« PreviousContinue »
66TH CONGRESS,] HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES | REPT. 637, 2d Session.
FEBRUARY 16, 1920.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. LEA, from the Select Committee on Expenditures in the War
Department, submitted the following
During the war America established and maintained more than 50 aviation training schools of various kinds in this country and Europe in which thousands of our young men were trained. She produced 11,760 airplanes and at the close of the war was manufacturing them at the rate of 23,000 a year; she produced 30,630 aeronautical engines which had an aggregate horsepower equal to approximately one-eighth of the total horsepower of all the locomotives in the United States. She received and paid for 6,745 engines and 5,071 planes from the Allies, of which over 2,300 were service planes used by the American forces in Europe. On the day of the armistice she had 1,620 service planes available for use on the front lines. She furnished the materials and supplies in vast quantities that made possible the maintenance of the allied air forces and finally resulted in their predominance by nearly 100 percent on the western front. In machines which she owned, her ffiers went to the front and established part of the most brilliant record of the war. For each American in our air forces who perished in combat, an average of over two and one-half of the enemy fell. Thousands of patriotic Americans faithfully, intelligently, and selfsacrificingly contributed to this program of accomplishment. For it all, the majority of this committee has neither recognition nor commendation. They can find only faults. The reward they offer for this service to their country by their countrymen is snarling criticism, fault-finding complaints, and destructive vituperation.
Neither time nor space makes it practical to reply in detail to many of its features that might be discussed. The minority believes that the best reply that can be made to the exaggerations and misconceptions set forth in the majority report is a brief recital of the development of our aircraft service, what was done during the war, and the reasons therefor.
Out of the funds appropriated for the Army, the War Department, in 1898, allotted $50,000 for aernautical purposes. Nothing further in the way of appropriations was made until 10 years later.
The initial public flight of the Wright airplane at Fort Myer in 1908 induced temporary concrete interest of the United States in
aviation from a military standpoint (3562). On the 23d day of December 1907 the Signal Corps of the Army advertised for a heavier-than-air machine, the main requirements of which was that it would remain continuously in the air for one hour and develop a speed of at least 36 miles per hour. The trial flight of the Wright machine at Fort Myer in September 1908 fulfilled the requirements of the Army specification in the presence of the President and Members of the Cabinet and of the Congress. One machine was thereupon purchased out of the $30,000 allotted from Army funds during that and the following year. During the next seven years the total appropriations of the United States for the development of aircraft and military aeronautics amounted to less than $1,000,000. The first specific appropriation by Congress for aeronautical purposes was $125,000 on the 3d of March 1911, followed by $100,000 in August 1912; $125,000 in 1913; $250,000 in 1914; and $300,000 in 1915 (276).
At the beginning of the year in which the World War started, the United States ranked fourteenth among the nations of the world in the amount contributed to the development of aviation. The rating was as follows: Germany$28, 000, 000 Japan.
$1,500,000 France-22, 000, 000 China_
700, 000 Russia, 12, 000, 000 Bulgaria
600, 000 Italy8,000,000 Spain..
550, 000 Austria 5, 000, 000 Brazil.
500,000 Great Britain.3,000,000 United States-
2,000,000 In the meantime other nations, particularly France, comprehended the meaning of the successful trial flight at Fort Myer and became responsible for aircraft advancement for the succeeding nine years (3563).
Military aviation was given its first distinct recognition under the act of July 18, 1914, establishing the Aviation Section.
On the 8th of December 1914, the department called to the attention of Congress the importance of aviation as manifested in the European war, and asked an appropriation of $1,006,300. On recommendation of Secretary Garrison this amount was reduced to $400,000. Congress allowed the reduced amount of $300,000 in the following March.
From 1908 to 1916 the total number of experimental and other types of airplane engines delivered for the use of the United States Army was 59 (p. 497). During the year 1916 the total of such engines delivered was 134 (pp. 492-497). The total number of airplanes of experimental and other types delivered for the use of the Army beginning with 1908, to 1916, was 59 (p. 509). The number of such planes delivered during the year 1916 was 83' (p. 509). None of these engines and planes were of what is now called the serviceplane type. They were purely experimental and elementary training planes (344, 388).
