US Army Air Services Aircraft Designations 1920-24

US Army Air Services Aircraft Designations 1920-24

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

US Army Air Services Aircraft Designations 1920-24

The short-lived 1920-24 USAAS aircraft designation system used one or two letter type designations, originally matched to a Type Number. The system was replaced in 1924 by the more familiar system that was used by the USAAS, USAAC, USAAF and USAF.

Bombers used a different scheme. In September 1919 three bomber types were created - Type XI for Day Bombardment (DB), Type XII for (NBS) and Type XIII for Night Bombardment - Long Distances (NBL).

In 1923 the DB type became the Light Bombardment (LB). Heavy Bombardment (HB) followed in 1926, but went out of use in the follwoing year. 1926 also saw the adoption of a unified designation system for bombers, beginning with the Huff-Daland (Keystone) XB-1.

Type I - PW

Engineering Division PW-1
Loening PW-2
Orenco PW-3
Gallaudet PW-4
Fokker PW-5
Fokker PW-6
Fokker PW-7
Curtiss PW-8 (developed into P-1 Hawk)
Boeing PW-9

Type II - PN

Type III - PA

Type IV - PG

Aeromarine PG-1

Type V - TP

Engineering Division TP-1
Berliner-Joyce TP-2 (P-16)

Type VI - GA

GA-1 Ground attack triplane built by Boeing
GA-2 Ground attack triplane built by Boeing

Type VII - IL

Orenco IL-1

Type VIII - NO

Douglas XNO-1
Douglas XNO-2

Type IX - AO

Fokker AO-1 (C.IV)

Type X - CO

Engineering Division CO-1
Engineering Division CO-2
Engineering Division CO-3
Fokker CO-4 (C.IV)
Engineering Division CO-5
Engineering Division CO-6
Boeing XCO-7
Atlantic XCO-8 (DH.4M-2)

Type XI - DB

Gallaudet DB-1

Type XII - NBS

Curtiss-Martin NBS-1
Elias XNBS-3
Curtiss NBS-4


Engineering Division NBL-1 'Barling Bomber'
Martin NBL-2

Type XIV - TA

Elias TA-1
Huff-Daland TA-2
Dayton-Wright TA-3
Engineering Division TA-4
Dayton-Wright TA-5
Huff-Daland TA-6

Type XV - TW

Engineering Division TW-1
Cox-Klemin TW-2
Dayton-Wright TW-3
Fokker TW-4
Huff-Daland TW-5


Keystone./ Huff-Daland LB-1
Atlantic XLB-2
Huff-Dalland LB-3
Martin LB-4
Keystone./ Huff-Daland LB-5
Keystone LB-6
Keystone LB-7
Keystone LB-8
Keystone LB-9
Keystone LB-10
Keystone LB-11
Keystone XLB-12
Keystone LB-13
Keystone LB-14


Dayton-Wright PS-1

R - Racing

Verville R-1
Thomas Morse R-2 (MB-6)
Verville-Sperry R-3
Loening R-4
Thomas-Morse R-5
Curtiss R-6
Engineerign Division R-7
Curtiss R-8

US Army Air Services Aircraft Designations 1920-24 - History

In Memory of:
SPC Joel L. Meints (1990)
CW2 Kevin L. Jenkins (1995)

Dedicated to the soldiers and families
of the United States Army's Aviation Branch
who have paid the ultimate price for freedom
and liberties enjoyed today by all Americans.

The following pages will list only those individuals who have lost their lives
while operating or performing duties as crewmembers aboard Army Aviation aircraft and their passengers.

Please post a message in the forum or the contact page for any corrections/additions to this site.
Updates to this site are ongoing as research is completed.

Development & Research by:

Kevin M. Allen
Crew Chief
UH-1H #69-16704 "Griffin 704"
1986-91 Hood AAF TX
More Info.

This website is not a product of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, or any other government agency.

US Army Air Services Aircraft Designations 1920-24 - History


(May 15, 1918 -- August 31, 1927)

As written and edited by Edward A. Keogh -- 1927

PILOT EARL OVINGTON receiving the first pouch of air mail letters ever flown in the US, September 23, 1911 from a Post Office official.

In the year 1911 demonstrations of airplane mail service were made in India, England and the United States. The first air mail service in the United States, however, was conducted at the aviation meeting at Nassau Boulevard, Long Island, N. Y., during the week of September 23 to 30, 1911. Earle L. Ovington, with his "Queen" monoplane, was duly appointed an air mail carrier and covered a set route between the temporary post office established at the flying field and the post office at Mineola, N. Y., dropping the pouches at the latter point for the postmaster to pick up. This service, performed without expense to the Department, was flown at regular intervals during the period, a total of 32,415 post cards, 3,993 letters and 1,062 circulars being carried. It was quite satisfactory on the whole, and very promising.

A few other similar experiments were made during the remainder of the year 1911, and the Post Office Department recognizing the possibility of developing the airplane into a practicable means of aerial transportation, made recommendation to Congress early in 1912 for an appropriation of $50,000 with which to start an experimental service, but Congress refused to grant the appropriation. Notwithstanding, the keen interest of the Post Office Department in aerial transportation was kept up and during the fiscal year 1912 a total of 31 orders, covering 16 different states, were issued permitting mail to be carried on short exhibition and experimental flights between certain points. Such service was merely temporary, of course, but performed in each instance by a sworn carrier, and without expense to the Department. These experimental flights were continued, however, request being made on Congress for an air mail appropriation from year to year.

During the fiscal year 1916 funds were made available for the payment of aeroplane service, out of the appropriation for Steamboat or other Power Boat Service, and in that year advertisements were issued inviting bids for service on one route in Massachusetts and on several in Alaska. No bids were received under the advertisements, due to the fact that possible bidders were unable to obtain suitably constructed planes for the proposed service. Nevertheless, negotiations with airplane manufacturers and other interested aviation activities were pushed forward, looking to the earliest possible establishment of a carefully conducted experimental air mail service.

The development of the airplane in the World War, and the important part it was then playing as a fighting factor in that great struggle, also served to further strengthen the belief of postal officials that it certainly could be developed into a means of fast commercial and mail transportation as well. A final step looking toward this end was taken when Congress appropriated $100,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1918, to be used in the establishment of an experimental air mail route.

INAUGURAL OF AIR MAIL SERVICE, MAY 15, 1918, WASHINGTON, D.C. Left to right: Major Reuben Fleet (in charge of Army pilots), Sergeant Waters and George Boyle, pilot on first flight out of Washington, D.C.

Careful preliminary study and consideration had been given this new undertaking and on May 15, 1918, the first air mail route in the United States was established between New York, N. Y., and Washington, D. C., with a stop at Philadelphia, Pa., for the exchange of mails or plane. The distance of the route was approximately 218 miles and the frequency of service was one round trip daily, except Sunday. This service was inaugurated with the cooperation of the War Department, which furnished the planes and pilots and conducted the flying and maintenance operations, the Post Office Department handling the mail and matters relating thereto.

The cooperation of the War Department, which was of great value, was maintained until August 12, 1918, when the Post Office Department took over the entire operation of the route, furnishing its own equipment and personnel.

AIR MAIL SERVICE INAUGURAL CEREMONY, MAY 15, 1918. Left to right: Otto Praeger, Second Assistant Postmaster General, Merrit O. Chance, Postmaster, Washington, D.C., Albert S. Burleson, Postmast General, President Woodrow Wilson.

Flights on regular schedule, in all kinds of weather, presented new and unsolved problems, but gradually difficulties were overcome and a very reliable percentage of performance was attained over the route. In fact, the operation of this experimental route was so successful that the Department immediately began to lay plans for the extension of the service, and with a view toward the possible establishment of a transcontinental route from New York City to San Francisco.

The first leg of this important route was established on July 1 of the same year.

These two latter routes were utilized to advance delivery of mail in connection with train service, and this was accomplished in the following manner. Chicago and Cleveland gateway mail was dispatched by plane from New York to Cleveland, where it was placed on trains that left New York the evening before, thus saving about 16 hours in time to the Middle West and 24 hours to the coast.

Eastbound flights over this route advanced delivery of gateway mail from Cleveland to New York in the same manner. On the Cleveland-Chicago route mail from the east was taken from the train at Cleveland in the morning and flown to Chicago in time for the last city delivery, saving approximately 16 hours in time. On the eastbound trips mail was flown from Chicago to overtake the mail train at Cleveland, which reached New York at 9:40 the following morning, thereby effecting a saving in time of approximately 16 hours in the delivery of mail to New York City and the New England States.

