|Army Air Forces Training Command|
Army Air Forces Training Command emblem
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Role||Air Force Indoctrination, Flight and Technical training|
|Distinctive Unit Insignia|
Army Air Forces Training Command (AAFTC) (1943–1946) was a command of the United States Army Air Forces. It was redesignated Air Training Command on 1 July 1946 as part of the reorganization of the Army Air Forces after World War II.
AAFTC was created as a result of the merger of the Army Air Forces Flying Training Command and the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command on 31 July 1943.
- Constituted and established as: Air Corps Flying Training Command, 23 January 1942
- Redesignated as: Army Air Forces Flying Training Command, abt 15 March 1942
- Inactivated on 1 July 1943
- Constituted and established as: Air Corps Technical Training Command, 23 January 1942
- Redesignated as: Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, abt 15 March 1942
- Inactivated on 1 July 1943
- Established as Army Air Forces Training Command on 1 July 1943
- Redeisgnated as Air Training Command on 1 July 1946
- Southeast Air Corps Training Center, 8 July 1940
- Redesignated: Eastern Flying Training Command, 31 July 1943-15 December 1945
- Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center, 8 July 1940
- Redesignated: Central Flying Training Command, 31 July 1943
- Redesignated: Western Flying Training Command, 15 December 1945
- Redesignated: Army Air Forces Flying Training Command, 1 January-1 July 1946
- West Coast Air Corps Training Center, 8 July 1940
- Redesignated: Western Flying Training Command, 31 July 1943-1 November 1945
- First Technical Training District, 1 November 1941
- Redesignated: Eastern Technical Training Command, 31 August 1943
- Redesignated: Technical Training Command, 15 October 1945-1 July 1946
- Second Technical Training District, 1 November 1941
- Redesignated: Central Technical Training Command, 31 August 1943-1 March 1944
- Third Technical Training District, 1 November 1941 – 31 August 1943
- Fourth Technical Training District, 1 November 1941
- Redesignated: Western Technical Training Command, 31 August 1943-15 October 1945
- Fifth Training District, 1 November 1941 – 31 August 1943
- Washington, D.C., 23 January 1942
- Fort Worth, Texas, 1 July 1942
- Barksdale Field, Louisiana,25 February-1 July 1946
Air Corps/Army Air Forces Flying Training Command
Constituted and established on 23 January 1942. Its mission was to train pilots, flying specialists, and combat crews. Redesignated on or about 15 March 1942, after the Army Air Forces became an autonomous arm of the United States Army.
The command struggled with the challenge of a massive wartime expansion of the air forces. Throughout 1942, the need for combat crew personnel far exceeded the current and contemplated production of the command’s flying training schools. The rate of expansion of housing and training facilities, instructors, as well as the procurement of aircraft and other equipment, though at a breakneck pace, constrained the rate of increase of production. Facilities were used to their maximum capacity as quickly as they could be stood up. Some schools were expanded while they were still under construction.
During 1942, the new command selected locations for the more than fifty additional airfields necessary to implement the announced 75,000-pilot program. Local civic groups and congressmen "gave the site boards no respite," in the words of an AAF Training Command historian, as they lobbied for new bases in their jurisdiction. New airfields had to be located in areas with sufficient flying space free of other air traffic, and the West Coast training center faced the extraordinary requirement to avoid sites near the internment camps for Japanese-Americans.
Until the late 1930s, flying training in the Army remained quite small after the rapid demobilization with the end of World War I. In 1922 all flying training was consolidated in Texas, considered to be an ideal location because of climate and other factors. Brooks Field became the center for primary training and Kelly Field for advanced training. However, it was discovered that facilities in the San Antonio area were insufficient to accommodate the number of cadets entering primary training. Hence, in violation of the principle of geographic concentration, primary pilot training was also performed at March Field, California, from 1927 to 1931.
Another problem for the training center was the growth of the city of San Antonio, which created hazards for training. Consequently, in June 1927 plans were created for the construction of a single large airfield outside of the city to house all flying training. The United States Congress funded the new field's construction but not the purchase of the land, so the city of San Antonio borrowed the $546,000 needed to purchase the site selected for what became Randolph Field. By the fall of 1931, construction was essentially completed, so the Air Corps Training Center at Duncan Field, adjacent to Kelly, and the primary schools at Brooks and March moved to the new installation.
Advanced training remained at Kelly because experience showed that Randolph Field would become quite congested with only primary and basic training located there. Following the expansion, the number of pilots in training declined until only 184 graduated in 1937, compared to an average of 257 per year prior to 1931. But with the emergence of Nazi Germany as a potential threat to the United States, the Air Corps proposed a period of expansion to train 4,500 pilots over a two-year period.
