Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this Air Force publication presents the story of an important airman of the past, General Frank M. Andrews, who was an inspirational figure in USAF history. "It is fitting that we highlight his accomplishments and contributions in the creation, shaping, and development of the United States Air Force. As the organizer and commander of the prewar General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force, he was the first airman to have centralized nationwide command of Air Corps bombardment, attack, and pursuit units. The advent of GHQ Air Force marked one of the first decisive steps on the road to the birth of a separate air service. Nevertheless, likely due to his personal modesty and untimely death in a B-24 crash in, May 1943, while commanding the European Theater of Operations, he has been a background figure in our history. General George C. Marshall, wartime Chief of Staff of the Army, captured the magnitude of his tragic loss to the Allied war effort by characterizing Andrews as one of the nation's "few great captains."
In war nothing is so commonplace as sudden death. But when the victim is a high-ranking officer of recognized brilliance, his loss can be shattering and the ironies of what could have been linger amidst the engulfing emptiness of unfulfilled promise. So it was on the afternoon of May 3, 1943, when the B-24 Liberator in which Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews was flying crashed against a fog-shrouded promontory while making a landing approach to Meeks Field near Keflavik, Iceland. Andrews was commanding general of all U.S. forces in the newly formed European Theater of Operations (ETO). He had held his post for just three months, having arrived in England on February 4, the day after his fifty-ninth birthday. The decision to transfer him from his command of U.S. Middle East Forces had been approved by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Casablanca Conference in January.
It was U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall who had summoned Andrews to the conference from Andrews's headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. Privately, however, Marshall had previously informed Andrews of what was afoot, for between them lay a tacit bond of understanding and mutual appreciation that dated back to their first meeting in August 1938. At that time, Andrews was a temporary major general in his third year as Commander of General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force, the combat arm of the Army Air Corps that had been established in 1935. Marshall, a permanent brigadier general who had once served as chief of staff to Andrews's father-in-law, Maj. Gen. Henry T. Allen, had just been appointed head of the Army General Staff's War Plans Division (WPD).