Andrews, Frank Maxwell
Military StrategistEnshrined 1986 1884-1943
Nashville native and 1906 West Point graduate Frank Andrews served in the U.S. Cavalry before transferring to Signal Corps aviation in 1917 as a major. Over the next sixteen years, he served in a wide variety Air Service and Air Corps staff and command positions, and graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School, the Command and General Staff School, and the Army War College, before taking command in June 1933 of the historic 1st Pursuit Group, one of nine Air Corps combat groups. In fall 1934, he was assigned to the War Department General Staff to develop the plan for the nation’s first “air force,” which would for the first time bring nationwide command of Air Corps combat units under an air officer. In December 1934, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur chose Andrews to command that prewar air force, earmarked for wartime alignment under the General Headquarters (GHQ) of Army Field Forces.
- As commanding general of “GHQ Air Force” from 1935-39, he prepared the Army air arm for global war, which “Hap” Arnold characterized as “the first real step ever taken toward an independent United States Air Force.”
- First airman on the War Department General Staff, directing operations and training Army-wide as assistant chief of staff, G-3, 1939-40.
- Organized and led the Panama Canal Air Force, later Caribbean Air Force, 1940-41, the prototype for overseas numbered air forces.
- Moved up in 1941 to head the new Caribbean Defense Command, the model for other overseas theater commands. As the first air officer to head a joint war-fighting command overseas, ensured effective coordination between air, ground, and naval forces.
- U.S. theater commander in the Middle East, 1942-43, employing the new Ninth Air Force to help defeat General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps. In December 1942, proposed European war strategy for the year 1943.
- Became overall commander of the U.S. European Theater of Operations in February 1943 with the mission to revitalize the air campaign against Germany and oversee planning for the projected invasion of Europe.
- Killed May 3, 1943 in the crash of a B-24 Liberator along the Icelandic coast. Wartime Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall called him one of the nation’s “few great captains.”
- A founding father of the separate U.S. Air Force of 1947, whose birth he did not live to see. Andrews AFB, Md., named in his memory.
Andrews was born in Nashville, Tennessee on February 3rd, 1884 to James David Andrews, a newspaper publisher and real estate dealer, and Lulu Adaline (Maxwell) Andrews. Andrews attended public grade school in Nashville, and then at age 13, he entered the Montgomery Bell Academy, graduating in 1901. The following year he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York on July 31st, 1902. He graduated from the Academy on June 12th, 1906 and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry. Shortly after his graduation from West Point, Andrews sailed for the Philippine Islands, where he began his first tour of duty with the Eighth Cavalry at Fort William McKinley in November 1906.
For the next eleven years, he served with the Cavalry, and these years of ground service profoundly influenced his subsequent military career. In April 1907, he returned to the U.S. and served at several of the legendary forts of the Cavalry. He was stationed at Fort Yellowstone in Wyoming until November 1908, at Fort Huachuca in Arizona until October 1910, and at Fort Myer in Virginia until November 1910. In January 1911, he arrived in Hawaii and began a three-year tour as aide to Brigadier General Macomb at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu. During this service, he was promoted to first lieutenant on November 12th, 1912. Relieved from this duty on June 30th, 1913, he returned to the U.S. and served with the 2nd Cavalry at Fort Bliss in Texas. Like many other cavalrymen, Andrews became an avid polo player. After being detailed to Ft. Ethan Allen in Vermont in December 1913, he met Jeanette Allen, the daughter of General Henry T. Allen. She not only liked horses and polo but she also played polo with Army teams. Even though General Allen reportedly said that no daughter of his would ever marry an aviator, Andrews became interested in flying during their courtship. He bided his time and won Jeanette’s hand. They married on March 18th, 1914 and later had three children: Josephine, Allen and Jean.
