The attempt by American military aviation leaders to plan and develop an adequate system of ground facilities over the three decades prior to America's entry into World War II clearly demonstrates the inherent complexities and difficulties involved in any such endeavor. Advancing technological improvements in aircraft and airfield construction techniques, changing military needs, and a vacillating political climate continually altered the course of development. Long-range plans will always be subject to these factors and their complicated interrelationships.
Army Air Corps leaders produced before 1941 a number of plans for the development of ground facilities, but none was fully realized until the exigencies on the eve of Pearl Harbor galvanized the disparate U.S. interests into common action. The 1913 plan had failed to gain support from the War Department and Congress. The 1919 plan stalled after initial implementation because Congress reduced the size of the military establishment far below the level originally anticipated and because general desires for disarmament and economy in government during the postwar years superseded all other considerations. Launched in 1926, the Five Year Program made great strides in the revitalization of Air Corps facilities, but changes necessitated by alterations in the original plan, the coming of the depression, and the increasing cost of facilities prevented the complete attainment of original goals. At its conclusion in 1932, therefore, the system looked almost nothing like the plan of 1926. From 1933 until the prewar expansion commenced, the Air Corps did not have a comprehensive program to develop its ground facilities. Rather, planners revised their plans to meet the changing technical requirements of aviation, to respond to political pressure, and to conform to the changing role of military aviation. Like Procrustes, they seemed bent on making the traveler fit the bed. Only after the collapse of France prompted Congress to vote massive funds for rearmament could the Air Corps begin to implement the general plans discussed between 1933 and 1939.
Aviation planning has always been significantly affected by the uncertain nature of advancing technology. Who could have foreseen in 1908 the growth in size, speed, weight, power, and numbers of aircraft? At the same time, expanding