Beginning in 1939, the Army contracted with nine civilian flying schools to provide primary flying training, while Randolph handled basic training, now completely separate from primary. Kelly Field, with Brooks as a subpost, took care of advanced flying training. In July 1939 the full course of flying instruction was shortened in length from a year to nine months—three for each phase. The number of primary contract schools expanded to 41 by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and to 60 at various times in 1943.
On 8 July 1940, the Air Corps reorganized its redesignated its training centers to manage the growing number of flying schools.
- The Southeast Air Corps Training Center headquartered at Maxwell Field, Alabama, managed those in the eastern third of the nation, basically east of the Mississippi River.
- The Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center at Randolph Field handled those in the central sector, from west of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.
- The West Coast Air Corps Training Center at Moffett Field, California (later moved to Santa Ana Army Air Base), managed those in the western tier, consisting of the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains.
In July 1943 this command merged with the AAF Technical Training Command to form the Army Air Forces Training Command.
Flying Training Organization
During the period just before World War II, newly trained pilots were assigned to fill vacancies in existing combat units, or sent to newly formed units. There they were trained to the proficiency required by Air Corps standards. The total authorized combat groups in the Air Corps were expanded from twenty-five to eighty-four in 1939. It took many months to reach that number, but a sharp decline in the number of experienced pilots was immediately experienced. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into the war, the number of volunteers for pilot training was enormous. Fearing that they would lose them to the general draft, aviation cadet-applicants were given exemption from 1942 until 1944. The education requirement of at least 2 years of college was waived to broaden the number of suitable applicants.
Demand for pilots meant that training had to be modified to accommodate the large numbers of pilot candidates.
Training came in five stages. Classification lasted 1 to 2 weeks and the education and training stages were 9 weeks each. Each 9 week stage was divided into two 4.5 week (63 day) halves: a lower half and an upper half . The lower half was made up of students just beginning the stage and the upper half was made up of the students who were half-finished. The more experienced cadets would (hopefully) help the new cadets get through the section before they were promoted to the next stage.
- Classification stage processed the cadet and issued him his equipment. This was the stage where it would be decided whether the cadet would train as a navigator, bombardier, or pilot.
- Pre-Flight stage taught the mechanics and physics of flight and required the cadets to pass courses in mathematics and the hard sciences. Then the cadets were taught to apply their knowledge practically by teaching them aeronautics, deflection shooting, and thinking in three dimensions. Typically, cadets reported to a preflight school at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center; Maxwell Field, Alabama, or Santa Ana Army Air Base, California.
- Primary Pilot Training taught basic flight using two-seater training aircraft. Performed at civilian-operated flight schools for primary training. At peak strength there were 56 such schools in operation. The most popular primary trainers were the Stearman PT-13 and PT-17 "Kaydet," the Fairchild PT-19 "Cornell," and the Ryan PT-20 "Recruit."
- Basic Pilot Training taught the cadets to fly in formation, fly by instruments or by aerial navigation, fly at night, and fly for long distances. Cadets flew aircraft such as the Vultee BT-13 "Valiant" and were evaluated to determine who should go into single-engine advanced training and who should proceed to twin-engine training.
- Advanced Pilot Training placed the graduates in two categories: single-engined and multi-engined. Single-engined pilots flew fighters and fighter-bombers. Multi-engined pilots learned to fly transports and bombers. First they flew Trainer aircraft, then transitioned to front-line aircraft. Those students selected for single-engine training flew the AT-6 "Texan," and those who went into twin-engine training flew the Curtiss AT-9 "Jeep," the all-wood Beechcraft AT-10 "Wichita," or the Cessna AT-17 "Bobcat."
Graduates were usually graded as Flight Officers (Warrant Officers); cadets who graduated at the top of their class were graded as Second Lieutenants. Aviation Cadets who washed out of pilot training were sent to navigator or bombardier school.
Operational Training Units
In 1940, United States observers in Great Britain had reported on the "Operation Training Unit" system used by the Royal Air Force. After completion of individual training, pilots were given eight to twelve weeks of training as a team using the same aircraft they would use in combat. This program inspired the implementation of Operational Training Units (OTUs) in the USAAF.
The plan created "parent" groups that were authorized additional personnel in order to provide cadres for newly formed "satellite" groups. Newly trained enlisted and officer personnel would be sent to the new group, where the experienced cadre would give them proficiency training. Other newly trained personnel were also sent to the parent group for training, where they would become the experienced cadre for a future satellite unit to be formed, completing the cycle.
