Gladwyne's Hap Arnold's Fight for U.S. Air Superiority During WWII and After
Arnold knew the value of discretion when pushing for the development of the U.S. Air Force, and used it to his advantage.
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Disincentives have their place. His boss’ court-martial for insubordination taught Gladwyne’s Henry “Hap” Arnold the value of discretion. Specifically, it taught him to keep his mouth shut, salute and work within the system to achieve a goal.
Arnold’s boss was Gen. Billy Mitchell, who was thrown out of the U.S. Army in 1926 for too vigorously advocating an air force as a third branch of the military. At the time, both the Army and Navy brass—steeped in centuries of tradition—saw aviation as just another tool. As a result, the United States aeronautical industry lagged behind those of other great powers. Mitchell’s departure left Arnold the leading uniformed advocate for expanded air power in the United States between the world wars.
“Unlike Mitchell, [Arnold] would demonstrate the leadership skills needed to realize the vision,” concluded historians Francois LeRoy and Drew Perkins.
As chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps and commander of the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Arnold oversaw development of the intercontinental bomber, the jet fighter and atomic warfare. Equally important, he developed and executed a strategy for U.S. air superiority in WWII and the post-war era.
According to LeRoy and Perkins, Arnold also “promoted and institution alized military and civilian collaboration in the academic and industrial arenas.” That’s really just jargon for his role in what Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.”
The third of five children, whose father was a physician, Arnold was part of a family whose immigrant ancestors had been Mennonites. During the Revolution, the family had dropped their pacifist
beliefs to join the more militant Baptists. Arnold’s grandfather fought at Gettysburg, and his father, Herbert, was a surgeon in the Spanish-American War.
Dr. Arnold carried his love of military discipline into his home. He refused to eat store-bought food, so his wife had to churn butter, bake bread and grow vegetables. The kids learned early not to speak unless spoken to.