At the time Newton D. Baker became Secretary of War in March 1916, the United States had about 16 airplanes" (6). Immediately following his appointment Secretary Baker urged an emergency appropriation from Congress and upon the 31st day of the month when he took office an emergency appropriation of $500,000 was granted to purchase airplanes.
The Mexican border trouble emphasized our lack of airplanes and the utter inefficiency and unserviceableness of those we had (5, 557, 558). The Secretary of War communicated with the aircraft manufacturers of the United States and found that none of them could promise early deliveries of the inefficient airplanes then in vogue (557, 558, 39, 3596). These machines had 90-horsepower engines (7).
By the act of August 29, 1916, $13,281,666 was made available for the purchase and manufacture of machines and the maintenance of the Aviation Section. Fifty thousand dollars was appropriated for the development of an aviation motor and $500 for special technical instruction for aviation officers (276).
The act of February 14, 1917, appropriated $3,600,000 for aircraft requirements in connection with seacoast defenses (276).
Shortly after becoming Secretary, Mr. Baker gave orders to our factories for planes of types then obtainable in this country. Only a part of these had been delivered within the year following the orders. Ît took practically one year for the American factories to make deliveries in substantial numbers on orders for these simple planes in the peace time preceding war (39, 557, 558).
At the beginning of the war with Germany, the United States had less than 300 planes, all of inferior types (11). During 1916 the Army ordered 366 airplanes, only 83 of which were received during that year. The total number of planes delivered to the United States prior to the war with Germany was 224, of which 82 were delivered in the preceding three months, and 83 during the preceding calendar year (509, 518).
Prior to the time we entered the war, American factories had not produced any modern fighting airplane. We had no armed machines (3595, 558). American production had been devoted to training planes. In order to produce American-made planes for war service purposes, the industry had to be developed from the ground up. We had only a handful of practical airplane engineers, none of whom had manufactured service planes (3553, 3554, 3563, 387, 3451). Our factories had meager facilities. Service planes had to be designed, factories had to be constructed, jigs, and dies, and tools designed and manufactured. Equipment involving many machines of delicate mechanism (3596, 3597), and even the clothing equipment for pilots were requirements absolutely necessary but practically unknown to the American industry (558, 559).
At the time of our entry into the war, we had a total of 52 officers, about 1,100 enlisted men, and about 200 civilian employees, including mechanics (3554), in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. At the beginning of the war the Army had trained 139 men to fly, of whom about 26 were really qualified pilots, so far as such flyers could be developed by elementary training machine experience (2910_V).
EARLY WAR PERIOD
After the European war began, but before the United States became a party to it, our Army had a more or less limited opportunity of observation thereof (348). Lieut. Col. Logan was at the head of the observation work of the United States (3590). Maj. Gen. George 0. Squier, then lieutenant colonel (3589), during two years of that
time was military attaché to Great Britain and had opportunities of observation of British war operations. He was permitted to go to the front in the early part of the war by special arrangements. He reported to the United States on all branches of the Army and made a special study of aviation, of which subject he had been a scientific student for many years (3591-3593).
There was a total of five observation officers from the Air Service in Europe immediately preceding and during the early days of the war (3310, 2910–VII, 347, 348). Gen. Mitchell, who was then a major (3589), went to Europe in March preceding the war and had a splendid opportunity for observation at the French front shortly after we entered the war (2612). Shortly in advance of the war three flying officers were sent to France for training and instruction in the French flying schools (347). With probably the one exception in the case of Squier, prior to about February 1917, when the entry of America into the war on the side of the Allies became probable, the belligerents had refused to permit American aviation officers observation privileges (348).
Helpful reports from the officers sent to the French flying fields did not begin to arrive until the summer of 1917 (2910_VII).
