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The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II


Edgar F Raines, Jr


Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C. 2000, 371pgs, detailed index, excellent bibliographical note, appendices, extensive detailed footnotes, 15 organizational charts, 4 figures, 4 tables, 10 maps, 75 excellent illustrations placed with text.


This is an exemplary work of scholarship and model of the historian's craft. The author focuses on the interplay of individuals and institutions within an environment of changing technology. Whole schools of historians have developed as champions of each of these factors - some stress the role of important individuals acting at critical times - others place more importance of the nature of and actions of institutions having their own interests - and still others claim the significance of technology or other external factors such as geography,social forces, and climate in which both individuals and institutions exist and act. Dr. Raines describes all three in detail. He names names - officers of both high and lower rank and from both the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces. Of special interest, he includes the names and roles of civilians - politicians and leaders of the aviation industry. In his descriptions the reader will understand the significance of institutions as well - as they struggle over their parochial interests - budget, turf, and philosophy. He also provides technical descriptions of the specific types of aircraft and how the process of improved capabilities (and drawbacks) related to each available and planned airplane influenced decisions on deployment and and allocation of missions. The author states that "Eyes of Artillery is unabashedly an institutional history." But he also recognizes that " it is an exercise in intellectual history." - And it is indeed both. In his final conclusions he mentions Contingency. The role of contingency in human affairs from the lives of individuals to the development of the greatest civilization cannot be stressed enough. The reader should be alert to contingency on every page in this fine book. Very impressive throughout the book is Dr. Raines' copious use of lengthy footnoting in which a single note might cite a dozen separate sources. The reader might well study this book along with Mr Rick Atkinson's three volume history of the American Army in North Africa and Europe in WWII to have even more background into which to fit this work.


Preface - In this section Dr. Raines discusses the purpose of his study. In notes that the U. S. Army organized its Aviation branch in 1983, but that the origins went back much further. "This monograph discusses the institutional beginnings of the Army aviation in the Field Artillery's Air-Observation-Post Program' during World War II. The author proposes to explain why the Army decided to create 'organic aviation' to meet its special needs. He places the requirement in the necessities created by the changes in the art of war itself. He wants to show 'how' this occurred. "Although the increasing importance of Army Aviation amply justifies a study of its institutional origins, it also provides a means of examining the dominant tactical philosophy of the U. S. Army in the twentieth century - combined arms."
In this preface he devotes substantial space to the usual author's recognition of the many individuals and sources that have assisted him or from whom he has obtained ideas. These pages draw the reader's attention to both the massive extent of the relevant sources and the author's thoroughness in tapping them. His exemplary research and organizational skills are further demonstrated in the Bibliographical Notes.


Prologue: Aerial Observation to 1938
- The Origins of Aerial Observation in the U. S. Army, 1861-1917 - The section is a useful, interesting account of early military efforts to improve observation over the battlefield by use of balloons including their difficulties. In the U. S. Army balloons were assigned to the Signal Corps as contributions to its communication mission. For instance, during the Civil War it was the Signal Corps that built and manned high platforms from which to observe the battlefield and signal commands. Dr. Raines mentions several incidents involving balloons in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Thus, Army proponents of doctrine were already considering the role of aerial observation when the Army bought its first aircraft in 1909. The Army entered World War I with an already published set of regulations that provided three missions for aerial vehicles - strategic reconnaissance, tactical reconnaissance and artillery observation - plus the implication that some armed aircraft might be needed to defend those with the three main missions. Already technology (capabilities and limitations) was influencing doctrine and practice. And the newness of technology resulted in shortages of trained individuals to employ it. Dr. Raines describes the events of these years in detail.

- Aerial Observation in a War of Position, 1917-1918- When the U. S. entered World War I, it found that the European powers on both sides already had advanced in doctrine and practice for employment of both balloons and aircraft and had deployed a much larger aerial force to implement them. The U. S. Army adopted French methods to its own use. One result of European developments was that aerial observation greatly increased the power of the defense by reducing the ability of the offense to gain surprise. Even so, technological capacity continued to limit the influence of aviation. Dr. Raines describes all this in detail. A typical assessment: 'The expansion of the wartime Army was so great, the conditions of the Western Front unique, and the quantity of new information that officers had to absorb so immense that American artillerymen made no attempt to improve on the procedures they had inherited from the French Army." Another is that from the point of view of the Signal Corps, which still controlled aerial observation, the inadequacies of their radios were as significant as that of the aircraft. Dr. Raines mentions that the U. S. Army III Corps developed its own methods including dropping messages from aircraft.

