SP-4103 Model Research - Volume 1

 

3

Advice and Politics, 1919-1926

 

[51] World War I had engendered a full-scale aviation manufacturing industry in the United States. In 1914 the Census Bureau listed only 16 aircraft manufacturers, whose combined total output was 49 planes. By the end of the war, 175,000 workers in approximately 300 plants were manufacturing airplanes with a potential output of 21,000 per year. Between April 1917 and November 1918, this fledgling industry delivered 13,844 aircraft and 41,953 engines.1

For such an industry, or at least a substantial nucleus of it, to survive in peacetime, the federal government would have to either sustain a sizeable military aviation program, or else foster civilian commercial aviation on a comparable scale. The government's response to the first alternative was swift and unmistakable. Within days of signing the armistice, the United States cancelled $100,000,000 in contracts for military aircraft and parts, cutting the industry to an estimated ten percent of its wartime size and reducing production from its wartime high of 14,000 aircraft in 1918 to a low of 263 in 1922. The answer on civilian aviation came more slowly. The United States never subscribed to the direct subsidy of commercial aviation adopted in many European countries. But would the government provide indirect support - airmail contracts, airports, and aids to navigation - that private firms could afford neither to buy nor to do without? Most important, would the federal government regulate aviation in order to make it safe, reliable, and economically sound? In the course of answering these questions, the NACA would undergo one of the most complicated and damaging episodes in its history.

 

A NATIONAL AVIATION POLICY

 

Shortly before the armistice ending World War I, the general manager of the Manufacturers Aircraft Association wrote to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics suggesting federal legislation to regulate civil and commercial aviation. To the manufacturing [52] industry it seemed that only federal assistance and regulation could give civil aviation the boost it needed, and the NACA seemed the logical place to start. The Committee's helpfulness in the wartime. controversies over aircraft-engine manufacture and cross-licensing were well remembered. At the moment, the military services were dismantling the war machine so recently put together and were in no position to undertake the advancement of civilian aviation; they also were mindful of the good offices of the NACA in resolving their wartime disputes with the aviation industry. But it was the industry most of all that prompted the NACA to move. After World War I, "business was the dominant and most active sector of the nation"; and, in the field of aviation, business took the lead in encouraging the NACA to do what everyone else agreed was necessary. Several congressmen assured Chairman Walcott that in their opinion the NACA had full authority to initiate civil-aviation legislation.2

The Committee did not hesitate. Its Annual Report for 1918, sent to the president within three weeks of the armistice, recommended federal legislation to promote and regulate civilian and commercial aviation. To this end, it reported the formation of a committee in conjunction with other government agencies concerned with aviation: the War, Navy, Commerce, and Post Office Departments. The issues taken up by the committee were the same ones confronted more than seven years later when legislation was finally enacted: First, what action should be taken to ensure a healthy aviation industry, both as a commercial enterprise worthy in its own right and as a reliable source of military aircraft in the event of war? Second, how much regulation did flying require to make it a safe, attractive, and profitable means of transportation? And third, what organization of government agencies would be most conducive to these ends? Disagreement on the first two issues was minor, technical, and negotiable. Disagreement on the last was intense, divisive, and finally bitter. It held up passage of civil-aviation legislation for more than seven years.3

This interdepartmental committee proved an unsatisfactory mechanism for dealing with these questions. It formulated a proposal quickly enough, recommending that the president appoint a joint interagency board to control civil aviation. But the NACA lacked authority to submit this proposal without the approval of the agencies concerned. While the draft circulated through these agencies, 1918 slipped away, several of the military members of the committee were transferred, and the interdepartmental committee itself dissolved for lack of replacements. By February 1919 little hope remained that the proposal for a joint board could be considered by the 65th Congress before it expired in March. Meanwhile, the aviation situation was becoming increasingly desperate. The army was licensing domestic aviation under wartime [53] emergency legislation. Surplus military aircraft were being put on the open market with virtually no control over how and where they might operate. Aviation anarchy loomed.

In haste, Walcott (with the approval of the secretaries of war, navy, and commerce) recommended to the president new emergency legislation empowering the secretary of commerce to license and regulate interstate civilian flying in the United States. Though President Wilson endorsed this recommendation and forwarded it to Congress on 26 February, it was lost in the crush of legislation in the last week of the 65th Congress.4

Unaccountably, the NACA let the entire first session of the 66th Congress slip by before it renewed the campaign. On 7 March 1919 the Executive Committee had decided to resubmit the February legislation immediately after the new congress convened. But, in April, Dr. Ames reported that the great public interest in the subject demanded "much study" of it. He recommended the appointment of a "strong subcommittee" to make an "extensive study" of the matter. This suggestion won quick endorsement, but it was not until 25 November, after the end of the first session of the 66th Congress, that the Committee got around to appointing the Special Committee on Organization of Governmental Activities in Aeronautics, with Joseph S. Ames as chairman.5

Thereafter, things moved more quickly. Ames began gathering data and opinions from the United States and abroad. By early December, he had concluded that the European experience clearly demonstrated what not to do: do not form a central department of aeronautics as the British had done in their Air Ministry. Carrying great weight with Ames was a recent report by Captain H.C. Mustin, a member of the Crowell commission that visited Europe in 1919 to study the aviation lessons of the war. Ames found in Mustin's report "conclusive arguments against combining all aviation work in a central bureau or department." This position soon solidified into a tenet of NACA policy.6

By early February, Ames's special committee was able to enunciate four basic principles:

 

1. The military services would be responsible for their own training, personnel policies, procurement, and "engineering development."
 
2. The Post Office Department would handle its own aviation.
 
3. The duties of the NACA would remain the same.
 
[54] 4. An Air Navigation Board should be created within the Department of Commerce. Its membership should be drawn from all the federal agencies concerned with aviation, and it should be responsible for the regulation and encouragement of civil aviation.7

 

When approved by the Executive Committee, these principles were embodied in draft legislation "To Create a Bureau of Air Service in the Department of Commerce ......" Three provisions of this draft bill are crucial to a study of NACA history, for by following them it is possible to follow all subsequent civil-aviation legislation and see where the NACA stood. First, the main purpose of the bill was to create an organization within the Department of Commerce to regulate and encourage civil aviation. Second, it precluded a single, unified department of aeronautics for the entire federal government, calling instead for autonomous aeronautical bureaus within the Departments of War, Navy, Post Office, and Commerce, in addition to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Finally, the bill provided for a "Joint Board" to be composed of the heads of these autonomous bureaus. The board would meet to coordinate the various aeronautical activities of the federal government, a role that the NACA had been filling unofficially since its creation and that it would continue to fill in the area of aeronautical research. It was on this last issue - the coordinating function - that the NACA would be drawn into overstepping its bounds in the fight for civil-aviation legislation.8

On 19 May 1920, Congressman F.C. Hicks introduced a bill "To Create a Bureau of Aeronautics in the Department of Commerce ....." Modeled on the draft NACA legislation, the bill was the joint product of Hicks on the one hand and Dr. Walcott and two military members of the NACA on the other. Hicks reportedly said that the principles it embodied were the same as the Committee's. A more limited piece of legislation, providing only for the regulation of air commerce by a bureau within the Department of Commerce and containing no provisions for governmentwide coordination, had been introduced six days earlier by Congressman Julius Kahn. While not at odds with either the Hicks or the NACA proposals, the Kahn bill did not go as far in outlining the entire government structure for aeronautics; it was silent on the pivotal issue of coordination.9

As far as most members of the NACA were concerned, there was not much to choose between the Hicks and Kahn bills. Either would provide what was needed most - a government organization within the Department of Commerce to administer civil aviation - but the military members of the Committee preferred the Kahn bill, which limited itself to the control of civil aviation and did not intrude upon military [55] prerogatives. The Hicks bill, in contrast, gave its proposed commissioner of aeronautics broad power in areas such as transfer of aircraft between government agencies and approval of expensive research projects, aspects of coordination that the military had approved in the abstract but disliked in the flesh or at least disliked in the Department of Commerce.