The first American OTUs began in early 1942, but were immediately plagued with problems. The demands of the combat units had to be met at the expense of the training programs and shortages of personnel, aircraft, equipment, and supplies slowed and reduced the effectiveness of the training. Many of the training fields throughout the county were inadequate or under construction. The inconsistent proficiency level of personnel reporting from the training schools further slowed progress. Schedules were interrupted and training was often inadequate. By the beginning of 1943, most of these problems were resolved and OTUs were turning out combat units in all four continental air forces.
Replacement Training Units
Through the Operational Training Unit system the USAAF had created all of new combat units required by the end of 1943, but a constant flow of new pilots was needed to replace those captured, killed in action, or rotated back to United States. Most of the training bases in the United States discontinued OTU training and switched their training emphasis to Replacement Training Units (RTUs).
In the RTU system, replacement pilots where sent to RTUs or Combat Crew Training Stations (CCTSs) where they were given 12 weeks of training similar to the OTU program. Pilots were not immediately placed in advanced training. They were first given a preflight examination that included radio range, link trainer, cockpit "feel", landing gear operation, parking, and taxing. After successful completion of the examination, pilots were started in Advanced Fighter Training. Less time was needed for squadron and group integration, since the pilots were not yet part of a combat unit. Once all training was completed, pilots were drawn from the RTUs to serve in overseas units.
In April 1944, all of the units, including the fighter squadrons were absorbed into newly created "Army Air Force Base Units".
Contract Flying Schools
Civilian flying schools, under government contract, provided a considerable part of the flying training effort undertaken by the United States Army Air Forces. Their mission was to provide Level 1 primary pilot training
To the flying cadets, the Contract Flying Schools (CFS) were just another training assignment—although the flight instructors were civilian contractors, the cadets still experienced the discipline and drudgery of military life. The CFS's were assigned to the various Flying Training Commands, and each had a designated USAAF Flying Training Detachment assigned for supervision and liaison with the command.
According to the contract, the government supplied students with training aircraft, flying clothes, textbooks, and equipment. Schools furnished instructors, training sites and facilities, aircraft maintenance, quarters, and mess halls. From the Air Corps, schools received a flat fee of $1,170 for each graduate and $18 per flying hour for students eliminated from training. Trainers used were primarily Fairchild PT-19s, PT-17 Stearmans and Ryan PT-22s, although a wide variety of other types could be found at the airfields.
At one time or another during World War II, 64 contract schools conducted primary training, with a maximum of 56 schools operating at any one time. During the course of the war, the schools graduated approximately 250,000 student pilots. All of the CFS's were inactivated by the end of the war,
During World War II civilian flying schools, under government contract, provided a considerable part of the flying training effort undertaken by the United States Army Air Forces. In 1941 the Air Corps directed Flying Training Command to establish a glider training program. Contract schools opened soon after. Students learned to perform maintenance and, in an emergency, to rebuild wrecked gliders. This was a relatively simple operation, considering that the primary glider consisted of little more than a shell, equipped with radio, wheels, and brakes.
By late 1944 Training Command ended all glider instruction, both flying and technical. Rather than create a separate glider force, the Army Air Forces had decided it would be more profitable to train its troop carrier pilots to also operate gliders.
Foreign flying training
In World War I, partially trained American pilots arrived in Europe unprepared to fight the Germans. They completed their training in French, British, and Italian schools in aircraft not available in the United States. Mechanics, too, received training overseas. The British helped train US ground crews at their airfields and in their factories. So too, did France. Based on that foundation, the air arm of the US Army grew quickly and compiled a credible combat record during World War I.
Two decades later, with World War II looming large, the United States had a chance to reciprocate. When the Lend-Lease Act became law on 11 March 1941, the British were isolated, facing a hostile continent. France had fallen in 1940, the British had retreated from Dunkirk at the same time, and the Germans had not yet reneged on the Hitler- Stalin non-aggression pact of 1939. Only the Royal Air Force (RAF), by denying air superiority to the Luftwaffe, had prevented a German invasion of the British Isles.
Aware of the RAF's urgent need for additional training facilities, the United States offered the British over 500 aircraft for use in the training of British pilots in the United States. General Hap Arnold also arranged for civilian contractors to set up schools exclusively for training British pilots. The schools would accept 50 RAF students every 5 weeks for a 20-week course in order to produce 3,000 pilots a year. Known as the British Flying Training School Program, it was unique among the programs the Air Corps offered to Allied nations inasmuch as the British dealt directly with the contractors and completely controlled all aspects of the flying training process. Basically, the Air Corps just helped the RAF and the contractors select the sites for the schools and then supervised their construction. The schools were located at Mesa, Arizona; Lancaster, California; Clewiston, Florida; Miami and Ponca City, Oklahoma; Terrell, Texas; and, briefly, Sweetwater, Texas.
