Returning to the United States in 1923, Andrews then commanded the 1st Pursuit Group. He established several speed and altitude records until transferred to staff assignments. In March 1935, Andrews was promoted to temporary brigadier general and assigned to command General Headquarters (GHQ), Air Force. The new organization placed for the first time all the U.S. Army's air-strike elements under a single commander. He became a strong advocate of the four-engine strategic bomber that became the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and he was certainly one of the leading architects of American military air power in the years before World War II. Andrews molded GHQ, Air Force into the offensive combat arm that became the model for the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. GHQ, Air Force was also the model of the Air Force's post–Cold War Air Combat Command.
In 1937, Andrews clashed seriously with elements in the Army General Staff when he forcefully advocated an air force as an independent service during testimony before the House Military Affairs Committee. In 1939, he was reassigned to an insignificant staff position at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and reduced from his temporary rank of major general to his permanent rank of colonel. But just a few months later, General George C. Marshall became chief of staff of the U.S. Army; Marshall brought Andrews back to Washington and made him assistant chief of staff of the army for training and operations. Andrews was the first aviator to hold that key general staff position.
In 1941, Andrews took over the Caribbean Defense Command, becoming the first American air officer to command a theater. In November 1942, he assumed command of U.S. forces in the Middle East. On 5 February 1943, Andrews became the supreme commander of U.S. forces in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Three months later, on 3 May, Lieutenant General Andrews died at the controls of a B-24 bomber while attempting a landing at Kaldadarnes, Iceland, during poor visibility.
Andrews's appointment to command the ETO was a tacit recognition that the majority of American forces in Europe at the time were air rather than ground units. However, many contemporary observers at the time of his death considered him rather than Dwight Eisenhower the leading candidate for supreme Allied command of the invasion of the Continent. Andrews had the total confidence of General Marshall, and he possessed an almost ideal balance of intellect, character, courage, and military skill. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland was later named for him.
David T. Zabecki
Copp, DeWitt. A Few Great Captains: The Men and Events That Shaped the Development of U.S. Air Power. New York: Doubleday, 1980.; Frisbee, John L., ed. Makers of the United States Air Force. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1987.; McClendon, R. Earl. The Question of Autonomy for the U.S. Air Arm. Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University, 1950.