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  Foulois, Benjamin Delahauf
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AffiliationRepublican  
 
NameBenjamin Delahauf Foulois
Address
, New Jersey , United States
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Born December 09, 1879
DiedApril 25, 1967 (87 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Jan 04, 2015 02:06am
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InfoBenjamin Delahauf Foulois, better known to history and to his contemporaries as "Benny" Foulois, was one of military aviation's pioneers--in 1910 the Army's only active pilot. Foulois was slight of stature, combative, outspoken, often impetuous, and seldom diplomatic. Despite a stormy career centered on the fight for an independent air force, he was appointed Chief of the Air Corps in 1931. Along the way, especially as chief, Foulois' s crusading zeal and intemperance earned him the enmity of President Franklin Roosevelt, some powerful members of Congress, and most of the War Department General Staff. When he retired in December 1935, there was no ceremony, no medal for the pioneer who had done so much for military aviation.

An event that took place twenty-nine years later typifies the characteristics that endeared Benny Foulois to Army flyers and to the public, but not always to his civilian and military superiors. President Lyndon Johnson, who was running against Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign, was persuaded that a special medal should be struck for the eighty -five- year old warrior. A ceremony was held in the East Room of the White House, complete with distinguished guests, speeches honoring Foulois, and presentation of the medal by President Johnson. Foulois responded with a few remarks on the state of the nation and the world, then pointing to the paneled entrance said: "I hope to see President Barry Goldwater walk through that door next year." There were no late departures from the ceremony.

Foulois was born in the country village of Washington, Connecticut, on December 9, 1879. Benny completed eleven years of school and in 1896, at age sixteen, went to work in his father's plumbing business. Two years later, the sinking of the battleship Maine and the possibility of war with Spain filled the newspapers. Foulois ran off to New York City to join the military. The Navy would have nothing to do with this short, rather slight young man. The Army was less choosy. Fifteen minutes after entering a recruiting station, he emerged as a private in the 1st. U.S. Volunteer Engineers.

Foulois' s early military experiences took him to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He served with the Engineers in Puerto Rico during the war with Spain and was mustered out of service as a sergeant in January 1899. He immediately sought an appointment to West Point, but was turned down because of his weak academic background. Benny thereupon enlisted as a private in Company G, 19th Infantry, which soon was sent to the Philippines to help put down the native insurrection.

Young Foulois faced more than his share of close combat during the next several months. Cool under fIfe and a natural leader, he was promoted to company first sergeant in 1901 and to second lieutenant a few months later. Foulois at first balked at the order from his superiors to take the commissioning exam. Years later he said, "I dido't win my commission on the basis of the answers on the test. Whatever value they attached to my two years of field service must have outweighed my ignorance."

The new lieutenant soon set to work solving a major problem for his troops--the high incidence of venereal disease. The pragmatic Foulois concluded that the only way to check this scourge was to establish an official bordello, with medical inspection of the working girls. Opening the house in an old Spanish convent did not earn universal approval for the project.

After a second tour of duty in the Philippines in 1905, Foulois entered the Army' s professional education program--his avenue to eventual involvement in aeronautics. He compiled an unimpressive record at the Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating near the bottom of his class. Foulois claimed this was due to eye trouble. The post surgeon had told him that either he would have to stop studying or wear glasses. Foulois made his decision: "I stopped studying."

BHis lack of academic talent did not, however prevent his assignment to the Army Signal Corps upon graduation. The Signal Corps was responsible for all balloon activity; only recently, in 1907, it had established an aeronautical division. Foulois became interested in the potential of aviation, and wrote his school thesis on "The Tactical and Strategical Value of Dirigible Balloons and Aeronautical Flying Machines." This must have impressed his superiors, for on July 1908 the Army ordered him to Washington, D.C., for aviation duty in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.

For the next year and a half Lieutenant Foulois was intimately connected with the Army's first real flying experience. He was one of three officers to check out in the War Department's rust airship. The experience left him unenthusiastic about airships. As a member of the newly created Aeronautical Board, he also took part in the Army's initial evaluation of a heavier-than-air machine. This strange new contraption fascinated Foulois. Between dirigible flights he watched the Wright brothers assemble their "aeroplane" on the Fort Myer, Virginia, parade field across the Potomac from Washington. He wondered how "such a combination of cloth, wire, pulleys, chains, and wood could ever carry two people aloft for an hour at the fantastic speed of forty miles an hour" --the War Department's minimum requirements-yet he was anxious to give the machine a try. Instead, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge got the nod as passenger on the September 17, 1908, test flight--a flight that ended in disaster when the wooden propeller broke and the aircraft plummeted to earth. Selfridge died almost immediately and Orville Wright was badly injured. The Wrights built a new plane and continued the evaluation flights in 1909.

Foulois finally got his chance. After laying out the trial course between Fort Myer and Alexandria, Virginia, he flew as the "navigator-observer" during the final test flight. "I would like to think that I was chosen on the basis of my intellectual and technical ability," he said, "but I found out later that it was my short stature, light weight, and map-reading experience that had tipped the decision in my favor."

The Army bought the Wright aircraft; the agreement required the inventors to teach two officers to fly the machine. Benny was slated to be one of the trainees until he made disparaging remarks about the worth of dirigibles that were contrary to the official War Department view. The Army brass decided to put this outspoken little lieutenant in his place. A shocked Foulois received orders to proceed at once to an aeronautical meeting in France. Upon his return, his superior allowed him to join the temporary flying school the Wrights had set up at College Park, Maryland. Soon after his arrival in October 1909, the first two trainees, Lts. Frank P. Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys, badly damaged the airplane. Since Orville and Wilbur had technically fulfilled the terms of their contract by soloing these two men after a little more than three hours instruction, the Wrights repaired the plane and departed for home. A disappointed Foulois had a few minutes of dual instruction before the mishap but had not soloed.

The War Department sent both Lahm and Humphreys back to their regular assignments, leaving Benny and the Wright aircraft as the Army's entire heavier than-air flying force. Foulois was eager to get on with his aviation training and was sure the Army would hire the Wrights back. Instead, in December, the War Department ordered him to take the plane to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where the weather was better. Brig. Gen. James Allen, Chief Signal Officer, told Foulois: "Your orders are simple, Lieutenant. You are to evaluate the airplane. Just take plenty of spare parts and teach yourself to fly."

