The United States. Air Force will turn 71 years old Tuesday, Sept. 18. This date is also the anniversary of the Department of Defense, both the result of an act passed by Congress–the National Security Act of 1947. The act became effective Sept. 18, 1947, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.
Prior to 1947, the responsibility for land-based military aviation was the Army’s. The Army created the first predecessor of the Air Force on Aug. 1, 1907. It was known as the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, from Aug. 1907 until July 1914, the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, from July 1914 until May 1918, the Division of Military Aeronautics and then the Air Service, U.S. Army, from May 1918 until July 1926, the U.S. Army Air Corps from July 1926 until June 1941 and the U.S. Army Air Forces from June 1941 until September 1947.
For the average officer or enlisted member serving in September of 1947, not much changed right away. The operational commands would continue through the coming decade. Most of the leaders from senior officers down were already in uniform. In fact, the military services had a surplus of trained personnel left over from World War II. And the Air Force already had or was developing its aircraft and weapons for the coming decade.
The first Air Force Chief of Staff, General Carl A. Spaatz, was a veteran of both World Wars, and a fighter ace in World War I who led much of the air war in Europe during World War II. The last World War II veteran to serve as Chief of Staff was General David C. Jones, who retired in 1982 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In 1947, the Air Force had yet to adopt its blue uniform and the Air Force Academy was seven years from its beginnings. The service has continued to change as circumstances dictated.
I’m proud to have shared in that history. My own association with the Air Force began in 1959, when I enrolled in Air Force ROTC. It continued in the Air National Guard, followed by active commissioned service in the Air Force, later as an Air Force Reservist.
No, I don’t bleed Air Force blue, and thank you for asking.
God keep them and rest their souls.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.