Who's in Charge? (Praeger versus the Army)

As World War I came to a close in November 1918, army officials began to look at airmail service as a way to keep their pilots' skills honed in practice. Working with senators friendly to their cause, the U.S. Army came close to snatching the service away from the Post Office Department. Burleson and Praeger fought hard to keep airmail and were victorious in the end.

After the war ended, the U.S. Army needed a way to train their pilots. Airmail service seemed to be a perfect fit. After all, pilots had flown the mail in 1918 when the service began. Why not let the army pilots take over again now that they and their aircraft were no longer needed for combat?

Army plans met with hostility from Praeger and Burleson, who wanted to keep the service under their control. Discussions between the two groups covered a series of proposals offering degrees of joint control, but no agreement could be reached.

The debate made its way into Congress where, on December 7, 1919, Fiorello H. La Guardia (R-NY), a strong Army Air Service supporter, fought to reduce the postal airmail budget and transfer the service to the army. La Guardia was supported by several other Congressmen, including Joseph G. Cannon (D-IL) of Chicago, no friend of the postal service. Just a few years earlier, Cannon had lost a fight with the Post Office Department over the creation of parcel post service.

Fortunately for Burleson and Praeger, the U.S. Senate was friendlier territory. Their version of the bill provided postal control of the service and won out in the end.

Fad to Fundamental: Airmail in America