The United States Air Force: A Chronology

The United States Air Force: A Chronology

The United States Air Force: A Chronology

The United States Air Force: A Chronology

Synopsis

The United States Air Force captures the sweep of U.S. Air Force history from the service's inception to present times. Concise entries, arranged by date, touch upon military events such as victories and defeats; significant political, administrative, and technological changes affecting the service; and significant events in the Daily occurrences are described within the context of greater historical events such as wars. The chronology covers all aspects of the U.S. Air Force and its historical antecedents (U.S. Air Service, Army Air Corps, and Army Air Force), commencing with the Balloon Corps in the American Civil War and extending through Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. Events of note, major and minor, are listed in the order of occurrence. The book includes all major air campaigns in all major conflicts, as well as such noteworthy events as record-breaking flights and the introduction of new aircraft.

Excerpt

The popular expression “Wild Blue Yonder” conjures up imagery of fleets of American warplanes, invincible in combat and in seemingly endless abundance. However, such popular notions belie the relatively humble origins of the U.S. Air Force, and its forebears. American military aviation is rooted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which operated reconnaissance balloons during the Civil War. It was not until airplanes became technologically feasible that the Signal Corps Aeronautical Division manifested in 1907, which, in turn, gave way to the Signal Corps Aviation Section in 1917. However, the United States had fallen far behind Europe in terms of military aviation by the advent of World War I, and it was not until May 1918 that the U.S. Army Air Service arose to manage the 10-fold increase in machines and personnel. Despite this shaky start, the Air Service acquitted itself well in combat, downing 756 enemy aircraft and 76 balloons at a cost of 289 aircraft, 48 balloons, and 237 crewmen. Success here stimulated cries for an independent air force, free of army control, and of which General William G. “Billy” Mitchell was the most vocal proponent.

Over the next decade a series of aviation boards and studies concluded that American air power merited greater recognition as a quasi-independent arm, so in 1926 the Army Air Corps was born. Despite a lack of funding brought on by the Depression era, America airmen managed to make significant technological and doctrinal strides with a number of historic flights, and new institutions such as the Air Corps Tactical School. Among the most significant creations was the General Headquarters Air Force (GHQ), which enjoyed a measure of autonomy from the Army and formed the kernel of American strategic bombing. By 1941, the inadequacies of the Army Air Corps forced it to give way to the new Army Air Forces (AAF), whereby commander General Henry “Hap” Arnold enjoyed coequal status and recognition with leaders of traditional ground forces. the war was also a turning point in American aviation history, for the aaf emerged as a conquering force of 1.2 million men and 160,000 airplanes, unprecedented in the annals of warfare. Significantly, aaf B-29s named Enola Gay and Bock’s Car ushered in a defining moment in human history by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, and heralding the dawn of nuclear warfare.

The dream of an independent air arm was finally realized in 1947 when the U.S. Air Force emerged through the National Security Act of that year. the new organization performed splendidly during the Korean War, 1950–1953, the West’s first challenge of the Cold War, and by decade’s end had pioneered the development and deployment . . .

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