By Kingseed, Cole C.
Infantry , Vol. 90, No. 3
Hap Arnold and the Evolution of American Airpower. By Dik Alan Daso. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000. 314 Pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army.
Few officers have had careers more distinguished than that of General of the Air Force Henry "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces in World War II. In the first full-length biography based primarily on Arnold's personal papers and recently declassified federal documents, Air Force pilot and author Dik Daso examines the career of the officer whose vision laid the foundation for the technology, infrastructure, and philosophy of today's U.S. Air Force. This current biography is Daso's second contribution toward portraying Arnold as one of the 20th century's greatest military leaders. (The first was Architects of American Air Supremacy: General Hap Arnold and Dr. Theodore von Karman, 1997.)
Daso takes more than a traditional biographical approach to a man's life. In his effort to present a fresh look at the life of the Air Force's only five-star general, he focuses on the critical elements of science and technology that so influenced Arnold's life. He offers a provocative parallel that portrays Arnold's story as an evolution and a struggle for the development and acceptance of an air force as a legitimate element of military power. Daso contends that it is his subject's journey through history-not his final destination in history-that offers the most critical insight into the mind of the commander of the most powerful air force ever assembled.
When he graduated from West Point in 1907, Arnold received a commission in the infantry, but his heart was in the cavalry. Four years later he volunteered for the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps. Under the tutelage of Wilbur Wright, Arnold received his pilot's license and embarked on a career that eventually led to the pinnacle of his profession. Although he was destined never to fire a bullet or drop a bomb in combat, Arnold quickly grasped the potential of the airplane and dedicated his career to the advancement of air power.
The interwar years produced disillusionment and declining budgets, but in 1929, Arnold began a decade of command experience, ranging from overseeing distribution of supplies, research and development, airmail operations, and transcontinental flights. With such vast experience in virtually every aspect of air operations, Arnold also refined his skills as an adroit Washington bureaucrat, increasingly comfortable within both the political and the industrial arenas. …