The U.S. Air Force celebrates 72 years in service on Wed., Sept. 18, closing in on nearly three-quarters of a century in defense of the nation and its founding ideals.
The origins of the Air Force began when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on July 26, officially establishing the Air Force, and on Sept. 18, 1947, appointed the first Air Force Secretary W. Stuart Symington to cement the creation of the new service, according to a Robins Air Force, Ga., feature article.
The Act proclaimed the purpose of organizing the U.S. Armed Forces was “To provide a comprehensive program for the future security of the United States; to provide three military departments: the Army, the Navy and the Air Force; to provide for their coordination and unified direction under civilian control and to provide for the effective strategic direction and operation of the Armed Forces under unified control.”
However, the Air Force’s founding was predestined in 1907 when the Army Signal Corps established a small Aeronautical Division to “take charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects,” according to the Robins AFB article.
The new U.S. Army Aeronautical Division came just four years after the Wright Brothers completed the first successful airplane flight in 1903.
Two years later the Army manufactured its first aircraft in 1909 and in 1913 formed the first Army unit devoted exclusively to aviation: The 1st Aero Squadron. The unit continues to operate today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, according to the article.
The need for air supremacy and a more organized flying force became apparent during World War II, and this need was backed up by the establishment of major air bases such as Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Tinker was established in 1941 and continues to play a central role by serving as one of the largest Air Force depots, the article ntoes.
From the manufacture of its first aircraft to the establishment of Tinker AFB, the Air Force went through several designations as the Aeronautical Section, Signal Corps (1909); Aviation Section, Signal Corps (1914); United States Army Air Service (1918); United States Army Air Corps (1926) and United States Army Air Forces (1941).
Today, celebrating its 72nd year in service, the Air Force remains as important to enhancing and assuring U.S. security as it did at the time of its establishment in the landmark National Security Act of 1947.