1941 - Boeing B-17D
Undoubtedly many factors both political and
military contributed to the American Government's firm stand in July and
August 1941. One of these was recognition of the potentialities of air
power and especially of the Army's new heavy bomber, the B-17, called
the Flying Fortress. In Stimson's opinion, the success of B-17
operations in Europe was responsible for creating an optimistic view in
the War Department that the Philippines could be successfully held.
A striking force of such heavy bombers, it was argued, would act as a
deterrent to Japanese advances southward and would strengthen the United
States position in the Far East.
At the end of November General Marshall
summarized for the Secretary of War the air reinforcements already
shipped or scheduled for shipment to the Philippines. At that time, he
noted, there were 35 B-17's already in the Islands and 52 A-24's were
due there-they never arrived-on the 30th. Fifty P-40's had reached
MacArthur in September, Marshall explained to Stimson, thus giving him a
total of 81 modern fighters. In addition, 24 P-40's had left San
Francisco on 19 October, and 40 more on 9 November. By 31 December,
General Marshall estimated, the Philippines should have a total of 240
fighters of the latest type.41
By now the War Department was fully
committed to an all-out effort to strengthen the air defense of the
Philippines. General Arnold, in a letter to the commander of the
Hawaiian Air Force on 1 December, expressed this view when he wrote: "We
must get every B-17 available to the Philippines as soon as possible."42
His statement was not an exaggeration. On the outbreak of war there were
913 U. S. Army aircraft scattered among the numerous overseas bases.
This number of aircraft included 61 heavy, 157 medium, and 59 light
bombers and 636 fighters. More than half of the total of heavy bombers
and one sixth of the fighters were already in the Philippines.43
(See Table 3.) Within a few months this number would
have been raised considerably.