AIRCRAFT IN THE PHILIPPINES, DECEMBER 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.

 

 

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