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Arnold, “Hap” (Henry Harley)

Arnold, “Hap” [Henry Harley] (1886–1950), aviator and World War II general.A 1907 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Arnold joined the Aviation Section in 1911, receiving his flight training from Orville and Wilbur Wright. As an aviation pioneer, he set altitude records and won the initial Mackay Trophy in 1912. During World War I, he served in Washington as the head of flight training. The haphazard aviation programs of the war gave him useful insight into future efforts. After the war, he continued to advance the cause of military aviation. He testified for Col. Billy Mitchell and violated regulations in soliciting reservists for support of legislation. This action exiled him to Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1926. He persevered, however, rising to the rank of brigadier general in 1935. Arnold developed and exploited relationships with aviation entrepreneurs, scientists at the California Institute of Technology, Hollywood celebrities, and senior Army officers, and frequently served as the logistics and organization officer in air maneuvers.

In 1938, Arnold became Chief of the Air Corps. Simultaneously, President Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated U.S. rearmament, with emphasis on aircraft. In the next seven years, Arnold oversaw the creation of the world's most powerful air force—243 combat groups, 2.5 million men, and 63,000 aircraft at its height—which was his most significant contribution to the Allied victory in World War II. Although slowed by two heart attacks, he attended most of the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he championed the interests of the U.S. Army Air Forces and demonstrated that air power required representation at the highest levels. He deferred the fight for an independent air arm until after the war, but his loyal wartime support of both Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and European Theater Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower helped to ensure postwar army support for independence. In December 1944, he achieved five‐star rank and, with the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947, became the only General of the Air Force.


Arnold H. H. , Global Mission, 1949.

Richard G. Davis

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