The United States also assisted the Chinese Air Force. The Air Corps conducted most of the training for the Chinese at three Arizona installations: Luke, Williams, and Thunderbird Fields. Training the Chinese presented some special challenges. Because of their small stature some students could not reach all the controls. That problem was usually solved through the use of extra cushions and occasionally by switching them to another type of airplane. A bigger problem was the language barrier. It took all the interpreters the Air Corps could muster to support the training programs for the Chinese. In the end, 3,553 Chinese received flying and technical training, including 866 pilots.
While the preponderance of students trained in the United States during World War II were British, French, or Chinese, over 20 other nations also sent students. Most came from Latin America, most notably Brazil and Mexico. A smattering of others came from Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union.
Air Corps/Army Air Forces Technical Training Command
Constituted and established on 26 March 1941. Its mission was the orientation, classification, basic, and technical training of enlisted men and the training of nonrated officers at officer candidate and officer training schools and in technical subjects like armament, engineering, communications, and photography.
By October 1942, 15 AAF technical schools, 34 civilian contract mechanics schools, 7 basic training centers, 5 universities, 5 commercial airline contract schools, and about 50 factory training schools provided technical training. In addition, there were other small technical training schools at various Flying Training Command and Second Air Force bases. Because bad weather did not seriously hamper technical training the way it did flying training, many technical training bases were in the northern part of the country, whereas flying fields were concentrated in the south and along the west coast.
The Army air arm saw a need for skilled aviation mechanics and other technicians as it prepared for World War I. At first, men who already possessed some mechanical experience received training at civilian trade schools and state universities. However, he policy proved both expensive and unsatisfactory. So the Army set up two mechanic schools, one at Kelly Field and another in a large building in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that the War Department took over.
By the end of World War I, the Army had graduated about 5,000 men, nearly one-third of all aviation mechanics trained during 1918 (including those trained in 34 civilian institutions). The school at Kelly Field had begun operations in October 1917, but did not function effectively until June 1918, when 1,000 students entered training. By Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, Kelly had trained over 2,000 more mechanics. Though the school in St Paul closed after the war, Kelly remained in operation and trained some 5,000 more mechanics before January 1921 when the air mechanics school was moved as a result of reorganization to Chanute Field, Illinois.
In addition to the flight mechanics, training in aerial photography for both officers and enlisted men began at Langley Field, Virginia, in 1917. Instruction in radio communication took place at an aviation instruction center near Tours, France, in 1918, and an Air Service Communications School was established at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the following year. In 1922 the photography school at Langley and the communications school at Fort Sill both joined the mechanics course at Chanute, congregating all technical training in the Air Service at that location to form the Air Service Technical School, redesignated the Air Corps Technical School in 1926.
The former separate schools became departments, joined in 1930 by a Department of Armament and three years later by a Department of Clerical Instruction. In February 1938 Lowry Field, Colorado, came under the jurisdiction of the Air Corps Technical School, still headquartered at Chanute. The Departments of Photography and Armament moved to Lowry, followed in September by the Department of Clerical Instruction. Scott Field, Illinois, came under the jurisdiction of Chanute in 1939.
The Department of Basic Instruction, inaugurated in 1935 at Chanute, relocated to the new location. The department returned to Chanute, however, when Scott became a radio school in 1940. Subject matter from the basic course was incorporated into the various specialized programs at Scott, and four of the departments—mechanics, communications, photography, and armament—taught both officers and enlisted personnel.
By early November 1941, students were entering technical training at the rate of 110,000 per year, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the student flow rose sharply: 13,000 men entered technical training schools in January 1942 and 55,000 in December 1942. The peak occurred in March 1943, with 62,000 entrants. To accommodate the trainees, the AAF pressed civilian mechanics and factory schools into service, and many colleges and universities offered training in certain specialties. New technical training bases included Keesler Field, Mississippi, and Sheppard Field, Texas, both activated in 1941. Thereafter, the number of stations increased at a rapid pace.
Basic military training was a major mission of the Air Corps Technical School and, later, Technical Training Command. In the early days of technical training there was little emphasis on basic military instruction. The amount of basic military training provided to new enlisted personnel undergoing technical instruction varied with their unit commanders, who had sole responsibility for the program.
In 1935 efforts to change this arrangement began, but the real change occurred in 1939 when the Army proposed that each component arm and service set up their own enlisted replacement centers. Air Corps policy had been to furnish initial basic training for recruits at established stations, followed by about a month's preparatory training at Scott Field, Illinois, before they went to Chanute for specialized training. Then in 1940 the War Department authorized the establishment of Air Corps enlisted replacement centers for the initial basic training of recruits.
