Printer Friendly

Building Air Force Intellectual Capacity: An Innovative Look at Creating Air University and the Air Force Acadamy, 1918-1955.

How does a military organization inspire learning? How does an Air Force build a professional educational system and generate intellectual capital? How does a military academy inculcate traditional virtues of duty, honor, country and not stifle creativity, innovation, and thinking? These related, but different, questions shape thinking about the creation of the United States Air Force professional officer schools, specifically the Air University and the US Air Force Academy. A premise forms the core of this article: thinking about military education, or creating Air Force intellectual capacity, parallels studies of military innovation, or military technical revolution. Examining the context, theory, and application of military educational developments provides insights into US Air Force organizational culture, politics, and leadership. These same insights mark the United States Air Force as a whole during its formative years (1918-1955), a period of rapid institutional, doctrinal, and technological change. To focus, this study proposes a tentative thesis: in establishing an Air University, Air Force leaders sought evolutionary, sustaining institutional change but may have achieved more; while in creating an Air Force Academy, air leaders sought a revolutionary, disruptive change to military education, but may have achieved less. Regardless of the validity of this admittedly shaky hypothesis, the US Air Force succeeded in creating educational systems that advanced the institution's educational capacity. (1)

Viewing US Air Force educational efforts through the lens of military and technological innovation provides useful insights. Throughout its existence, the US Air Force considered technology vital to its core mission, identity, and service culture. Hence, analyzing the creation of Air University and the US Air Force Academy with this in mind offers perspective and perception. In Winning the Next War: Innovation and the Modern Military, Stephen Peter Rosen warns that bureaucracies are not only hard to change, but are designed not to change. While military mavericks, those who "buck the chain of command," intuitively appeal to our society, their efforts rarely succeed and indeed may detract from progress. Rosen also posits that innovation requires ideological struggle, winning the battle of ideas is essential to changed thinking. Finally, he suggests that change occurs through those in power. Military technological and educational innovation must win backing by senior officers, ideally with a strategy for intellectual and organizational improvement. (2)

In "Technology and History: Kranzberg's Laws," Melvin Kranzberg offers additional insights of technological innovation as a human activity. Thus, technological determinism, the belief that technology is "the prime factor shaping our lifestyles, values, institutions, and other elements of our society" must be viewed as a human activity with all the foibles and irrationality associated. (3) The author articulates "Kranzberg's Laws" that with some adaptation inform understanding of military education. For example, he states that since entire systems interact, a system cannot be studied in isolation; one must look at the interaction of these systems with the entire social, political, economic, and cultural environment. Furthermore, Kranzberg suggests that although technology, might be a prime element in public issues, non-technical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions. (4) For this article, substitute "education" for "technology."

Although there are many other authors and ideas in the field, innovation analyst Terry Pierce characterizes innovations as "disruptive" (major or revolutionary) or "sustaining" (incremental or evolutionary). He proposes that disruptive change requires a "product champion," a senior leader who forms and backs small innovation groups, and then steers architectural change by transforming both organization and doctrine. Because organizations inherently resist disruptive change, product champions succeed by disguising disruptive (major) transformation as sustaining (incremental). (5) In sum, the technological innovation thoughts of Rosen, Kranzberg, and Pierce inform understanding of the military educational innovations represented by the creation of Air University and the Air Force Academy that span the 1918-1955 time frame.

Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, ended American fighting in World War I, but initiated military and political efforts to establish professional military education for the US Army Aviation Service. On November 26, 1918, slightly more than two weeks from the war's last shots, West Point graduate and pilot Lieutenant Colonel A. J. Hanlon proposed creating a U.S. Aeronautical Academy "to inculcate into [Air Service] officers love of country, proper conception of duty, and the highest regard for honor." (6) Reflecting his personal experience, Hanlon explained the "dissatisfaction" of Air Service personnel for their treatment by regular Army officers and that West Point graduates "were anything but popular." In December 1918, Robert E. Vinson, President of the University of Texas, offered Camp Mabry in Austin as a site for an Air Service Academy to serve as the West Point of the air arm. A month later, Lieutenant Colonel Barton K. Yount proposed an Air Service Academy to the Director of Military Aeronautics with three primary objectives: (7)

To instill discipline, espirit de corps, and high ideals of honor...

To thoroughly train [officers]... in drill regulations and other military subjects...

To thoroughly instruct them... [in] the subject of aviation ... and to begin their flying training [ground school].

