Henry 'Hap' Arnold: Veteran Story

General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who oversaw the growth of the Army Air Force through both World Wars. (U.S. Army photo)
General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who oversaw the growth of the Army Air Force through both World Wars. (U.S. Army photo)


Henry "Hap" Arnold's vision, at an early time in the history of the airplane, set the stage for its wide use later on. First building a strong base in the Army, his vision helped guide the creation of the United States Air Force.

Arnold was born in Gladwyn, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1886. He graduated from West Point in 1907 and was assigned to the infantry. In 1911 he was assigned to the Signal Corps and became a pilot after taking instruction from Orville Wright. He became an instructor at the Army's first aviation school in College Park, Maryland, and was the first to fly air mail, in September of 1911. He also made the first military reconnaissance flight and oversaw the aviation training schools during World War I.

Arnold became assistant chief of the Army Air Corps in 1935, and became chief in 1938. In 1942 he was named Commanding General, Army Air Force, as the Army created a separate branch for air power. As principal advisor for aviation tactics to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he planned overall strategy for U.S. aircraft worldwide during World War II. His leadership led to increased bombing of the industrial centers in both Germany and Japan. In 1944 he was appointed as one of only nine five-star generals in our history.

THE WRIGHT COMPANY Dayton Ohio March 22, 1913 Lieutenant H. H. Arnold, Office of the Chief Signal Officer Washington D.C.

My Dear Mr. Arnold:

Your letter on March 15th was awaiting me on my return from Europe.

We cabled an order for one of the Austro-Daimler motors several days ago. If we receive prompt delivery we should have no trouble in getting the machine ready on time. This motor is not a very suitable one for chain drive, as the crank case has a long projection. The motor however, has a very fine reputation abroad, and I am glad to have the opportunity of seeing one run.

The Light Scout machine are not at all difficult to handle, in fact I think it is the easiest machine that we build. Its high speed in landing is its only draw back. It is a very strong machine and has a larger factor of safety than any of the other models

Sincerely yours,

Orville Wright

From Charles Lindbergh November 24, 1938

ILLIEC PEVENAN COTES-DU-NORD Illiec, November 24, 1938

Dear General Arnold,

I have just returned from a trip to Paris and just received you Nov. 17th letter. I thoroughly agree that this is not an opportune time to send a mission to Germany, Conditions have changed rapidly since I wrote my last letter. I am sorry about this for many reasons, among which is the fact that I am sure our own Air Corps would have profited greatly by sending a mission to Germany, especially if you had been able to lead it yourself. I believe it is very desirable for us to keep in close contact with the German developments. The Germans have taken the leadership in European aviation by a large margin and, as you know, they are already ahead of us in certain fields.

I am greatly concerned about the situation which is developing in Europe. If some understanding is not reached between England, France and Germany, I am afraid we are headed for a disastrous war. Of course war can not, and should not, always be avoided, but I do not believe either side would gain by a general European war at this time. Also, it would certainly have far-reaching and disadvantageous effects on the United States. I do not by any means agree with some of the things which have been done in Germany, but I believe we should make every reasonable effort to avoid a European war. I believe that conditions in the rest of the world make it absolutely essential for the nations of the west to cooperate. It is not impossible that a war at this time might result in the loss of Western Civilization, as we know it.

I am not aquatinted with our latest plans for the development of high-speed service aircraft. It seems to me that we should develop prototypes with a top speed in the vicinity of 500 miles per hour at altitude. Speeds of well over 300 miles per hour are, as you know, claimed for some of the bombers now in service in Europe. Speeds of over 400 miles per hour are claimed for one of the new types of pursuit at altitude. I have no way of checking these figures, but the trend over here seems to be towards very high speed, both for bombers and fighters. Apparently, range and bomb load are sacrificed considerably for speed.

With best regards

Charles A. Lindbergh

From Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 7, 1942 (Elliott is the son of the President)


Dear Hap –

I am a bit concerned because Elliott has a rather bad chronic case of hemorrhoids that need to be operated on. He rightly insists on going through with his new assignment first. When he gets back I hope you can give him enough time off in Texas to have them taken out.


Franklin D Roosevelt

From Dwight D. Eisenhower October 31, 1942

HEADQUARTERS EUROPEAN THEATER United States Army Office of the Commanding General 31 October, 1942

Dear General:

Thanks very much for the letter your son brought along with him. You owe me no gratitude at all for selecting him as an Aide – I have heard of him many times and, since I wanted a young regular with me, I could think of no one else that would be so acceptable. I made it quite clear in my telegram to the Adjutant General that I did not want to pull him out of a swell job and he was to come only if he so desired.

You may be interested in knowing my present plans for him. I leave here with part of my group in a couple days. "Beetle" Smith and others will remain behind cleaning up loose ends and making sure that follow-up contingents are promptly and properly handled. Your son will stay with "Beetle" here for a short time which will give him a chance to get oriented with respect to this region and get him thoroughly familiar with many things that will later be useful to him. I have no intention of letting him become any social or baggage-smashing aide. I am going to start his training as a Staff Officer immediately and you need have no fear that he will stagnate in this job. More than this, I will keep looking for a favorable command or troop position and, when I find one that he might desire and fits into well, I will never stand in his way.