The Air Corps established the first of these centers at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in the summer of 1940, though formal activation did not occur until 21 February 1941. That fall the Technical Training Command activated two more basic training centers at Keesler Field, Mississippi, and Sheppard Field, Texas. A group of officers and enlisted men from Scott Field became the initial staff for Jefferson Barracks, and it, in turn, provided cadres to staff the basic training centers at Keesler and Sheppard.
By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Air Corps had 21,000 recruits at the three basic training centers. The subsequently phenomenal growth of enlistments made these three centers inadequate to supply recruits for technical training, so the number of basic training centers expanded to 12 (plus one provisional center) by the spring of 1943. Shortly thereafter, the basic training mission declined in size because requirements for training were being met. Consequently, some of the 13 centers inactivated, while others moved to technical training centers such as Amarillo Field, Texas, that had previously not had basic training centers.
The number of trainees at basic training centers increased to its peak of 135,795 in February 1943.
In July 1943 this command (technical and indoctrination training) merged with the AAF Flying Training Command to form the Army Air Forces Training Command.
AAF Training Command
On 31 July 1943, the Army Air Forces activated Training Command.
What had been Flying Training Command's major subordinate units—the Southeast Flying Training Center at Maxwell, the Gulf Coast Flying Training Center at Randolph, and the West Coast Flying Training Center at Santa Ana were redesignated as following:
- Eastern Flying Training Command, headquartered at Maxwell Field, Alabama
- Central Flying Training Command, headquartered at Randolph Field, Texas
- Western Flying Training Command, headquartered at Santa Ana Army Air Base, California
The five districts that had belonged to Technical Training Command also transferred to the new AAF Training Command. However, on 31 August 1943, Training Command disbanded the Third District at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Fifth District in Miami Beach, Florida. The other three were redesignated.
- First District at Greensboro, North Carolina was redesignated as the Eastern Technical Training Command
- Second District in St Louis, Missouri was redesignated as the Central Technical Training Command
- Fourth District in Denver, Colorado was redesignated as the Western Technical Training Command
Major World War II Units and Stations
Note: Sub-bases and auxiliary airfields not listed.
- Aircraft Maintenance
- Of the constellation of technical training courses offered to officers and enlisted men in 116 different schools (32 of them factory schools) at the end of 1944, many involved advanced training in aircraft maintenance. One of the most important of these was a power plant course designed to produce engine specialists. This covered maintenance of standard aircraft engines and their accessories, including superchargers, generators, starters, and carburetors.
- Armament Maintenance
- Among other specialists trained in technical training schools were experts in armament maintenance. Combat aircraft were complex, including lots of lethal equipment, such as machine guns, cannons, bombs, and related gun turrets and bombsights. Such equipment exceeded the capabilities of general airplane mechanics and required the technical expertise of specialized armament maintainers.
- Bombardier Training
- Nine locations in Central and Western Flying Training Commands provided bombardier training.
- Flexible Gunnery Training
- At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Corps still did not have a specialized school for flexible gunnery. Three schools opened in December 1941, and the program grew rapidly. In July 1943 flexible gunnery schools had possessed few tactical aircraft with which to train, mainly 55 twin-engine B-34 Lexingtons (Lockheed Venturas). By December 1944 they had 440 four-engine aircraft (173 B-17 Flying Fortresses, 255 B-24 Liberators, and 12 YB-40 Flying Fortresses). By the latter date, students on gunnery missions fired from these, while two-engine aircraft towed targets and single engine tactical aircraft simulated attacks on the bombers. Unfortunately, towed targets hardly resembled attacking fighter aircraft, but one device that more closely simulated combat conditions was a camera gun that students "fired" at fighter aircraft flying in normal attack patterns toward the bombers. These cameras, which came into general use during 1944 and 1945.
- Flight Engineer Training
- In putting together the curriculum for training pilots and copilots on the B-29 Superfortress, Training Command could make use of its experience in transition training for heavy bombers. No such experience was available in the case of flight engineers, because the B-29 was the first AAF aircraft that required a flight engineer. This individual operated the engine control panel of the aircraft. Located behind the pilot, the panel contained all operating instruments but those the pilot used to control the altitude and direction of the B-29. At the direction of the pilot, the flight engineer used these instruments to adjust the throttles, fuel mixture, supercharger, and propeller pitch. He also computed the aircraft's cruising range, fuel consumption, engine performance, weight and balance, and airworthiness. Flight engineers underwent comprehensive training at Amarillo and Lowry Fields before assignment to B-29 transition training.
