So Far from Home Cover

So Far from Home

Royal Air Force and Free French Air Force Flight Training at Maxwell and Gunter Fields during World War II

Robert B. Kane

NewSouth Books, Montgomery, Alabama, 2016, 152 pages

Book Review published on: September 21, 2018

So Far from Home is a short history of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ role in the training of Allied pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and crews from twenty-nine countries during World War II in conjunction with the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. Dr. Robert B. Kane, historian for the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, discusses the Lend-Lease Act and the impact it had on training Allied aircrews for the war. When the program ended on 2 March 1946, the Army Air Corps had trained 21,301 foreign aircrew members for the war effort, with most coming from Great Britain, France, China, Brazil, and the Netherlands.

Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, chief of the Army Air Corps, selected the Southeast Air Corps Training Center (SEACTC) headquartered at Maxwell Field near Montgomery, Alabama, to oversee the program. The SEACTC included twelve schools located in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Four of the schools were civilian schools contracted by the government to meet training requirements. This program became known as the “Arnold Program.”

The Arnold Program included more than just flight instruction during the preflight school portion of the training. The curriculum also included American geography and history, citizenship, military hygiene and first aid, chemical warfare defense, and current events. This curriculum was enthusiastically approved by the British Air Attaché and director of British Flying Training in Washington, D.C.

As British student numbers decreased because the British air force training throughput began to catch up with demand, French students started to arrive in greater numbers. The French students created another set of problems because of the language barrier. While training the British students, the instructor ratio was one instructor to six students, but while training the French students, the ratio was one instructor to three students. Common language was not the only problem; some of the aviation technical words and terms did not have a French word to translate into or were not known to most translators. Aviation technical manuals were still being translated at the end of World War II.

The Army Air Corps also conducted a training mission in North Africa in 1943, with U.S. forces training French pilots and air crews in Algeria and French Morocco. Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, commander of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, requested two thousand seats in the Arnold Program. Although the U.S.-based school could not accommodate the request, Spaatz did secure 250 seats in the classes.

The book provides a large amount of aircrew training numbers by course and by location. Some of the data is associated with individual class starts and the number of students by country killed in training accidents. The book is relevant to the security community only because it identifies the relationships the United States strengthened in the past by training Allied aircrews for World War II and the relationships it currently maintains with the German air force at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

Book Review written by: Boyd R. Plessl, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas