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

By Jerold E. Brown | Go to book overview
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6 PLANS, POLITICS, AND AIR BASES

Following an almost imperceptible pause at the end of the Five Year Program in 1933, the revitalization and expansion of Air Corps facilities that had begun in 1926 continued. This renewed expansion was increasingly oriented toward strategic objectives rather than domestic considerations. Areas previously outside of the operational radius of the Air Corps--Alaska and the Caribbean for instance--were included in planning and development for the first time. Technical advances, especially the appearance of the new Boeing B-17 bomber with its more sophisticated navigational equipment and 3,000-mile range, demanded more and better facilities. The widespread economic dislocation of the depression further enhanced the value of military installations as local industries. Political interests in the location of air bases, therefore, measurably increased during the years before World War II. These currents directed and shaped the development of Air Corps ground installations from 1933 to 1939.

One of the reasons for the limited success of the Five Year Program and the Army Housing Program was the onset of the depression and the corresponding cuts in the federal budget. In an effort to ease the burden on the federal treasury, Congress sliced defense appropriations across the board in 1932. From 1933 to 1939, Congress considered some authorization bills for Army construction, but compared with the multitude of bills introduced from 1927 to 1932, these were sporadic. Of construction acts passed during the latter period, only Public Law 394, enacted in 1937, directly singled out Air Corps facilities. But Air Corps projects got only $5,155,000 of the $25,587,456 authorized by that law. 1 Furthermore, Congress changed its procedures for dealing with military construction. The committees on appropriations now dealt with construction programs with the annual War Department requests and estimates rather than considering construction in separate hearings. New administrative channels, created by Congress to distribute relief funds, handled many construction projects without recourse to Congress for individual authorizations. 2 All of these changes were indicative of the new circumstances and conditions brought about by the Great Depression.

Beginning in 1932, relief appropriations financed the majority of Air Corps construction, and relief workers provided much of the labor involved. 3 Congress

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