During the summer and fall of 1920, the NACA examined the two bills and reached an agreement of sorts on amendments to both. The Committee's Annual Report for 1920 expressed unanimous support for the revised Kahn bill. The revised Hicks bill, said the report, was an acceptable second choice if Congress should insist upon legislation barring duplication of expenditures and activities within the military - i.e., enforcing a coordinating role on some government agency.10

It was in the revised Hicks bill, however, that the Committee most clearly revealed the role it wished to play, or at least the role some of its members would prefer. The issue was how to coordinate government aeronautical activities, both military and civilian. The original Hicks bill had sought to resolve the issue by creating within the Department of Commerce an Aeronautics Board with broad powers over all government aviation. This provision satisfied congressional demands for coordination and prevention of duplication, but proved distasteful to representatives of the armed services, who saw in it civilian interference in military affairs. The NACA tried to settle the issue by simply transplanting all those coordinating functions from the Department of Commerce to the NACA, where the military would at least have a voice in decisions that affected its aviation branches. This tactic may have been entirely innocent, but it had all the markings of a sweeping grab for power by the NACA. The most flagrant provisions of the revised bill warrant quotation at some length:

 

Sec. 3. That all rules and regulations herein provided for, except as otherwise provided for in section 12 hereof, shall be formulated by the Commissioner of Air Navigation, who shall submit the same to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for consideration, criticism, and recommendation to the Secretary of Commerce, who, if the same meet with his approval, shall formally promulgate the same; when approved and duly promulgated by the Secretary of Commerce, such rules and regulations shall be legally binding and enforceable from the date of such promulgation unless otherwise provided therein. Provided, That hereafter the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in addition to the exercise of its present function, is authorized to act in an advisory capacity in connection with the formulation and promulgation of such rules and regulations, for the consideration of questions of policy affecting the development of civil or commercial aviation, including recommendations from time to [56] time for amendments to this act or subsequent acts, and for the coordination of the aeronautical activities of the various departments of the Government.
 
The said National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics shall have authority to consider and recommend to the heads of departments concerned, on questions of policy regarding the development of civil aviation, with particular reference to education, preliminary training, commercial production of aircraft, establishment, elimination, and consolidation of all flying fields and air stations, and all other matters in connection therewith.
 
Sec. 4. That hereafter the War, Navy, and other departments of the Government shall prepare programs for experimental research and development work in aeronautics, and for the purchase or construction of air craft [sic], engines, accessories, and hangars, and the acquisition of land for purposes in connection with aviation, and shall submit same to the said advisory committee for consideration and recommendation before contracts are made or orders are placed for the purchase, manufacture, or construction of the same.
 
Sec. 5. That the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics shall have authority to recommend to the heads of the departments concerned the [transfer] of aircraft and aircraft equipment and accessories from one department to another for the civil uses of the Government. The heads of the various departments concerned are authorized to make such transfers of aircraft, equipment, and accessories when recommended by the said advisory committee.
 
Sec. 6. That the said advisory committee shall consider and report upon any question dealing with aviation referred to it by the President or by any of the departments, and shall initiate, report, and recommend to departmental heads desirable undertakings or developments in the field of aviation, and each department shall furnish the said advisory committee such information as to its aviation activities as may be requested.11

 

Stopping just short of giving the NACA control over all aeronautical and aviation activities 'of the federal government, these provisions would have put the NACA at the center of all such activities and made it a central clearinghouse not only of information, which is a power in its own right, but of action as well. Virtually nothing could have been accomplished by the federal government in the field of aviation without consulting the NACA.

How this particular wording found its way into the revised Hicks bill is not entirely clear. Congressman Hicks, in drafting his original legislation, had apparently expanded upon the suggestions of the NACA. He gave to the Aeronautics Board powers that the NACA had not recommended, powers which reflected "that sentiment in Congress which has sought to prevent duplication of expenditures and effort in the military and naval air services." When Walcott came to suggest [57] revisions to the bill, he found himself caught between Congress and the military. Congress wanted the strong coordinating function; the military did not want it in the Department of Commerce. So Walcott simply transferred the function to the NACA and presented the results to the Executive Committee on 11 June 1920. In subsequent meetings during the summer, the Executive Committee in Walcott's absence moderated the powers ascribed to the NACA; the final result, quoted above, nevertheless retained the appearance of a power grab by the Committee. Hicks, who apparently approved and might even have encouraged the change, accepted the NACA recommendations.12

Not everyone on the Committee approved, however. For example, Col. Thurman H. Bane, director of the Army Air Service Engineering Division at Dayton, Ohio, protested as early as July of 1920 that he did not believe that "an organization of scientists and physicists such as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, should assume executive functions" such as those provided in the draft revision of the Hicks bill. "I very greatly fear," he went on, "that the National Advisory Committee would be making a very serious mistake to pass from under the very enviable position of the critic to the very undesirable position of the responsible party for aeronautics in this country." Similar fears were voiced by John F. Hayford, a charter member of the NACA and a distinguished engineer at Northwestern University. "The N.A.C.A. is adapted to function well as an advisory committee," he counseled, "but not to function satisfactorily as an administrative body."13

In keeping with these admonitions, the Committee was far more circumspect in what it advanced as "A National Aviation Policy" in its Annual Report for 1920. Advocating strong government support of military and civil aviation, this policy favored civil-aviation legislation, a government-sponsored aviation competition, adequate appropriations for military aviation, the creation of a naval bureau of aeronautics, extension of the Air Mail Service in the Post Office Department, and a 44 program of scientific research in aeronautics formulated by the committee." Nowhere was there any mention of the broad powers and functions ascribed to the Committee in the modification of the Hicks bill.14

Nor did the Committee claim so much for itself in its proposed modification of the Kahn bill. This more limited piece of legislation elicited a similarly limited recommendation from the NACA. Of the four sweeping provisions in the revised Hicks bill, only one found its way into the revised Kahn bill. Though this was the broad section 3, granting to the NACA its largest and most pervasive advisory function, it was free of such specific irritants as letting the NACA tell other agencies how to transfer aircraft. This made it more palatable not only to the military members of the NACA, but also to a majority of all [58] Committee members.15 The proposed amendments to the Hicks bill stayed on the record, however, as testimony to the aspirations of Walcott and at least some of the other members of the NACA to make the Committee the kingpin of government aviation.16

 

THE DANGERS OF CONTROVERSY

 

Neither the Hicks nor the Kahn bill passed in the third and final session of the 66th Congress, or in the special session of the 67th Congress that followed immediately thereafter. There seems to have been little of the opposition that the NACA felt might face the Hicks bill. Rather the legislation failed for lack of interest and active support. Congress was not opposed, just indifferent and preoccupied with other business. This experience led the members of the NACA to seek more cooperation among the government agencies that favored the legislation and more assistance from the White House - specifically from the new Harding administration. On the initiative of the NACA, a meeting was held at the War Department 31 March 1921. A subcommittee was appointed to draft a letter for the signature of President Harding, calling upon the NACA to investigate the subject of civil aviation and report to him on what steps were needed.17

The president signed the letter on the afternoon it was presented to him, and four days later the NACA's Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation held its first meeting. With Walcott as chairman, Victory as secretary, and other members drawn from the War, Navy, Commerce, and Post Office Departments as well as from private life, the subcommittee set about answering the questions posed by Harding: What could be done without further legislation, and what legislation and appropriations would be necessary to effect whatever recommendations the subcommittee might make? Using the National Aviation Policy recently published by the NACA as foundation, the subcommittee drafted a set of recommendations in three consecutive days.18

All went smoothly for the first two days, as the subcommittee considered line-by-line revisions of the NACA policy statement; only minor revisions or rewordings were suggested. But, on the third day, when the subcommittee began to draft its report to the president, major new issues arose. The president of the Manufacturers Aircraft Association suggested appointment of an industry representative to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. More disturbing still, Sidney Waldon, a Detroit engineer and veteran of the Air Corps and Aircraft Production Board, recommended that the government grant the aircraft industry a direct subsidy to encourage and support civil and commercial aviation, and that it consider establishment of a separate [59] air force. All three of these industry suggestions had precedents in England, and all three were anathema to the NACA. Dr. Stratton replied that the NACA had considered the question of a separate air service and could not recommend it, though nothing in the proposed policy necessarily precluded it. The other two recommendations by these industry representatives were simply ignored.19

The following day, in discussing the draft of its report, the subcommittee reached an impasse on the issue of a separate air service. Some members sought inclusion of a disclaimer that nothing in the report precluded establishment of an independent air service, but the subcommittee was unable to agree on wording and the matter was tabled. The rest of the report was approved and the subcommittee adjourned, its work done, its report ready for approval by the NACA Executive Committee that afternoon and submission to the president the following day.20

That evening, however, Waldon submitted to Walcott a memo signed by himself and three other members of the subcommittee, urging the president to reconvene the subcommittee for the purpose of considering the relative merits of (a) the existing system of government organization for aviation, (b) a department of air, (c) a unified air service, and (d) an independent air force.21 The existing situation was that favored by the NACA. A department of air would have gathered all government aviation activities, military and civilian, into one federal agency. A unified air service would have placed all military aviation in one branch; an independent air force would have created a coequal military service of the air corresponding to the army on the land and the navy on the seas. Distinctions between the three latter suggestions were never entirely clear, even to their most ardent advocates,22 but all three aimed at eliminating what were felt to be abuses of aviation as it was then being handled in the military services, especially the army. Believers in the need for change were soon to find their most colorful and most effective spokesman in the person of Billy Mitchell, the flamboyant and outspoken deputy head of army aviation. Throughout the battle for civil-aviation legislation, a shifting coalition of military and civilian believers would look to Mitchell for leadership and identify - at least in their own minds - the fostering of civil aviation with reform of military aviation.

