Happy Birthday to the Air Force and Air National Guard
Today we celebrate the 74th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard’s official founding. Originally called the Army Air Force, today’s U.S. Air Force is the world’s finest flying force. Its history includes countless stories of trailblazers and heroes who have bravely served in conflicts around the world.
Today, the Air Force’s state-of-the-art high-tech capabilities make challenges such as traveling faster than the speed of sound a routine maneuver. U.S. Airmen are are some of the most highly trained specialists whose work goes far beyond flying to include developing autonomous aerial and ground robots, remotely piloting aircraft and operating history’s largest GPS constellation.
During World War II, the U.S. demonstrated to the world the might of its air superiority, and the nation has never looked back since. In 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act officially establishing the U.S. Air Force as a branch within the Department of Defense. Later that year, on Sept. 18, Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson swore in Stuart Symington as the first Secretary of the Air Force.
The creation of the Air Force would not have been possible without the leadership of two key figures, including one who fought to separate the Air Force from the Army long before World War II. Army General William “Billy” Mitchell, known as the “Father of the Air Force,” began his military career in 1898 in the Spanish-American War. He fell in love with air flight in 1916 but due to his advanced age of 38, he was forced to pay for his own civilian flying lessons to obtain his pilot’s license.
His pilot’s training came in handy. During the “Great War” Mitchell commanded almost 1500 aircraft at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, pounding the German lines. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor and in 1919, France awarded him the Legion of Honor.
Another key voice and one of the biggest proponents for separating the Air Forces from the Army and Navy was General Henry “Hap” Arnold. Arnold served as the Commander of the Army Air Forces during World War II. He’d become enamored with flight after graduating from West Point when the Army assigned him to attend the Wright Brothers’ flying school in Ohio in 1911.
Arnold was an important voice in lobbying Congress to make the Air Force independent. He was joined by an additional chorus of supporters including General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Since 1947, men and women have bravely answered the call of duty and proudly worn the uniform of the Airmen. We thank all those who served and continue to serve in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard.