendency in this business to avoid practicing the hairier aspects of our operations, such as short-field work, night-and-day formation work, night confined area operations and living at low altitude. This is a natural tendency because, in itself, practicing means exposure can lead to what we are trying to avoid. It can build up accident rates which, when they become high, reflect poorly upon command.

Nonetheless, it is only through diligent and unceasing practice of these aspects of the game that our people become good enough at them to perform them safely, or at least with minimum risk. Good aviation organizations, just like good organizations of any other sort, have proven time and again that they can do it safely and effectively. They gained this capability by increasingly diligent practice and training.

Intelligent Planning Needed

I must emphasize that they didn’t get this way overnight, nor did they start off tackling the most difficult facets of operations on a large scale on the first day. They built up to it gradually by making sure first that their people as individuals were trained and standardized and that they knew what they were doing, leading them very gradually up the stairs of difficulty, in balance with demonstrated capability.

For example, you teach people how to avoid wires by having them fly low and learning to recognize the signatures that indicate wires, but you don’t let them leap into this without looking. You work your way into it gradually by having an experienced instructor pilot aboard, by working down to low altitude from a somewhat higher altitude (say 50 to 100 feet), by the use of carefully surveyed courses which the IP has taken the precaution to fly at reasonable altitude on any given morning before taking students out, to insure that some knucklehead hasn’t strung new wire up between a couple of trees during the night. In short, you teach this by taking an intelligently planned approach.

But the big thing is that you make the approach, and you make your people do it and you make them practice. You drill them on emergency procedures and teach them all the tricks that your older hands can give you until you can tell yourself truthfully that your people are trained and are capable of coping with any situation that is likely to confront them. On emergency procedures, a good tip an Air Force friend passed to me was that of having the approved emergency procedure for one of the likely emergencies for the aircraft owned by the unit thoroughly reviewed by a different member of the organization every morning at the preflight briefing.

The challenge lies with you. If, after an accident, you can tell yourself, “I have done everything within my power in training, in maintenance and in discipline to prevent this,” then you are a good commander. If you can’t, you aren’t. One word about who is a commander—we all are. We have battalion commanders, platoon leaders, and section and team leaders. We also have aircraft commanders. If you are the lowest-ranking guy in this business, you are still, if you’re commanding an aircraft, responsible for the airplane and the lives of other people who might happen to be aboard.

Finally, a word about the first paragraph of this dissertation: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you really have to be an SOB in order to accomplish the desired results. You have to lead—preferably by example. Precisely how you do it is a matter of your personality, the organization and the situation. Some of the best leaders I have known have been very pleasant people, but they very pleasantly insisted on extremely high standards. How you achieve them is secondary. Just make sure you do—you are preparing your people for combat in a dangerous game.

Source: See pages 38 and 39, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., January 31, 1999.

* * * * *

An Alternative View on the Philosophy of Command

There is more than just a single philosophy of command. General Seneff’s is the result of his being a product of American society, typically Middle Class, with a different perspective towards war. But then again, what type of war. This can most certainly make a difference. And that leads us to the perspective of a gentleman named, T.E. Lawrence or the famous Lawrence of Arabia.

T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia.  Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain image.

He led a revolt, an Arab revolt. For he joined battle not merely to defeat Ottoman forces in league with the Triple Alliance, Imperial Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, but for the rise, perhaps, of an Arab nation, as perceived with the Damascus Protocol. Arguably Lawrence was one of the last of the romantic warriors in the modern era.

Below is T.E. Lawrence, from, The Evolution of a Revolt:

“My own personal duty was to command, and I began to unravel command and analyze it, both from the point of view of strategy, the aim in war, the synoptic regard which sees everything by the standard of the whole, and from the point of view called tactics, the means towards the strategic end, the steps of its staircase.

“In each I found the same elements, one algebraical, one biological, a third psychological. The first seemed a pure science, subject to the law of mathematics, without humanity. It dealt with known invariables, fixed conditions, space and time, inorganic things like hills and climates and railways, with mankind in type—masses too great for individual variety, with all artificial aids, and the extensions given to our faculties by mechanical intervention. It was essentially formulable. . . .

“The second factor was biological, the breaking-point, life and death, or better, wear and tear. Bionomics seemed a good name for it. The war-philosophers had properly made it an art, and had elevated one item in it, ‘effusion of blood,’ to the height of a principle. It became humanity in battle, an art touching every side of our corporal being, and very warm. There was a line of variability (man) running through all its estimates. Its components were sensitive and illogical, and generals guarded themselves by the device of a reserve, the significant medium of their art. . . .

“Nine-tenths of tactics are certain and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals. It can only be ensued by instinct, sharpened by thought practicing the stroke so often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex. . . .

“The third factor in command seemed to be psychological, that science (Xenophon called it diathetic) of which our propaganda is a strained and ignoble part. . . . The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander, and we, being amateurs in the art of command, began our war in the atmosphere of the twentieth century, and thought of our weapons without prejudice, not distinguishing one from another socially. The regular officer has the tradition of forty generations of serving soldiers behind him, and to him the old weapons are the most honored. We had seldom to concern ourselves with what our men did, but much with what they thought, and to us the diathetic was more than half command. In Europe it was set a little aside and entrusted to men outside the General Staff. In Asia we were so weak physically that we could not let the metaphysical weapon rust unused. We had won a province when we had taught the civilians in it to die for our ideal freedom: the presence or absence of the enemy was a secondary matter. . . .

“Napoleon had said it was rare to find generals willing to fight battles. The curse of this war was that so few could do anything else. Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction against the excessive finesse of the eighteenth century, when men almost forgot that war gave them license to murder. We had been swinging out on his dictum for a hundred years and it was time to get back a bit again. . . . Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power, and these gave us strategical rather than tactical strength. Range is more to strategy than force. The invention of bully-beef has modified land-war more profoundly than the invention of gun-powder.

“My chiefs did not follow all these arguments, but gave me leave to try my hand after my own fashion. We went off first to Akaba, and took it easily. Then we took Tafilah and the Dead Sea: then Azrak and Deraa, and finally Damascus, all in successive stages worked out consciously on these sick-bed theories. . . .

“In character these operations were more like warfare than ordinary land operations, in their mobility, their ubiquity, their independence of bases and communications, their lack of ground features, of strategic areas, of fixed directions, of fixed points. ‘He who commands the sea is at great liberty, and may take as much or as little of the war as he will’: he who commands the desert is equally fortunate.”

Source: See pages 285 and 286, “T.E. Lawrence: From: ‘The Evolution of a Revolt,’” The Sword and the Pen: Selections from the World’s Greatest Military Writings, by Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1976. Edited by Adrian Liddell Hart.

Looking Back, October 2023
By Mark Albertson

“Which Way Did He Go? Up!”

By Lieutenant Colonel Jack W. Hemingway
Army War College
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania
Edited by Mark Albertson

Source: Pages 228, 250-252, Army Aviation, Vol. 7, No. 6, Army Aviation Publications,
Westport, Ct., June 22, 1959.

* * * * *

Lieutenant Colonel Jack W. Hemingway, received his commission in 1942 by way of the Citizens Military Training Program. Following his assignment to the 35 th Infantry Division, he joined the 78 th and fought with that division on the European Theater of Operations. A unit commander at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin after 1945, he was later transferred to Japan and assigned to GHQ, SCAP. Next he was sent to Camp Carson, where he served as a company commander and later as battalion S3 with the 14 th Regimental Combat Team before he was reassigned to Fifth Army Headquarters. In Korea, he was assistant G3 of the 40 th Infantry Division, and battalion commander and executive officer of the 223 rd Infantry Regiment. Upon return to the United States, he served on Third Army HQ, followed by duty with the Command and Staff Department at the Infantry School. At the time of this article, Lieutenant Colonel Hemingway was attending the Army War College.

