Master of Airpower: General Carl A. Spaatz

By David R. Mets | Go to book overview

Chapter II
THE GREAT WAR

Stunned by the air fiasco in Mexico, Congress in the summer of 1916 increased appropriations for the Army's air arm. The Aviation Section of the Signal Corps began a rapid expansion, and Carl Spaatz was caught up in the change. In November, he left the 1st Aero Squadron for San Antonio, where he joined a newly formed squadron, the 3rd. 1 This was one of five new squadrons that were being added to the two existing ones--the 1st on the Mexican border and the 2nd in the Philippines. 2 By that winter, opposition to the preparedness program was evaporating, and the factors limiting the expansion were now personnel and equipment rather than money. Most of the commanders and key staff officers for the growing Aviation Section had to come from the regular army, either from the 1st Aero Squadron or from among the handful who were assigned to headquarters or were on detached duty.

Not only was it necessary to train large numbers of new flyers, but it was also imperative to improve the skills of those aviators already on board. Until then, military aircraft had been used by the United States only for liaison and observation. By the time Spaatz got to San Antonio, however, it was clear from experiences in the war in Europe that military planes would have to perform an additional role--air-to- air combat to protect observation aircraft and discourage enemy reconnaissance and artillery spotting. The United States Army had prohibited aerobatics as too dangerous. Aerobatics was an essential element of air combat, however, and it became necessary to make up for the dearth

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