Division of Military Aeronautics

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The Division of Military Aeronautics, also termed the Division of Military Aeronautics and Bureau of Aircraft Production (as both were created as "coordinate components" of the air arm by the same executive order), was the name of the Army's aviation organization for a brief period during World War I, and therefore also an antecedent of the United States Air Force.

Lineage of the United States Air Force[edit]

History of the DMA[edit]

The failure of the Aircraft Production Board and the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps to meet aircraft production goals for the establishment of an adequate air combat force in France by the summer of 1918 forced the administration of President Woodrow Wilson to overhaul the bureaucratic structure of military aviation. On May 20, 1918, by Executive Order 2862, issued under authority of the Overman Act signed into law that date, the Aviation Section was discontinued and military aviation was removed from the Signal Corps and made the responsibility of the Division of Military Aeronautics (DMA). The DMA was headed by the Director of Military Aeronautics, reporting directly to the Secretary of War, Newton Baker. The Aircraft Production Board was replaced at the same time by a Bureau of Aircraft Production (BAP), headed by a civilian director, John D. Ryan, formerly president of Anaconda Copper.

However, after just four days a new U.S. Army Air Service was created and took over responsibility for administration, training, aircraft requirements, personnel, and facilities from the Division of Military Aeronautics and absorbed it into its structure. From May 24th, 1918, to August 28th, 1918, the Division of Military Aeronautics continued as a part of the Air Service, concerned with aircraft production. The Director of Military Aeronautics also acted as titular head of the Air Service.

Although the BAP and DMA were recognized by the War Department on May 24th, 1918, as together forming the Army's Air Service, no Director of Air Service was appointed until August 28th, and both operated independently of and without coordination with each other. When President Wilson made Ryan a Second Assistant Secretary of War and civilian Director of Air Service, the separate status of both the Division of Military Aeronautics and the Bureau of Aircraft Production ended, and they were officially terminated by executive order on March 19, 1919.

The only Director of Military Aeronautics was Maj.Gen. William L. Kenly, and his executive officer was Colonel Henry H. Arnold, who had also held the same position in the old Aviation Section.


  • Mortenson, Daniel R., "The Air Service in the Great War," Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force Vol. I (1997), ISBN 0-16-049009-X
  • "2005 Almanac," Air Force Magazine, May 2005, Vol. 88, No. 5, the Air Force Association, Arlington, Virginia