But to get back to Pearl Harbor and December 7, 1941—the American military were neither as inept nor as somnolent as the public has been led to believe, although there was some of both in the predictable routine of the US fleet, which assured the Japanese the ships would be at their berths any Sunday. A more basic problem, however, lay in the clear separation of functions between the Navy and the Army. And since the Air Corps, still struggling for an identity, was part of the Army and subordinate to infantry generals, the separation applied particularly to it.
We all know that happened. Regardless of what one may think of Japanese ethics in striking before a declaration of war—a war both sides knew was coming—it was perhaps the most successful single air attack in history. Commander Genda felt the initial success should have been exploited, but that part of his plan was overruled. Years later, Genda became a lieutenant general and commanded the newly created Japanese Air Force—or Air Self-Defense Force, to use the curious euphemism required by the pacifistic constitution we devised for Japan. Anyway, one relaxed evening, this distinguished former enemy told a small group of us that we would still be trying to get the Japanese out of the Rockies if his plan had been followed.
Now, it would seem, a new era is dawning, one in which the Navy and the Air Force are going to take some positive steps toward carrying out President Eisenhower’s dictum that our forces could no longer fight separately. To this end, the CNO and the Chief of Staff have signed a general agreement and, more to the point, five specific ones. These provide for increased joint training and joint procurement of common items, not including, it goes without saying, common fighter airplanes. There is no advantage to either service in chasing that rainbow again.
The Army had had its problems with its progeny in the years since the Air Force finally broke the last ties. During the period of massive retaliation when SAC reigned supreme, the Army was almost made to look redundant. Then came the doctrinal disputes and a determined effort by the Army to create a new Army Air Corps. The A-10 owes its existence to the doctrinal dispute over the mission of close support. It was conceived, not by tacticians but by doctrinaires, to knock down the case for the Army’s proposed attack helicopter. The A-10 won this battle, although the war remains unresolved, or at least, it has remained so until now.
Aside, perhaps, from the fact that the Air Force’s AWACS is now committed to fleet support, and the B-52, with a sea warfare mission, has entered the heretofore private domain of the Navy, there is nothing dramatic in what is taking place—just a common-sense effort to make certain we are doing the best we can with what we have.
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