- Navigator Training
- Until the early 1930s, pilots had been their own navigators. Then as airlines began to make long distance flights, they added a navigator to the flight crew. The military, however, continued to treat navigation training as part of pilot training. Consequently when it, too, began to see a need for specialized navigators, in July 1940 the Army signed a contract with Pan American Airways, Incorporated, to provide training in navigation and meteorology to flying cadets, an arrangement that continued until 1944. In November 1940 the Air Corps opened its first navigator school at Barksdale Field, Louisiana.
- Officer Candidate/Training School
- Training for non-rated offers was needed to relieve flying officers of their nonflying duties during the wartime expansion of the Air Corps and the Army Air Forces. The Officer Candidate School began as a 12-week course, but it expanded to 16 weeks in 1943. It also began as a uniform program for all officer candidates, but after 1943 the last phase of training was divided into specialized training for adjutants and personnel officers, as well as supply, mess, intelligence, guard company, and training officers. Later, it expanded to include physical training and technical officers.
- The Army Air Forces also commissioned some individuals with special qualifications directly from civilian life. These people required some military training, so Training Command also set up an Officer Training School (OTS) at Miami Beach, Florida to provide six weeks of military instruction. Most OTS students were 30 years old or more, with the bulk of them in their 30s or 40s. They came from all walks of life, but most were teachers, businessmen, or professionals. The majority were slated for administrative or instructional duties in the Army Air Forces, but others became ferry pilots. Beginning in the winter of 1942, Medical, Dental, and Sanitary Corps officers also attended Officer Training School in courses separate from those for other officers.
- B-29 Superfortress Transition Training
- Until the fall of 1944, Second Air Force provided all B-29 Superfortress transition training for the Army Air Forces. Then, on 12 September 1944, HQ AAF directed Training Command to establish B-29 schools for the transition of crews consisting of pilots, copilots, and flight engineers. By late September, plans called for five schools to provide transition training in very heavy bombers, including a school for the TB-32 Dominator at Fort Worth, Texas. Training of pilots and flight engineers as instructors got underway at Maxwell Field, Alabama, on 20 September 1944, when the school took over facilities previously used for B-24 Liberator training. Limited availability of B-29s restricted training, but by November regular training of crews had begun at Maxwell on B-29s stripped of their armament and gear. Further expansion of training was limited by continued delays in the delivery of B-29s, so Second Air Force continued to provide the bulk of B-29 transition training.
The Tuskegee Airmen
- main: Tuskegee Airmen
On 7 March 1942, the first African-Americans to become military pilots received their wings at Tuskegee Field, Alabama. For many this event marked 25 years of determined effort to include blacks in military aviation. As early as 1917, Walter White, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), had called for the inclusion of blacks in the Air Corps only to be told that “no colored squadrons were being formed at the present time.” Finally, on 21 March 1941, the Air Corps activated the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which became the first squadron of what became the renowned Tuskegee Airmen.
After the first class of five pilots graduated, it took until July 1942 for enough black airmen to complete flight training for the squadron to reach full strength. Even then, the Army was not ready to send black pilots overseas. Under the command of Capt Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the 99th remained at Tuskegee and received additional training to prepare for combat. In April 1943 the unit deployed to French Morocco in North Africa.
Eventually enough graduates were available to comprise four fighter squadrons: the 100th, 301st, and 302d, all of which had also begun at Tuskegee before completing their training in Michigan. These squadrons, and the 99th were formed into the 332d Fighter Group.
As the war progressed the 332d’s squadrons established an enviable combat record. On 11 July 1944, P-51 Mustangs from the 332d Fighter Group shot down 18 enemy fighters while flying escort for a large bomber formation. On 24 March 1945, while escorting B-17 Flying Fortresses during a raid on a tank factory in Berlin, the 332d’s pilots downed three German jet fighters. For their actions, the 332d and three of its squadrons—the 99th, 100th and 301st—earned Distinguished Unit Citations
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II were pioneers, the first licensed women pilots in the United States to fly military aircraft for a military service. The WASP was formed in August 1943 from two earlier, relatively independent programs for women pilots: Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD).
As early as 1939, Jackie Cochran had suggested recruiting and training women to fly military aircraft. On 7 October 1942, shortly after the WAFS was formed, General Arnold inaugurated a flight training program to produce 500 women ferry pilots. He appointed Cochran as the director of flying training, and by October 1942, 40 women had been accepted and sent for training at Howard Hughes Airport in Houston, Texas. The unit was called the WFTD, or among the women it was known as the "Woofteddies".