* * * * *

Thirty-five years ago Dr. Bothezaat broke the world’s helicopter record at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, by remaining in the air two minutes and forty-five seconds at a height of fifteen feet. It seems strange that a vehicle developed at such an early date would not come into prominent usage until some twenty-seven years later in the Korean War. Why?

It is an irrefutable law that demand will pace progress. In 1923, the helicopter was ahead of its time. There was still room for improvement in surface mobility and in fixed wing aviation. Improved power plants, fuels, suspension systems, hydraulics, terrestrial and aquatic flotation and advances in metallurgy provided man with the means to move faster and with greater freedom using the simple vehicles he then possessed.

Factors Affecting Development

The helicopter has come into its own since World War II. What, then, has occurred to create the demand required to convert an inventor’s dream into a practical aerial vehicle? Two factors influenced this development more than all others: the limitations of the fixed wing aircraft and the atomic weapon.[1]

The first of these is most influential as it pertains to both civilian and military applications of the helicopter. During the period starting in the late thirties and continuing today, America has taken to the air like toads to hopping. The mass acceptance of air travel paved the way for its integration into all enterprises.

Militarily, the air machine proved an able troop and supply vehicle as well as an effective weapon of destruction.

Yet, both militarily and commercially, there was need for a maneuverable aerial vehicle which was not tied to highly developed landing facilities. Oil and ore exploration, feeder and connecting air lines in congested areas, reconnaissance of vast timber, cattle or agricultural acreages are but a few of the many commercial applications of the helicopter for which fixed wing aircraft was not well suited. In this same vein the first military applications of the helicopter were in the command and evacuation fields.

Dispersion and Speed All-Important

The second, and militarily the most significant, factor influencing the development of the helicopter has been the introduction of the atomic weapon into the arsenal of war. The atomic weapon has placed a premium on dispersion and speed. The best insurance against atomic destruction is to keep concentrations of any tools of war below the levels which are militarily and economically lucrative for the employment of atomic weapons.

Yet, to be effective it is necessary at the proper moment to mass men and material quickly and then with equal rapidity to disperse below the level of danger. Ground contact vehicles were reaching their practical limits in speed and flexibility. It was necessary to look elsewhere. The answer was in the air. The fixed wing aircraft did not offer the freedom of action and versatility necessary for tactical mobility. The rotary wing aircraft was a vehicle in being which offered great potential. Its vertical takeoff and landing characteristics freed it from the restraints of prepared landing strips or roadways; its freedom from support by the earth permitted it to leap over territorial obstacles; and its speed and maneuverability equipped it to achieve surprise.

Applications to Atomic Battlefield

What are some of the applications of the helicopter to the atomic battlefield? General William G. Wyman in an address to the Air War College stated that the Army “. . . must have tactical aerial vehicles that will permit us to:

  • One: Move patrols and assault forces up to battle group size to seize critical terrain and exploit tactical atomic blows.
  • Two: Move reinforcing elements in depth or laterally to meet or counter an enemy threat or create one of our own.
  • Three: Effect rapid shifting of weapons with crews and other combat equipment within the battle area—particularly across natural or manmade obstacles.”

General Wyman’s classification of the needs of the Army for tactical vehicles recognized the already accepted use of these craft in logistical, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, fire direction, command and communication roles. He has only listed requirements beyond these.

In the first category established by General Wyman are those missions primarily offensive in nature. The atomic weapon is not a cure-all to the problems of attack. To realize the most from firepower it is imperative that it be exploited by ground oriented action. In order not to telegraph an offensive blow, to provide protection to friendly forces from atomic weapons effects or to capitalize on an unforeseen tactical development, atomic or other fires may be massed in an area distant from forces planned for their exploitation. Troop-cargo vehicles with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) characteristics must be used to realize the most from these situations.

The medium and heavy helicopters are vehicles in being which are well suited for the delivery of troops, weapons, supplies and minimum transportation in a quick offensive thrust, irrespective of terrain barriers, to prevent an atomic shattered enemy force from reorganizing or to seize a critical locality to prevent withdrawal of enemy units. The tremendous powers of the atomic weapon offer great bonuses in surprise, destruction and disorganization of the enemy to a commander who is prepared to move rapidly into the atomic created vacuum. The VTOL air vehicle gives unfettered mobility to offensive forces so necessary for success on the atomic battlefield.

Defensive Tactics Enhanced

The second category delineated by General Wyman related primarily to defensive actions. This field suggests that the commander can increase the potential of his reserve by mounting it in VTOL aircraft. Such mobility will permit greater dispersion of reserves as passive protection from atomic weapons.

Yet this dispersion does not invite defeat in detail because of the speed of the carriers in massing the elements of the reserve. Where the size of an area may be such as to require a surface mobile force of a given size to ensure that time and space factors would permit accomplishment of its mission, it is possible that a VTOL vehicle transported force of half this size could handle the entire area. Of course, this force is smaller in size and could not meet on even terms a force of, say, twice its size. However, through its great mobility it may be able to defeat a force of a much larger size by achieving surprise or by catching the enemy near prostrate and in the throes of reorganization after an attack or being struck by friendly fires. A slower moving force would find a recovered enemy, possibly one too strong for it to defeat.

The VTOL carrier is also suited for the movement of forces disposed along or near the forward edge of the battle area. These forces can be moved by air in limited and controlled withdrawals in setting the trap for penetrating enemy forces. These aircraft similarly may be used to shift forces from one forward position to another in order to assist in canalizing an enemy, to reinforce another unit or a part of a master scheme of deception to deny the enemy current information of the location of friendly forces.

In delaying actions the VTOL carrier will be of inestimable value. It will permit forces to execute maximum delay before being whisked away as the enemy closes on the delaying position. Psychologically, the will of delaying forces to fight will be greatly enhanced by the knowledge that their withdrawal can be effected even if surrounded.

These carriers, coupled with firepower, will give the delaying commander a potent counter punch allowing him to conduct an aggressive delaying action. Enemy atomic delivery systems, supply installations or other critical points can be destroyed or neutralized by VTOL carrier delivered forces or by stay-behind units which are recovered by VTOL carriers. Again, the present helicopters offer as vehicles in being the means for achieving to a degree the mobility needed in defensive and retrograde operations on the atomic battlefield.

Finally, in the third category established by General Wyman we find the VTOL aircraft employed as a weapons carrier. The General’s statement of requirement emphasizes the concept of VTOL transport aircraft moving weapons and crews about the battlefield with the implication that they will be used in a ground role. This does not restrict the eventual use of the VTOL aerial vehicle as a mobile gun platform. The initial plans for employment of VTOL aircraft as purely transport vehicles to lift a combat ready force from one location to another to allow it to fight in a conventional manner are only the initial step in this field. As aircraft improve in their technical characteristics, become more available and eventually reach a numerical frequency rivaling that of the jeep, the low, slow flying gun platform must become part of the air mobile ground force. The ever present requirement for fire support with the same characteristics of mobility as the supported forces will demand their development.

Zero Ground Pressure Vehicle

It is obvious that the helicopter is not the ultimate vehicle. What is needed is a device best described as a “zero ground pressure” vehicle, one which can fly or hover a foot or two above the earth or soar to a few hundred feet. This vehicle must be easily operable. It is required in several sizes: small ones for light weapons platforms, command and reconnaissance, and messengers; larger one for small unit transports (squad or platoon), cargo vehicles, command posts and mobile medical installations. These vehicles must have great reliability and durability, be resistant to the effects of firepower, be simple to maintain and economical in the consumption of fuel.

Such vehicles are somewhat removed from the realities of today. We are, however, standing on the threshold of transition of battlefield mobility from the earth supported vehicle to that of the zero ground pressure vehicle. We will see comparatively small improvement in surface mobility while mobility in the air will make great strides. When the zero ground pressure vehicle becomes available, then the surface vehicle as well know it today will disappear. In the meantime we must be ever alert to utilize the means we have for improving our air mobility, the Army aircraft. Development is paced by ideas. Don’t be bound by convention. Keep the inventor’s horizon pushed ever farther away by progressive thought. Make the most of what is at hand and be mentally prepared to accept the developments of the future.


