1926 -- The U.S. Army Air Corps Act


The Lassiter Board, a group of General Staff officers, recommended to the Secretary of War in 1923 that a force of bombardment and pursuit units be created to carry out independent missions under the command of an Army general headquarters in time of war. The Lampert Committee of the House of Representatives went far beyond this modest proposal in its report to the House in December 1925. After eleven months of extensive hearings, the committee proposed a unified air force independent of the Army and Navy, plus a department of defense to coordinate the three armed services.

Another board, headed by Dwight D. Morrow, had already reached an opposite conclusion in only two and one-half months. Appointed in September 1925 by President Coolidge to study the "best means of developing and applying aircraft in national defense," the Morrow Board issued its report two weeks before the Lampert Committee's. It rejected the idea of a department of defense and a separate department of air, but it recommended that the air arm be renamed the Air Corps to allow it more prestige, that it be given special representation on the General Staff, and that an Assistant Secretary of War for air affairs be appointed.

Congress accepted the Morrow Board proposal, and the Air Corps Act was enacted on 2 July 1926. The legislation changed the name of the Air Service to the Air Corps, "thereby strengthening the conception of military aviation as an offensive, striking arm rather than an auxiliary service." The act created an additional Assistant Secretary of War to help foster military aeronautics, and it established an air section in each division of the General Staff for a period of three years. Other provisions required that all flying units be commanded by rated personnel and that flight pay be continued. Two additional brigadier generals would serve as assistant chiefs of the Air Corps. The position of the air arm within the Department of War remained essentially the same as before, and once more the hopes of air force officers had to be deferred. Even the new position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air, held by F. Trubee Davison from 1926 to 1932, did not help very much.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the act for the Air Corps was the authorization to carry out a five-year expansion program. However, the lack of funding caused the beginning of the five-year expansion program to be delayed until 1 July 1927. The goal eventually adopted was 1,800 airplanes with 1,650 officers and 15,000 enlisted men, to be reached in regular increments over a five-year period. But even this modest increase never came about as planned because adequate funds were never appropriated in the budget.