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USAAC vs. USAAF

Discussion in 'History of America during World War II' started by KnightMove, May 21, 2017.

  1. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    First of all, let me introduce the reason for my question. In the obituary of American historian Otto Pflanze (1918-2007) we read:

    "...he interrupted his graduate training in 1942 to serve as 1st lieutenant in the Air Corps of the U.S. Army until 1946."

    Now it's not hard to research that the predecessors of the US Air Force (1947-) were called the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) from 1926 to 1941 and the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) from 1941 to 1947. So it seems the obituary is wrong in this regard - at the time given, Pflanze would have served in the Forces, not the Corps.

    But in the Wikipedia article about the USAAC, we can read:

    "The Air Corps ceased to have an administrative structure after 9 March 1942, but as "the permanent statutory organization of the air arm, and the principal component of the Army Air Forces," the overwhelming majority of personnel assigned to the AAF were members of the Air Corps."
    "The Congress did not dis-establish the Army Air Corps as a combat arm until 26 July 1947, when the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 502) became law. Most members of the Army Air Forces also remained members of the Air Corps. In May 1945, 88 percent of officers serving in the Army Air Forces were commissioned in the Air Corps, while 82 percent of enlisted members assigned to AAF units and bases had the Air Corps as their combat arm branch."

    I don't exactly understand. Members of the USAAC remained such even in the USAAF - ok. But why would someone who started serving after 1941 become an officer of the USAAC, not the USAAF? And if so - until when where officiers of the USAAC commissioned? Until 9 March 1942? Or maybe even until 1947...?
     
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  2. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Dang good question, and I am of the line of thought illustrated in your second paragraph. Hopefully someone else will come along and enlighten us all on what gives.
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It helps if you think of the AAC as people and the AAF as units. As noted, the Army Air Corps existed until it was disestablished by Congress on 26 July 1947. It was a "Corps" of the U.S. Army under the War Department, co-equal with the other traditional corps of arms: Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, Infantry, Cavalry, Engineers, and Signals. All officers commissioned in the Army were commissioned in one of the corps or in one of the technical departments: Medical, Chemical Warfare, Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation. All enlisted men were assigned to one of those corps as well. During peacetime, the AAC also administered the constituent units of the AAC, performed training and acquisition for the corps as a whole. However, in time of war, the AAC was intended to be called into service under as a combatant Force: General Headquarters Army Air Forces that was to liaise with Army General Headquarters. However, in July 1941 it was ordered that the Army Air Forces be reorganized as an autonomous organization independent from the Ground Army, reporting directly to the War Department. The March 1942 reorganization of the War Department confirmed that independence and created a triumvirate under the War Department General Staff: Army Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces, with the corps of arms and the services becoming simple administrative organizations with little or no operational function.

    Thus, Pflanze was commissioned and served in the Army Air Corps. It is likely he spent the war assigned to Army Air Forces units, but, in theory, he could have been assigned to a non-Air Forces unit as well. Some AAC officers did serve with ground units, but usually as TDY liaison personnel.

    A similar oddity was the Armored Force created in June 1940 "for purposes of service test". Enlisted men were assigned and served in it as a wartime organization, but its officers were all commissioned in other corps, since it had no legal existence as a corps of the Army.
     
  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    As always Rich, you've answered the question simply and elegantly. Well done.
     
  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Part of the problem goes back to 1925 when the Navy reneged on its commitment to the Army to jointly fund a General Headquarters Air Force for the Army Air Service. It was also the root cause for Mitchell's court marshal after he testified to Congress regarding it. The next year saw the creation of the Army Air Corps, sans Mitchell and sans a General Headquarters Air Force. Instead, they created the notion of creating an Army Air Forces on the fly when mobilizing for war, which was as half-assed an idea as the rest of the Army mobilization "plan".
     
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  6. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    Ok, thank you very much. However, the Wikipedia article claims that the Army Air Corps "ceased to have an administrative structure" in March 1942. Do you think that's accurate? I can hardly imagine how an organization commissions officers when it has no administrative structure anymore. Or did the Army Air Force still commission officers assigned to the Army Air Corps?

    An additional question: The obituary doesn't mention when exactly in 1942 Pflanze entered military service - probably it was early, thus before March. Is there a way to clear this for sure?
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    That was a consequence of the War Department reorganization. All the old Corps Chiefs earlier had an independent staff and a considerable amount of administrative power over their corps. That ended and became a purely bureaucratic connection, required by US law, between the officers and their corps. However, the commissioning of officers is granted by the President and Congress, the Army Air Force commissioned no one.
     
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  8. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    Rich has given an excellent explanation of the AAC/AAF situation. To confirm his comments, note how the officers signed their statements in the Missing Aircrew Report at this link: MACR 4034 - The 449th Bomb Group(H) Captain, Air Corps, etc.
     

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