Walcott, however, considered this issue a dangerous diversion from the main point, the need to establish in the Department of Commerce a bureau to regulate and encourage civil aviation. Although he advised the president of the sentiments of the four members who had petitioned him, he did not forward their memo; instead, he recommended that the president accept the position of the majority of the subcommittee and leave to another time the issue of government organization of [60] aviation activities. Not surprisingly, Harding took the advice. He forwarded the report to Congress, recommended passage of legislation, and (as if to express his approval of the NACA's position) Joined the Committee at its semiannual meeting of 21 April.

 


John Victory (far left) and George Lewis (sixth from left) pose outside the White House with the members of the Main Committee after meeting with President Harding, 21 April 1921. (National Archives)

John Victory (far left) and George Lewis (sixth from left) pose outside the White House with the members of the Main Committee after meeting with President Harding, 21 April 1921. (National Archives)

 

 

The veneer of consensus began to crack as soon as Harding left the meeting. On a routine motion to approve the minutes of Executive Committee meetings, Thurman H. Bane, newly reverted from colonel to ma or, took exception to the Executive Committee's action at its 8 April meeting endorsing the report of the Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation for submission to the president. This action, asserted Bane, precluded the later establishment of a separate air service and ensured that army aviation would remain organized as it then was, a situation Bane considered "perfectly impossible." Reflecting what was probably the majority position in the NACA, one of the members "expressed the opinion that remarks of Major Bane may in effect be resolved into the question of whether the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics should consider the alleged failure of the Army to adequately recognize and provide for the development of the Army Air Service, and it was recorded as the sense of the meeting that the Committee was not called upon at this time to take up the question."23 Lacking support, Bane's objection died. With it died the NACA's chance to serve as mediator in the storm of controversy that would soon consume the careers and passions of many leading American aviators and manufacturers. With it also lapsed the opportunity for [61] quick passage of civil-aviation legislation. Sides had been chosen for a fierce and bitter debate, and though the NACA would have preferred to remain above the controversy, feelings ran so high that neutrality proved impossible. To the advocates of a separate or unified air service, you were either with them or against them. From this time on, many of them believed that the NACA was against them.

Within days, this dispute in the meeting room of the NACA spilled into the press. The Baltimore Evening Sun and the New York Times reported "suppression of a minority report." Lester Gardner, editor of Aviation magazine, was in touch with both Walcott and Waldon, but the editorials he published were strongly on the side of the critics of the NACA.24 There was no sure formula for picking sides in this dispute, but alliances were being formed nonetheless. One side included the Mitchell forces within the Army Air Service, who felt that the air arm was not getting its due. Allied with them were some aircraft manufacturers who foresaw greater promotion of aviation and thus more contracts for themselves if a separate air service was established. Attached to this alliance were some small manufacturers and inventors still smarting over the cross-licensing agreement and looking for a way to open up what they regarded as the aircraft trust. That these men now found themselves in league with the very forces they claimed were monopolizing the aircraft business is only one of the many ironies in the convoluted politics of what was to become the Air Commerce Act.

Arrayed against this alliance was what may be termed the establishment, consisting primarily of the government agencies concerned with aviation - the army, the navy, the Post Office. Department, and the NACA. To call the NACA a government agency is valid in two senses. First, it was in fact an official branch of the federal government. Second, it was then, as always, controlled by its Executive Committee, and in 1921 Joseph Ames was the only member of the Executive Committee who was not also a representative of a government agency. This was one reason that critics of existing government policy felt that the NACA would not or could not give them a fair hearing, a belief especially strong in the aircraft industry, which was specifically barred from membership. When the Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation ignored the recommendation that industry be represented on the NACA, it condemned the Committee to an appearance of bias and partiality in the eyes of many in the aircraft industry.25

The public flap over the minority report embarrassed the Committee and reinforced the commitment to unanimity of opinion that had resulted from the 1918 controversy over the Ames letter published in The Atlantic Monthly. It did not, however, alter NACA policy. The Committee's majority report to the president recommended passage of the modified Kahn bill it had favored in the previous session. Congressmen [62] Kahn and Hicks resubmitted similar bills to the new Congress. Kahn's bill was still in a sense a "stop-gap" measure because it did not resolve the question of government organization of aviation activities, but provided merely for the creation of a bureau of aeronautics in the Department of Commerce. Still, most in government agreed with Ames that "all agencies should unite in support of that measure at this time, and not injure the prospect of securing such legislation by the consideration or urging of legislation for a general reorganization of aviation activities."26

The other side was not without its friends in Congress. In a move attributed to supporters of a united air service, Senator William E. Borah introduced a resolution 17 June to abolish the NACA and transfer its functions to other government agencies. The parallel between the intent of this resolution and the actual experience of the British at this time makes one suspect that the NACA's enemies must have been looking to England. When the Air Ministry was created there in 1918, the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (on which the NACA had been modeled) was transformed into the Aeronautics Research Committee, shorn of much of its power and independence, drained of funds, and transferred to the jurisdiction of the Aircraft Factory. In the opinion of one informed British critic in May 1921, "research has been almost abandoned." C.G. Grey, outspoken editor of the British magazine The Aeroplane, described to an American correspondent at about this time "the delightfully chaotic arrangements" under which aviation then suffered in England, and observed that "apparently your Government is trying to produce a state of affairs which is just about equally irrational."27

The NACA's enemies might deny that the arrangement they were trying to create was irrational, but they were obviously attempting to duplicate the British Air Ministry situation, assuring for the NACA the fate that had befallen the British ACA. Nor was emasculation of the NACA their only ploy. A group of manufacturers, reportedly led by Lester Gardner of Aviation magazine, petitioned President Harding to direct Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover to appoint an aviation consulting committee composed entirely of manufacturers, to prepare a national aviation policy for the approval of the president - an obvious counter to the policy already drafted and presented by the NACA. Secretary Hoover actually agreed to appoint such a board, falling (said John Victory) into a "trap laid by selfish interests" who wanted a separate air service "and innocently concurred in by others influenced by their propaganda."28

Although the NACA succeeded in blocking appointment of an industry committee, advocates of the separate air service also succeeded in blocking the NACA's preferred legislation. So by the spring [63] of 1921 a stalemate arose that was to dominate and frustrate all attempts to get civil-aviation legislation for the next five years. Neither side was strong enough to get its position adopted, but either side was strong enough to block the other. Ironically and tragically, both sides wanted federal encouragement and regulation of civil aviation, but each side would hold such legislation hostage to its own view of how the government should be organized for aviation activities. As Walcott put it in a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, son of the late president, when discussing the chances for passing the Hicks bill: "There are influences which hold that a separate Air Service, of a Department of Aeronautics, should be established, and while they recognize the absolute need for Federal regulation of air navigation for the development of aviation in America, they have announced their intention of opposing the measures recommended."29

The means used by the "influences" to oppose the NACA supported legislation was the Department of Commerce. A group of manufacturers centered in Detroit and led by Howard Coffin met with Secretary Hoover in mid-July, expressed dissatisfaction with the Hicks bill, and offered to draw up their own substitute. The following month, identical legislation was introduced in both House and Senate. Although modeled on the original NACA-supported legislation, these new bills contained significant modifications: the commissioner of aeronautics would not be a member of the NACA, and the commissioner would be empowered to establish his own aerological services and to undertake research. All three of these changes were opposed by the NACA.30

With two sets of conflicting legislation before both houses of Congress, both sides turned to compromise. On 8 December 1921, representatives of the NACA and the aircraft manufacturers met in Washington to work out their differences. With deceptive ease, they concurred in modifications to the pending legislation, prompting George Lewis to report shortly after the meeting that "for the first time in the history of aviation in this country an agreement was reached by all parties concerned." New House and Senate bills incorporating the agreement were quickly introduced and the NACA took charge of a campaign to see them through to passage. John Victory, then working on a degree in international law at Georgetown University night school, coordinated the exchanges between the congressional friends of the bill and the various private and government interests who were following the legislation.31