[1] The appearance of the Atomic Bomb in 1945 was an enticement most decisive in motivating the Army and Marine Corps towards the development of the helicopter and airmobility. Such is what Major General James M. Gavin and Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, saw very early on following Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The editor.

Looking Back, September 2023
By Mark Albertson

80th Anniversary of World War II
Army Aviation: Italian Campaign


September 3, 1943, the main weight of the British Eighth Army on Sicily crossed the Straits of Messina to establish a toehold on the Italian mainland. On September 9, elements of Eighth Army and 1st Airborne Division landed at the port of Taranto. That same day, General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army landed up the coast at Salerno.

Opening phases of the Italian campaign, featuring the invasion routes by Anglo-American forces.

“Fifth Army air artillery officer, Major John T. Walker, organized the Fifth Army Air Observation Post Section into two subsections: one dealing with operations, initially under Captain Gillespie [Eugene p.], and second with maintenance and supply, under Lieutenant Strok.”[1] The latter choice brings to mind the supply problems which existed during the North African campaign, with spare parts at a premium and a supply situation being less than desirable since it was the Army’s first major campaign of the war. Michael J. Strok, who for want of a better description can be viewed as a “scrounge,” organized Fifth Army’s Artillery Air Depot (Provisional). Strok’s efforts at “Keepin’ ‘em Flyin’” made up for the lack of support from the Army Air Forces, which was playing catch up as well. Strok not only organized maintenance schedules, but provided such services as safety bulletins and registering aircraft losses. Strok was able to acquire a few L-5s—in direct contravention to the Army Air Forces’ restriction limiting the Air OP to the L-4 Cub.

The work horse for the Air Observation Post, the ubiquitous L-4 Cub.

Paul De Witt observed that the primary task of the Air OPs at Salerno was to provide artillery fire direction. He also noted that early on in the operation, field commanders determined their front lines by using Cub pilots for reconnaissance. Five L-4s were sent aloft daily, at first light, to reconnoiter assigned sectors.

Later when crossing the Volturno River, Air OPs were employed to pinpoint German forward elements, which were then mapped for later pounding by the Field Artillery. Tank destroyer units and reconnaissance battalions would borrow Cubs from their division’s artillery and use them for recon purposes. The importance of Army aviation to combat operations was becoming readily apparent.[2]

On January 22, 1944, Operation: SHINGLE, an Anglo-American force stormed the beaches at Anzio in an effort to flank General Albert Kesselring’s defense line. The Germans held the high ground, an advantage countered by the Air OPs flying reconnaissance for the assault units.[3]

Regardless, the slugfest on the hotly contested beachheads caused heavy casualties among the assault forces. Blood was desperately needed for the wounded. Cub pilots, Lieutenants Paynee O. Lysne and Richard W. Blake, flew in 50 pints of blood to the Anzio beachhead. “In less than 24 hours after the plea had been sent, life-giving blood was being administered.[4]

As Allied troops fought hard to expand their beachhead and move inland, Army aviators helped to fend off German counterattacks. Captain Willian H. McKay, of Fifth Army, spotted a German force moving towards the beaches. Some 2,400 troops, backed by tanks, were suddenly bludgeoned by a 5,000 round downpour of American ordnance. A German officer, later captured, offered that casualties were upwards of fifty percent as a result of the lethal cooperation between McKay and the Field Artillery.[5]

Lieutenant Frank A. Perkins and his observer flew artillery missions at Anzio. The observer directed coordinated gunfire for American and British artillery and warships lying offshore. Two Italian towns, Littoria and Adria were reduced to rubble. These efforts extended to the nocturnal adjustment of artillery fire, from Anzio up to Cassino. At Anzio, Captain John W. Oswalt, 1st Armored Division Air Officer, focused 370 guns on a single target. Included here was naval gunfire from several cruisers, USS Brooklyn, HMS Dido and HMS Orion.[6]

Moonlight sometimes brought Cubs out like vampires. Distinct features betrayed themselves to the aviators, such as towns, rivers, coasts and road bends, which enabled the Air OPs to sharpen nocturnal bombardments. Returning Cubs were directed earthward by those on the ground armed with flashlights, who illuminated otherwise invisible strips.

A customer of the Air OPs, a 155 mm Long Tom in action, Nettuno area, February 1944.

German ground forces urged the Luftwaffe to hurry the eradication of the troublesome Cubs. The dilemma proved problematic. From the time a Cub had already completed its mission and had returned to base, or was on its way to another sector, it had already vacated the area in which it had been operating in. However because of the low operational altitude of the Cubs and the attendant anti-aircraft protection, enemy fighters had to be piloted by airmen of skill and daring so as to be able to down the elusive Cubs. The Luftwaffe even resorted to bogus messages of fighter direction to prompt Cub pilots to vacate patrol areas.

Air OPs pushed the envelope by flying deep into enemy territory. This drew fire from anti-aircraft batteries and even ground troops. To avoid damage aviators would push over to the deck and hedgehop their way to safety; or, simply zigzag out of harm’s way.[7]

Another German countermeasure was to locate the lairs of the pint-sized pests and bomb them; or, if possible, shell them. Like ground troops, Air OP personnel had to make sure that slit trenches and fox holes were dug. Planes were dispersed and camouflaged. And, if need be, contour flying on and off strips to prevent their location by the Germans.

A perspective on German efforts to counter the Cubs is offered by Howard Rudd, a veteran news correspondent and former Air OP aviator, reflecting on German fighter tactics. “German fighters in daytime were not a serious problem after North Africa, where the Luftwaffe lost air superiority forever. Some German fighter units did develop tactics to cope with L-4s: Two fighters attacked straight on, two from above and two from below. This usually brought down the L-4, but there were never enough German fighters available on the Western Front to make the technique widespread. The fact that it was used at all, tying up six scarce and valuable fighters against feeble, eight hundred dollar L-4s, is an indication of how the L-4s hurt the Germans.[8]

The Luftwaffe apparently concurred, showing how the cost outweighed the benefits. Fifteen Bf-109s were lost, resulting in seven pilots killed in exchange for eight Air OPs downed, not a very good swap.[9]

* * * * *

June 4, 1944, General Mark Clark made his triumphal entry into Rome. However, two days later, the spotlight focused on France with the Normandy invasion. This did nothing, though, to alleviate the fact that the Italian campaign was still a slugging match. Yet Anglo-American forces battling on the Boot were consuming German divisions that would have been employed elsewhere, such as in France or the Eastern Front.

The mountainous terrain made Close Air Support a problem, to the extent of producing friendly fire incidents. 1st Armored Division commander, Major General Ernest N. Harmon, threatened to shoot down Army Air Forces aircraft. However a solution presented itself.

An enterprising Captain John Oswalt, managed to acquire several L-5s. AAF pilots flew these aircraft which were equipped with VHF radios. Colored wing tops, Red, Yellow, Blue, etc., distinguished the liaison planes. The idea was to employ the Stinsons to direct fighter-bombers onto targets stalling the ground advance. Known as the Horsefly, “Flying Jeeps,” would perform the same function as the “Rover Joe” system of ground-based observers, mobile teams of radio-equipped Jeeps providing direction for fighter-bombers onto targets of opportunity. The ground-based observers were fighter-bomber pilots.

The Stinson L-5, the plane the Army Air Forces did not want the Air OPs to have.  Yet despite advantages of range, altitude, power and speed, the L-4 Cub proved the heart and soul of Ground Forces’ organic aviation; and, set the stage for the Army Aviation branch to come.

