Subjects of Interest

The First Heavier-than-Air Flight, 1903
First Fatality in a Powered Aircraft
First Air Arm Flying School
Signal Corps No. 1: Purchasing and Supporting the Army's First Airplane
World War I, 1914-1918
Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell
The U.S. Army Air Corps Act, 1926
The General Headquarters Air Force, 1935
World War II, 1939-1945
Air Technical Intelligence
Army Air Forces Aircraft in World War II
Tuskegee Airmen
Army Air Forces World War II Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Why is a Colonel called "Kernal"?
Doolittle's Raid
Memphis Belle
Evolution of the Department of the Air Force
Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)
Women Air force Service Pilots (WASP)
Tidalwave, the August 1943 Raid on Ploesti
Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden
General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold: Air Power Lessons Learned from World War II
National Security Act of 1947
United States Air Force Seal
Breaking the Sound Barrier
The Beginnings of Inflight Refueling
Lucky Lady I
Lucky Lady II
Lucky Lady III
B-26 Bomber, Martin or Douglas?
Integrating the Air Force
The Berlin Airlift
The Korean War
The Emergence of the Strategic Air Command
The Vietnam War
Operation Ranch Hand
Operation Rolling Thunder
Operation Arc Light
Operation Linebacker I
Operation Linebacker II
Operation Desert ShieldDesert Storm
Operation Deny Flight
Operation Sharp Guard
Operation Deliberate Force
NATO Operation Sky Monitor

United States Air Force Chronology
The Lineage of the United States Air Force
Secretaries of the Air Force
Air Force Chiefs of Staff
Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force
Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients
United States Air Force Academy
Aircraft of the U.S. Air Force
50th Anniversary of the Final Approval of the Blue Air Force Uniform
Military Aviation Poetry
The Story of the Atomic Bomb

 The First Heavier-than-Air Flight, 1903

Air power as we know it today developed from the epic, controlled-power flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright which occurred at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on 17 December 1903. The first flight over the sand dunes by Orville lasted twelve seconds and covered a distance of 120 feet. In the fourth and last flight of the day, in raw and windy weather, Wilbur flew 852 feet in 59 seconds. The Wright brothers always believed that the airplane would be a great contribution to international communications, commerce, and good will. They delivered their first airplane to the U.S. War Department in 1909.
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First Fatality in a Powered Aircraft

On 17 September 1908 a modified Wright Brothers aircraft crashed during a demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia, seriously injuring pilot Orville Wright and killing the observer, U.S. Army Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge. Selfridge's death was a severe blow, for through his experiments with Alexander Graham Bell he had gained great technical knowledge and knew far more about airplanes than anyone else in the Army. On 6 December 1907, Selfridge had been the first Army officer to solo in a powered aircraft, the White Wing, developed by Aerial Experiment Association, of which Bell was the president. Because of the accident at Fort Myer, the War Department postponed the delivery of the Wright Brothers machine until the following summer.
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First Air Arm Flying School

After their plane passed the final flight performance tests, conducted from 27 through 30 July 1909, the Wrights as part of their contract with the government had to train two Army officers as pilots. The officers selected to receive flight training were Lieutenants Frank P. Lahm and Fredric E. Humphreys. Instruction began on 8 October 1909, at College Park, Maryland. Lahm received the first lesson, but Humphreys made the first solo flight on 26 October, a few minutes before Lahm made his. Humphreys received 3 hours, 4 minutes, and 7 seconds of instruction before he soloed, and Lahm had 3 hours, 7 minutes, and 38 seconds of training before making his solo flight. On 25 October, Wilbur Wright showed his pupils how to cut off the motor and glide safely to earth without power, a skill essential in the days of unpredictable engine performance.
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Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell

After the war, Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell was appointed to the position of Third Assistant Executive and Chief, Training and Operations, Army Air Service. Convinced that the airplane would change the national military structure by requiring establishment of an Air Force independent of Army or Navy command, from 1919 to 1921, he insisted that air power was the key to winning wars; strategic air operations had eliminated the need for mass armies and battleships vulnerable to air attack. As the intensity of Mitchells claims increased, the national press picked up the story. Public opinion forced the Navy to allow Mitchell to conduct bombing tests in 1921 against three captured German vessels. One of these vessels was the battleship Ostfriesland, claimed to be unsinkable. Using Martin MB-2 aircraft carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Mitchells men sank all three ships. In September 1923, additional tests were conducted off Cape Hatteras, and Air Service bombers sunk two obsolete U.S. battleships, the Virginia and the New Jersey. Although the tests drew considerable public interest, they failed to gain support for autonomy or significant funding for the Air Service.

From 1921 through 1924 Mitchell argued that air power was more important than the ground maneuvers of the Army or sea operations of the Navy. Mitchell continued his agitation for a separate or at least an independent air force, and he expanded his attacks on the Army General Staff, the War Department, and the Navy. When he persisted in his criticism into the Spring of 1925, his superiors took action. Mitchells appointment to the office of Assistant Chief, Air Service, with the grade of brigadier general, was denied. In October, Colonel Billy Mitchell was court-martialed; the trial lasted into December. There was little doubt what the outcome would be; therefore, instead of making any real effort at a defense, Mitchell used the trial as a forum to present his ideas on the proper role and organization of an aeronautics branch. He achieved the attention and publicity he desired, but the cost was high. Mitchell was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to military discipline and of a nature to bring discredit to the military service. He was sentenced to a five-year suspension from active duty at half pay, but chose instead to retire from active service.
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The U.S. Army Air Corps Act, 1926

The Lassiter Board, a group of General Staff officers, recommended to the Secretary of War in 1923 that a force of bombardment and pursuit units be created to carry out independent missions under the command of an Army general headquarters in time of war. The Lampert Committee of the House of Representatives went far beyond this modest proposal in its report to the House in December 1925. After eleven months of extensive hearings, the committee proposed a unified air force independent of the Army and Navy, plus a department of defense to coordinate the three armed services.

