A milestone was reached in Air Force history in March 1935 when the War Department established the General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force. Going far beyond the traditional role of supporting Army ground troops on the battlefield, it was to serve as a central striking force for long-range bombardment and observation to defend U.S. coastal areas and island possessions from attack by sea. To be effective, however, the GHQ Air Force needed a most essential element which was not yet available -- the long-range bomber.
Two officers -- Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews and Maj. Gen. Hugh Knerr -- were among the most staunch supporters of the four-engine, long-range strategic bomber. It was through their efforts and those of the men who served with them that the true capabilities of the B-17 were eventually proved.
Early in World War II, Andrews became head of all U.S. forces in the European Theater of Operations, but on May 3, 1943, he was killed in the crash of a B-24 crash on Iceland while on an inspection trip.
Reportedly, Andrews was to be selected to command all Allied forces in Europe, the position to which Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was subsequently appointed. At the time of his death, Andrews was a lieutenant general. Andrews Air Force Base, Md., is named in his honor.
Knerr was recalled from retirement during WWII and served until he reverted to inactive status as major general in 1949. He died on Oct. 26, 1971.