Mason Patrick bigraphy, stories - United States Army general

Mason Patrick : biography

December 13, 1863 - January 29, 1942

Mason Mathews Patrick, (December 13, 1863–January 29, 1942) was a general officer in the United States Army who led the U.S. Army Air Service and Air Corps during the Interwar Period.

He was born and educated in Lewisburg, West Virginia and at age 18 entered U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he finished second in his class behind classmate John J. Pershing. Early in his career he served as Chief Engineer for the Army of Cuban Pacification and 1st US Army Engineer on the U.S.-Mexico border. He served in France during World War I and was appointed Chief of Air Service by General Pershing in 1918. Under his direction the Air Service established experimental facilities at Wright Field, Ohio and San Antonio, Texas.

In 1926 he drafted and proposed the The Air Corps Act (44 Stat. 780) to the Military Affairs Committee of the Congress. The act created the United States Army Air Corp from the existing Air Service. Patrick served as commander of the Air Corp until his retirement in 1927. He died in Washington, D.C. on January 29, 1942.

Air Service

In October 1921, Patrick was again appointed Chief of the Air Service with the permanent rank of major general. Under Patrick's direction the Air Service established experimental facilities at Wright Field, Ohio, and a large training facility at San Antonio, Texas. It was here in 1922 that he learned how to fly for the very first time in his life, receiving the rating of Junior Airplane Pilot at the age of 59 years. At this time Patrick began having an increasingly difficult time managing his Assistant Chief of Air Service, Billy Mitchell. Patrick made it clear to Mitchell that although he would accept Mitchell's expertise as counsel, all decisions would be made by Patrick. Mitchell, however, known for his outspoken personality, began fervently pushing his personal agenda for air power independence by breaking chain of command and speaking directly with the press. When Mitchell soon got into a minor but embarrassing protocol rift with R/Adm. William A. Moffett at the start of the naval arms limitation conference, Patrick used the opportunity to assign him to an inspection tour of Europe with Alfred Verville and Lt. Clayton Bissell that lasted the duration of the conference over the winter of 1921–22.Futrell (1985), p. 39.

In 1924, Patrick hand-picked Henry "Hap" Arnold, despite a mutual dislike, to head the Air Service's Information Division, working closely with Billy Mitchell, Assistant Chief of Air Service. Mitchell began using the Harnold's Information Division as an outlet to promote his personal opinions on the need for air power independence. When Mitchell was later court-martialed for accusing Army and Navy leaders of an "almost treasonable administration of the national defense"This comment is quoted as "incompetency, criminal negligence, and almost treasonable administration by the War and Navy departments" from an interview given by Gen Mitchell in San Antonio, Texas and published in the New York Times according to "The Courtmartial of Billy Mitchell (1925)" in Footnotes to American History by Harold S. Sharp, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, N.J., 1977, pp. 430–433. for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers as he so wished, Arnold and other high ranking officers on Patrick's staff, including Carl Spaatz, and Ira Eaker were warned that they would jeopardize their careers should they vocally support Mitchell, but they testified on his behalf anyway. After Mitchell was convicted on December 17, 1925, Arnold and other officers continued to use the Information Division to mail pro-Mitchell information to airpower-friendly congressmen and Air Service reservists. In February, Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis ordered Patrick to find and discipline the culprits. Patrick was already aware of the activity and chose Arnold to set an example. He gave Arnold the choice of resignation or a general court-martial, but when Arnold chose the latter, Patrick decided to avoid another public fiasco and instead transferred him to Ft. Riley, far from the aviation mainstream, where he eventually took command of the 16th Observation Squadron.

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