- Aerial Observation in Flux, 1919-1939 - Now we get to the meat of the issues involved. The author states it clearly. "Following the war, a rich confluence of factors - the novelty of the aerial weapon, the promise of its potential contrasted to the limits of its existing power, the personalities involved, and the interjection of the question of an independent air force into the debate over national defense policy - kept Air Service organization and doctrine under almost perpetual debate and scrutiny until 1926." Well, while some of the specifics listed here have changed, the perpetual debate and scrutiny continues today. Initially the officers in the Air Service, led by General Patrick, continued to consider observation at 80% of the role for aviation. But soon General William Mitchell proposed that observation was the least important role for aviation. By 1926 an Air Corps Act was passed. With Mitchell's influence the doctrine of air power became dominant and observation of the battlefield declined, as Raines notes, to 'orphan status and an intellectual and professional backwater within the Air Corps." He notes further: "In effect the Air Corps Act represented the final statement of the lessons of World War I for the Army's air arm. The act changed the name of the Air Service to the Air Corps and thus by implication suggested that aviation had an independent role in war in addition to supporting the ground arms." It also planned for the significant increase in number of aircraft and separate representation of the Air Corps throughout the organs of the General Staff, and a civilian assistant secretary of war for air. He continues: "The Air Corps Act and its consequences also reflected a political reality. The Air Corps benefited from a constituency in the country at large in a way denied all other portions of the Army and, for that matter, the Army as a whole." Meanwhile, the Field Artillery Branch conducted its own 'lessons learned' study and concluded that aerial observation had been inadequate due in part to failures of the Air Service. Among the solutions proposed was that the artillery commanders should have direct control over the aviation units assigned for the observation mission. Thus the battle lines were set. And Air Corps officers more and more shifted attention to the 'strategic bombardment' concept. Large formations of heavy bombers would 'always' reach targets deep in enemy land and inflict such huge damage that the will of civilians to continue the war would end. Indeed, future war would nearly eliminate the role of or need for a large ground force. Ground force officers continued to believe in 'combined arms'. The shift of Air Corps doctrine also had its significant effect on technological development of aircraft with the requirement for strategic bombardment producing development of bombers and reduced interest in observation aircraft. The Air Corps idea for an observation aircraft resulted in the heavy, difficult to maintain, North American O-47 that required a fixed base far to the rear and of course Air Corps pilots. Its increased rapid speed actually made front line observation of targets more difficult. Dr. Raines also describes the final days of the observation balloon and early efforts to develop a useful autogiro. Meanwhile civilian aviation created the Piper J-3 Cub. And some Army officers became pilots on their own with Piper Cubs. Dr. Raines names individual officers who became prominent advocates for use of light aircraft. He also includes annotated drawings of these aircraft - again showing the interaction of developing technology with specific innovative officers and their institutions.

- Conclusion - "The U. S. Army's use of aerial observation between 1861 and 1938 depended on several interrelated factors - technology, concepts developed by individual officers into official doctrine, and organization capable of achieving results. "The divergence between the ground arms' continued emphasis on combined arms as the key to victory and the airmen's increasing reliance on strategic bombardment operating independently pulled the aerial observation mission in contradictory directions. "


Chapter One - The Ground Arms Seek Their Own Aircraft, 1939-1941 - "The question of organic aviation became a major source of contention between the ground arms and the Air Corps from 1939 to 1941." "The disagreement between the Air Corps and the Field Artillery began with a polite exchange of views but then became increasingly contentious."

- The Field Artillery and the Aerial Observation Problem, 1939-1940 - "In 1939 and 1940 the Field Artillery took the lead among the ground arms in seeking a solution to the aerial observation problem." Dr. Raines describes the conflicts in personal terms - the conflict between General Robert Danford, Chief of Field Artillery, and Henry H. Arnold, Chief of Air Corps. Danford's initial request was that the Air Corps create and supply suitable aircraft for the mission and train the skilled pilots and ground crew. The Field Artillery would develop the organizational structure and methods of employment. The aircraft would be assigned to artillery units. That is, the Air Corps would assign one of its light observation squadrons organically to each division artillery headquarters. Arnold rejected this concept since he wanted all aviation to be under central Air Corps command. Dr. Raines narrates and critiques the battle, blow by blow. It was carried on in theory in publications and in practice by experiments in the increasing number of Army training maneuvers. Dr. Raines credits Colonel Rex Chandler with significant input to the development of the field artillery policy position. And he describes the influence of Captain William Ford's 1940 article in Field Artillery Journal. But Arnold was in the position of power due to the public's and politician's excitement over the futuristic notion of air power.

- Air Observation for the Cavalry, Armor, and Infantry, 1939-1940 - These three ground branches also wanted to acquire organic aviation, but were in an even weaker position than the Field Artillery. Training maneuvers certainly did show the potential value of aviation throughout the ground branches. Dr. Raines narrates and assesses the roles of many more specific individuals.

- The Fight for Organic Air, January - September 1941 - The contest continued. By then the events of World War II in Europe were providing specific information to support theory. During this period General Chaffee, commanding general of the Armored Force entered the picture in an unusual way. He wanted aviation organic to mobile armored - mechanized - divisions but lacked institutional position to get much support. However, he tested the Air Corps' favorite aircraft, the Stinson Model 105a at Ft. Knox. It proved unsatisfactory. At that point he met with Thomas Case, the representative of Piper Aircraft, which provided two Cub J-3 for testing. Dr. Raines describes the following events in detail. The short story is that here we have an example of the 'military industrial' complex at work. Piper Aviation and other civilian light aircraft manufacturers were trying to find a role for their product and hoping not to be forced into conversion into the kind of heavy aircraft the Air Corps was demanding. Piper had its representatives throughout the country - a perfect lobby organization. Moreover, quite a few Army officers were already civil aviation qualified and even owned Piper Cubs. The rest, as they say, is history.

- Conclusion - "In the fall of 1941 the contention over organic air had narrowed in practical terms to a dispute between the Field Artillery and the Army Air Forces." Neither institution had a solid theoretical or practically proven case, but the Air Force generals had the greater institutional power base.


Chapter Two - The Field Artillery Acquires its Own Aircraft, July 1941- June 1942 - The Field Artillery continued to press its case. "The outcome depended upon actions on three interrelated but distinct levels." Field Artillery had to overcome the superior institutional Air Force position by insuring that its case would be judged on its merits. On the technical level field artillery had to develop effective military units with doctrine that could exploit the existing aircraft capabilities. At the operational level field artillery had to develop and staff these units with trained artillery officers who were also pilots in order to show the validity of its doctrine..