When facilities at Houston proved too limited, a new school was opened in February 1943 at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, and training at Houston soon phased out. On 5 August 1943, the WAFS and the women of Cochran's WFTD school were united as the WASP. Cochran was named Director of Women Pilots, and Nancy Love continued in the WASP as executive of the Ferrying Division of the Air Transport Command.
Classes entered the WASP program at monthly intervals. A total of 18 classes completed training: 8 in 1943 and 10 in 1944. Of the 25,000 women who applied for flight training, 1,830 were accepted, and of those, 1,074 received their wings. Entrance requirements remained essentially the same as those for the WAFS, except the age requirement was dropped from 21 to 18, and the flight experience was set at only 200 hours. That requirement was later dropped to 35 hours, and the 200-horsepower rating requirement was eventually eliminated.
The WASPs flew all types of military aircraft, including AT-6 Texan, AT-10 Wichita, AT-11 Kansan, and BT-13 Valiant trainers; C-47 Skytrain, C-54 Skymaster, and C-60 Lodestar transports; A-25 Shrike (SB2C Helldiver) and A-26 Invader attack aircraft; B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, TB-26 Marauder, and B-29 Superfortress bombers; P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters. In addition to ferrying, the WASPs performed many other tasks such as glider and target towing, radar calibration flights, aircraft testing, and other noncombat duties to release male pilots for overseas action. The WASPs flew approximately 60 million miles and suffered 38 fatalities, or 1 to about 16,000 hours of flying.
The WASPs were employed under the Civil Service program. It was always assumed they would become part of the Army when a proper place within the military organization could be found for them. In fact, bills were introduced in Congress to give them military rank, but even with General Arnold's support, all efforts failed to absorb the WASPs into the military. On 20 December 1944, the Army Air Forces, citing the changing combat situation, disbanded the WASP program. The WASPs returned to civilian life with no veterans' benefits.
In 1977 the United States Congress finally granted benefits to the 850 remaining WASPs.
Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
Public Law 554 on 15 May 1942 created a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps for service with the Army of the United States. In September 1943 the WAAC was replaced by the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The measure permitted the enlistment of 150,000 women between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five, but the executive order which established the corps set an initial strength limit of 25,000. It was typical of the AAF, with its long-cherished ideas of independence, to desire a separate women’s corps completely independent of the women serving with other branches of the Army.
WAACs went though indoctrination training at Fort De Moines, Iowa under Army Service Forces (ASF) auspices. Once completed, they began to arrive at Army Air Force stations in September. The influx of 27,000 recruits did not pose a major training problem for the AAF. There was no need for elaborate technical training because the majority of women, in contrast to the seventeen- and eighteen- year-old boys being inducted, had a usable skill before they enlisted, often in the highly prized clerical field. The AAF proposed and pioneered in a time-saving policy of avoiding unnecessary training for women already qualified.
AAF policy did not prevent specialist training for women who would benefit by it or were highly qualified for it; in fact, the AAF early opened to women virtually its entire roster of job specialties and schools. On 20 November 1943 Wacs were declared eligible to attend any noncombat training course attended by AAF men, provided that the training would in a station commander’s opinion increase an individual’s job efficiency or would enable her to be utilized in some higher skill for which she had unusual aptitude or civilian background.
The job training of women was so completely integrated with the entire AAF training program that virtually no separate statistics are available as a basis for comparing the record of the women with male trainees. Obviously, this policy meant that the Wacs had to be as well qualified as men to enroll in and graduate from a training course. It is known only that approximately 2,000 women completed courses in AAF technical schools, including those for Link-trainer instructors, airplane mechanics, sheet-metal workers, weather forecasters, weather observers, electrical specialists of several kinds, teletype operators, control-tower specialists, cryptographers, radio mechanics, parachute riggers, bombsight-maintenance specialists, clerks, photo-laboratory technicians, and photo-interpreters..
The AAF showed no reluctance in opening up its noncombat jobs to women, even jobs which required “unwomanly” mechanical skills. Toward the end of the war there was an increase in the number of women on technical assignments, when it became difficult to obtain enlisted men in the top intelligence brackets required by some of the work. At the peak of WAC enrollment, in January 1945, more than 200 different job categories were filled by enlisted women, while WAC officers held more than 60 different types of jobs in addition to that of company officer. A flexible system of assignment enabled the AAF to use Wacs with special skills found in only a very few women, like those who were skilled as chemists, cartographers, geodetic computers, topographers, sanitary inspectors, and even dog-trainers. But as might be expected, a high percentage—about 50 percent—of the Air Wacs held administrative or office jobs. These clerks, typists, and stenographers were doing only what they had been doing in civilian life.
