General Henry H. Arnold
1886 - 1950
Father Of The United States Air Force; First Five-Star General
Inducted in 1997
For 40 years, General Henry H. Arnold worked to advance the cause of American military air power and an independent Air Force. His efforts were finally recognized when on September 18, 1947, the United States Air Force was established as a separate branch of the Armed Forces.
"Hap" Arnold graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the class of 1907. He served as a lieutenant with the infantry for several years after leaving West Point. In 1911, Arnold received flight training at the Wright School of Aviation at famous Huffman Prairie near Simms Station in Dayton, Ohio. Arnold later wrote in his autobiography, "More than anyone I have ever known or read about, the Wright brothers gave a sense that nothing is impossible." On May 9, 1911, Lieutenant Arnold made his first solo flight. After 28 flights and a cumulative flying time of three hours and 48 minutes, he graduated and received pilot license number 29 signed by Wilbur Wright.
Following World War I, Arnold organized record-breaking flights by the Army Air Service. He lobbied Congress for more funding and was one of General Billy Mitchell’s few supporters. This support nearly cost him his career. During World War II, as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he organized and directed the American strategic bombing offensive that helped destroy German and Japanese industry and win WWII.
On December 15, 1944, Arnold was promoted to the five star supergrade "General of the Army." General Arnold retired in February 1946. In retirement on May 7, 1949, President Truman changed his title to "General of the Air Force." He remains the only person to ever hold that rank.