THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

T PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

 

An Overview Of The History Of The U.S. Air Force

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The Early Years

On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps established a small Aeronautical Division to take "charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects."

From the close of the Civil War until 1907, the Signal Corps had acquired eight balloons, though two more were procured in 1907. A year later the Signal Corps purchased a small dirigible, used at Fort Omaha, Neb., for the instruction of servicemen. But not until May 26, 1909, did Lts Frank P. Lahm and Benjamin D. Foulois make their first ascent and qualify as the airship's first Army pilots.

The Signal Corps began testing its first airplane at Fort Myer, Va., on Aug. 20, 1908, and on Sept. 9, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge, flying with Orville Wright, was killed when the plane crashed. He was the first military aviation casualty. After more testing with an improved Wright Flyer, the Army formally accepted this airplane, identified as "Airplane No. 1," on Aug. 2, 1909.

Four years after the Signal Corps took charge of air matters, Congress appropriated funds for Army aeronautics: $125,000 for fiscal 1912. By the close of October 1912, the Signal Corps had acquired 11 aircraft, but possessed only nine. "Airplane No. 1" had been given to the Smithsonian Institution, and one other had been demolished in an accident.

In early 1913, the Army ordered its aviators who were training in Augusta, Ga., and Palm Beach, Fla., to Texas to take part in 2d Division maneuvers. In Galveston on March 3, the Chief Signal Officer designated the assembled men and equipment the "1st Provisional Aero Squadron," with Capt Charles DeF. Chandler as squadron commander.

The 1st Provisional Aero Squadron began flying activities a few days later. On Dec. 4, general orders re-designated the unit as the 1st Aero Squadron, effective Dec. 8, 1913. This first military unit of the U.S. Army devoted exclusively to aviation, today designated the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, has remained continuously active since its creation. Assigned a role in the Punitive Expedition of the Mexican border in 1916, this squadron became the first air combat unit of the U.S. Army.

Meanwhile, Congress created in the Signal Corps an Aviation Section to replace the Aeronautical Division. Signed by the President, this bill became law on July 18, 1914. It directed the Aviation Section to operate and supervise "all military [U.S. Army] aircraft, including balloons and aeroplanes, all appliances pertaining to said craft, and signaling apparatus of any kind when installed on said craft."

When World War I broke out in Europe in August 1914, the 1st Aero Squadron represented the entire tactical air strength of the U.S. Army. It counted 12 officers, 54 enlisted men and six aircraft. In December 1915 the Aviation Section consisted of 44 officers, 224 enlisted men and 23 airplanes--still a tiny force when compared to the fledgling air forces of the European powers.

But the war in Europe focused more attention on aviation.

By this time the Aviation Section consisted of the Aeronautical Division, the Signal Corps Aviation School at San Diego, the 1st Aero Squadron (then on duty with the expeditionary force in Mexico), and the 1st Company, 2d Aero Squadron, on duty in the Philippines. In October 1916, Aviation Section plans called for two dozen squadrons--seven for the Regular Army, 12 for the National Guard divisions, and five for coastal defense -- plus balloon units for the field and coast artillery. In December 1916 the seven Regular Army squadrons either had been or were being organized. All 24 squadrons had been formed by early 1917, but the 1st Aero Squadron remained the only one fully organized and equipped. Plans for still greater expansion of the Aviation Section were incomplete when the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917.

 

World War I

On May 20, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order transferring aviation from the Signal Corps to two agencies under the Secretary of War: the Bureau of Aircraft Production, headed by Mr. John D. Ryan, and the Division of Military Aeronautics, directed by Maj. Gen. William L. Kenly.

On May 24 the War Department officially recognized these two Army agencies as the Air Service of the U.S. Army. Three months later, on Aug. 27, the President appointed Mr. Ryan Director of the Air Service and Second Assistant Secretary of War.

Despite a combat record of only nine months (February to November 1918), the Air Service made a respectable showing during World War I. The 740 American aircraft assigned to squadrons at the front on Nov.11, 1918, Armistice Day, represented little more than 10 percent of the total aircraft strength of Allied nations. But the Air Service had conducted 150 separate bombing attacks. Penetrating as far as 160 miles behind German lines, its aircraft had dropped about 138 tons of bombs. In all, the Air Service downed 756 enemy aircraft and 76 enemy balloons, while losing 289 airplanes and 48 balloons.

