1956 - 2020, Celebrating over 60 Years of Service
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Embry-Riddle at War: Aviation Training during World War II
Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold made a few questionable decisions during his tenure as Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps/Forces (1938-1946). For example, he “fired” (via reassignment) Gen. Ira C. Eaker on December 19, 1943, after the latter had skillfully established the Eighth Air
Force in England and solidly inaugurated a strategic bombing campaign against Germany. On the other hand, Arnold proved to be a superb air power commander because he understood and planned for the million and one things required to keep military pilots and combat planes operating in wartime.
Indeed, as wars in Asia and Europe threatened at the end of the 1930s to intrude on American interests, the General realized he might soon need pilots by the tens of thousands when only hundreds had been trained in 1939. Rejecting the advice of his own Air Staff, Arnold decided to turn for help to civilian flying schools. One of the 64 contracts for military flight training went to an affiliate of the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation, then located in Miami, Fla. It would become one of the largest of such enterprises in the nation.
Embry-Riddle earned the contract because of its already successful training program for hundreds of students. The school worked with the University of Miami as part of the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program of 1939. The addition of a December 1940 agreement to deliver primary flight training to military cadets allowed Embry-Riddle to expand its operations to include five airfields and two technical schools, one in Miami and the other in São Paulo, Brazil – a U.S. wartime ally.
As a result, Embry-Riddle at war provided 22,000 military personnel with technical and primary flight training under civilian instructors. Also, some 1,800 members of the British Royal Air Force received primary, basic, and advanced flight training; and 4,000 civilian trainees graduated to become pilots and technicians, more often than not, for the war effort. Finally, the school made a significant contribution to America’s overall air strength by overhauling 3,000 aircraft engines, 21,000 cockpit instruments, and 700 complete aircraft.
The author, Craft, currently teaches American aviation history and U.S. military history at what is now Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Besides examining the collection of materials at his school, he researched original documents in 14 American archives, ranging from the Library of Congress to the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB. Moreover, his comments about RAF flight training in America were enhanced by going to England and reviewing related sources in the Public Records Office, Imperial War Museum, and Royal Air Force Museum.
Naturally, Craft gives a brief history of Embry-Riddle, explaining the origins of the 1926 partnership between businessman Talton Higbee Embry and pilot John Paul Riddle. Otherwise, he avoids deadly, diary-like chronology by dealing with subjects topically. In fact the author, a former journalist, enlivens the narrative with many funny, exciting and, occasionally, tragic tales about individual student pilots and technicians in training for war. Tom D. Crouch, author of The Bishop’s Boys and other aviation books, credits Craft with shedding “important light on a neglected but critically important aspect of the greatest air war in history.”
James K Libbey