USAAF General Henry H. Arnold's Khaki Service Visor Cap, WWII
The cap featured here is a United States Army Air Force visor cap worn by General Henry "Hap" Arnold in World War II (1939-1945). It is made from lightweight khaki cotton, for wear with the summer service uniform, and features a gilt Army officer's screw-back eagle cap badge. It has a brown visor and a brown leather chinstrap and back strap attached by two gold buttons, which also feature the eagle coat of arms. Inside, the visor has a card reading "Gen. Henry H. Arnold U.S. Army Air Forces." It was manufactured by Berkshire Deluxe.
After World War I (1914-1918), U.S. Army visor caps underwent several minor changes. Such changes took place in 1920, 1925, and 1930, which eventually produced the "Pershing" model worn during WWII. These caps were made in olive drab and khaki, which were both introduced in 1905. Officer's caps featured a mohair cap band and eagle coat of arms cap badge that had been in use since 1902.1
General of the Air Force Henry "Hap" Arnold (1886-1950)
Born in 1886, Henry "Hap" Arnold is remembered for his major contributions to the foundations of the United States Air Force, as well as being the only five-star general of the Air Force and the only person to hold a five-star rank in two military branches. In 1907, Arnold graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and was made a second lieutenant in the infantry. Four years later, in 1911, he switched to aviation and learned to fly with the Wright Brothers.2 Arnold rose quickly to the rank of colonel during World War I (1914-1918). However, he would hit a rough patch in his career after the war ended.
The post-war period was hard for Arnold and the Army, which was at a promotion standstill for many years.3 Because of this the Army demoted Arnold to his permanent rank of captain, and he considered leaving the service to pursue other options. He was offered a job as president of Pan American Airways, and initially accepted the position due to its large pay increase. Before he took the job, however, Arnold suffered another setback by supporting combat aviation pioneer William "Billy" Mitchell, who was exiled for chastising military leadership in regards to a separate aviation branch from the Army. At the time Billy Mitchell had been Assistant Chief of the Air Service for many years, and his work helped prove the effectiveness of anti-ship aircraft and bombs. Despite this contribution, however, Mitchell was demoted to an air officer in 1923 due to his antagonizing behavior towards his superiors. This led to him pursuing a court-martial by charging "the Navy and War Department with incompetence, criminal negligence, and almost treasonable administration."4 When Mitchell was put on trial, Arnold was one of many who testified in Mitchell's defense. After Mitchell was found guilty, Arnold, along with the others who supported him, suffered. He was demoted to a squadron commander at Fort Riley. Deciding that he did not want to accept the job with Pan American Airways while under bad standings with the Air Service, Arnold turned down the position.
It did not take Arnold long, however, to move back up in the ranks and reestablish his career in the Army. Arnold had tremendous success during the 1930s, becoming a brigadier general in 1935 and eventually the Chief of the Air Corps (renamed in 1926) as a major general in 1938. With this position, Arnold was able to push the Air Corps on its first step to independence from the Army by creating the Air War Plans Division.5 This group planned methods of aviation warfare without the influence of the overall Army. In 1938, Arnold started working on a plan to train more pilots for the impending war. At the time Randolph Field, located in Texas, was only "turning out about 750 pilots a year [and] the wartime demand was projected at 100,000 annually."6 Through this plan, he was able to increase the number of men from 25,000 to around 2.5 million, as well as increased the number of planes from 4,000 to 75,000.7
On June 6, 1941, the Air Corps and the Air Force Combat Command were combined to create the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) with Arnold as its commanding general.8 This was a big step for those in the Army Air Force, including Arnold, who only twenty years earlier almost decided to leave the military. During World War II, he served as a member of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff, becoming the fourth five-star general in 1944. He was also a main proponent of the Strategic Bombing Offensive, which bombed specific sites in Germany that were valuable to the war effort, as well as large towns.9 Six years after the establishment of the USAAF, on September 18, 1947, the independent United States Air Force was officially born.10 Arnold lived to see this and the other progress made by the United States Air Force until his death in 1950.
The Wilson History & Research Center acquired General Hap Arnold's cap in April 2011. Before, it was owned by a number of collectors, the first of whom received it directly from Arnold's son. It was on loan from Elliot Goldman of The National Leadership Foundation for the "American Heroes of WWII" exhibition at the Ronald Reagan Library in 2002. In April 2011 the WHRC displayed the cap at the "Night to Honor Our Heroes" event of the Valero Texas Open sponsored by the USAA.
|United States||World War II|