Joint Base Andrews honors one of the most influential leaders behind the creation of today’s modern Air Force, Lt. Gen. Frank Maxwell Andrews.
General Andrews was a significant figure in the early days of the Army Air Corps. He was often called “Marshall’s Airman,” referring to General of the Army George C. Marshall, who was the Army chief of staff. General Andrews was General Marshall’s main advisor concerning aviation matters. Although General Andrews died in 1943, his influence with General Marshall and other senior military leaders played a pivotal role toward the ultimate establishment of a separate and independent Air Force in 1947.
General Andrews was born in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 3, 1884. In 1906, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and received a second lieutenant commission in the cavalry. He served his first 11 years in the Philippines, Hawaii and other posts in the United States. Shortly after the United States entered World War I in 1917, General Andrews was transferred to the Signal Corps for duty with the Aviation Division.
The future general earned his wings in 1918, and then held a number of Air Service and Air Corps staff and command billets. General Andrews worked in the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff before transferring to Europe in August 1920. There, he served as Air Service officer, American Forces in Germany. Later, General Andrews took over as assistant officer in charge of Civil Affairs, Headquarters American Forces in Germany. He returned to Washington, D.C., in early 1923, for duty in the Office of the Chief of Air Service.
In 1933, General Andrews assumed command of the famed 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Mich. In 1934, he reported for special duty in Washington to help prepare plans for consolidating all air combat units under a prototype “Air Force,” co-equal with the Air Corps, which directed all non-combat air functions. That prototype became General Headquarters, and March 1, 1935, General Andrews became the commanding general -- with a temporary rank of brigadier general -- of the newly established GHQ Air Force at Langley Field, Va. While there, he was instrumental in the development of a modern bomber force. He earned the temporary grade of major general, but General Andrews’ persistence to purchase large numbers of the B-17 lost him favor with senior military leaders. In early 1939, he reverted back to the permanent rank of colonel and was sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as air officer of the Eighth Corps Area.
In July 1939, General Marshall became acting Chief of Staff of the Army. He summoned General Andrews back to Washington, appointing him Assistant Chief of Staff for Training and Operations and promoting him to the permanent grade of brigadier general. It was the first time in military history that an Airman was appointed as one of the four assistant chiefs of staff on the Army General Staff.
In November 1940, General Andrews assumed command of the newly established Panama Canal Air Force, and later the Caribbean Defense Command. He arrived in Cairo, Egypt, to assume command of the Army in the Middle East in 1942. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Allied Forces leaders determined time had come to establish a separate European Theater of Operations. General Marshall proposed that General Andrews command it.
In February 1943, General Andrews assumed command of U.S. Forces in the European Theater of Operations. A few months later, he died in an aircraft accident off the coast of Iceland on May 3, 1943. General Marshall delivered the eulogy at a memorial service in Washington, saying that Frank Andrews was one of the Army’s few great captains.
March 31, 1945, Mrs. Jeanette “Johnny” Andrews visited Camp Springs Army Air Field, Md., for the dedication ceremony to rename the installation Andrews Field in honor of her late husband. When the Air Force finally became a separate service on Sept. 18, 1947, as General Andrews had so long advocated for, the base was assumed the designation -- Andrews Air Force Base.