"History Makes You Smart-Heritage Makes You Proud"

By Neufeld, Jacob | Air Power History, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview
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"History Makes You Smart-Heritage Makes You Proud"


Neufeld, Jacob, Air Power History


In the Beginning

When the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division was established in 1942, Brig. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, Air Staff Director of Administration, wrote, "It is important that our history be recorded while it is hot and that personnel be selected and an agency set up for a clear historian's job without axe to grind or defense to prepare." (2)

During World War II, many academic historians joined the Army Air Forces (AAF) as officers or enlisted men and women to practice their profession. These military historians produced myriad studies, monographs, and reports, many of which were archived in-house because of security classification. The massive demobilization at war's end returned most of the historians to their campuses, leaving the services struggling to complete the historians' work. It took years, in some cases decades, to finish the projects. Not until 1958 did the United States Air Force publish the seventh (and last) volume of its centerpiece history of the AAF in World War II, better known as "Craven and Cate." (3) The U.S. Army pressed on for decades to complete its superb multi-volume World War II "Green Books" series, so-called because of the color of the book covers. The U.S. Navy commissioned the famed historian Samuel E. Morison, of Harvard, to join the Navy and write the service's wartime history.

Over the next decade, the Air Force history program underwent numerous name changes, was subordinated to several functional entities (operations, intelligence, and information), and shuttled between Washington, D.C. and Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. None of the arrangements worked.

The Office of Air Force History (AFCHO)

It did not help that some academic historians sneered at the concept of contemporary history, asserting that a complete record can emerge only after the passage of "adequate" time. In Great Britain, for example, "modern history" refers to events that transpired a few hundred years ago. However, a few visionary military and civilian leaders believed in the value of studying and applying contemporary military history. Air force historians were granted extraordinary access to "key decisions, processes, and actions," and could thereby identify, collect, preserve, and interpret important documents and to interview key military leaders and officials as events unfolded. The result of applying history would be a management and decision-making tool. Commanders at all levels could learn about the major decisions their predecessors made and, more importantly, why they made them. Thus, although history rarely repeated itself, Air Force leaders who consulted history would be better equipped to confront the challenges facing them by becoming "history minded."

Consequently, in January 1969,--a high-level panel of Air Force civilian and military leaders, and scholars, chaired by Dr. I.B. Holley, a highly-respected history professor at Duke University, and Reserve brigadier general--recommended the establishment of a separate Office of Air Force History (AFCHO), reporting to the USAF Chief of Staff Its mission was to publish books, studies, and reports on the role of the United States Air Force and air power in national security. Topics included wartime operations, policies, technology, doctrine, and organization. The AFCHO period, from the early 1970s until 1991 witnessed a profusion of books, studies, and monographic literature

U.S. Air Force History and Museums Program

The second major reorganization of Air Force history took place at the end of the Cold War, in 1991, and resulted in the separation of AFCHO's policy-making and production elements. In 2003, Col. C. R. "Dick" Anderegg, USAF (Ret.), the Director of Air Force History and Museums Policies and Programs, since 2003, oversees a worldwide program of historians and curators. He rightly believes that his is one of the most interesting and challenging jobs in the Unites States Air Force.

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"History Makes You Smart-Heritage Makes You Proud"
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