graduate

Hansell, Haywood Shepherd Jr. (1903-1988)


Photograph of Haywood S. Hansell
National Archives. Via Frank (1999)

"Possum" Hansell visited England in 1941 and brought back information on German industry that helped shape AWPD-1, the American contingency plan for a strategic bombing campaign against Germany if the United States intervened in the war in Europe. A strong advocate of an independent strategic air force in the Pacific, he commanded 21 Bomber Command for five months in its campaign against Japan. He was opposed to night bombing, desiring to conduct a "civilized" bombing campaign that spared enemy civilians, and he also opposed use of strategic bombers to mine Japanese waters. He was determined to destroy the Japanese aircraft industry through daylight precision bombing, but initial raids were costly and unproductive. Although bombing performance had begun to improve during his time as commander, he received little support from his wing commanders (particularly "Rosie" O'Donnell) and was relieved by Curtis LeMay, who thoroughly shook up the command, then switched to night fire bombing.

[There was] extreme pressure to perform. One major slip and the critics would have their way — Twentieth Air Force would have been dismembered and parceled out to the various theaters.... We had given a pledge to launch an air offensive against Japan in November 1944. This proposed offensive was tied into the carefully prepared plans for the Pacific campaigns of Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. The target date had to be met, and the success of a highly controversial operation had to be demonstrated, if strategic air power was to reach fruition in the Pacific.

Though a senior bomber commander, Hansell had a broader perspective that many other members of the "bomber cult" (quoted in Wolk 2010):

Proponents of the two ideas soon lost all sense of proportion in the very intensity of their zeal. There was a tendency of the airmen to advocate strategic bombing to the exclusion of all else; and of the ground soldiers to view bombardment simply as more artillery.... it must also be admitted that at least in some very small measure we may possibly have overstated our powers and understated our limitations.

Service record

1903     

Born in Virginia
1931
Colonel     
51 School Squadron
1934

Air Corps Tactical School
1935

Instructor, Air Corps Tactical School
1938

Command and General Staff School
1939

Public Relations Section, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps
1939

Assistant executive officer, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps
1939

Officer in charge, Air Corps Intelligence
1940

Chief of operations, Planning Branch, Foreign Intelligence Section, Intelligence Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps
1941

Office of the Military Attache, Britain
1941

Chief, European Branch, Air War Plans Division, Headquarters Army Air Forces
1942

Joint Strategy Committe, Strategy and Policy Group, Operations Division, War Department
1942

Officer in charge, Air Section, Headquarters European Theater of Operations
1942-12-6
Brigadier general     
Commander, 3 Bombardment Wing, Britain
1943-1-2

Commander, 1 Bombardment Wing, Britain
1943

Planning Committee, Chiefs of Staff, Supreme Allied Command
1943

Tactical Air Force Planning Committee
1943-7

Deputy air commander-in-chief, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force
1943-10

Deputy chief, Army Air Staff
1944-4     

Chief of staff, 20 Air Force
1944-8-28     

Commander, XXI Bomber Command
1945-1-20

Commander, 38 Flying Training Wing, Williams Field, Arizona
1945

Headquarters, Air Transport Command
1945

Commander, Caribbean Wing, Air Transport Command
1946

Commander, Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command
1946

Retired for disability in the line of duty
1951

Recalled. Chief, Mobilization Division, Directorate of Plans, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters Air Force
1952

Assistant for Mutual Security, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters Air Force
1953

Military Studes and Evaluations Division, Weapons Systems Evaluation Group, Office of the Secretary of Defense
1955

Retires
1988

Dies

References

Frank (1999)
Generals.dk (accessed 2008-11-21)

Hastings (2007)
Pettibone (2006)

Tillman (2010)

Wolk (2010)



Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional