Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold

Note: This exhibit is located the connecting link between the World War II and Korean War Galleries.

Pioneer of Air Force Research & Development

"We must think in terms of tomorrow."
- H.H. Arnold, Global Mission 

Henry H. "Hap" Arnold's long career in aviation spanned the period from the Wright brothers' earliest aircraft to jet fighters. His military experience in logistics, research and development, training, and commanding operational units molded him into the perfect Airman to build and to command the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. His efforts laid the foundation for modern U.S. Air Force logistics, R&D and operations. 

Arnold's military education started early in his flying career when he learned about training issues as an instructor at the U.S. Army Signal Corps' flight school at College Park, Md., in 1912. From there, he went to Washington, D.C., and learned the administrative skills he would need in later years as an assistant to the Signal Corps officer in charge of aviation. In 1916 Arnold gained first-hand knowledge of logistics as the supply officer for the Signal Corps' Aviation School at Rockwell Field, San Diego, Calif. 

Arnold had become one of the Army's most experienced pilots when America entered World War I in 1917, and he tried to obtain a combat assignment. However, because of his experience in aviation logistics and training, the Army kept Arnold in the United States to oversee aircraft production and mobilization. 

Disappointed at not getting a combat assignment, Arnold nevertheless understood the importance of R&D for American air power. During the war, he looked for the most advanced military aircraft, and Arnold became associated with a group of civilian scientists and engineers who developed the first "guided missile." Tested at McCook Field at Dayton, Ohio, and known as the Kettering "Bug", this simple weapon never went into full production, but the project brought Arnold into contact with many leaders in the aviation industry. He learned that the advancement of American military aviation would require the support of civilian scientists, engineers and industrialists. 

After the war, Arnold commanded Rockwell Field, where he gained operational command experience by organizing aerial patrols along the border with Mexico, aerial forest fire patrols and other military operations. He also remained involved with R&D efforts, which included the first attempts at aerial refueling by military aircraft at Rockwell Field.

In June 1929 Arnold moved back into the logistics and R&D side of military aviation when he took command of both the Fairfield Air Depot Reservation and the Field Service Section of the Materiel Division at Wright Field, Ohio. At that time, Wright Field was the center of R&D and logistics efforts for the U.S. Army Air Corps. In 1930 he became the executive officer of the Materiel Division, where he learned much about designing and procuring military aircraft and about the aviation industry. 

In 1931 Arnold returned to an operational unit when he took command of March Field, Calif. He achieved international recognition in the summer of 1934 by successfully leading a flight of 10 Martin YB-10s from Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and back. This round-trip flight of 7,360 miles, much of it over uncharted territory, required extensive logistics planning. For the flight, Arnold received the Mackay Trophy, but more significantly, he learned valuable lessons about the importance of logistics in projecting air power over vast distances. Within just a few years, Arnold put together his experience with operational command, logistics, R&D and training to build the air arm that successfully defeated America's enemies on a global scale in WWII.

Arnold never stopped looking for ways to improve military aviation, and while commanding March Field, he became reacquainted with America's leading aeronautical researchers, engineers and scientists. He believed that military aviators needed to cooperate closely with the academic world to produce the world's finest military aircraft, and he supported the creation of aeronautical research centers with the world's best facilities and wind tunnels. 

In September 1938 Arnold became the Chief of the Air Corps, and no one was better suited for the job. Responding to the growing threat of war in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with his key military advisors, and he ordered the Army to vastly expand its military aviation. Furthermore, President Roosevelt made the Army air arm central to national defense, and Arnold had to use all he had learned to carry out the president's orders.

Arnold knew that a successful air force required a proper balance of pilots, airplanes, support personnel, training facilities, logistics and air bases. Therefore, Arnold used his experience to guide the expansion of the Army air arm from a small force of about 2,000 airplanes and 21,000 personnel in 1939 to a peak of about 79,000 airplanes and 2,300,000 personnel at the end of WWII.

To increase the USAAF's combat power, he supported the R&D programs that developed long-range bombers like the B-29 and B-36, jet fighters like the P-59 and P-80, rocketry, radar and other electronic warfare devices. Looking far into the future, Arnold created the Scientific Advisory Group, chaired by Dr. Theodor von Karman and consisting primarily of academics, which later became the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. At Arnold's direction, this advisory board produced long-range studies about the future of military aviation, and their recommendations included elements vital to the operation of the modern U.S. Air Force, including jet and rocket propulsion, long-distance communication systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and the exploitation of outer space. 

In December 1944 Arnold was promoted to a five-star General of the Army, the United States' highest military rank. Arnold retired from active duty in June 1946, but he remained in close contact with the leaders of the newly created U.S. Air Force, who frequently sought his advice on matters of national defense. He also wrote his memoirs, Global Mission, which detailed the rise of American military air power in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1949 President Harry S. Truman signed the legislation that made Arnold the first, and only, General of the Air Force.

Click here to return to the Other Exhibits index.


Find Out More
Related Fact Sheets
Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold Artifacts
Five Stars in Space: Hap Arnold's Rank Insignia Orbit the Earth
Kettering Aerial Torpedo "Bug"
B-10 Alaskan Flight
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Convair B-36J Peacemaker
Bell P-59B Airacomet
Lockheed P-80R
Dr. Jeff Underwood: "Hap Arnold: Air Force Visionary" (00:58:05)
Other Resources
HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator (Provided by AFHSO)