The United States Air Force was established on September 18, 1907 and every year on this date the nation celebrates U.S. Air Force Day to recognize the service and sacrifices of the brave men and women who serve in this important branch of the military. Let’s take a look at the history behind this commemoration as well as how the Air Force continues to impact America and the world.
The Early Years of Military Aviation
In the early 1900s, military aviation was still in its infancy but aircraft were beginning to be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and bombing missions. On September 18, 1907 the U.S. Army Signal Corps established an Aeronautical Division with one officer and two enlisted men. This small group was the origin of what would eventually become the U.S. Air Force.
Balloons and Early Airplanes
Initially, the focus was on ballooning for observation but powered flight capabilities were also being explored. Some of the earliest aircraft acquired for evaluation included designs from the Wright Brothers. Through World War I, aviation technologies advanced rapidly and aircraft took on increasingly important roles in combat. After the war, General Billy Mitchell emerged as a leading advocate for recognizing air power as a distinct form of warfare.
The Interwar Years
In the 1920s, the Aeronautical Division was renamed the Air Service but it remained subordinate to the Army. This period saw further experimentation and development of bombers, fighters, and other military aircraft. The Air Corps Act of 1926 granted aviation forces within the Army equal status with other combat arms but it was not yet a fully independent service. However, the seeds were being planted for what would eventually become a separation from the Army.
World War II Proved the Value of Air Power
When World War II engulfed Europe and the Pacific, American air forces demonstrated their critical importance. Bombing campaigns facilitated the defeat of Axis powers while air superiority missions supported ground forces. Iconic planes like the P-51 Mustang, B-17 Flying Fortress and P-38 Lightning helped achieve victory.
The Need for Independence
General Henry “Hap” Arnold emerged as a champion for an autonomous Air Force. He oversaw tremendous expansion and played a pivotal role in major engagements. The overwhelming success of strategic bombing added momentum to calls for independence from Army control.
The Air Force is Born
On September 18, 1947, the U.S. Air Force was established as an independent military branch under the National Security Act. This marked the culmination of decades of advancement for American military aviation and recognition that air power had come into its own as a dominant force in modern warfare.
Securing Freedom from Above
In the post-WWII era and Cold War, the newly minted U.S. Air Force took on responsibilities around the globe. Nuclear deterrence missions and cutting edge aerospace technologies positioned America as the dominant air and space power.
Gulf War and Beyond
From providing close air support and conducting strategic bombing campaigns to space exploration and homeland defense, the Air Force proved vital to national security time and again. Though military aviation has continued to evolve greatly, the core mission of securing America’s freedom from above remains unchanged.
U.S. Air Force Day Today
To this day, August 1st is designated as U.S. Air Force Day. Across the nation and around the world, current and former Airmen celebrate the branch’s establishment as well as pay tribute to those who came before.
- Parades and Flyovers
- Remembrance Ceremonies
- Veteran Recognition Events
Towns with Air Force bases often hold special ceremonies and airshows. Veterans organizations conduct commemorations as well. Media outlets publish histories, profiles and other stories honoring Air Force service. Overall, it’s a day to express pride in the crucial role of airpower and appreciate all who have upheld America’s skies.
Why is U.S. Air Force Day Important?
U.S. Air Force day reminds the nation of how far military aviation has come and the sacrifices made along the way to keep the country safe from threats in the skies. It honors both past and present Airmen for living up to the branch’s core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do.
How Can People Get Involved?
While large public celebrations may be limited due to Covid safety protocols, there are still meaningful ways for citizens to participate in honoring the Air Force. People can attend virtual commemorations, write letters or cards to deployed troops, thank a veteran, learn more about Air Force history or make donations supporting community Air Force non-profits.
Q1. Who founded the U.S. Air Force?
Q2. When is U.S. Air Force Day celebrated each year?
Q3. What is the purpose of U.S. Air Force Day?
Q4. What kinds of events are held to commemorate U.S. Air Force Day?
Q5. How can the general public get involved in celebrating U.S. Air Force Day?