Benny Foulois and his crew of nine enlisted men set up operations at Fort Sam Houston in early 1910, guided by the Wrights' instructions that came by mail from Dayton. On March 2, the plane was ready to go and so was the young aviator, who exhibited at least outward calm as he steered the plane down the launching rail and into the air. On that day Foulois made four flights, the longest of twenty-one minutes. He also established three personal firsts: his first solo takeoff, first solo landing, and first crack-up. The only man ever to learn to fly by mail, he kept up a lively correspondence with the Wrights over the next several months, asking their advice in the aftermath of crashes and various airborne difficulties.

This was a heady time for the thirty-year-old lieutenant. He began modifying the plane and experimenting with ways to use it to support ground forces. He substituted wheels for the original skids and installed the first airplane seat belt after nearly being thrown out of the machine while attempting to land in gusty winds. Foulois also demonstrated the airplane's practical use in military operations by doing aerial mapping, photography, and observation of troop movements. When trouble erupted along the Mexican border, he set a cross-country distance record of 1 06 miles on March 3,1911, while on a reconnaissance flight. The same year he designed the first air-to-ground wireless system and demonstrated its practicality. The Army, however, remained unimpressed with military aviation. Its fragile plane spent more time in the repair shop than in the air.

During 1910-11, Foulois flew occasional indoctrination missions for the benefit of unappreciative Army officers at Fort Sam Houston. On one dawn sortie he buzzed "the tents occupied by sleeping officers of the division headquarters staff at about ten feet" and ended the day's airpower display with "a power dive over the headquarters latrine." These demonstrations did not noticeably improve the ground officers' opinion of military aviation.

By 1912, Foulois had spent more than four years on detached service with the Signal Corps. Federal law required him to rejoin his own branch, the Infantry. Since the Army had finally decided a year earlier to expand its air fleet and pilot force, American military aviation would continue to develop for a time without him. But Lieutenant Foulois' s love of flying was not dampened. He soon began working his way back into a flying job. In December 1913, he wangled an assignment as troubleshooter for the commandant of the Army's new aviation school at San Diego, where accidents had been all too frequent. (Twelve of the first forty-eight Army officers assigned to flying duty were killed in accidents.) Never afraid to get his hands dirty, Foulois organized and personally instructed a course in engine repair for flying students. He also insisted that flyers wear helmets and other protective equipment on all flights. The school's casualty rate dropped almost to zero.

A year later Foulois organized the Army's first tactical air unit, the 1st Aero Squadron, at San Diego. In 1916 he took his force of eight Curtiss IN-2s to Mexico as part of the punitive expedition, led by Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing, against the bandit, Pancho Villa. The squadron's pilots tried gallantly to carry out reconnaissance and liaison missions, but operating at relatively high altitudes (about 10,000 feet) over the mountainous terrain of northern Mexico was too much for their underpowered planes. By the end of the sixth week all eight aircraft either were worn out, needed major repair, or were wrecked in crashes. All the while Captain Foulois bombarded the War Department with fruitless requests for better planes.

The 1st Aero Squadron's accomplishments were extremely meager. Its military usefulness, according to Foulois, "could be summed up in one successful scouting mission: they had once found a lost and thirsty cavalry column." The dearth of suitable American flying equipment during the Mexican expedition demonstrated how far the United States lagged behind Europe in military aviation. With World War I nearly two years old, the Army had only one tactical squadron in 1916, and it was equipped with underpowered training planes. A year later, the United States still did not have a single aircraft comparable to those being used in Europe.

After the punitive expedition and a brief tour of duty as aeronautical officer for the Army's Southern Department, Foulois was posted, in March 1917, to the Aviation Section, Office of the Chief Signal Officer, in Washington. With the American declaration of war in April, he was promoted to temporary major and put to work drafting a program to expand the air arm. Two months later he was made a temporary brigadier general. He had no time to celebrate, for he was busy putting the finishing touches on a plan for an air organization adequate to support an army of three million men. Foulois' s proposal called for appropriations of $640 million and included a draft of the legislation needed to carry out the program. When the Army General Staff disapproved of the plan because of its high cost, the wiry little aviator boldly testified before the House Military Affairs Committee in behalf of enabling legislation. Foulois was delighted when Congress passed his bill on July 24, 1917. In his view, it would lay the foundation for an effective air arm both during the war and in the more distant future. He had buck;-d the system and gotten away with it. He would attempt to do this many times in the years ahead to advance the cause of military aviation.

Foulois was sent to France in November to become Chief of the Air Service, American Expeditionary Force (AEF). According to his memoirs, General Pershing had personally requested him for this important job, believing Foulois could end the chaos within the fledgling Air Service in France. The arrival of Foulois and his staff did not bring order. Instead, it produced more friction and confusion. The air officers already in France were for the most part Regulars and rated aviators. They resented having Foulois' s staff, fresh from the States with many recently commissioned non flying officers, imposed on them. Foulois believed his staff brought logistical and administrative skills that were essential to operational success, but others saw things differently.

Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, Air Service Commander for the Zone of Advance, was Foulois's bitterest critic. Mitchell referred to the new arrivals as "carpetbaggers," charging that "a more incompetent lot of air warriors have never arrived in the zone of active military operations since the war began." Pershing, the AEF Commander in Chief, called his new air staff "a lot of good men running around in circles." Foulois, whose only previous command had been a squadron of fewer than ten planes, had not measured up to the difficult task of creating, from scratch, an effective wartime organization.

In May 1918, Pershing reorganized the AEF Air Service and brought in as its new chief, Brig. Gen. Mason M. Patrick, a ground officer and West Point classmate. Foulois was appointed Chief of the Air Service, First Army--the only American field army thus far formed. He soon requested that he be made Patrick's assistant and that Mitchell be given the First Army job. This change took place on August 1.

Although Foulois recommended Mitchell for the post he himself had held, the two men harbored an intense and lasting dislike for each other. Mitchell, who was senior in rank before the war, had bitterly resented Foulois's elevation to Chief of the Air Service, AEF, and complained to Pershing about the feisty aviation pioneer's alleged inefficiency. For his part, Foulois considered Mitchell one of his biggest headaches, both insubordinate and ill-informed on logistics. Still, Foulois recognized Mitchell's leadership ability and was honest enough to recommend him for the prestigious job of leading the combat air operations of the First Army.