By the end of 1919, two more military proposals and a resolution from the Texas state senate backing an air service academy in San Antonio surfaced. (8)

The flurry of air service professional educational ideas revealed a split in thinking. Hanlon, Yount, the Texas Senate, and others backed a "West Point for the air," while Lieutenant Colonel William C. Sherman, Chief of Air Service Training, working for Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell argued for a more technical air academy that would instruct in administration, ground and air tactics, combined arms, and technical training. In short, plans for practical, flying-oriented training battled a focus on discipline (a recurrent theme from West Pointers aghast at the slack, informal Air Service), honor, and duty. The struggle over purpose proved moot as American doughboys shed their uniforms as rapidly as possible. Peace, a return to "normalcy," and budget tightening trumped plans for postwar universal military service and professional military education. By the end of 1919, plans for an Air Service Academy were dead and conscientious airmen shifted effort to adding aviation subjects into the West Point curriculum. (9)

The flurry of air service professional educational ideas revealed a split in thinking

Billy Mitchell's sensational efforts to achieve an independent air force returned attention to the creation of an air academy. First manifested in the 1921 Ostfriesland bombing trials where Mitchell's airmen "sank a battleship" and then escalating in his attack on the Departments of War and the Navy for "gross negligence" in the 1925 USS Shenandoah dirigible crash, Mitchell seized newspaper headlines and sparked Congressional debate over airpower. In his testimony before Congress and again at his court-martial trial, Mitchell backed an air academy as the "backbone" of a professional air force, but the message remained muted compared to his more headline grabbing statements. (10) Nevertheless, on April 3, 1922, the US Senate passed a resolution directing the Secretaries of War and Navy: (11)

To report to Congress (1) whether or not it is feasible and advisable to establish a school of aeronautics to be known as the United States Academy for Aeronautics.... (2) whether or not it is practicable to use a part of the buildings and grounds of the United States Military Academy and of the United States Naval Academy for separate schools in aeronautics.

In response, Major General Mason M. Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, backed the establishment of a separate academy for aeronautics as "highly desirable" and opposed using existing facilities at West Point or Annapolis. Unfortunately, Billy Mitchell's notoriety, Congressional testimony, and court-martial proceedings distracted from the "essential" air academy. By the end of 1925, he failed to secure either an independent air force or an air academy. Furthermore, Mitchell's beleaguered boss, Maj Gen Patrick changed his stance; Patrick now believed that "with certain changes," expanded courses at West Point would be "sufficient" for the Air Service. (12)

The Air Corps Tactical School played a vital role in shaping operational doctrine

The rejection of Mitchell did not end progress in air service professional education. Although relatively unheralded, the Air Service created an Air Service Tactical School (ACTS) at Langley Field, Virginia in 1923. In addition, by 1925, General Patrick authorized permanent primary flying training at Brooks Field, advanced flying training at Kelly Field (both located at San Antonio), balloon training at Scott Field, Illinois, technical schools at Chanute Field, Illinois, and an engineering school at McCook Field, near Dayton, Ohio. Although lacking an air academy, professional military training through specialized air service schools advanced significantly. (13)

The Air Corps Tactical School played a vital role in shaping operational doctrine and the conceptual thinking of key American air leaders during World War II. Although classes numbered less than sixty officers, former ACTS students and staff dominated the ranks of senior Army Air Force commanders. Claire Chennault, George Kenney, Hoyt Vandenberg, Harold George, Heywood "Possum" Hansell, and others played significant wartime roles and proved ACTS worth as a doctrinal cradle for the Army Air Forces. (14) When General Arnold directed the Air Staff to begin planning for a postwar Air Force in 1944, two ideas emerged: World War II demonstrated the need for an independent Air Force to further air power potential and the vital need for an ACTS-like institution to serve as an idea factory and doctrinal hub. (15) By January 29, 1946, Generals Eisenhower and Carl A. Spaatz, the new Army Air Forces Chief of Staff, agreed upon a new functional organization for the AAF. Air Force combat commands included the Strategic Air Command, Air Defense Command, and Tactical Air Command and support commands featured Air Training Command, Air Transport Command, and Air University among others. The new organizational scheme would become effective on February 15,1946. (16)