- The War Department and Aerial Observation, July 1941 - January 1941 - The Chief of Field Artillery had to use the training maneuvers to convince the War Department to adopt its concept for aerial observation. Generals Arnold and Danford continued to develop their opposing arguments. They found support within each service's British counter parts in Royal Air and field artillery. Dr. Raines describes the results of further large scale training maneuvers and experiments at the Field Artillery School. General Danford pressed his case directly with the Secretary of War, Colonel Henry Stimson (a WWI field artillery officer) and also Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy. Major Maxwell D. Taylor was designated the action officer to carry the field artillery case to General Marshal. In the process General Arnold disagreed but acquiesced in giving the field artillery its chance to experiment. The result was a decision to allow the field artillery to conduct further experiments.

- Testing the Concept - Dr. Raines describes these tests in detail, focusing on the important role of Lt. Col. William Ford. Colonel Ford indeed performed near magic as he had to establish and staff the training and experimental units, obtain the aircraft, develop doctrine for use of aircraft, then incorporate it into a testing regime that would validate it. Dr. Raines includes appraisal by name of the many other individuals who made the effort a success. Then he had to create a whole department at the Field Artillery School to train classes of officers to become artillery pilot-observers and enlisted men to become aviation mechanics.

- Approving the Concept - Dr. Raines as usual describes these events at the level of the Pentagon and at Ft. Sill. The result was that the War Department established organic aviation for Field Artillery on 6 June 1942.

- Light Aircraft for Other Combat Arms - Just as General Arnold had predicted the rest of Army Ground Forces wanted to obtain their own aviation. Even the Corps of Engineers, the tank destroyers, and the airborne wanted aviation. They were all turned down.

- Conclusion - While Dr. Raines stresses throughout the critical contributions (both in writing theory and in aggressively pushing politics) of named individuals, he also writes. "Large institutions develop their own world view, shaped by their mission. A shared perspective enables the individuals in any particular organization to effectively communicate with one another and work together to achieve the organization's goals." He notes 'the complexity of the political machinations involved. And he observes that: "The light-aircraft manufacturers' role was crucial throughout. He remarks that the Army Air Forces lost a mission that it did not want to lose, but questions if they really wanted to perform it.


Chapter Three - Creating the Air-Observation- Post Program, June - December 1942 - Note that the war was well underway and that it would still require 17 months for the Field Artillery to develop its training base, staff it with instructors, recruit volunteer student pilots, develop tactical and operational doctrine and standard procedures, test and evaluate aircraft and develop a logistical system to supply the whole works in overseas theaters.

- Writing the Charter- - The War Department had to write the orders to both Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces to establish rolls and missions - who was ordered to do what and when. Both forces had closely inter locking activities to accomplish. The necessary directives were signed on 6 June 1942. The directives established the number of light aircraft to be assigned to each Field Artillery unit and assigned to the Army Air Forces responsibility for procuring aircraft and providing primary flight training for pilots. The Army Ground Forces was responsible for organizing At Ft. Sill the more advanced training for pilots, mechanics and observers.

- Establishing the Training and Logistical Base, June-July 1942 - This became a very complex coordination problem for The War Department General Staff and Headquarters, Army Ground Forces. Lt. Col. William Ford, who had been instrumental in early proposals for the air observers, became chief of the training organization at Ft. Sill. He recruited his staff, created the organizational charts, developed the training program, monitored logistics - well, basically did everything. Dr. Raines explains all this and provided the resulting organizational charts and photographs of all the key personnel. Obviously there were numerous problems and obstacles to overcome. But Colonel Ford had a functioning operation going in less than two months from the 6 June signing. Thus the Air-Observation-Post Program in the Field Artillery became a reality.

- Pilot, Mechanic, and Observer Training, July November 1942 - An unexpected problem was the shortage of volunteers to become Field Artillery pilots. Instead of 150 graduates in the first classes there were only 47. More disagreements between the Air Force and Field Artillery continued, especially over the issue of pilot training and sending pilots and aircraft overseas. With the landing in North Africa coming up time was running out. The Assistant Secretary of War, John McCloy, had to intervene.

- A Reexamination of Mission - Controversy between the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces continued into November 1942. One major issue was the request from other Army branches for their own aviation. Meanwhile, Army Air Forces continued to propose that the Field Artillery aviation be abolished. These battles involved numerous individuals and institutions, which Dr. Raines sorts out in detail.

Conclusion - Dr. Raines summarizes: "The world views and ideologies of ground and air officers were still the salient reasons for either supporting or attacking organic aviation from June through December 1942. He continues: "The complexities were immense in simultaneously creating an air-observation-post program that would extend throughout the Army, at least whereever field Artillery battalions were stationed, and an air training department. And: "Ford's contribution to the ultimate success of the Air-Observation-Post Program can hardly be overstated.


Chapter Four - Developing the Air-Observation-Post Program, January - December 1943 - "The Department of Air Training at the Field Artillery School became a going concern between June and December 1942. " Despite problems by October 1943 the training establishment was graduating large numbers of pilots and mechanics.

Aircraft Procurement for 1943 - This section describes the decisions on how to procure the required aircraft.

Creating an Air-Observation-Post Logistical System - Moving the aircraft and especially crates of spare parts from factory and depot to overseas theaters was itself a monumental and complex operation. And the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces and Army Service Forces had to cooperate.

- Research and Development, Force Development, and Combat Development - In this section Dr. Raines notes that in the initial discussions and directives no one thought about the long term future especially in the context of potential for research to develop improved aircraft. This was another mission that gradually fell by default to the Department of Air Training at Ft. Sill. Dr. Raines describes the principal aircraft and provides photographs.

The Department of Air Training - - Among many interesting details Dr. Raines discusses is that due to the heavy work load the Army Air Forces contracted out to the Harte Flying Service and the Air Forces Primary Flying School the mission of basic pilot training for the Field Artillery. A result was that the Department of Air Training at Ft. Sill had to spend time and effort to bring these pilots up to speed before even beginning their instruction in advanced observation flying. In a short review one cannot begin to describe the mass of complex details that Dr. Raines includes, and with a flair for interesting writing that makes the reader dig into the issues.