Just when success seemed imminent, a new obstacle arose: the Constitution. Several legal questions about the bills came up in Congress early in 1922, most importantly whether they were in conflict with the International Convention on Air Navigation recently signed at [64] the peace conference in Paris, and whether the federal government had the power to regulate intrastate flying. Legal opinions were sought both inside and outside the government, and yet another version of the bill was introduced in the Senate. This latest draft was a political compromise worked out in the Senate Commerce Committee to head off objections on the Senate floor. While the NACA forces believed this version contained "a number of objectionable changes," they also thought it good politics to support the bill in the Senate and seek amendment in the House. It passed the full Senate on 14 February 1922 and went to the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, chaired by Representative Samuel E. Winslow. There the bill died.32

Winslow himself was now the obstacle. Influencing him were two groups opposed to the legislation worked out between the NACA and the manufacturers. One was a group of midwestern manufacturers who viewed the bill as the work of eastern manufacturers trying to monopolize the industry, a suspicion reminiscent of the old charges of an aircraft trust. The other group, in strange alliance with these forces, was a faction in the Department of Commerce who felt the secretary of commerce should have a stronger voice in regulating civil aviation than the bill provided. Leading these forces was judge William E. Lamb, former solicitor general of the Department of Commerce. He submitted to Winslow the draft of an entirely new piece of legislation calling for a unified air service, broader power for the secretary of commerce, and transfer of the NACA to the Department of Commerce.33 This last provision was the first in a series of attempts throughout the NACA's history to transfer the Committee to the Department of Commerce. Many motives inspired these efforts, but this first one apparently sprang from parallel desires to strengthen the hand of the secretary of commerce and at the same time to eliminate the opposition of the NACA to the plans of those who would create a separate air force and break up what was seen as an aircraft trust.

The initiative for drafting civil-aviation legislation had now shifted from the NACA to the Department of Commerce. The department disavowed Lamb's draft, so Winslow decided to draft his own bill for introduction in the next Congress and to seek support from the forces behind Lamb's version. From this time on, the NACA would be in the uncomfortable position of opposing legislation that it badly wanted. Many of the subsequent bills made transfer of the Committee to the department a keystone of any plan to organize the government for administration of civil aviation. This was too great a price for the NACA to pay; it would not sacrifice itself to the need for civil-aviation legislation.

 

 

COMMERCE TAKES OVER

 

[65] Winslow's draft of civil-aviation legislation seemed to rely heavily on recommendations of the Department of Commerce. This did not mean, however, that the NACA was without a voice, The Commerce recommendations were, after all, based on the NACA's original proposals for legislation, and the NACA had its chance to comment on the Winslow draft. Although the new bill was not entirely to the Committee's liking, it appeared on the whole to "possess much merit." The NACA would act in an advisory capacity to the secretary of commerce without actually coming under his jurisdiction; in turn, the new commissioner of aeronautics would not intrude upon the NACA's research responsibilities. Here were the makings of a compromise.34

When the Winslow bill was finally introduced in January 1923 it contained a "joker" that had not been present in the draft that the NACA had approved the previous month. The bill now called for a civil aeronautics consulting board, a reincarnation of the industry consulting committee recommended by the Detroit manufacturers the previous year. Officially and publicly, the NACA maintained that such a committee would create an unacceptable conflict of interest. As Ames put it in the Committee's formal reply to Winslow,

 

the development of the bureau's activities and general policy ought not to be controlled or even influenced by any group of men, whether serving without compensation or not, who are representatives of those who are financially interested. The appointment of such a board would also serve to prevent the development of a national aircraft industry by concentrating power or influence in a few so-called "representatives," to the exclusion of all others.35

 

This merely restated the NACA's own reasons for excluding industry representatives from its membership and was thoroughly in keeping with past Committee policy. But, in private correspondence, John Victory revealed that there was far more to this issue. A paper he drafted concluded:

 

Leaders among the aircraft manufacturers today are working quietly for a united air force, believing that it will mean larger appropriations for aircraft. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics has incurred the enmity of certain aircraft manufacturers by recommending to the President and to Congress the principle of an Army Air Service under the Secretary of War, and naval aeronautics under the Secretary of the Navy. These manufacturers, ignoring the importance of the Committee's research work, desire it abolished in order to remove the first obstruction to the amalgamation of Army and Navy aeronautics (under General Mitchell).36

 

[66] Victory had written to Samuel Stratton at about the same time that "the undermining and dissolution of the Advisory Committee are essential to certain interests that have never been able to control the Committee's policies." Although the Winslow bill did not explicitly require abolition or absorption of the NACA, many believed with a correspondent who wrote to Lewis in January that "if this bill passes in any form within a year, [the NACA] will be under the Department of Commerce."37

The NACA therefore took the lead in defeating the legislation or at least so modifying it as to bring about its failure. Meeting with representatives of the military services, the National Aeronautics Association, and the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce, Victory achieved a compromise on the Winslow bill, but too late for passage in the 67th Congress. Thus civil aviation legislation was delayed for yet another year, as the 68th Congress did not convene until December 1923. In that month Winslow submitted a new bill, described by John Victory as "a mere rearrangement of the former bill with no important changes."38 Again the NACA led a campaign to modify the bill.

Here began a round of mudslinging that was to poison negotiations over the legislation and permanently embitter many of the principals. John Victory discovered that members of Congressman Winslow's subcommittee had been subjected to "secret propaganda" that the NACA was "useless" and had "never done anything for aviation." Victory reacted in kind by calling the proposal for a Civil Aeronautics Consulting Board "obviously vicious" and in need of crushing. Howard Coffin, now aligned against the industry coalition working with the Department of Commerce, was even more abusive. He telegraphed George Lewis about "the motives and methods of a small group of agents responsible for cunning and vicious propaganda clearly intended to hamper American aviation development and wreck the industry," about "the running sore that is ceaselessly spreading in Congress and in the public mind poison and suspicion of any and all things relating to aviation," and about "the unscrupulous and infinite cunning with which advantage had been and is being taken of every opportunity to sow lying misinformation to discredit [and] endeavor to prevent vitally needed legislation and to wreck constructive accomplishments."39

What had exasperated Coffin and Victory was a new coalition formed against the NACA and its government allies. Roughly, the coalition consisted of the apostles of a separate air service, becoming ever more vocal under the leadership of Billy Mitchell; diehard believers in an "aircraft trust" who were still smarting over the cross-licensing agreement; and a growing number of aircraft operators who feared they would be hampered by restrictions on flying in the proposed [67] legislation.. Surely an alliance of necessity, it was no less strong for that. One of the staunchest members, an old foe of the NACA from World War I days, was using his influence to promote congressional investigation of the aircraft industry. As one NACA official reported it, the man 4'called at the office, shook his finger in my face,.....and stated that one of the ambitions of his life was to put the Committee out of business. One of the pleasures that he anticipates is drawing Dr. Ames and others before the investigating committee and have them explain the cross-licensing agreement."40

Slowly but inevitably, the dispute was progressing toward an airing of the controversy by public investigation. The administration was already racked by scandals involving corruption and special interests. Billy Mitchell's crusade was about to culminate in a public court-martial. And the issue of government organization for aviation, which was indirectly related to both of these crises, was bound to be investigated in its turn. When Winslow's bill failed again in 1924, the die was cast.

 

SAVED BY THE BILL

 

The committee investigations that dominated 1924 and 1925 were in part a result of the continuing stalemate over aviation legislation; in part they were merely a reflection of their times. Throughout their course, the NACA clung to the basic tenets of the policy it had enunciated at the outset: a bureau of civil aviation in the Department of Commerce, no separate air service, no abolition or absorption of the NACA. The NACA did, however, make some significant changes in its approach. It now kept a lower profile, leaving the initiative for shaping legislation to the Department of Commerce and the lawyers and industry representatives working through that agency. And the NACA claimed for itself a considerably reduced role, a concession that helped win final approval for the Air Commerce Act of 1926.

