Why Was the U.S. Air Force Created
- Author Josiah Eloy
- Published December 30, 2022
- Word count 881
Congress created the Army Air Corps on July 2, 1926, which was abolished by the National Security Act of 1947, creating the Independent Air Force on September 18, 1947. The Air Corps was replaced by the Army Air Corps as a separate command in the United States Army on June 20, 1941, and all Army air units were integrated into the Army Air Forces (AAF) under the command of single command general Henry H. Arnold in March 1942, following Americas entry into World War I. Prior to 1939, the United States Army's Aviation Service was a nascent organization; by the end of World War II, the Army Air Forces had grown to be a large military organization consisting of numerous Air Forces, commands, divisions, wings, groups, and squadrons, plus a variety of other organizations.
The capabilities inherent to the air domain were apparently limitless, and, at wars end, Americas top leaders believed that the U.S. should create an independent service, the U.S. Army Air Forces. Several bills for reunification were introduced, and eventually, a compromise was reached, which led to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1947, creating a national military establishment, including a Secretary of Defense and the Army's Bureau of Aeronautics. After passing an outline command plan, General Lauris Norstad and Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman worked closely with the Senate Committee on Military Affairs to pass the plan, which called for the appointment of the Secretary of National Defense, as well as separate departments for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, with each headed by a civilian.
The National Security Act did the best it could to walk the line, assigning to the United States Air Force sustained offensive and defensive combat operations over air, with the Army and the Navy charged with operational tasks in the other two areas. The fundamental issue was partly resolved on June 21, 1941, when the War Department created the Air Force, with GHQ Air becoming Air Combat Command. Seven months later, the General Headquarters Air Force returned to being the air leaders command, when Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States, established the Army Air Forces (AAF) on June 20, 1941, in order to oversee both the Army Air Corps and Air Force Combat Command (formerly the GHQAF).
With the threat of war approaching, a major restructuring took place in the Army Air Corps, with the Army Air Forces given control over all of the Army's air power, by the direct orders of Gen. George C. Marshall, then Chief of Staff. All these actions, which affected both air forces and commands comprising the AAF, underscored the movement toward independent services and expansion of the fighting forces which took place in World War II. Along with actions in South Korea, the Army began placing airpower across numerous theaters around the globe in order to help stop communist expansion and at the same time, to help protect the country.
Much of the success of the United States wartime aerial activities in World War I can be attributed to Brigadier General William (Billy) Mitchell, a wartime aviation commander who directed U.S. aerial attacks with increasing force until wars end.
U.S. military activity in the air began with Army balloons used for reconnaissance in the American Civil War and Spanish-American War. Initially focused on balloons and blimps, the United States Army Signal Corps purchased its first heavier-than-air flying machines from the Wright brothers in 1909. In 1907, only four years after Wilber and Orville Wright took to the skies over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, todays air force established its first military roots as the aviation section of the United States Army Signal Corps.
Once separated from the Army and considered a branch in equal standing, the Air Force began adopting its own set of rules, practices, and training requirements, creating its own distinct structures and ultimately its own unique legacy of aviation superiority. In late 1945, a War Department Board considering redistricting rejected AAFs views and made the Army General Staff and Army Land Forces Staff jointly equal within the War Department staff. The fight over an independent Air Force was still ongoing when Newton Baker, a former secretary of war during World War I, was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lead a new Commission of Inquiry, the fifteenth such panel assembled to examine the issue of warplanes and the independence of an air arm.
General Arnold, who had succeeded the late Major-General Oscar Westover as Army Chief of Air Corps in September 1938, instantly triggered his contacts in the plane industry; the result was the beginning of an immense wartime airpower mobilization. Unity of Command meant establishing, in various theatres, a separate Air Force, under an airman, that was equal in rank with land and naval forces, and that was all accountable to the supreme Allied commander. Enlisted Airmen evolved from early mechanics working on Wright Model A planes to the present-day enlisted forces composed of 395,000 career Airmen within the active-duty U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve.30 Each conflict or war that U.S. Airmen entered from early aviation missions of the First World War, through Vietnam, the Cold War, Operation Desert Storm, and on up to the global war in the TARORa provided the experience and knowledge to build a stronger future force.
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