20 June 1941: The Department of War established the United States Army Air Forces. The new organization consisted of Headquarters Army Air Forces, the newly-formed Air Force Combat Command, and the existing United States Army Air Corps. The U.S.A.A.F. was placed under the command of Major General Henry Harley (“Hap”) Arnold, Chief of the Air Forces.
At the end of 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces had a strength of 354,161 (24,521 officers and 329,640 enlisted) and 12,297 aircraft, with 4,477 of these classified as combat aircraft. Over the next 3 years, personnel would increase to a peak of 2,411,294. The number of aircraft reached a maximum 79,908 by July 1944.
The most advanced aircraft in the inventory of the Army Air Forces at its inception were the Boeing B-17C/D Flying Fortress heavy bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell and Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers, Lockheed P-38D Lighting, Bell P-39D Airacobra and Curtiss Wright P-40B Warhawk fighters, and the Douglas C-39 transport. Many older designs remained in service.
On 18 September 1947, the United States Army Air Forces was detached from the United States Army and became a separate military service, the United States Air Force.
On 21 December 1944, General Arnold was promoted to a five-star rank, General of the Army. On 7 May 1949, his rank was officially changed to General of the Air Force.
18–20 June 1937: The number 1 prototype Tupolev ANT-25, with pilot Valery Pavlovich Chkalov, Georgy Filippovich Baydukov (co-pilot/radio/navigator) and Alexander Vasilyevich Belyakov (radio/navigator) departed Shchelkovo airfield near Moscow, Russia, at 4:04 a.m. (01:04 GMT), 18 June, and flew north along the E. 38° meridian toward the North Pole, and beyond that, south along the W. 123° meridian toward San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The Tupolev ANT-25RD was an experimental very long range airplane, built by OJSC Voronezh, intended to set distance records. It also served as a prototype for a long-range bomber, which was designated DB-1.
The ANT-25 was a single-engine low-wing monoplane, primarily of metal construction, with retractable landing gear. The wings and horizontal stabilizer were covered with corrugated sheet metal. The troughs were filled with balsa wood to create a smoother surface. It was flown by a crew of three. The pilot was placed directly behind the engine, followed by a crew rest area, then the navigator/radio operator’s station. The copilot flew the airplane from a small enclosed cockpit behind the navigator’s station.
The airplane was 13.00 meters (42 feet, 8 inches) long with a wingspan of 34.00 meters (111 feet, 7 inches) long and overall height of 5.5 meters (18 feet, ½-inch). The very high aspect ratio wing (13:1) has an area of 87.10 square meters (937.54 square feet), because of its length, the wing used steel spars. The ANT-25 had an empty weight of 3,784 kilograms (8,342 pounds) and maximum gross weight of 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds).
The ANT-25 was powered by a single liquid-cooled, supercharged, 46.928 liter (2,863.722 cubic inches) Mikulin M-34RD single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, rated at 830 horsepower. Right and left cylinder banks had different length connecting rods: 190mm vs. 199mm. Drove a three-blade propeller with a diameter of 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) through gear reduction. The pitch of the propeller blades could be adjusted prior to flight.
The ANT-25 cruise speed 165 km/h (103 miles per hour), max, 244 km/h (152 miles per hour), range 10,800 km (6,711 miles) Ceiling 7,850m (25,755 feet)
20 June 1937: Leg 22. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fly the Electra from Rangoon to Bangkok then on to Singapore.
“Moist clouds were our companions as we left Rangoon the next morning, bound for Bangkok, Siam. First, we crossed the upper reaches of the Gulf of Martaban, flying over Moulmein. . . A great range of mountains extends north and south along the western border of Siam, separating it from the long arm of Burma that reaches down into the Malay Peninsula. Through squally weather we climbed to 8,000 feet and more, topping this mountain barrier. On its eastern flanks the clouds broke and there stretched before us a dark green forest splashed with patches of bright color, cheerful even in the eyes of a pilot who recognized in all the limitless view no landing place. The country fell away gradually to the east, the hills flattening out into heavy jungle. Then we crossed the Mei Khlaung River, with little villages scattered along its banks, the wide expanses of irrigated land burdened with rice crops.
“Bangkok itself lies in a vast plain with mountains in the distant background. . . After refueling at Bangkok (the airport was one of the best we encountered) we started for Singapore, more than 900 miles away. . . Though we did not sight them, there were two transport planes that day on the same route which we flew. The Imperial Airways machine left Rangoon first and the K.L.M. Douglas at daybreak. Our Wasp-motored Lockheed left fifteen minutes later. All stopped at Bangkok, then followed different courses to Singapore. We arrived there first, at 5:25 P.M. local time, because we cut straight and did not stop along the way.”
Amelia Earhart wrote beautifully. Her notes are full of color and texture. She describes the land and the sea and the sky, the towns and cities and the people. Her descriptions bring all of these to life.