Gen. Hamilton Howze
United States of America
General Hamilton Hawkins Howze is recognized as the intellectual force behind the concept of air mobility and the beginnings of the current US Army Aviation doctrine. Howze’s chairmanship of the now-famous Howze Board in 1962 led to the implementation of modern helicopter warfare, an innovation that has characterized every conflict from Vietnam to Desert Storm and beyond. In helicopter warfare, helicopters are integrated into the Army forces to carry outmaneuver, fire support, intelligence, air defense, logistics, and battle command. The concept has been known as Air Cavalry and as Air Mobility, but the most popular title in use today is the title General Howze gave it in 1962: Air Assault.
On December 21, 1908, Hamilton Howze was born in the Commandant’s quarters on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. His Father, Medal of Honor recipient Brigadier General Robert Lee Howze, USMA 1888, was the Commandant of Cadets from 1904-1908. Infant Howze would become a fourth-generation West Pointer when he entered the Corps of Cadets on 1 July 1926. He graduated with the class of 1930 and was commissioned into the Horse Cavalry.
Following graduation from West Point, Howze’s initial assignment was with the 7th Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas (1930-1934). This was followed by attendance at the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas (1934-1935) where he also met and married his wife, Mary Ingraham Henry who was the daughter of Major General Guy V. Henry, Commandant of the Cavalry School. Kansas was followed by an assignment to the 6th Cavalry, at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia (1935-1938). This was then followed by an assignment with the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts) at Fort Stotsenberg, Philippine Islands (1938-1940); the 3rd Cavalry at Fort Myer, Virginia and 1st Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas (1940-1942).
With the start of World War II all non-divisional cavalry regiments were converted to armored cavalry. Howze was promoted to full colonel and assigned as the G-3 (Operations Officer) of the staff of the 1st Armored Division as it deployed from Fort Knox, Kentucky to England and then North Africa and Italy (1942-1943); within the division, his combat assignments included the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment (1943) and then Commanding Officer of the13th Armored Regiment (1943-1944); and then Commanding Officer of Combat Command A (CCA) 1st Armored Division (Italy 1944-1945).
After the war, he then returned to the Cavalry School as the Director of Instruction (1946-1948). He attended the National War College (1948), which was followed by an assignment in the Pentagon in the Army office of the G-2 (Intelligence) from (1949-1952). During this period, 42-year old Howze completed the three-week airborne school thus earning him his “jump wings.” After promotion to Brigadier General in 1952, he became Assistant Commanding General of the 2nd Armored Division in Germany (1953-1954). It was during this assignment that Howze started learning how to fly in a Cessna L-19 “Bird Dog” with arrangements made through the division aviation officer. Howze also served as Deputy Chief of Operations in Seventh Army Headquarters (1954-1955).
In early 1955, Lieutenant General Jim Gavin, the Army’s G-3 in the Pentagon selected Hamilton Howze to become the first Director of Army Aviation (1955-1957). Gavin had repeatedly demonstrated imagination and insight into the changing complexities of battle tactics and technique, with particular reference to mobility. Newly assigned Howze immediately completed a flight physical and again began military flight training at Fort Belvoir’s Davidson Army Airfield. He completed his training at Fort Rucker, Alabama and Brigadier General Carl Hutton, Commandant of the Army Aviation School, presented Howze with his wings
In 1955-1957, Army aviation was still constrained by an agreement with the Air Force and the dictates of the Department of Defense to the procurement of fixed wing (not rotary wing) aircraft with an empty weight of no more than 5,000 pounds. Howze argued that Army procurement should be determined by the approved Army mission, and not by an arbitrary weight figure. The Army eventually won, but it was a long, hard argument. Before he left the job, the Army had under procurement the twin-engine turboprop Grumman Mohawk (about 12,000 pounds empty weight) and the twin-engine light cargo Caribou (about 17,000 pounds empty weight). Both aircraft eventually saw valuable service in Vietnam. But the crowning achievement was the beginnings of the procurement of the UH-1 Huey (first flight October 1956) and its impact on the future of Army Aviation.
In 1957, Howze was promoted to Major General and reassigned as the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (1957-1959). He next became the Chief of the Army’s Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) (1959-1961). He was then promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned as the Commanding General of the XVIII Airborne Corps (1961-1962) and briefly as acting Commanding General, Third Army (1962-1963). In the spring of 1963, Howze was promoted to General (four stars). His last assignment was as Commanding General, Eighth Army and Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces Korea, a four-star United Nations command position involving both U.S. and Republic of Korea troops (1963-1965). General Howze retired from active duty in 1965 to Fort Worth, Texas.
Airmobile – The Howze Board
On April 19, 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara wrote Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Starr two memoranda on the subject of Army Aviation. The first directed the Army to take a “bold new look” at land warfare mobility, conducting the examination “in an atmosphere divorced from traditional viewpoints and past policies.” The second outlined six areas for examination and directed the Army to “seriously consider fresh, new concepts, and give unorthodox ideas a hearing.”
The Army had five months to complete this task and immediately convened the United States Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, now commonly known as the Howze Board. Lieutenant General Howze, now the commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was appointed its president and John Norton its secretary. An ambitious Howze and Norton used one month to assemble personnel and equipment, two months for testing, and the remaining time for analysis and report preparation.
The final report, considering the limitations of time and resources, was a small masterpiece. It offered far-reaching recommendations. In fact, the scope of these recommendations was so extensive that the Department of the Army, with Secretary McNamara’s support, decided to conduct additional testing. The Army elected to test two of the organizations recommended in the Howze Board’s report: the airmobile division and the air transport brigade. In February 1963 at Fort Benning, Georgia, the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and attached 10th Air Transport Brigade were activated. Major General Harry W. O. Kinnard would lead these units. Under his command and leadership, these units would validate the air mobility concepts of the Howze Board and then later deploy to Vietnam as the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) would also be converted in the spring of 1968. As a result of Howze's leadership, foresight and perception, two air-mobile divisions had been established. The fundamentals of Howze Board’s air mobility doctrine have gone on to provide mobile and combined arms capabilities that are required in today's integrated ground combat conditions.
Howze remained active after leaving the Army and joined Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas as Vice-president for Product Planning. After five years, he requested his status to be that of “consultant” and he continued on overseas missions visiting Vietnam, Israel, and Iran. He died on December 8, 1998, and was buried next to his father at the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery, West Point, New York. Hamilton H. Howze is the real-life model for the W.E.B. Griffin character “Triple H. Howard” in the “Brotherhood of War” popular fiction series.
Awards & Recognition:
• 1957 Charter Member of the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA)
• 1962 AHS International Vertical Flight Society "Honorary Fellow"
• 1974 Army Aviation Association of America Hall of Fame inductee
• Military Medals Include: Army Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star; Legion of Merit; Bronze Star with Valor Device; Italian Military Valor Cross; South Korean Tong-il Medal (1st Class)
• The “Howze Gunnery Award” is presented by the AAAA and is sponsored by Rockwell International Corporation (in the memory of General Hamilton H. Howze), and is presented annually to the top AH-1 & AH-64 crew in the annual General Hamilton H. Howze Gunnery Competition.
- Hamilton H. Howze, A Cavalryman's Story: Memoirs of a Twentieth-Century American General (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1996)
- Fardink, Paul J., “The Howze Board – 50 Years Later,” Army Aviation Magazine, January 31, 2013.
- The Register of Graduates and Former Cadets of the United States Military Academy West Point, New York 2010 (West Point: Association of Graduates, USMA, 2010).
Written by Paul J. Fardink