In this thoroughly researched and lucidly written volume, Lt. Col. John F. Shiner describes the Air Corps' effort to prepare the nation for war; to gain money, aircraft, and, even more important, independence; and to achieve a capability to wage aerial war. The focus of the work is Maj. Gen. Benjamin Foulois and his tenure as Chief of the Air Corps between 1931 and 1935. But the implications of Shiner's findings go beyond either the personalities or the issues. They encompass the whole character of developing United States military policy and its ascendancy to leadership in aviation during World War II. At the beginning of Foulois' stewardship, the Air Corps lacked both a "specific mission" and a "clearly defined doctrine." It possessed neither the aircraft not the organization for an independent role in conflict. War Department leaders were convinced that future war would be decided in ground fighting and that the most logical and effective mission for air power was in support of the land forces. On its part, the Navy was determined to develop its own air arm and to prevent army aviation from gaining any mission that overlapped into the naval environment.
From these battles merged the foundations of the large air fleets that helped to bring victory in World War II. Shiner shows that Army leaders were neither as backward nor as resistant to aviation as had been previously thought. Out of Foulois' term as Chief of the Air Corps came a fully articulated doctrine of long-range bombardment, its acceptance as part of official Army doctrine, the beginning of the program for the procurement of the B-17, and the missions for Army aviation of air and coastal defense. Even more important, pressed by Foulois' badgering, the Army established GHQ Air Force, a major step toward autonomy which allowed the Air Corps to unify its strike forces, to concentrate them under a single air commander, and to train and develop the striking forces which could command the air and attack and enemy's heartland.
This is also a human story. Benjamin Foulois made many mistakes, not the least of which was his unqualified assurance to President Roosevelt in 1934 that the Air Corps could fly the domestic mails, an episode that Shiner brings to life in dramatic terms. Foulois clashed repeatedly with the War Department. He believed passionately in the burgeoning importance of the Army air arm and its need for freedom from Army control. He liked nothing better than being in the cockpit, in the operations post, or in the airplane repair shop. (Thirty years later, in his eighties, Foulois told a young pilot that writing memoirs "cut into his flying time.") While clearly more at home among his airmen than in front of a congressional committee, Benjamin Foulois relentlessly pressured and bargained with the War Department, emerging as one of the most significant founders of air power.
Chapter I - Foulois and the Air Arm, 1908-1931 * * Chapter II - Doctrine, Mission, and Employment Concepts, 1931-1933 * * Chapter III - Organization: Toward a GHQ Air Force, 1932-1933 * * Chapter IV - Funds, Aircraft, and Personnel, 1931-1933 * * Chapter V - The Air Mail Fiasco * * Chapter VI - Procurement Troubles, 1933-1935 * * Chapter VII - The Chief in Trouble, 1934-1935 * * Chapter VIII - Organization, 1934-1935: The GHQ Air Force * * Chapter IX - Doctrine, Mission, and Employment Concepts, 1934-1935 * * Chapter X - Funds, Aircraft, Personnel, and Bases, 1934-1935 * Chapter XI - An Age of Transition