Foulois's and Mitchell's backgrounds and personalities were so different that they probably would not have been friends even if they had not clashed over issues of command in France. Mitchell was flamboyant and relatively wealthy. Foulois, the ex-enlisted man, came from humbler origins. He preferred a pair of overalls to a neatly tailored uniform and felt at home amidst the grime and hubbub of an aircraft repair shop. Mitchell had important family connections reaching all the way to the U.S. Senate and was at home in Washington society; the rough-hewn Foulois enjoyed a good drinking party and a game of poker with his fellow officers. He had a wealth of practical knowledge about aviation, while the more publicity-oriented Mitchell was a relative newcomer to the flying game. Their differences in style carried over into the methods each adopted in the postwar struggle to free military aviation from the control of ground officers. Mitchell directed much of his campaign toward swaying public opinion. Foulois believed that officers should keep controversy within the government. He fought his battles for an independent air force in testimony before congress and other official investigative bodies.

The question of a separate air force was raised almost immediately after the war. Swift demobilization of American forces and radically reduced defense spending hit the Air Service particularly hard. Air officers, knowing the General Staff did not appreciate the combat potential of military aviation, feared the Army's leaders would reduce the Air Service to its meager prewar size in order to free more funds for the ground forces. When the air arm's officer strength fell from a wartime high of 20,000 to 200 in 1919, the aviators were ready to fight. They were assisted by a rash of bills introduced in Congress during 1919-20 to create an independent air force. As expected, ranking Army and Navy officers testified against all such proposals. They regarded military flyers as upstarts, denied that air power would ever be able independently to affect the outcome of war, and argued powerfully against removing a useful auxiliary from the control of the existing services.

Foulois did not immediately join the fray. He remained in Europe until July 1919, working with General Patrick on the air provisions of the Versailles Treaty. However, when he did return he became the leading Air Service advocate for independence. Now head of the Liquidation Division in the Office of the Chief of the Air Service, Foulois made many appearances before congressional committees that were considering bills to establish a separate air force. Neither post war reduction to the rank of major nor his five-foot-seven-inch stature diminished the biting character of his remarks.

During each visit to the congressional hearing room he defiantly attacked the General Staff as ill-suited to administer, control, and provide for the future development of military aviation. On October 7, 1919, he told the House Committee on Military Affairs:

The General Staff of the Army is the policymaking body of the army and, either through lack of vision, lack of practical knowledge, or deliberate intention to subordinate the Air Service needs to the needs of the other combat arms, has utterly failed to appreciate the full military value of this new military weapon and, in my opinion, has utterly failed to accord it its just place in our military family.
He went on to damn the General Staff's prewar lack of concern for aviation that had resulted in the gross weakness of the Army's air arm in 1917.

Foulois repeated his criticism of the War Department later before the Senate Military Affairs Committee. He could get vitriolic when he was mad, and that day he was hopping mad. He condemned the General Staff for its inability to understand the full value of military aviation. During the World War, flyers had used the airplane for rudimentary strategic bombing, interdiction, counter-air operations, and close air support. Yet, the Army was now seeking to use almost exclusively in what he considered the "defensive" roles of reconnaissance and artillery spotting. Foulois believed, like other knowledgeable flyers, that air power's real value lay in concentrated, offensive employment—a concept unappreciated by the ground officers who ran the Army. He asserted that, "based on practical experience in Army aviation, ever since its birth in 1908, I can frankly state that the War Department has earned no right or title to claim further control over aviation." Let the Army have observation planes, but the rest of the air arm should operate as a separate service. In subsequent years he never wavered from this view.

Billy Mitchell, Maj. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, and others joined Foulois in the 1919-20 campaign. Each took his turn before the congressional committees, but Army and Navy opposition, together with Air Service's unimpressive record as an offensive force in the Great War, were more persuasive. The Army Reorganization Act of 1920 gave the air arm neither independence nor autonomy. The result was a growing cleavage between the aviators and the army ground officers who controlled the General Staff.

The aviation branch of the Army remained poorly funded and firmly under General Staff control throughout the 1920s. Although the rest of the Army also suffered a lack of funds during this period, and the General Staff was gradually coming to appreciate the offensive potential of tactical aviation by the end of the decade, the aviators never abandoned their goal of independence. In Benny Foulois' s opinion, and that of most other Army flyers, a separate air force was essential if military aviation was ever to reach its potential and effectively serve the nation.

Foulois soon realized that his congressional campaign for independence had not endeared him to the Army's leadership. It seemed a good idea to leave town until the dust settled, so in the spring of 1920 he volunteered to serve as the military attaché' to Germany. He arrived in Berlin in May 1920, traveled freely in Germany during his four-year tour, and became a drinking friend of Hermann Goering and Ernst Udet--men who would lead the Luftwaffe a decade later.

One's place on the Army's promotion list, not the rating on one's officer effectiveness reports, determined advancement in the 1920s. In February 1923, there were enough vacancies in the grade of lieutenant colonel for Foulois and others who had the same number of years' service to be promoted. The new "light colonel" returned to the United States fifteen months later to attend the one-year course at the Army's Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Foulois remained an uninspired student, but he realized that completing the course was a prerequisite for important positions in the Army.

Halfway through the school year Foulois's ambition got the best of him. When news circulated through the Air Service grapevine in early 1925 that Mitchell was about to lose his job as Assistant Chief of the Air Service, Foulois saw this as his big chance. He temporarily let his studies at the Command and General Staff School slide in favor of a letter-writing campaign to senior Army officers and politicians asking them to support him as Mitchell's replacement. Perhaps the War Department had not yet forgotten his congressional testimony of five years earlier. In any event, Lt. Col. James E. Fechet got the job. Foulois received an assignment in mid-1925 that tempered his disappointment--command of a major flying unit. He was put in charge of the showplace of Army Aviation: Mitchel Field, Long Island.

Foulois recalled years later being "as eager to get my hands on the controls of our new planes as a teenager approaching the driving age." During the next 2 years he worked to whip his 9th Observation Group into a combat-ready force. This was a little difficult, for his people were frequently called on to assist in public relations activities. Typical of these was a stunt in which Babe Ruth was to catch a baseball dropped from an Army plane circling at 250 feet while media representatives and an eager crowd looked on. Ruth was knocked flat during the first 2 attempts. Undaunted, he tried again and this time held on. Reported Foulois, "The last I saw of the Babe he was slowly flexing his burning hand and trying to smile about it as he left in a big limousine."

