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GROWTH OF THE AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND

Posted 10/28/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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In May, 1941, plans were developed for expediting the movement of aircraft from the factories to the points at which the British would fly them overseas. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we received pleas from all parts of the world for personnel, planes, engines, parts, and supplies. We strove to meet these requests. Ships of the sea were slow and subject to attack by submarine. The war would be lost if we used only such means of transportation. Airplanes are weapons of war that can not be held on the ground; there, they are a liability rather than an asset. We must get them in the air and keep them there. That requires supplies and replacements in constant streams. Thus came into being the Air Corps Ferrying Command: at first across the Pacific -- then the South Atlantic -- then the North Atlantic and now to all corners of the world where we take aircraft, important personnel, mail, supplies of all kinds - to places they are needed most. Starting with only two officers and one clerk in a small room, today's Air Transport Command totals over 85,000 officers and men.

Mounting aircraft production soon created a difficult situation for this new unit. Ever increasing numbers of aircraft were leaving the factories to be delivered to American and British combat units. This meant increased flying, the requirement going up steadily day by day. The first ferried plane was delivered to the British on June 7, 1941. By December 7, 1941, approximately 1,200 had been flown to the British and our own Air Forces, and the first delivery had been made across the South Atlantic to Egypt. From that time to this the number of planes in the air and the volume of freight carried have steadily increased. On one recent day 680,000 pounds of materiel, munitions, and supplies were delivered by air to one theater of operations. This information will be of neither aid nor comfort to our enemies.

The Air Transport Command's shuttle service to Britain and the Middle East and its exploratory flights to various parts of the world paved the way for routes which were needed when the United States entered the war. Arrangements for the development of such important bases as Christmas Island, New Caledonia and bases in Greenland were completed. A string of weather stations was laid out in the far North and the beginnings of a communications network developed, without which our worldwide flying might not have been possible.

After Pearl Harbor, domestic ferrying increased and has continued to do so. To this was added the urgent need for delivery of all types of aircraft overseas and the air transportation of strategic cargoes, including mail and personnel.

In addition to ferrying planes and routing flights to deliver supplies, special flights and deliveries were carried out wherever needed. Two dramatic examples of this are the delivery, on short notice, of the Flying Fortresses which were the Army's striking power in the decisive Battle of Midway and the sending of a number of C-47 transports, loaded with bombs and ammunition, to the Aleutians at the time of the attack on Dutch Harbor. Both of these actions; influenced greatly the course of the war.

By July, 1942, it had been determined that military air transportation had grown up; the Ferrying Command was reorganized as the Air Transport Command, to perform all kinds of air ferrying and air transportation. Under its control the various airlines, on contract with the War Department and flying aircraft issued to them by the Army, render transport services for the armed forces end our allies. This contract system is worthy of special mention. While taking care of our domestic air transportation requirements, we look out in so far as possible for the American public's air travel needs. Of course neither civilians -- nor the fighting forces -- obtain all the service they wish they could obtain. Four thousand additional transport planes could be used today if we had them.

The current offensive of the Eighth Air Force against Germany, the role of air power in our attack in Italy, and the air offensives of the USSR, to pick three examples, depend upon the steady movement of new combat planes both to augment the air forces and to replace those planes shot down, damaged, or laid up from ordinary wear and tear. This means a steady movement of planes in such numbers as even two years ago would have seemed the product of a fevered imagination.

This report was prepared by the Army Air Forces and is dated Jan. 4, 1944.

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