In the mountainous Italian terrain, the slow-flying liaison aircraft provided an advantage. Besides directing fighter-bombers onto ground targets, Horsefly assets determined friendly from enemy units for both air and ground forces. Continuous Horsefly patrols provided daily updates on targets of opportunity; kept advancing units apprised of natural obstacles and impediments affecting the line of march; much like the Air OPs, Horsefly missions were also found to deter German artillery fire for fear of revealing positions to American counterbattery fire.

Drawbacks included a vulnerability to enemy flak and fighters, so air superiority was a prerequisite. And repeated use of Horsefly provided that indication of impediments to fighter-bomber activity.[10]

Of greater significance, here, was the prospect of L-5s operating under the control of Army aviators. Beginning in North Africa, with light aircraft beginning to show real promise in Ground Forces operations, requests began to filter in for the L-5s, since the more powerful engine enabled the Stinson to operate in higher climes than the L-4, which in comparison was underpowered. Both the War Department and the Army Air Forces conspired to prevent the Air OPs from attaining an aircraft of higher performance.

Fort Sill was training Air OP pilots with the L-4. And since this was so, it was considered expedient to deploy aviators in the same aircraft under combat conditions. There were also production concerns, since the Army Air Forces needed the Stinsons to equip their liaison squadrons. And lastly, the War Department frowned on the Ground Forces’ upgrade since the L-5 needed more runway for landings and takeoffs; and, was less adept at avoiding enemy fighters as opposed to the Cub.

Another issue affecting the Ground Forces was that of photo reconnaissance. Ground Forces units resorted to L-4s for terrain photography; since the Army Air Forces efforts with this tactical chore had fallen short. 1st Infantry Division urged that photographic equipment be made available to the Air OP. The Field Artillery Board tested photographic equipment aboard

Cub aircraft and solicited the War Department to attach photographic capabilities to the Field Artillery Headquarters and batteries. The Army Air Forces disagreed.

Photoreconnaissance was among the duties within the tactical responsibilities of the Army Air Forces. The War Department turned down the Ground Forces’ request. The Air OP’s raison d’etre was the direction of artillery fire; while snapping pictures and seeking aircraft of greater sophistication and performance was moving beyond the original intent of Ground Forces aviation.

The status of the Italian campaign, September 1944.

* * * * *

Sky-Jumping Cubs

By December 1944, Fifth Army was north of the Arno River, occupying mountains south of the Po Valley. The mountainous terrain presented difficulties for Fifth Army commander, General Lucian Truscott,[11] and so persuaded him to address the issue. Truscott ordered Captain Jack Marinelli, air officer of the Fifth Army, to build a strip close to the CP. The ground settled on provides an intriguing piece of engineering.

The strip was laid out on a mountainside, with a downhill slope for takeoffs and an uphill run for landings. The runway stretched 735 feet by 30 feet; and, was 97 feet higher on the upside than on the cliff side, which featured a ski jump, the lip of which overlooked a valley some 2,000 feet below.

“The interesting feature,” according to Colonel Marinelli, “was that we had to use full throttle to taxi to the top of the strip and landing. But you could also take off down the strip without power.”[12]

* * * * *


[1] See page 166, Chapter 5, “Initial Deployment and Combat in the North African and Mediterranean Theaters,” Eyes of Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, by Edgar F. Raines, Jr.

[2] See pages 38 and 39, “The Air OP of the Armored Artillery,” Military Review, Vol. XXIV, No. 6, September 1944, by 1st Lieutenant Paul DeWitt, instructor in Department of Air Training, Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

[3] See page 48, Chapter 4, “Air Observation Posts,” A History of Innovation: U.S. Army Adaptation in War and Peace, U.S. Army Center of Military History, by Jon T. Hoffman, General Editor.

[4] See page 43, “The Army Aviation Story,” Part VI, The War Years: North Africa, Sicily, Italy, U.S. Army Aviation Digest, 1962, by Richard K. Tierney.

[5] See page 106, “The Most Lethal Plane in the World,” Mr. Piper and His Cubs, by Devon Francis.

[6] See page 84, Richard K. Tierney.

[7] See page 276, “Air OPs . . . ,” The Field Artillery Journal, Vol. 34, No. 5, May 1944, by Major Edward A. Raymond, FA.

[8] See page 4, “When I Landed the War Was Over,” American Heritage, Vol. 32, Issue 6, October/November 1981, by Hughes Rudd.

[9] See page 271, “Air OP Causes Trouble: Extract From the History of the German Fighter Force in Italy,” The Field Artillery Journal, Vol. 36, No. 5, 5 May 1946.

[10] See pages 14-17, Part Two, “Horsefly Control of Fighter-Bombers,” Liaison Aircraft With Ground Forces Units, United States Forces, European Theater, Study N. 20, 1945, U.S. Army Center of Military History, August 4, 1998.

[11] On November 25, 1944, General Mark Clark was ordered to relinquish command of Fifth Army and take over 15 th Army Group; which meant command of Allied armies in Italy. General Lucian Truscott assumed command of Fifth Army. See page 170, Chapter Nine, “Starving Time: The Failed Advance and the Second Winter,” Flawed, but Essential: Mark W. Clark and the Italian Campaign in World War II, by Jon Mikolashek.

[12] See page 138, “The War Years: North Africa, Sicily and Italy,” The Army Aviation Story, by Richard K. Tierney with Fred Montgomery.

* * * * *


“Air AP Causes Trouble,” The Field Artillery Journal, Vol. 36, No. 5, U.S. Field Artillery Association, Washington, D.C., May 1946.

DeWitt, Lieutenant Paul A., “The Air OP of the Armored Artillery,” Military Review, Vol. XXIV, No. 6, Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, September 1944.

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

Greenfield, Colonel Kent-Roberts, Inf. Res., Chapter VII, “Practical Steps Toward Air-Ground Cooperation,” 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, 1948.

Headquarters, 34 th Infantry Division, APO 34, U.S. Army, Italy, “Lessons Learned in Combat, November 7-8, 1942 to September 1944—Algiers, Fondouk, Cassino, Anzio, Rome, Hill 609, Benevento, Civitavecchia, Volturno River, Cecina, Rosignano, Mt. Pantano, Livorno,” September 1944. Source: Charles L. Bolte papers, Box 6, U.S. Army Military History Institute Library, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

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

Raymond, Major Edward A., FA, “Air OPs . . . “ The Field Artillery Journal, Vol. 34, No. 5, U.S. Field Artillery Association, Washington, D.C., May 1944.

Rudd, Hughes, “When I Landed The War was Over,” American Heritage, Vol. 32, Issue 6, October/November, 1981, www.americanheritage.com/when-i-landed-war-was-over

Tierney, Richard, with Montgomery, Fred, The Army Aviation Story, Colonial Press, Northport, Alabama, 1963. Introduction by, General Mark W. Clark.

Tierney, Richard K., 20 th Anniversary of Army Aviation: Part VI, “The Army Aviation Story,” U.S. Army Aviation Digest, Fort Rucker, Alabama, November 1962.

Vance, William E., “History of Army Aviation,” U.S. Army Aviation Digest, Vol. 3, No. 6, U.S. Army Aviation School, Fort Rucker, Alabama, June 1957.

Looking Back, August 2023
By Mark Albertson

Army Aviation:
Some Gems from Art and Dottie, 1959
“The Coop That Flew”

Development of a new highly mobile, air transportable communications center, designed to direct fast moving U.S. Army forces was announced recently by the Department of the Army. The system, which has an extremely high degree of mobility, can be set down almost anywhere by helicopters, and be flown out immediately for relocation elsewhere. It can also be moved rapidly from place to place on conventional Army trucks.

Developed by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, it provides the vital nucleus for a communications network of radio, telephone, telegraph and teletypewriter combat links.

The system can be carried by helicopters to a remote destination in hours rather than days, or can be set up on otherwise inaccessible mountain tops. With its communications tentacles spread over hundreds of miles, the new system can get an urgent message through to a distant outpost even with direct lines broken or destroyed.

