United States Army Air Corps

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the aerial warfare service component of the United States Army between 1926 and 1941. After World War I, as early aviation became an increasingly important part of modern warfare, a philosophical rift developed between more traditional ground-based army personnel and those who felt that aircraft were being underutilized and that air operations were being stifled for political reasons unrelated to their effectiveness. The USAAC was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926, and was part of the larger United States Army. The Air Corps became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, giving it greater autonomy from the Army's middle-level command structure. During World War II, although not an administrative echelon, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing the Department of the Air Force.[1]

United States Army Air Corps
Active2 July 1926  9 March 1942
Disbanded18 September 1947
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size14,650 men, 1,646 aircraft (1932)
16,863 men, 855 aircraft (1936)
152,125 men, 6,777 aircraft (1941)
Garrison/HQMunitions Building, Washington, D.C.
Colors   Ultramarine blue and golden orange
MarchArmy Air Corps
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Maj.Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois
Maj.Gen. Henry H. Arnold
United States Army Air Corps Recruiting Poster

The Air Corps was renamed by the United States Congress largely as a compromise between the advocates of a separate air arm and those of the traditionalist Army high command who viewed the aviation arm as an auxiliary branch to support the ground forces. Although its members worked to promote the concept of air power and an autonomous air force in the years between the world wars, its primary purpose by Army policy remained support of ground forces rather than independent operations.

On 1 March 1935, still struggling with the issue of a separate air arm, the Army activated the General Headquarters Air Force for centralized control of aviation combat units within the continental United States, separate from but coordinate with the Air Corps. The separation of the Air Corps from control of its combat units caused problems of unity of command that became more acute as the Air Corps enlarged in preparation for World War II. This was resolved by the creation of the Army Air Forces (AAF), making both organizations subordinate to the new higher echelon.

On 20 June 1941, the Army Air Corps' existence as the primary air arm of the U.S. Army changed to that of solely being the training and logistics elements of the then-new United States Army Air Forces, which embraced the formerly-named General Headquarters Air Force under the new Air Force Combat Command organization for front-line combat operations; this new element, along with the Air Corps, comprised the USAAF.[2]

The Air Corps ceased to have an administrative structure after 9 March 1942, but as "the permanent statutory organization of the air arm, and the principal component of the Army Air Forces," the overwhelming majority of personnel assigned to the AAF were members of the Air Corps.[3]


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