In 1926, several reforms and programs launched the American aviation service on a new course of expansion and development. Prompting these reforms and programs was the increasing criticism of American aviation policy--or lack of policy--primarily by the outspoken assistant chief of Air Service, Brigadier General William Mitchell. 1 The resulting expansion of America's air arm covered two phases. The first phase extended from 1926 to 1933 and witnessed the first permanent and significant improvements at almost all existing airfields and stations since their establishment during World War I and acquisition and construction of a number of major new facilities and stations. Although a number of unforeseen circumstances distorted the plans of the War Department and the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, the facilities resurrected and created during these years would become the nucleus of the vast complex of installations developed just before and during World War II.
On 2 July 1926, President Calvin Coolidge approved the Air Corps Act. Based on extensive studies, vast quantities of information, and numerous recommendations made by such bodies as the Lampert Committee and the Morrow Board, the Air Corps Act initiated several important changes in America's air arm. 2 In addition to changing the name--and hence the tactical status--of the Air Service to the Air Corps, the act authorized three assistant chiefs of the Air Corps with the rank of brigadier general and an assistant secretary of war for Air. It also authorized explicit strengths of 1,800 serviceable aircraft and 16,000 enlisted men, including 2,500 flying cadets. These increases in personnel and equipment were to be implemented over a five-year period, the first increment to begin on 1 July 1926. 3 Thus, for the first time, aviation leaders had a rationale and specific goals for the development of their service.
The Air Corps Act did not mention specific ground facilities, but inherent in the increases in personnel and equipment were increases in stations and flying fields for housing, training, and supporting the units to be created under the Five Year Program. Because the Air Corps Act became law too late for the Five Year Program to begin during the 1926-1927 fiscal year, Congress postponed the first increment until the following year. By the spring of 1927, the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps produced a comprehensive plan of development for