Speed and flexibility in communications would be vital on a battlefield where troops would have to be continuously on the move and widely dispersed to avoid annihilation by a nuclear warhead.

For prompt transportation and added versatility, the center is made up of separate aluminum houses or “shelters,” each fully equipped and independent. These can be hooked up quickly to fit any battle situation. Small centers for the front lines would have two or three shelters; larger headquarters would have as many as 24.

Each shelter carries its own independent supply of electricity, but can also plug into a central power source.

High priority combat messages flowing into the center from combat groups and other sources would be immediately available to the Army field commander. And the same network of communications lines carries his message with reflex speed to higher headquarters or to hard-hitting Army combat elements.

The new system, the first fully air transportable message center of its kind, is the result of 12 years of design and research.

Source: Page 8, Army Aviation, Vol. 7, No. 1, Army Aviation Publications, Westport, Ct., January 24, 1959.

* * * * *

A look at how unmanned aerial vehicles used to be with, “Snooper.”

A small turbojet and pilotless aircraft that can swoop over the battlefield to gather military information is one of the newest surveillance drones under Army development.

The drone—called SWALLOW and designated SD-4 by the Army—will use a variety of advanced techniques for military surveillance purposes, including radar, infra-red and photography.

The SWALLOW is being developed and produced by Republic Aviation Corporation’s Guided Missile Division for the Army Signal Corps under a $25,000,000 contract. The contract calls for detail design and production of both the new drone and ground control units.

Source: Page 14, Army Aviation, Vol. 7, No. 1, Army Aviation Publications, Westport, Ct., January 24, 1959.

* * * * *

“Ingenious Is The Word For It!”
By Lieutenant John A. Means

Can you tell when your leg is being pulled? Sometimes it is quite difficult to do so, especially in those instances when the raconteur backs up his “tale” with documentary evidence.

The envelope bore airmail postage and an official address. Here are the contents:
“The aviation platoon of Headquarters Troop, 16th Sky Cav, 2nd USAMC (M), now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is a unit that believes in developing new techniques to meet new problems.

Requirement Dictated Findings

In recent weeks the aviation platoon has had great need of a method of transporting several personnel over long distances to inaccessible areas.

The H-13 Sioux having certain range limitations and the larger helicopters and fixed wing aircraft being utilized in LARGE scale troop hauls precluding their use in smaller operations, the unit sought a vehicle that could deliver TWO troops to a confined area some 150 miles away and return. As always, the study called for low maintenance requirements and a low initial price.

Findings: the BIRD DOG!

Quick to adapt the equipment to the mission, fertile minds in the aviation platoon devised the ingenious piece of equipment as shown in the accompanying photo. An analysis of the possible missions for this hybrid revealed the following:
a) Delivery of replacements to squad-sized units.
b) Delivery of veterinarians to front-line war dog platoons.
c) Delivery of a chaplain (and assistant) with suitable card-punching equipment.
d) Delivery of COs to their units in those instances where map-reading deficiencies are expected.

Additional Uses

Additional uses for this equipment are expected to come to light with the passage of time. Equipping the two “wingman” with weapons could provide fairly accurate suppressive fire. Paymasters and couriers could be speeded to their objectives, the airfield to headquarters runs being obviated.

We offer this development to “Bird Dog” users throughout the world. We feel certain that they will see the simplicity involved in this development.[1]

Source: Page 123, Army Aviation, Vol. 7, No. 3, Army Aviation Publications, Westport, Ct., March 18, 1959.

[1] The use of two passengers or “wingmen” brings to mind an observation offered by the remarkably astute Benjamin Franklin, after he had observed the Montgolfier Brothers balloon floating across Paris, November 21, 1783.

“It appears, as you observe, to be a discovery of great importance, and what may possibly give a new turn to human affairs. Convincing sovereigns of the folly of wars may perhaps be one effect of it, since it will be impracticable for the most potent of them to guard his dominions. Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two men each, could not cost more than five ships of line; and where is the prince who can cover his country with troops for its defense as that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?” See page 598, “On War From the Air,” Vol. 2, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiographical Writings, Viking Press, New York, 1945, by Carl Van Doren.

* * * * *

“Collins Develops Radical Aircraft”

Developed jointly by the U.S. Army Transportation Corps and the Office of Naval Research, the first full scale model of the “Aerodyne,” a radical wingless VTOL aerial vehicle is shown with its designer, Dr. Alexander Lippisch, during a roll-out at Collins Research Laboratories, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Incorporating a new philosophy in aircraft design, the “Aerodyne” achieves vertical take-off and landing capabilities, and transition to and from forward flight, by channeling the airflow (thrust) from its two-contra-rotating propellers internally through the craft’s fuselage, and deflecting downward and out through controllable vents in its belly. The need for wings is eliminated by this propulsion method.

Directional control of the Army-Navy developed “Aerodyne” is governed by a conventional rudder and elevator. The cockpit (not shown) will be located aft under a canopy in the vertical stabilizer.

The experimental aircraft is scheduled for early shipment to Ames Laboratory at Moffett Field, California, where it will undergo full scale wind tunnel testing. Credited with the world’s first rocket-powered fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 163, Dr. Lippisch led the Collins research team responsible for the “Aerodyne’s” design and construction.

Source: Page 130, Army Aviation, Vol. 7, No. 4, Army Aviation Publications, Westport, Ct., April 20, 1959.

Looking Back, May 2023
By Mark Albertson

Army Aviation:
Part I:  70 Years Ago: Korea

The Korean War opened spectacularly on June 25, 1950.  In blitzkrieg-like fashion, over 90,000 troops of the North Korean People’s Army, backed by upwards of 150 Soviet-supplied T-34 tanks, crashed over the 38th parallel.  However strongman Kim Il-sung’s bid to unify the peninsula failed.  For in one of the decisive actions of the war, Kim’s army failed to liquidate the Pusan abscess in the southeast corner of South Korea; which together with General Mac Arthur’s bold stroke at Inchon on September 15, 1950, tilted the momentum in favor of the Republic of Korea and its UN allies.

Opening phases of the Korean War, condition at the front, July 13, 1950.

UN forces, including ROK troops[1] crossed the 38th parallel heading north.  With the North Korean People’s Army reeling, now was the time to unite the Korean peninsula under Syngman Rhee’s banner and bring the Korean civil war to a successful conclusion.  But as the advance drew nearer the Chinese border, the course of the conflict was suddenly changed in the most profound way.

Developing Pusan Perimeter, 14 July-1 August 1950.

On November 26, 1950, hordes of “volunteers’ from the Democratic People’s Republic of China slammed into United Nations forces closing on the frozen Yalu River.  UN troops were thrown back, retreating pell-mell over ground recently occupied.  Seoul once again fell to the Communists.  A UN counterattack checked the advance of the Chinese steamroller and promptly threw it into reverse.  Seoul changed hands for the fourth time before the seesaw phase of the conflict gave way to trench warfare.  Both sides became locked in a bitterly contested stalemate reminiscent of the Western Front, 1914-1918; a costly morass characterized by Communist flesh and blood battering itself senseless against the superior equipment and technology of the Allies.  This new war, bereft of movement, provided the habitat for that instrument of mobility that would showcase its promise for the future . . . the helicopter.[2]

* * * * *

In 1954, General James M. Gavin, U.S. Army airborne soldier extraordinaire, fashioned a game-changing criticism of the performance of Allied troops during the fall and winter of 1950.

The retreat of the UN Eighth Army from the Chinese flood, December 1-23, 1950.

Here we see the Allies breaking out of the narrow waist of North Korea and rolling across the swelling hinterland towards the Yalu River in rival prongs, Eighth Army and X Corps.  The spearheads, though, were not mutually supporting, and into the void poured 300,000 Chinese.

The Allied advance, wedded to heavy mechanized transport, was confined to the few roads available.[3]  This provided a golden opportunity for the foot-borne Chinese Communist Forces.