On the three routes in operation during the fiscal year 1919, there were in the air daily eight planes, flying an aggregate of 1,906 miles each day. The record of performance during this fiscal year was 96.54 per cent, and this record was made with more than 30 per cent of the trips flown in rain, fog, mist or other conditions of poor visibility.

On May 15, 1920, the third leg of the transcontinental route, Chicago, Ill., to Omaha, Nebr., via Iowa City, Iowa, was established, performing service similar to that performed on the routes between New York and Chicago. On August 16, 1920, a route was established between Chicago and St. Louis, and on December 1 of the same year a route was also established between Chicago and Minneapolis. Both of these latter routes expedited mail between the points named, and were feeder lines to mail trains and the transcontinental route at Chicago.

The last leg of the transcontinental route, Omaha, Nebr., to San Francisco, Calif., via North Platte, Nebr., Cheyenne, Rawlins and Rock Springs, Wyo., Salt Lake City Utah, and Elko and Reno, Nevada, was inaugurated on September 8, 1920. The initial westbound trip was made at the rate of 80 miles per hour and was flown without a forced landing, either for weather or mechanical trouble. The plane carried 16,000 letters, which arrived in San Francisco 22 hours ahead of the best possible time by train, had the train made all its connections.

Due to the necessity of economizing on expenditures, and the fact that Congress had not specifically authorized the same, the New York-Washington route was discontinued on May 31, 1921, and the Minneapolis-Chicago and the Chicago-St. Louis routes on June 30, 1921. Operation was then confined to the service between New York and San Francisco, for which appropriation was specifically made.

In order to further demonstrate the possibilities of the airplane as a factor in the transportation of the mail, arrangements were made for a through flight from San Francisco to New York, and on February 22, 1921, an air mail plane left San Francisco at 4:30 a.m., landing at New York (Hazelhurst Field, L. I., N. Y.) at 4:50 p.m. on February 23. The total elapsed time for the trip, including all stops, was 33 hours and 21 minutes. The actual flying time was 25 hours and 16 minutes, and the average speed was 104 miles per hour over the entire distance of 2629 miles.

This flight was made possible by flying at night between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Chicago, Ill., a class of service the need of which was seen by the Department. While the present relay service had been brought up to a high degree of perfection, yet it was apparent to the Department that if the route could be operated from New York to San Francisco on a through schedule, flying both night and day, a wonderful stride in the development of air mail transportation would be accomplished.

With the development of night service in mind, the Department on August 20, 1920, issued orders for the installation of radio stations at each field, where this service could not be provided by Navy Department stations. By November 1, ten of these stations were in operation, including three belonging to the Navy Department which were to be used in connection with the operation of the air mail service, and later on stations were established at all the remaining fields except Rawlins, Wyo., making a total of 17.

From this time on all plane movements were made on information as to weather conditions obtained by radio. In addition to service messages, it was used by other departments in lieu of telegraph when air mail traffic permitted, and was also of great service in transmitting weather forecasts and stock market reports for the Department of Agriculture. In addition to the installation of radio stations, all the fields were being developed for night flying, and plans studied for the establishment of beacon lights between fields for the guidance of pilots.

STANDARD MAIL PLANE, CURTISS JN4H, NEW YORK TO CHICAGO, 1918. Operator U.S. government mail load, 180 pounds span, 31 feet, 4 inches, length, 26 feet, 7 inches height, 10 feet, 10 inches speed, 94 m.p.h. approximate range, 280 miles engine, Hispano-Suiza, 8 cylinder, 170 h.p.

When the service was inaugurated in 1918, Curtiss JN4H planes with Hispano-Suiza motors were used. Soon after the Post Office Department took over the details of operation in August of that year, a number of Standard Aircraft Company mail planes were purchased. These were also equipped with Hispano-Suiza motors, and carried 200 pounds of mail. Rebuilt DeHaviland planes with Liberty motors were largely used as the various legs of the transcontinental route were extended.

However at one time or another, planes of the following types were used somewhat extensively: Curtiss JN_4_H, with Wright engine, 150 h.p. Standard JR-1B, with Wright engine, 150 h.p. Curtiss R-4-L, with Liberty-12 engine, 400 h.p. Curtiss HA, with Liberty-12 engine Twin D.H. with two Liberty-6 (Hall Scott) engines, 400 h.p. Martin mail planes, with two Liberty-12 engines, 800 h.p. Junker (JL-6) with B.M.W. engine, 200 h.p., and L.W.F. (type V) with Isotta Fraschini 250 h.p. engines.

In the fiscal year 1921, the Post Office Department paid manufacturers $476,109 for new planes and for remodeling of planes received from the Army. This practice was discontinued beginning with July 1, 1921, however, when the air mail service adopted the DeHaviland plane with Liberty-12 engine as standard equipment, disposing of all other types. A number of factors contributed to this end. Large stocks of Liberty motors were available and could be had by transfer from the War Department.

BOEING C-7000 SEAPLANE, SEATTLE TO VICTORIA, B.C., 1919. Operator, Hubbard Air Transport mail load, 150 pounds span, 31 feet length, 27 feet height, 12 feet, 7 inches speed, 73 m.p.h. approximate range, 150 miles engine, Hall-Scott, 4 cylinder, 100 h.p.

With improvements made on the Liberty motor, such as heavy stub-tooth gears, drilled pistons and improved oil pump, it could be considered as reliable and dependable as any motor of that time. If not more so. A number of DeHaviland planes were also obtained from the War and Navy Departments, and when remodeled and rebuilt into mail planes, they were speedy, reliable, long lived and capable of carrying a mail load of 500 pounds. Experience had also proven they were a comparatively safe plane to operate. The Air Mail Repair Depot was located at Chicago, and was used for repairing, remodeling and rebuilding of planes, overhauling of motors, etc.

DeHAVILLAND DH-4, NEW YORK TO SAN FRANCISCO, 1921. Operator, U.S. government mail load, 500 pounds span, 42 feet, 3 inches length, 29 feet, 7 inches height, 10 feet, 9 inches speed, 115 m.p.h. approximate range, 350 miles engine, Liberty, 12 cylinder 400 h.p.

It might be stated here that when the service first began to use Liberty motors it was not an uncommon occurrence to have delayed and uncompleted trips due to trouble. However, by developing and perfecting rigid inspection, servicing and overhaul methods, actual forced landings on account of motor trouble became a rare occurrence. Due to this same system of inspection, forced landings on account of the failure of the plane or plane parts became almost unheard of.

Expansion [ edit | edit source ]

The Air Corps began a rapid expansion in the spring of 1939 at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide an adequate air force for defense of the Western Hemisphere. An initial "25-group program", developed in April 1939, called for 50,000 men. When war broke out in September 1939 the Air Corps still had only 800 first-line combat aircraft and 76 bases, including 21 major installations and depots. ⎭] American fighters were inferior to the British Spitfire and Hurricane, and German Messerschmitt Bf 110 and 109. An American observer wrote in late 1940 after visiting Britain that the "best American fighter planes already delivered to the British are used by them either as advanced trainers --or for fighting equally obsolete Italian planes in the Middle East. That is all they are good for". He reported that—according to RAF crews he interviewed—by spring 1941 a fighter engaging Germans would need to reach 400 mph in speed, fight at 30,000–35,000 feet, be simple to take off, provide armor for the pilot, and carry 12 machine guns or six cannon, all attributes lacking in American aircraft. ⎮]

Following the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a supplemental appropriation of nearly a billion dollars, a production program of 50,000 aircraft a year, and a military air force of 50,000 aircraft (of which 36,500 would be Army). ⎯] [n 11] Accelerated programs followed in the Air Corps that repeatedly revised expansion goals, resulting in plans for 84 combat groups, 7,799 combat aircraft, and the annual addition to the force of 30,000 new pilots and 100,000 technical personnel. ⎰] The accelerated expansion programs resulted in a force of 156 airfields and 152,125 personnel at the time of the creation of the Army Air Forces. ⎱]

In its expansion during World War II, the AAF became the world's most powerful air force. From the Air Corps of 1939, with 20,000 men and 2,400 planes, to the nearly autonomous AAF of 1944, with almost 2.4 million personnel and 80,000 aircraft, was a remarkable expansion. Robert A. Lovett, the Assistant Secretary of War for Air, together with Arnold, presided over an increase greater than for either the ground Army or the Navy, while at the same time dispatching combat air forces to the battlefronts.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union, occurring only two days after the creation of the Army Air Forces, caused an immediate reassessment of U.S. defense strategy and policy. The need for an offensive strategy to defeat the Axis Powers required further enlargement and modernization of all the military services, including the new AAF. In addition, the invasion produced a new Lend lease partner in Russia, creating even greater demands on an already struggling American aircraft production. ⎳]