As World War II approached its conclusion (effectively on 14 August but formally not until 2 September), training activities and the strength of Training Command declined. The end of the war in Europe in May caused the focus of training to shift from the needs of the European Theater to those of the Pacific, particularly courses associated with very heavy bombardment. Then, with the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific, most training ceased for those students not planning to remain in the post-war air forces. Before that time, however, the trend in training had gone increasingly toward specialized training on particular types of aircraft. Then during the last four months of 1945, rapid retrenchment in training occurred, and emphasis shifted to separating people from the Army Air Forces and reorganizing Training Command for its still undetermined peacetime goals.
By January 1945 basic military training had become a comparatively minor part of Training Command's activities. Only three centers remained active--Amarillo, Sheppard, and Keesler. Buckley Field stopped basic training in December 1944, but it was early 1945 before all trainees had assignments. Only about 19,000 soldiers were in basic training in January, as compared to the peak figure of 135,796 in February 1943.
Flying training reorganization
By mid-October 1945 Training Command reassigned all people and equipment in Western Flying Training Command to the jurisdiction of its central counterpart, which on 1 November 1945, became known as Western Flying Training Command.
Then on 15 December the enlarged western command absorbed Eastern Flying Training Command. The single entity became Flying Training Command on 1 January 1946, with its headquarters at Randolph Field, Texas.
In June 1945 the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center transferred to the Personnel Distribution Command. In preparation for that event, also in June, the Officer Candidate School transferred from the aviation cadet center to Maxwell Field, Alabama.
Many pilot training installations discontinued training in 1945. The last contract primary pilot schools ended their operations in October. By that time, only Goodfellow Field, Texas, and Tuskegee Field, Alabama, continued to offer primary pilot training. The last class of black pilots graduated from primary training at Tuskegee on 20 November. Goodfellow's last primary class transferred to Randolph Field to finish training. Randolph began primary training on 26 December.
By the end of 1945, only Perrin Field, Texas, and Tuskegee Field continued to provide basic pilot training. The remaining active advanced single-engine schools were at Luke Field, Arizona; Stewart Field, New York; and Tuskegee. Advanced twin-engine training continued only at Enid Field, Oklahoma; Turner Field, Georgia; and Tuskegee. The 28th, 29th, 31st, 35th, 36th, 74th, 78th, 79th, 81st, and 83d Flying Training Wings were also inactivated.
Technical training reorganization
Requirements in the combat theaters for graduates of technical training schools and even pilots proved to be smaller than initially expected, so the Army Air Forces reduced the size of these training programs in January 1944. The cut in technical training was particularly heavy, so AAF Training Command requested and received authority to discontinue the headquarters of Central Technical Training Command in St Louis, Missouri, effective 1 March 1944.
Simultaneously, the headquarters of Eastern Technical Training Command moved from Greensboro, North Carolina, to St Louis. All stations previously in the central command, with the exception of Keesler Field, became part of the eastern command. Keesler went to the western command.
In mid-October 1945, Training Command delegated all stations and activities of the Western Technical Training Command to the jurisdiction of the Eastern Technical Training Command, which it redesignated Technical Training Command. Its headquarters remained at Scott Field, Illinois, where the eastern command had been headquartered.
The revised single technical training command retained seven stations: Scott and Chanute Fields in Illinois; Keesler Field, Mississippi; Boca Raton Field, Florida; Lowry and Buckley Fields in Colorado; and Amarillo Field, Texas.
By the end of 1945, the primary functions of AAF Training Command had become the rapid separation of eligible personnel from the Army Air Forces and the recruiting of Regular Army enlistees to operate the post-war air forces. Consequently, in early September Training Command headquarters set up a demobilization unit in its Personnel (A-1) Division, and on 22 October it established a Recruiting Section. Its goal was to create an entirely voluntary force, preferably one consisting of experienced, three-year reenlistees.
Air Training Command
On 1 July 1946, AAF Training Command was redesignated as Air Training Command. At about the same time, Army Air Forces began interpreting the word "command" to mean a major air command. For that reason, on 1 November the Flying Training and Technical Training Commands became the Flying and Technical Training Divisions of Air Training Command. In addition, the Military Training Center in San Antonio (which had earlier been a part of Technical Training Command) became the Indoctrination Division. All three were co-equal in status.
On 27 September 1947, Air Training Command became a major command of the United States Air Force. On 1 July 1993, it was inactivated. The assets of Air Training Command along with those of the inactivated Air University were consolidated and designated as Air Education and Training Command which is the main training component of the present-day Air Force.
- Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
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