|Arlington, VA||March 27, 2017|
Henry H. “Hap” Arnold is in rarefied company, in that he is one of only five people ever to achieve the rank of five-star general in the United States Army. The Pennsylvania native is also a member of two other exclusive groups: he is the only five-star general in the history of the U.S. Air Force, and the only person to reach five-star ranks in multiple branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Yet Arnold’s gravestone is no different than the other military markers that decorate section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Arnold earned the nickname “Hap” when he was enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1907. After being stationed in the Philippines and Governors Island, New York, Arnold was assigned to the Signal Corps in April 1911. Meanwhile, the Army had used congressional appropriations to purchase three aircraft from aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Early that May, Arnold was one of two Signal Corps lieutenants sent to Dayton, Ohio, to be instructed personally by the Wright Brothers. The siblings educated Arnold and Lieutenant Thomas DeWitt Milling on the assembly and maintenance of Wright airplanes before they took to the skies. Arnold completed his training in 29 flights, which totaled three hours and 48 minutes over a span of eleven days. In June, Arnold and Milling became the inaugural flight instructors at the Signal Corps Aviation School in College Park, Maryland. Like Arnold, Milling rose to the rank of general and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Beneath a carved cross symbolizing his Christian faith, Arnold’s epitaph includes his name, his Pennsylvania residency, his status as general of the Air Force, and his birth and death dates. Below that are inscribed acronyms for some of the awards he received: DSM & 2-OLC (Distinguished Service Medal and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters); LM (Legion of Merit); DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross); AM (Air Medal).
Born: June 25, 1886 in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
Spouse: Eleanor Beatrice Pool Arnold (m. 1913-1950)
Military Rank: General of the Army — U.S. Army; General of the Air Force — U.S. Air Force
Died: January 15, 1950 in Sonoma, California
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
"You, and more than nine hundred of your sisters, have shown that you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. If ever there was a doubt in anyone's mind that women can become skillful pilots, the WASP have dispelled that doubt."
- Hap Arnold
December 7, 1944, in an address to the last graduating class of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Arnold, Henry H. Address by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General Army Air Forces to Last W. A. S. P. Graduate Class, 7 December 1944.
United States Air Force. “General Henry H. Arnold.” Accessed March 10, 2023. https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/107811/henry-h-arnold/.
Warnock, A. Timothy. “From Infant Technology to Obsolescence: The Wright Brothers’ Airplane in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1905-1915.” Air Power History 49, no. 4 (2002): 46-57. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26274370.