When I wrote the article about the military oriented holidays in September, I made a serious mistake in not including one of the most important of the days to remember. One of our readers gently pointed it out to me, so I am hoping to make up for this glaring error by bringing it to the attention of our readers here. What was that glaring error? The anniversary of the official birth of the United States Air Force, September 18, 1947.
Of course there were antecedents to the Department of the Air Force. Those antecedents go as far back as 1907 when the U.S. War Department created its first iteration. Flying machines were still brand new. The Wright brothers first successful flight was only 4 years before this on December 17, 1903. But the military applications for flying machines were clearly intuited by the War Department early on.
During WWII, the Air Force was known as the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).
It was the aerial warfare branch of the Army and its value to the war effort was in many ways incalculable. The courage and the skills of those airmen in WWII and the percentage of casualties they suffered were extremely high during that war.
During WWII the USAAF had over 2.4 million men and women in service and it had over 80,000 aircrafts engaged in combat by 1944. By VE (Victory Europe) Day they had 1.25 million men stationed overseas and operated from 1,600 airfields worldwide. Bombing missions against German Targets, for example, met with intense, sophisticated, and highly accurate anti-aircraft batteries, and swarms of German fighter planes. By the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen had been killed in action.
President Harry S. Truman made the United States Air Force an independent service with the signing of the National Security Act of 1947 creating the Department of the Air Force. With this signing it became the newest service of the U.S. military, 40 years after its first iteration in 1907. Its first Secretary was W. Stuart Simington, a former Senator from Missouri.
Since then, the United States Air Force has been an important part of every U.S. military effort, both in war and peace, from the Korean War to Afghanistan. It is the largest and most technologically advanced of the world’s air forces.
In doing this article I am remembering the 20 years of service that both my sister-in-law, Cheryl, and her husband, my brother-in-law, Paul, did in the USAF. Their children were raised in the Air Force family and are fine young adults today. I share something else with the U.S. Air Force; we are almost the same age. The Air Force is only over a month older than myself.
To all who have served in the USAAF and the USAF, as well as the Air National Guard, whose members have served so greatly in the post 9/11 wars, we offer our sincerest thanks and our deepest respect. Your dedication to the defense of this nation, to its values and its freedoms, along with your many varied skills has brought both distinction and honor to your service and to the nation.