Visionary Leader

  • Published
  • By Dr. Héctor Manuel Torres-Camacho
  • 439th Airlift Wing

General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold (1886-1950)

Henry H. Arnold was born in Gladwyne, PA, in 1886 and Graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1907, becoming an infantry officer.  After serving in the Philippines and New York, he was assigned to the Army’s Signal Corps and learned to fly aircraft from the Wright Brothers; eventually becoming a flight instructor. 

Testifying on behalf of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in 1925, Arnold became an active proponent of air power as a separate arm of military service.  In 1936, he became Assistant to the U.S. Army Air Corps Chief, Major General Oscar Westover, succeeding him in 1938.  Arnold’s efforts in promoting the construction of a strategic military airfield in the continental north-east materialized in 1941, when the new facility opened its gates in Chicopee, MA, with one strip dedicated to Major General Oscar Westover. 

During World War II, Arnold commanded the U.S. Army Air Corps, which late became the U.S. Army Air Forces; at the peak of the war, this component accounted to 2,500,000 service members and 75,000 aircraft.  In 1944, he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army and in 1949 became the first and only person to hold the rank of General of the Air Force.