During World War I, Arnold served on the army staff in Washington, rising to the rank of colonel and overseeing all aviation training. After the war, Arnold reverted to his permanent rank of captain. During the 1920s, he held a variety of assignments. He supported Colonel William Mitchell at the latter's court-martial, although this was not well received by his superiors. Arnold wrote or cowrote five books on aviation, won a second Mackay Trophy, and continued to rise in the Army Air Corps. He became its assistant chief as a brigadier general in 1935. Three years later he became chief of the Army Air Corps as a major general after the death of Major General Oscar Westover in a plane crash.
Arnold proved particularly adept at improving the readiness of his service and expanding its resources, even with tight interwar budgets. Promoted to lieutenant general in December 1941, he was designated commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces in the March 1942 War Department reorganization, which raised the air arm to equal status with the Army Ground Forces and Army Service Forces. Because the British had a chief of air staff, Arnold was included on the British-American Combined Chiefs of Staff as well as the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Although he was not a major player in their decisions, he was a loyal supporter of U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, who repaid Arnold after the war by supporting the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force. Arnold was promoted to general in March 1943 and became one of four five-star generals of the army in December 1944.
During the war, Arnold built an organization that reached a peak of approximately 2.5 million personnel and more than 63,000 aircraft. He was a fine judge of people and selected the best men as his advisers, staff, and field commanders. Arnold also established an emphasis on technological research and development that his service retains today. Although he was not really involved in day-to-day combat operations, his authority to relieve the field commanders who really did run the war gave him leverage to influence their actions. Poor health limited his effectiveness late in the war, especially after a fourth heart attack in January 1945.
Arnold was a proponent of precision bombing, but his pressure for more raids despite bad weather led to increased use of less accurate radar-directed bombardments in Europe, and his demand for increased efficiency in Japan inspired the fire raids there. His main goals were to make the largest possible contribution to winning the war and to ensure that the USAAF received credit for the win through proper publicity.
Although Arnold retired in June 1946, his goal of an independent U.S. air service was realized the next year by his successor, General Carl Spaatz. In May 1949, Arnold was named the first general of the U.S. Air Force. Arnold truly deserves the title "Father of the United States Air Force." He died at Sonoma, California, on 15 January 1950. Conrad C. Crane
Arnold, Henry H. Global Mission. New York: Harper, 1949.; Coffey, Thomas M. Hap: The Story of the U.S. Air Force and the Man Who Built It. New York: Viking, 1982.; Crane, Conrad C. Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.; Daso, Dik Alan. Hap Arnold and the Evolution of American Airpower. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2000.
Conrad C. Crane