While Andrews was still serving at Ft. Ethan Allen, he received his promotion to captain on July 15th, 1916. After the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, his interest in aviation blossomed. Following this new passion, he transferred to the Signal Corps on August 5th, 1917 with the newly-acquired temporary rank of major, and was assigned to the Aviation Division. After first attending the Field Artillery School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Andrews reported for duty to the Air Division in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer in Washington, D.C. in September 1917. While working for the Chief Signal Officer, Andrews had an opportunity to observe America’s first large-scale efforts to build up its airpower in accordance with the Aviation Act of 1917. Congress had appropriated $640 million in a belated effort to provide 5,000 warplanes, 4,500 trained pilots and 50,000 mechanics for the war effort by June 1918. However, Andrews quickly discovered that while the Chief Signal Officer was responsible for training and organization, he had no control over procurement and operations. As a result of these divided command responsibilities, the aeronautical goals were never fully achieved.
In April 1918, Andrews became commander of Rockwell Field on North Island off San Diego. There he finally earned his wings as a Junior Military Aviator in July 1918 at the relatively advanced age of 34. Subsequently, he commanded Carlstrom Field and Dorr Field at Arcadia in Florida. In October 1918, he became Supervisor of the Southeastern Air Service District with headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama. After World War I ended in November, 1918, Andrews returned to Washington, D.C. on March 21st, 1919, where he became Chief of the Inspection Division and a member of the Advisory Board in the Office of the Director of the Air Service. On March 29th, 1920, he was assigned to serve with the War Plans Division of the War Department’s general staff. During this tour, he reverted to his permanent rank of captain on April 3rd, 1920, but subsequently received a promotion to the permanent rank of major in the Regular Army on July 1st. On August 14th, 1920, Andrews departed for Germany to serve with the American Army of Occupation. There he first became Air Service Officer of the American Forces in Germany. In June 1922, he became Assistant to the Officer in Charge of Civil Affairs in the Headquarters of the American Forces at Coblentz, Germany.
Upon his return to the U.S. in February 1923, Andrews served in the Office of the Chief of the Air Service in Washington, D.C. and supervised the Training and War Plans Divisions. In June 1923, he became Executive Officer at Kelly Field at San Antonio, Texas. In July 1925, he became Assistant Commandant of Kelly, in command of the 10th School Group at the Air Service Advanced Flying School there. On June 30th, 1926, he became Commandant of the School. In September 1927, Andrews entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field in Virginia. Upon graduation in June 1928, he remained at Langley, where he served with the 2nd Wing Headquarters until July 16th, 1928. He then attended the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. After graduation in June 1929, he was assigned to duty in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps in Washington, D.C. There he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 13th, 1930. He served in this office until August 15th, 1932, when he entered the Army War College in Washington, D.C. On October 10th, 1934, he returned to duty with the War Department general staff and served its Operations and Training Branch.
This was a very important period in his career for he participated in the reorganization of the Army Air Corps and in the planning for the establishment of the Army General Headquarters Air Force. This was a turning point for the Air Corps, for the GHQ Air Force within the Army was an operating air arm. He was named the Acting Commanding Officer of the GHQ Air Force until February 28th, 1935. Then on March 1st, 1935 he became its commanding general when he was received an appointment to the temporary rank of brigadier general, having been selected over 12 senior colonels and lieutenant colonels. He established the headquarters of the new independent strategic striking force at Langley Field in Virginia. As the first commander of the GHQ Air Force, Andrews was also the organizer of that command and he selected the most energetic of the airpower enthusiasts in uniform for his staff. They were dedicated and purposeful airmen who believed in developing the capabilities of large bombers and were willing to put up with the frustrations of their mission.