The dispersal of aero squadrons among various Army organizations during the war made it difficult to coordinate aerial activities, which led to the creation of higher echelon organizations. At the front, squadrons with similar functions were formed into groups, the first organized in April 1918 as I Corps Observation Group. The following month the 1st Pursuit Group was formed, and in July 1918 the American Expeditionary Forces organized its first aircraft unit higher than a group--the 1st Pursuit Wing--made up of the 2d and 3d Pursuit Groups and, later, the 1st Day Bombardment Group. In November 1918 the AEF possessed 14 groups (seven observation, five pursuit and two bombardment).

Following the armistice, demobilization of the Air Service was rapid and thorough.

At war's end the Air Service possessed 185 aero squadrons; 44 aero construction; 114 aero supply, 11 aero replacement, and 150 spruce production squadrons; 86 balloon companies; six balloon group headquarters; 15 construction companies; 55 photographic sections; and a few miscellaneous units.

By Nov. 22, 1919, all had been demobilized except one aero construction, one aero replacement, and 22 aero squadrons, 32 balloon companies, 15 photographic sections, and a few miscellaneous units. Between Nov.11, 1918 and June 30, 1920, officer strength plummeted from 19,189 to 1,168, and enlisted strength dropped from 178,149 to 8,428.

Following World War I, the strength of the Air Service matched what Congress considered satisfactory for peacetime.

 

Between The Wars

The Army Reorganization Act of 1920 made the Air Service a combatant arm of the Army and gave the Chief of the Air Service the rank of major general and his assistant chief the rank of brigadier general. Tactical air units in the United States were placed under the nine U.S.Army corps area commanders where they continued to be employed primarily in support of the ground forces. The Chief of the Air Service retained command of various training schools, depots and other activities exempted from Army corps control.

During most of the 1920s, the total offensive strength of the Air Service in the United States consisted of one pursuit, one attack and one bombardment group. Overseas, the Canal Zone and the Philippines each had assigned one pursuit and one bombardment squadron with two squadrons of each type stationed in the Hawaiian Islands. The Air Service focused initially on observation and pursuit aviation, with major aeronautical development efforts concentrated in the Engineering Division at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio.

The formal training establishment took shape during the 1920s. The Air Service concentrated flying training in Texas. Technical schools for officers and enlisted men were at Chanute Field, Ill. The Air Service (later, Air Corps) Tactical School trained officers to command higher units and taught the employment of military aviation. First located at Langley Field, Va., this school moved to Maxwell Field, Ala. in 1931.

The Air Corps Act of 1926 changed the name of the Air Service to Air Corps, but left unaltered its status as a combatant arm of the U.S. Army.

The act also established the Office of Assistant Secretary of War for Air. The Air Corps had at this time 919 officers and 8,725 enlisted men, and its "modern aeronautical equipment" consisted of 60 pursuit planes and 169 observation planes; total serviceable aircraft of all types numbered less than 1,000.

In August 1926 the Army established the Air Corps Training Center in San Antonio, Texas. A few weeks later, on Oct. 15, the logistical organization was placed on firmer footing with the establishment of the Materiel Division, Air Corps, at Dayton, Ohio. A year later this division moved to nearby Wright Field, thereafter the primary base for air logistics.

In Texas, Randolph Field, the "West Point of the Air," was dedicated on June 20, 1930, and became the headquarters of the Air Corps Training Center and the site of the primary flying school in 1931. By June 30, 1932, the Air Corps had grown to 1,305 officers and 13,400 enlisted men, including cadets, and possessed 1,709 aircraft. The Corps also possessed at this time two airship and two balloon squadrons.

On March 1, 1935, the General Headquarters Air Force, which had existed in gestation since Oct.1, 1933, became operational and assumed command and control over Air Corps tactical units. Tactical units, less some observation squadrons scattered throughout the nine Army corps areas, transferred to this initial air force.