The first committee investigation to bear on the NACA's place in the scheme of government organization was a fortuitous one as far as civil-aviation legislation was concerned. The Congressional joint Committee on Reorganization of the Executive Departments reported in October 1924 that the NACA should be transferred to the Department of Commerce, echoing the recommendation of the Lamb faction at the Department of Commerce the previous year. This is not to say there is a connection between the two recommendations, only that many who examined the structure of the federal government during the NACA years concluded that the Committee should not be an independent agency. In this case, as always hereafter, the NACA's response was pragmatic and persuasive. Writing to the president late in November, [68] Chairman Walcott said that the success of the Committee could be attributed to the caliber of the members and the freedom they enjoyed in determining their research program.

The distinguished members of the Committee would not serve, he felt, for mere salary, nor if they were reporting to anyone but the president, and they would not be free to choose the best course of action if they were answerable to an official like a secretary of commerce who had concerns other than aeronautical progress. Walcott also suggested that Coolidge's letter of transmittal for the Committee's annual report should contain an encomium of the Committee members that would conclude by observing that "the status of the committee as an independent Government establishment has largely made possible its success." Coolidge complied, and no more was needed to blunt the recommendation of the Joint Committee.41

Potentially more threatening to the NACA was the investigation by the House Select Committee of Inquiry into Operations of the United States Air Service, popularly known as the Lampert committee after its chairman, Florian Lampert. Some of the pressure for these hearings came from advocates of a separate air service who saw in the NACA an obstacle to their designs. The investigation looked back to World War I and the cross-licensing agreement to determine the causes of, and a reasonable solution to, the continuing debate over aviation organization. Unlike the joint Committee on Reorganization, however, the Lampert committee gave the NACA a fair hearing, even going so far as to visit the Langley laboratory. In the Lampert committee's report the NACA fared better than its enemies would have wished, but not well enough to be satisfied with the results. During the hearings, which dominated the aviation scene in the second half of 1924 and the first half of 1925, there was what John Victory called "rampant sensationalism and distortion of truth," much of it from the mouth of Billy Mitchell, whose crusade for an independent air force was becoming increasingly public and intemperate.42

Though the Lampert committee was still deliberating when the second session of the 68th Congress convened in December 1924, a bevy of new and contradictory measures was introduced: the Winslow bill again, a bill for a department of aeronautics, a bill for a direct government subsidy to the aircraft industry, and others. None received enough support to be passed, but that did not prevent their reintroduction during a March special session of the 69th Congress. As Victory put it the day after adjournment, "the last session of Congress had the aeronautical organizations of the Government going around in circles."43 While the NACA persisted in demanding a bureau of civil aviation in the Department of Commerce and in opposing a department of aeronautics, it turned its attention more and more to its own [69] research work. The debate over government organization for aviation seemed endless; in the midst of it the NACA took to concentrating ever more exclusively on the one mission that was clear and uncontested - aeronautical research.

Unexpectedly, September 1925 became a watershed in aviation history. On I September, contact was lost with the Navy seaplane PN-9 which was attempting to fly from San Francisco to Hawaii. Until the plane and crew were found afloat and well on the 10th, a disaster was widely assumed. On the 3rd, the airship Shenandoah crashed in Ohio killing 14 of 43 men aboard. Billy Mitchell seized the opportunity to accuse the army of "criminal negligence" and to launch what Victory called a "publicity stampede." Mitchell's criticisms precipitated his court-martial, which opened dramatically in October and ended with his conviction before the year was out. Following Mitchell's lead, both press and public called for reform of the situation that had led to the Shenandoah and PN 9 disasters. President Coolidge responded on 12 September by appointing a President's Aircraft Board under Coolidge's old friend and confidant, Dwight Morrow.44

The convening of the Morrow board signaled a turn of events in favor of the NACA. The Coolidge administration approved of the army's move to "get" Billy Mitchell, and it approved of the NACA's position on civil-aviation legislation. William F. Durand was appointed to the Morrow board and Victory was made secretary. The NACA was cautiously optimistic. As Victory wrote to Walcott in September: "The aeronautical atmosphere is heavily charged this year, and as far as questions of policy are concerned, I think the Committee should stick to its beaten path and say as little as necessary, or else ignore the political situation entirely and endeavor to focus its attention on the real problems of aviation development and the need for the continuous prosecution of scientific research."45 The NACA had not really been beating that path for very long in the fall of 1925, but the Committee was to stay on it for the rest of its life. Threatened and buffeted during its years at the center of a political fight over civil-aviation legislation, the NACA had lowered its profile - sitting on the Morrow board, for example, but not sponsoring it - and had publicly restricted itself to what it now called its exclusive mission, aeronautical research. Never again would it try to claim for itself the broad advisory, administrative, and coordinating responsibilities staked out in the revised Hicks bill of 1921.46

This new political caution or circumspection appears clearly in the testimony of Joseph Ames before the Morrow board. Asked by Senator Bingham if he would care to express an opinion on the advisability of organizing a separate department of aeronautics, or a united air force, Ames replied, "That question has never come up before our committee. [70] Our duties and work are very sharply defined, and we want to keep within our own fences." At best, that answer was evasive and misleading. Ames might have meant that the matter had never come up for a formal vote before the full committee; but, as early as 1921, "Dr. Stratton stated that the committee had given a great deal of consideration to this question"47 which was never far removed from the Committee's numerous consultations and recommendations over the ensuing four or five years. Ames's statement demonstrated that the NACA had retreated from the battlefield and wished to be excused from further debate. Hereafter the NACA would keep within its own fences, in the narrow area of fundamental research, and leave to other bodies the broader field of aviation policy. This was a concession of the first water, just the sort of compromise that helped pave the way for passage of civil-aviation legislation.

The Morrow board completed its work quickly and efficiently, contributing to a groundswell of support for civil-aviation legislation in the 69th Congress. It endorsed the niche in the federal hierarchy that the NACA had chosen for itself, and it recommended legislation similar to what the NACA had been supporting all along, prompting Victory to describe the report as a "beacon light of good sense in the aeronautical haze."48 Events of the latter half of 1925 had stirred public interest in the issue, creating in turn some real interest in Congress. Congress as a body had never been opposed to the legislation; it simply had been unable to decide among the positions of the numerous and shifting interest groups lobbying for one proposal or another. Now all the interest groups were exhausted by the fight, and many like the NACA were willing to accept flawed or incomplete legislation rather than go on fighting to no good end. The solution was one familiar to Congress: make the bill simple, noncontroversial, and vague if necessary. Amendment was always possible, after some experience had been gained. But - for now - pass something.49

S. 41, introduced on 8 December 1925, provided for a Bureau of Aeronautics within the Department of Commerce through which the secretary of commerce would establish rules and regulations for the control and encouragement of civil aviation in the United States. There would be no separate air service, no direct subsidy to industry. The NACA would neither be the central advisory and coordinating body it formerly had tried to become, nor would it be transferred to the Department of Commerce; rather, it would remain an independent aeronautical research organization.

All things considered, the Committee had every reason to be pleased with S. 41, and still more pleased when five months later it became the Air Commerce Act of 1926. In the same year, apparently swayed by the same enthusiasm, the Congress passed the Army Air [71] Corps Act providing for a 5-year expansion program and for appointment of an assistant secretary of war for air, and a similar act for naval aviation. Combined with the Kelly, Air Mail Act of the previous year, these laws meant that the federal government would now give precisely the support to aviation in the United States that the NACA had set out to obtain in 1918.50 Along the way the NACA had ceased to be an advisory committee and had become instead a research agency, chastened by its encounters with Washington politics and resolved to be more circumspect in the future.

 


[
331-338] Notes

1. On the condition of the American aircraft industry after World War I, see Howard Mingos, "Birth of an Industry," in The History of the American Aircraft Industry: An Anthology, ed. by G.R. Simonson (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1968), esp. pp. 45 6 5; and Irving Brinton Holley, Jr., Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces, United States Army in World War 11, Special Studies (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1964), chap. 2. Statistics in this and the following paragraph are from John B. Rae, Climb to Greatness: The American Aircraft Industry, 1920 1960 (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press 1968), chap. 1.

2. Letter from S.S. Bradley, 14 Oct. 1918, cited in Executive Committee meeting minutes, 30 Oct. 1918. The quotation is from A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940 (Cambridge: The Belkna Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), p. 337. Walcott reported the congressional sentiment in the minutes of the Executive Committee meeting on 14 Dec. 1918, and again in a letter to John D. Ryan, 1 Feb. 1919, in 57 A 415 (10), 11 9, 1919 1927. Military opinion of course found expression in the Committee itself and in the "Memorandum Report of the Committee on Invention and Research to the Chairman of the Board on Organization, Division of Military Aeronautics, War Department," dated 30 Nov. 1918. This report by Captains Adelbert Ames and Robert McNath and Prof. W.C. Sabine (who resigned from the NACA on the same date) recommended "that the Air Service look to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for the solution of problems relating to scientific and technical research other than military, also for the commercial development of aeronautics, the continual output by universities and technical schools of scientifically and technically trained specialist, and the reference to research laboratories connected with industrial institutions of special aeronautical problems."