An offensive strategy required several types of urgent and sustained effort. In addition to the development and manufacture of aircraft in massive numbers, the Army Air Forces had to establish a global logistics network to supply, maintain, and repair the huge force recruit and train personnel and sustain the health, welfare, and morale of its troops. The process was driven by the pace of aircraft production, not the training program, ⎴] and was ably aided by the direction of Assistant War Department Secretary Robert A. Lovett, for all practical purposes, "Secretary of the Air Corps". ⎵] [n 12]

A lawyer and a banker, Lovett had prior experience with the aviation industry that translated into realistic production goals and harmony in integrating the plans of the AAF with those of the Army as a whole. ⎶] Lovett initially believed that President Roosevelt's demand following the attack on Pearl Harbor for 60,000 airplanes in 1942 and 125,000 in 1943 was grossly ambitious. However, working closely with General Arnold and engaging the capacity of the American automotive industry brought about an effort that produced almost 100,000 aircraft in 1944. ⎷] [n 13] The AAF reached its wartime inventory peak of nearly 80,000 aircraft in July 1944, 41% of them first line combat aircraft, before trimming back to 73,000 at the end of the year following a large reduction in the number of trainers needed. ⎸] [n 14]

The logistical demands of this armada were met by the creation of the Air Service Command on 17 October 1941 to provide service units and maintain 250 depots in the United States the elevation of the Materiel Division to full command status on 9 March 1942 to develop and procure aircraft, equipment, and parts and the merger of these commands into the Air Technical Service Command on 31 August 1944. ⎹] In addition to carrying personnel and cargo, the Air Transport Command made deliveries of almost 270,000 aircraft worldwide while losing only 1,013 in the process. ⎺] The operation of the stateside depots was done largely by more than 300,000 civilian maintenance employees, many of them women, freeing a like number of Air Forces mechanics for overseas duty. ⎻] In all facets of the service, more than 420,000 civilian personnel were employed by the AAF. ⎼]

Growth, aircraft [ edit | edit source ]

USAAF aircraft types by year ⎸]
Type of aircraft 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 31 August 1945 Date of maximum size
Grand total 12,297 33,304 64,232 72,726 63,715 July 1944 (79,908)
Combat aircraft 4,477 11,607 27,448 41,961 41,163 May 1945 (43,248)
Very heavy bombers - 3 91 977 2,865 August 1945 (2,865)
Heavy bombers 288 2,076 8,027 12,813 11,065 April 1945 (12,919)
Medium bombers 745 2,556 4,370 6,189 5,384 October 1944 (6,262)
Light bombers 799 1,201 2,371 2,980 3,079 September 1944 (3,338)
Fighters 2,170 5,303 11,875 17,198 16,799 May 1945 (17,725)
Reconnaissance 475 468 714 1,804 1,971 May 1945 (2,009)
Support aircraft 7,820 21,697 36,784 30,765 22,552 July 1944 (41,667)
Transports 254 1,857 6,466 10,456 9,561 December 1944 (10,456)
Trainers 7,340 17,044 26,051 17,060 9,558 May 1944 (27,923)
Communications [n 15] 226 2,796 4,267 3,249 3,433 December 1943 (4,267)

Growth, military personnel [ edit | edit source ]

The huge increases in aircraft inventory resulted in a similar increase in personnel, expanding sixteen-fold in less than three years following its formation, and changed the personnel policies under which the Air Service and Air Corps had operated since the National Defense Act of 1920. No longer could pilots represent 90% of commissioned officers. The need for large numbers of specialists in administration and technical services resulted in the establishment of an Officer Candidate School in Miami Beach, Florida, and the direct commissioning of thousands of professionals. ⎽] Even so, 193,000 new pilots entered the AAF during World War II, while 124,000 other candidates failed at some point during training or were killed in accidents. ⎾]

The requirements for new pilots resulted in a massive expansion of the Aviation Cadet program, which had so many volunteers that the AAF created a reserve pool that held qualified pilot candidates until they could be called to active duty, rather than losing them in the draft. By 1944, this pool became surplus, and 24,000 were sent to the Army Ground Forces for retraining as infantry, and 6,000 to the Army Service Forces. ⎿] Pilot standards were changed to reduce the minimum age from 20 to 18, and eliminated the educational requirement of at least two years of college. Two fighter pilot beneficiaries of this change went on to become brigadier generals in the United States Air Force, James Robinson Risner and Charles E. Yeager. ⏀]

1943 portrait of WAC air controller

Air crew needs resulted in the successful training of 43,000 bombardiers, 49,000 navigators, and 309,000 flexible gunners, many of whom also specialized in other aspects of air crew duties. [n 16] 7,800 men qualified as B-29 flight engineers and 1,000 more as radar operators in night fighters, all of whom received commissions. Almost 1.4 million men received technical training as aircraft mechanics, electronics specialists, and other technicians. Non-aircraft related support services were provided by airmen trained by the Army Service Forces, but the AAF increasingly exerted influence on the curricula of these courses in anticipation of future independence. ⏁] ⏂]

African-Americans comprised approximately six per cent of this force (145,242 personnel in June 1944). ⏃] In 1940, pressured by Eleanor Roosevelt and some Northern members of Congress, General Arnold agreed to accept blacks for pilot training, albeit on a segregated basis. A flight training center was set up at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Despite the handicap—caused by the segregation policy—of not having an experienced training cadre as with other AAF units, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves in combat with the 332nd Fighter Group. The Tuskegee training program produced 673 black fighter pilots, 253 B-26 Marauder pilots, and 132 navigators. ⏄] The vast majority of African-American airmen, however, did not fare as well. Mainly draftees, most did not fly or maintain aircraft. Their largely menial duties, indifferent or hostile leadership, and poor morale led to serious dissatisfaction and several violent incidents. ⏅]

Women served more successfully as part of the war-time Army Air Forces. The AAF was willing to experiment with its allotment from the unpopular Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) and became an early and determined supporter of full military status for women in the Army (Women's Army Corps or WACs). WACs serving the in the AAF became such an accepted and valuable part of the service they earned the distinction of being commonly (but unofficially) known as "Air WACs." ⏆] Nearly 40,000 women served in the WAACs and WACs as AAF personnel, ⏇] [n 17] more than 1,000 as Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), and 6,500 as nurses in the Army Air Forces, including 500 flight nurses. ⏈] 7,601 "Air WACs" served overseas in April 1945, and women performed in more than 200 job categories. ⏉]

The Air Corps Act of July 1926 increased the number of general officers authorized in the Army's air arm from two to four. The activation of GHQAF in March 1935 doubled that number and pre-war expansion of the Air Corps in October 1940 saw fifteen new general officer billets authorized. ⏊] [n 18] By the end of World War II, 320 generals were authorized the wartime AAF. ⏋]

USAAC-USAAF Military Personnel Strength, 1939–1945 ⏌]

Date Total USAAF Tot Officers Tot Enlisted # overseas Officers o/s Enlisted o/s
31 July 1939 24,724 2,636 22,088 3,991 272 3,719
31 December 1939 43,118 3,006 40,112 7,007 351 6,656
31 December 1940 101,227 6,437 94,790 16,070 612 15,458
31 December 1941 354,161 24,521 329,640 25,884 2,479 23,405
31 December 1942 1,597,049 127,267 1,469,782 242,021 26,792 215,229
31 December 1943 2,373,882 274,347 2,099,535 735,666 81,072 654,594
31 March 1944 (Peak size) 2,411,294 306,889 2,104,405 906,335 104,864 801,471
31 December 1944 2,359,456 375,973 1,983,483 1,164,136 153,545 1,010,591
30 April 1945 (Peak overseas) 2,329,534 388,278 1,941,256 1,224,006 163,886 1,060,120
31 August 1945 2,253,182 368,344 1,884,838 999,609 122,833 876,776
1939–1940 totals were U.S. Army Air Corps

Growth, installations [ edit | edit source ]

The Air Corps operated 156 airfields at the beginning of 1941. An airbase expansion program had been underway since 1939, attempting to keep pace with the increase in personnel, units, and aircraft, using existing municipal and private facilities where possible. However the outbreak of war and the resulting accelerated expansion necessitated a wide variety of facilities for both operations and training within the Continental United States.