The three GHQAF wings were located at Langley Field, Va.; Barksdale Field, La.; and March Field, Calif. The Office of the Chief of the Air Corps and GHQAF existed on the same command echelon, each reporting separately to the Army Chief of Staff. The GHQAF Commander directed tactical training and operations, while the Chief of the Air Corps maintained control over procurement, supply, training schools and doctrine development. On March 1, 1939, the Chief of the Air Corps assumed control over the GHQAF, centralizing command of the entire air arm.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower, recognized that the United States might be drawn into a European war. Assured of a favorable reception in the White House, the Air Corps prepared plans in October 1938 for a force of some 7,000 aircraft.

Soon afterwards, President Roosevelt asked the War Department to prepare a program for an Air Corps composed of 10,000 airplanes, of which 7,500 would be combat aircraft.

In a special message to Congress on January 12, 1939, the President formally requested this program. Congress responded on April 3, authorizing $300 million for an Air Corps "not to exceed 6,000 serviceable airplanes."

 

World War II

Beginning in September 1939, the German army and the German air force rapidly conquered Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France and within one year had driven the British off the continent. Leaders of the Air Corps now found themselves in the novel position of receiving practically anything they requested. Plans soon called for 54 combat groups. This program was hardly underway before revised plans called for 84 combat groups equipped with 7,800 aircraft and manned by 400,000 troops by June 30, 1942. All told, U.S. Army air forces strength in World War II would swell from 26,500 men and 2,200 aircraft in 1939 to 2,253,000 men and women and 63,715 aircraft in 1945.

With this enormous expansion underway, the War Department began in 1939 to establish new bases and air organizations in rapid succession overseas and in the continental United States. At the same time air leaders worked to create an independent institutional structure for air within the U.S. Army.

Both necessity and desire thus caused a blitz of organizational changes from 1940 through 1942. On November 19, 1940, the General Headquarters Air Force was removed from the jurisdiction of the Chief of the Air Corps and given separate status under the commander of the Army Field Forces. Seven months later, these air combat forces returned to the command of air leaders as Gen. George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, established the Army Air Forces on June 20, 1941, to control both the Air Corps and the Air Force Combat Command.

Early in 1941, the War Department instituted a series of actions to create a hierarchy for non-combat activities. It set up a command eventually designated Flying Training Command to direct new programs for training ground crews and technicians. The next year, the new command assumed responsibility for pilot and aircrew training. In mid-1942 the War Department established the Air Corps Ferrying Command to fly aircraft overseas for delivery to the British and other Allies. As the functions of the Ferrying Command expanded, it was redesignated as the Air Transport Command.

To control supply and maintenance, the War Department established the Air Corps Maintenance Command under the Air Corps Materiel Division. The Materiel Division then concentrated on procurement and research development.

The War Department reorganization on March 9, 1942, created three autonomous U.S. Army Commands: Army Ground Forces, Services of Supply (later, in 1943, Army Service Forces), and Army Air Forces. This administrative reorganization did not affect the status of the Air Corps as a combatant arm of the US Army.

All of these actions affecting the air forces and commands that comprised the AAF emphasized the surge towards an independent service and the expansion of combat forces that took place during World War II.

Before 1939 the Army's air arm was a fledgling organization; by the end of the war the Army Air Forces had become a major military organization comprised of many air forces, commands, divisions, wings, groups, and squadrons, plus an assortment of other organizations.

Rapid demobilization of forces immediately after World War II, although sharply reducing the size of the Army Air Forces, left untouched the nucleus of the postwar United States Air Force (USAF). A War Department letter of March 21, 1946, created two new commands and re-designated an existing one: Continental Air Forces was re-designated Strategic Air Command, and the resources of what had been Continental Air Forces were divided among Strategic Air Command and the two newcomers - Air Defense Command and Tactical Air Command. These three commands and the older Air Transport Command represented respectively the strategic, tactical, defense, and airlift missions that provided the foundation for building the postwar, independent Air Force.

 

An Independent Force

The National Security Act of 1947 became law on July 26, 1947. It created the Department of the Air Force, headed by a Secretary of the Air Force.

Under the Department of the Air Force, the act established the United States Air Force, headed by the Chief of Staff, USAF. On Sept. 18, 1947, W. Stuart Symington became Secretary of the Air Force, and on Sept. 26, Gen. Carl A. Spaatz became the USAF's first Chief of Staff.

