Army Signal Corps established a small Aeronautical Division to take "charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects. Selfridge, flying with Orville Wright, was killed when the plane crashed. He was the first military aviation casualty.
After more testing with an improved Wright Flyer, the Army formally accepted this airplane, identified as "Airplane No. In early , the Army ordered its aviators who were training in Augusta, Ga.
Chandler as squadron commander. The 1st Provisional Aero Squadron began flying activities a few days later. This first military unit of the U. Army devoted exclusively to aviation, today designated the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, has remained continuously active since its creation. Assigned a role in the Punitive Expedition of the Mexican border in , this squadron became the first air combat unit of the U.
Signed by the President, this bill became law on July 18, It directed the Aviation Section to operate and supervise "all military [U. Army] aircraft, including balloons and aeroplanes, all appliances pertaining to said craft, and signaling apparatus of any kind when installed on said craft. The old Aeronautical Division continued to exist, but operated as the Washington office of the new section. It counted 12 officers, 54 enlisted men and six aircraft.
In December the Aviation Section consisted of 44 officers, enlisted men and 23 airplanes--still a tiny force when compared to the fledgling air forces of the European powers.
But the war in Europe focused more attention on aviation. In October , Aviation Section plans called for two dozen squadrons--seven for the Regular Army, 12 for the National Guard divisions, and five for coastal defense -- plus balloon units for the field and coast artillery.
In December the seven Regular Army squadrons either had been or were being organized. All 24 squadrons had been formed by early , but the 1st Aero Squadron remained the only one fully organized and equipped. Ryan, and the Division of Military Aeronautics, directed by Maj. Three months later, on Aug. The dispersal of aero squadrons among various Army organizations during the war made it difficult to coordinate aerial activities, which led to the creation of higher echelon organizations.
At the front, squadrons with similar functions were formed into groups, the first organized in April as I Corps Observation Group. The following month the 1st Pursuit Group was formed, and in July the American Expeditionary Forces organized its first aircraft unit higher than a group--the 1st Pursuit Wing--made up of the 2d and 3d Pursuit Groups and, later, the 1st Day Bombardment Group.
In November the AEF possessed 14 groups seven observation, five pursuit and two bombardment. Following the armistice, demobilization of the Air Service was rapid and thorough. At war's end the Air Service possessed aero squadrons; 44 aero construction; aero supply, 11 aero replacement, and spruce production squadrons; 86 balloon companies; six balloon group headquarters; 15 construction companies; 55 photographic sections; and a few miscellaneous units.
Between Wars The Army Reorganization Act of made the Air Service a combatant arm of the Army and gave the Chief of the Air Service the rank of major general and his assistant chief the rank of brigadier general. Tactical air units in the United States were placed under the nine U. Army corps area commanders where they continued to be employed primarily in support of the ground forces.
The Chief of the Air Service retained command of various training schools, depots and other activities exempted from Army corps control. During most of the s, the total offensive strength of the Air Service in the United States consisted of one pursuit, one attack and one bombardment group. Overseas, the Canal Zone and the Philippines each had assigned one pursuit and one bombardment squadron with two squadrons of each type stationed in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Air Service focused initially on observation and pursuit aviation, with major aeronautical development efforts concentrated in the Engineering Division at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio.
The formal training establishment took shape during the s. The Air Service concentrated flying training in Texas. Technical schools for officers and enlisted men were at Chanute Field, Ill. The Air Service later, Air Corps Tactical School trained officers to command higher units and taught the employment of military aviation. First located at Langley Field, Va. The Air Corps had at this time officers and 8, enlisted men, and its "modern aeronautical equipment" consisted of 60 pursuit planes and observation planes; total serviceable aircraft of all types numbered less than 1, A few weeks later, on Oct.
A year later this division moved to nearby Wright Field, thereafter the primary base for air logistics. Tactical units, less some observation squadrons scattered throughout the nine Army corps areas, transferred to this initial air force. The GHQAF Commander directed tactical training and operations, while the Chief of the Air Corps maintained control over procurement, supply, training schools and doctrine development. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower, recognized that the United States might be drawn into a European war.
Assured of a favorable reception in the White House, the Air Corps prepared plans in October for a force of some 7, aircraft. Soon afterwards, President Roosevelt asked the War Department to prepare a program for an Air Corps composed of 10, airplanes, of which 7, would be combat aircraft.
In a special message to Congress on January 12, , the President formally requested this program. Leaders of the Air Corps now found themselves in the novel position of receiving practically anything they requested.
Plans soon called for 54 combat groups. This program was hardly underway before revised plans called for 84 combat groups equipped with 7, aircraft and manned by , troops by June 30, Army air forces strength in World War II would swell from 26, men and 2, aircraft in to 2,, men and women and 63, aircraft in Both necessity and desire thus caused a blitz of organizational changes from through Seven months later, these air combat forces returned to the command of air leaders as Gen.
Early in , the War Department instituted a series of actions to create a hierarchy for noncombat activities. It set up a command eventually designated Flying Training Command to direct new programs for training ground crews and technicians. The next year, the new command assumed responsibility for pilot and aircrew training.
The War Department reorganization on March 9, , created three autonomous U. This administrative reorganization did not affect the status of the Air Corps as a combatant arm of the US Army. Before the Army's air arm was a fledgling organization; by the end of the war the Army Air Forces had become a major military organization comprised of many air forces, commands, divisions, wings, groups, and squadrons, plus an assortment of other organizations.
A War Department letter of March 21, , created two new commands and redesignated an existing one: These three commands and the older Air Transport Command represented respectively the strategic, tactical, defense, and airlift missions that provided the foundation for building the postwar, independent Air Force.