Foulois went to Washington infrequently during his tenure at Mitchel Field. However, he willingly made the trip to testify before the Morrow Board, which was investigating military aviation in the autumn of 1925 at the behest of President Coolidge. Dwight Morrow's group, fully aware that Coolidge opposed creating a separate air force, fell under the General Staff's influence from the outset. Despite that formidable opposition, Chief of the Air Service, General Patrick, Billy Mitchell, Benny Foulois, and others tried their best to win the board's support for independence. Foulois repeated the arguments that he had used in 1919-20: "Based on my knowledge of the past seventeen years I am fully convinced that aviation will never reach its proper place in the scheme of national defense so long as it remains in the control of the War Department General Staff." Maj. Horace M. Hickam gave perhaps the best summary of the situation: "I am confident that no general thinks he can command the Navy, and no admiral thinks he can operate an army, but some of both believe they can operate an air force." The airmen again were bitterly disappointed.

The 1926 Air Corps Act resulting from the Morrow investigation granted the air arm a five-year expansion program, gave it some representation on the General Staff and established an Assistant Secretary of War for Air, but left Army aviation under General Staff control. Army generals and Navy admirals would go on supervising their respective air organizations.

Although failing to win Air Corps independence, Foulois was not stymied in his determination to gain a greater role in the future development of military aviation. When it was announced in mid-1927 that Patrick would soon retire and Fechet would replace him as Chief of the Air Corps, Foulois left few stones unturned in his quest for the assistant chief's job. He wrote to everyone he thought could help, including the governor of his home state, Connecticut. His persistence paid off: on December 20, 1927, he became Assistant Chief of the Air .corps with the temporary rank of brigadier general.

Foulois spent the next three and a half years preparing for the day when he might succeed Fechet. At first he concentrated on gaining experience in the Washington office of the Chief of the Air Corps, where he was responsible for everything from training to war planning. After eighteen months, he arranged a one-year exchange of duties with the Chief of the Air Corps Materiel Division in order to become more familiar with the air arm's research and procurement activities, for which the Dayton-based division was responsible. Back in Washington in July 1930, Foulois again took charge of planning and policy matters.

He got his big chance to put into practice all he had learned when Fechet selected him to command the Air Corps' 1931 maneuvers. This was to be by far the largest U.S. Army air exercise ever attempted. The Chief of the Air Corps had decided to form a provisional air division of roughly 670 planes and use them in a series of aerial demonstrations over major cities in the Great Lakes region and eastern United States. The number of aircraft taking part would severely tax the small air arm, but the exercise would be a good test of Air Corps mobility.

Foulois was an excellent choice to organize and command the maneuvers. A doer rather than a deep thinker, he performed best when dealing with the real and the tangible. He was not afraid to make decisions or to experiment And he led by example. All units were to be in place in the Dayton area by May 18. Foulois and his staff left by air from Washington on May 12, but the first flight of three single seat aircraft, which he led, ran into bad weather over Cumberland, Maryland. The general pressed on, while his much younger fellow aviators headed back to Bolling Field and clearer skies. A second flight of three also turned back. Foulois had some good-natured comments on the piloting ability of his Washington cohorts when they finally arrived later in the day. He believed in flying safely, but he also believed in realistic training. The air maneuvers, which Foulois supervised much of the time from his own plane, were an unqualified success. His force flew nearly 38,000 hours, sometimes in close formation for up to 4 hours at a stretch with more than 600 aircraft in the sky at once, but not one serious accident occurred. This was a remarkable record and a tribute to Foulois's planning and leadership, for which the National Aeronautic Association awarded him the Mackay Trophy "for the most meritorious flight of the year."

Foulois's exceptional performance as commander of the provisional air division probably was a major factor in his selection to succeed Jim Fechet as Chief of the Air Corps. Shortly after the conclusion of the maneuvers Fechet announced that he would retire in December. By the end of the first week in June many eastern papers ran stories praising Foulois' s fine record and claiming the popular assistant chief had already been tapped to replace Fechet. The War Department leadership was irritated, since President Hoover apparently had not yet reached a decision. Assistant Secretary of War for Air, F. Thurbee Davison, wanted to know the source of the news stories: Foulois claimed he had no idea where they came from. Whether Foulois or some of his friends were the culprits remains a mystery. He did have newspaper friends, and he was not about to discourage their speculation. Nevertheless, on July 13,1931, the Army's Adjutant General informed a jubilant Benny Foulois that he would become Chief of the Air Corps upon General Fechet' s retirement. The rank and file of the Air Corps seemed genuinely happy with Hoover's choice.

Jim Fechet was granted three months terminal leave, effective September 8, and Foulois took over as acting chief at that time. On December 21, 1931, he formally assumed command and pinned on his second star. Over the next four years he would lead the Air Corps through one of its periods of greatest transition.

For several years there had been a running debate between the services over who was responsible for the nation's territorial defense. Until the arrival of the airplane, there was a clear line of division to which all agreed--the coastline. Aircraft created a new avenue of attack on the United States as well as a new weapon for defense. Unlike ships and foot soldiers, planes were not forced to stop at the shoreline. During the 1920s, Billy Mitchell and Mason Patrick campaigned vigorously to gain for the Army air arm full responsibility for costal defense. They argued that only aircraft could defeat both airborne and sea borne attacks. Benny Foulois and virtually all other military aviators agreed: coast defense was the Air Corps' rightful mission. The Navy, however, adamantly maintained that all aircraft flying over the open seas must be Navy planes.

Foulois and his fellow flyers were delighted when Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur apparently put an end to the debate by reaching an agreement on January 7,1931, with the Chief of Naval Operations, Rear Adm. William Pratt. The Air Corps was to defend the coast, while naval aircraft would be carried out to sea to assist the fleet. The MacArthur-Pratt agreement failed to specify how far offshore Air Corps planes could operate when seeking out an enemy force, and the agreement did not have complete support within the Navy. Naval aviators contained their anger until Pratt retired in 1933; they believed over-water coast defense was their business, and theirs alone.

As acting air chief, Foulois went to work at once to ensure that aerial coast defense would remain exclusively an Air Corps responsibility. A ware that the Army air arm had neither the training nor the equipment to carry out the newly won mission effectively, he immediately established a school at Bolling Field to develop coast defense navigation and plotting equipment and tactics. The school did some useful research between 1932 and 1934, but for reasons largely beyond its control, the Air Corps continued to lack suitable aircraft and equipment as well as realistic coast defense training during most of the 1930s.

Foulois also began a campaign to force the General Staff to adopt a realistic strategy and combat organization for the aerial coast defense mission. Results were slow in coming. Foulois began carping at the General Staff as soon as he took over as acting chief. He eventually spoke directly to General MacArthur about the Army's lack of aerial coast defense planning and in the spring of 1932 proposed a strategy for air defense employment. He maintained the Air Corps' coast defense mission should be broken into three phases. During the first phase the air arm would operate reconnaissance and strike aircraft to locate and attack an invasion force out to the limit of aircraft range. This action would be independent of local ground force control. In the second phase--when the enemy was within range of Army shore guns the Air Corps would spot targets for the coast Artillery and make air strikes on the invasion fleet. Should the enemy get ashore, the conflict would enter the third phase, with the Air Corps directly aiding the ground forces in repelling the enemy from the beaches. Throughout the coast defense campaign the air arm would operate as a consolidated air strike force, taking its orders directly from Army General Headquarters (GHQ). This GHQ air force would have to be ready in peacetime so it could concentrate on the proper location and begin over-water reconnaissance well in advance of hostilities.

After a long and bitter struggle in which Foulois antagonized important General Staff senior officers, the bulk of his plan was accepted. Chief of Staff MacArthur's January 3, 1933 policy letter, "Employment of Army Aviation in Coast Defense," adopted Foulois' s three phases of employment and endorsed long-range, over-water reconnaissance to locate an enemy force. However, it also provided that ground commanders in the zone of operations could, in some circumstances, control the GHQ air force.

Foulois and his Air Corps subordinates were pleased with the policy and began at once to carry out more detailed planning, to include developing a list of additional aircraft required. Since the air Corps had not yet been given funds to complete the 1926 five-year expansion that would bring it up to 1,800 serviceable planes, the General Staff was livid over Foulois's 1933 request for 4,459 aircraft to support the coastal defense mission. The nation was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the War Department was not about to starve further the rest of the under funded Army to expand the Air Corps. Foulois had to make do throughout his tenure with between 1,400 and 1,650 planes. Nevertheless, he had moved the Air Corps forward on two fronts with his coast defense plan. He had won for the air arm a firmer claim to an important air mission, and he had forced the Army to recognize that a consolidated air strike force--a GHQ air force--was needed.

After Admiral Pratt's retirement in 1933, the new Chief of Naval Operations, Rear Adm. William H. Stanley, ignored the agreement with MacArthur and reopened the inter service struggle over aerial coast defense. To Foulois's chagrin, the Army and Navy worked out a fuzzily worded compromise in 1935 that confused the issue of air defense responsibility. The Air Corps and the Navy each continued to act as if it, alone, was responsible. But Foulois had won a long-sought and important victory--Army approval for development long-range reconnaissance bombers, culminating in production of the B-1? prototype in.1935. The Navy, however, continued to deny the Air Corps' right to operate distant, over water patrols. Confusion over aerial coast defense responsibilities, and the resulting lack of cooperation between Army aviators and the Navy, paved the way for the 1941 disaster at Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the nearly three-year struggle to resolve the coast defense impasse, Foulois had not neglected his campaign for the air arm's independence. During his first two years as air chief, he pursued a dual course--arguing before Congress for a separate air organization, while at the same time working within the War Department for permission to establish a GHQ air force, a centrally controlled aviation strike force. His coast defense plan was a step toward that latter, and lesser, goal. Bills to create a separate air force, or to reorganize the defense establishment, cropped up on a recurring basis in the early 1930s, usually introduced as depression era economy measurers. Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt joined the Army and Navy in opposing all such changes, but this did not deter Foulois.

In February 1932, after serving only two months as Chief of the Air Corps, a slightly less outspoken Benjamin Foulois was back on Capitol Hill telling members of Congress that they should thoroughly study the nation's defense organization and ultimately create an air force coequal with the Army and Navy. He quickly developed a good working relationship with Congressman John J. McSwain of South Carolina, the new Chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee. McSwain shared Foulois' s views on the need for an independent air force, and over the next two years encouraged the air chief to persist in this campaign.

Foulois testified before the congressman's committee on March 31, 1933, supporting a bill to establish a separate air force. Senior General Staff officers were again angry over the air chief's unwillingness to support the War Department line, but there was little they could do for the present to prevent him from speaking his mind when called upon to do so by Congress. The bill got nowhere, while Foulois further antagonized his superiors.

The Chief of the Air Corps made better headway on the GHQ air force issue. He began a running dialogue with the General Staff in 1932 and eventually beat down Army resistance. The struggle was not easy. The General Staff was reluctant to establish a consolidated air organization in peacetime. It liked the existing arrangement that gave senior ground commanders throughout the U.S. control over the air resources in their geographic areas. The General Staff feared that establishing a GHQ air force would take the Air Corps a step closer to independence and encourage the aviators to concentrate on strategic bombing rather than direct Army support.

Foulois, like other aviators, believed in the importance of strategic bombing, but this was not the issue as far as he was concerned. Concentrated, offensive employment of air power was the proper method no matter if the mission was coast defense, ground support, or long-range strategic bombardment. By the late 1920s the General Staff had agreed in principle to establish a GHQ air force in time of war. Foulois wanted the War Department to take the next step--create the new organization in peacetime so the Air Corps could train as it would fight. He even hinted in a December 1932 letter to MacArthur that the aviators might become less persistent in their campaign for independence if a GHQ air force were soon brought to life. He also made it clear that the Chief of the Air Corps should command the new organization.

Foulois's office kept up a steady stream of correspondence with the General Staff on the GHQ air force issue. Through the air Chief s efforts the Army eventually came to see the value of a centrally controlled combat air organization for peacetime coast defense, and as an effective air support organization for the ground forces at the onset of war. The Army's senior leadership realized, too, that Foulois was right that establishing the new combat command would moderate the move for air independence. In October 1933, the War Department officially endorsed the conclusions of a board headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hugh A. Drum that a GHQ air force should be organized in peacetime. Foulois' s campaign had paid off, but his persistence created such resentment toward him that there was virtually no chance the Army would allow the Chief of the Air Corps to command the new organization when it was brought to life.

