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

By Jerold E. Brown | Go to book overview

7 AIR BASES, PLANS, AND PREPARATIONS

European and Far Eastern events during 1938 spurred rearmament preparations in the United States. In January 1939, President Roosevelt sent a message to Congress recommending a massive program of military preparation and modernization. 1 Roosevelt's request included a vast sum for the purchase of aircraft and new equipment for the Army Air Corps. With the funds subsequently voted by Congress, many previous plans for the development and construction of aviation ground installations for the defense of the United States could be completed. Not until after the fall of France in 1940 did the buildup that culminated in the vast network of wartime air bases and training installations actually get under way. The transformation of American aviation ground facilities from mid-1940 to the United States entry in World War II, however, was complicated both by the scale of the new expansion and the scope of new responsibilities.

Almost immediately following Roosevelt's message, Congress acted. In eleven weeks, Congress considered and passed virtually everything the president had requested. Public Law 18, enacted in the first week of April 1939, authorized 6,000 serviceable aircraft, 3,203 regular Air Corps officers, 45,000 enlisted men, $300 million in appropriations, and the annual appropriations necessary to maintain this force. In 1940, the Air Corps took delivery of 886 aircraft, the greatest number since World War I, and aircraft deliveries increased sharply thereafter. Air Corps enlisted strength, which had increased at a moderate rate over the past decade, doubled during fiscal 1940 to 47,812. And in 1941, after Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act in September 1940, Air Corps strength tripled to 145,017. 2 Almost overnight, problems that had vexed the Air Corps for two decades--limited appropriations, personnel, equipment, and support in the highest levels of government--disappeared.

Beginning with the Military Appropriation Act for 1940, Congress made funds available for implementing the president's program. From fiscal 1935 to 1939, Congress appropriated about $275 million for all Air Corps operations. In fiscal 1940, over $250 million was available for Air Corps expansion and operations. Most of this money Congress earmarked for procurement of aircraft and equipment, but substantial sums were available for the improvement and

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