In addition to the construction of new permanent bases and the building of numerous bombing and gunnery ranges, the AAF utilized civilian pilot schools, training courses conducted at college and factory sites, and officer training detachments at colleges. In early 1942, in a controversial move, the AAF Technical Training Command began leasing resort hotels and apartment buildings for large-scale training sites (accommodation for 90,000 existed in Miami Beach, Florida, alone). ⏍] The leases were negotiated for the AAF by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, often to the economic detriment of hotel owners in rental rates, wear and tear clauses, and short-notice to terminate leases. ⏎]

In December 1943, the AAF reached a war-time peak of 783 airfields in the Continental United States. ⏏] At the end of the war, the AAF was using almost 20 million acres of land, an area as large as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined. ⏐]

Installations [ edit | edit source ]

CONUS Installations ⏑]
Type of facility 7 December 1941 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 VE Day VJ Day
Total all installations 181 197 1,270 1,419 1,506 1,473 1,377
Main bases 114 151 345 345 377 356 344
Satellite bases - - 71 116 37 56 57
Auxiliary fields - - 198 322 309 291 269
Total CONUS airfields 114 151 614 783 723 703 670
Bombing & gunnery ranges - - unk - 480 473 433
Hospitals & other owned facilities 67 46 29 32 44 30 30
Contract pilot schools unk unk 69 66 14 14 6
Rented office space - - unk unk 79 109 103
Leased hotels & apartment bldgs - - 464 216 75 75 75
Civilian & factory tech schools - - 66 47 21 17 16
College training detachments - - 16 234 2 1 1
Specialized storage depots - - 12 41 68 51 43
Overseas airfields ⏒]
Location 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 VE Day VJ Day
US possessions 19 60 70 89 130 128
North America 7 74 83 67 66 62
Atlantic islands 5 27 - 20 21 21
South America - 27 28 22 32 32
Africa - 73 94 45 31 21
Europe - 33 119 302 392 196
Australia - 20 35 10 7 3
Pacific islands - 21 65 100 57 56
Asia - 23 65 96 175 115
Total overseas 31 358 559 751 911 634

Why America’s first bomber was called ‘the flaming coffin’

Fabric of DH-4M peeled away from gunner’s seat to show new steel tube fuselage. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

Budget day is right around the corner, which means members of Congress and the media will get to shake their heads disapprovingly at the Pentagon’s request for oodles of money for problem-ridden aircraft such as the F-35 Lightning II, which the last acting secretary of defense called a ‘piece of [expletive deleted]’ and the KC-46, an aerial refueling tanker which is already years behind schedule and has a leaky toilet, among other problems.

But these vehicles are far from the first screwy aircraft that Uncle Sam’s shelled out for. In fact, the first American-built bomber in history was such a hot mess that it earned the nickname “The Flaming Coffin.”

What was this notorious aircraft? The De Havilland DH-4 biplane, also called the “Liberty Plane.” Based on a combat-tested British design, the DH-4 was the only American-built aircraft to see combat during World War I, and it was the aircraft that turned the U.S. Army Air Service from a haphazard gaggle to a robust program which produced battlefield results, according to a recent press release from the Kentucky National Guard.

De Havilland DH-4 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But its beginnings were far less grand. The DH-4’s pressurized gas tank had a tendency to explode, and a rubber fuel line connected to the engine had a habit of causing fires, according to an Air Force profile of the aircraft. For context, the biplane was made out of a spruce wood frame covered with fabric, so fires aboard the aircraft were disastrous. The gas tank was also located right between the pilot and the backseat observer, which made mid-flight communication between the two nearly impossible. The gas tank could crush the pilot in an accident and, worst of all, it presented a juicy target for enemy gunners.

Despite the danger, the nickname “Flaming Coffin” might not have been deserved: only eight of the 33 DH-4s lost in combat by the U.S. burned as they fell, according to the Air Force. The Army put the Liberty to good use, deploying it for daytime bombing, observation and artillery spotting missions. The DH-4 also earned its stripes as a fighter when Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot and Gunnery Sgt. Robert Robinson went head-to-head with 12 German fighters while flying the DH-4 during a bombing raid over Belgium on Oct. 8, 1918. The two men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroics.

2nd Lt Bleckley in the observer’s seat of his DH-4. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

The Liberty’s most notable mission was in October 1918, when Army 1st Lt. Harold Goettler and 2nd Lt. Erwin Bleckley of the 50th Aero Squadron were shot down trying to resupply some 500 soldiers of the famed “Lost Battalion,” which was cut off and surrounded by German forces in the Argonne forest. Both men were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts.

The quantity and quality of the planes improved as the war went on, so that they became the basis of the Army Air Service’s fleet of combat-ready aircraft, according to the National Park Service. The two-seater aircraft could fly up to 128 miles per hour, had a range of 400 miles, sported two .30 machine guns in the nose and the rear, and could carry 322 pounds of bombs. But here’s a story about questionable use of military assets: by the end of the war, there were 1,213 Liberty planes in France, but there were so many improved DH-4Bs being produced in the U.S. and shipping costs were so high that it did not make sense to ship the older aircraft back across the Atlantic. Instead, they burned it all in what became known as the “Billion Dollar Bonfire.”

The 1000th DH-4 built at the Dayton-Wright Company plant. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

The defense budget shrank dramatically after the end of the war, so the Army continued to use the DH-4 in peacetime roles as a transport, air ambulance, photographic plane, trainer, target tug, forest fire patroller, and even as an air racer, according to the Air Force. The U.S. Post Office also operated the DH-4 as a mail carrier. In the 1920s, the Liberty was used to test new airplane technology such as turbo superchargers, propellers, landing lights, engines, radiators and weapons.

The DH-4 helped fight bandits on the border with Mexico in 1919 flew from New York to Nome, Alaska in 1920 was flown by the legendary Jimmy Doolittle (commander of the famous Doolittle Raid) in a record-breaking cross-country trip from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California in 1922 and executed the first successful air-to-air refueling in 1923. By the time the DH-4 was retired in 1932, the humble little plane had been developed into over 60 variants, according to the Air Force.

If the “Flaming Coffin” can make good, maybe there’s hope for the F-35 and KC-46 after all.


G9 integrates and delivers Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and services enabling readiness and resilience for a globally-responsive Army.

Morale, welfare, and recreation programs did not exist from the founding of the Army in 1775 until the start of the twentieth century. During that 125 year plus time span there were unofficial and informal forms of troop support such as the tradesmen who provided meals, clothing, laundering, and the trading posts which provided goods for purchasing. There was some limited Congressional oversight established in 1876 over “Post Traders.” The establishment of the Army “PX” or Post Exchange, by Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) followed in 1895, with oversight performed by the garrison commander’s office and all profits were used to support recreational activities for the troops.

The twentieth century saw many advances in the development of MWR programs. In 1903, Congress authorized the Army to build, operate, and maintain PXs, libraries, schools, recreation centers, and gyms for the troops. The Army Morale Division was established in 1918, the Army Motion Picture Service in 1920 and the Library Service in 1923. The establishment of these organizations led to the creation in 1941 of “Special Services.”

Special Services, with its own director, was the new name for the Army Morale Division. By 1943, Special Services encompassed all of Army Recreation Services, the Army Exchange (the precursor to the Army and Air Force Exchange [AAFES]), and the Army Soldier Show. By the end of World War II, Special Services had established the first Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) in Bavaria (FMWRC currently manages five AFRCs around the world) and, by 1950, an HQDA reorganization placed Special Services under the Army Adjutant General’s Office.

While the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services for the troops were constant and continually reviewed, services for their Families were much slower in development. Army Community Services was not created until 1965. In 1968 a Youth Activities Program was established and, in 1971, an Outdoor Recreation Program was begun. Schools were generally available, as was garrison housing, but throughout this time the mentality of “if the Army had wanted you to have a Family, it would have issued you one” still held. This thinking began to change with the establishment in 1981 of the first Family Advocacy Program, which was followed by the first Army Family Symposium in 1981.

The publication in 1983 of Army Chief of Staff General John A. Wickham Jr’s White Paper, The Army Family began to change how the Army provided for Soldiers and their families. The Army Family recognized the integral support role of Soldiers’ families. General Wickham’s initiative marked the first systematic effort to design programs and policies comprehensive enough to address Army family concerns as a whole. One year later, in 1984, The Year of the Army Family highlighted the importance of Army families to overall Army success. The concept of identifying issues for Army resolution through worldwide representation of Army family members morphed into the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP). AFAP became the vehicle through which policy became a tangible program for Soldiers and their families to take an active role in improving their lives.

