Frank Maxwell Andrews, 1884-1943

Frank Maxwell Andrews (1884-1943) was a pioneer of strategic air power and a senior USAAF officer who served in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and briefly as commander of the European Theatre of Operations, US Army (ETOUSA) while Eisenhower was in North Africa.

Born in Nashville, Andrews attended West Point, gradating 42nd out of his class of 78 in 1906 before joining the cavalry. He entered the air service in 1917, but saw no action in France. Between the wars he became a record-setting long-distance pilot, before becoming Commanding Officer, Kelly Field Texas between 1923 and 1927.

In 1935 Andrews was appointed as the first command of General Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field. Until then control of Army aviation had been split between the Army Air Corps, under General Westover, which had responsibility for training, procurement and supply, and the individual corps areas, which had operational control of the aircraft. The new GHQ Air Force was given command of most of the Army's tactical units, with wings based at Langley, Barksdale and March (California). Andrews was promoted from Colonel to the temporary rank of Major General, so he held the same rank as Westover. The two branches reported to the Chief of Staff in peacetime, while GHQ Air Force came under the commanders of the relevant field forces during times of war.

Over the next four years the two branches of Army Aviation fought for supremacy, a fight that ended on 1 March 1939 with a victory for the Chief of the Air Staff, who was given authority over the GHQ Air Force (by this point Westover had been replaced by 'Hap' Arnold, who held the post throughout the Second World War).

Andrews was a support of strategic bombardment. In June 1937 he urged the War Department to only order four-engined bombers, on the grounds that enough twin-engined aircraft were already on order. In January 1938 he went one step further in a memo to the Secretary of War in which he suggested that the Army should only use heavy and light bombers. He was willing to admit that the Army and Navy both had claims on air support, but wanted to see the Air Corps develop its own independent striking ability.

Andrews fell out of favour for a short time during 1939. He was replaced as commander of GHQ Air Force and reduced to his permanent rank of brigadier general, but only for a few months. When George C. Marshall became acting Chief of Staff of the Army Andrews became his Assistant Chief of Staff G3 (Operations and Training), with the rank of major general. He was the first airman to be appointed to such a high post within the army.

In November 1940 Andrews was appointed to command the new Panama Air Force, which had responsibility for the defence of the Panama Canal. The Air Corps had quite sizable forces in the Caribbean area, but split into several different commands. This situation changed on 19 September 1941 when Andrews was appointed to command a new Caribbean Defense Command. Andrews was able to turn his scattered command into an integrated theatre air force which became a model for future commands. During this period he became known for his warnings about the danger to the United States if any hostile European air force gained bases in the land of FDR's 'Good Neighbours', a real threat after the German victories of 1940. In November 1941 his command produced a report in which the most likely threat to the area was seen as a Japanese carrier attack on the Panama Canal. Andrews believed that he had enough aircraft to defend against such an attack, but lacked the reconnaissance aircraft needed to spot any Carrier force in time. He also had to prepare for the possible need to defend any of the Latin American republics against an attack by Germany or Japan.

On 4 November 1942 Andrews took command of US Army Forces, Middle East (USAFIME), a post he held until 31 January 1943. This gave him command of all American forces in Egypt, the most important component of which was the Ninth Air Force, which was established on 12 November under General Brereton. One of Andrews' first tasks was to make contact with the Northwest Africa command, which was then involved in Operation Torch. Andrews' job required him to work closely with his British colleagues in Egypt, and by January 1943 he was reporting that the British commanders in chief had taken him into their complete confidence.

At the start of Operation Torch Eisenhower had been head of all American forces in Europe, but on 4 February 1943 his command was split in two with the formation of HQ, North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NAFOUSA). Eisenhower took command in North Africa, while Andrews was appointed to succeed him as commander of the European Theatre of Operations, US Army (ETOUSA). This put Andrews in command of all American Army and Army Air Force units that had been left in Britain during Operation Torch, most importantly the Eighth Air Force.

Once he was in Britain Andrews urged the War Department to accelerate the growth of the Eighth Air Force as quickly as possible, so that 300 heavy bombers could be sent against targets on a regular basis. This would have required around 600 bombers, and was considered to be the smallest formation that could safely operate in the dangerous skies over Germany. Andrews also recognised the importance of long range fighter escort, and one of his first achievements was to convince the Eighth Air Force to order 60,000 200 gallon jettisonable fuel tanks from the United States. Eventually this order was cancelled in favour of using mass produced paper tanks make in the United Kingdom, but Andrews had made sure that the idea was accepted. He was also a support of using the Eighth Air Force at night when the occasion demanded, in order to allow the bombers to fly when daytime visibility wasn't good enough for operations.

Andrews died in an aircraft accident on Iceland on 3 May 1943 and was replaced as head of the European Theatre of Operations by Lt. General Jacob L. Devers.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 April 2009), Frank Maxwell Andrews, 1884-1943 ,

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