I am delighted that you are trying to think ahead of the Hun in the next step in bombing tactics. I have constantly urged my people here to think of this in two ways. First, we must be ready for the "Fortress Destroyer" that the German may bring out and must also be ready to meet anything the German may send over in imitation of our Fortress. My conception of the right way to use the big bomber against the German holdings is to get ourselves a ring of secure bases, extending all the way from the Middle East around through the Mediterranean to England. Once we have gotten that we can take advantage of the favorable weather periods everywhere and keep hammering away to the maximum capacity of the big bomber. This is particularly important in high level precision bombing where the weather, vertically over the target, must be very good to great heights.

At this moment, the Eight Air Force is attempting to concentrate on the submarine ports in the Bay of Biscay, for reasons which you can well understand. As quickly as our greatest danger in that region is over, the bombing force will return to the practice of taking advantage of good weather to hit any available target, but with priority always on the damnable submarine-including the ship itself, its bases and its factories.

It is difficult indeed for me to express the deep appreciation I feel to all members of the War Department and you personally for the magnificent support they have given us in this gigantic task of organizing an invasion force hastily. In return, all I may say is that I believe every member of the expedition is imbued with high morale and is determined to do his part in making this operation a success. I should like for Kuter, Stratmeyer, and the rest of your gang to know all of us here gratefully acknowledge the splendid help they have given us. W e have been somewhat disappointed in the difficulty we have had in getting Doolittle’s stuff assembled here, but by expedient and every possible method that we can think of, we are trying to make good such deficiencies,

Remember me kindly to Mrs. Arnold and to my friends you run into in the Department.


Ike Eisenhower

From Omar Bradley, Lieutenant General July 7, 1944


7 July 1944

Dear Arnold.

I just received your letter of congratulations on our recent fighting. It was a real pleasure to have you with us even though it was for such a short period. I hope that you can find time to visit us again in this theater before too long.

The Air Forces have been doing a wonderful job, as you know in this operation. This man Quesada is a jewel. I sure am glad to have him with us. The weather has been bad for us during the last week or ten days but it can’t keep up forever.

With best of luck, I am


Brad O.N. BRADLEY Lieutenant General, U.S.A

From Winston Churchill November 23, 1944

10, Downing Street, Whitehall.

23 November, 1944

My Dear General Arnold,

Thank you so much for your kind letter about Sir John Dill. His loss is a grievous blow both on personal grounds and because of his important contribution to the smooth working of the Combined Chiefs of Staff machinery.

I am glad to feel that his personality had impressed itself so strongly upon you and your colleagues, and on all Americans with whom his work brought him into contact.

Yours sincerely.

Winston Churchill

From Jacob L. Devers, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army February 11, 1945


11 February, 1945

General H. H. Arnold Commanding General, Army Air Forces War Department Washington, D.C.

Dear Hap:

Glad to get your nice note and to assure you that the letter is already on the way to that brilliant son of yours. He came in to see me a few days ago an I had rather a long and interesting conversation with him. He is very much like you- he likes a little bit more action than apparently the anti-aircraft gives him. At the moment, however, he is well satisfied for they have been using his anti-aircraft battalion as heavy weapons company with the division.

In his sector, the going has been tough for we were put on the defensive and given very little to hold with, and the German concentrated six divisions against us. We were on the tightrope for a while but managed to bloody his nose and stop him, and then the Russians came to our help. If one could do things his own way, probably we would accomplish more. In any case, we are doing all right at the moment.

Sorry to hear that you have been laid up, but glad it is nothing serious. I am sure you will soon be up and around again and that is what counts.

Royce did a very good job for me while he was here. His headquarters is too big. Saville will do a better job, for he will cut down the headquarters and will be able to show a higher air command in this theater that we have not gotten our proper share of air support. Already action has been taken and I understand units are now coming from Italy.

In closing. I just have to let a little ego loose. If they had only followed, shall I say, our advice when I was in Italy about sending me the 12th Air Force and the Fifth Army, we would now be across that Rhine and well into Germany. However, I am still the blocking back and the pinch-hitter. I have a great team, and this includes the French. They are difficult at times, but in the final analysis come through.

My you have a speedy recovery and every wish for your success in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Jake JACOB L. DEVERS, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

From Lord Louis Mountbatten July 23, 1945

South East Asia Command Headquarters

23rd July 1945

My Dear Hap:

It was so nice seeing you again today. I am writing to thank you for your promise to help Portal fill up my squadrons from 24 to 30 Dakotas each. I can assure you it will make as much difference to me as the last time you intervened on my behalf with your generous loan of 300 transport aircraft.

O asked General Marshall whether the American C-47 aircraft which you allotted to General Leese could be transferred to General Slim, and he would arrange it. I forgot to explain that Portal has offered to provide the crew and maintenance facilities, and it is thus a question of transferring this particular aircraft, "Lili Marlene", on Lease-Lend to the Royal Air Force.

I will supply you, through Portal, with full particulars of 10 Dakotas which you kindly said you would provide for American Ambulance Unit.

I was thrilled by the vivid account you gave of certain developments, and do congratulate you most sincerely.

Yours ever

Dickie Mountbatten

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