Postwar planners envisioned Air University (AU) as a revised and expanded Air Corps Tactical School. Whereas ACTS was a single school, Air University would comprise an integrated school system including a co-located Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and other schools as required (eventually adding Squadron Officer School). Air planners addressed pre-war Air Corps educational problems and sought to integrate junior and senior officers in separate, but supporting programs. Additionally, at the insistence of General Spaatz, non-rated officers would compete with rated flying officers in all schools. On March 12, 1946, General Spaatz named Major General Muir S. Fairchild as Commander of Air University located at Maxwell Field, Alabama with an initial authorized strength of 3,867 officers and men. The initial Air University mission paralleled ACTS and "planned to equip officers with the knowledge and skills necessary for assuming progressively more important assignments in command and staff positions through the Air Force." (17)

After its 1946 creation, Air University faced a battle for scope and range of activities. The initial Air Staff directive outlined an ambitious array of AU tasks:

To develop basic doctrines and concepts for the employment of air power;

To review, revise, and prepare basic AAF doctrines for publication;

To maintain continuing research into strategic, tactical, and defensive concepts of air power;

To review and evaluate new tactics, techniques, and organization and to make recommendations regarding them;

To collect, analyze, and disseminate information on new methods and techniques for aerial warfare;

To plan and supervise the development and testing of new and improved methods and techniques of aerial warfare;

To approve, activate, and designate test agencies and monitor all projects involving tactical unit testing. (18)

Major General Elwood R. Quesada, commander of the new Tactical Air Command, vigorously protested the broad scale of activities that would require tactical flying groups to accomplish. General Spaatz quickly agreed and informed General Fairchild that Air University would not receive tactical aircraft nor conduct equipment evaluations, testing, and demonstrations. Attempting to calm organizational waters, Major General David M. Schlatter, Air University deputy commander, announced Air University's focus on research, evaluation, and doctrinal functions and serve as a "monitoring agency or steering committee" utilizing expertise from all Air Force commands. (19)

As legislation establishing an independent United States Air Force advanced, Air University embraced its ACTS doctrinal legacy. Aware that formal doctrine lagged rapid wartime technological advances, including radar and atomic weapons, Air University faculty, students, and research staff sought to capture wartime lessons and rewrite air doctrine. General Fairchild created a sixteen-man Research Section to stimulate thinking and discussion. Individual student and faculty papers, plus seminar and class projects, tackled current problems often identified by the Air Staff. For example, in 1948, Brigadier General Thomas S. Power, deputy assistant chief of air staff for operations, called for AU to revise FM 100-20, Command and Employment of Air Power, the seminal wartime document considered airpower's "declaration of independence." This top-priority task continued through the early 1950s and resulted in Air Force Manual (AFM) 1-2, United States Air Force Basic Doctrine, effective April 1, 953. (20)

Air University faculty,... and research staff sought to capture wartime lessons and rewrite air doctrine

The establishment of Air University as a research institution focused on contemporary Air Force problems shifted attention to the creation of an Air Force Academy. Like the earlier post-World War I efforts, planning for an air academy featured both military and civilian political components. Institutionally, Air University played the central role in military staff efforts while "the great state of Texas" again sought center stage in Congressional legislation. Like the earlier generation, post-World War II planners faced challenges of massive demobilization, fiscal constraints, and convincing a war-weary public. Yet, considerations of an air academy differed in context from the period following the Great War with the dramatic, powerful impact of air power in World War II and an emerging Cold War dominated by the horrific prospect of atomic weapons.

Lieutenant General Muir S. Fairchild's 1947-48 study of an Air Force Academy proved innovative and impactful. Like earlier efforts, Air University personnel considered the suitability of expanding facilities at Annapolis and West Point, but this consideration was half-hearted at best, citing expense and wartime difficulties with flying training. Largely unspoken, airmen steadfastly believed air power earned its place in wartime performance and deserved a prestigious service academy. (21) General Fairchild charged his research teams to consider two different plans: a "conventional" plan based on a four-year undergraduate service academy and a five-year "composite" plan where subsidized officer candidates would first attend a civilian university for two years and then three years at an air academy. He also asked whether to include pilot training in the cadet program. Seeking to avoid unimaginative, "military" minds, Fairchild sought the best aspects of civilian college education with a service academy's foundation of "duty, honor, country." In August 1948, now Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Fairchild convened a conference of senior officers and distinguished civilian educators, later known as the Fairchild Board. After deliberations, General Fairchild's "composite" plan won an 8-5 vote with two abstentions. (22) Nevertheless, in a hierarchical organization, innovation must first pass muster with the boss.

