General of the Air Force Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold (1886-1950)
This style of officer's dress coat was adopted by the United States Army in 1895 and continued in use until the the United States entered the First World War in 1917. This particular uniform was worn prior to World War I by Lt. Henry "Hap" Arnold who became the commander of the Army Air Forces during the World War II. The coat is missing its officer's shoulder boards and were not available at the time of its donation to the museum.
Arnold was born and raised near Philadelphia, a 1907 graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, and trained as a pilot at the Wright brothers flight school in Dayton, Ohio. Arnold rose to the rank of five-star general during World War II in command of the largest air force in America’s history. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman transferred his commission to the fledgling U.S. Air Force where even today is the only five-star general the USAF has ever had.
Arnold’s life paralleled the development of military aviation in America. He flew early Wright Flyer “aeroplanes” that were made of fabric, wood and wire. He commanded a flight of ten Martin B-10 bombers, America’s first all-metal long range bomber, on a round-trip mission from Washington DC to Alaska in 1934. He held direct command over an armada of B-29 Superfortresses that flew combat in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and 45; the most technically advanced military aircraft of its day. He lived to see the P-80 fly, America’s first turbojet powered fighter.
Arnold’s dynamic personality and innate ability to select gifted people to handle difficult problems influenced the long-term development of aerial refueling; precision guided weapons, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology. His leadership directly contributed to Allied victory in World War II and also secured the permanent relationship between the U.S. Air Force and advanced aeronautical science and technology.