Foulois and his staff were pleased with the Drum Board decision, but when the Army took no immediate steps to implement it, the aviation pioneer stepped up his efforts to win complete independence for the air arm. In early February 1934, he secretly slipped a bill to Congressman McSwain designed to achieve that end. McSwain immediately introduced it as his own and called Foulois to testify in its behalf. The air chief obliged, resorting to his old tactic of damning the Army's inept handling of the Air Corps. He branded the General Staff the "main obstacle" to proper development of aviation. What was needed, he said, was an "independent organization that can function without a lot of obstruction" from the red-tape bound ground leadership.

Senior General Staff officers were angered by Foulois' s testimony. That anger turned to bitterness when they learned months later that his staff had written the bill. In their eyes Foulois was clearly a self-serving renegade who no longer deserved their trust. Nevertheless, the General Staff moved to establish the GHQ Air Force, hoping to undercut this renewed threat of air independence. Implementing action was held up in the spring of 1934 only because the Air Corps was heavily involved in carrying the nation's airmail.

The 1934 airmail episode was not a happy experience for the Air Corps, or for its chief. On February 9, President Roosevelt canceled government mail contracts with the commercial airlines, which he believed had been arranged through collusion and fraud. Before doing so he had representatives of the Post Office Department check with Foulois to determine if the Air Corps could temporarily take over airmail operations. Foulois looked on the request from the President as tantamount to an order. Besides, he was not the kind of man to give up on anything without a try. A good job carrying the mail might persuade Congress to purchase much needed replacement aircraft and gain public support for independence. The mail operations also would provide a good readiness test for the Air Corps.

After three hours' discussion with members of his staff, Foulois told the Post Office people he could see "no reason why the Army could not handle the mails and handle them satisfactorily." Asked when the Air Corps could take over this task, Foulois shot from the hip: "I think we can be ready in about a week or ten days." Roosevelt had his answer. Later that day he announced the contract cancellations and ordered the Air Corps to begin hauling the mail on February 19.

The Chief of the Air Corps had erred on two counts. Because of the hastily arranged discussions with the Post Office Department officials, he did not consult Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur until after he had volunteered the Air Corps' services. MacArthur was caught off guard. Believing the Army's reputation was on the line, he told a press conference: "I have the up most confidence the Army will handle the airmail in a magnificent way." MacArthur did not like surprises; Foulois' s stock no doubt dropped another notch in the War Department.

The second error was Foulois's failure to consider that the airmail assignment required proficiency in night and instrument flying--skills his aviators lacked. Imbued with the "can do" spirit that we prize in our leaders, he charged ahead without giving the issue serious thought. He told himself that flying the mail could be no more hazardous than normal peacetime training. Perhaps that was true, but the public had never been concerned with the Air Corps' large number of flying accidents. Flying the mail was another story.

The Air Corps also was poorly equipped for mail service. Army planes normally did not have the "blind flying" instruments or radios that were absolutely essential for their new task. The majority of Air Corps planes were light and maneuverable. Pilots were trained primarily for combat operations in good weather during daylight hours, when the enemy could be located and engaged. As one combat veteran pointed out: "In war we must see our objective." Flying the mail was essentially a nighttime job that involved navigating across long stretches of country in all kinds of weather. Foulois was not totally insensitive to this. He ordered each mail plane equipped with a directional gyro, artificial horizon, and at least a radio receiver. Mechanics hastily installed this equipment, frequently in hard-to-see locations.

Foulois also ordered a quick instrument refresher course for his airmail pilots, but it was too little and too late. Army aviators, with only limited bad-weather flying experience, were not about to trust their fate to some new-fangled gauges. Instead, they tended to rely on the seat of their pants when they encountered bad weather, or they tried to go low, beneath the clouds. To compound the situation, as operations started on February 19, the nation was hit by some of the worst winter weather in its history. Snow, rain, dense fog, and icy gales prevailed throughout the month of February across much of the country.

Air Corps pilots struggled valiantly against the elements in their open cockpit machines, and Foulois did everything possible to ensure his aviators complied with strict flying safety rules. Still, the first weeks of the operation were marked by crash after crash, which took the lives of six Air Corps flyers. Roosevelt and the congressional Democrats were embarrassed. Clearly the Air Corps was not up to the task. Just as clearly--in FDR's view--Foulois had put him in a difficult spot.

In late March, Roosevelt authorized new contracts with the commercial airlines, which would take over all airmail routes by June I. With the arrival of better weather in mid-March, increased instrument proficiency, and the assignment of some larger transport planes to the operation, the Army aviators did a much-improved job during the last months of the operation. The Air Corps' overall record, however, was not good: twelve deaths, sixty-six crashes, and a completion rate for scheduled flights of only 65.83 percent.

The airmail episode did produce some positive results. Military flyers received valuable training and instrument-flying experience, and the Air Corps awakened to the need for an extensive instrument-training program. This new appreciation for an all-weather capability would pay great dividends during World War II. Also, the airmail affair was the final stimulus that brought the GHQ Air Force into being. Secretary of War George Dern appointed a special committee to analyze Air Corps deficiencies. That body, influenced by the General Staff, called for immediate creation of a centrally controlled, consolidated air strike force in its July 1934 report.

Foulois was a member of this special committee chaired by former Secretary of War Newton Baker. However, the Air Corps chief kept a low profile during the Baker Board's deliberations. The other uniformed members of this group were senior ground officers who held no love for Foulois. Only recently the origin of Congressman McSwain's latest bill to create a separate air force had come to light. Then there was the Army's embarrassment over the Air Corps showing in the airmail fiasco. Foulois, well aware in the spring of 1934 that some members of Congress were after his scalp, decided this was the time to show his fellow board members what a cooperative person he really was. He refused to comment when Army aviators appeared before Baker's group to argue the case for an independent air arm. Instead, he asked the board's endorsement only for a GHQ air force and for completing the Air Corps' aircraft expansion program begun in 1926. The aviation pioneer was ready to put aside, for the time being, his dreams of a separate organization in order immediately to gain these objectives. Other members of the Air Corps were soon to take the same view.

The Baker Board's mid-July report was quickly acted upon by the General Staff. On March 1, 1935, the GHQ Air Force finally came into being as the Army consolidated all Air Corps attack, bombardment, and pursuit aircraft under the command of veteran aviator Lt. Col. Frank M. Andrews. Those air combat units previously had been controlled by the Army corps area commanders in those regions they were stationed. Andrews, promoted to the temporary rank of brigadier general, was to report directly to the Army Chief of Staff in peacetime and the theater commander in time of war. Foulois's persistence had finally secured a centrally controlled air strike force for the Air Corps. The GHQ Air Force, capable of offensive, concentrated operations unhindered by the whims of local ground commanders, would serve as the model for America's World War II air organization.