Another board, headed by Dwight D. Morrow, had already reached an opposite conclusion in only two and one-half months. Appointed in September 1925 by President Coolidge to study the "best means of developing and applying aircraft in national defense," the Morrow Board issued its report two weeks before the Lampert Committee's. It rejected the idea of a department of defense and a separate department of air, but it recommended that the air arm be renamed the Air Corps to allow it more prestige, that it be given special representation on the General Staff, and that an Assistant Secretary of War for air affairs be appointed.

Congress accepted the Morrow Board proposal, and the Air Corps Act was enacted on 2 July 1926. The legislation changed the name of the Air Service to the Air Corps, "thereby strengthening the conception of military aviation as an offensive, striking arm rather than an auxiliary service." The act created an additional Assistant Secretary of War to help foster military aeronautics, and it established an air section in each division of the General Staff for a period of three years. Other provisions required that all flying units be commanded by rated personnel and that flight pay be continued. Two additional brigadier generals would serve as assistant chiefs of the Air Corps. The position of the air arm within the Department of War remained essentially the same as before, and once more the hopes of air force officers had to be deferred. Even the new position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air, held by F. Trubee Davison from 1926 to 1932, did not help very much.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the act for the Air Corps was the authorization to carry out a five-year expansion program. However, the lack of funding caused the beginning of the five-year expansion program to be delayed until 1 July 1927. The goal eventually adopted was 1,800 airplanes with 1,650 officers and 15,000 enlisted men, to be reached in regular increments over a five-year period. But even this modest increase never came about as planned because adequate funds were never appropriated in the budget.
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The General Headquarters Air Force, 1935

The emergence of the heavy bomber in 1935 coincided with the advent of the General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force. The circumstances leading up to the two events were closely related and actually influenced each other. The idea of an "air force," separate from the support aviation assigned to the Army units, had been urged by Major General Mason Patrick and his successor, Major General James Fechet, Chief of the Air Corps from 1927 to 1931. But the Army General Staff had not been able to see what mission the air arm could have apart from army support. Nor did it agree that aviation should be concentrated under a single air command for use in the field. However, the growing importance of coastal defense provided the Air Corps with a mission that could be performed independently of the ground armies, thus helping pave the way for the GHQ Air Force.

In October 1933, a War Department board headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Hugh A. Drum, reviewed the Air Corps proposal and endorsed the idea of a GHQ Air Force, although it did not accept the emphasis placed on air power by the Air Corps. The Air Corps had recommended a GHQ Air Force comprised of bombardment, attack, and pursuit planes under its control to provide coastal defense. The Drum Board suggested that the force be used for tactical and strategic operations, including attacks on major installations in enemy territory.

The War Department appointed former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker to head a board to study operations of the Air Corps and what its proper relation to civil aviation should be. In July 1934 the board released its findings. It rejected the proposal for an independent air force and a unified defense department. It denied the claims made by Air Corps officers and their adherents and clearly expressed its attitude: "Independent air missions have little effect upon the issue of battle and none upon the final outcome of war." The Baker Board did recommend creation of a GHQ Air Force made up of air combat units capable of operating either independently or in cooperation with ground forces.

On the last day of 1934, the War Department ordered the creation of the GHQ Air Force as of 31 March 1935. The new command went to Brigadier General Frank M. Andrews, a member of the General Staff and one of the ablest officers in the Air Corps. From his headquarters at Langley Field, Virginia, Andrews concentrated tactical units under three wings, at Langley, Barksdale (La.), and March (Calif.) Fields.
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Army Air Forces World War II Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

The shoulder sleeve insignia worn by all personnel of the Army Air Forces (AAF) wherever stationed was approved on 23 February 1942. Later (2 March 1943) shoulder sleeve insignia were authorized for each overseas air force, and the winged star was limited to those AAF personnel not in overseas commands. On 25 June 1943, personnel in all air forces, including those in the United States, were authorized distinctive insignia, and only Headquarters AAF and a few other independent commands continued to wear the winged star. It is sometimes known as the Hap Arnold emblem, named for, General Henry H. Arnold who commanded the AAF in World War II. The insignia was described in regulations as follows: On an ultramarine disk (2-5/8" dia.) is imposed in the lower segment a White Star (1-1/8" point to point) with a red disk superimposed and covering the the entire center of the Star. Surmounting the Star are two stylized wings extending upward and outward at a 45 degree-angle.

The ultramarine disk represents the medium in which the Air Forces operated, and the white star with red disk was the identifying symbol of U.S. Army and Navy airplanes since 1921. (The red disk was removed from aircraft markings in 1942 to prevent confusion with Japanese insignia.) The golden wings symbolize victorious operation.

Although the patch is no longer worn on Air Force uniforms, the design appears on U.S. Air Force uniform buttons. The patch was designed by Mr. James T. Rawls, an artist and a member of General Arnold's staff. He made many designs, most incorporating pilot wings, but Arnold rejected them all. Rawls, dejected by his lack of success was shown a picture of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill giving his well-known "V for Victory" sign. Rawls made a quick sketch bending the wings up, and Arnold said, "That's just what I wanted." Arnold, incidentally, is said to have designed the first Air Force pilot wings in 1917 when he was a major.
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Memphis Belle

The Memphis Belle, a B-17F (serial number 41-24485) assigned to the 324th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group, in England in 1942, and piloted by Captain Robert Morgan, was the first aircraft in the VIII Bomber Command to complete a twenty-five-mission tour. Its last mission was flown on 20 May 1943 to Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where submarine and harbor facilities were bombed.

The aircraft and its crew left England for the United States on 9 June to make a war bond tour. While in theater an Army Air Force film crew was aboard the Memphis Belle and other aircraft of its group for several of their missions. A documentary movie was released to the public in 1944, and a dramatization of the original film was produced in 1990.