The creation of the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center (CFSC) on 23 November 1984, under General Order Number 40, as a Field Operating Agency was also a direct result of General Wickham’s White Paper. The establishment of the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) under CFSC caused the Army to shift the focus of its MWR programs from a primarily Soldier orientation to one which now included their families, shifting how MWR operates on the garrisons and what services it provides. CFSC helped not only Soldiers with families, but single Soldiers too, through a network of MWR support programs, including child care, youth programs, schools, libraries, sports and athletics, financial counseling, spouse employment programs, in-theater support to deployed Soldiers, Family Readiness Groups, lodging, and fitness centers. MWR also manages its business operations based on “best business” principles to provide new MWR services and expand current ones through cost-effective savings.

In 1993, oversight of CSFC changed from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER), to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management (ACSIM). CSFC itself changed from a Field Operating Agency to a Direct Reporting Unit on 24 October 2006 when Installation Management Command (IMCOM) was activated and the Installation Management Agency (IMA) was deactivated. With the activation of IMCOM, CFSC became the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command (FMWRC) on 24 October 2006.

On 3 June 2011, the Family and MWR Command was deactivated in a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services became the G9 within the Installation Management Command.

Through all of the name changes, the mission of MWR has remained constant. Army MWR exists because the U.S. Army states it “…is committed to the well-being of the community of people who serve and stand ready to defend the nation, to enhance the lives of Soldiers, their families, civilian employees, and military retirees.” The mission is to serve the needs, interests and responsibilities of each individual in the Army community for as long as they are associated with the Army, no matter where they are.

Family and MWR, seeks to bridge the gap between the garrison and the local community, and contribute to the Army’s strength and readiness by offering services that reduce stress, build skills and self confidence for Soldiers and their families.

History of Aviation - First Flights

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright capped four years of research and design efforts with a 120-foot, 12-second flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina - the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine. Prior to that, people had flown only in balloons and gliders. The first person to fly as a passenger was Leon Delagrange, who rode with French pilot Henri Farman from a meadow outside of Paris in 1908. Charles Furnas became the first American airplane passenger when he flew with Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk later that year.

First Flights

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright capped four years of research and design efforts with a 120-foot, 12-second flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina - the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine. Prior to that, people had flown only in balloons and gliders.

The first person to fly as a passenger was Leon Delagrange, who rode with French pilot Henri Farman from a meadow outside of Paris in 1908. Charles Furnas became the first American airplane passenger when he flew with Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk later that year.

The first scheduled air service began in Florida on January 1, 1914. Glenn Curtiss had designed a plane that could take off and land on water and thus could be built larger than any plane to date, because it did not need the heavy undercarriage required for landing on hard ground. Thomas Benoist, an auto parts maker, decided to build such a flying boat, or seaplane, for a service across Tampa Bay called the St. Petersburg - Tampa Air Boat Line. His first passenger was ex-St. Petersburg Mayor A.C. Pheil, who made the 18-mile trip in 23 minutes, a considerable improvement over the two-hour trip by boat. The single-plane service accommodated one passenger at a time, and the company charged a one-way fare of $5. After operating two flights a day for four months, the company folded with the end of the winter tourist season.

World War I

These and other early flights were headline events, but commercial aviation was very slow to catch on with the general public, most of whom were afraid to ride in the new flying machines. Improvements in aircraft design also were slow. However, with the advent of World War I, the military value of aircraft was quickly recognized and production increased significantly to meet the soaring demand for planes from governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Most significant was the development of more powerful motors, enabling aircraft to reach speeds of up to 130 miles per hour, more than twice the speed of pre-war aircraft. Increased power also made larger aircraft possible.

At the same time, the war was bad for commercial aviation in several respects. It focused all design and production efforts on building military aircraft. In the public's mind, flying became associated with bombing runs, surveillance and aerial dogfights. In addition, there was such a large surplus of planes at the end of the war that the demand for new production was almost nonexistent for several years - and many aircraft builders went bankrupt. Some European countries, such as Great Britain and France, nurtured commercial aviation by starting air service over the English Channel. However, nothing similar occurred in the United States, where there were no such natural obstacles isolating major cities and where railroads could transport people almost as fast as an airplane, and in considerably more comfort. The salvation of the U.S. commercial aviation industry following World War I was a government program, but one that had nothing to do with the transportation of people.


By 1917, the U.S. government felt enough progress had been made in the development of planes to warrant something totally new - the transport of mail by air. That year, Congress appropriated $100,000 for an experimental airmail service to be conducted jointly by the Army and the Post Office between Washington and New York, with an intermediate stop in Philadelphia. The first flight left Belmont Park, Long Island for Philadelphia on May 14, 1918 and the next day continued on to Washington, where it was met by President Woodrow Wilson.

With a large number of war-surplus aircraft in hand, the Post Office set its sights on a far more ambitious goal - transcontinental air service. It opened the first segment, between Chicago and Cleveland, on May 15, 1919 and completed the air route on September 8, 1920, when the most difficult part of the route, the Rocky Mountains, was spanned. Airplanes still could not fly at night when the service first began, so the mail was handed off to trains at the end of each day. Nonetheless, by using airplanes the Post Office was able to shave 22 hours off coast-to-coast mail deliveries.


In 1921, the Army deployed rotating beacons in a line between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, a distance of about 80 miles. The beacons, visible to pilots at 10-second intervals, made it possible to fly the route at night.

The Post Office took over the operation of the guidance system the following year, and by the end of 1923, constructed similar beacons between Chicago and Cheyenne, Wyoming, a line later extended coast-to-coast at a cost of $550,000. Mail then could be delivered across the continent in as little as 29 hours eastbound and 34 hours westbound - prevailing winds from west to east accounted for the difference which was at least two days less than it took by train.

The Contract Air Mail Act of 1925

By the mid-1920s, the Post Office mail fleet was flying 2.5 million miles and delivering 14 million letters annually. However, the government had no intention of continuing airmail service on its own. Traditionally, the Post Office had used private companies for the transportation of mail. So, once the feasibility of airmail was firmly established and airline facilities were in place, the government moved to transfer airmail service to the private sector, by way of competitive bids. The legislative authority for the move was the Contract Air Mail Act of 1925, commonly referred to as the Kelly Act after its chief sponsor, Rep. Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania. This was the first major step toward the creation of a private U.S. airline industry. Winners of the initial five contracts were National Air Transport (owned by the Curtiss Aeroplane Co.), Varney Air Lines, Western Air Express, Colonial Air Transport and Robertson Aircraft Corporation. National and Varney would later become important parts of United Air Lines (originally a joint venture of the Boeing Airplane Company and Pratt & Whitney). Western would merge with Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), another Curtiss subsidiary, to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Robertson would become part of the Universal Aviation Corporation, which in turn would merge with Colonial, Southern Air Transport and others, to form American Airways, predecessor of American Airlines. Juan Trippe, one of the original partners in Colonial, later pioneered international air travel with Pan Am - a carrier he founded in 1927 to transport mail between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. Pitcairn Aviation, yet another Curtiss subsidiary that got its start transporting mail, would become Eastern Air Transport, predecessor of Eastern Air Lines.

The Morrow Board

The same year Congress passed the Contract Air Mail Act, President Calvin Coolidge appointed a board to recommend a national aviation policy (a much-sought-after goal of then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover). Dwight Morrow, a senior partner in J.P. Morgan's bank, and later the father-in-law of Charles Lindbergh, was named chairman. The board heard testimony from 99 people, and on November 30, 1925, submitted its report to President Coolidge. The report was wide-ranging, but its key recommendation was that the government should set standards for civil aviation and that the standards should be set outside of the military.

The Air Commerce Act of 1926

Congress adopted the recommendations of the Morrow Board almost to the letter in the Air Commerce Act of 1926. The legislation authorized the Secretary of Commerce to designate air routes, to develop air navigation systems, to license pilots and aircraft, and to investigate accidents. The act brought the government into commercial aviation as regulator of the private airlines spawned by the Kelly Act of the previous year.

Congress also adopted the board's recommendation for airmail contracting, by amending the Kelly Act to change the method of compensation for airmail services. Instead of paying carriers a percentage of the postage paid, the government would pay them according to the weight of the mail. This simplified payments, and proved highly advantageous to the carriers, which collected $48 million from the government for the carriage of mail between 1926 and 1931.

Ford's Tin Goose

Henry Ford, the automobile manufacturer, was also among the early successful bidders for airmail contracts, winning the right, in 1925, to carry mail from Chicago to Detroit and Cleveland aboard planes his company already was using to transport spare parts for his automobile assembly plants. More importantly, he jumped into aircraft manufacturing, and in 1927, produced the Ford Trimotor, commonly referred to as the Tin Goose. It was one of the first all-metal planes, made of a new material, duralumin, which was almost as light as aluminum but twice as strong. It also was the first plane designed primarily to carry passengers rather than mail. The Ford Trimotor had 12 passenger seats a cabin high enough for a passenger to walk down the aisle without stooping and room for a "stewardess," or flight attendant, the first of whom were nurses, hired by United in 1930 to serve meals and assist airsick passengers. The Tin Goose's three engines made it possible to fly higher and faster (up to 130 miles per hour), and its sturdy appearance, combined with the Ford name, had a reassuring effect on the public's perception of flying. However, it was another event, in 1927, that brought unprecedented public attention to aviation and helped secure the industry's future as a major mode of transportation.