 

The Creation of the US Air Force

National Defense Act of 1947
Sections 207-209
 

The following text is taken from the National Security Act of 1947 and is the document authorizing the creation of a separate US Air Force. President Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act on 26 July 1947 aboard the Douglas VC-54C "Sacred Cow" displayed at the USAF Museum in the Presidential Aircraft Hangar. The USAF began operating as a separate service 7 weeks later on 18 September 1947.

 

The Department Of The Air Force

Sec 207. (a) Within the National Military Establishment there is hereby established an executive department to be known as the Department of the Air Force, and a Secretary of the Air Force, who shall be the head thereof. The Secretary of the Air Force shall be appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

(b) Section 158 of the Revised Statutes is amended to include the Department of the Air Force and the provisions of so much of title IV of the Revised Statutes as now or hereafter amended as is not inconsistent with this Act, shall be applicable to the Department of the Air Force.

(c) The term 'Department of the Air Force' as used in this Act shall be construed to mean the Department of the Air Force at the seat of government and all field headquarters forces, reserve components, installations, activities, and functions under the control or supervision of the Department of the Air Force.

(d) There shall be in the Department of Air Force an Under Secretary of the Air Force and two Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force, who shall be appointed from civilian life by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

(e) The several officers of the Department of the Air Force shall perform such functions as the Secretary of the Air Force may prescribe .

(f) So much of the functions of the Secretary of the Army and of the Department of the Army, including those of any officer of such Department, as are assigned to or under the control of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces or as are deemed by the Secretary of Defense to be necessary or desirable for the operations of the Department of the Air Force or the United States Air Force, shall be transferred to and vested in the Secretary of the Air Force and the Department of the Air Force: Provided, That the National Guard Bureau shall, in addition to the functions and duties performed by it for the Department of the Army, be charged with similar functions and duties for the Department of the Air Force, and shall be the channel of communication between the Department of the Air Force and the several States on all matters pertaining to the Air National Guard: And provided further, That, In order to permit an orderly transfer, the Secretary of Defense may, during the transfer period hereinafter prescribed, direct that the Department of the Army shall continue for appropriate periods to exercise any of such functions, insofar as they relate to the Department of the Air Force or the United States Air Force or their property and personnel. Such of the property, personnel, and records of the Department of the Army used in the exercise of functions transferred under this subsection as the Secretary of Defense shall determine shall be transferred or assigned to the Department of the Air Force.

(g) The Secretary of the Air Force shall cause a seal of office to be made for the Department of the Air Force, of such device as the President shall approve, and judicial notice shall be taken thereof.

 

The United States Air Force

SEC: 208. (a) The United States Air Force is hereby established under the Department of the Air Force. The Army: Air Forces. The Air Corps, United States Army, and the General Headquarters Air Force (Air Force Combat Command), shall be transferred to the United States Air Force.

(b) There shard be a Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of four years from among the officers of general rank who are assigned to or commissioned in the United States Air Force. Under the direction of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, shall exercise command over the United States Air Force and shall be charged with the duty of carrying into execution all lawful orders and directions which may be transmitted to him. The functions of' the Commanding General, General Headquarters Air Force (Air Force Combat Command), and of the Chief of the Air Corps and of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, shall be transferred to the Chief of Staff United States Air Force. When such transfer becomes effective, the offices of the Chief of the Air Corps, United States Army, and Assistants to the Chief of the Air Corps, United States Army, provided for by the Act of June 4, 1920, as amended (41 Stat. 768), and Commanding General, General Headquarters Air Force, provided for by section 5 of the Act of June 16, 1936 (49 Stat. 1525), shall cease to exist. While holding office as Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, the incumbent shall hold a grade and receive allowances equivalent to those prescribed by law for the Chief of Staff, United States Army. The Chief of Staff, United States Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, shall take rank among themselves according to their relative dates of appointment as such; and shall each take rank above all other officers on the active list of the Army, Navy, and Air Force: Provided, That nothing in this Act shall have the effect of changing the relative rank of the present Chief of Staff, United States Army, and the present Chief of Naval Operations.

