Why we wanted wings : American aviation and representations of the Air Force in the years before World War II

Ashcroft, Bruce
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This study examines the dreams that shaped the development of the nation’s air force and the images used to sell the public on the need to support military aviation. During World War I, the pilot became the service's foremost symbol, not the much more numerous mechanics, instructors, and administrators supporting the pilot. Further, the image, and the reality, of military aviation remained exclusively male and white until World War II forced the Army to recruit women and African-American pilots for service. The Army consciously used its pilots to enhance its public image, and the international media eagerly embraced the record-breaking speed and endurance flights, using the exploits of Army pilots to sell newspapers, magazines, and books and to entice the public into the nation’s movie theaters. These flights also helped the air force gain an advantage in its never-ending quest for government funding. The synergistic effect created by Army air force publicists and the media helped create the image of Army aviation, both were needed in the battle for public acceptance.