Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

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On May 1, 1938, I was promoted to Brigadier General. I was ordered to proceed to Washington to prepare plans for a combined Air Corps -- Antiaircraft Artillery Exercise, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to be held in October, and to be preceded by a month's AA firings, to be held in September, in both of which I was to be in command. For those Exercises practically all the Air Corps' Bombers and Fighters were to be made available and all the AA Artillery units of the Regular Army east of the Rocky Mountains were to participate. The Joint Exercise consisted of a ten day period throughout which the Air Corps was free to attack Fort Bragg at any time, over a sector consisting of 39 of the eastern counties of North Carolina extending from the coast line and converging at Fort Bragg (about 250 miles wide at the coast and 150 miles deep).

The War Department directive prescribed that I was to establish a Warning Net, utilizing as observers Reserve officers to be called to active duty for this purpose.

After a busy month, in which, after frequent consultations with the offices of the Chief of Coast Artillery and the Chief of the Air Corps, a staff was selected, a program for the firings was prepared (including provision for a large Record Section to analyze and prepare reports on practically daily firings), agreement was arrived at with the Air Corps as to the strength of Fighter planes to be assigned to my command, and as to other matters designed to make the Exercise as realistic as possible.

I was then ordered to Atlanta, where I arrived June 6, 1938, to command the South Atlantic Coast Artillery District, this being really little more than a paper assignment to permit me to participate in the Exercises at Fort Bragg.

After several weeks, spent partly in conferences with the Corps Area staff as to the details of ordering Reserve officers to active duty, accompanied by Lieut. Milan Weber, whom I had selected as Aide (and who continued as my Aide until 1943) I went to Fort Bragg and began to make active preparations for the Exercises. It soon became evident that, due to the marshy and sparsely settled nature of eastern North Carolina, it would be entirely impracticable to secure sufficient Reserve officers to constitute a Warning Net.

In all previous Joint Air Corps - AA Artillery Exercises there had been little more than a few Field telephones, manned by enlisted men, to constitute a Warning Net.

After a careful study of the matter I decided that any really effective Warning Net that could be established must necessarily cover a large area and be manned by civilian observers. I decided to divide the sectors into squares, six miles on a side, with a commercial telephone near the center of each square, and found that some 300 observation posts, manned by about 1800 volunteer civilians as observers, would be required.

In order to make such an extensive plan effective it would be necessary to develop state wide interest and support for the undertaking. This involved visiting the Governor, the Adjutant General, and other officials, getting them to issue Proclamations setting forth the purpose of the Exercise and urging full cooperation by all the people of the state. We got the American Legion (which was well organized and popular in the state) to sponsor the Exercises and I visited practically every city and town of importance in the area and made talks to the assembled civic clubs.

The area was divided into six subareas (corresponding to the territorial organization of the American Legion) and the local Legion Commander was put in charge of securing the necessary civilian volunteer observers.

In a conference of several hours duration with the President of the Carolina Telephone Company and his Directors, it developed that there were 15 independent telephone companies in the area of the Exercise. He agreed to undertake the task of coordinating their efforts, training the operators, and making such additional telephone installations as might be required in order to enable any observer to report to Fort Bragg in 30 seconds. The only compensation would be the normal commercial charges for the messages sent. He carried this program out in every respect, and was largely responsible for the success of the Exercise. (I learned afterwards that his company had spent some $6000 more than it received, but he never mentioned the matter to me.)

The observers, using a very simple form of message, stated only the number of planes (many or few) observed, whether flying low or high, and the time observed. This information was found to be sufficient to enable the Fighter Commander to plot the course of the attacking planes and to determine in general the type of planes involved.

At this time the Air Corps was primarily interested in Bombers and considered the Fighters to be almost obsolete. Major Kepner (a former Balloon man) was assigned to command the Fighters, and we agreed that we would do everything possible to enable the Fighters to demonstrate their usefulness.

To our great satisfaction the Exercises were a great success. Throughout the ten day period the Bombers attacked frequently, by day and by night, under all sorts of weather conditions, and in every case the attacking planes were tracked by the observers and were intercepted by the Fighters. This made quite an impression on the considerable number of high ranking officers who were present. These included General Andrews, the Chief of the Air Corps, who stated to me that, as the result of the Exercise, the Air Corps would have to modify materially its previous ideas as to the relative ineffectiveness of both Fighters and terrestrial observers manning a Warning Net.

I had planned to blackout the Fort Bragg area on the last night of the Exercise. Word of this was passed around, and the interest was so great that on the night in question some 66 cities and towns, covering over 20000 square miles, and with a population of about 750000 people, volunteered and, at their own request, joined in to establish, I believe, the first large blackout ever used in the United States.

While at Fort Bragg I received orders to proceed to Hawaii for duty as Commanding General, Hawaiian Separate Coast Artillery Brigade. I was able to take a short leave, which I spent in Summerville.

The day before I arrived there Mrs. Haight had an obstruction in the lower bowel. Three surgeons from Charleston were called in consultation by Dr. Louis Miles, and they decided that an operation was necessary. They found that a thrombosis in a large blood vessel had occurred, which had caused a gangrenous condition to develop in the intestine.

She died on the day after the operation, on November 8, 1938. The body was cremated and later buried in the Haight lot in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, Mass.

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