Charles Lindbergh

At 7:52 a.m. on May 20, 1927, a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh set out on an historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris. It was the first trans-Atlantic non-stop flight in an airplane, and its effect on both Lindbergh and aviation was enormous. Lindbergh became an instant American hero. Aviation became a more established industry, attracting millions of private investment dollars almost overnight, as well as the support of millions of Americans.

The pilot who sparked all of this attention had dropped out of engineering school at the University of Wisconsin to learn how to fly. He became a barnstormer, doing aerial shows across the country, and eventually joined the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, to transport mail between St. Louis and Chicago.

In planning his trans-Atlantic voyage, Lindbergh daringly decided to fly by himself, without a navigator, so he could carry more fuel. His plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, was slightly less than 28 feet in length, with a wingspan of 46 feet. It carried 450 gallons of gasoline, which comprised half its takeoff weight. There was too little room in the cramped cockpit for navigating by the stars, so Lindbergh flew by dead reckoning. He divided maps from his local library into thirty-three 100-mile segments, noting the heading he would follow as he flew each segment. When he first sighted the coast of Ireland, he was almost exactly on the route he had plotted, and he landed several hours later, with 80 gallons of fuel to spare.

Lindbergh's greatest enemy on his journey was fatigue. The trip took an exhausting 33 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds, but he managed to keep awake by sticking his head out the window to inhale cold air, by holding his eyelids open, and by constantly reminding himself that if he fell asleep he would perish. In addition, he had a slight instability built into his airplane that helped keep him focused and awake.

Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Field, outside of Paris, at 10:24 p.m. Paris time on May 21. Word of his flight preceded him and a large crowd of Parisians rushed out to the airfield to see him and his little plane. There was no question about the magnitude of what he had accomplished. The Air Age had arrived.

The Watres Act and the Spoils Conference

In 1930, Postmaster General Walter Brown pushed for legislation that would have another major impact on the development of commercial aviation. Known as the Watres Act (after one of its chief sponsors, Rep. Laurence H. Watres of Pennsylvania), it authorized the Post Office to enter into longer-term contracts for airmail, with rates based on space or volume, rather than weight. In addition, the act authorized the Post Office to consolidate airmail routes, where it was in the national interest to do so. Brown believed the changes would promote larger, stronger airlines, as well as more coast-to-coast and nighttime service.

Immediately after Congress approved the act, Brown held a series of meetings in Washington to discuss the new contracts. The meetings were later dubbed the Spoils Conference because Brown gave them little publicity and directly invited only a handful of people from the larger airlines. He designated three transcontinental mail routes and made it clear that he wanted only one company operating each service rather than a number of small airlines handing the mail off to one another. His actions brought political trouble that resulted in major changes to the system two years later.

Scandal and the Air Mail Act of 1934

Following the Democratic landslide in the election of 1932, some of the smaller airlines began complaining to news reporters and politicians that they had been unfairly denied airmail contracts by Brown. One reporter discovered that a major contract had been awarded to an airline whose bid was three times higher than a rival bid from a smaller airline. Congressional hearings followed, chaired by Sen. Hugo Black of Alabama, and by 1934 the scandal had reached such proportions as to prompt President Franklin Roosevelt to cancel all mail contracts and turn mail deliveries over to the Army.

The decision was a mistake. The Army pilots were unfamiliar with the mail routes, and the weather at the time they took over the deliveries, February 1934, was terrible. There were a number of accidents as the pilots flew practice runs and began carrying the mail, leading to newspaper headlines that forced President Roosevelt to retreat from his plan only a month after he had turned the mail over to the Army

By means of the Air Mail Act of 1934, the government once again returned airmail transportation to the private sector, but it did so under a new set of rules that would have a significant impact on the industry. Bidding was structured to be more competitive, and former contract holders were not allowed to bid at all, so many companies were reorganized. The result was a more even distribution of the government's mail business and lower mail rates that forced airlines and aircraft manufacturers to pay more attention to the development of the passenger side of the business.

In another major change, the government forced the dismantling of the vertical holding companies common up to that time in the industry, sending aircraft manufacturers and airline operators (most notably Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and United Air Lines) their separate ways. The entire industry was now reorganized and refocused.

Aircraft Innovations

For the airlines to attract passengers away from the railroads, they needed both larger and faster airplanes. They also needed safer airplanes. Accidents, such as the one in 1931 that killed Notre Dame Football Coach Knute Rockne along with six others, kept people from flying

Aircraft manufacturers responded to the challenge. There were so many improvements to aircraft in the 1930s that many believe it was the most innovative period in aviation history. Air-cooled engines replaced water-cooled engines, reducing weight and making larger and faster planes possible. Cockpit instruments also improved, with better altimeters, airspeed indicators, rate-of-climb indicators, compasses, and the introduction of artificial horizon, which showed pilots the attitude of the aircraft relative to the ground - important for flying in reduced visibility


Another development of enormous importance to aviation was radio. Aviation and radio developed almost in lock step. Marconi sent his first message across the Atlantic on the airwaves just two years before the Wright Brothers? first flight at Kitty Hawk. By World War I, some pilots were taking radios up in the air with them so they could communicate with people on the ground. The airlines followed suit after the war, using radio to transmit weather information from the ground to their pilots, so they could avoid storms

An even more significant development, however, was the realization that radio could be used as an aid to navigation when visibility was poor and visual navigation aids, such as beacons, were useless. Once technical problems were worked out, the Department of Commerce constructed 83 radio beacons across the country. They became fully operational in 1932, automatically transmitting directional beams, or tracks, that pilots could follow to their destination. Marker beacons came next, allowing pilots to locate airports in poor visibility. The first air traffic control tower was established in 1935 at what is now Newark International Airport in New Jersey

The First Modern Airliners

Boeing built what generally is considered the first modern passenger airliner, the Boeing 247. It was unveiled in 1933, and United Air Lines promptly bought 60 of them. Based on a low-wing, twin-engine bomber with retractable landing gear built for the military, the 247 accommodated 10 passengers and cruised at 155 miles per hour. Its cabin was insulated, to reduce engine noise levels inside the plane, and it featured such amenities as upholstered seats and a hot water heater to make flying more comfortable to passengers. Eventually, Boeing also gave the 247 variable-pitch propellers, that reduced takeoff distances, increased the rate of climb, and boosted cruising speeds

Not to be outdone by United, TWA went searching for an alternative to the 247 and eventually found what it wanted from the Douglas Aircraft Company. Its DC-1 incorporated Boeing's innovations and improved upon many of them. The DC-1 had a more powerful engine and accommodations for two more passengers than did the 247. More importantly, the airframe was designed so that the skin of the aircraft bore most of the stress on the plane during flight. There was no interior skeleton of metal spars, thus giving passengers more room than they had in the 247.The DC-1 also was easier to fly. It was equipped with the first automatic pilot and the first efficient wing flaps, for added lift during takeoff. However, for all its advancements, only one DC-1 was ever built. Douglas decided almost immediately to alter its design, adding 18 inches to its length so it could accommodate two more passengers. The new, longer version was called the DC-2 and it was a big success, but the best was still to come

The DC-3

Called the plane that changed the world, the DC-3 was the first aircraft to enable airlines to make money carrying passengers. As a result, it quickly became the dominant aircraft in the United States, following its debut in 1936 with American Airlines (which played a key role in its design).

The DC-3 had 50 percent greater passenger capacity than the DC-2 (21 seats versus 14), yet cost only ten percent more to operate. It also was considered a safer plane, built of an aluminum alloy stronger than materials previously used in aircraft construction. It had more powerful engines (1,000 horsepower versus 710 horsepower for the DC-2), and it could travel coast to coast in only 16 hours - a fast trip for that time.

Another important improvement was the use of a hydraulic pump to lower and raise the landing gear. This freed pilots from having to crank the gear up and down during takeoffs and landings. For greater passenger comfort, the DC-3 had a noise-deadening plastic insulation, and seats set in rubber to minimize vibrations. It was a fantastically popular airplane, and it helped attract many new travelers to flying.

