Where Eagles Land: Planning and Development of U.S. Army Airfields, 1910-1941

By Jerold E. Brown | Go to book overview

4 THE LEAN YEARS

The armistice in November 1918 was a signal to begin the demobilization of a vast army built up over the past eighteen months in the United States. During the years following the end of hostilities, three themes characterized the efforts of the Air Service to establish and develop its ground facilities. 1 The first was, in fact, the demobilization that, forced the Air Service to divest itself of much accumulated property. The government returned some of the property to its civilian owners and retained much of the rest. Secondly, a long period of uncertainy about the future of flying facilities influenced the course of development of those fields during the first half of the 1920s. The result of an economy-minded Congress and numerous congressional investigations, this uncertainty would have both immediate and long-term ramifications on the disposition of Air Service ground facilities. Finally, the third theme that pervaded the early postwar years was the preoccupation of the Air Service leaders with the creation of a system of aviation fields to serve a multiplicity of purposes: provide for training, experimental development, and reserve flying; organize a system of airways linking the vital areas of the country; establish patrol stations along the southern border; and locate aerial coast defense stations, both in the United States and its insular possessions. Throughout the years from 1919 to the reorganization of the Air Service in 1926, these currents shaped and influenced the acquisition and distribution of Air Service ground facilities.

Americans, euphoric with their victory in the war, were anxious to return to their peacetime pursuits and enjoy their new-found prosperity. Congress, more conservative, isolationist, and economy minded after the 1918 elections, was quick to oblige.

The first and most expected result of the armistice was the immediate reduction in the size of the U.S. Army. During the demobilization period, about 98 percent of the wartime military personnel returned to civilian life. While the young Air Service did not experience quite the loss of personnel of the Army as a whole, Air Service manpower declined steadily over the succeeding eighteen months. By the middle of 1920, all but 5 percent of the peak wartime strength of 164,000 enlisted men had been discharged. 2 The number of men available for

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Where Eagles Land: Planning and Development of U.S. Army Airfields, 1910-1941
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - A Solid Footing 1
  • 2 - Plans, Parade Grounds, and Politics 15
  • 3 - The First Test 35
  • 4 - The Lean Years 53
  • 5 - A New Beginning 73
  • 6 - Plans, Politics, and Air Bases 93
  • 7 - Air Bases, Plans, and Preparations 115
  • 8 - Planning for the Future 139
  • Notes 143
  • Selected Bibliography 183
  • Index 209
  • About the Author 221
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