3. AR 1918, p. 27. The joint body formed in 1918, called the Special Interdepartmental Conference on Aerial Navigation, chose Walcott as chairman and appointed a subcommittee on aerial legislation. The activities of the conference were terminated by the transfer of some of its military members before the subcommittee got in h beyond recommending establishment of a joint board to consist of representatives of all the government agencies involved in aviation. This notion of a joint board was to be the see of later NACA ideas.

This chapter, whose specific focus is the place of NACA in the federal management of aviation, devotes little attention to parallel developments in state and international regulation of civil aviation. These developments, important in their own right, had considerable influence on the final form of national aviation legislation. See Donald R. Whitnah, Safer Skyways: Federal Control of Aviation, 1926-1960 (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1966), esp. pp. 24 25; and Oliver James Lessitzyn, International Air Transport and National Policy, Studies in American Foreign Relations, ed. by Percy W. Bidwell, no 3 (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1942), esp. chap. 15.

The struggle for passage of civil aviation legislation deserves its own monograph. The best secondary accounts are Nick A. Komons, Bonfires to Beacons: Federal Civil Aviation Policy Under the Air Commerce Act, 1926 -1938 (Washington, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, 1978); Laurence F. Schmeckebier, The Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce: Its History, Activities, and Organization, Institute for Government Research of the Brookings Institution, Service Monographs of the United States Government, No. 61 (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1930); and John F. Victory and Ruth Walrad, "Shaping a National Aviation Policy," typescript, 62 pp., chap. of Victory's projected history of the NACA.

4. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 21 Feb. 1919; Walcott to the president, 21 Feb. 1919; U.S. Congress, House, Regulation of Civil Aerial Navigation...., H. Doc. 1828, 65/3, 26 Feb. 1919.

5. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 7 Mar., 24 Apr., and 25 Nov. 1919; and 57 A 415 (65), 50-7, Jan. June 1920.

6. Ames to Walcott, 11 Dec. 1919, enclosing "Extracts from Report of Captain H.C. Mustin, U.S.N., to the Secretary of the Navy, on the Subject o Aviation Organization in Great Britain, France, and Italy." On Ames's search for information, see, for example, Ames to William Knight, 2 Dec. 1919, in 57 A 415 (66), 51471 19 1920. Ames may well have been particularly impressed by Mustin's evaluation because of its emphasis on the question of aeronautical research. It should be noted that the Crowell commission of which Mustin was a member generally endorsed the British model.

7. Special Committee on Organization of Governmental Activities in Aeronautics, "Memorandum," undated [ca. 11 Feb. 19201. This memorandum was requested by the Executive Committee at its meeting on 29 Jan. 1920. Minutes.

8. The NACA files contain three copies of this draft bill, two marked received on 12 Feb. and one on 15 Feb. One of the 12 Feb. drafts is further identified as the "preliminary report of Special Committee on Reorganization of Governmental Activities in Aeronautics, Submitted Feb. 12, 1920," and it provided for a "Bureau of Air Service". The other 12 Feb. draft provides for creation of a "Bureau of Aviation". The two 12 Feb. drafts differed, in that the one creating a Bureau of Air Service dealt with the entire structure of government organization for aviation, and the one creating a Bureau of Aviation dealt more narrowly with organization of the new bureau within the Department of Commerce The former draft was the basis of the 15 Feb. draft.

9. The Hicks bill was H.R. 14137, 66/2; the Kahn bill H.R 14061. At the time, Victory wrote to Ames: "Dr. Walcott says this is the last revised bill of the number that have been drawn up. He says the principles are the same as those enunciated by the Committee as worked over by Admiral Taylor and Captain Craven, and Dr. Walcott with Mr. Hicks. The latest Kahn bill has apparently been embodied as a whole for the regulation of air navigation." Victory to Ames, n.d., received for filing 21 May 1920. The Kahn bill parallels the draft creating a "Bureau of Air Service."

10. AR 1920, p. 11.

11. AR 1920, pp. 14-15.

12. Compare sections 3 through 6 of H.R. 14137 with the sections quoted above. The quote is from AR 1920, p. 54. See also minutes of Exec. Com. meetings, 11 June, 28 June, and 28 July 1921. Ames later said "it is thought that the proposed revision of the Hicks Bill giving certain additional functions to the Committee is a better method of handling the situation than the establishment of a second committee as contemplated in the original Hicks Bill". Ames to Thurman H. Bane, 12 July 1920.

13. Bane to Ames, 8 July 1920; Hayford to Ames, 4 Nov. 1920.

14. AR 1920, pp. 54 56, reprinted in full in appendix H. At the annual meeting of the NACA on 7 Oct. 1920, it was reported that "the Hicks Bill as modified was broader in scope than the Kahn Bill, and would in all probability encounter sufficient opposition to prevent its passage at the next session of Congress; and that for this reason the Executive Committee had decided to urge the enactment of the modified Kahn Bill". N mention was made of the distinction later drawn for President Harding by Walcott: "the indifference between the Kahn Bill and the Hicks Bill is that the Hicks Bill, in addition to providing for the regulation of air navigation as contemplated' in the Kahn Bill, also provides that the coordination of plans, estimates, and programs in aeronautical matters shall be considered by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics." Walcott to the president, 23 Mar. 1921.

15. Walcott wrote to Hicks 16 Apr. 1921:

Both the Kahn bill and your bill were thoroughly studied and considered by the Advisory Committee last summer during my absence in the west. I understand that the sections of your bill that I have mentioned were not included in the Kahn bill on account of the objections of the military members of the Committee, but they were left in your bill and incorporated in the Annual Report of the Advisory Committee in order that the Committee could express its approval of your bill, the first choice being given to the Kahn bill on account of its being more favorably considered by the military members of the Committee

16. Walcott and Victory were surely advocates of the expanded role for the NACA. In his 16 Apr. 1921 letter to Congressman Hicks, Walcott said of the controversial sections of the bill: "From my personal point of view these....sections....will give just what is needed to thoroughly coordinate all Government activities in aviation." Victory was even more explicit, in the draft of a statement he apparently prepared for Captain Moffett for the information of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt:

The committee is a well-organized and efficient agency of the Government, which has functioned well in the past under the limitations of its organic act. It is the logical agency for the consideration of any special question regarding aeronautics, and affecting the general interests or the activities of more than one department of the Government. If the recommendations contained in its national aviation policy are carried into effect, there will be no need for the establishment of a new board of aeronautic control.

In other words, the NACA could handle all coordination of all aeronautical activities throughout all the government.

17. Minutes of special meeting of the Executive Committee, 4 Apr. 1921.

18. Minutes of meetings of the Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation, 5, 6, and 7 Apr. 1921. Members of the subcommittee were Charles D. Walcott (chairman); Charles T. Menoher and Walter G. Kilner of the War Department; David W. Taylor and Kenneth Whiting of the Navy Department; E.C. Zoll and C.I. Stanton of the Post Office Department; Samuel W. Stratton and E.T. Chamberlain of the Department of Commerce; F.H. Russel, Glenn L. Martin, and Sidney D. Waldon from private life; and John F. Victory (secretary). WaIdon missed the first two meetings, Zoll the second. Ames attended the second meeting, Lewis the last three.

19. Minutes of the third meeting of Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation, 7 Apr. 1921, pp. 7, 8.

20. Minutes of fourth meeting of Subcommittee on Regulation of Air Navigation, 8 Apr. 1921. At the close of this meeting, George Lewis was appointed chairman of a sub-subcommittee to draft appendixes to the report.

21. Walcott's version of these events appears in the minute of the Executive Committee meeting, 14 Apr. 1921. See also 57 A 415 (65), 50 7, Jan. June 1921. The full text of the majority report is in AR 1921, pp. 13-21. The report was published with the president's accompanying recommendation in U.S. Congress, House, H. Doc. 17, 67/1, 19 Apr. 192 1.

22. For example, when the Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation was discussing inclusion of a statement on a separate air service, on of the government members asked for a definition of United Air Service. Gen. Menoher replied that "United Air Service is a term applied to a proposed Department of the Air, coordinate with other departments of the Government, under a Secretary of Air, independent of the Army and Navy." Minutes of fourth meeting, 8 Apr. 1921, p. 6. Actually this definition describes a mixture of a department of air and an independent air force.