Memphis Belle's Twenty-five Missions

Mission
Location
Mission Lenght
Date
Target

1

Brest, France

3 hrs.

11/07/1942

U-Boat Pens

2

St. Nazaire, France

4 hrs.

11/09/1942

U-Boat Pens

3

St. Nazaire, France

4 hrs.

11/17/1942

U-Boat Pens

4

Lille, France

3 hrs.

12/06/1942

Marshalling Yards

5

Rommily-Sur-Seine, France

10 hrs.

12/20/1942

German Aircraft Depot

6

St. Nazaire, France

4 hrs.

01/03/1943

U-Boat Pens

7

Lille, France

3 hrs.

01/13/1943

Marshalling Yards

8

Lorient, France

4 hrs.

01/23/1943

U-Boat Pens

9

Emden, Germany

6 hrs.

02/04/1943

Production plant (Ford Factory)

10

Hamm, Germany

8 hrs.

02/14/1943

Marshalling Yards

11

St. Nazaire, France

4 hrs.

02/16/1943

U-Boat Pens

12

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

6 hrs.

02/26/1943

Sea port

13

Brest, France

3 hrs.

02/29/1943

U-Boat Pens

14

Lorient, France

4 hrs.

03/06/1943

U-Boat Pens

15

Roven, France

3 hrs.

03/12/1943

Marshalling Yards

16

Abbeville, France

3 hrs.

03/13/1943

German Fighters

17

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

7 hrs.

03/22/1943

Sea port

18

Roven, France

3 hrs.

03/28/1943

Marshalling Yards

19

Antwerp, Belgium

4 hrs.

04/05/1943

Warplants

20

Lorient, France

4 hrs.

04/16/1943

U-Boat Pens

21

Bremen, Germany

8 hrs.

04/17/1943

F-W Plant

22

St. Nazaire, France

4 hrs.

05/01/1943

U-Boat Pens

23

Antwerp, Belgium

4 hrs.

05/04/1943

War Plants

24

Lorient, France

4 hrs.

05/15/1943

U-Boat Pens

25

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

6 hrs.

05/17/1943

Sea port

An unofficial site on the Memphis Belle with references and links to other sites.
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Women's Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC)

In September 1942 during World War II the Army Air Forces (AAF) was assigned its first women, members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), for work in the Aircraft and Warning Service which operated listening posts when enemy attacks on the United States were expected. The initial 6,000 women were so successful in this endeavor that the AAF asked for a half million, but the command prejudice was significant against female soldiers.

In the summer of 1943, its auxiliary status was dropped, and the WAAC became the Women's Army Corps, or WAC, placing the organization in the Army. When the AAF was permitted to do its own recruiting, the women were known informally as Air WACs. The peak Air WAC strength of over 32,000 was in 1945 when more than 200 specialties were filled by enlisted women, and officers occupied 60 specialties.

About 1,100 black women served in segregated units, and more than 7,000 Air WACs served overseas in every theater of operations. Following the war, most Air WACs were discharged, and no WACs were transferred to the Air Force when it became a separate service in 1947. About 2,000 enlisted personnel and 177 officers continued to work in Air Force units although they remained in the Army.

In June 1948, Congress established the Women in the Air Force (WAF) but limited the corps to 300 officers and 4,000 enlisted women. In June 1976, women were accepted into the service on much the same conditions as were men, and the separate status of the WAF was abolished.
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Womens Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

After several times rejecting proposals to use qualified women pilots for flying duties, Army Air Forces Commanding General Henry H. Arnold agreed to the formation of two groups designed to assist in meeting the need for pilots to ferry aircraft. The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women's Flying Training Detachment were both activated in September 1942. Both were to use women employed as civilians in military tasks. The first organization was designed to use already qualified women aviators to ferry aircraft for the Air Corps Ferrying Command (later the Air Transport Service), and the second was to include an intensive training program to qualify women to replace men in a number of flying duties. On 5 August 1943 the WAFS and the pilot trainees were merged into one organization, Womens Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), headed by Jacqueline Cochran.

Training of women pilots preceded the merger, and by November 1942 trainees, who earlier were required to have a private pilot license and 200 hours of flight time, were accepted without prior flying experience. Most training, essentially corresponding to that given male aviation cadets, was conducted at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas. The WASP pilot training program had 1,074 graduates who ferried aircraft, including bombers and fighters; towed targets for gunnery; and served as instrument instructors in the Eastern Flying Training Command. WASP director Cochran and General Arnold hoped to militarize and commission the WASP pilots, but by late 1944 the improving military situation and lower than expected attrition rates among male pilots reduced the need for female pilots, and the WASP organization was terminated on 20 December 1944 with the last graduating class at Sweetwater.

WASP members remained civil service employees who did not receive the pay and benefits given to male pilots sharing the same risks. In recognition of this fact, on 23 November 1977, President Carter signed legislation providing procedures for former WASPs to be granted veteran status, although with limited benefits. Coincidentally, this was in the same year that the Air Force graduated its first female pilots. It was not until 1979 that the first WASPs were given discharge certificates; and it was 1984 before they were awarded World War II Victory Medals and those who had one year's service, American Theater Campaign Medals.
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General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold: Air Power Lessons Learned in World War II

In 1945, just before his retirement as Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold outlined the air power lessons learned from World War II. "Air power," he stated, "includes a nations ability to deliver cargo, people, destructive missiles, and warmaking potential through the air to a desired destination to accomplish a desired purpose. Air power is not composed alone of the war-making components of aviation. It is the total aviation activitycivilian and military, commercial and private, potential as well as existing." General Arnold emphasized five air power lessons:

(1) unitary nature of air power;
(2) need of control of the air or air superiority;
(3) transcendent importance of a combat-ready air strike force in a national team of air, ground, and naval forces;
(4) inherent superiority of offense over defense; and
(5) ability of an air attack to deplete specific industrial and economic resources and make continued resistance by an enemy impossible.

