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Memorandum for General Peterson
March 27, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
OPD and the Commander of the Army Air Forces are both concerned over the fact that we are facing a shortage of fighter pilots in active theaters. I am told that there is an appreciable number of fighter planes assigned to the Coast Defense commands and a large number of pilots, but that these pilots receive very little fighter training.
Whether the reports are correct or merely apply to a single locality I do not know, but I want you to investigate the matter as quickly as possible.
The general impression conveyed to me is that in the Philadelphia area, for example, there were 120 fighter planes with approximately 500 pilots and these pilots were getting about 12 hours flight a month. Outside of the Defense commands these pilots would be given 60 hours a month and would be ready quickly for service overseas.
What I want to know is first, what is the actual condition at a number of typical points, the check-up to be made by other than Air officers. And second, can the Defense commanders do anything to improve this situation, otherwise we shall be forced to place all of these pilots and planes under direct control for training purposes of the Commander of the Army Air Forces.
I should like you to inspect conditions in the Bridgeport, New York, and Philadelphia areas and I wish you would have a selected man make a similar inspection in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego areas, and then give me a report as quickly as possible. The matter is urgent.1
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Major General Virgil L. Peterson, the inspector general, replied that he had visited ten airfields and conferred with various commanding officers. He found that aircraft and spare part shortages, adverse weather conditions, a lack of experienced officers to act as staff officers and flight commanders, and lack of good management by higher headquarters had led to a general slowing of the fighter pilot training program. Most squadrons were equipped with the P-47, which still had “a number of bugs” and was a constant maintenance problem. Peterson stated that generally speaking squadron and group commanders were doing their best to maintain the maximum number of flying hours in the training schedule. Regarding the Philadelphia area, 14 not 120 fighter planes were stationed there with forty not five hundred pilots. These pilots averaged one flying hour per day not twelve per month.
Peterson did, however, note some deficiencies. He believed that present equipment and training for instrument flying were inadequate. Moreover there existed confusion between the commanding generals of the Eastern Defense Command and the Army Air Forces as to who had the ultimate responsibility for the training of fighter pilots; Peterson recommended that the former be assigned this task. He also noted that corrective action had been recommended regarding management and command, and he suggested that steps be taken to improve efficiency at supply depots. (Peterson Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 3, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 321.91 AAF].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 612-613.