Pressurized Cabins

Although planes such as the Boeing 247 and the DC-3 represented significant advances in aircraft design, they had a major drawback. They could fly no higher than 10,000 feet, because people became dizzy and even fainted, due to the reduced levels of oxygen at higher altitudes.

The airlines wanted to fly higher, to get above the air turbulence and storms common at lower altitudes. Motion sickness was a problem for many airline passengers, and an inhibiting factor to the industry's growth.

The breakthrough came at Boeing with the Stratoliner, a derivation of the B-17 bomber introduced in 1940 and first flown by TWA. It was the first pressurized aircraft, meaning that air was pumped into the aircraft as it gained altitude to maintain an atmosphere inside the cabin similar to the atmosphere that occurs naturally at lower altitudes. With its regulated air compressor, the 33-seat Stratoliner could fly as high as 20,000 feet and reach speeds of 200 miles per hour.

The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938

Government decisions continued to prove as important to aviation's future as technological breakthroughs, and one of the most important aviation bills ever enacted by Congress was the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938. Until that time, numerous government agencies and departments had a hand in aviation policy. Airlines sometimes were pushed and pulled in several directions, and there was no central agency working for the long-term development of the industry. All the airlines had been losing money, since the postal reforms in 1934 significantly reduced the amount they were paid for carrying the mail.

The airlines wanted more rationalized government regulation, through an independent agency, and the Civil Aeronautics Act gave them what they needed. It created the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) and gave the new agency power to regulate airline fares, airmail rates, interline agreements, mergers and routes. Its mission was to preserve order in the industry, holding rates to reasonable levels while, at the same time nurturing the still financially-shaky airline industry, thereby encouraging the development of commercial air transportation.

Congress created a separate agency - the Air Safety Board - to investigate accidents. In 1940, however, President Roosevelt convinced Congress to transfer the accident investigation function to the CAA, which was then renamed the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). These moves, coupled with the tremendous progress made on the technological side, put the industry on the road to success.

World War II

Aviation had an enormous impact on the course of World War II and the war had just as significant an impact on aviation. There were fewer than 300 air transport aircraft in the United States when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939. By the end of the war, U.S. aircraft manufacturers were producing 50,000 planes a year.

Most of the planes, of course, were fighters and bombers, but the importance of air transports to the war effort quickly became apparent as well. Throughout the war, the airlines provided much needed airlift to keep troops and supplies moving, to the front and throughout the production chain back home. For the first time in their history, the airlines had far more business - for passengers as well as freight - than they could handle. Many of them also had opportunities to pioneer new routes, gaining an exposure that would give them a decidedly broader outlook at war's end.

While there were numerous advances in U.S. aircraft design during the war, that enabled planes to go faster, higher, and farther than ever before, mass production was the chief goal of the United States. The major innovations of the wartime period - radar and jet engines - occurred in Europe.

The Jet Engine

Isaac Newton was the first to theorize, in the 18th century, that a rearward-channeled explosion could propel a machine forward at a great rate of speed. However, no one found a practical application for the theory until Frank Whittle, a British pilot, designed the first jet engine in 1930. Even then, widespread skepticism about the commercial viability of a jet prevented Whittle's design from being tested for several years.

The Germans were the first to build and test a jet aircraft. Based on a design by Hans von Ohain, a student whose work was independent of Whittle's, it flew in 1939, although not as well as the Germans had hoped. It would take another five years for German scientists to perfect the design, by which time it was, fortunately, too late to affect the outcome of the war.

Whittle also improved his jet engine during the war, and in 1942 he shipped an engine prototype to General Electric in the United States. America's first jet plane - the Bell P-59 - was built the following year.


Another technological development with a much greater impact on the war's outcome (and later on commercial aviation) was radar. British scientists had been working on a device that could give them early warning of approaching enemy aircraft even before the war began, and by 1940 Britain had a line of radar transceivers along its east coast that could detect German aircraft the moment they took off from the Continent. British scientists also perfected the cathode ray oscilloscope, which produced map-type outlines of surrounding countryside and showed aircraft as a pulsing light. Americans, meanwhile, found a way to distinguish between enemy aircraft and allied aircraft by installing transponders aboard the latter that signaled their identity to radar operators.

Dawn of the Jet Age

Aviation was poised to advance rapidly following the war, in large part because of the development of jets, but there still were significant problems to overcome. In 1952, a 36-seat British-made jet, the Comet, flew from London to Johannesburg, South Africa, at speeds as high as 500 miles per hour. Two years later, the Comet's career ended abruptly following two back-to-back accidents in which the fuselage burst apart during flight - the result of metal fatigue.

The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, following World War II, helped secure the funding needed to solve such problems and advance the jet's development. Most of the breakthroughs related to military aircraft that later were applied to the commercial sector. For example, Boeing employed a swept-back wing design for its B-47 and B-52 bombers to reduce drag and increase speed. Later, the design was incorporated into commercial jets, making them faster and thus more attractive to passengers. The best example of military - civilian technology transfer was the jet tanker Boeing designed for the Air Force to refuel bombers in flight. The tanker, the KC-135, was a huge success as a military plane, but even more successful when revamped and introduced, in 1958, as the first U.S. passenger jet, the Boeing 707. With a length of 125 feet and four engines with 17,000 pounds of thrust each, the 707 could carry up to 181 passengers and travel at speeds of 550 miles per hour. Its engines proved more reliable than piston-driven engines - producing less vibration, putting less stress on the plane's airframe and reducing maintenance expenses. They also burned kerosene, which cost half as much as the high-octane gasoline used in more traditional planes. With the 707, first ordered and operated by Pan Am, all questions about the commercial feasibility of jets were answered. The Jet Age had arrived, and other airlines soon were lining up to buy the new aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Act of 1958

Following World War II, air travel soared, but with the industry's growth came new problems. In 1956 two aircraft collided over the Grand Canyon, killing 128 people. The skies were getting too crowded for existing systems of aircraft separation, and Congress responded by passing the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

The legislation created a new safety regulatory agency, the Federal Aviation Agency, later called the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when Congress created the Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1967. The agency was charged with establishing and running a broad air traffic control system, to maintain safe separation of all commercial aircraft through all phases of flight. In addition, it assumed jurisdiction over all other aviation safety matters, such as the certification of aircraft designs, and airline training and maintenance programs. The Civil Aeronautics Board retained jurisdiction over economic matters, such as airline routes and rates.

Wide-bodies and Supersonics

1969 marked the debut of another revolutionary aircraft, the Boeing 747, which, again, Pan Am was the first to purchase and fly in commercial service. It was the first wide-body jet, with two aisles, a distinctive upper deck over the front section of the fuselage, and four engines. With seating for as many as 450 passengers, it was twice as big as any other Boeing jet and 80 percent bigger than the largest jet up until that time, the DC-8.

Recognizing the economies of scale to be gained from larger jets, other aircraft manufacturers quickly followed suit. Douglas built its first wide-body, the DC-10, in 1970, and only a month later, Lockheed flew its contender in the wide-body market, the L-1011. Both of these jets had three engines (one under each wing and one on the tail) and were smaller than the 747, seating about 250 passengers.

1.6 Sources

[1] Department of Defense Regulation DoD 5200.1-R "DoD Information Security Program"
[2] HQ NORAD Regulation 11-3 "Administrative Practices - Code Words, Nicknames, and Exercise Terms"
[3] OPNAV Instruction OPNAVINST 5511.37C "Nicknames, Exercise Terms and Code Words"
[4] Marine Corps Order MCO 5030.2C "Policies and Procedures Concerning the Use of Code Words, Nicknames, and Exercise Terms"
[5] Air Force Manual AFMAN 23-110, Volume 1, Part 4 "Standard Supply Codes"
[6] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual CJCSM 3150.29A "Codename, Nichname, and Exercise Term Report (NICKA)"
[7] William M. Arkin: "Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs And Operations In The 9/11 World", Random House, 2005

U.S. Navy Aircraft History

If you look closely at the above picture (click on it to make it bigger), you'll note that the KA-6D tanker is assigned to squadron VA-165 and the F-4J, VF-96. The A is short for Attack and the F, Fighter. So what's with the V?