(c) All commissioned officers, warrant officers, and enlisted men, commissioned, holding warrants, or enlisted, in the Air Corps, United States Army, or the Army Air Forces, shall be transferred in branch to the United States Air Force. All other commissioned officers, warrant officers, and enlisted men, who are commissioned, hold warrants, or are enlisted, in any component of the Army of the United States, and who are under the authority or command of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, shall be continued under the authority or command of the Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, and under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Air Force. Personnel whose status is affected by this subsection shall retain their existing commissions, warrants, or enlisted status in existing components of the armed forces unless otherwise altered or terminated in accordance with existing law; and they shall not be deemed to have been appointed to a new or different office or grade, or to have vacated their permanent or temporary appointments In an existing components of the armed forces solely by virtue of any change in status under this subsection. No such change in status shall alter or prejudice the status of any individual so assigned, so as to deprive him of any right, benefit, or privilege to which he may be entitled under existing law.

(d) Except as otherwise directed by the Secretary of the Air Force, all property, records, installations, agencies, activities, projects, and civilian personnel under the jurisdiction, control, authority, or command of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, shall be continued to the same extent under the jurisdiction, control, authority, or command, respectively, of the Chief of Staff United States Air Force, in the Department of the Air Force.

(e) For a period of two years from the date of enactment of this Act, personnel (both military and civilian), property, records, installations, agencies, activities, and projects may be transferred between the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force by direction of the Secretary of Defense.

(f) In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.

 

The Effective Date Of Transfers

Sec. 209. Each transfer, assignment, or change in status under section 207 or section 208 shall take effect upon such date or dates as may be prescribed by the Secretary of Defense.

 

 

 

THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL AIRCRAFT

Douglas VC-54C "Sacred Cow"

 

Click on Picture to enlarge

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew to the Casablanca Conference in 1943 on board a commercial Boeing 314 Clipper Ship, he became the first president of the United States to fly while still in office. Concerned about relying upon commercial airlines to transport the president, the U.S. Army Air Forces leaders ordered the conversion of a military aircraft to accommodate the special needs of the Commander in Chief. After encountering difficulties with converting a C-87A transport, the USAAF arranged with Douglas Aircraft to construct a new transport aircraft specifically for presidential use. Nicknamed the Sacred Cow, this VC-54C became the first military aircraft to transport a president of the United States when President Roosevelt took it to the USSR for the Yalta Conference in February 1945.

The first purpose-built aircraft to fly the president of the United States, the Sacred Cow is the only VC-54C ever constructed. To an untrained eye, it looks like any other C-54, but the Sacred Cow is unique. Beginning with a C-54A fuselage and a C-54B wings, Douglas made numerous modifications. For example, the ailerons are different from any B model. Furthermore, the Sacred Cow underwent extensive interior modifications. One special feature is an elevator behind the passenger cabin to lift the president in his wheelchair in and out of the plane-an otherwise difficult procedure. The passenger compartment includes a conference room with a large desk and a bulletproof picture window.

Click on Picture to enlarge

Elevator behind the passenger cabin

Roosevelt used the Sacred Cow only once; he died in April 1945. However, the Sacred Cow remained in presidential service during the first 27 months of the Truman Administration. On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board the Sacred Cow. This act established the Air Force as an independent service, making the Sacred Cow the "birthplace" of the U.S. Air Force.

The USAF later assigned it to other transport duties, and it was retired in October 1961. In 1983, the Sacred Cow was shipped by truck to the U.S. Air Force Museum. The monumental task of restoring the aircraft began in August 1985, and it took 10 years and over 34,000 hours of work to complete. Appearing as it did during President Roosevelt's trip to Yalta, the Sacred Cow provides a wonderful exhibit for visitors and a superb example of the craftsmanship, skill, and perseverance of the Museum's Restoration Division staff and volunteers.

SPECIFICATIONS
Span: 117 ft. 6 in.
Length: 93 ft. 5 in.
Height: 27 ft. 7 in.
Weight: 80,000 lbs. loaded
Armament: None
Engines: Four Pratt and Whitney R-2000 engines of 1,450 hp. each
Crew: Seven (plus 15 passengers)
Serial number: 42-107451

PERFORMANCE
Maximum speed:
300 mph
Cruising speed: 245 mph
Range: 3,900 miles
Service Ceiling: 30,000 ft.

THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM

 

 

Last Updated

02/10/2014

 

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