CREATING THE AIR FORCE
In early September 1945 when Carl Spaatz returned to the United States from the Pacific aboard his B-17, the great air forces he had commanded in the battles against Germany and Japan were already beginning to disintegrate. Another kind of battle, over the independence of the Air Force and the unification of the armed forces, was brewing. Now came the task of transforming what had been a superbranch of the Army into an autonomous service with new institutions of its own. It had been almost thirty years since Spaatz had returned from the Pacific to attend pilot school at Rockwell Field. The Air Force that he was helping to shape would be to a large degree the organizational expression of his experiences during those three decades.
In September 1945, when Spaatz got back to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles from Washington, D.C., he was "bone tired" and wanted to retire. 1 Arnold's health continued to deteriorate, however, and it was clear that he could not continue in office for long. It was equally evident that critical changes were in the offing and that the nature of these changes would depend upon who was at the helm of the USAAF. Who, besides Spaatz, was available to succeed Arnold? George Kenney had four stars, was Douglas MacArthur's airman, and outranked Spaatz by a few days. He had the backing of MacArthur, but he was more experienced in the field of tactical than strategic aviation.