Unit Training - In this section Dr. Raines mostly discusses the continued training of pilots upon assignment to their artillery units. Among the issues is the attitude of their battalion commanders, which greatly influenced the results.

Conclusion - Dr. Raines' assessment is that during the period June 1942 to October 1943 the air observation posts evolved from an idea into a program. "Air observation posts were becoming organic in practice as well as in theory." He includes seven more important organizational diagrams that show the way that these aviation units were fitted into the structures of army divisions.


Chapter Five - Initial Deployment and Combat in the North African and Mediterranean Theaters - The late decision to create Air-Observation-Posts meant that the initial deployment of Army divisions overseas occurred before these units with their pilots and aircraft were ready and able to train with them in the U.S. Then, initial deployments were not adequate to fill even the established organizational structure. Moreover they had to learn on the job in combat, and their logistic support line had to be created at the same time. There were many problems.

- The European Theater of Operations and North Africa - Dr. Raines begins this section directly: "The deployment of air sections overseas exposed four major problem areas in the Air-Observation-Post Program; administrative support, supply, unit training, and appropriate doctrine." As always he focuses on the specific role of named individuals in overcoming these problems. And he also focuses on the ways in which institutions aided or hindered solutions. The Allied landing in North Africa on 8 November by U.S. II Corps took place two weeks before the Corps was able to organize its own training school. The Central and Eastern Task Forces landed without the planned organic air observation units. The Western Task Force, which deployed directly from the U.S. was able to have its air-observation-posts on board. A useful map shows the locations of the landings. But even the Western Task Force had lacked time for unit training. And coordination with the Navy was lacking. Three Field Artillery L-4 aircraft were launched from Navy carrier Ranger. They were immediately shot down by other U.S. Navy ships and elements of the Army landing force. Fortunately the three pilots managed to survive crash landings.

Dr. Raines continues: The initial deployment overseas and the first operation in North Africa exposed both the administrative and the training weaknesses in the program, although the latter was by far the more obvious and consequently the first to draw attention." He cites General Patton favorably for having instituted a rigorous training program for all units.' Dr. Raines supplies two more organizational charts with his discussion of the efforts to improve administration. One fact that became apparent and was addressed was that it was not enough to place the aviation units in divisions and artillery brigades. Well-trained artillery - aviation officers were required on the staffs of all higher headquarters as well. There were many issues to solve in addition to conduct of a single artillery - air observation flight - such as locations for air fields, creation of all the aspects of logistic support, personnel issues including replacements as well as training. Virtually every one of the G-staffs and special staffs such as engineers, ordnance, medical, anti-aircraft, quartermaster, Adjutant General, and the rest also required the expert participation of artillery-aviation experts. And of course continual liaison with the Army Air Force headquarters and units was essential. For one thing the Luftwaffe had its own ideas about what to do to eliminate the pesky American aerial observation capacity. Dr. Raines continues: "While air observation posts became a familiar presence at the front, they failed to perform their primary mission, which called the entire future of the program into question." The first actual aerial fire mission called from a L-4 aircraft did not take place until 1 February 1943. For one thing commanders at all levels quickly latched on to the artillery observation aircraft in subordinate units to provide themselves with air transport or tactical observation. For another, the terrain and interference by the Luftwaffe combined to make light aircraft vulnerable. Dr. Raines provides enough description of the tactical ground battle to give context to what was occurring with the artillery-observation situation. He again cites General Patton for improving the situation upon his assumption of command of II Corps. However, even General Patton quickly converted his Corps artillery officer, Lt. Bristol, (the first one in existence and model for all subsequent similar positions) into a personal pilot to transport the general around the area. Dr. Raines concludes: The Field Artillery pilots in North Africa derived two major lessons from the fighting; one concerned doctrine, the other equipment." Aerial observation became the primary method for adjusting artillery fire. And the L-4 proved to be too slow, requiring a higher performance replacement. Nevertheless, there remained much adverse opinion about Army aviation in Washington.

Sicily - The Allies invaded Sicily on 10 July 1943 with General Patton in command of the new Seventh Army. In order to provide immediate aerial observation for artillery, two LST's were converted by laying a runway on their decks. That, in itself, is eloquent evidence on how important aerial observation had already become. The aircraft not only directed gunfire from both Naval vessels and the landed field artillery, but also directed landing craft to the proper beaches. Subsequently, during the campaign, Captain Samuel Freeman, the artillery air officer in 45th Infantry Division of Bradley's II Corps, noted that German artillery ceased fire while an observation aircraft was over head. Thus the aircraft itself became useful in counter-battery missions. The aircraft also were valuable for conducting route reconnaissance through the mountains. And the Army L-4's were able to resupply front line units, despite German ground fire, when the Air Forces were not.

Italy: Salerno to Rome - The invasion of Italy began on 15 September 1943 at Salerno. Again, Field Artillery observation aircraft supported the landings by flying off of decked LST's. The scope of the campaign in Italy was vastly greater than in Africa or Sicily in duration. size, and complexity. The role of the Field Artillery aviation expanded along with this. As in Africa, the commanding general, now Mark Clark, continually called on his aviation to take him wherever. So did subordinate commanders. General Clark was instrumental in securing the new much improved L-5 aircraft for the Field Artillery despite opposition from Army Air Forces to whom the aircraft had been designated. Dr. Raines devotes many pages to narration and commentary on this extensive campaign and the many innovations that occurred for army aviation. The accompanying maps are excellent.

North of Rome - The campaign continued. One of the innovations was supply of better radios. Another was development of better liaison with Army Air Forces to prevent fratricide. The winter weather and high mountains had big impacts on aerial operations.