A few days after the declaration of war France, England, and Italy were urged by the United States military authorities to send experienced and trained
flyers and aeronautical engineers and designers to assist the United States in its preparatory work. A number of such men were forth with sent to the United States and placed on the working staff of the Chief Signal Officer at Washington (3554). Subsequently, at different times, men having the latest European experience came to America to replace those originally sent. The limited number of aeronautical engineers in America devoted themselves to the planning, designing, experimental and constructive work that the creation of a military aircraft industry involved (3554).
At an early date investigations were made of the training system, ground schools, and training fields of Canada, and the American plans in these matters were founded on the Canadian experience. Provision was made by which cadets from this country could be trained in Canada, France, and Italy. A winter training camp located in Texas was provided for the Royal Flying Corps of Canada, in return for which 10 flying squadrons of the Air Service were to be trained by the British Government and equipped with machines for service (3554).
In the early months of the war the Joint Army and Navy Technical Board undertook the determination of an aircraft program based upon
what would be needed and what was necessary to carry it into effect, including personnel (355, 356). This program was worked out in the form of estimates for funds made to Congress. The chairman of this committee (357) candidly and commendedly admits that in undertaking this work they had to rely upon "a very vivid imagination" and "no experience outside of a little in Mexico." Two officers from the French Army, members of Marshal Joffre's Mission (357) gave their assistance. The program adopted was at first based on the supposition of an Army of over 2,000,000.
It must be understood that the initial aircraft program proposed was for the purpose of presenting a foundation for requests for appropriations. The program of production followed investigations of the Bolling Commission and was changed from time to time as suggested by the Army advisers in Europe and as modified by American conditions of production.
The program used as a basis for appropriations was intended to meet the cablegram from the French premier, M. Ribot, under date of May 24, 1917, requesting that we prepare a flying corps of 4,500 ariplanes, personnel and matériel included, to be sent to the French front during the campaign of 1918, including 5,000 pilots and 50,000 mechanics (358, 2910-VII-VIII). The French request called for 16,500 service planes in the first six months of 1918 and 30,000 service engines. Additional planes and engines would be required for training purposes. The performance of this program, it is alleged, would "allow the Allies to win the supremacy of the air.” The cost of the 22,625 airplanes and 45,250 engines under the program was estimated at $365,120,000 (361). Items involving other essentials to the carrying out of this program made the aggregate estimated amount $707,541,452 (359-363). To meet this expense, in addition to sums already available for such purposes, Congress, by the act of July 24, 1917, appropriated $640,000,000 (363).
The program of sending 4,500 airplanes to the front included a total airplane production of 22,625 and 45,250 engines. This program required a greater plane production by the United States in 12 months than England produced during her first 40 months of the war. It required an engine production within 12 months approximately equal to the total engine production of England during the entire 51 months of the war (361, 561-a).
Looking at the situation from the subsequent experience of our selves and our Allies, there was never the practical possibility of fulfilling the program adopted in May 1917. We were absolutely without the engineering experience, the airplane and aeronautical mechanics, and the manufacturing resources to meet such a program within the time specified. The men who could design and make airplanes and engines in such numbers had yet to acquire their skill. Jigs and dies, the tools, the engines, the planes, and the factories in which they were to be made had yet to be designed and accomodated to quantity production (3595–3597).
Only inexperienced men would have promised performance of this program, but their inexperience was not reprehensible; it was the inexperience of their country, where none, perhaps, were of greater skill or experience than those who assisted in planning and recommending the program (2910–X-XI, XVI).
In October 1917, the French, after having been in the war three years, planned to extend their planes on the front from 2,665 to 4,022 by April 1918. At the time of the armistice, six months later, they had only 3,300 planes at the front, or 700 short of the program provided for April (2910_LI).
The big mistake in the aircraft-production program has been not so much that those in charge did not fulfill it, but rather than they made the mistake of creating a public expectation that they could
Out of their optimism came claims creating false hopes (3534, 3535). When the inevitable failure to meet the program came, public opinion accepted it as a failure of service instead of the failure of an impossible program. Inexperience and the excusable incompetence of inexperience, and that fault distributed among those