Frank A. Armstrong Jr. Papers

1922-2001, undated
Manuscript Collection #35
Creator(s)
Armstrong, Frank A. (Frank Alton), 1902-1969
Physical description
8.2 Cubic Feet, 16 containers plus 7 oversize folders, consisting of correspondence, memoirs, reports, flight records, flight log, speeches, pamphlets, publications, clippings, albums, photographs, citations, awards, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Frank A. Armstrong Jr. Papers (#35), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Repository
ECU Manuscript Collection
Access
No restrictions

Papers (1927-1969, undated) including correspondence, memoirs, reports, flight records, flight log, speeches, etc. relating to the career of pioneer aviator and US Army Air Corps general during and after World War II.


Biographical/historical information

Frank Alton Armstrong Jr. (1902-1969), was born in Hamilton, Martin County, N.C. He attended public school in Hobgood, N.C., and then received a law degree (1923) and a bachelor of science degree (1925) from Wake Forest University. He spent three years playing minor league baseball before he entered the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet (1928). In 1936 as a second lieutenant, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing a heavily damaged bomber in Panama after ordering the crew to bail out. Armstrong witnessed the German blitz of England as a U.S. military observer in 1941. He returned to England in 1942 as commander of the VIIIth Bomber Command, and was soon promoted to colonel. In August 1942, he led the first U.S. Army Air Force daylight raid over Axis-held territory. This raid occurred over Rouen-Cotteville, France, and for his efforts, Armstrong received the Silver Star and an oak leaf cluster for the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also became the first U.S. officer to receive the British Flying Cross. As a brigadier general, Armstrong led the first American daylight bombing mission of Germany proper over Wilhelmshaven in 1943. Armstrong's experiences as a B-17 flyer during these missions formed the basis for the popular novel and film, Twelve O'Clock High. Armstrong briefly returned to the United States before being stationed in the Pacific in mid-1945. In the Pacific Theatre, Armstrong led the longest and last heavy-bomber raid over Japan from Guam to Honshu. Also in 1945, he led the first non-stop flight from Hokkaido, Japan to Washington, D.C. in a Boeing B-29. For his achievements in the Pacific, he was awarded an oak leaf cluster for the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After World War II, Armstrong served as Pacific Air chief-of-staff, senior air instructor at the Armed Forces Staff College, and commander-in-chief of the Alaskan Air Command. Armstrong also pioneered two record-breaking transatlantic. He received the Gold Medal of the Aero Club of Norway for pioneering non-stop flights from Alaska to Norway. Armstrong was promoted to major general by early 1950, and eventually to lieutenant general. In 1962 he was forced to retire at age 59, three years before the normal retirement age of 62. It is believed that this forced retirement was the result of a disagreement between Armstrong and General Curtis LeMay, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, about the strategic significance of Alaska (see note to researcher). Following his retirement, he and his family settled in Tampa, Florida. Armstrong was first married to Vernell Lloyd "Fluffy" Armstrong on 15 March 1929, and they had one child named Frank A. "Dutch" Armstrong III. Major Frank Armstrong III was a jet fighter pilot and was shot down and killed in Laos on 13 July 1967. Like his father before him, he was awarded the Silver Star for his military service. After Mrs. Armstrong's death, he married Peggy Jennison. Armstrong died on 20 August 1969 at age 67 in Tampa. He was survived by his wife, Peggy, his sister, Mrs. I. T. Valentine Sr., and a granddaughter, Lloyd Armstrong.


Scope and arrangement

The collection consists of correspondence, memoirs, autobiographical information, various Army Air Corps and Air Force records, numerous photograph albums and memorabilia, and miscellaneous materials. Early correspondence includes letters in support of Armstrong and his nomination to the Flying Cadet Corps which was a part of the U.S. Army (12 July, 2 Nov. 1927). Copies of correspondence pertain to a speech by Armstrong and his opinion concerning the nature and future of the Marine Corps (4 and 14 April 1947). Later correspondence concerns President Eisenhower's impression of Elmendorf Air Force Base (12 June 1960); a discussion by Lowell Thomas of an impersonator of Lowell Thomas Jr. (9 Aug. 1960); the awarding of the Distinguished Service Medal and a conservation award from the Department of the Interior (30 July 1961); and a letter (5 Dec. 1967) to General Armstrong's sister describing the Vietnam combat death of Major Frank A. "Dutch" Armstrong III.