The V means that it's a fixed-wing heavier-than-air squadron (as opposed to H for a rotary wing, i.e. helicopter, heavier-than-air squadron). Why V? It turns out that not even the Navy knows for sure, although its historians think it might have represented volplane, a French word for an aircraft sustained in the air by lifting surfaces as opposed to a bag of a gas that is lighter than air. In the beginning, since the usage predates helicopters by more than 20 years, it stood for heavier-than-air, period, with the designation for lighter-than-air being Z. It seems very likely that the Z is based on Zeppelin, the name of the Count who pioneered rigid airships before World War I, although the Navy applied it to non-rigid as well as rigid airships. See:

My understanding is that the designations first appeared in General Order No. 541 (see approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 17 July 1920. It provided two-letter (and in some cases, three-letter) designations for all the Navy's ships and airplanes. The first letter of the ship designation was its basic type, e.g. battleship, cruiser, destroyer, submarine, etc. The second letter was a modifier as to class within that type, e.g. a light cruiser was designated CL and a battle cruiser, CC. The aircraft carrier, the first of which was in the process of being converted from a collier (AC), was considered to be a type of cruiser, probably by default since it resembled any of the other six types even less. For some reason, an ordinary cruiser was a CA, which eliminated the use of A for aeroplane for the aircraft carrier, which was designated CV. Almost every letter in the alphabet was used for the second letter in the various designations, most being logical like SF for Fleet Submarine. V, whether for volplane or not, was probably as good as any other letter available once A was not.

Heavier-than-air airplane designations were to begin with V as well, with the secondary letters been F for fighting, O for observation, S for scouting, P for patrol, and T for torpedo and bombing. As it turned out, however, the V system was used to designate squadrons as shown above rather than airplane types, whereas ships were identified by the two-letter designation and sequential numbers, e.g. CV-1 was Langley, CV-2 was Lexington, and so forth.

Your guess is as good as mine as to why a battle cruiser wasn't a CB and an ordinary cruiser a CC (a battleship was a BB, a destroyer a DD, and a submarine an SS, for example), making CA available for the aircraft carrier. Better, actually, since I don't have one.


I could be wrong, but I was told when in Washington that when it came to Carriers, it went like this:
Carrier Version followed by: Attack, Nuclear, Anti Submarine Warfare, etc.
Then someone in the Pentagon did not like typing all those letters so everything was shortened to CV.
At least for a while before computers.
"P" meant "Pursuit" not patrol and was later changed to "F" for Fighter. They thought of using "I" for Interceptor but that never stuck.
A lot of that can be contributed to the old manual typewriters. My experience was that No errors were allowed in any documents.
No corrections, it had to be right or redo the entire document Lots of retyping went on, corrections were not permitted.

V meaning version doesn't sound valid, certainly not with those particular distinctions that didn't exist in the 1920s. The designations did change over time and did include CVA, CVN, CVS, etc. but I'm sure that CV predated all that.

I don't think the Navy ever formally used the word Pursuit. That was a Army thing up through World War II. When the Navy first used a designation system, it was F for Fighter.

The V in CV stands for vessel. For example: CV 6 was the designation for pre nuclear USS Enterprise, carrier vessel 6. Post nuclear designation is CVN - carrier vessel nuclear. CVN 65 is the present USS enterprise.

V stands for vessel? Do you have a USN document stating that? All ships are vessels. Why would the Navy distinguish only a carrier as a vessel back in the 1920s and none of its other ships?

Could the "V" for squadron come partially from the fact that early squadron formations were a V of aircraft? I'm guessing they couldn't use S for squadron because S was already used for Submarine. Of the remaining unused letters could they have chosen V for the resemblance to a squadron formation? I also had the thought that CV for aircraft carrier came from the Cruiser nomenclature. I'm happy to see some back up for that idea of CV meaning aircraft squadron carrying cruiser. It makes sense since the Lexington and Saratoga started as cruisers. Did the Langley have the designation CV-1 before the Lex and Sara were CV-2 and CV-3?

I believe the N in CVN stands for night operations. I’m pretty sure the N was use late in WWII. Aircraft started operating at night at the same time.

Aaron - the N stands for nuclear-powered

Tailspin- you are correct. The article I read was calling the enterprise CV(N)-6. Looks like that’s not the official “bureau” number. Thanks for clarifying that.

Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/21/2018 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw was an American utility-minded, multi-role helicopter product of the Cold War period (1947-1991) immediate following the events of World War 2 (1939-1945). The type was produced in some 1,728 examples with operators situated all across the globe. The series recorded a maiden flight on November 10th, 1949 and service introduction followed with the United States Air Force (USAF) on April 16th, 1950. The last American examples, operated by the United States Navy (USN), were retired on February 26th, 1969 after decades of faithful service.

The H-19 series had roots in a private venture initiative by the Sikorsky Company. Its initial purpose was to test in-house developments by the concern and this allowed develop to proceed at a quickened pace without government involvement. The United States military, namely the USAF, became interested in the offering and commissioned for the YH-19 to begin formal testing and evaluations. This developmental model went airborne in November of 1949.

The USAF acquired the helicopter in April of 1950 (the USN followed in August under the designation of "HO4S-1" and the USMC in April of 1951 as the "HRS-1") and pressed its sole example into active service during March of 1951 in the Korean War (1950-1953). A second example was acquired that September. Once in operational service, the H-19 became the United State military's first "true" transport-minded helicopter platform.

The H-19 series was very unique in appearance for its time. The powerplant was situated at the nose, under the cockpit, which gave the helicopter a deep and distinct look. The engine was accessed by a clamshell-type door system over the nose cone. The cockpit seated its crew of two side-by-side with a commanding view overlooking the aircraft. The main rotor was situated over the helicopter as normal with a shaft running through a stem towards the tail set to drive the tail rotor unit (which was situated to face the portside of the aircraft). Behind the engine and behind/under the cockpit was the passenger cabin which could be used to undertake various roles. The undercarriage involved four fixed legs each with a wheel for ground-running.

The H-19 was developed into both civilian and military marketplace models and formed the basis for the H-34 "Choctaw" to follow (detailed elsewhere on this site). Operators eventually ranged from Argentina and Brazil to Venezuela and Yugoslavia.

YH-19 eventually numbered five pre-production units. The H-19A was the same helicopter fitted with an R-1340-57 engine of 600 horsepower and operated by the USAF with about fifty examples being delivered. The SH-19A was the H-19A revised for the Search-and-Rescue (SAR) role. The H-19B followed as an improved H-19A with R-1300-3 engine of 700 horsepower. 264 of these were produced in all. The SH-19B was the H-19B for the SAR role.

The H-19C was the United States Army variant with seventy-two built to the standard. This was followed by the Army's H-19D which was based in the H-19A of the USAF. 301 were built.

The USN took delivery of the H-19 beginning with the HO4S-1 based in the H-19A and ten were acquired. The HO4S-2 was the SAR model with the R-1340 engine of 550 horsepower. Three of this mark were built for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The USCG operated the HO4S-2 as the HO4S-2G and seven were delivered to this standard. The Wright R-1300-3 engine of 700 stocked the HO4S-3 models and seventy-nine were produced to the standard. The HO4S-3G was the USCG variant and thirty were acquired.

The HRS-1 was the USMC model and carried the R-1340-57 engine of 600 horsepower. Sixty were built as troop carriers for the service. The HRS-2 followed with slight alterations to the equipment scheme and 101 were produced. The HRS-3 was another USMC model and operated with the R-1300-3 series engine of 700 horsepower. 105 were built or converted (some from existing HRS-2 models). The HRS-4 was a proposed HRS-3 variant carried the R-1820 radial engine of 1,025 horsepower but not followed through on.

As with other American aircraft, the H-19 helicopter series was entirely redesignated after the reformation of 1962. H-19A became the UH-19A, the H-19B the UH-19B, and so on. The S-55 was its commercial market designation and encompassed an A-, B, C-, T-, and QT-model. Commercial conversions were also available creating a whole other line of designations for the family.

In British military service (with production from Westland), the helicopter was known as "Whirlwind" and designated across several marks for various British services - WS-55, HAR, HAS, HCC and so on, each used to cover such roles as SAR, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), general transport, VIP transport etc. These helicopters found operators all their own in Austria, Brazil, Brunei, France, Ghana, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, and Yugoslavia.

The H-19 was used extensively in the fighting of the Korean War as an unarmed troop and cargo transport where its balance, reliability, and operational capabilities were proven qualities. The USMC were very active with the type throughout the conflict. The USAF operated their fleet in the SAR role and as MEDEVAC platforms. The series saw some limited service in the early American involvement of the Vietnam War 1955-1975) as well until succeeded by the aforementioned H-34 line.

In the Algerian war of Independence (1954-1962), French forces operated the H-19 in both the transport and gunship roles where the type excelled for its ability to hover, loiter and reach out-of-the-way places. The series was also used by France in Indochina for a time - though mainly in the MEDEVAC role.

Overseas production of the H-19 emerged from Westland of Britain, SNCASE of France, and Mitsubishi of Japan.