In 1947, President Truman declared August 1st to be Air Force Day. This declaration came at a critical point in the history of the U.S. Air Force, as U.S. air power had been critical to the Allies’ victory in World War II. However, the Air Force was not yet an independent branch of the armed services. It was still technically part of the U.S. Army.
President Truman’s support of the Air Force would lead it to becoming an independent branch of the military on September 18, 1947.
Origin of the U.S. Air Force
The Wright Brothers created a spectacle with the first manned flight in human history on the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. Almost immediately, those in the military recognized the possible advantages in combat. However, many remained skeptical that airplanes would ever be more than a novelty.
In August of 1907, the War Department created the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps of the U.S. Army. However, the Army would not buy its first airplane until 1909. Originally, even those that supported using aircraft in the military envisioned them as war machines like tanks and did not recognize the sky as a new space for war.
Evolution of the Air Force
Over time, as technology and aeronautic techniques improved, air support became an important part of military strategy. During World War I, the U.S. deployed aircraft into combat for the first time. Between World War I and World War II, the aeronautical component of the Army had become critical to its combat strategy. However, throughout World War II, the Air Force remained part of the U.S. Army, even as it became increasingly independent.
Mission of Today’s U.S. Air Force
While each branch of the military still maintains its own combat and air support aircraft, the U.S. Air Force is charged with maintaining U.S. air and space superiority all over the world. The Air Force has been critical to U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Air Force has continued to pioneer new technologies and tactics to help keep the Unites States and the world safe.
In addition to its combat roles, the Air Force has a proud tradition of taking part in humanitarian operations. These efforts were critical to the U.S. during the Berlin Airlift from 1948-1949. The Air Force continues to be called in regularly to help deliver supplies, equipment, and aid to people in remote regions of the world. Since January 2010, the Air Force has provided continuous support to Operation Unified Response, delivering aid to earthquake victims throughout Haiti.
Whatever the future holds, Americans can rest assured that the U.S. Air Force will be ready to help protect our interests at home and abroad.
Here is a timeline of the evolution of an independent Air Force:
- August 1, 1907-July 18, 1914 Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps
- July 18, 1914-May 20, 1918 Aviation Section, Signal Corps
- May 20, 1918-May 24, 1918 Division of Military Aeronautics
- May 24, 1918-July 2, 1926 U.S. Army Air Service
- July 2, 1926-June 20, 1941 U.S. Army Air Corps
- June 20, 1941-September 18, 1947 U.S. Army Air Forces
- September 18, 1947-Present U.S. Air Force