A typescript memoir (undated) written by Armstrong titled "So Near Heaven and Surrounded by Hell" describes his experiences as commander of the VIIIth Bomber Command, the first bomber unit to bomb Axis territory. The memoir relates details of the organization of the command, anecdotes, and accounts of Armstrong's experiences as a B-17 bomber pilot. The original draft (RESTRICTED – Consult staff for details or see digitized version on Digital Collections website) and three photocopies are located in oversize folder 35.1.os.4.

"Wake the Sleeping Giant" [ca. 1960] is the autobiography of Armstrong as told to William E. Hickenbotham. The account relates his experiences as an air cadet in the late twenties and comments on early air training methods. In relating his early flying career, Armstrong describes flying as a U.S. Army mail pilot for the U.S. Post Office. The autobiography incorporates a diary maintained during his tenure in England as a military observer (1941), and contains a lucid description of British life during the German Air Blitz. Some overlap exists between this account and his memoir concerning the VIIIth Bomber Command. This account describes Armstrong's command and training of the 97th Heavy Bombardment Group, the first American bomber crew to fly a mission over Europe; the 306th Heavy Bombardment Group, which flew the first daylight raid against Germany; the 46th Bomb Operational Training Wing; and the 315 Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy), which as a part of the XXIst Bomber Command bombarded targets in Japan. Armstrong's postwar account includes an attempted record-breaking flight from Hokkaido, Japan, to Washington, D.C., as well as an account of a pioneering flight with Bernt Balchen from Alaska, over the North Pole, to Norway (1949). Armstrong also discusses the novel and film, Twelve O'Clock High, the basis of which were his wartime bomber experiences; his tenure as commander of the Second Air Force and the training of crews for the Strategic Air Command; and the SAC-Russian competition for strategical hegemony. As commander-in-chief of the Alaskan Command, Armstrong criticizes Alaskan defense strategy, proposes solutions, and warns of the dangers of Communism. The original draft (RESTRICTED – Consult staff for details or see digitized version on Digital Collections website) and a photocopy are located in oversize folder 35.1.os.5.

A case file is included in the collection entitled, "Lieutenant General Frank Armstrong Case File for Missiles in Alaska (1959-1960)." There are also scripts for introductions to television film of General Armstrong's retirement from the Air Force and the Alaskan Air Command (1961). A retirement ceremony newspaper clipping from the Sourdough Sentinel is included (4 August 1961). There is a speech made by Major General "Cotton" Hildreth regarding General Armstrong's son, Frank Alton Armstrong III, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967. The speech is entitled, "A Bigger Than Life Hero," and was read at the dedication ceremony for General Armstrong's birthplace. Notes for another speech made during this dedication ceremony by General Armstrong's grandson, Frank A. Armstrong, is also a part of the papers. Of special interest is a photograph called "The Japanese Surrender, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay," which shows Chester W. Nimitz signing the terms of surrender (2 September 1945). It is dedicated by the Admiral "To Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. U.S.A.F. – with best wishes and great appreciation of your contribution to the war effort that made possible the above scene," and signed "C. W. Nimitz – Fleet Admiral U.S.N." The original photograph (RESTRICTED – Consult staff for details or see digitized version on Digital Collections website) is located in oversize folder 35.1.os.6. There is also a photograph of the historical marker at the boyhood home of General Armstrong (28 March 2001).

Other records include Tactical Mission Reports that consist of analyses of bombing raids of the 8th Command over Hanover, Hamburg, and Amsterdam (July 1943) as well as XXth and XXIst Air Force reports of missions over mainland Japan (1945). A pilot information folder (1929-1945) and flight records (1932-1945) contain statistical information on Armstrong's flying career. A speeches file includes "Strategic Bombing of Germany," pertaining to the activities and damage sustained by the 46th Bombardment Wing (January 1943); four speeches addressed to officers and enlisted men of the 315th Command (1944); mimeographed speeches concerning Philippine Independence Day (1946); a short bond drive speech by Armstrong at Raleigh, N.C.; and a speech entitled, "The Air War against Germany."