At the outset of the Chinese intervention, Mao’s forces relied on tactics used with great success against the Japanese in World War II and again employed to defeat Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist armies during the great civil war in China.  And this conventional army’s use of irregular warfare tactics enabled Mao’s troops to roll back UN forces in a retreat which sometimes resembled a rout.[4] We see here, then, that Mao-Tse-tung’s well-tried tactics of infiltration and maneuver worked to the disadvantage of the retreating UN armies, since being heavily mechanized restricted South Korea’s allies to the few roads then available.

However, like any other army, the farther south the Chinese Communist Forces rolled, the more of a strain the advance put on the Red’s rudimentary system of supply.[5]  This, together with UN stiffening, caused the Red steamroller to seize up, then be thrown back.  A Communist rally ended the UN counter thrust, giving way to a stalemate in and around the starting line of the war, the 38th parallel.  With the war mired in gridlock along the lines of France in World War I, the Chinese advantage of infiltration and maneuver based on control of the rugged Korean landscape no longer applied.  Chinese Communist Forces were consigned, then, to a form of warfare to which they were hardly prepared and with which lacked the technological capability to reverse; as opposed to some of the UN contingent—British, French, Canadian, Australian, as well as American forces—which had a history of experience with such a stalemate from the War to End All Wars.

General Gavin saw the problem differently.  His analysis was inspired, in part, by the disastrous retreat of the United Nations’ forces from North Korea during the winter of 1950-1951.  Again he understood that the manpower advantage enjoyed by the Communists enhanced their ability to dictate the ebb and flow of battle and insured their command of the countryside.  Thus he argued, “Cavalry is supposed to be the arm of mobility.  It exists and serves a useful purpose because of its Mobility Differential [6]—the contrast between its mobility and that of other land forces.  Without the differential, it is not cavalry.  Cavalry is the arm of shock and firepower; it is the screen of time and concentration.  It denies the enemy that talisman of success—surprise—while it provides our own forces with the means to achieve that very thing, surprise, and with it destruction of the enemy.”[7]

General Gavin goes on to explain the lack of mobility following the Inchon landings and how air cavalry might have altered the outcome in the winter of 1950-1951:  “Finally, when the landings at Inchon took place September 15 there was the promise of fluid action.  I was present at Inchon, and after the first crust of resistance was broken, it seemed to me there was nothing worthy of the name in front of X Corps.  The situation screamed for highly mobile cavalry forces to exploit this unprecedented opening.  We should have pressed south to the rear of the Naktong River in hours.  Instead, we took almost two weeks to establish a link between the two forces.  [He refers, of course, to the Pusan Perimeter.]  When the first breakout of our forces from the south perimeter moved northward it was a combined tank-truck column, essentially an infantry column limited in its performance by its road-bound equipment.  We are fighting an Asiatic army on Asiatic terms.”[8]

It is certainly not imprudent to consider for even just a moment, that in September 1950, General Gavin’s idea of air cavalry could have impacted the war.  “An estimated thirty thousand NKPA soldiers escaped over the border, with an additional thirty thousand in northern training camps.  Combined these numbers represented enough troops to fill six divisions, and South Korea’s military force were, if anything, even weaker then they had been before the invasion of South Korea.”[9]

Obviously here, General Gavin was asserting that air cavalry could have accomplished something road-bound troops could not have:  The cutting off for capture or even destruction of the 30,00 fleeing North Koreans before they crossed the 38th parallel to fight again; and, fight again they would.

But there was the larger picture.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Harry Truman to cross the 38th parallel and destroy the NKPA to 1) To prevent another invasion of South Korea, and 2) unite the peninsula under the Seoul banner.  The National Security Council differed.  This august body urged the President to go no further than the agreed upon border.  By doing so, the President would be in accordance with the policy of Containment as put forth by George Kennan.[10]  In addition, an invasion of North Korea would only prompt responses from the Soviet Union and newly minted Red China; this was particularly true with the latter.  For North Korea provided that buffer zone between China and the Western satrapy of South Korea.  Add the Nationalist occupation of Formosa,[11] and one must readily appreciate Beijing’s political, strategic and historical sensibilities.  However on September 27, 1950, the Joint Chiefs ordered General MacArthur to proceed north, having won their point with President Truman over the NSC.

* * * * *

As UN forces advanced up North Korea, Beijing issued warnings not to approach the Yalu River.  CCF attacks on UN spearheads, primarily South Korean units, were seen by MacArthur as token gestures as opposed to the prelude of a major attack.  Yet between October 14-November 1, 1950, some 180,000 Chinese Communist Forces crossed the Yalu River.[12]

On October 15, General MacArthur and President Truman gathered together at Wake Island to discuss the final aspects of the war.  In answer to the President’s inquiry as to the chances of a Chinese or even a Soviet intervention, MacArthur replied, “Very little.  Had they interfered in the first or second months it would had been decisive.  We are no longer fearful of their intervention.  We no longer stand with hat in hand.  The Chinese have 300,000 men in Manchuria.  Of these probably not more than 100,000 to 200,000 are distributed along the Yalu River.  They have no air force.  Now that we have bases for our air force in Korea, if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be the greatest of slaughter.”[13]

On the night of November 25-26, 1950, more than 300,000 Chinese “volunteers” slammed into the advancing UN forces.  The Chinese were helped measurably by MacArthur’s dispositions of Eighth Army and X Corps.  Both forces advanced as rival prongs, not as mutually supporting spearheads, separated as they were by the Jaeback Mountains; therefore, both forces were opened to being flanked.[14]

Battlefront, Korean War, November 23, 1950.

Chinese hordes filled the abscess between the UN spearheads with the obvious results.  The skies, though filled by UN air forces, could not stem the retreat south.  Here Gavin believed that air cavalry units could have linked the rival prongs of Allied troops; moved supplies and men to units cut off; provided blocking forces, seized and hold road junctions and bridges for retreating Allied troops.  Rotary wing aircraft, unimpaired by the rugged Korean landscape, could have offset the advantage enjoyed by the Reds and quite possibly have changed the complexion of the battle.  Of course, such use of the helicopter was not to be until Vietnam.[15]

However the stalemate in Korea proved to be the selling point for the helicopter as a viable tool in war.  For rotary wing aircraft proved effective in overcoming those earthly impediments which hinder ground transportation, and therefore, enhance the mobility of the foot soldier.  And the Marines showed the way.

The battleline of Korea, stalemate, 10 July-31 October 1951.

Part II next month.


[1]  ROK or Republic of Korea.

[2] See page 58, “Helicopters in Korea,” Part I, July 31, 2013, by Mark Albertson.

[3]  Hitler’s Wehrmacht faced a like predicament with the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union.  Some 95 percent of Soviet roads were not paved.  Following rainy seasons and melting snows, many Soviet roads were reduced to quagmires, impeding the German Army’s mobility.

[4]  A better understanding of the Chinese Communist Forces’ initial success can be found on pages 103 and 104 of Mao Tse-tung’s On Guerrilla Warfare, where he writes, “When the situation is serious, the guerrillas must move with the fluidity of water and the ease of blowing wind.  Their tactics must deceive, tempt and confuse the enemy.  They must lead the enemy to believe that they will attack him from the east and north, and they must strike him from the west and south.

Guerrilla initiative is expressed in dispersion, concentration and the alert shifting of forces,”  In addition . . .

“. . . Throughout the Resistance War . . . our strategic line was to extend guerrilla warfare . . . we chose the positions where the enemy was relatively weak to concentrate our forces there and annihilate manpower.”  See page 139, People’s War, People’s Army, by Vo Nguyen Giap.  Both these able practitioners are bolstered by the writer who influenced them . . .

“. . . When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him; when well fed, to starve him; when at rest, to make him move; move swiftly where he does not expect you.”  See page 96, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, translated by Brigadier Samuel B. Griffith, USMC, (Ret.).