The new organization was the first American approach to independent air operations. By the creation of this new organization, the Army Air Corps escaped the scattered control of nine Corps Area commanders and concentrated under one head, making it a highly centralized combat unit. This was the recommendation of the famous Baker Board the year before. Theoretically, Andrews’s command was a concentrated striking force of all types of military aircraft. Before, the tactical units of the Air Corps had been scattered all over the U.S. under many general officers and no plans existed for this mass employment. Andrews welded these dispersed squadrons into small but efficient fighting forces of three wings: the Atlantic Wing based at headquarters at Langley Field in Virginia; the Pacific Wing at Hamilton Field in California; and the Southern Wing at Fort Crockett in Texas. Later this Southern Wing was moved to Barksdale Field in Louisiana. He trained this striking force to concentrate rapidly on various airfields along the vast perimeter of the continental U.S. At first, secret mass flights were conducted across the continent. In later maneuvers, bombardment aviation ranged far out to sea to intercept simulated enemy task forces. All of this brought questions from the press, but they found no sensationalism in the sober modesty of Andrews. He said, “We must realize that in common with the mobilization of the Air Force in this area, the ground arms of the Army would also be assembling, prepared to take a major role in repelling the enemy. I want to ask that you do not accuse us of trying to win a war alone.”
On December 26th, 1935, Andrews was promoted to the temporary rank of major general. For the next four years, he continuously studied how to improve the GHQ Air Force and how to make it a striking force that could be ordered to any point in the world for effective action. By this time he had become an ardent supporter of the big bomber. He also personally helped to demonstrate their utility on August 24th, 1935, when he piloted a Martin B-12 seaplane with 1,202.3 and 2,204.6 pound payloads to new 1,000 kilometer closed-course records. He also had a talent for flight in rain, storm, and fog and made hundreds of instrumental flights and landings to prove their practicality under such conditions. On June 29th, 1936, Andrews and Major John Whitely and their crew established an international airline distance record for amphibians by flying a Douglas YOA-5 amphibian powered by two Wright Cyclone 800 horsepower engines from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Langley Field, Virginia, a distance of 1,430 miles, which was officially recognized by the National Aeronautic Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
When urged to give up flying after this Andrews said, “I don’t want to be one of those generals who die in bed.” In April 1937, Andrews was rated as a command pilot and combat observer. By now he had become an ardent support of the new long-range, four-engine Boeing YB-17A Flying Fortress bomber, the first of which had been delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field on March 1st, 1937. On October 9th, 1937, he pleaded for more and bigger bombers and said, “Air attacks cannot be stopped by any means now known. The main reliance to defeat an enemy air force must be bombardment aviation directed against his bases and airplanes on the ground. The airpower of a nation is what is actually in the air today; that which is on the drawing board—cannot become its airpower until five years from now, — too late for tomorrow’s employment.” Andrews was always eager to take advantage of any war game to give tactical training to his bombardment units. These were exercises with aircraft bombing land targets and then targets that Navy vessels towed. Andrews used every other opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of big bombers. One demonstration of the B-17’s capabilities came on February 27th, 1938 when six from the 2nd Bombardment Group, led by Colonel Robert Olds, made a 5,225 mile Goodwill Flight from Miami, Florida to Buenos Aires, Argentina with a stop en route at Lima, Peru. They then returned to Langley Field, Virginia. The first leg of the trip was the longest Air Corps mass flight to date and took 33-1/2 hours. The return flight took 33-3/4 hours. In August 1938, the first B-17 bomber, powered by four 1,000 horsepower engines went to the 2nd Bombardment Group. Later, one made history by flying from Langley Field to Chile in 29 hours 53 minutes carrying 3,250 pounds of medical supplies aboard for earthquake victims.
With war clouds darkening over Europe, Andrews fought very hard for a stronger American Air Force, particularly one fully equipped with heavy bombers. On January 16th, 1939, he told members of the National Aeronautic Association at their annual convention in St. Louis that the U.S. was a fifth or sixth rate air power. Though more tactful than his hero Billy Mitchell, he was also equally persistent and told a supposedly secret session of the House of Representatives “To ensure against air attacks being launched from any of these bases (in the Caribbean and in South America)—they must be kept under constant surveillance—and we must be ready to bomb such installations as they are discovered. If the situation is sufficiently vital to require it, we must be prepared to seize these outlying bases to prevent their development by the enemy as bases of operation against us.” This statement found its way into the press and Andrews was publicly censured by the President of the U.S. who said that these views were “not those of the White House or the nation.”