In a September 1, 1948, letter to the Commanding General of Air University, new Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt S. Vandenberg accepted the Fairchild Board's exclusion of pilot training from a new academy's curriculum, but rejected the "composite" plan in favor of a conventional West Point-based approach. (23) Vandenberg then directed a full-time Air Force Academy Planning Board to devise a tentative plan of action, time table, and estimate of funds "at the earliest possible date" and he authorized Air University to take whatever measures were necessary, including recalling to active duty retired and reserve personnel. (24)

Seeking to bring fame, jobs, and attention to home Congressional districts, a number of legislative proposals advanced concurrently with military staff efforts. The two most prominent, House Resolution 4547 and Senate 1868, proposed "to establish the United States Air Academy at Randolph Field, Texas." (25) Air leaders faced a delicate balancing act in determining the Air Force's ideal location for an academy without offending key legislative supporters. Fortunately, significant public support bolstered the drive for an Academy in contrast to the post-World War I years. Editorials supporting an Air Force Academy appeared in the Baltimore Post, San Antonio Light, Washington Post, Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, and others. In September 1949, George Gallup conducted a poll with the question: "Do you think Congress should or should not vote money for a separate Air Force Academy?" The results indicated impressive support: fifty-seven percent favored, twenty-five percent opposed, and eighteen percent held no opinion. (26) The public attention prompted Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal to appoint a Service Academy Board to study the issue on March 14, 949. (27)

The recommendation of the Service Academy Board proved a pivotal moment in the quest for an Air Force Academy, although it was not a foregone conclusion. A blue-ribbon commission of top military and academic talent, the Service Academy Board featured Robert L. Sterns, President of the University of Colorado (Chairman); retired General Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of Columbia University (Vice Chairman), James P. Baxter, President of Williams College; Frederick A. Middlebush, President of the University of Missouri; George D. Stoddard, President of the University of Illinois; Edward L. Moreland, Executive Vice President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Major General Bryant E. Moore, Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy; Rear Admiral James L. Holloway, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy; and Major General David M. Schlatter, Deputy Commander of Air University. (28) After initial deliberations, most members supported the existing service academy concept and creating an Air Force Academy with one major, and surprising, exception: former West Pointer and acclaimed General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike strongly believed there should not be separate service academies. A strong advocate of effective joint operations and military service unification, Eisenhower wrote to Secretary of Defense Forrestal: (29)

With regard to the Air Academy, I still believe that most individuals are approaching this matter from technical and service viewpoints rather than from an overall possibility for good. I realize, however, that you may be forced into the creation of a new and separate academy. This, as you know, I regard the least desirable of all. I would prefer that the two existing academies be enlarged as much as possible (even double West Point) and call the whole thing the United Service Academy. One would be the Annapolis Branch and one the West Point Branch. If we have to build a third, the same principle should apply.

Eisenhower viewed a new AFA as an obstacle to the inter-service teamwork needed for modern war. For differing reasons, Eisenhower's opposition also aligned him with President Truman's opinion on the issue. (30)

The deliberate, thoughtful study and debate within the Stearns-Eisenhower Board prompted Eisenhower to change his mind. Priding himself as a dispassionate, rational decision maker, Eisenhower weighed the evidence presented and overturned his objections. On December 21, 1949, the committee's report strongly endorsed retaining the service academy system and backed the proposed Air Force Academy. As later events would prove, Eisenhower's conversion to Air Force Academy support represented the watershed moment in the Air Force Academy story. (31)

As the Stearns-Eisenhower Board wrestled with the service academies at a conceptual level, the Air Force Academy Planning Board, based at Air University, honed the practical details. Driven by a dedicated planning staff led by project officer Lieutenant Colonel Arthur E. Boudreau, the AFA Planning Board orchestrated sixteen military officers and thirty-nine distinguished civilians as consultants and subject matter experts. The luminaries included General George C. Kenney, Commander of Air University, General Muir S. Fairchild, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General John K. Cannon, and a voice from the 1919 efforts, retired Lieutenant General Barton K. Yount. (32) Focused at the organizational level, the Planning Board settled upon a three-fold Academy mission: (33)

To provide an assured and constant source of approximately fifty per cent of the annual regular officer replacement requirements for the Air Force.

To provide these officer replacements with the requisite educational background essential to career service in the air force, and

To provide an adequate officer corps which may be augmented in times of war and national emergency.

Most members supported the existing service academy concept and creating an Air Force Academy

The board produced three volumes that accomplished its charter. Volume I outlined the overall plan and provided the rationale for an Air Force Academy citing the rise of air power, the "frightening possibilities" of future [atomic] war, and an immediate educational need since the US Air Force faced a shocking decline in the number of college-educated officers each year. (34) Volume II presented a complete prospective curriculum in 433 pages of exquisite, or perhaps excruciating, detail with course descriptions and individual class objectives, plans, and readings for the entire four-year curriculum. Volume III set forth organizational and support details. In the report's opening preface, the Planning Board announced its visionary justification for the new academy: (35)

Recent history's most significant chapter is that of the rise of military Air Power. It is a story of Air Power's ascension to rank with the other great forces of land and sea. Yet, Air Power stands not at the end of a long and tortuous path but at the beginning. Its future lies in the progress of mankind. Its force--for good and evil--for the progress or retrogression--must be directed and controlled by the mind of man, and in significant measure by the officers and men who are the United States Air Force.

To bring the Service Academy Board and Air Force Academy Planning Board ideas to fruition, General Hoyt S.Vandenberg named Lieutenant General Hubert R. Harmon as the Special Assistant for Air Force Academy Matters to the Air Force Chief of Staff. Respected as the Army Air Forces Chief of Personnel in the latter stages of World War II responsible for the massive demobilization efforts, Harmon earned a reputation as a superb administrator. Moreover, a fellow Class of 1915 West Point graduate and football teammate of Eisenhower, Harmon was a man who invoked trust. He provided the glue to bring disparate plans and ideas together. His focus on the mission, drive to accomplish tasks, and people skills enabled him to overcome bureaucratic inertia. (36) By late 1949, all the elements for opening an Air Force Academy seemed to be in place, yet Public Law 325, The Air Force Academy Act, was signed on April 1, 1954 and an interim Air Force Academy was dedicated on July 11,1955. (37)

Why did it take five years from authorization to opening the Air Force Academy? Why so long? Four major reasons emerge: first, the June 1950 North Korean invasion diverted attention to larger matters of life and death and potential escalation to atomic war. Second, President Harry S. Truman opposed the new Academy for fiscal and personal reasons. A National Guard artillery officer during the First World War (with more actual combat experience than many senior World War II commanders), Truman resented regular officer condescension. Third, the other services gave lukewarm support for the new academy in public, and in private worked against the AFA not wishing to see traditional West Point-Annapolis influence diluted. Fourth, the realities of local and party politics added issues, procedures, and time. Also, the sheer number of bills introduced in the House and Senate between 1947 and 1954 overwhelmed legislative capacity. The official Air Force Academy History describes fourteen separate bills with varying degrees of overlap. Since many of the bills tied the new academy to a specific location within a Congressional district, the Air Force legislative liaison team sought to decouple approval for an academy from the decision of where to locate it. The ensuing delay frustrated Lieutenant General Harmon and demonstrated woes of political bureaucracy. (38) Furthermore, the Korean War and other domestic issues threatened the ruling Democratic Party's standing. With the next election in doubt, politicians were reluctant to take action. Even when Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election, the new administration and Republican Congressional leadership needed time to organize their agenda. Fortunately, Ike's legendary temper and life-long friendship with Harmon propelled AFA efforts. (39)

Given Stephen Rosen's observation that bureaucracies are designed not to change, perhaps the better question to consider is why the post-World War II attempt to establish an Air Force Academy succeeded when the initial post-World War I efforts failed? Returning to the military innovation ideas of Rosen, Kranzberg, and Pierce, themes of organizational power, ideological struggle, social interaction, political context, and leadership through product champions emerge. Drawing upon Stephen Rosen's theories, Billy Mitchell's failed gambit as a military maverick to produce an independent air force not only prompted retrenchment from those in power, but derailed plans for an air service academy. More important, air power lost the ideological struggle. Although air power proved important in the Great War, ground power proved vital and decisive. Moreover, public war-weariness and fiscal belt tightening overwhelmed concerns of far off, future war.

