Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1976 Induction
(Inducted to represent the pre-1942 period)
William T. Piper, Sr., a Spanish-American War veteran and a WW I captain in the Corps of Engineers, was an early advocate of the use of light planes by the military services. In February, 1941, he proposed to the War Department that light planes be employed to "control troop movements, scout, patrol, drop bombs and torpedoes, ferry personnel, carry messages, and be used for blind flying training," the first proposal ever made that enumerated the many semi-military and non-military purposes to which Army light planes -and eventually helicopters - were later put.
Through his persistence, the War Department approved the trial use of light planes in large scale Army maneuvers in Tennessee in June, 1941 and in later maneuvers in Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas. At his own expense, Piper supplied eight new J-3 Cub airplanes equipped with radios, and a contingent of factory pilots and mechanics, a fleet later augmented by four aircraft from two other light plane manufacturers. This civilian fleet, operating through the trying days of the summer and fall of 1941, earned the respect of Lieutenant General Walter Kreuger and Major General Ennis P. Swift, as well as staff officers, Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower and Major Mark Clark.
The flexibility and capability of the light planes were proven in the maneuvers, and the Army's after action reports called for their continued use. Their eventual adoption by the Field Artillery branch for aerial observation, and their successful use in WW II, confirmed the concept of organic Army Aviation as it is known today.
This panorama of acceptance and growth over four decades, is a tribute in great party to the foresight, determination, and leadership of William T. Piper, Sr., a true visionary who was convinced that small lightplanes could aid the defense forces of his country, and went to considerable lengths to prove it.