Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Charles W. Royster
When Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House in 1933, the leaders of the Army Air Corps wanted to create an independent air force. Using Billy Mitchell's tactics of public confrontation, exploitation of the Air Corps' poor condition and unproven claims about air power, these officers only antagonized the people who could grant them independence. After 1934, Oscar Westover, H. H. "Hap" Arnold, Frank Andrews, and a number of other Air Corps officers started a concerted effort to promote themselves as "team players" who had given up Mitchell's methods. With demonstrations, like long range flights to South America, they proved the efficiency of the Air Corps. By 1941, these officers has convinced Roosevelt, Congress and the General Staff that they could fulfill their claims. This trust was demonstrated in Roosevelt's Air Corp expansion program and the Army's war plans. After the war in Europe substantiated the ability of land-based airplanes to force unprotected naval forces to withdraw, Roosevelt and his military advisors placed increasing emphasis on the role of the Air Corps. While preparing to invade Europe, American bombers would destroy Nazi Germany's ability to resist. In the Pacific, the United States would fight a defensive war until Germany was defeated. For two decades, the Army believed that the Philippines could not withstand a Japanese invasion and made little effort to fortify the Islands. The Luftwaffe's defeat of the Royal Navy at Norway and Crete caused a reassessment. Placing its faith in advanced technology to compensate for Japan's military preponderance in the Far East, the Army reinforced the Philippines with long range bombers. Confident the the Army Air Force could defend the Philippines, American civilian and military leaders expected the Philippine based bombers to cut off Japan's sea communications. Also, they planned to take advantage of the long standing Japanese fear of air attacks burning their wooden cities. Threatened with the destruction of their cities, the Japanese would have been forced to accept American demands. However, it was not an idle threat.
Underwood, Jeffery Scott, "The Army Air Corps Under Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Influence of Air Power on the Roosevelt Administration, 1933-1941." (1988). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 4545.