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How the US Air Force Got Its Wings


In the 73 years since the United States Air Force was first founded, the branch has been responsible for many of the most important military and technological achievements of the US overall. 

On this anniversary, we thought it prudent to look back on this historic organization and see how it originally began.


World War II – An Origin in More Ways than One

The Air Force did not begin as an independent branch of the US military. Instead, it started off as a subsidiary branch of the US Army – during World War II, it was called the U.S. Army Air Forces or USAAF.

This means that the fledgling Air Force received its orders, personnel, and training equipment from the U.S. Army's plan and budget, leadership, and stockpiles.

However, the nature of World War II, and the prevalence of aerial combat that its theaters demanded, meant that the USAAF was essentially independent of the Army in terms of operations and responsibilities. Because of this, USAAF leadership petitioned the federal government for independence. In 1947, they would get it.

A New Branch is Formed

President Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, during which the Department of the Air Force was established. This was important since there were only two other departments at that time: the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy (which oversaw both the Navy itself and US Marines).

After the Air Force was established, it was quickly given various responsibilities and its own budget. Officers transferred from the Army or Navy to enter the Air Force officially.

The Air Force's purpose was explicitly established with four core principles:

  • To preserve the peace and security, and provide for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States
  • To support national policy
  • To implement national objectives
  • To overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States

Ever since its first officers were sworn in, the USAF has maintained these principles and acted accordingly.

The USAF’s formation was an important move during the late 1940s, as aeronautics research and weapons progress became increasingly critical as the Cold War took shape. But the Air Force would receive additional responsibilities and goals as time went on.

Rocket Science Takes Center Stage

 Specifically, the Air Force was quickly tasked with maintaining the United States' aerial superiority over the Soviet Union. As often as with traditional aircraft, this extended to aerospace research.

Indeed, the Space Race was largely won thanks to the efforts of the USAF and NASA – two government organizations that have historically maintained close ties.

The Air Force today still operates in both air and space, though the new department – the Space Force, itself a subsidiary organization of the Air Force like the USAF was for the Army back in World War II – will progressively take on those challenges and responsibilities over time.

New Horizons

With the founding of the Space Force, the Air Force retains its original mission and importance for national security and defense development.

Though another year has passed, we hope the Air Force will continue its long tradition of pushing the boundaries of human exploration and technology and keep doing a stellar job of protecting the United States and its citizens.

Thank you for reading, United We Stand.

Justin, Author

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