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The volume at hand, Training to Fly: Military Flight Training, 1907-1945, is an institutional history of flight training by the predecessor organizations of the United States Air Force. The U.S. Army purchased its first airplane, built and successfully flown by Orville and Wilbur Wright, in 1909, and placed both lighter- and heavier-than-air aeronautics in the Division of Military Aeronautics of the Signal Corps. As pilots and observers in the Air Service of the American Expeditionary Forces, Americans flew combat missions in France during the Great War. In the first postwar decade, airmen achieved a measure of recognition with the establishment of the Air Corps and, during World War II, the Army Air Forces attained equal status with the Army Ground Forces. During this first era of military aviation, as described by Rebecca Cameron in Training to Fly, the groundwork was laid for the independent United States Air Force. Those were extraordinarily fertile years of invention and innovation in aircraft, engine, and avionics technologies. It was a period in which an air force culture was created, one that was a product of individual personalities, of the demands of a technologically oriented officer corps who served as the fighting force, and of patterns of professional development and identity unique to airmen. Most critical, a flight training system was established on firm footing, whose effective test came in combat in World War II, and whose organization and methods continue virtually intact to the present day. This volume is based primarily on official documents that are housed in the National Archives and Records Administration. Some, dating from World War II, remained unconsulted and languishing in dust-covered boxes until the author's research required that they be declassified. She has relied upon memoirs and other first-person accounts to give a human face to training policies as found in those dry, official records. Training to Fly is the first definitive study of this important subject. Training is often overlooked because operations, especially descriptions of aerial combat, have attracted the greatest attention of scholars and the popular press. Yet the success of any military action, as we have learned over and over, is inevitably based upon the quality of training. That training is further enhanced by an understanding of its history, of what has failed, and what has worked.
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