Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William D. MacDougall, United States Naval Attaché at London, to Office of Naval Intelligence

Sent: May 31, 1917.                  To: Navintel, Washington.

The Air Board and the Admiralty recommend that officers who will hold higher commands in the army and navy air service should come here immediately and be given authority to make decisions in the same way as the commissioners.1 If they possess this authority it will be possible to make progress, whereas an account of the impossibility of putting the matter to <on> paper, very little can be accomplished at present. It will cost about one billion dollars per year roughly, to maintain a force of one thousand pilots. The British are anxious that we should undertake the first stages of training of their men as well as our own, leaving the final training to be done in England.2 They would like us to construct training machines immediately. This would leave them free to put more factories on the high class engines which we are not ready to make just now. No. 19331.

MACDOUGALL              

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Identifying Number “S141” is written in the upper right-hand corner of the document.

Footnote 1: It took till September before Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, arrived in England to establish a “substantial presence.” Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 149.

Footnote 2: This was a somewhat surprising request, given the disparity in Britaish and American naval aviation. When the U. S. entered the war, Britain possessed some 2,000 planes to America’s 120. The U. S. could boast a commendable training facility at the Pensacola Naval Aeronautic Station and Training School, as well as training centers at Mineola, New York; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Philadelphia; and Miami, Florida. Britain also possessed a school for the Royal Flying Corps at the University of Toronto. Lt. Col. Hiram Bingham of the Air Service later recalled that the training center at Issoudun, in France, was originally intended “chiefly as a place where pilots already fully trained in the United States should have a ‘refresher course’ before being sent to the Front.” Later Issoudun had to “develop a complete course in advanced flying and aerial tactics” because “hundreds of cadets had been sent to France [from America] without any flying training at all.” There is no record of British pilots being sent to the U.S. in any significant numbers for training purposes. Roscoe, On the Seas and in the Skies: 61; Rossano and Wildenberg, Striking the Hornets’ Nest, 63; Bingham, An Explorer in the Air Service: 126.

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