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First Name: James

Last Name: Allen

Birthplace: LaPorte, IN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 13 February 1849

Date of Death: 19 February 1933

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served:
James Allen

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1872


James Allen
Brigadier General, U.S. Army
Father of Present-Day Air Force

James Allen was born on 13 February 1849 in LaPorte, IN.

A 1872 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served in the Cavalry until 1890 when he was transferred to the Signal Corps. He served in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Alaska. In 1898, he sent the first news that Cevera's fleet was bottled up in Santiago Harbor. Allen was awarded the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, in connection with this assignment.

Allen became Chief Signal Officer on 10 February 1906. Like his predecessor, Adolphus Greely, Chief Signal Officer Allen encouraged the technological growth of the Corps. Allen's early contributions to the Signal Corps included the development of a buzzer-phone that replaced Morse telegraphy in the field and later, a field telephone.

He and George Squier (Chief Signal Officer 1917-23) conducted endless radio experiments and were responsible for the first wireless telegraph link in the Western Hemisphere. Allen's farsightedness led him to advocate mobile signal equipment in 1906. He observed that equipment was needed to provide "instant communication by the side of the commander, wherever he may be required to go in the exercise of his duties."

Allen not only continued Greely's aeronautical policies, such as the Signal Corps' balloon and dirigible operations, but also advocated an air corps. He authorized the purchase of two balloons, raising to ten the number bought since the Civil War. The Wright Brothers had made their initial flights and there was some pressure for the Army to get into the "flying-machine" business.

Allen became known as the "father" of the present-day Air Force on 1 August 1907 when Office Memo Number 6 was issued by the Chief Signal Officer of the Army stating: "An Aeronautical Division of this office is hereby established to take effect on this date. This Division will have charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects." Allen put Captain Charles deForest Chandler in charge of the Division, but it operated under him. But it took him from 1907 to 1911 to get Congressional money in the amount of $125,000 for the first airplanes, and the new Air Service grew slowly. 

He observed in 1909, that other countries were "providing themselves systematically with aerial fleets" and that a sympathetic plan of development of this military auxiliary for the United States should be inaugurated without delay."

On 13 February 1913, Allen reached the age limit of 64 and retired. When he retired he left his successors with new communications technology that would be amply applied on the fields of France in World War I.

Death and Burial

Brigadier General James Allen died 19 February 1933 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2055   Created by: MHOH




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