During World War II, General Arnold, known as the architect of U.S. air power, had worked out plans for the new Air Force. He prepared these plans with encouragement from Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who believed the Army Air Forces had, by their performance during the war, earned a place as a separate service. Working closely with General Arnold was General Carl A. Spaatz. General Spaatz was a modest man of great ability who shunned publicity. He succeeded General Arnold as Commanding General of the Army Air Forces in February 1946. When General Dwight D. Eisenhower succeeded General Marshall as Army Chief of Staff, he helped General Spaatz with plans for establishing an independent Air Force, just as General Marshall had assisted General Arnold.
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National Security Act of 1947

The National Security Act of 1947 became law on 26 July 1947. The lawmakers stated their intentions in a Declaration of Policy at the beginning of the act: To provide a comprehensive program for the future security of the United States; to provide three military departmentsthe Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; to provide for their coordination and unified direction under civilian control; and to provide for the effective strategic direction and operation of the armed forces under unified control. To coordinate national security matters, the act established the National Security Council (NSC), the Central Intelligence Agency under the NSC, and the National Security Resources Board.

The law created the civilian positions of Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force, to be filled by presidential appointment. The functions assigned to the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, were to be transferred to the Department of the Air Force. The act provided for the orderly transfer of these functions as well as the property, personnel, and records over a two-year period.

The United States Air Force was established within the Department of the Air Force. The Army Air Forces (and the Army Air Corps and the Air Force Combat Command) would be transferred to the Air Force, and the agencies themselves would cease to exist. Under the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff, was to exercise command over the new service.

General Carl A. Spaatz became the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force on 26 September 1947. When General Spaatz assumed his new position, the first Secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, was already on the job, having been sworn in on 18 September 1947. He had been Assistant Secretary of War for Air and had already worked closely with General Spaatz. The new Air Force was fortunate to have these two men as its first leaders. They regarded air power as an instrument of national policy and of great importance to national defense. Both men also knew how to promote air power and win public support for the Air Force.
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United States Air Force Seal

Prior to enactment of the National Security Act of 26 July 1947 which authorized the United States Air Force, Mr. Arthur E. DuBois of the Army Quartermaster General's office designed flags and seals for the three services. In September 1947 the proposed Air Force seal was exhibited in the office of the new Secretary of the Air Force, and later a panel of about thirty top-ranking Air Force officers reviewed it. The design had a green background and featured the Wright Brothers' airplane as the central point. The panel recommended that the background be blue and that a symbolic design replace the airplane. Mr. DuBois sketched Jupiter's thunderbolt, and it was adopted. The final drawing was approved by President Truman on 1 November 1947.

The predominant colors, gold and ultramarine blue, are the Air Force's colors as carried down from the Air Corps. The thirteen stars signify the original states, and the bald eagle is the symbol of the United States and of air striking power. The shield is divided by a nebula line formation, representing clouds, and the heraldic thunderbolt portrays striking power in the medium of air.

The seal is protected by law from use by any party for purposes not specifically authorized by the Air Force. Unauthorized uses include on souvenir or novelty items; on toys, clothes, or printed items; on commercial or private printed matter; and on any article that may discredit the seal or reflect unfavorably on the Department of the Air Force.
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Breaking the Sound Barrier

On 14 October 1947, Captain Charles E. Yeager in the Bell X-1 rocket-propelled experimental aircraft was the first man to exceed the speed of sound in level flight, crossing with little trouble an invisible threshold thought to be an impediment to aircraft development and to contemporary aircraft structures. Yeager was awarded a cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross; the Mackay Trophy, given annually by the National Aeronautic Association for the outstanding flight of the year; and the Collier Trophy given annually for achievement in aeronautics. In its successful conduct of the XS-1 program, from Ezra Kotchers original conceptualization through Yeagers milestone flight, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the military could play a very meaningful role in experimental flight research.
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The Beginnings of Inflight Refueling

Lieutenants Lowell H. Smith and John P. Richter during 25 June 1923 inflight refueling.
The crew of the Question Mark, Maj. Spaatz, Capt. Eaker, Lt. Halverson, Lt. Quesado, and MSgt.Hooe.

The Air Service first demonstrated inflight refueling in 25 June 1923, and in August of that year Lieutenants Lowell H. Smith and John P. Richter set a new worlds record by staying aloft for thirty-seven hours and fifteen minutes in a DH-4 over San Diego with the help of refueling from another DH-4 .

Between 1 and 7 January 1929, the Question Mark commanded by Major Carl Spaatz and including Captain Ira C. Eaker, Lieutenant Elwood R. Quesada, and MSgt Roy Hooe among its crew would establish a world record for an endurance flight. Their Fokker C-2 transport stayed aloft for almost 151 hours. Two Douglas C-1s took turns refueling them with a hose lowered from the tankers through a trapdoor in the top of the Question Mark.

On 19 July 1948, the 43rd and 509th Air Refueling Squadrons were activated at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and Roswell Air Force Base, New Mexico, in preparation for the assignment of tanker aircraft. These two squadrons were the first air refueling units in the U.S. Air Force. They began receiving tanker aircraft in late 1948. These first tankers were simply B-29s modified to carry and dispense fuel while aloft. Employing the British-developed system of in-flight refueling, that is, the use of trailing hoses and grapnel hooks, these tankers were designated KB-29Ms .
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Lucky Lady I

On 22 July 1948, three B-29s of the 43rd Bombardment Group departed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, on a round-the-world flight attempt. The flight was scheduled for fourteen days, but one extra day was required because one B-29 crashed in the Arabian Sea. The remaining two aircraft made eight en route stops and completed the 20,000-mile flight in 103 hours and 50 minutes of actual flight time. The two aircraft completing the flight were Gas Gobbler, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R. W. Kline, and Lucky Lady, commanded by First Lieutenant A. M. Neal. They landed at Davis-Monthan on 6 August 1948.
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Lucky Lady II

On 2 March 1949, the Lucky Lady II, a B-50A (serial number 46-010) of the 43rd Bombardment Group, completed the first nonstop round-the-world flight, having covered 23,452 miles in 94 hours and 1 minute. The crew of fourteen was commanded by Captain James Gallagher. Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, was the place of origin and return. Lucky Lady II was refueled four times in the air by KB-29 tankers of the 43rd Air Refueling Squadron. For this outstanding flight, the Lucky Lady II crew received numerous awards and decorations. Foremost among the awards were the Mackay Trophy, given annually by the National Aeronautic Association for the outstanding flight of the year, and the Air Age Trophy, an Air Force Association award, given each year in recognition of significant contributions to the public understanding of the air age. The Air Age Trophy was later renamed the Hoyt S. Vandenberg Trophy in honor of the third U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.