For Benjamin Foulois it was less than a complete victory. The Chief of the Air Corps had no control over this force. His responsibilities remained as they were before--to organize, train, and equip the Army's air arm and to develop employment doctrine. This division of responsibility between Air Corps Headquarters and the GHQ Air Force (later called the Air Force Combat Command) would not end until the eve of U.S. entry into World War II, years after Benny Foulois had retired. Furthermore, the Arm y' s corps area commanders retained administrative responsibility for air installations in their areas. Essentially the GHQ Air Force was a compromise between those airmen who advocated independence and those in the War Department who thought the Air Corps' primary responsibility was to support ground forces.

The new GHQ Air Force not only gave the Air Corps a more sensible arrangement for carrying out its coast defense responsibilities: it also gave it the kind of organization that could best carry out strategic bombardment. While Foulois was not a doctrinal innovator, he fully agreed with the views of his subordinates: coast defense might be the Air Corps' most important immediate mission in wartime, but once the enemy's invasion forces had been driven off, it was the air arm's strategic air campaign against the hostile nation that would win the war. Since the War Department adamantly denied the decisiveness of strategic bombardment, and since the American public was opposed to even considering offensive military operations, Foulois and his subordinates had to walk a fine line.

During his four-year tenure as chief, Foulois encouraged the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, to continue refining strategic bombardment doctrine, while he worked rather quietly within the War Department to win greater acceptance of the usefulness of long-range bombers. Foulois never made strategic bombing a major issue in his somewhat antagonistic relationship with the General Staff. Yet some senior Army officers like MacArthur and his War Plans Division Chief, Brig. Gen. Charles E. Kilbourne, came to the conclusion by 1934 that in some circumstances, air activity beyond the immediate theater of ground operations might be useful. They believed that bombing rear areas, while not decisive in its own right, could assist the army indirectly.

Foulois realized the current state of aviation technology did not support the claims of Air Corps Tactical School strategic bombing advocates. Nor could planes of limited range and load carrying capacity be shifted quickly from coast to coast to attack an enemy's invasion fleet. It was obvious to him that the Air Corps could not ignore aircraft research and development, even in the Depression years, if it hoped to serve the nation effectively in time of war. He agreed with others in the Air Corps; bombers were the most important planes because they could protect the American homeland and then go on to destroy an enemy' s war making capabilities in a strategic air campaign.

In March 1933, Foulois submitted to the General Staff a request to develop an experimental bomber with a 5 ,OOO-mile range and a speed of 200 miles an hour. He pointed out that the aircraft could move rapidly to defend either coast as well as Panama, Hawaii, or Alaska, but he astutely avoided mentioning that it also would be an ideal plane to carry out a long-range strategic air campaign against an enemy's heartland. In May 1934, much to his surprise, a less than enthusiastic General Staff gave grudging approval to the project. Foulois had only recently implied in congressional testimony that the Army had hindered aircraft development. Because of that and the air arm's poor showing in the airmail operation, MacArthur probably felt he had no choice but to approve what the Air Corps called "Project A" The Boeing-built XB-15 did not fly until 1937, and subsequent flight tests showed that it was too large for engines available at the time. Nevertheless, Project A and later research and development started by Foulois advanced the state of aeronautical technology and led to the unparalleled U.S. heavy bomber forces of World War II.

The air chief was not satisfied to merely provide for the future. When the Air Corps finally received more money for aircraft procurement in mid-1934, Foulois directed his staff to seek bids for new bombers. He was elated over the Boeing entry in the August 1935 prototype fly off. The XB-17 cruised 2,100 miles from the company's Seattle plant to Dayton, Ohio, at an average speed of 232 miles an hour. Here was an aircraft to make strategic bombardment possible. Technology had finally caught up with doctrine.

The Air Corps had made great progress under Foulois, but his last two years as chief were not happy ones. Senior Army officers were angered by his open advocacy of a separate air force and his uncooperative attitude whenever Air Corps interests were involved. They also complained that he spent too much time out flying and visiting air units across the country to discharge his duties in Washington properly. But Foulois's greatest headaches in 1934-35 came from Congress rather than from the General Staff.

The problems started in February 1934 when the House Military Affairs Committee decided to investigate military aircraft procurement. Foulois and previous Chiefs of the Air Corps had played somewhat loose with procurement statutes, using negotiated contracts rather than competitive bidding to buy new planes. The aviators believed they could better control quality and prices by arranging contracts with proven producers. Applicable laws, and Army regulations contained enough loopholes to allow this practice, and, indeed, the Judge Advocate General of the Army had consistently endorsed such contracts as acceptable under the law. Air Corps procurement officers were careful to ensure aircraft manufacturers did not make exorbitant profits.

When Congressman McSwain and his colleagues learned in early 1934 that the Air Corps had been using negotiated contracting, they were dismayed. The procurement provisions of the 1926 Air Corps Act had been written specifically to foster competitive buying practices. Members of the House Military Affairs Committee, stunned by fatalities during the early weeks of the airmail operation, suspected the Army air aI11} was buying inferior planes under an illegal procurement system. They wanted to ferret out guilty parties; a full investigation was in order.

Representative William Rogers's subcommittee of the House Military Affairs Committee opened hearings on March 7. Rogers was clearly on a witch-hunt. His subcommittee did not stop to determine if Air Corps aircraft were, in fact, inferior. Instead, it charged ahead looking for the corruption the members were sure they would uncover, only to find there had been none. The subcommittee realized investigations that reveal no misdeeds soon lose the publicity on which politicians flourish. It needed to find a guilty party. Rogers and his colleagues decided that Foulois, a leading advocate of negotiated contracts, might be a suitable candidate. He had defended negotiated purchasing during testimony before the subcommittee on March 7. When some of the lawmakers argued that such contracts violated Army regulations (which they did not), Foulois became riled. Without considering his words, he shot back: "That is perfectly all right. I have overlooked the Army regulations and broken them hundreds of times in the interest of the Government, and I will break them again." This angry outburst helped the subcommittee to focus on him as its target.