Pamphlets and publications are also included. Pamphlets concern the military retirement of Armstrong, in which the Alaskan Command is described (1961) and an undated pamphlet pertains to the Air Forces Rest and Recreation Center in the Mount McKinley National Park. Publications include Officers' Wives Club magazines, Totem Topics (1961) and Petticoat Press (1953, 1956), containing articles on Mrs. Armstrong. A newspaper clippings file consists of Norwegian clippings pertaining to the Alaska-Norway flight of Armstrong and Balchen (September 1949). Also included are a maintenance manual for the B-17 airplane (1943); the novel, Twelve O'Clock High; a copy of chapter 9 of "The Making of 12 O'Clock High" from the book Celluloid Wings (1989); and Target Germany (1943), which describes the role of the 8th Bomber Command during its first year in Europe. Also included are

Photographs, brochures, and clippings pertain to the Inaugural Guest Program, as a member of which Mrs. Armstrong traveled to Norway (1958); general newspaper clippings pertain to Armstrong's career (1943-1969, nd); and clippings and photographs of an Alaskan visit of President Dwight D. Eisenhower are included (June 1960). Histories of the Alaskan Air Command (1948, 1950) are also included.

Numerous photograph albums and scrapbooks (RESTRICTED – Consult staff for details or see digitized version on Digital Collections website) contain photographs, clippings, and memorabilia including a Christmas gift project undertaken jointly by the 9th Air Force and the North Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce called "Operation Christmas" (undated) and another entitled "Second to None under General Armstrong," that traces the progress of the 2nd Air Force under Armstrong's administration. Further albums contain photographs of dignitaries, celebrities, and sports figures including Presidents Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman, General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and numerous foreign diplomats; celebrities June Allyson, Jack Benny, Frank Capra, Jerry Colonna, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, Boris Karloff, Mary Martin, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Ed Sullivan, The Three Stooges, and Don Wilson; and baseball player Mickey Mantle.

Several films, video cassettes, and digital video discs document Brig. Gen. Frank A. Armstrong Jr. and his service in command of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, Norway, and in the Philippines (ca. 1960). Specifically, there is footage of various parades, bear hunts, fishing at Naknek, scenery in Norway and Alaska, and of a B-36 and F-86.


Administrative information
Custodial History

October 16, 1967, ca. 250 items; Copies of correspondence, orders, flight records, citations, certificates, clippings, biographical information, and miscellaneous.

February 12, 1968, (addition 1), 17 items; Correspondence, photographs, citations, booklets, biographical material, and clippings.

November 5, 1968, (addition 2), 14 items; Tactical mission reports, speeches, clippings, photographs, a pamphlet, and a copy of Twelve O'Clock High.

November 12, 1968, (addition 3), 130 items; Correspondence, reports, photographs, clippings, manuals, yearbook, autobiography ("Wake the Sleeping Giant"), and miscellaneous.

April 6, 1971, (addition 4), 106-page diary ("So Near Heaven and Surrounded by Hell"). Gift of Mrs. I. T. Valentine, Nashville, N.C., and Lt. General Armstrong, Tampa, Fla.

January 15, 1997, (addition 5), 456 items; Copy of official personnel files (1927-1969), including efficiency reports, special orders, promotion appointments, commendation, medical records, photographs, and clippings. Gift of Honorable I. T. Valentine Jr., Nashville, N.C.

June 26, 1998, (addition 6), 6 volumes; Oversize scrapbooks, primarily reflecting General Armstrong's duty with the Alaskan Air Command, containing photographs, clippings, citations, programs, correspondence, etc. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. David H. Fuller and Miss Deborah Armstrong Fuller, Nashville, N.C.

November 14, 2000, (addition 7), 18 items; Films (ca. 1960, black and white, and color) documenting Brig. Gen. Frank A. Armstrong Jr. and his service in command of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, Norway, and in the Philippines. Donor: Valentine, Tim; Elizabeth V. Fuller; and Mary Hobbs V. McIntyre.

May 19, 2003, (addition 8), 8 items; Videocassettes (6) of films (ca. 1960) documenting Brig. Gen. Frank A. Armstrong Jr. and his service in command of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, Norway, and in the Philippines; duplicates of videocassettes (2); also digital video discs (2); copies of 16mm films in Addition #1. Purchase (Special Collections Fund), Herbert Schaaf, Statesboro, Ga.

July 19, 2007, (addition 9), 1 items, 0.19 cubic feet; Twelve O'Clock High: Fact to Fiction: The 1949 film about the real-life adventures of the first U.S. bomber crews to tangle with the Luftwaffe has endured as a remarkable study in combat leadership, by Chuck Dunning. Periodical. In: Aviation History, v. 10, no. 1 (Sept. 1999), p. 42-48, 80. Donor: Chuck Dunning.

July 23, 2003, (addition 10), 10 items, 0.56 cubic feet; Collection (1942-2001) of manuscript material, notes, photographs, and a clipping relating Armstrong's experience as a brigadier general and pilot leading U.S. 8th Air Force Bomber Command's B-17 raids over Germany and Japan during World War II; including his typewritten diary, which became the basis of the popular novel and film "Twelve O'Clock High"; also relating to his retirement from the military (as a Lt. General) and the dedication of a historical marker at his boyhood home; also photocopies of manuscript materials. Donor: Frank A. Armstrong.