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See a related article, Globe-Girdlers from Davis-Monthan

 

Lucky Lady III

From 16 to 18 January 1957, three B-52Bs of the 93rd Bombardment Wing made a nonstop round-the-world flight. The flight commander was Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., Fifteenth Air Force. General Old rode aboard the lead plane, Lucky Lady III (serial number 53-0394) which was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Morris. Colonel Morris had served as copilot on the Lucky Lady II flight in 1949.

Five aircraft, including two spares, started the trip from Castle Air Force Base, California. One bomber, unable to take on fuel at the first in-flight refueling rendezvous with KC-97s, landed at Goose Bay Air Base, Labrador; the second spare continued with the main flight until after it received the second in-flight refueling from a KC-97 over Casablanca, Morocco, when it left the flight and landed at Brize Norton RAF Station, England, according to plan. With the aid of three more in-flight refuelings, the Lucky Lady III and its two companions completed the trip without incident. All three bombers landed at March Air Force Base, California, after having completed the 24,325-mile flight in 45 hours and 19 minutes, less than one-half the time required on the Lucky Lady II flight.

General LeMay was on hand to personally congratulate the crews and to present each with the Distinguished Flying Cross. General LeMay said the flight was a "demonstration of SACs capabilities to strike any target on the face of the earth." Subsequently, the National Aeronautic Association recognized Operation Power Flight as the outstanding flight of 1957 and named the 93rd Bombardment Wing as recipient of the Mackay Trophy.
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B-26 Bomber, Martin or Douglas?

The Martin B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine light bomber, entered U.S. Army Air Forces service in 1941. Over 5,000 were built, and the aircraft were used in all theaters of operations. All Martin B-26s were declared obsolete by the United States Air Force in 1948, but few had survived even until that date as airworthy aircraft. The B-26 designation was transferred to the Douglas A-26 in June 1948 after the Martin bomber was withdrawn from service.

The Douglas A-26 Invader, a twin-engine attack aircraft, was used operationally for the first time in 1944. The A-26 was operational in the Pacific in the later stages of the campaign against Japan. It remained in frontline service after the end of World War II, particularly as the principal offensive weapon of Tactical Air Command (TAC), when it was created in 1946 from the wartime Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces. In June 1948, the attack category for aircraft mission designation was officially abandoned by the U.S. Air Force. The designation of the Douglas A-26 was changed to B-26. Concurrent with this change, the Martin B-26 Marauder was withdrawn from service. The Douglas B-26s were used extensively for night interdiction missions flown by the 3rd Bombardment Group from Iwakuni, Japan, during the Korean War. The B-26 remained in service with the Air Force Reserve and National Guard units after being retired by TAC. It was available to return to operational service in Vietnam in 1962, and both the B-26B and B-26C versions saw action in counterinsurgency missions. In 1963, the U.S. Air Force initiated development of a prototype designated YB-26K in an attempt to increase the load-carrying ability and short-field performance of the B-26 airframe. In 1967, the Air Force ordered about seventy B-26s to be converted to B-26K specifications after evaluating the YB-26K's performance. Some of the Douglas B-26Ks saw service in Vietnam after being redesignated A-26As .
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Integrating the Air Force

On 26 July 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 that called for equal treatment within the military services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. Of all the services, the Air Force was in the best position to respond to President Trumans call because the Air Force had already been studying solutions to the problem of improving military efficiency. The objection of some Air Force leaders was met firmly by the new Secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington. Symington told the Air Force generals he expected no one to impede integration, and those who didnt agree with the policy should resign. As early as 1947, Secretary Symington was on record that blacks should be able to enter the Air Force on the basis of their merits and abilities rather than their race. He is also given credit for taking part in the creation of President Trumans Executive Order 9981. Over the next few years, under his guidance the Air Force broke up black units and became the first service to complete integration. This program required a great deal of effort and patience on the part of all concerned, but it was the beginning of Air Force policies on equality as we know them today.
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The Korean War

On 25 June 1950, North Korean troops, supported by Soviet-supplied tanks and artillery, advanced across the 38th parallel, routing the lightly armed South Koreans. The immediate tasks facing General of the Army Douglas MacArthurs Far East Command and its air component, the Far East Air Forces, were to provide equipment for the embattled South Koreans and to evacuate the American noncombatants caught in the path of the Communist offensive. Fighters and bombers of the Far East Air Forces contributed to the evacuation by protecting the ships and aircraft carrying the refugees to Japan. While covering the evacuation, First Lieutenant William G. Hudson, the pilot of an F-82 Twin Mustang, scored the first aerial victory of the Korean War by shooting down a Soviet-built fighter.

