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.
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.
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.
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
Processed by D. Lawson; M. Boccaccio; A. Merriman, November 1999
Processed by Amanda Keeny, 2011
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
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.