During the war, the AAF required four technical specialists for every man who flew. The ratio of total ground personnel to flying personnel was nearly seven to one, and for every man actually committed to air combat there were sixteen individuals who served within the AAF on some noncombat assignment.1 Individual training of technical specialists was the responsibility of the Technical Training Command (TTC) from its establishment in March 1941 until July 1943, when its successor, the Training Command, inherited the job.
In addition, the Air Service Command provided individual training for many of the specialists required for its own activities,* and the four continental air forces found it necessary to operate schools for special training of personnel of other arms and services on assignment with the AAF (ASWAAF). In this last category, however, the men were frequently assigned to the branch of origin--for example, the Signal Corps or the Chemical Warfare Service--for individual training and return to the AAF. Unit training, and such combined training of combat and maintenance organizations as might be necessary, was conducted by the continental air forces or by the ASC.
In the early days of the Air Service, practically all enlisted technicians, whether or not they were concerned directly with the maintenance of aircraft, had been known as airplane mechanics. But as the work of technicians became more and more specialized, the term "airplane mechanic" was gradually restricted to men who maintained airframes, aircraft engines, and accessories integral to the plane; these accessories included such equipment as propellers, hydraulic and electrical systems, carburetors, and generators. Technicians who specialized in such equipment as armament, cameras, and radio devices--equipment not considered strictly as parts of the aircraft--came to be known by special names and were trained in separate programs. The primary responsibility for aircraft maintenance in the AAF during the war belonged to teams of enlisted mechanics, each team working under the direction of a noncommissioned officer called a crew chief.
Before the war it had been customary for each pilot to supervise the maintenance of his own airplane, but after 1941 this responsibility was assumed by a nonflying squadron engineering officer. Maintenance activities in the squadron were limited to the first and second echelon, that is to say, to regular servicing of aircraft, routine inspections and adjustments, and minor repairs. For the more difficult jobs, including periodic overhauls, the squadron depended upon depots and subdepots serving the needs of more than one combat unit for what was officially designated third and fourth echelon maintenance.* Though the distinction between these several levels of service depended in no small part upon a difference in equipment, some of the depot work required more highly trained specialists.
During the year 1938-39 fewer than 900 men had been graduated from the basic mechanics course of the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field. Between July 1939 and August 1945 graduates of courses in maintenance given by or for the AAF totaled more than 700,000.2 Although this number includes many who graduated from more than one course, it serves to suggest the staggering proportions of the maintenance training that had to be provided. In the earlier stages of this great expansion the AAF depended upon three major types of schools: its own technical schools for basic airplane and engine mechanics courses, and for some advanced training; civilian mechanics schools, which provided basic instruction as well as training in third and fourth echelon maintenance for depot specialists; and factory schools, which gave training on the equipment of particular manufacturers.
When it became apparent in the spring of 1943 that the initial demand for mechanics was nearly satisfied and that casualties among ground crews were proving extremely light, the number of trainees was drastically curtailed. Accordingly, after June 1943 students were no longer entered in civilian mechanics schools, and the number of factory schools and AAF technical schools was reduced.3