August 4, 2006, (addition 11), 1 items, 0.25 cubic feet; Collection (n.d.) including clippings, documents, printed material, etc. relating to Gen. Armstrong's service in Alaska, ca. 1959-1960, compiled by the donor, entitled Lt. General Frank Armstrong Case File for Missiles in Alaska. Photocopied. Spiral bound. Donor: John H. Cloe.

October 4, 2016, (unprocessed addition 12), 0.043 cubic feet; "Wake the Sleeping Giant" [ca. 1960] is the autobiography of General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., as told to William E. Hickenbotham. The autobiography incorporated a diary maintained during Armstrong's tenure in England as a military observer (1941). The diary contained a lucid description of British life during the German Air Blitz and was very descriptive in terms of what happened strategically in World War II. This addition to the Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., Papers is the diary used in the writing of the autobiography. Also, (in the back of the diary) are a few handwritten notes related to the war, as well as one typed letter from Armstrong in 1942 that starts off "Dear Diary" which does not appear to be included in "Wake the Sleeping Giant" or Armstrong's other memoir. Armstrong's grandson, Frank Armstrong IV, found this original diary while on a recent trip back to North Carolina to visit relatives. Gift of Frank A. Armstrong IV.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. I. T. Valentine

Gift of Lt. General Armstrong

Gift of Honorable I. T. Valentine Jr.

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. David H. Fuller and Miss Deborah Armstrong Fuller

Gift of Tim Valentine, Elizabeth V. Fuller, and Mary Hobbs V. McIntyre

Purchase (Special Collections Fund), Herbert Schaaf, Statesboro, Ga.

Gift of Frank A. Armstrong

Gift of Chuck Dunning

Gift of John H. Cloe

Gift of Frank A. Armstrong IV

Processing information

Processed by D. Lawson; M. Boccaccio; A. Merriman, November 1999

Processed by Amanda Keeny, 2011

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

No restrictions

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.


Related material

For more information about Frank A. Armstrong Jr.'s forced retirement see Senator Bartlett's memo, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks file from the Ernest Gruening Papers about the Frank A. Armstrong Jr.- Sen. E.L. Bartlett meeting on 24 May 1961. This document is located in Box 79 Series 5A01a (u?) Folder 10.


Container list
Box 1a Folder a Correspondence, 1960-1967. 12 items
Box 1a Folder b "Lieutenant General Frank Armstrong Case File for Missiles in Alaska," compiled by historian, Headquarters, 3d Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. Spiralbound. 1 item, 1959-1960
Box 1a Folder c Armstrong # 1 – 6 (1961) scripts for introductions to television film of General Armstrong's retirement from the Air Force and the Alaska Air Command. 2 items. 1961
Box 1a Folder d Retirement ceremony clipping, Sourdough Sentinel (8/4/1961). 1 item
Box 1a Folder e "A Bigger Than Life Hero", a speech by Major General "Cotton" Hildreth regarding General Armstrong's son, Frank Alton Armstrong, III (1930-1967), who was killed in Vietnam in 1967; the speech was read at the dedication ceremony for General Armstrong's birthplace; also portrait of Frank, III. Photocopy typescript. 1 item
Box 1a Folder f Notes for a speech by General Armstrong's grandson, Frank A. Armstrong, read at the dedication ceremony for General Armstrong's birthplace. 1 item. undated
Box 1a Folder h Tactical Mission Report (7/17/1943) 1 item
Box 1a Folder i Tactical Mission Report (8/14, 8/15/1945) 1 item
Box 1b Folder b "So Near Heaven and Surrounded By Hell," a diary of Armstrong's experience as brigadier general and pilot leading the U.S. 8th Air Force Bomber Command's B-17 raids over Germany during WWII, which later became the basis of the popular novel and film "Twelve O'Clock High." Typescript manuscript photocopy
Box 1b Folder d "Wake the Sleeping Giant" by Lieutenant General Frank A. Armstrong Jr., USAF (Ret.) as told to William E. Hickenbotham. Typescript manuscript photocopy
Box 2 Folder a Tactical Mission Report (7/15, 7/22, 7/25/1945) 1 item
Box 2 Folder b Tactical Mission Report (6/26, 6/29, 7/2/1945) 1 item
Box 2 Folder c Brigadier General Frank A Armstrong Jr. 0-17459 Individual Flight Records (Form 5'S) (12/15/1932 - 12/31/1936) 1 item
Box 3 Folder a Flight Records (1/29/1937 - 5/2/1945) 1 item
Box 3 Folder b Brigadier General Frank A Armstrong Jr. 0-17459 Individual Flight Records (Form 5'S) (8/1/1932 - 5/1/1945) 1 item
Box 3 Folder c Brigadier General Frank A Armstrong Jr. 0-17459 Command Pilot Allied Papers (6/15/1929-5/1/1945) 1 item
Box 3 Folder d Brigadier General Frank A Armstrong Jr. 0-17459 Command Pilot Allied Papers (6/15/1929-5/1/1945) 1 item
Box 3 Folder e Cadet F. Armstrong's Pilot's Book, Air Service, U. S. Army (3/15/1928-9/28/1929) 1 item
Box 4 Folder a Speeches by various politicians and officers. 25 items
Box 4 Folder b Pamphlets from Alaska. 3 items
Box 4 Folder c Publications: The Petticoat Press (Vol. 2, No. 3, September 1953; Vol. 5, No. 1, July 1956), Otem Optics (Vol. 6, No. 2, February 1961) with photographs of and stories about Lt. Gen. Armstrong and/or Mrs. Armstrong. 3 items
Box 4 Folder d Norwegian flight clippings (September 1949). 34 items
Box 4 Folder e Mrs. Armstrong Inaugural Guest Program Material. 13 items
Box 4 Folder f Newspaper clippings about Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., his wife, and his death. 43 items
Box 4 Folder g Citations, awards, and invitations. 12 items
Box 4 Folder h Miscellaneous materials. 8 items
Box 5 Folder a Target Germany: The Army Air Forces' official story of the VIII Bomber Command's first year over Europe. 1 item
Box 5 Folder b Familiarization Manual Maintenance of Model B-17 Bombardment Airplane (February 1, 1943). Inscribed "To Frank Armstrong from Houston." 1 item
Box 5 Folder c Twelve O'Clock High by Beirne Lay, Jr. and Sy Bartlett. 1 item
Box 5 Folder d 55-I Yearbook "Flare" 1 item
Box 6 Folder a Copies of Service Record, 1927-1930. 57 items
Box 6 Folder b Copies of Service Record, 1931-1937. 76 items
Box 6 Folder c Copies of Service Record, 1938-1942. 78 items
Box 6 Folder d Copies of Service Record, 1943-1947. 76 items
Box 7 Folder a Copies of Service Record, 1948-1958. 69 items
Box 7 Folder b Copies of Service Record, 1960-1969. 54 items
Box 7 Folder c Copies of Service Record; Histories; Miscellaneous Materials. 32 items
Box 9c Photographs
Box 10b Scrapbook. RESTRICTED Please see digitized object in box 10a
Box 11b Scrapbook. RESTRICTED Please see digitized object in box 11a
Box 15 Item 1 Presidential visit June 1960 (Elmendorf AFB, Alaska) Change of command parade
Box 15 Item 2 6-polar bear hunt: Seals & polar bear chase (Chuck)
Box 15 Item 3 Bear hunt, Alaska
Box 15 Item 4 Bear hunt #1, Dick Poutelle
Box 15 Item 5 Bear hunt #2
Box 15 Item 6 Fishing at Naknek
Box 15 Item 7 Norway
Box 15 Item 8 Crash (Fluzz Fuz)
Box 15 Item 9 Family
Box 15 Item 10 Misc. good out take
Box 15 Item 11 Gunnin (out take)
Box 15 Item 12 Out take - Philippines
Box 16 Item 1 Address - Parade; Review - Alaska. 17 min. Sound
Box 16 Item 2 Golf - Parade Review. 15 min. No Sound
Box 16 Item 3 B-36, F-86's, Shemya, Building Burning. 9 min. No Sound
Box 16 Item 4 Icebergs & Ice Flows. 19 min. No Sound
Box 16 Item 5 copy 1, 120-minute VHS videocassette
Box 16 Item 6 copy 2, 120-minute VHS videocassette
Box 16 Item 7 copy 3, DVD
Box 16 Item 8 copy 4, DVD
Folder os2 Newspapers pulled from scrapbook (35.14) and Frank A. Armstrong, Jr.'s diploma for a Bachelor of Law degree from Wake Forest College (1922). Use of the originals is RESTRICTED; instead use the digitized version on the Digital Collections website. 13 items. 1922, 1959-1961