23. Minutes of semiannual meeting, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 21 Apr. 1921.

24. On the public controversy, see the documents presented by Ames in the minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 12 May 1921, and the correspondence quoted in Aviation, 2 and 9 May 1921, pp. 552 58, 588-90.

25. Lester Gardner revealed this industry suspicion when he said in an editorial in the 9 May 1921 issue of Aviation that "it is only natural that officials in existing departments will not as a rule recommend the unification of government aviation."

26. H.R. 20 1, introduced by Kahn on 11 Apr. 1921 and H R. 271 introduced by Hicks on the same day, were substantially the same: both were modified Kahn bills of the second session of the 66th Congress of 1920, which the NACA had endorsed in its annual report of 1920. The Committee now chose to rally behind the new Hicks bill. This legislation was described as "stop gap" in a memo from Gen. Menoher, chief of tie Army Air Service, to the adjutant general of the army, 16 May 1921. Ames's comments or, H.R. 271 are in the minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 9 June 1921.

27. An editorial in the Army and Navy Journal for 25 June 192 1 said that in both services, Borah's bill (S.J.R. 77) "was generally credited to the advocates of the united air service plan with the idea of keeping it alive in the face of the general position to uniting the air services manifested in Congress, and particularly in the Senate: There is no satisfactory secondary treatment of the British experience, The reasoning behind the change in the pre World War I system is presented in Great Britain, Air Ministry, Committee on Education and Research in Aeronautics, Report, presented to Parliament 12 Dec, 1919 (London, 1920). The results can be traced in Aeronautics: Report of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for the Year 1919- 20 (London, 1921), and Aeronautics: Report of the Aeronautical, Research Committee for the Year 1920-21 (London, 1921).

C.R. Finch Noyes's pessimistic letter of 4 May 1921 to L.Y. Spears reported that 400,000 pounds of last year's money was transferred from the Research Vote of the Air Ministry to the Maintenance Vote so that, where they might have obtained 400,000 pounds worth of sound research, the same money was spent in maintaining a number of useless, idle, overpaid, very often hard drinking young men." Such a picture no doubt had a chilling effect on the NACA. Writing in a similar vein to William D. Tipton on 30 Apr. 1921, C.G. Grey, concluded: "Personally I have never been able to discover a solitary argument in favor of having a separate Air Force."

28. Paper prepared for William A. Moffett by John F. Victory 21 June 1921.

29. Walcott to Roosevelt, 4 June 1921.

30. Lewis to Ames, 21 July 192 1, and minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 28 July 1921;

"Draft of the Bill submitted to Secretary Hoover by Mr. Howard Coffin, for the regulation of Air Navigation through the establishment of a Bureau in the Department of Commerce, being a modification of the Bill H.R. 271," 8 page typescript received in the NACA files 22 July 1921. Senator James W. Wadsworth introduced S. 2443 on 24 Aug. 1921; Congressman Hicks introduced H.R. 9184 on 17 Nov. 1921.

On NACA opposition to the changes in these bills, see Ames to Maj. G.C. Marshall, Jr., 29 Aug. 1921, and Victory to Walcott, 12 Aug. 1921.
 
A confidential "Progress Report on the Aeronautic Situation," prepared for the National Aircraft Underwriters Association and dated 10 Nov. 1921, said of the Wadsworth bill:
 
So far as I can ascertain this is a product of the commercial aviation interests. It goes as far in ignoring the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics as the Hicks Bill went in endeavoring to concentrate regulatory work in the hands of the Committee. This Wadsworth Bill is now subscribed to by the National Aircraft Underwriters Association, The Manufacturers Aircraft Association, Ltd., and such manufacturers as The Curtiss Company. On the other hand the Bill is criticized for being so loosely drawn as to give too broad powers without limitation, for lacking essential definitions, for permitting duplication of the work of existing agencies, for involving law enforcement, policing, etc. beyond the proper scope of such an agency, and in general for preparing the way for a future Department of Aviation under the control of interests rather disassociated from the best interests of the Government.

31. Representing the NACA at the 8 Dec. meeting were Ames, Moffett, Patrick, Marvin, Lewis, and Victory; representing the opposition were Howard Coffin, Samuel S. Bradley, and F.H. Russell. Lewis and Victory got Sen. Wadsworth to introduce S. 2815 on 12 Dec. and Hicks to introduce H.R. 9407 on 9 Dec. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 26 Jan. 1922. Lewis's observation was in a letter to John J. Ide, 13 Dec. 1922. Victory earned a Bachelor of Law degree in 1923, a Master of Law degree the following year. His thesis, dated 15 Apr. 1924, is entitled "The Relation of Law to Aviation." Victory's role is exemplified by his action following hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee on the newly revised bill. He sent out 169 copies of the hearings to "various individuals identified with the development of aviation, including aero clubs, air boards, and manufacturers." Victory to Coffin, 23 Jan 1921. A copy of his mailing list is attached to his letter to W.D. Tipton, 23 Jan. 1921.

The legal dispute over S. 2815 is beyond the scope of his study. It will suffice here to record Victory's view of the matter. On 16 Jan. 1922 he wrote to Wesley L. Jones, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee:

Informal legal advice had been obtained from Government attorneys as to the constitutionality of Sections 8 and 15 of the pending measure. The question involves new principles in the law, on which good lawyers are frankly hesitant to express definite and positive views. In the light of the legal advice obtained, and after discussion with aviation authorities, I am of the opinion that no substantial change is necessary or desirable in the wording of the bill. The constitutional objections raised to Sections 8 and 15 as written in the bill are not conclusive or convincing. As these sections embody provisions which, in the opinion of those most concerned with aviation at the present time, will greatly aid the general development of aviation, it is urged that these sections be retained in the bill without substantial change.
 

The following day Victory wrote to Howard Coffin: "I really believe that the pending Wadsworth Bill has an excellent chance of passage at this session, in substantially its present form." That, however, was not to be. The bill was greatly modified in committee and a new version was introduced on 25 Jan. as S. 3076. Victory mentioned "objectionable changes" in a letter to C.M. Keys on 31 Jan., but added that "many compromises were necessary" and "it would not be good strategy to agitate senators over any present objectionable features." The same day he wrote to Ames that "strategy and politics have had their influence." See also Victory to S.S. Bradley, 14 Feb. 1922.

33. Victory wrote to Coffin on 16 Feb. 1922 that Winslow "has not been impressed with the importance of the measure," and Winslow himself wrote to Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby the previous day reporting that he had "Instituted a study of the question only to find out that the field had not been thoroughly surveyed, a d that no bill which has come into our hands has been sufficiently comprehensive to meet hat we regard as the best interests of Government."

On the midwestern opponents of the legislation, S.S. Bradley wrote to Lewis on 16 Jan. 1922 that "four or five members of the [Chicago Air] Board had been informed, or came to the conclusion, that the Wadsworth-Hicks Bill had been rafted by a group of 'Eastern Manufacturers owning patents for the purpose of e in their strangle hold upon the aeronautical situation." In a letter of 22 July 1922, David Taylor asked Edward A. Deeds of Dayton, Ohio, about "renewal of agitation for the establishment of a Department of Aeronautics, to combine the Army and Navy Air Service an other aeronautical activities of the Government, and involving the dissolution of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics." To Taylor it seemed "that this agitation is centered in Dayton."

On the Lamb draft of new legislation, see Victory Aug. 1922.

34. Winslow's bill was actually drafted by Frederic P. Lee Legislative Drafting Service. See Lee to Victory, 6 Nov. 1922 and Herbert Hoover to Samuel S. Bradley, 10 Aug. 1922 (War Department copy). Lee properly referred t is measure as the Civil Aeronautics Bill, but in a letter of 20 Dec. 1922 to Winslow, Victory called it the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1923, the first time one of these bills took the short title that was to appear in the final act of 1926. The observation that the Winslow bill had merit is from the minutes of the special meeting of the Executive Committee, 20 Dec. 1923. A m. Moffett expressed similar sentiments in a letter to Winslow, 22 Dec. 1923. See also the NACA "Synopsis of Civil Aeronautics Act of 1923," dated 19 Dec. 1922.

35. Victory called the provision a joker; see his typescript "A joker in the Winslow Bill, H.R. 13715," 29 Jan. 1923, and his letter to Stratton of 3 Feb. 1923, where he refers to "a number of jokers." Ames to Winslow, 2 Feb. 1923.