Conclusion - Dr. Raines writes: "By mid-1944 air observation posts had demonstrated their ability to perform the aerial fire-direction mission in combat in all the theaters in which they had been employed." "During Fifth Army's campaign south of Rome, air observation posts became a fully integrated component of ground warfare and a model for the rest of the Army."


Chapter Six - The European Theater of Operations, June 1944 - September 1945 - "In western Europe, Field Artillery pilots demonstrated for the first time the ability of air sections to support ground units during extended mobile operations."

The European Theater of Operations: Administration and Logistics - In this section Dr. Raines provides a detailed account of the topics for the campaign in general. "Artillery air officers in the European Theater of Operations took over staff supervision of air observation posts at all echelons of command during late 1943 and early 1944, following standard practice in Italy. The Italian campaign proved so influential in part because many of the senior American officers, beginning with the supreme commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, came out of the Mediterranean." A chart shows the names of the Artillery air officers posted at each headquarters from the ETO through the two Army Groups to the 5 Armies. Three more charts show the organization of the logistics relationships between the Army Groups and the USSTRAF (Air Force) in the theater. The Army Air Force Tactical Air Depots served for supply and higher-echelon maintenance functions. Dr. Raines describes the very many issues and problems that developed and who specifically was involved in their solution. Yet, "Supply, maintenance, and performance problems of the aircraft persisted throughout the campaign. Their solution required efforts by pilots and mechanics at all echelons of command to solve them or at least ameliorate their adverse consequences." .. "Personalities played a major role." The Field Artillery and Army Air Force officers had to cooperate. "The logistical and administrative effort required to support air-observation-post operations in Northwest Europe was the greatest of the war in any theater in terms of both scale and complexity."

Normandy: Planning and Invasion - In this section the author returns to the opening phase of the campaign, having noted that it "went through six distinct phases as a result of changes in terrain, weather, and the posture of friendly and enemy forces." He describes the pre-invasion planning and the execution of the invasion on the beaches. Another excellent map accompanies the text. As soon as the ground forces secured sufficient terrain they called for their air sections. The aircraft were flown en mass through designated corridors as specified altitudes. Non were shot down by friendly units. The air observation sections immediately began registration of the artillery and identification of German positions. The author's descriptions of the combat actions at the personal level makes for exciting reading.

The Battle for the Hedgerows - The problems the American ground units encountered from the clever German use of the hedgerow terrain are well known. Dr. Raines notes that June 'was the costliest month of the war for the air observation posts of First Army in terms of both planes and pilots." They lost 36 aircraft and 20 pilots. July was the second worst, with 14 pilots lost and 13 aircraft. He notes that 10% of the aircraft loses were due to Luftwaffe and 20% due to German ground fire. Clearly air observation in hedgerow terrain required low level, slow flying that exposed the aircraft to the enemy. The author notes that also losses were due to the relative inexperience of the pilots in the newly committed divisions. "At the beginning of the campaign, a noticeable gap existed between veteran and neophyte U. S. divisions in the sophistication of their air-observation-post operations."

Pursuit and the Landing in Southern France - Dr. Raines gives great credit to Major General John S. Wood, commander of the 4th Armored Division for his exemplary methods for employment of his artillery observation air units. He employed aircraft not only for its artillery fire direction mission, but also for reconnaissance and for his personal movement to enhance command and control. The author evaluates all the units to this depth of analysis. The footnotes are copious.

The Border Battles - Dr. Raines notes that: "The border battles in the fall of 1944 brought a new set of problems, the attack on permanent fortifications." Again, he describes the tactical ground operations clearly to give context to what the artillery-air observation pilots had units had to accomplish. He writes vivid descriptions of actions by individual in various divisions to illustrate successes and failures or examples of obstacles overcome. The actual employment of the artillery's aviation varied greatly. Sometimes it was called upon to deliver emergency supplies, other times to evacuate wounded or deliver surgeons to surrounded units.

The German Counteroffensive - This 'Battle of the Bulge' began on 16 December 1944. Despite very adverse weather some aerial observation flights on the southern sector managed to bring artillery fire against German armor with significant effect. But on the northern side the Germans moved so swiftly they captured the 99th and 2d Division aviation's fields. Major Bristol led First Army air section light planes to vector Army Air Force fighter-bombers against German forces. But U.S. fighters did shoot down one of our own liaison aircraft. Field Artillery aircraft were important in delivering supplies to Bastogne. Dr. Raines describes many of the difficulties created by adverse weather. Meanwhile along the static fronts the Germans didn't move during daylight. This section also contains interesting photographs.

The Final Battles - The artillery aviation continued to perform valuable missions during the Allied offensive into Germany, including at the Rhine River crossings. From what I have read about the Remagen Bridge, I haven't seen before that it was Lt. Harold Larson and Lt. Frank Vaughn, flying an L-4 of the 16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion who first saw that the bridge remained intact, causing Gen. Hoge to rush troops to capture it. The author mentions another complication. Introduction of the artillery proximity fuze, which of course was of great value to enhance artillery fire, also caused problems for the air observers. Because if an outgoing artillery shell passed near an aircraft, a common occurrence, it would explode. Thus a new requirement for coordination between artillery fire and air observation flights had to be instituted.

Conclusion - The author's assessment is that the artillery aerial observation program reached high effectiveness in Northern Europe. "Air sections demonstrated their ability to participate in mobile warfare on a sustained basis. Pilots and observers proved once more their ability to execute their artillery missions of observed fire, reconnaissance of position areas for batteries and routes for marches, security patrols on both the flanks and to the front of positions, camouflage checks of troops positions from the air, and collection of information about nearby friendly and enemy forces." Plus much more. They also made officers think about the potential for helicopters.


Chapter Seven - The Pacific, June 1943 - September 1945 - In this chapter Dr. Raines describes the similarities and differences in the organization and employment of the artillery aerial observation units between the Pacific and European Theaters.

Personalities, Command Arrangements, Terrain, and Water - The vast expanse of the Pacific required the division of responsibilities and campaigns into three separate theaters: Southwest, South, and Central. An excellent map shows the area. Of the three, only the Southwest was fully an Army operation commanded by General MacArthur. The other two were Navy campaigns, except that toward the war's end the battle on Okinawa in the Central Pacific Theater became an active Army operation. The author notes that General MacArthur was 'uninterested' in the air observation concept. Moreover, MacArthur relied on his Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Kenney for all advice concerning aviation. And General Kenney, like General Arnold, was adamantly opposed to the very idea of ground forces having organic aviation. Fortunately General Krueger, commander of Sixth Army, was much in favor. Furthermore, the priority given to the European Theater resulted in slower delivery of the L-4's to the Southwest Theater, and when they did arrive the Army Air Forces received them all.

Southwest Pacific Area: New Guinea, June 1943 - June 1944 - Another fine map provides the context of the operation. The first aerial observation mission was in June 1943, at which time the entire section was comprised of one officer and 6 sergeants. Jungle terrain forced different tactics. The aircraft were frequently used to provide reconnaissance for infantry patrols. Logistics was a major problem.

South Pacific Area: Bougainville - The first pilots arrived on Bougainville in December 1943. The pilots had to search the beaches to find the crates containing their aircraft. Reconnaissance the resupply of patrols became important missions as did survey. They also marked targets for the Army Air Force and Navy bombers. They also carried hand-held aerial cameras for intelligence work. And logistics remained a problem in this theater as well.

Central Pacific Area, 1944 - In this theater Army aviation operated off of Navy carriers until airfields were secured ashore. The first employment was in the battle for Saipan, in which an Army division participated. The pilots, with their L-4's proved very effective and popular with the infantry.

Southwest Pacific Area, June 1944 - September 1945 - The author returns to the Southwest during the expansion of the the theater into the Philippines. MacArthur continued to leave an artillery-air officer off his theater staff. But both the Sixth and Eighth Armies had them. Dr. Raines describes the operations of individual pilots and their units in New Guinea, Biak and Luzon in detail. On Leyte the Japanese air for the first time appeared in force. It was able to cause 'heavy losses' shooting down the light Artillery-air observation aircraft. in addition to usual missions, aerial resupply became more significant involving massed use of L-4 and L-5 to deliver tons of supply for the 11th Airborne Division and even two portable surgical hospitals. The air sections faced another threat absent in Europe. "As the Japanese became aware of the importance of liaison planes in American ground operations, Japanese night infiltration raids often set out to destroy artillery aircraft."

Central Pacific Area, Okinawa, 1945 - This campaign was conducted by Tenth Army, commander by Lt. Gen. Simon Buckner, Jr. He had an artillery air officer, Major Norman E. McKnight. Dr. Raines comments" The relative brevity of the campaign, the restricted area in which it was fought compared to New Guinea or the Philippines, and the absence of General Kenney from the command structure made his assignment considerably easier." At the outset Tenth Army introduced a new technology, the Brodie device, of which the author provides illustrations for the land and sea versions. It was a "contraption of wires, poles, a hook, a trolley, a trapeze and cable. The whole apparatus was mounted on a LST to enable the light aircraft to operate during the landing phase rather than fly from an aircraft carrier. On 1 April 1945 the XXIV Corps pilots conducted 25 successful take-offs and landings before the engineers were able to construct a temporary airstrip ashore. During the three-month campaign the artillery air observers were invaluable in locating Japanese caves. The success of the artillery-air units in the Central Pacific was significantly increased by the support of the Commander of Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, Major General Millard Harmon, who made sure logistic support was as strong as possible and even allocated L-5 aircraft to the Army. This was something General Kenney, in Southwest Pacific refused since he was adamant to the last in denying any role he could to artillery-air aviation. Dr. Raines comments further: "Organizationally, the Okinawa campaign, like the ones in New Guinea and the Philippines, suggested the need for a greater centralization of control of air operations than the founders of the Air-Observation-Post Program originally envisioned. In the area of logistical support, the disparate experiences of Field Artillery aircraft of Sixth and Eighth Armies on the one hand and Tenth Army on the other demonstrates once again the importance of command influence."

Conclusion - "Prior to June 1944 the contrast between conditions in the Pacific and the situation in the Mediterranean in terms of the numbers of aircraft and the amount of administrative and logistical support could not be more striking. Many of the senior officers in North Africa and Mediterranean - Generals Eisenhower, General Clark, Lt. Gen. George Patton, Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, and General Lewis - had been associated with getting the program started in the United States. The most senior area commanders in the Pacific where artillery aircraft operated - General MacArthur, Admiral Halsey, and later Admiral Nimitz - were uninterested and detached." "Nevertheless the program was no less a success in the Pacific."


Chapter Eight - Creating Army Ground Forces Light Aviation - The combat successes of air observation posts eventually had a major impact upon the policy gridlock between the Army Ground Forces and the Army Air Forces over organic aviation. The Air Staff retreated only gradually from a position of total opposition and then only because of expediency, not because of any fundamental shift in its view of the soundness of the principle of organic aviation."

War Department Policy and the Air-Observation-Post Program, September 1943-October 1944 - "The existence of the Air-Observation-Post Program remained a matter of contention between the Army Ground Forces and the Army Air Forces. "The Air Staff continued to advocate to the War Department that all aviation be returned to the Air Force. In September 1943 General Patton initiated a major effort at lessons learned. The resulting report "was the most elaborate by any American field army headquarters prior to the cessation of hostilities in 1945." "It had an immediate impact on training in the United States." Dr. Raines describes in detail the opinions of the officers who participated in General Patton's review committee. Naturally the officers each advocated for the institutions they represented, artillery, signal corps, higher headquarters staffs. The author continues with fascinating descriptions of the infighting and in-house political struggles that took place among the various relevant institutions from the War Department down to the Department of Air Training at Ft. Sill. (The reader can imagine what kind of similar goings-on would take place today with e-mail.) The central issue was where and how many aircraft should be located at the various echelons within a field army - and that of course reflected various opinions on the scope of missions the aircraft units should accomplish, and for whom. The arguments also reflected reorganizations taking place within the Army Air Forces.
The whole continuing episode demonstrates in Dr. Raines' excellent depiction at the broader philosophical level of the importance of influence in history of significant leaders (individuals) and developed institutions.
Another issue involved the complaint from the Air Staff that Army Ground Forces was not supplying specific numbers of L-4 aircraft it wanted for 1944, which it was a settled mission of the Air Forces to supply by contract. Dr. Raines ascribes the Army Ground Forces confusion to lack of institutional cause, no artillery-air officer on the senior staffs. Meanwhile, the Army Air Forces created liaison squadrons it wanted to use to replace the Field Artillery air sections. The situation became worse when General Devers, the Commander of the European Theater of Operations, sent the War Department a message asking for a major expansion of light aviation under Army control to all levels of headquarters. The Air Staff immediately countered with a detailed study based on the problems the Field Artillery had experienced in the early phase of North African campaign, recommending return of ALL aviation to the Army Air Forces. General Arnold forwarded a version of this to the War Department. Army Generals Porter and McNair countered. The immediate result was a stalemate.

Air-Observation-Post Logistics - The center of this issue was the responsibility for third echelon maintenance for the artillery-observation aircraft. The result was that depots were a technical component of the Air Forces so would be Army Air Force depots, but that a depot then would be attached to each ground force field army, and that all logistical responsibilities for support of the Field Artillery aircraft. Therefore the Air Staff also gained full control over the calculations for future aircraft requirements and the letting of production contracts into 1945. Its estimates were lower than those favored by the Ground Forces.

Training - By June 1944 the issue of who would train the pilots deemed necessary for replacements. The Air Force was conducting the initial pilot training and the Field Artillery at Ft. Sill was conducting the advanced training for its pilots. The issue had its institutional aspect, in that if current supply of air observation pilots would be sufficient to meet requirements through 1946, then the Air training program at Ft. Sill ought to be abolished. Naturally the Department of Air Training at Ft. Sill realized that if abolished it would be near impossible to recreate, so strongly advocated that it remain open. A subsidiary issue was the proposed requirement to teach night flying and who should teach it.

Research and Development - A similar struggle continued over this subject. Any effort by the Field Artillery to do research into potential future improvements in equipment, especially aircraft, naturally caused the Air Staff to object as it implicitly meant a future continuation of the Field Artillery observation program, and its possible expansion. Among the specifics, were the equipment of L-4 aircraft with cameras (sure to compete with Air Force photo-reconnaissance), and the development by Lt. Brodie of the Ordnance Corps of the Brodie device (described in the section on Okinawa. Equipment for night flying and an improved aircraft (especially helicopters) were other issues.

Department of Air Training - Dr. Raines devotes more attention and space to this issue. He provides another organization chart to show the status at 6 November 1944. He describes the personnel changes with rotations to an back from the European Theater. An interesting topic is the care with which the Black Student pilots were integrated into the program. Another is that only as a result of a happenstance, a visit by two Naval pilots, did the Navy realize the program's existence and then send its observer pilots for the special training. The author also describes various changes in the courses as they integrated 'lessons learned' from actual combat.

Final Steps to a Permanent Program, September 1944- January 1945 - In the fall of 1944 General Arnold considered the war as won, so his attention (and of course that of the Air staff) shifted to the postwar future - the role of air power. The priority became creation of an independent Air Force. His staff officer, Colonel Robert Olds, concluded that the mission of observation for field artillery and ground forces in general might actually inhibit the Air Force becoming an independent service. It was a mission that Air Force - strategic bombing - supporters considered minor and a detraction anyway. Another Air staff officer, Colonel Sidney Griffin, came to a similar conclusion. At the same time the Air staff was working to prevent the Navy from obtaining ground based aircraft. Colonel Griffin promoted the concept that it was not necessary for the Air Force to have ALL aircraft. Further, he claimed that light aircraft could not function to perform the real, multiple missions the Air Force considered essential. The fundamental principles for the strategic employment of air power that the Air officers championed rather excluded these 'light aircraft'. The initial proposals were rejected by the G-3 at Dept. of Army, General Porter.

The Creation of the Army Ground Forces Light Aviation Program, February - August 1945 - Dr. Raines reports that: 'The seven months from February through August 1945 produced a dizzying succession of policy decisions concerning the Air-Observation-Post Program." The Department of Air Training at Ft. Sill conducted tests - including on night flying by its pilots. Naturally, the Air Staff became alarmed. This is another example of the interaction of developing technology, aggressive individuals and institutional mind-sets. There were other, similar, confrontations. Dr. Raines has assembled voluminous source material and sorted it out to give the readers a 'blow by blow' account of very complex interactions between individual officers (generals), staffs and headquarters from the Pacific and European Theaters to the War Department to the Army Ground and Air Force headquarters to much lower units, all impacted by rapid developments in aviation technology (new aircraft). Finally, on 9 August 1945 the War Department approved the new policy that converted the Air-Observation-Post Program into Army Ground Forces light aviation.

