Retired June 30, 1957. Died June 27, 1990.
Brigadier General Ivan Lonsdale Farman was one of a handful of early pioneers in the fields of aviation communications and meteorological science. A contemporary of such luminaries as General Henry H. Arnold, General Carl Spaatz and Major General Harold M. McClelland, General Farman was one of the few pilots in the Army Air Corps who knew communications and knew it well.
Born in Oakland, Calif., in 1902, Farman very early in his life exhibited an interest in radio, and at age 17 he was a licensed ham operator. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics and electronics from the California Institute of Technology in 1926. Upon graduation, Farman enlisted in the U.S. Army and entered flying school. He earned his wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve Oct. 12, 1929.
The following January, Farman received his regular commission and was assigned with the l1th Bombardment Squadron at Rockwell and March fields, Calif., where he served as squadron communications officer. Later he became squadron engineer and armament officer as well as communications officer. As squadron communications officer, he installed radio sets in pursuit aircraft for Captain (later Major General) Harold M. McClelland. This work earned him an assignment as communications officer for Major (later General) Carl Spaatz's 7th Composite Group. With Spaatz, Farman designed and assembled in Spaatz's tri-motored Fokker a flying radio station -- the earliest of all airborne command posts -- experimented with air-to-air radio communications. In 1932, Farman was assigned to work with CBS on a series of tests of new communications ideas and developments.
In February 1934, when the Army was assigned the task of flying the mail, he was appointed commanding officer of Air Mail Route 5, working under McClelland and Arnold. He recalled later that he often worked all night installing radio sets in aircraft, then flew the mail from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Pearson Field, Wash., the next day. The radios proved to be a major safety factor. Later, in the same year, he assisted Captain McClelland in installing and maintaining radio equipment in the B-10 bombers which participated in Arnold's historic July-August 1934 Alaskan flight. In June 1935, Farman went to Chanute Field, Ill., where he was appointed supply officer and supervisor of instruction in the Department of Communications at the Air Corps Technical School. He later served at the same field as communications and signal officer. He was promoted to first lieutenant (permanent) on June 22, 1935. He stayed at Chanute Field until 1938 when he entered the California Institute of Technology where he earned a master's degree in meteorology in 1939.
Between July 1939 and September 1941, he served as base weather officer at March Field and commanding officer of Regional Control Office for the First Weather Region at March and McClellan fields, Calif. From October 1941 through June 1942, he served as regional control officer at Headquarters Newfoundland Base Command. While there, he helped to develop and direct the first extensive weather cadet training program.
In Newfoundland, he assumed, first as an additional duty, responsibility for the communications detachment -- the very first overseas unit of the Army Airways Communications System. Before long he had built a Newfoundland network of four stations which tied into the Zone of the Interior system. Next came the "Crystals"--three weather-reporting stations in Eastern Canada and Baffinland. His network provided the airways communications which made possible the Lend Lease ferry routes to England. The success of "Bolero," therefore was due largely to his efforts. In June 1942, he transferred to Presque Isle Field, Maine, where he commanded the Eighth Airways Communications Squadron of AACS. By December 1942, he had four communications regions in operation: his original Newfoundland-Quebec-Maine network (8th AACS Region), the 15th AACS Region in Western Quebec, the 17th AACS Region in Greenland and Iceland, and the 24th AACS Region in the British Isles.
When the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942 revealed serious inadequacies with the South Atlantic supply route, Farman was appointed chairman of a board empowered to correct all deficiencies noted as they toured the various airway stations involved. On May 1, 1943, upon the establishment of the first headquarters of AACS as an organization entity, Farman was appointed as assistant chief of staff, Plans and Operations, (A-3). AACS was then a wing with its headquarters at Asheville, N.C., and reported first to the Flight Control Command and later to Headquarters Army Air Forces.
As a result of his brilliant achievements in safely guiding aircraft to Europe and establishing the pattern for creation of similar networks around the world, Colonel Farman was named commander of the Army Airways Communications System Wing in November 1943. Under his leadership AACS achieved full command status, grew from 15,000 to nearly 50,000 military members, and become a fully integrated airways communications "system" with overall management functions centralized at HQ AACS. This revolutionary arrangement -- much opposed initially -- proved eminently successful in providing uniformity, flexibility and efficiency; and insured a timely response to changing requirements of all Air Force commands involved in the war.
His methods fostered effective coordination with research and development agencies and permitted standardization of equipment, personnel training and operations. Farman constructed a worldwide system that enabled American as well as allied aircraft to fly anywhere in the world. He was the father of the "area" organizational concept which endured in the command until 1981. In addition, he introduced the first cryptographic techniques for these airways to keep information transmitted on the airways from falling into enemy hands.
Barely 5 feet 5 inches and weighing less than 130 pounds, he made up in mental and physical energy what he lacked in physical stature. His people admiringly called him "Ivan the Terrible." He was promoted to brigadier general April 2, 1945.
In December 1945, AACS was given jurisdiction of Langley Field, Va., and both Headquarters AACS and the 1st AACS Wing were relocated there. In April 1946, General Farman transferred to the Headquarters Air Transport Command when AACS lost its command status and became a service under the Air Transport Command. In June 1946, Farman transferred to Tokyo, Japan, as commanding general of the Western Pacific Wing, Pacific Division, Air Transport Command. He retained that position when the Air Transport Command consolidated with the Naval Air Transport Services to form the Military Air Transport Service in 1948. In June 1948 he become commander of MATS' 540th Air Transport Wing and Western Pacific Wing in Japan. In August 1948, Farman became commander of MATS' 1503d Air Transport Wing (Tokyo, Guam, Okinawa, Manila and Shanghai).
From April 1949 to November 1952, he was deputy director of communications, Deputy Chief of Staff/Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. From that assignment, he transferred to France, as assistant chief of staff, Communications, Allied Air Forces in Central Europe.
Returning to the United States in December 1955, he became assistant deputy commander for weapon systems, Headquarters Air Research and Development Command, Baltimore, Md.