The Korean War consisted of four distinct phases. Initially, the Communist army advanced against increasing resistance as it forced the United Nations defenders into the Pusan perimeter in the most southeastern part of South Korea. In September, however, the second phase began when the North Koreans suffered a complete reversal of fortune when the UN forces landed at Inchon, far beyond the battle line; burst from the Pusan perimeter; shattered the North Korean Army; and pursued its remnants northward. The third phase began when China intervened in force in November 1950, surprising the scattered United Nations armies as they approached North Koreas northern border and driving them back to the vicinity of the 38th parallel. Finally, the fourth phase was a stalemate, during which neither side would risk vast casualties in an attempt to gain a complete victory. Truce talks began in July 1951, but the fighting continued until July 1953, when the negotiations at last bore fruit and the conflict ended in a cease-fire agreement.
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The Emergence of the Strategic Air Command

With the end of the fighting in Korea, President Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a "New Look" at national defense. The result of this reexamination was a greater reliance on nuclear weapons and air power to deter war. Instead of maintaining the large Army and Navy that had fought the Korean War, the Eisenhower administration chose to invest in air power, especially in the Strategic Air Command (SAC). Key elements of the New Look--a reliance of Americas lead in nuclear weapons; an emphasis on air power, especially on strategic forces; support of NATO; and a strong nuclear deterrent--were already a part of the national strategy. The Eisenhower administrations particular contribution lay in the doctrine of "massive retaliation," the threat that the United States might not limit its response to future aggression as it had in Korea. This was a matter of making the underlying deterrent threat more explicit to potential adversaries.

In choosing this New Look, deterrence-oriented military policy, Eisenhower challenged the Air Force to make it work, and the Air Force stood ready. Since taking over SAC in 1948, General Curtis E. LeMay had converted it from a training organization to a combat force immediately ready to retaliate against an aggressor. By the end of 1953 SAC had achieved an unprecedented level of striking power. Of the seventeen wings in the atomic force, eleven were equipped. The B-47 force had grown during the year from 62 to 329 planes, the B-36 force reached 185, and the reconnaissance RB-36 component numbered 137. Supporting the bomber force were more than 500 tankers and 200 fighters. A ring of overseas air bases from Greenland to North Africa projected American nuclear might to within striking distance of the Soviet heartland. Personnel strength stood at nearly 160,000, based at twenty-nine bases in the states and ten overseas. Of course, the figures did not tell the whole story. Indeed the numbers that indicated the precise ability of the command to deliver a decisive blow were often preserved in the strictest secrecy, but LeMays achievement in building a combat-ready force with a high state of discipline was open knowledge. The nations reliance on SAC bombers to prevent war through the threat of nuclear devastation served to justify the organizations motto: Peace Is Our Profession. The prestige of the Strategic Air Command bespoke assurance that whatever the numbers of personnel and aircraft, if determination and training could deliver the atomic blow, the threat of atomic retaliation was real. The deterrent force was in this sense beyond question.
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Operation Ranch Hand

In 1961, President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam asked the United States to conduct aerial herbicide spraying in his country. In August of that year, the South Vietnamese Air Force initiated herbicide operations with American help. The request by Diem launched a debate in the White House and the State and Defense Departments. On one side were those who viewed herbicides as an economical and efficient means of stripping the Viet Cong jungle of cover and food. Others doubted the effectiveness of such a tactic and worried that such operations would both alienate friendly Vietnamese and expose the United States to charges of barbarism for waging a form of chemical warfare. Both sides agreed upon the propaganda risks of the issue. In November 1961, President Kennedy approved the use of herbicides, but only as a limited experiment requiring South Vietnamese participation and the mission-by-mission approval of the United States Embassy, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, and South Vietnams government.

Operation Ranch Hand, the designation for the program, began in January 1962. Gradually, limitations were relaxed; the spraying became more frequent and covered larger areas. The Air Force used C-47s and C-123s equipped to spray herbicides for the defoliation missions. By the time Ranch Hand ended nine years later, some 18 million gallons of chemicals had been sprayed on an estimated 20 percent of South Vietnams jungles and 36 percent of its mangrove forests.

For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see http://cpcug.org/user/billb/ranchhand/ranchhand.html

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Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder was a frequently interrupted bombing campaign that began on 24 February 1965 and lasted until the end of October 1968. During this period U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft engaged in a bombing campaign designed to force Ho Chi Minh to abandon his ambition to take over South Vietnam. The operation began primarily as a diplomatic signal to impress Hanoi with Americas determination, essentially a warning that the violence would escalate until Ho Chi Minh "blinked," and secondly it was intended to bolster the sagging morale of the South Vietnamese. The Johnson administration also imposed strict limits on the targets that could be attacked, for China and the Soviet Union were seen as defenders of communism who might intervene if the North Vietnamese faced defeat. Consequently, the administration tried to punish the North without provoking the two nations believed to be its protectors. In the view of the Air Force leadership, the campaign had no clear-cut objective nor did its authors have any real estimate of the cost of lives and aircraft. General LeMay and others argued that military targets, rather than the enemys resolve, should be attacked and that the blows should be rapid and sharp, with the impact felt immediately on the battlefield as well as by the political leadership in Hanoi. When Rolling Thunder failed to weaken the enemys will after the first several weeks, the purpose of the campaign began to change. By the end of 1965, the Johnson administration still used air power as an attempt to change North Vietnamese policy, but bombing tended to be directed against the flow of men and supplies from the North, thus damaging the enemy militarily while warning him of the danger of greater destruction if he maintained the present aggressive course.
To persuade the North Vietnamese to negotiate, President Johnson restricted the bombing of North Vietnam to the southern part of the country on 31 March 1968, in effect, bringing Operation Rolling Thunder to an end. Preliminary discussions began in Paris in May but bogged down over trivial issues. In November, Johnson made another concession, ending the bombing throughout the north, and serious negotiations began in January 1969.
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Operation Arc Light

The first B-52 Arc Light bombing mission was carried out on 18 June 1965. On this mission, 27 B-52F bombers of the 7th and 320th Bombardment Wings based at Guam were used to attack a Viet Cong jungle redoubt with conventional 750-pound and 1,000-pound bombs. General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam, was convinced the B-52 could play an effective role in defeating the North, and he called for more bombing missions. From June through December, the 7th, 320th, and 454th Bombardment Wings completed over 100 missions to South Vietnam. These B-52s were used primarily in saturation bombing of Viet Cong base areas, but later they were used in direct tactical support of the Marine Corps Operation Harvest Moon and the First Cavalry Divisions fight in the Ia Drang Valley.

In 1966, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) continued to support military actions in Southeast Asia with B-52 conventional bombing missions. By late June, after one year of participation in the war, the B-52s were dropping approximately 8,000 tons of bombs each month. Missions were flown in all types of weather, night and day. In 1966, over 5,000 B-52 sorties were flown to support operations against the enemy. Although the B-52s were used primarily against targets in South Vietnam, they were also used to bomb the approaches to the Mu Gia Pass in North Vietnam on 12 and 26 April 1966. The objective here was to stop the infiltration of enemy troops who, after leaving the Mu Gia Pass, crossed over into Laos and made their way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Along with the overall growth of U.S. military operations in Southeast Asia, SAC B-52 conventional bombing activity increased tremendously in 1967. During that year, the B-52s flew approximately 9,700 effective bombing sorties, almost twice the number flown in 1966. Most of this bombing was aimed at supporting ground troops who were in close contact with the enemy. A great deal of attention was also devoted to enemy troop concentrations and supply lines in the Ashau Valley.

The defense of Khe Sanh in 1968 developed into the largest and most significant air campaigns to date in Southeast Asia. Around-the-clock strikes were made against enemy forces besieging the base, with SAC bombers accounting for approximately 60,000 tons of bombs being dropped. With fighter-bomber support being limited by the monsoon season, the B-52 was particularly valuable in countering enemy aggression. In conducting this bombing, the B-52 crews relied upon ground-based radar to direct them to their targets, where they destroyed tons of North Vietnamese supplies. These air attacks helped break the siege on Khe Sanh and force the North Vietnamese to withdraw.

In 1969, the B-52 conventional bombing operations in Southeast Asia continued at a steady pace. Greater emphasis was placed on harassment and disruption of enemy operations than in previous years. Potential and actual enemy forces were hampered in South Vietnam, particularly around Saigon. SAC bombers also continued to hit enemy supply dumps, base areas, troop concentrations, and the infiltration network that supplied enemy forces in the south. The number of sorties flown in support of Arc Light bombing operations declined from November 1969 through April 1970.
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Operation Linebacker I

The aerial interdiction campaign against North Vietnam which began on 6 April 1972 with attacks in the southern part of the country expanded rapidly. On 16 April, B-52s, escorted by fighter and aircraft specializing in electronic countermeasures and suppression of surface-to-air missiles, bombed the fuel storage tanks at Haiphong, setting fires that, reflected from cloud and smoke, were visible from 110 miles away. Shortly afterward, carrier aircraft joined Air Force fighter-bombers in battering a tank farm and a warehouse complex on the outskirts of Hanoi. When these attacks failed to slow the offensive, naval aircraft began mining the harbors on 8 May, and two days later the administration extended the aerial interdiction campaign, formerly known as Freedom Train but now designated Linebacker, throughout all of North Vietnam.

In terms of tactics employed and results obtained, Linebacker was a vast improvement over Rolling Thunder. During Linebacker, American aircraft attacked targets like airfields, power plants, and radio stations which disrupted the flow of supplies and reinforcements to the units fighting in the South. Laser-guided bombs proved effective, especially against bridges, severing the bridge at Thanh Hoa, which had survived Rolling Thunder, and the highway and railroad bridges over the Red River at Hanoi. However, the enemy made use of alternate methods of crossing the streams, usually traveling at night on ferries or movable pontoon bridges. Electronic jamming as in Rolling Thunder confused the radars controlling the surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft guns. North Vietnamese MiGs gave battle throughout Linebacker but they failed to gain control of the sky, in part because American radar detected enemy interceptors rising from runways, enabling controllers to direct Air Force F-4s and Navy fighters against them.

Nixons use of air power to disrupt supply lines and kill the enemy on the battlefield stopped the offensive and helped drive the enemy back a short distance without a reintroduction of the ground forces he had withdrawn from the South. In fact, the last combat troops of the U.S. Army departed in August 1972 while the South Vietnamese were counterattacking. Only 43,000 American airmen and support personnel remained. Yet the very success of the American aerial campaign caused misgivings in Saigon, where the South Vietnamese armed forces dependence on the Americans troubled President Thieu. When Thieu's commanders failed during a recent offensive, the advisers took over, bringing to bear a volume of firepower that the South Vietnamese forces themselves could not generate. Thieu realized the Americans' unilateral departure would leave South Vietnam at the mercy of the North Vietnamese forces still in his country. He balked at accepting what had come to be called a cease-fire in place, and the North Vietnamese also seemed uninterested in a settlement. President Nixon sought to remove first one and then the other obstacle to peace. He obtained Thieus reluctant assent to an in-place arrangement by offering "absolute assurance" that he intended to take "swift and severe retaliatory action" if North Vietnam should violate the terms of the agreement. He sought to remove the other roadblock, the stubborn attitude of the government in Hanoi, by ordering a resumption of the bombing of the heartland of North Vietnam.
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Operation Linebacker II

Operation Linebacker II operations were initiated on 18 December 1972 and were directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to continue until further notice. The primary objective of the bombing operation would be to force the North Vietnamese government to enter into purposeful negotiations concerning a cease-fire agreement. The operation employed air power to its maximum capabilities in an attempt to destroy all major target complexes such as radio stations, railroads, power plants, and airfields located in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. Unlike previous bombing campaigns, Linebacker II provided the Air Force and U.S. Naval forces with specific objectives and removed many of the restrictions that had previously caused frustration within the Pentagon.

During these operations, Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft and B-52s commenced an around-the-clock bombardment of the North Vietnamese heartland. The B-52s struck Hanoi and Haiphong during hours of darkness with F-111s and Navy tactical aircraft providing diversionary/suppression strikes on airfields and surface-to-air missile sites. Daylight operations were primarily carried out by A-7s and F-4s bombing visually or with long-range navigation (LORAN) techniques, depending upon the weather over the targets. In addition, escort aircraft such as the Air Force EB-66s and Navy EA-6s broadcast electronic jamming signals to confuse the radar-controlled defenses of the North. The Strategic Air Command also provided KC-135s to support the in-flight refueling requirements of the various aircraft participating in Linebacker II operations. The impact of the bombing was obvious in the severe damage to the North Vietnamese logistic and war-support capability. By 29 December 1972, the 700 nighttime sorties flown by B-52s and 650 daytime strikes by fighter and attack aircraft persuaded the North Vietnamese government to return to the conference table.

The United States paid a price for the accomplishments of Linebacker II. During bombing raids, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft encountered intense enemy defensive actions that resulted in the loss of twenty-six aircraft in the twelve-day period. Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, and one HH-53 search and rescue helicopter. Navy losses included two A-7s, two A-6s, one RA-5, and one F-4. Seventeen of these losses were attributed to SA-2 missiles, three to daytime MiG attacks, three to antiaircraft artillery, and three to unknown causes.
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Operation Desert ShieldDesert Storm

On the morning of 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and in less than four hours the small country was under Iraqi control. Saudi Arabia was likely to be the Hussein regimes next target. On 6 August 1990, King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saad of Saudi Arabia invited friendly nations to participate in the defense of the royal kingdom, marking the beginning of Operation Desert Shield, the deployment of U.S. military forces to protect the Gulf region from further Iraqi encroachment. By 21 August, fighter, attack, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airlift, and tanker aircraft were based in the Gulf region. That day, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney declared that the threat of an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia had ended.

In November 1990, the United Nations passed Resolution 678 authorizing the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait if Iraq did not leave by 15 January 1991. President George Bush requested congressional concurrence in the UN resolution, and, following lengthy and forthright debate, the Congress joined with the Bush administration in bipartisan votes of support on 12 January 1991. Saddam Hussein still showed no signs of leaving Kuwait, and the deadline of the 15th passed. Accordingly, President Bush signed a National Security Directive authorizing military action.

The violence of Desert Storm broke suddenly and furiously at 3 a.m. Baghdad time on 17 January 1991 as waves of coalition aircraft set forth on the largest air campaign since World War II. By dawn, Iraq was well on the way to losing the war, thanks to the strategic air campaign. The early morning attacks drove Saddam Hussein and his leadership underground, reducing its control over events. The most critical military support networks--command, control, communications, intelligence, integrated air defenses, and power generation--had been hard hit.

In the final analysis, the swiftness, decisiveness, and scope of the coalitions victory came from the wise and appropriate use of air power. Air power found, fought, and finished the Iraqi military. It dramatically reduced the risk to American forces by shattering potential resistance. This was recognized by Secretary of Defense Cheney who remarked, after the war, "The air campaign was decisive," subsequently stating that Iraq could not fight back "because the air war turned out to be absolutely devastating." When the ground campaign began, allied ground forces faced little resistance from Iraqi forces as they pushed toward Kuwait. On 27 February 1991, the fourth day of the ground campaign, Kuwait City was liberated, and the lead elements of the ground forces entered to the cheering and thanks of thousands of Kuwaiti citizens.
Link to
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Gulf War Chronology.
For information concerning Gulf War Illnesses visit
GulfLINK.
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United States Air Force Chronology

From Kitty Hawk to World War II

The Army Air Corps to World War II

From Establishment to February 1996

1975-February 1996

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The Lineage of the United States Air Force

Aeronautical Division, US Signal Corps

1 August 1907 - 18 July 1914

Aviation Section, US Signal Corps

18 July 1914 - 20 May 1918

Division of Military Aeronautics

20 May 1918 - 24 May 1918

Air Service

24 May 1918 - 2 July 1926

Air Corps*

2 July 1926 - 18 September 1947

Army Air Forces

20 June 1941 - 18 September 1947

United States Air Force

18 September 1947

* The Air Corps became a subordinate element of the Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941, and it continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army until 1947.

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United States Air Force Academy

The idea of an air service academy surfaced almost four decades before becoming a reality 1 April l954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill establishing the U.S. Air Force Academy. Harold E. Talbott, then Secretary of the Air Force, appointed a commission to assist him in selecting the permanent site. After traveling 21,000 miles and considering 580 proposed sites in 45 states, the commission recommended three locations. From those, Secretary Talbott selected the site near Colorado Springs. The state of Colorado contributed $1 million toward the purchase of the property. The total cost of construction was $142 million.

The first academy class entered in July l955 at temporary facilities at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver. Construction at the permanent location also started the same year and was sufficiently complete for the cadet wing to move into its permanent home in late August l958. Two hundred seven members of the first class were commissioned as second lieutenants in June l959.
See the
U.S. Air Force Academy home page.
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50th Anniversary of the Final Approval of the Blue Air Force Uniform

As early as 1945, long before the Air Force became an independent service, its leaders were looking at the possibility of obtaining a distinctive new uniform. By 1946 it was clear that it would be some shade of blue. In January 1948, President Truman approved a new uniform for the Air Force, but Congress would not approve the funding. In January 1949, the Air Force and Army addressed the issue again. This time there would be no extra costs. The blue cloth would be introduced as a normal replacement procurement in 1950.

On 18 January 1949, President Truman again approved a distinctive blue uniform for the Air force. A week later(25 January) the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Hoyt Vandenberg, spread the word that the blue uniform had been approved and would be available for distribution by 1 September 1950. He clearly stated that no one should purchase a blue uniform until "full instructions, specifications, and samples of cloth" were available.

On 8 April 1949, Air Force Letter 35-46 stated that the new Air Force blue winter uniform(shade #84) for men was available for purchase and immediate use. Distribution of blue uniforms would be made when stocks were available and general issue to airmen was expected to occur by 1 September 1950.