On September 18, 1947 the US Air Force was officially established as its own entity. But the service has been there since the beginning of flight.
Just three and a half years after the Wright brothers ushered in the era of aviation with their flight at Kitty Hawk (Dec. 17, 1903), the Army established the Aeronautical Division of its Signal Corps. They didn’t even have any planes yet (they were mostly concerned with balloons and dirigibles), but they could see the momentous changes coming. By the end of 1908, the Army had already drawn up specifications for the first military airplane, and a year later received its first aircraft – delivered by the Wright brothers.
Within a decade the Army Air Service had grown to nearly 200,000 men, many of whom saw extensive service in World War One. Although the impact of air power was questionable during the war, they came home with an awakening awareness of the importance of controlling the skies over the battlefield.
The Army Air Corps (renamed in 1920) came to full maturity during World War II. From the daring, in-your-face bombing of mainland Japan by Doolittle’s Raiders, to the B17 bombing runs over Europe from 1943-1945, to the near complete domination of the skies in both theaters in the latter stages of the war, the Army Air Corps established itself as a vital component of the American arsenal. Its ranks had swelled to 80,000 aircraft and 2.4 million people (airforce.com).
In 1947 the U.S. Air Force was established as an official and separate branch of the U.S. military. But that was not the end of the Air Force story – only the beginning.
Since then, the Air Force has not only led the way in innovative technologies, it has embraced them. As the nation ventured into space, so did the Air Force. Space is the Air Force’s turf now.
Launch of the Air Force’s Wideband Global Satellite Communications system
Its stealth aircraft – once a top secret project – have become mainstreamed and have fought in all our modern wars. Armed unmanned aerial vehicles have become the delivery platforms of choice for many commanders in the field, and perform double duty as 24/7 eyes in the sky in remote parts of Iraq and Afghansitan.
The expertise of its 332,000 (Sec. of Air Force) active duty members also includes special operations, weather, information technologies, medicine…and beyond.
Who knows what eye watering new technologies await. But new capabilities mean nothing without the people to make them work. You can learn a lot about an organization by looking at its core values. The Air Force’s are integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. You can see those traits in the Airmen of today, and that’s one of the reasons there is no air force in the world that can compete with ours.
The skies belong to the U.S., because the Air Force ensures it. It is hard to fathom the dramatic changes that have occurred since Orville Wright muscled his heavier than air vehicle aloft for 3.5 seconds in 1903, just over a century ago. Today, the Air Force is second to none in controlling the skies, controlling space, and delivering weaponry with unmatched – and breathtaking – precision.
A hundred years or so. But what a hundred years it has been. Happy Birthday to the US Air Force.