This Week in Space History – Birth of Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold in 1886

This Week in Space History – Birth of Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold in 1886

This Week in Space History – Birth of Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold in 1886


Featured Image: Left to right: H. Arnold, D. Eisenhower Ernest King and George C. Marshall.

By Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor, In Space News, In Military and InCyberDefense

This week in 1886, American aviation pioneer Henry ‘”Hap” Arnold was born in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and would go on to serve as both General of the Army and General of the Air Force.

Arnold attended West Point in 1903 and was instructed in flying by the Wright Brothers. He was one of the first military pilots worldwide and soloed in June 1911. Arnold supervised the expansion of the air service and was a protégé of General Billy Mitchell during World War I.

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According to his official Air Force bio, “Prior to and all during World War II, he directed air activities for the nation’s global war against Germany and Japan. Under him, the air arm grew from 22,000 officers and men with 3,900 planes to nearly 2,500,000 men and 75,000 aircraft. Early in 1943 Arnold made a 35,000-mile tour of North Africa, Middle East, India and China, and attended the Casablanca Conferences. In March 1943 he was promoted to four-star general. He suffered a heart attack in 1945 as the war drew to a close, attributed by his doctors to overwork.”

On December 21, 1944, Arnold was appointed to the rank of General of the Army, placing him in the company of Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall, and Douglas MacArthur, the only four men to achieve that rank in World War II.

Arnold died on January 15, 1950, at his home in Sonoma, California. He was given a state funeral in Washington, D.C., that included rare services held in the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater.

Arnold was a strong advocate of American aviation superiority and his spirit was carried throughout America’s space program. In 1972, Arnold was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.

Marshall (center) and Arnold (right) greeted by General Omar Bradley on Omaha Beach in Normandy, June 12, 1944. Public Domain.

General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers. Public Domain.

A young Henry Arnold at the second-seat controls of a Wright Model B airplane 1911. Public Domain.