Five years later, such a statement would be viewed as one required by “Hemisphere Defense.” However, his endorsement of such a policy did not please most of the members of the Army General Staff, who still believed that Army aviation should be nothing more than “the eyes of the artillery.” Consequently, when his tour as commander of the GHQ Air Force ended in March 1939, Andrews reverted to his permanent rank of colonel and received orders to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas as Air Officer of the Eighth Corps Area. This was the same post to which his mentor, Colonel Billy Mitchell, had been exiled ten years before. Fortunately, Andrews had important friends who believed in him, his abilities, and the scope of his knowledge and the breadth of his experiences. He had previously taken General George C. Marshall on a tour of aircraft plants and the three bases of the GHQ Air Force and had succeeded in winning him over as a new ally for the cause of airpower. Consequently, when General Marshall was appointed as Chief of Staff of the Army, he selected Andrews to serve the War Department General Staff in Washington, D.C. as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and Training (G-3). He also promoted him to the permanent rank of brigadier general in the regular army on July 1st, 1939.
He thus became the first airman to handle the Regular Army’s organization and training programs. Marshall’s choice was based on the knowledge that Andrews was not only a distinguished military aviator, but that he was also highly skilled in international relations. In addition, he was fully versed in the classic management of ground warfare, and the only American officer with experience in the command of a balanced and integrated air arm. In Andrews he saw the emergence of a new kind of Army leader in American History: one with a knowledge of airpower at the command level and a depth of general staff experience. These were qualities not then common among ground or air officers. In October 1940, he received a promotion to the temporary rank of major general. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939, the Panama Canal and the defense of the entire Caribbean area became a matter of great concern to the War Department.
Among the measures that the Department took to strengthen the defenses in this area was Andrews’s appointment by President Roosevelt as Commander of the Panamanian Air Force on November 14th, 1940. On September 19th, 1941, he assumed command of the Caribbean Defense Command and the Panama Canal Department and elevated to the rank of lieutenant general. As such, he was the first Army Air Corps officer to head a joint command and to hold a major Army Area command. In this position he was responsible for defending an area extending from his Canal Zone headquarters to Trinidad, and to Brazil and Ecuador. One of his greatest tasks was to insure effective coordination of Navy, Army, Air Corps and Latin American forces. He organized the Air Force of the Caribbean Defense Command on a theater-wide basis and divided into bomber, interceptor and service commands. His chief activity became anti-submarine warfare from the air. He also commanded anti-aircraft defenses, land-based infantry units, and essential Army engineer units at score of jungle bases. The Caribbean Defense Command was unique in that it possessed airborne forces on December 7th, 1941, the “Day of Infamy,” when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered World War II. In 1942, he received the Distinguished Service Medal with the following citation: “For exceptionally meritorious services to the Government in positions of great responsibility as commander of the Panama Canal Air Force from November 14th, 1940 to September 19th, 1941. His wide experience in the Army Air Forces enabled him to supervise and coordinate the numerous complicated factors involved in providing and maintaining air equipment and trained organizations available for combat operations.
Through intimate knowledge and by inspirational leadership, sound judgment and devotion to duty, General Andrews created a strong tactical air command vital to the security of the Panama Canal. As Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, from Sept. 20th, 1941, to November 9th, 1942, he rendered services to the Government of outstanding character.” Andrews also received the Distinguished Flying Cross in December 1942 with the following citation: “Frank M. Andrews, lieutenant general, U.S. Army. For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flights in furtherance of the development and expansion program of the Army Air Forces.
