Interception of The Rex - Aftermath - Subsequent History of The Participants

Subsequent History of The Participants

Andrews was not reappointed as commander of General Headquarters Air Force when his term expired on 1 March 1939. Exactly as happened with Billy Mitchell, he was reduced in rank to colonel (his "permanent rank") and assigned as air officer of the Eighth Corps Area in San Antonio, Texas. His "exile" in San Antonio was brief, however. In August, prospective Army Chief of Staff Marshall had Andrews promoted over the objections of Secretary Woodring and General Craig, beginning a climb to higher command for Andrews that culminated in promotion to lieutenant general and appointment as commander of the European Theater of Operations. Many senior airmen believed he was possibly being groomed to command the Normandy invasion. However, Andrews was killed in the crash of a B-24 Liberator long range bomber in Iceland in May 1943 while returning to Washington, D.C.

Capt. Archibald Y. Smith was promoted to colonel during World War II, commanded the 452nd Bomb Group (B-17) in the U.K., and became a prisoner of war in July 1944. Continuing his career after the war in the United States Air Force, he died in the crash of his B-26 in Oregon in April 1949. Cousland also became a colonel and commanded the first B-17 group in England, the 97th BG, although he was relieved of command by Col. Frank A. Armstrong just before it was to go into combat. Cousland finished the war commanding the 21st Bombardment Wing, a processing unit for personnel returning from overseas.

Seven of the participants became general officers. Hull was recalled to active duty to be an intelligence officer in World War II, then remained in the Air Force as a career. He retired as a brigadier general in 1964. Meloy served as a brigadier general in the Air Transport Command and retired in 1946. Goddard was recognized as the principal aerial photography expert of the USAF and retired in 1953 as a brigadier general. Caleb V. Haynes and his crew won the MacKay Trophy in 1939 flying an earthquake relief mission to Chile in the XB-15, and delivered the first B-24 Liberator overseas in early 1942. Assigned initially to the Tenth Air Force, he was the first commander of the Assam-Burma-China Ferry Command, the airlift operation flying supplies over the Hump to China. Haynes went on to command the bombers of the China Air Task Force under Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault, became a brigadier general, commanded the India Air Task Force, and retired from the USAF as a major general in 1953.

Olds (whose son, Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, became a fighter pilot icon), was promoted to major general and commanded the Second Air Force, but died of a heart-related condition in April 1943 at the age of 46.

Eaker and LeMay were both important commanders in the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II. Eaker took command of the Eighth Air Force in 1942, and the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces in 1944. He retired in 1947 as a lieutenant general, but was promoted on the retired list to 4-star general in 1985 in recognition of his accomplishments. In the autumn of 1942, LeMay led the 305th Bomb Group, one of the four "pioneer" B-17 groups of the Eighth Air Force. He advanced to higher commands in the Eighth Air Force before holding a series of B-29 Superfortress commands in the Pacific in 1944–45. LeMay commanded and reorganized the Strategic Air Command into an instrument of national policy and became the fifth Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force in 1961.

Laid up in Trieste harbor, Italy, by the war, the Rex was seized by Nazi Germany when Italy surrendered in 1943. On September 8, 1944, she was attacked twice by Royal Air Force and South African Air Force Beaufighters. She was set on fire, then rolled over and sank after being struck by numerous rockets and cannon shells. The purpose of the attack was to prevent her from being used to block the harbor entrance. The wreck was partially scrapped in the 1950's, but around one-third of it still remains.

The YB-17s soon became obsolete and were transferred to the 19th Bomb Group at March Field, California, in October 1940 when the 2d BG acquired newer models. During World War II they operated again at Langley Field until mid-1942. The Air Corps belatedly put the B-17 into mass production beginning in July 1939, but at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor still had only 198 in service. However, 12,000 were produced during the war, became the backbone of the air war against Germany, and were an iconic symbol of the AAF.

The 2nd Bomb Group received newer B-17s and served in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with both the Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces. GHQ Air Force assumed its designated wartime role in November 1940, was renamed Air Force Combat Command in June 1941, but went out of existence in March 1942 in a major reorganization of the United States Army Air Forces.

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