By late 1949, all the elements for opening an Air Force Academy seemed to be in place

The evolution and struggle of Air Force professional education demonstrated Melvin Kranzberg's observations on the importance of the human element in technological, or in this case, educational, change. In one dimension, Billy Mitchell's fiery combativeness contrasts with Hubert Harmon's patient collegiality. In another, Harmon's genuine lifelong friendship with Eisenhower and other senior generals wins trust, while Mitchell's diva antics enrage powerful potential allies. In the four-decade saga of establishing an air academy, Kranzberg's law stressing the interaction of entire systems proves apt. For air planners, the solving of one problem whether legislative, academic, organizational, fiscal, political, personnel, or other only leads to another. Kranzberg's claim of non-technical concerns overriding technical issues is demonstrated when comparing the various air academy boards (Fairchild, Stearns-Eisenhower, Air Force Academy Planning) versus the tale of legislative wheeling and dealing. Irrational political factors whether political jealousies, Congressional egos, local politics, or resentment against service academies overwhelm and delay rational deliberations.

Admittedly Terry Pierce's ideas concerning sustaining versus disruptive innovation shape this paper's initial hypothesis. Intended as an evolutionary, sustaining innovation in the form of an improved Air Corps Tactical School, the initial version of Air University results in a revolutionary change: an institution devoted to life-long, professional learning with academic freedom for faculty and students to explore issues without censure. (40) Dedicated to research, seminar-based forums for discussion and thought, AU represents a military organization that changes service culture. Without Distinguished Graduate status from Air Command and Staff or Air War College, advanced academic degree, or other demonstrated academic learning, today's officers cannot advance to senior ranks. In contrast, one cannot imagine World War II's relatively uneducated heroic leaders advancing to field grade, let alone flag rank, in today's Air Force.

Why did it take five years from authorization to opening the Air Force Academy?

The second part of this article's thesis is flawed. Inspired by the Fairchild Board's "composite plan," the premise suggests that air leaders wanted an institution significantly different than West Point and failed to achieve it. Closer analysis reveals that the primary planners indeed wanted a "West Point of the Air." Harmon, Eisenhower, Vandenberg, and others actually achieved what they sought. The Air Force Academy did not represent a disruptive innovative change in this sense: the hypothesis creates a false premise. Nevertheless, to those who fought the legislative and bureaucratic battles to create USAFA, the new high-tech campus at a spectacular location with a qualified military faculty and accredited curriculum represents a triumph of innovation. Whether the innovation was a disruptive or sustaining is a moot point.

Terry Pierce's emphasis on a product champion forms the overriding lesson of this study. As noted by Phillip Meilinger, the official AFA history, and others, Lieutenant General Hubert R. Harmon deserves the accolades as "Father of the Air Force Academy"; he sustains the vision, masters the details and guides the team. On the other hand, Dwight D. Eisenhower emerges as an even more important product champion whether as General of the Army, Columbia University President, or President of the United States. Carl Reddel's article, "Ike Changes His Mind" gets it right. Eisenhower's conversion from opposition to support of an Air Force Academy proves pivotal. Before Eisenhower's assumption of the presidency, air academy bills languished in legislative muck and Truman's opposition encourages other nay sayers, especially the traditional service academies. After becoming president, Ike's legendary temper breaks legislative logjams and rapid progress ensues; he signs Public Law 325 in fourteen months and attends the AFA dedication a year later. In contrast, the post-World War I efforts lack a Harmon or Eisenhower. In some ways Truman represents the power of a negative product champion.

Innovation theories provide sound insights on the US Air Force attempt to create intellectual capacity. Nevertheless, the most profound difference between the two post-war periods and the key to successful professional military education advances remains contextual. Not only Air Force leaders, but senior Army and Navy commanders and the public in general understood the rise of air power in World War II and the threat of atomic war. Although the outbreak of the Korean War delayed plans for an Air Force Academy, it also justified its existence. When learning of the impasse blocking the creation of the AFA, Eisenhower exclaimed that further delay was unacceptable, failure to build the academy "is to risk our national existence in any future war." (41) Both Air University and the Air Force Academy exist because of the Cold War. Although largely unappreciated by many people today, Cold War realities formed Air Force organizational and service culture to include military education.


