“Hap” Arnold

Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold

Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold 
25 JUN 1886 – 15 JAN 1950

“Hap” Arnold is primarily remembered by fans of the P‑38 as the man who approved its first, historic cross-country flight to New York. You can read more about this attempt and the results of that flight here.

It met a rather inglorious end due to an icing problem, but based on the success of that flight, the USAAC ordered its first round of P‑38s to be built.

If you’ll notice his date of birth above (25 JUN 1886), you may not be surprised to learn that he was taught how to fly by the Wright Bros.

When he noticed the severe shortage that America had of trained combat pilots, he approved a plan (submitted by Jacqueline Cochran) to train female pilots as ferrying pilots within the U.S. to fly aircraft wherever they were needed within our borders.


Although it failed to pass, Arnold prevailed upon Congress to pass a bill to make these female pilots commissioned as officers in what had become the Army Air Force.

As a result of that early plan (submitted by Jacqueline Cochran), Aug 20, General Arnold, CG/AAF issued orders that ” The acronym for all AAF women pilots will be WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) period.”

“Hap” Arnold was a man of many names, including:

“Harley” – by his family during his youth.
“Sunny” – by both his mother and wife.
“Pewt” – by his West Point classmates.
“Benny” – also by his West Point classmates.
“The Chief” – by his immediate subordinates and headquarters staff.

But he will forever be known as “the father of the U.S. Air Force” because his vision of airpower established U.S. air supremacy during WWII and laid the foundations of today’s Air Force.

Hap Arnold and the Evolution of American Airpower book
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Hap Arnold and the Evolution of American Airpower

Smithsonian History of Aviation Series

From 1938 to 1946, as the first Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces—the largest, most powerful air armada that has ever been assembled—Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold fought World War II not in the field but in Congress, on the Army General Staff, in factories, and in universities. His vision of airpower as more than just sophisticated aircraft not only established US air supremacy during the war but also laid the foundations for the technology, infrastructure, and philosophy of today’s air force…

HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator - book
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HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator

Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Edition

Colonel Henry Harley Arnold was known as having a permanent smile on his face.  By the 1920s that smile would earn him the nickname of “Happy” soon shortened to “Hap”.

 Arnold graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point in 1907.  In April 1911, he took the difficult Ordnance Department exams and renewed his offer to fly for the army.  After completing training with the Wrights Brothers course, Arnold received license number 29 and became one of two active pilots in the U.S. Army…

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