So, too, did the airmail episode set Foulois up for attack by the subcommittee. Not only had he assured the President that his aviators could do the job; on March 1, withoutrea11y looking into the situation, he had told the Rogers subcommittee that the Air Corps was properly trained and equipped for the operation. Congressman Rogers and Lister Hill believed Foulois and defended the Air Corps against charges to the contrary on the House floor, arguing that bad weather, not deficiencies, was the cause of early difficulties. When accidents continued, the subcommittee members concluded that Foulois had intentionally misled them, and they began a review of his earlier testimony in search of more equivocations. Their attention was quickly drawn to his February 1 testimony before McSwain's committee, supporting the bill to create a separate air force.

Foulois had appeared before the Military Affairs Committee on the short-notice request of McSwain and had used his customary approach of campaigning for Air Corps independence by damning the General Staff's purportedly inept handling of military aviation. Foulois had prefaced his remarks by saying he was only expressing his personal opinion. Then, at his vitriolic best, he lashed out in an unguarded manner, mixing opinion with fact. To McSwain's delight, Foulois told the committee that "the main obstacle" to military aviation progress over the past twenty years "has been the War Department General Staff." These remarks, replete with over-generalizations, now became a wellspring of trouble for him as the Rogers subcommittee checked them for accuracy. Foulois had not deliberately lied to McSwain's committee. He had simply followed his usual approach of stating the case against the General Staff in the worst possible terms.

Concern over the air chief's deceptiveness, rather than his involvement in negotiated contracting, became the driving force behind the Rogers sub-committee' s continued investigation. The congressmen latched onto every inconsistency and every biased opinion in Foulois's February I testimony in all attempt to prove his duplicity. During May and early June 1934, Rogers called senior Army officers to testify in closed session on the accuracy of Foulois's remarks and his fitness to serve as Chief of the Air Corps.

As might be expected, the ground officers were pre-disposed to describe Foulois in unfavorable terms. General Kilbourne, who had butted heads repeatedly with him over the past two years, objected strongly to Foulois's contention that the General Staff knew nothing about military aviation and was unresponsive to Air Corps needs. Other senior officers joined in rebutting the assertions made by the air chief. Committee members asked Kilbourne for his appraisal of Foulois. "For a man to come up here and make such statements as he has made to you, which are easily capable of being refuted, it looks like he is crazy," volunteered the Chief of the War Plans Division. Deputy Chief of Staff General Drum went even further: "My personal opinion is that he is not a fit officer to be Chief of the Air Corps." The subcommittee now had the views of several ranking officers with which to refute Foulois's February 1 statements. Never mind that all parties to the issue were expressing their personal opinions. Rogers and his fellow congressmen now had additional "evidence" to support their preconceived position. From their perspective, the investigation had been a success; an individual had been found who was responsible for both illegal contracting and the airmail debacle. Further, that same individual had lied to the members of Congress. The Rogers subcommittee charged Foulois with all three offenses in its June 15, 1934, final report and demanded that he be removed immediately from his position as Chief of the Air Corps.

His rage nearly out of control, Foulois reacted at once to the congressmen's final report. In a bitter statement to reporters on June 17, he damned the subcommittee's use of secret sessions, argued his innocence, and challenged Rogers and his colleagues: "I am ready and willing at any time to meet my accusers in an open court." The frustrated air chief demanded the subcommittee provide him a transcript of the hearings, a necessary step if he was to refute the charges against him. He renewed his plea throughout the summer, but Rogers would not budge.

Public opinion quickly sided with Foulois as newspapers throughout the country protested both the subcommittee's findings and its secret methods. A Washington Evening Star editorial summed up the press criticism:

The House Subcommittee on Military Affairs did not content itself with merely making to the Secretary of War a report of its findings. It tried -if you can call it a trial--General Foulois, found him guilty, and acting as judge and jury, sentenced him to be dismissed, and called upon Mr. Dern to carry out the sentence. This appears, at best, to be a high-handed proceeding on the part of the subcommittee...A trial conducted behind closed doors, with the prosecutors acting as both judge and jury, is certainly repugnant to all ideals of American justice.


Secretary of War George Dean, no friend of Foulois's, took a similar view. When Rogers demanded that Dem remove the Air Corps Chief immediately, the Secretary replied that the subcommittee would first have to give Foulois a complete transcript of the testimony so that he could respond to the charges. The impasse lasted into December 1934, while the distraught Foulois spent considerable time worrying about his fate. The press continued to support him. The media was not about to see the general railroaded by a few members of Congress.

In December, Dem and Rogers finally reached a compromise. The War Department would have the Army's Inspector General (IG) investigate the charges against Foulois, and the subcommittee would provide the IG a transcript with the secret hearings. Foulois was displeased by this turn of events; he had little confidence that the investigation would be impartial, especially with Congressman Rogers and other lawmakers taking such an active interest in the case. During April 1935, the house Military Affairs Committee became impatient with the slow pace of the Army's inquiry and implied that it would sit on all pending War Department legislation to encourage the speedy conclusion of the investigation.

Secretary Dem released the IG's findings on June 14, findings that pleased Foulois and angered the subcommittee. The Inspector General exonerated the Chief of the Air Corps on all charges save one: "General Foulois did depart from the ethics and standards of the service by making exaggerated, unfair, and misleading statements to a Congressional committee. " For this minor misdeed Dem sent Foulois a letter of reprimand. Both the Chief of the Air Corps and the Rogers subcommittee considered the IG's conclusions tantamount to an acquittal.

Benny Foulois knew he had spent too much time over the past year defending himself rather than running the Air Corps. He thought his ordeal was now over. Rogers was livid. On June 15, on the House floor, he blasted what he called "a slap on the wrist administered to a liar and perjurer." The subcommittee's vindictive chairman would not give up his campaign to oust Foulois.

Rogers's attacks and the continuing hostility of the Military Affairs Committee persuaded Foulois to reach a difficult decision in August 1935. He concluded that the committee members' feelings toward him might adversely affect subsequent Air Corps legislation. Frustrated and disheartened by the continued pressure for his removal and wanting to spare his beloved Air Corps further problems, Foulois announced that he would retire at the end of December and would begin terminal leave on September 25.

At the end of September, General Foulois slipped quietly out of Washington, sick at heart. He returned just as quietly on Christmas Day, going out to Bolling Field for his last flight as an Air Corps pilot. As his 0- 38F lifted into the sky, he again experienced that special elation known only to aviators. That evening Foulois part

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