[5]  What must be appreciated is just how much of an accomplishment the initial Chinese thrust really was . . . in the face of overwhelming UN (American) air superiority.  Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Close Air Support bolstered by Air Force carpet bombing, could not stem the Chinese flood south.  This situation would arise again later in South Vietnam, where the concerted use of airpower could not eliminate the Ho Chi Minh Trail of supplies from North to South Vietnam.

[6]  Italics added.

[7]  See pages 54 and 55, “Cavalry, and I Don’t Mean Horses!” Harper’s, April 1954, by Major General James M. Gavin, www.xombatreform.org/cavalryandidontmeanhorses.htm

[8]  See page 55, Gavin.

[9]  See page 29, “Breakout and Pursuit,” The Korean War:  The UN Offensive, 16 September-2 November 1950, by Stephen L.Y. Gammons.

[10]  Sovietologist and influential policymaker, George Kennan, wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1947—an article famously seen to have been authored by a Mr. X—that America should, in response to provocations and threats of expansion, contain the Soviet Union.  This would insure that the West (primarily America) would not expend inordinate amounts of blood and treasure; while at the same time, playing to its economic and financial strengths to not only rein in Soviet ambitions, but eventually undermine same and see to its eventual demise.  Indeed, . . .

. . . “Kennan abhorred basing policy on sentiment.  He had little use for Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, but nevertheless believed the United States should oppose any attempt by the Chinese communists to forcibly take Taiwan.  He also warned in August 1950 that U.S. policy in Indochina risked putting the United States in a position of underwriting France in its efforts to maintain political control there, and assuming imperial responsibilities the way the U.S. had already assumed some of Britain’s.

“Despite this warning, Kennan initially supported America’s effort to contain communism in Indochina.  He was, after all, briefly a member of the Kennedy administration as the U.S. ambassador in Yugoslavia.  Gradually, however, Kennan soured on the Vietnam War, worrying that the United States was investing much more in that conflict than its interests required.  He did not believe that a communist victory would alter the global balance of power.  In 1966, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he invoked John Quincy Adams’ famous warning about not going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, and suggested that U.S. credibility would be better served by the ‘liquidation of unsound positions than by the . . . stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives.’”  See, “George Kennan’s Geopolitics of the Far East,” The Diplomat, by Francis P. Sempa, 2015.

[11]  Former name of the Island of Taiwan.

[12  See page 10, “Korean See-Saw,” War Monthly, Issue No. 9, by Brenda Ralph Lewis.

[13] See page 761, Chapter XXXIX, “The Big Question,” South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, by Roy E. Appleman.

[14]  See page 10, The Chinese Intervention, 3 November 1950-24 January 1951, “Introduction,” by Richard W. Stewart.

[15]  See page 59, “50 years Ago:  Army Aviation:  Historical Perspective,” Army Aviation, November 30, 2013, by Mark Albertson.

Looking Back, April 2023
By Mark Albertson

Part III:  Completing the Circle

As with many of Man’s distinguished endeavors, success is attained most always with a decision that is hardly unanimous.  Why should the quest for branchhood be any different?  And so it was not.  Many had concerted opinions for; with others expressing convictions against; while there were some, such as Major General Robert L. Wetzel, commandant of Infantry at Fort Benning who, in Part II of this series, seemed to be mired in No Man’s Land.  Yet branchhood was coming, despite the contrarian viewpoints of the naysayers.  For it seemed to the confederates of branchhood, a powerful ally occupied the office of Army Chief of Staff.

Army Aviators have haggled over the issue of a separate Branch after WWII and the Korean War. The Vietnam postwar years are proving not to be an exception.

General Edward C. Meyer, Army Chief of Staff, June 22, 1979 to June 21, 1983, held the position of command owing, in part, to an impressive rap sheet of airborne soldiery.  First Airborne Battle Group, 501st Infantry; deputy commander, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), ending up as 1st Cavalry chief of staff, during the Vietnam War.  He was assistant division commander (support) of the 82nd Airborne Division. . . As Army Chief of Staff, General Meyer, “prosecuted an Army-wide modernization program with emphasis on quality over quantity, stressed the need for a long-term investment in land force material, and launched a unit-manning system to reduce personnel turbulence and to enhance readiness, retired from active service, June 1983.”[1]

GEN John R. Galvin, an infantry man who rose to serve as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO) from 1987 to 1992, helped define the need for an Aviation branch in his infamous “Training Panel” report during the 1982 Army Aviation Systems Program Review.

Another booster of aviation was not even cockpit qualified, Major General John Galvin, commander of the 24th Infantry Division.  He “presented his infamous Training Panel report to the assembled Army Aviation System Program Review (AASPR) general officer review board on March 25, 1982.  Galvin made the branch a key issue . . . Galvin’s immediate superior, Lieutenant General Jack Mackmull, the XVIII Airborne Corps commander had very strongly suggested to Galvin that the ‘branch’ was indeed the key issue.”[2]

AASPR GORB (General Officers Review Board), as noted above, “Was” co-chaired by General John W. Vessey, the Army’s vice chief of staff, and General Glenn K. Otis, TRADOC commanding general.

“These issues were directly related to fundamental elements of any Army branch:  concepts, doctrine, literature, training, personnel, management, equipment and organizational structure.

“At that time, aviation was decentralized to a multitude of other Army branches:

“The Armor branch owned scout and attack aviation, the Infantry owned utility aviation, the Transportation Corps owned transport and cargo aviation, and aviation maintenance; Military Intelligence owned intelligence gathering aviation; the Signal Corps owned the radio and electronic repairers, Field Artillery owned aerial observation and so on.

“All these issues culminated during the AASPR, when then Major General John R. Galvin, the 24th Infantry Division commanding general, presented his infamous ‘Training Panel’ report to the assembled GORB.”[3]

Among the recommendations suggested by General Galvin’s committee was more a concerted approach to training within Army Aviation.  That training should become “institutionalized,” that is, fashioned and arranged by Army Aviation, comprised of Army Aviation basic training followed by advanced training for commissioned Aviation officers.

“The need for a ‘heart’ for Army Aviation was no different than the ‘heart’ that existed for all other Army combat arms branches.

“The ‘heart’ General Galvin referred to was a branch, with a home where its subject matter experts taught the basic and advanced courses.”[4]

The Army Aviation System Program Review was now tasked to review the findings of General Galvin’s panel.  More directly, the ball was in the court of the co-chairmen of AASPR/GORB, General John W. Vessey and General Glenn K. Otis.  The former remarked, “Well, that horse just dropped a bunch of apples in the road.  You either sweep off the road and go on, or you pick them up and use them for fertilizer.  We need to wrestle this question to the ground.

“He then asked what Otis planned to do.  Without hesitation, Otis accepted the mission to deal with the branch question.”[5]

General Otis, commander of TRADOC ordered Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr., then in command of the Army Aviation Center, to have a study done concerning the various issues for branchhood, to be completed within a 90-day window, then to be forwarded to Army leadership for a final decision on the issue.  Such aspects included:

  • “Field visits to operational units and installations.
  • “Individual interviews and questionnaires.
  • “Field trips specifically to 11 corps and division level organizations.
  • “Field trips to five TRADOC centers and to three Army Material Command Organizations.
  • “Questionnaire data analysis.
  • “And a general officer advisory board’s (GORB) review of study results and recommendations prior to submission for an Army level decision.
  • “In June 1982, Otis approved the draft study directive and the TROAA Study Group[6] was formed.”[7]

The TROAA panel was staffed by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, an infantryman and aviator who had commanded both air and ground units.  Lieutenant General Richard L. West, (Ret.), a former engineer officer who was a non-aviator and who had previously been a comptroller of the Army.  CW4 John P. Valaer, an experienced Army Aviator and Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.), an artillery officer and aviator, who had served as a Field Artillery battery and brigade executive officer as well as having commanded an aviation company and battalion.