36. Orville Wright wrote to Victory on 7 Feb. 1923:

I am decidedly of the opinion that the provision for a Civil Aeronautics Consulting Board, composed entirely of persons who a e financially interested in the manufacture or use of aircraft, would not be to the best interests of the public and as I understand it the bill is designed for the public welfare, and not merely for the welfare of people engaged in aeronautics for a livelihood. It is but right that the industry should be in a position to place its views before the Secretary (of Commerce); but on the other hand it is quite as, or even more, important that the view of the general public be also expressed. It would be very difficult for a board constituted as provided for in the bill, however conscientious its members, to give unbiased advice. Victory, "One Bad Feature in the Winslow Bill, H.R. 1715," 30 Jan. 1923, a tempering of his "One joker...." draft of the previous day.

37. Victory to Stratton, 23 Jan. 1923; W.A. Ross to Lewis, I Jan. 1923.

38. At the conference on 6 Feb. 1923, Victory represented the NACA; Lt. Van Zant the army; Comdr. Cecil the navy; Coleman, Tinker, Robinson, Martin, and Hartney the N.A.A.; and Bradley and Bell the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce. "Conference on Winslow Bill (H.E.H [artney].)" received in the NACA files 10 Feb. 923. Winslow did not hold hearings on his own bill in the 67th Congress; minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 6 Apr. 1923. Victory's comments on H.R. 3243 are in a letter to Edward P. Warner, 7 Jan. 1924.

39. Victory reported the pressure on the congressmen in a letter to Stratton 26 Jan. 1924. His characterization of the offending provision in the Winslow bill appeared in a letter to C.A. Tinker, 8 Feb. 1924. Coffin's telegram from Darien, Ga, dated 31 Mar. 1924, is in 57 A 415 (67), 51 7, 1920-1924.

40. As early as Feb. 1923, Victory concluded that the off riding portions of the Winslow bill were inserted to "undermine the Advisory Committee and lay a foundation for its abolition as the first obstruction to be overcome to establish a separate Air Service." Victory to John F. Hayford, 13 Feb. 1923. On the opposition of commercial aviators to the bill, see Ralph W. Cram to Lewis, 14 Mar. 1924. Cram, vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, enclosed in this letter a circular prepared by E.B. Heath, in which ironically the operators sided with the NACA in opposing the Civil Aeronautics Consulting Board. Wrote Heath:

All the members of the board are aircraft manufacturers, designers, and engineers. Of course the designers and engineers a e in the employ of the Aircraft Manufactures Association, and should there be any operators they would also be under the control of the aircraft manufactures, or they could not operate. Again the little fellow would have no show.
 

The NACA official was George W. Lewis, describing a visit by J.V. Martin in a letter to Jerome C. Hunsaker, 11 Apr. 1924. In the same letter, Lewis reported

 
In the meantime the Daugherty investigating committee and the oil Investigation committee have taken up the aircraft scandal and it looks as though they are stealing most of the thunder just to keep his moving the House Naval Committee started hearings on a separate air service.... There is so much behind this that it is really dangerous to put it all in letter, but the action at the time was rather dramatic.

41. See joint Committee on Reorganization of the Administrative Branch of the Government, Reorganization of the Executive Departments, H. Rept. 937, 68/ , to accompany H.R. 9629, 1924. Victory reported to the annual meeting of the NACA on 1 Oct. 1924 that the joint committee had not heard a representative of the NACA before taking its report. Walcott to the president, 25 Nov. 1924. AR 1924, p. iii. H.R. 9629 died in committee. Congressional Record, 68/1, Vol. 65, Pt. 10, p. 10414.

42. On the events leading up to the creation of the Lampe t committee, see I.B. Holley, Jr., Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces, United States Army in World War II, Special Studies (Washington: Off. of the Chief of Military visitor, Dept. of the Army, 1964), pp. 43-46. At the 12 June 1924 meeting of the NACA Executive Committee, Gen. Mason M. Patrick reported that James V. Martin the same enemy of e NACA who had earlier waved his finger at Lewis and expressed an ambition to put the ~NACA out of business had been retained by the Lampert committee as a witness with a monthly pay of $300. Victory wrote to Walcott on 8 Aug. 1924 that "great pressure is being brought to bear to have the [Lampert) committee recommend a united air service." The commit tee's hearings were published as hearings before the Select Committee on Inquiry into Operations of the United States Service, 68th Cong. 1924-1925, 6 vols. The committee's report is H. Rept. 1653, 68/2, 14 Dec. 1925. Victory's comment about the sensationalism in the hearings is in a letter to Ames, 25 Feb. 1925.

43. Congressional Record, 68/2, Vol. 66, Pt. 6, pp. 9, 15; Victory to Frank E. Herbert, 19 Mar. 1925.

44. Archibald D. Turnbull and Clifford L. Lord History of United States Naval Aviation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949), pp. 223 2~5, 249 51, and Alfred E. Hurley, Billy Mitchell: Crusader for Airpower (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), chap. 6. Victory's comment about the Mitchell "publicity stampede" is in a letter to Walcott, 9 Sept. 1925. I.B. Holley suggests that Coolidge appointed the Morrow boar in response to requests from the secretaries of war and the navy to help answer the expected conclusions of the Lampert committee investigation. Buying Aircraft, p. 46.

45. Victory to Walcott, 9 Sept. 1925.

46. This change in posture can be traced through the NACA s annual reports. In AR 1921, the Committee claimed it had two roles: (1) research and) "consideration of special problems" that may be referred to it by any government agency (pp. 9-10). In AR 1924, the second part had been limited to "consideration of special problems in aeronautics" (p. 57).

In AR 1926, it would claim only that it was "the governmental agency that supervises and conducts scientific research in aeronautics" (p. 66). 70,

47. Aircraft: Hearings before the President's Aircraft Board (vols.; Washington, 1925), 1: 347-48; minutes of the third meeting of Subcommittee on Federal Regulation of Air Navigation, 7 Apr. 1921, p. 8.

48. The report of the Morrow board was Aircraft in National Defense, S. Doc. 18, 69/1, 30 Nov. 1925. Victory's comment on it appeared in a letter to H. Millspaugh, 5 Jan. 1926. He was perhaps less pleased with the letter that Dwight Morrow wrote to Ames on 22 Dec. 1925. Said Morrow:

May I not express my thanks to you for the part you contributed to our testimony. Looking back over it, it is interesting to not that the aviation work of the Post Office Department and of the Advisory Committee on [sic) Aeronautics practically escaped all criticism. With your experience you may feel that you have done something wrong if no one has been throwing rocks at you. (From a copy of the letter in 57 A 415 (43), 25-42.)

After three months of intensive study of American aviation, Morrow still did not know the correct title of the NACA!

49. In commenting on the legislation that was introduced in the first session of the 69th Congress, Ames said:

A careful examination of the bill . . . discloses the desirability of a number of changes, some of which were included in former bills on this subject. In view, however, of the failure of all previous efforts to enact similar legislation, our Committee is loath to recommend changes at this time from the text of the bill as introduced, which may have the effect of jeopardizing or delaying passage of the bill at this session of Congress.

In a similar vein, Howard Coffin wired Lewis on 18 Feb.: It is my opinion that a start on commercial aviation legislation in its simplest form must be made STOP Any law now enacted will be improved by as future experience points way STOP The important thing is to get on with the job without striving for too much perfection in our first efforts in this line.

Lewis replied: "For once we all agree as to the advisability of restricting Federal legislation affecting aerial navigation to interstate flying and that the bill be passed in the simplest possible form". Undated letter, received for filing 20 Feb. 1926.

50. Senator Hiram Bingham introduced S. 41 on 8 Dec. 1925. Congressman James S. Parker introduced an identical bill, H.R. 4772, on 10 Dec. 1925. In amended form these bills became Public Law 254, 69/1, on 20 May 1926. The arm legislation was P.L. 422, 69/1, 24 June 1926; the navy's was P.L. 446, 69/1 2 July 1926. The Kelly Act, P.L. 359, 68/2, had been approved 2 Feb, 1925.

The only hitch in S. 41 as first introduced was that it called for the transfer of the NACA to the Dept. of Commerce, a provision reportedly insisted on by Secretary Hoover, who apparently took up the position of his subordinates in the Department of Commerce. After considerable behind the scenes politicking, that provision was removed from the bill. See Victory to Durand, 18 Dec. 1925. Hoover's belief that the NACA should be transferred to the Department of Commerce would return more than once to haunt the Committee.

 
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