So, apparently the original general class was not good enough? Just after WW2 there were only three classes, extra was not one of them.
Technically, General wasn't one of them then either. During this era (from 1934 until 1951), the three classes were A, B, and C. Class A had all privileges; B and C had all privileges except 75 meter and 20 meter phone. Class A and B were based on tests in front of the FCC; Class C was "by mail."
These three classes became Advanced, General and Conditional in 1951.
Privileges were taken from the general and bestowed to only extras later. What was the problem with the original three classes, that is had to changed?
You've made a jump here from the rules of the "WW2 era" up to incentive licensing in 1967, when "the original three classes" were actually changed in 1951.
The 1951 decision did two things: it renamed A/B/C as Advanced/General/Conditional, and added three new license classes. Novice and Tech licenses were added (below Generals) and Extra above. Novice was added to provide a "lower barrier to entry" class, and Tech was added as a VHF-and-up experimenter-only license. It's not really clear to me the purpose of the Extra in 1951, as it had the same privileges as the Advanced, although the plan at the time was that the Advanced was going to be phased out.
In a surprise move in 1953, the FCC "gave" full privileges (specifically 75m and 20m phone) to Generals and Conditionals, and didn't require them to upgrade to Advanced or Extra. (I haven't checked, and I wasn't around then, but I would guess that there were some former Class A licensees who griped about "I had to take the Class A test to get my privileges, and now the FCC is just giving them away!") But those were the rules for about 14 years, until Incentive Licensing was instituted in 1967. I realize that many hams who were first licensed during these 14 years were understandably upset with the 1967 rules, but my personal opinion is that incentive licensing in 1967 was "correcting the mistake" that FCC made in that 1953 decision by "giving away" privileges without requiring an upgrade.
Yep. A few minor points:
1) Back then (1930s-early 1950s), we didn't have 60, 30, 17, 15 or 12 meter amateur bands. (We got 15 in the early 1950s and 30, 17 and 12 after 1979.
2) Back then, 40 was all CW. So General/Class B and Conditional/Class C did not have any 'phone privileges between 2.5 and 25 MHz.
3) The 1951 restructuring that gave us the Extra also gave us the Technician and Novice.
4) The 1951 Extra was intended to replace the Advanced as the full-privileges license - because two small amateur groups had petitioned FCC, saying that the Advanced/Class A was too easy!
5) The ARRL was against
the creation of the Extra, saying that if the Advanced/Class A was inadequate, all it needed was a revision of its test.
6) I have never been able to find any documentation as to why, at the very last moment, FCC reversed itself and granted all privileges to Generals and Conditionals. (The announcement was made in mid-December, 1952, effective mid-February, 1953. The Advanced was closed to new issues at the end of 1952).
7) There were indeed amateurs back then who were very unhappy about the "Great Giveaway".
The General/Class B and Conditional/Class C had the same tests and privileges - the only difference was that Conditional/Class C was "by mail". Before 1954, you had to live more than 125 miles from an FCC exam point to get a "by mail" license, and if you moved out of "Conditional territory", you had 90 days to retest. In 1954 the FCC changed the rules, so that the "Conditional distance" was reduced to 75 miles and the retest rule went away.
What all this meant was that from 1954 until 1968, a US ham could have full privileges with a "by mail" license - and a considerable percentage did. However, the Advanced and Extra were not available by-mail, regardless of distance.
9) The changes known as "incentive licensing" went into effect in three phases. Phase One, in 1967, reopened the Advanced to new issues and extended the Novice license to 2 years. Phase Two, on November 22, 1968, made certain parts of certain bands "Extra only" or "Advanced and Extra only". Phase Three, on November 22, 1969, enlarged some of the subbands requiring a higher-than-General-or-Conditional license.
10) For about 15-1/2 years, the USA had four classes of licenses that all got full privileges (General, Conditional, Advanced and Extra). Due to the rapid growth of US amateur radio in those years, a considerable number of amateurs thought it had always been that way, and that it should always stay that way. But in fact it was only a small slice of time when it was so.
73 de Jim, N2EY