Conclusion -Dr. Raines deftly summarizes the essentially political struggle waged between Army Ground and Army Air Forces throughout the war over rolls and missions. The Air Force agreed initially to enable the Ground forces to establish this unwanted artillery observation gambit with sure opinion that it would fail. But the great success it had in practice, which generated such strong support from senior commanders that the Air Force - pushed by General Arnold - had to retreat gradually. This support came from Generals Krueger, Stilwell, Eisenhower and Devers. Finally, some opinion's of Air Force officers spread sufficiently for the organization to conclude that relinquishing this disliked and tangential activity of close ground observation and reconnaissance to let the Army have it, would actually serve to strengthen the Air Force argument that 'real' air power should be the mission of an independent Air Force Service. Army Ground Forces Light Aviation was redesignated Army Aviation in 1949.


Epilogue: Air Observation Posts, World War II, and Army Aviation -

The Air-Observation-Post Program, 1945 - Dr. Raines writes that contemporary records are inadequate to establish the full size of the Air-Observation-Post Program during the war. He estimates that at full mobilization there was a total of 1500 pilots in all theaters.

Wartime Casualties - He provides four tables and several pages of text in an effort to compile statistics on losses. But lack of records prevents a full accounting.

Conclusion - In this section the author summarizes the entire story and expounds on his appraisals. Among his conclusions, the following: "In the simplest possible terms, the U.S. Army gained its own organic aircraft during World War II because of supply and demand. The evolution of the art of war created a demand for an aerial observer intimately connected to the ground forces. At the same time several parallel technical developments supplied the equipment needed to put him in the air over the battlefield." The technical developments were the improved light aircraft and the reliable radio. "Supply and demand suggest the existence of a market". The market in which armies contend is war, but war, at least in the twentieth century, has been discontinuous. Armed forces thus enter a conflict with certain predispositions based upon their understanding of the 'lessons' of the last war and the institutional momentum built up during peacetime to address certain aspects of those lessons. In short, no technical, doctrinal, or tactical result is predetermined, all are CONTINGENT." Wow, what insight. This is the fundamental lesson for which the book is a case study. And Raines' book, Rucksack war is another.
Dr. Raines continues with contrasting the mind set of the Air Force officers bent on conducting strategic bombing and ignoring thoughts about light aircraft with that of the Ground force officers, many of whom were private pilots in addition to military officers, and who had practical experience to recognize the potential value of light aircraft to accomplish the important mission of artillery fire control. The thinking of Air Force officers was 'frozen' in theory. "In initially rejecting light aircraft, Air Corps officers also made a professional judgment about their potential airworthiness in combat and found them wanting. " The author elaborates on in what way and why this was so. "Air Corps officers believed that their expertise encompassed everything that flew." While infantry, cavalry, armor and anti-tank units could benefit from having organic or at least direct support aviation, only the Field Artillery had a specific mission that everyone recognized was vital. Ground based observation to direct artillery fire was no longer effective on the battlefield, an aerial observer was essential. And the Field Artillery officers knew it and knew how to present their case. From the technical aspect, Dr. Raines moves and cites the significance of Major General Robert Danford, chief of Field Artillery, who recognized this importance. Then Artillery was able to find allies in such Generals as Walter Krueger, Dwight Eisenhower, and Mark Clark - powerful political policy advocates. Third was the institutional aspect. He notes that the organizational structure placed the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery in the War Department close to the secretary of war and the chief of staff. Even with this advantage it required an officer of General Danford's skill and energy to carry the ball. Plus, Dr. Raines notes the 'luck' involved. The Field Artillery was fortunate that both the secretary of war and assistant secretary were veteran World War One Field Artillery officers, and that General Clark became senior officer in the Headquarters, Army Ground Forces. All this was needed to overcome the bureaucratic advantages General Arnold and the Air Corps had, given the popular perception that strategic bombing was the essence of future war.
(One can now read Richard Overy's book - The Bombing War: Europe 1930-1945 for an appraisal of the actual results. The reader can get the flavor of Overy's conclusions in this comment. "Unlike the British, the Americans held on to the fig leaf that there was a military logic to their bombing beyond killing Germans and destroying their cities." )
Army Air Force officers persisted in claiming that 'light aircraft flown by ground officers represented an inappropriate and wasteful use of scarce aerial resources." Worse, General Arnold considered the very existence of a ground force organic aviation as a threat to his ultimate goal of creating a separate Air Force. The ultimate key to success was that General Marshal was in favor of the air observation program. He could have 'killed' the program at any stage rather than encouraging it. General Marshal's approval was important in setting limits on what obstacles the Air Corps officers could create. Still, at the War Department general staff level the struggle between Air Force and Ground Force officers continued throughout the war- resulting in a stalemate. One Air Force ploy was to create Air Force liaison squadrons that they would agree to 'attach' to ground armies, but keep in the Air Force. Dr. Raines continues: "The officers on the Air Staff were also profoundly wrong, because of six factors - mission, doctrine, training, organization, culture, and timing." He describes all these. But 'timing' requires special note here. "Victory for the Air Staff position in 1942 would have meant no light aircraft for the ground forces in Tunisia, and Sicily, at Salerno, along the Winter Line in Italy, at Anzio, during the drive north from Rome, in Normandy and southern France, during the pursuit across France and the opening battles along the German frontier, or on New Guinea, Bougainville, and Saipan." In winning this fight, Dr. Raines, gives great credit to General Lesley McNair and his staff. They well understood the critical importance in warfare of time. "The concept of bureaucratic politics can explain how the Air Staff and the Army Ground Forces staff interacted, but it does not explain why." The author writes that the Air officers were thinking of the weapon, while the Ground officers were thinking of the weapons system. And this was a result of their experiences over the previous years.
Dr. Raines concludes with his discussion of subsequent events into the 1960's and his assessment of the importance of the World War II artillery aerial observation success on these developments.


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