In the course of approval, some 28 meetings were convened; a myriad of commands were visited; personal interviews were conducted; 603 questionnaires were reviewed; Army personnel, both aviator and non-aviator were consulted, ranging in rank from three stripes to three stars.

The resulting data from the initiatives conducted above was collated and prepared for a final draft report.  And at Fort Gordon, Georgia, a GORB collection of general officers was mustered for August 1982.

Chairman was General Glenn K. Otis.  He briefed the assemblage for more than three hours.  Following his singular presentation, he petitioned his fellow officers for questions, observations and counter points.  In the end, most concurred with the notion that the TROAA study be forwarded to the Army Chief of Study for approval or disapproval.

On April 12, 1983, Army Chief of Staff, General Edward C. Meyer, approved of Aviation taking its place on the masthead of Army branches.  This, in turn, was followed in February 1984 by:

No. 6

Department of the Army
Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984

ARMY AVIATION BRANCH.   Pursuant to the authority contained in Title 10, United States Code, section 3063 (a)(13), the Aviation branch is established as a basic branch of the Army effective 12 April 1983.
By Order of the Secretary of the Army:

General, United States Army,
Chief of Staff


Major General, United States Army
The Adjutant General

DISTRIBUTION:  Active Army, ARNG, USAR:  To be distributed in accordance with the DA Form 12-4 requirements for Department of the Army General Orders.[8]

LTG Carl E. Vuono, deputy commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and the commanding general of Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., presents MG Bobby J. Maddox, right, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker, Ala., with the first proof set of the new Aviation branch insignia during a Jan. 16, 1984 ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of the Army approved with General Order #6 the creation of the Aviation branch on Feb. 14, 1984, with an effective date of April 12, 1983.

* * * * *


*  There is one thing which was absolutely proved in the European War (reference to 1914-1918), and that is that nobody was capable of handling air units except flying officers who had learned by experience what flying was and how these things should be handled.[9]

*  The great trouble now is that, whenever an air question is up for discussion, mostly individuals who are not air officers are consulted.  No one is capable of passing on air matters except an air officer trained in the work.[10]

The above are remarks from General William “Billy” Mitchell.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  He was writing about how the Air Service, Air Corps, later to become the United States Army Air Forces could become an autonomous service.  And the essence of the progression was the growing sophistication of this phenomenon known as airpower, marching along as it was, during the era of industrialized, corporatized, commercialized war, with land power and naval power.  All were becoming more mechanically and technologically oriented, leading to a specialization of tasks requiring airpower, for it was to be led by those best qualified to lead same, . . . airmen.

History, though, repeated itself again with the Korean War; that is, from the perspective of Army Aviation.  Only here, the Industrial Revolution was giving way to the Technology Revolution.  But the end result has been the same.  Horizontal Determinism again showcases to those astute enough to chart such progressions of history, and can view with accuracy, the results of Man’s endeavors, which are repetitive in nature.  Underscoring for us two journeys in the development of airpower, leading to results comparative in kind, in 1947 and again in 1983.


[1]  “Meyer—EC-U.S. Army,” Army Center of Military History.  History.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/Meyer-EC.htm

[2]  See page 32, “Dealing With the Aviation Branch Issue:  A Tough Sell to the Army,” Army Aviation, by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, (Ret.), February 29, 2008.

[3]  See pages 34 and 35, “Dealing With the Branch Issue—Forming Aviation as a Combat Arm of the Army,” Army Aviation, by Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.), January 31, 2008.

[4]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[5]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[6]  TRADOC Review of Army Aviation.

[7]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[8]  Refer to GENERAL ORDERS No. 6, HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984, ARMY AVIATION BRANCH, effective 12 April 1983.

[9]  See pages 8 and 9, “Fundamental Truths of Airpower,” William “Billy” Mitchell’s Air Power, by Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R. Jones, USAF.

[10]  See page 9, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R. Jones, USAF.

Bibliography for Series

Albertson, Mark, “30th Anniversary of Army Aviation as a Branch,” Vol. 62, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March-April 2013.

“Aviation Branch,” www.usar.army.mil/Portals/98/Documents/ARCD/AA…  1 June 2017.

Bergerson, Frederic A., The Army Gets an Air Force:  Tactics of Insurgent Bureaucratic Politics, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1978.

Cook, Major Charles B., “Establishing an Aviation Branch,” Vol. 30, No. 11, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1981.

Cook, Major Charles B., “It’s Time for an Aviation Branch,” Vol. 30, Nos. 8 & 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., August-September 1981.

Cribbins, Joseph P., “Army Aviation in 1983-1992:  The Modern Era Arrives,” Vol. 41, No. 12, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., December 31, 1992.

Doty, Colonel Benjamin E, “Its to be a ‘Specialty,’” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

Estes, Colonel Ernest F., (Ret.), “Dealing with the Branch Issue—Forming Aviation as a Combat Arm of the Army,” Vol. 57, No. 1, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., January 31, 2008.

Fardink, Lieutenant Colonel Paul J., (Ret.), “The Army Aviation Branch Creation—A Look Back:  An Interview With Major General Carl H. McNair, Retired, the First Army Aviation Branch Chief,” Vol. 62, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., May 31, 2013.

Gant, CW5 Randall, “Chief Warrant Officer of the Branch Update:  The Aviation Branch, 25 Years of Great Service,” Army Aviation, Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

GENERAL ORDERS NO. 6, HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984, ARMY AVIATION BRANCH, effective 12 April 1983.

Grualing, CW3 William G., (Ret.), “No, We Have One Now!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

Harrison, Major General Benjamin L., (Ret.), “Dealing with the Aviation Branch Issue:  A Tough Sell to the Army,” Vol. 57, No. 2, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., February 29, 2008.

Jones, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R., USAF, William “Billy” Mitchell’s Air Power, Airpower Research Institute, College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, September 1997.

Kalagian, Colonel Samuel P., “Pandora’s Box,” Vol. 24, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., May 21, 1975.

Kinnard, Lieutenant General Harry W.O., “Aviation as a System,” Vol. 17, No. 1, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., January 27, 1968.

Knudson, Brigadier General Wayne C., “Branching Out in the 80’s!” Vol. 33, No. 3, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., March 31, 1984.

Maddox, Brigadier General William J., Jr., Director Army Aviation, OACSFOR, DA, “The Question of a Separate Branch,” Vol. 20, Nos. 7 & 8, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., July-August 1971.

McNair, Carl H., Colonel, Infantry, Fort Rucker, Alabama, “No, Says Another Veteran!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

McNair, Major General Carl H., (Ret.), “Birth of the Army Aviation Branch, April 12, 1983,” Army Aviation, Vol. 56, No. 12, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., December 31, 2007.

“Meyer—EC-U.S. Army,” Army Center of Military History.  History.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/Meyer-EC.htm

Meyer, General Edward C., (Ret.), “Looking Back as We Look Ahead to the Next 25 Years of Army Aviation,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Miller, Colonel James H, Commander, 12th Aviation Group and Kitterman, Colonel James H., Commander, 11th Aviation Group, “Aviation as a Branch,” Vol. 30, No. 11, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1981.

Packett, Major General Virgil L., II, “From the Aviation Branch Chief:  25 Years of Army Aviation, Securing Aviation’s Role in the Profession of Arms,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Parker, Brigadier General Ellis D. Parker, “Potpourri:  Atlanta, the New Branch and Modernization (AAMP),” Vol. 32, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., May 15, 1983.

Putnam, Lieutenant Colonel (P) Carl M., “Close Pandora’s Box,” Vol. 24, Nos. 7 & 8, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., July-August 1975.

Sanders, CSM Donald R., “Command Sergeant Major Update:  Looking Back at a Quarter Century of Our Great History and Service,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Thompson, A.C., Colonel, USA, (Ret.), “A Separate Branch? . . . Yes!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

“U.S. Army Aviation Branch, 25th Anniversary,” Army Aviation, Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.