(1.) The author wishes to thank Dr. Mary E. Ruwell and Lt Col Doug Kennedy, USAF, Ret. for ideas and able assistance negotiating the Special Collections Branch, Brigadier General Robert F. McDermott Cadet Library, US Air Force Academy (USAFA) and Dr. Charles D. Dusch, Command Historian, USAFA for providing his detailed lessons notes that guided my research. Detailed, insightful histories of Air University and the US Air Force Academy abound. Robert T. Finney's History of the Air Corps Tactical School 1920-1940, Thomas Greer's The Development of Air Doctrine in the Army Air Arm 1917-1941, and Peter R. Faber's "Interwar US Army Aviation and the Air Corps Tactical School: Incubators of American Airpower" in The Paths of Heaven: The Evolution of Airpower Theory, edited by Phillip S. Meilinger, provide the foundation for the predecessor to Air University. Likewise Phillip S. Meilinger's Hubert R. Harmon: Airman, Officer, Father of the Air Force Academy sets gold standard for the many works about the Air Force Academy. Equally valuable, Paul T Ringenbach's

Battling Tradition: Robert F. McDermott and Shaping the U.S. Air Force Academy, M. Hamlin Cannon and Henry S. Fellerman's Quest for an Air Force Academy, and High Flight: History of the U.S. Air Force Academy, edited by Edward A. Kaplan, provide high-quality works for both scholars and general readers. Although less accessible, the official histories of Air University and US Air Force Academy greatly exceed expectations for organizational unit histories. Also, the author acknowledges Dr. Steven A. Pomeroy's valuable tutelage in the field of military-technological innovation.

(2.) Stephen Peter Rosen, Winning the Next War: Innovation and the Modern Military (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 2, 11-12, 20-21.

(3.) Melvin Kranzberg, "Technology and History: Kranzberg's Laws," in Technology and American History: A Historical Anthology from Technology to Culture, ed. Terry S. Reynolds and Stephen H. Cutcliffe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 6.

(4.) I find Kranzberg's Laws quite useful as a thinking and teaching tool. Kranzberg's:

First Law reads as follows: Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.

Second Law can be simply stated: Invention is the mother of necessity. Every technical innovations seems to require additional technical advances in order to make it fully effective.

Third Law: Technology comes in packages, big and small.

Fourth Law... Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.

Fifth Law: All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.

Sixth Law: Technology is a very human activity--and so is the history of technology. Ibid., pp. 5-20.

(5.) Terry C. Pierce, Warfighting and Disruptive Technologies: Disguising Innovation (New York: Cass, 2004), 21,31, 34.

(6.) The first official history of the US Air Force Academy features exhaustive, professional footnotes with the original documentary evidence based on letters and other official correspondence. Edgar A. Holt, M. Hamlin Cannon, and Carlos R.Allen, Jr. History of the United States Air Force Academy 27 July 1954-12 June 1956, United States Air Force Academy, Historical Division, Office of Information Services, 1 August 1957, Special Collections Branch, Robert F. McDermott Cadet Library, U. S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. (Hereafter abbreviated "Official History"), 3. Later, M. Hamlin Cannon, one of the original authors of the official history, captured the major points of the official history in book form. M. Hamlin Cannon and Henry S. Fellerman, Quest for an Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO: United States Air Force Academy, 1974), 10.

(7.) Official History, 3, 10-11; Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 10-12.

(8.) See the footnotes in Official History, 10-11, for the official correspondence associated; Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 11-12.

(9.) Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 14-15.

(10.) For an account of Mitchell's air power publicity campaign and court martial, see Alfred F Hurley, Billy Mitchell: Crusader for Air Power (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 90-109.

(11.) Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 19.

(12.) Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 21, 23-24.

(13.) Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 23 and Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II, vol. 6: Men and Planes (Washington: Office of Air Force History, 1983), 123.

(14.) See Appendix 2 of Robert T Finney, History of the Air Corps Tactical School 1920-1940 (Washington: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1998) for a list of ACTS faculty and students. For an in-depth look at ACTS influence on Air Corps doctrine see Peter R. Faber's "Interwar US Army Aviation and the Air Corps Tactical School: Incubators of American Airpower" in The Paths of Heaven: The Evolution of Airpower Theory, ed. Phillip S. Meilinger (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1997), 183-238.

(15.) Vance O. Mitchell, Air Force Officers: Personnel Policy Development, 1944-1974 (Washington: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1996), 9-11; Herman S. Wolk, Planning and Organizing the Postwar Air Force 1943-1947 (Washington: Office of Air Force History, 1984), ; Herman S. Wolk, "The Quest for Independence," in Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force, Vol. 1: 1907-1950, ed. Bernard C. Nalty (Washington, Air Force History and Museums Program, 1997), 372-375.

(16.) Wartime AAF commander General Hap Arnold retired in November 1945. Robert Frank Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine:

Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force Vol.1:1907-1960 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 1989), 207 and Wolk, Planning and Organizing, 130-131.