Since November 1940, as Senior Air Officer and Commanding General of the Caribbean Defense Command, a position of great responsibility, he participated in numerous aerial flights throughout the area of his command in order to supervise personally the establishment of air bases and other defense installation therein. General Andrews, by frequent flights both day and night over water in all kinds of weather, and using airplanes available even though not always best suited for the mission, demonstrated to the flying personnel of his command the practicability of an effective air patrol over the extensive are for which he was responsible. By precept and example in important, difficult and often hazardous flying duties, General Andrews established an effective air patrol which has proven its effectiveness in operations against the enemy. His willingness to lead the way created for the air command under his jurisdiction, a spirit of confidence, loyalty and enthusiasm.
Shortly after the Allies invaded North Africa under Operation TORCH, Andrews was picked by President Roosevelt, General Marshall and General Henry “Hap” Arnold to become Commander of U.S. Forces in the Middle East. Five days later, he flew to Cairo, Egypt, where he established his command headquarters. There he gained experience in actual combat operations and in working with America’s allies. Under his skillful command, the U.S. Ninth Air Force played a vital part in the Allied offensive, carrying out with conspicuous success the bombing of enemy-held ports and other targets, and destroying numerous fighter aircraft. As a result, the British Eighth Army was able to drive Axis Power forces under the command of German General Rommel back from El Alamein on the Egyptian border and send them on a disastrous retreat toward Tunis.
Andrews also represented his command at the conferences between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Casablanca in January 1943, where it was decided to establish a European Theater of Operations as a prelude to the later invasion of Europe. When the combined British and American heavy bomber offensive against Germany was approved at Casablanca, General Marshall selected Andrews as Commanding General of the U.S. forces in the European theater of operations with headquarters in London. In this capacity, Andrews’ primary objective was to “increase and intensify the bombing of the enemy.” His outstanding knowledge of every phase of airpower was an invaluable asset to the Allies in the early stages of planning and executing the combined British and American “round-the-clock” bombing offensive against Germany. His base in England was soon described as “one long runway for daylight bomber attacks on Germany.” He also prodded the development of jettisonable fuel tanks to enable Allied fighters to penetrate deeper into Germany while escorting the heavy bombers.
In March 1943, Andrews and Major General Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Eighth Air Force in Britain, received the personal congratulations of Prime Minister Churchill after a successful American bombing raid on the German submarine yards at Vegesack. Andrews, one of the most promising Army Air Force leaders, lost his life in an airplane accident in Iceland on May 3rd, 1943, while on an inspection trip there from England. His plane crashed into a lonely point of land in a very dense fog while trying to find its way to Reykjavik, killing all 14 persons aboard. Of Andrews’ untimely death, Army Chief of Staff General Marshall said “…the loss to the nation of an outstanding soldier.” He also called Andrews “a great leader” and added that “no army produces more than a few great captains. General Andrews was undoubtedly one of these and we mourn his death.” General Andrews was awarded an oak leaf cluster for his Distinguished Service Medal, posthumously, in July 1943, with the following citation: “For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a position of great responsibility. As Commanding General of the European Theater of Operations, General Andrews successfully met and solved many complex problems. His calm judgment, courage, resourcefulness and superior leadership have been an inspiration to the Armed Forces and of great value to his country.”
Only 59 at the time of his death, Andrews was rated as a command pilot and had acquired 5,800 hours of flying, only 173 of which were flown as an observer. His other decorations included Commander of the Crown of Italy, Cruz Peruna de Aviacion of Peru, Order of the Sun of Peru, Army Occupation of Germany Medal, Order of Boyaca of Columbia (Grand Officer), Presidential Medal of Merit of Nicaragua, Order of Vasco Nunez de Balboa of Panama, El Sol del Peru (Grand Officer), and the Emblem of the Ejercito Argentino. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, nine miles outside of Washington, D.C. was named in General Andrews’ honor on March 31st, 1945. It stands as a living memorial to one of the greatest pioneers of the modern U.S. Air Force. Then on April 2nd, 1954, the Andrews Engineering Building was dedicated in his honor at the Air Force Armament Center at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.
For more information on Frank Andrews, you may want to visit these websites: