Nebraska Moments

By Donald R. Hickey; Susan A. Wunder et al. | Go to book overview

33. Offutt Air Force Base

The end of World War II found the United States unprepared to continue its strategic presence in much of the world. Never before had the nation made such a commitment to fight a war, and never before had it needed to continue to be on alert after a major war effort. The Cold War in fact began among the Allies, pitting the United States, Britain, and France against the Soviet Union even before Germany and Japan surrendered. After winning previous wars, Americans always wished to return to the way things had been, which involved downsizing the military.

The problem in 1946 was not just a matter of reducing the forces involved in the war. A vast war machine needed to be carefully deactivated. Thousands of American sailors, soldiers, and pilots wanted to go home. Huge numbers of planes had been produced for the war, including the bombers that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, but these aircraft were scattered throughout the world. Some were in serious disrepair. By June 1946 nearly thirty-four thousand aircraft had come home to the United States. What should be done with them? Inter-service competition and confusion over commands had been kept under control during the war, but once hostilities ceased, old and new armed services rivalries emerged.

To prepare for possible problems with the Soviet Union and to bring some order to the armed forces, Congress, with the support of President Harry Truman, passed several laws that would significantly impact Nebraska. On March 21, 1946, the Strategic Air Command was created, and in 1948 SAC, as it would become known, decided to locate its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha. SAC was specifically charged to “be prepared to conduct long-range offensive opera

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