Happy 75th birthday to the United States Air Force!
The Air Force became its own branch of the U.S. military after President Truman signed the National Security Act on September 18, 1947.
Aviation had been part of the U.S. military since the Civil War, and Allies relied on aircraft throughout both World Wars. The Navy and Marine Corps recognized the value of military aircraft as early as 1911, and the first plane took off from a ship that year. But, the American aviation industry developed slowly.
Known in its infancy as the Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, units provided tactical support to the Army and were under its direction. British, French, and German planes mostly dominated the unfriendly skies over Europe in the so-called “War to End All Wars.”
In 1920, the Navy converted a ship into the USS Langley, its first carrier, and changed the designs to the USS Saratoga and USS Lexington from battle cruisers to carriers before both were commissioned in 1927. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Air Corps began to build its military might as well.
As America prepared for its inevitable entry into World War II, the Army Air Corps gained greater autonomy and independence from the Army, and on June 20, 1941, it became the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF).
When the war ended, Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Carl Spaatz began the process of formally separating the USAAF from the Army, including the Strategic Air Command, the Air Defense Command, the Tactical Air Command, the Air Transport Command, the Air Training Command (re-designated Army Air Forces Training Command), the Air University, and the Air Force Center. (Trivia: Among the Strategic Air Command bases, Castle Air Force Base in Merced County was home to the 93rd Bomb Wing until 1994 and was featured in the 1955 film “Strategic Air Command” starring James Stewart.)
Today, the Air Force staffs 750 bases worldwide, with more than 320,000 active air personnel, 69,200 reserves, 106,700 Air National Guard members, and employs roughly 200,000 civilians. The branch has nearly 5,400 manned aircraft and 405 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
CalVet wishes the United States Air Force a Happy 75th birthday! A grateful nation thanks you.