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The Wild Blue Yonder

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The 2006 United States Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia and its three spires appear to be soaring, evoking the contrails of the Air Force Thunderbirds as they peel back in a precision maneuver (Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, July 7, 2007.) Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Sunday marked the 75th anniversary of the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, Act of July 26, 1947, ch. 343, 61 Stat. 495. The act had several major provisions including the establishment of the Department of Defense, the removal of the departments of War and of the Navy from the cabinet, and the creation of the United States Air Force (USAF).

America’s military air force began its existence as a branch of the United States Army, specifically as a part of the Signal Corps, in the summer of 1907, less than four years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk. Beginning with World War I, the Army’s air component became a separate entity, first as the Army Air Service (1918-1926), then as the Army Air Corps (1926-1941), and finally as the United States Army Air Forces in 1941 by Army Regulation 95-5.

The USAAF was extensively involved in fighting World War II, including conducting ground support operations in all areas where American soldiers fought, strategic bombing operations in Asia and Europe, and supporting the flow of material and personnel from the United States to distant theaters of operations. During the conflict, it became apparent that a separate branch of the armed forces would need to be established after the war to better coordinate such activities.

Section 208(f) of the National Security Act of 1947, defines the role of the USAF as

  (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 first major mission of the new branch was to resupply the residents of Berlin during the Berlin Airlift of 1948.

Source:  Edwin L. Williams, USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Air University.  Legislative History of the AAF and USAF, 1941-1951 (1955).

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