(17.) Wolk, Planning and Organizing, 133, 135, 137; Finney, History of the ACTS, 84; Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine, 209.

(18.) Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine, 210.

(19.) Ibid., 210-211.

(20.) Ibid., 5, 211, 366-367.

(21.) Official History, 19-20; Mitchell, Air Force Officers, 130-131.

(22.) Official History, 19-20; Mitchell, Air Force Officers, 130-131: Phillip S. Meilinger, Hubert R. Harmon: Airman, Officer, Father of the Air Force Academy (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Group, 2009), 178.

(23.) Letter Vandenberg to Commanding General, Air University, 1 September 1948, Air Force Academy Planning Board Study, Vol 1: A Plan for an Air Force Academy, Headquarters, The Air University, January 1949, iii, Special Collections Branch, Robert F. McDermott Cadet Library, U. S. Air Force Academy, Colorado (hereafter abbreviated AFA Planning Board); Official History, 20; Mitchell, Air Force Officers, 131; Meilinger, Hubert R. Harmon, 179.

(24.) AFA Planning Board, ix; Official History, 21.

(25.) For an in-depth study of the multiple Congressional bills to establish an AFA see Official History, 25-91 and Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, Chapter 6, "Congress and the Air Force Academy," 128-180; AFA Planning Board, vii; Meilinger, Hubert R. Harmon, 176.

(26.) Official History, 14.

(27.) Paul T Ringenbach, Battling Tradition: Robert F. McDermott and Shaping the U.S. Air Force Academy (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 2006), 33-35; Official History, 15-16; Meilinger, Hubert R. Harmon, 183-184: Carl W Reddel, "Ike Changes His Mind: Creation of the United States Air Force Academy," in High Flight: History of the U.S. Air Force Academy, ed. Edward A. Kaplan (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 2011), 27.

(28.) Official History, 15-16; Malham M. Wakin, "The Evolution of the Core Curriculum at the U.S. Air Force Academy," in Forging the Sword: Selecting, Educating, and Training Cadets in the Modern World, ed. Elliot V Converse, III (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 1998), 218.

(29.) Reddel, "Ike Changes His Mind," 26.

(30.) Ibid., 25-26.

(31.) Official History, 15; Reddel, "Ike Changes His Mind," 28, Meilinger, Hubert R. Harmon, 183-184.

(32.) AFA Planning Board, xii-xiii; Ringenbach, Battling Tradition, 30-31.

(33.) AFA Planning Board, 7.

(34.) AFA Planning Board, 3-4.

(35.) AFA Planning Board, ix.

(36.) In researching this paper, I faced the choice of focusing upon Harmon's role in the creation of the Air Force Academy, but my mentor and friend, Phil Meilinger had literally "written the book" on that subject. For a comprehensive account of Harmon's role, see Meilinger's chapter "The Man and the Idea" in Hubert R. Harmon: Airman, Officer, Father of the Air Force Academy, 167-189 and his shorter "Hubert R. Harmon and the Air Force Academy: The Man and the Issues," in High Flight: History of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Edward A. Kaplan, ed. (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 2011), 77-106. Other views of Harmon include Official History, 1; Wakin, "Evolution of the Core Curriculum," 219; and Ringenbach, Battling Tradition, 36-41.

(37.) Cannon and Fellerman, Quest, 275.

(38.) Official History, xiii-xiv.

(39.) The reasons paraphrase Meilinger, "Hubert R. Harmon and the Air Force Academy," 88-89.

(40.) Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine, 285.

(41.) Official History, 17.

Dr. John T. Farquhar graduated from the Air Force Academy and flew as a navigator in the RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft with the Strategic Air Command and Air Combat Command. With a Master's Degree in U.S. Diplomatic History from Creighton University and a Ph.D. in American Military History from Ohio State, Dr. Farquhar has taught courses in military history, air power, strategy, and military innovation at the United States Air Force Academy where he serves as an associate professor of Military and Strategic Studies. He has published articles in Air Power History and Air & Space Power Journal.
COPYRIGHT 2017 Air Force Historical Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Farquhar, John T.
Publication:Air Power History
Date:Dec 20, 2017
Previous Article:Dirty little Secret in the land of a Million Elephants: Barrel Roll and Lost War.
Next Article:The History of the Air Force Historical Foundation: An Extract.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters