- United States Army Air Forces
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)
caption=USAAF Shoulder Sleeve Insignia ("Hap Arnold Emblem")
United States of America
United States Army
size= 2.4 million members (March 1944)
79,908 aircraft (July 1944)
Henry H. Arnold, 1941-1946
Carl Spaatz, 1946-1947
The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was the military aviation arm of the
United States of Americaduring and immediately after World War II. The direct precursor to the United States Air Force, its peak size was over 2.4 million men and women in service and nearly 80,000 aircraft in 1944, and 783 domestic bases in December 1943. [Nalty, Bernard C. (1997). "Reaction to the war in Europe", "Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force" Vol. I, ISBN 0-16-049009-X, pp. 176 and 378. Also, see growth tables above.] By VE Dayit had 1.25 million men stationed overseas and operated from more than 1,600 airfields worldwide. [ [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/aafsd/aafsd_list_of_tables_miscellaneous.html AAF Statistical Digest, List of Tables] Table 215 Airfields in CONUS 1941-1945; Table 217 Airfields outside CONUS 1941-1945.]
The Air Corps became the Army Air Forces in June 1941 to provide the air arm a greater autonomy in which to expand more efficiently, and to provide a structure for the additional command echelons required by a vastly increased force. Although other nations already had separate air forces independent of the army or navy (such as the British
Royal Air Forceand the German Luftwaffe), the USAAF remained a part of the United States Army.
Lineage of the United States Air Force
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps- 1 August 1907– 18 July 1914
Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps- 18 July 1914– 20 May 1918
Division of Military Aeronautics- 20 May 1918– 24 May 1918
* U.S. Army Air Service -
24 May 1918– 2 July 1926
* U.S. Army Air Corps -
2 July 1926– 20 June 1941**
* U.S. Army Air Forces -
20 June 1941– 18 September 1947**
* U.S. Air Force -
18 September 1947–Present **The Air Corps became a subordinate element of the Army Air Forces, and no longer an administrative organization, on 20 June 1941. It continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army (similar to Infantry) until disestablished by Congress with the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947.
Creation of the Army Air Forces
The roots of the AAF arose in the formulation of theories of
strategic bombingat the Air Corps Tactical School that gave new impetus to arguments for an independent air force. Despite a perception of resistance and even obstruction by the U.S. Army General Staff, much of which was attributable to lack of funds, the Air Corps made great strides in the 1930s, both organizationally and in doctrine. A strategy stressing precision bombing of industrial targets by heavily armed, long-range bombers began to emerge, formulated by the very men who would become its future leaders. [Shiner, John F. (1997). "The Coming of the GHQ Air Force, 1925-1935", "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.112-113.]
A major step toward a separate air force, after the establishment of an "Air Corps" in 1926, came in March 1935 when command of all combat air units within the Continental United States was centralized under a single headquarters called General Headquarters Air Force. Since 1920, control of aviation units had resided with commanders of the Corps Areas (a peacetime ground forces administrative echelon), following the model established by General
John Pershingduring World War I. GHQ Air Force represented a compromise between strategic airpower advocates and ground force commanders who demanded that the Air Corps remain tied to the mission of the land forces. [Shiner, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.130.] GHQ Air Force organized combat groups administratively into a strike force of three wings deployed to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts. A division of the air defense of the United States into four geographical districts followed in 1940 that laid the foundation for the subsequent numbered air forces.
GHQ Air Force was small in comparison to European air forces. Lines of authority were difficult, at best, since GHQ Air Force controlled only its combat units while the Air Corps was still responsible for doctrine, acquisition, and training. The corps area commanders continued to control all airfields and the support personnel manning them. The commanders of GHQ Air Force and the Air Corps, Major Generals
Frank Andrewsand Oscar Westoverrespectively, clashed philosophically over the direction in which the air arm was taking which added to the difficulties. [Shiner, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.131-133.]
Creation of the Army Air Forces
The likelihood of U.S. participation in World War II prompted the most radical reorganization of the aviation branch in its history, developing a structure that both unified command of all air elements and gave it total autonomy by March 1942. On
June 20, 1941, under a revision by the United States Department of Warof Army Regulation 95-5, [ [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/csppp/ch09.htm Mark Skinner Watson, "Chief of Staff: Pre-war Plans and Preparations", "Chapter IX: The Movement Toward Air Autonomy"] , p.293.] Major General Henry H. Arnold, then Chief of the Air Corps, assumed the title of Chief of Army Air Forces, creating an echelon of command over all military aviation components. The AAF was directly under the orders of the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.181.]
Arnold and Marshall agreed that the AAF would enjoy autonomy within the War Department until the end of the war, while its commanders would cease lobbying for independence. Marshall, a strong proponent of airpower, left understood that the Air Force would likely achieve its independence after the war. Soon after the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harboron December 7, 1941, in recognition of importance of the role of the Army Air Forces, Arnold was given a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the planning staff that served as the focal point of American strategic planning during the war, so that the United States would have an air representative in staff talks with their British counterparts on the Combined Chiefs, and in effect gained equality with Marshall. While this step was never officially recognized by the United States Navy, and was bitterly disputed behind the scenes at every opportunity, it nevertheless succeeded as a pragmatic foundation for the future separation of the Air Force. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.179-181.]
GHQ Air Force was replaced by the Air Force Combat Command, and its four geographical districts were converted in January 1941 into numbered air forces, with a subordinate organization of 54 groups. Organizationally, the Army Air Forces was created as a higher command echelon encompassing both Air Force Combat Command and the Army Air Corps, thus bringing all of the air arm under a centralized command for the first time. Yet these reforms were only temporary, lasting just nine months as the air arm streamlined in preparation for war, with a goal of centralized planning and decentralized execution of operations. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.181.]
Executive Order 9082 [http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16227] changed Arnold's title to "Commanding General, Army Air Forces" on
March 9, 1942, making him co-equal with the commanding generals of the new Army Ground Forcesand Services of Supply, the other two parts of the Army of the United States. War Department Circular No. 59 carried out the executive order, intended as a wartime expedient to expire six months after the end of the war. [Correll, John T. "GHQ Air Force", "AIR FORCE Magazine", September 2008, Vol. 91 No. 9, p.68.]
In addition to dissolving Army General Headquarters and assigning its training functions to the Army Ground Forces, War Circular 59 reorganized the Army Air Forces, disbanding the Combat Command (formerly GHQAF) and changing the Air Corps to a non-organizational combat arm, eliminating their layer of command. [ [http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/WCP/ChapterVI.htm#p90 Ray S. Cline (1990). "Washington Command Post: The Operations Division" "Chapter VI: Organizing the High Command for World War II"] , p.92.] Replacing them were eleven numbered air forces (later raised to sixteen) and six major commands (which became eight in January 1943: Flying Training, Technical Training, Troop Carrier, Air Transport, Materiel, Air Service, Proving Ground, and Anti-Submarine Commands). In July 1943 Flying Training and Technical Training Commands merged into a single Training Command.
Expansion of the Army Air Forces
The Air Corps began a rapid expansion in the spring of 1939 at the direction of President
Franklin D. Rooseveltto provide an adequate air force for defense of the Western Hemisphere. An initial "25-group program", developed in April 1939, called for 50,000 men. When war broke out in September 1939 the Air Corps still had only 800 first-line combat aircraft and 76 bases, including 21 major installations and depots. [Futrell, Robert (1951). USAF Historical Study No. 69: "Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States, 1939-1945", Air Force Historical Research Agency, pp. 2-7.]
Following the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940, accelerated programs followed that repeatedly revised goals, resulting in plans for 84 combat groups, 7,799 combat aircraft, and the annual addition to the force of 30,000 new pilots and 100,000 technical personnel. [Wesley F. Craven and James Cate, editors. "Army Air Forces in World War II: Vol. I: Plans & Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942", p.105-106.] The accelerated expansion programs resulted in a force of 156 airfields and 152,125 personnel at the time of the creation of the Army Air Forces. [ [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/aafsd/aafsd_pdf/t003.pdf AAF Statistical Digest, Table 3: Strength of the AAF 1912-1945] ] quote box2 |width=30em | bgcolor=#B0C4DE |align=left|halign=left |quote="In its expansion during World War II, the AAF became the world's most powerful air force. From the Air Corps of 1939, with 20,000 men and 2,400 planes, to the nearly autonomous AAF of 1944, with almost 2.4 million personnel and 80,000 aircraft, was a remarkable expansion. Robert A. Lovett, the Assistant Secretary of War for Air, together with Arnold, presided over an increase greater than for either the ground Army or the Navy, while at the same time dispatching combat air forces to the battlefronts."
source="The Evolution of the Department of the Air Force" - Air Force Historical Studies Office cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/Evolution.htm| title = The Evolution of the Department of the Air Force| format = | work = | publisher = Air Force Historical Research Agency| accessdate = 6 Jul| accessyear = 2008]
The German invasion of the Soviet Union, occurring only two days after the creation of the Army Air Forces, caused an immediate reassessment of U.S. defense strategy and policy. The need for an offensive strategy to defeat the
Axis Powersrequired further enlargement and modernization of all the military services, including the new AAF. In addition, the invasion produced a new Lend leasepartner in Russia, creating even greater demands on an already struggling American aircraft production. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.173.]
An offensive strategy required several types of urgent and sustained effort. In addition to the development and manufacture of aircraft in massive numbers, the Army Air Forces had to establish a global logistics network to supply, maintain, and repair the huge force; recruit and train personnel; and sustain the health, welfare, and morale of its troops. The process was driven by the pace of aircraft production, not the training program, [Watson, George M, Jr. (1997). "Building Air Power", "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.231.] and was ably aided by the direction of the new (April 1941) Assistant Secretary of War for Air,
Robert A. Lovett.
A lawyer and a banker, Lovett had prior experience with the aviation industry that translated into realistic production goals and harmony in integrating the plans of the AAF with those of the Army as a whole. [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.235.] Lovett initially believed that President Roosevelt's demand following the
attack on Pearl Harborfor 60,000 airplanes in 1942 and 125,000 in 1943 was grossly ambitious. However, working closely with General Arnold and engaging the capacity of the American automotive industrybrought about an effort that produced almost 100,000 aircraft in 1944. [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", pp.233-235.]
The logistical demands of this armada were met by the creation of the Air Service Command to provide service units and maintain 250 depots in the United States; the elevation of the Materiel Division to full command status to develop and procure aircraft, equipment, and parts; and the Air Technical Service Command to ship the materiel overseas. [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", pp.246-248.] In addition to carrying personnel and cargo, the Air Transport Command made deliveries of almost 270,000 aircraft worldwide while losing only 1,013 in the process. [ [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/aafsd/aafsd_pdf/t206.pdf AAF Statistical Digest, Table 206: AAF Ferrying Operations Jan 42 to Aug 45] ] The operation of the stateside depots was done largely by more than 300,000 civilian maintenance employees, many of them women, freeing a like number of Air Forces mechanics for overseas duty. [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", pp.248-249.]
Growth of the USAAF, aircraft
SOURCE: USAF Historical Study No. 69 "Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States, 1939-1945", Chart I, p.169.
SOURCE: "AAF Statistical Digest", Table 217: Airfields outside the CONUS, 1941-1945.
Organization and equipment
By the end of World War II, the USAAF had created sixteen numbered air forces ("First" through "Fifteenth" and "Twentieth") distributed worldwide to prosecute the war and defend the Americas, plus a "Zone of the Interior" general air force within the continental United States to support the whole. [Bowman, Martin W. (1997). "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", Stackpole Books, ISBN 0-8117-1822-0, p.16.]
Several air forces were created "de novo" as the service expanded during the war. Some grew out of earlier commands—for example, the "Eighth Air Force" was originally "VIII Bomber Command", then later had its designation again assigned to the command when that organization was discontinued—as the service expanded in size and organization, and higher echelons such as
United States Strategic Air Forces(USSTAF) in Europe and U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacificbecame necessary to control the whole. In August 1945, the "U.S. Strategic Air Forces" became the United States Air Forces in Europe(USAFE). A subordinate organizational tier, the command, was created to segregate units of similar functions (fighters and bombers) for administrative control.
An additional eight air divisions served as an additional layer of command for the vast organization, capable of acting independently if the need arose. Inclusive within the air forces and divisions were administrative headquarters called
wings to control groups (operational units; see section below). As the number of groups increased, the number of wings needed to control them multiplied, with 91 ultimately activated, 69 of which were still active at the end of the war. As part of the Air Service and Air Corps, wings had been composite organizations, that is, comprised of groups with different types of missions. Most of the wings of World War II, however, were composed of groups with like functions (denoted as "bombardment", "fighter", "reconnaissance", "training", "antisubmarine", "troop carrier", "replacement", or "composite"). Six support organizations, also called commands, remained under the control of Headquarters Army Air Forces. These were created, or expanded from earlier Air Corps organizations, in 1941 and 1942 to support and supply the numbered air forces, to which the operational units (groups and squadrons) were assigned. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", p.17-18.]
These commands were:
* Air Technical Service Command (ATSC)
* Air Transport Command (ATC)
* Army Air Forces Training Command (AAFTC)
* Personnel Distribution Command (PDC)
* Proving Ground Command (PGC)
* Troop Carrier Command (TTC)
While officially the air arm had become the "Army Air Forces", colloquially the term "Air Corps" persisted among the public as well as veteran airmen, whose branch remained the Air Corps; in addition, the singular "Air Force" often crept into popular use, reflected by usage of the term "Air Force Combat Command" in 1941-42. This misnomer crept onto official recruiting posters (see image on right) and was important in promoting the idea of an "Air Force" as an independent service.
Responsibilities of the sixteen air forces
First Air Force- (formerly "Northeast Air District", bombardment training)
Second Air Force- (formerly "Northwest Air District", bombardment training)
Third Air Force- (formerly "Southeast Air District", air crew training)
Fourth Air Force- (formerly "Southwest Air District", replacement training)
Fifth Air Force- (formerly " Far East Air Force", Southwest Pacific, Australia, Philippines)
Sixth Air Force- (formerly "Panama Canal Air Force", Caribbeanand Central America)
Seventh Air Force- (formerly "Hawaiian Air Force", Central Pacific and Hawaii)
Eighth Air Force- (Europe - based in Great Britain)
Ninth Air Force- (Middle East, Northwest Europe)
Tenth Air Force- ( China Burma India)
Eleventh Air Force- (formerly "Alaskan Air Force", Alaska)
Twelfth Air Force- ( Mediterranean, based in Italy)
Thirteenth Air Force- ( South Pacific, New Guinea, Philippines)
Fourteenth Air Force- (Southeast and Central China)
Fifteenth Air Force- (Mediterranean, Southern Europe, based in Italy)
Twentieth Air Force- (India, Burma, Japan- based in India and Marianas)
The basic combat component of the Army Air Forces was the group, an organization of three or four flying squadrons and attached or organic ground support elements, which was the rough equivalent of a
regimentof the Army Ground Forces. The Army Air Forces fielded a peak of 269 combat groups during World War II, and an operational peak in 1945 of 243 groups. cite web | last =Maurer | first =Maurer | authorlink = | coauthors = | year =1986 | url = http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/usaaf1.html| title = Overview| format = | work = Air Force Combat Units of World War II | publisher = New York Military Affairs Symposium| accessdate = 2 Jul| accessyear = 2008]
At the end of 1940 the Air Corps had expanded from 15 to 30 groups. By the time the United States entered World War II, the number had increased to 67, but half were in the process of being organized and were unsuitable for combat. Of the 67 groups, 26 were bombardment: 13 "Heavy Bomb" groups (
B-17 Flying Fortressand B-24 Liberator), and the rest "Medium" and "Light" groups ( B-25 Mitchell, B-26 Marauder, and A-20 Havoc). 26 were "Pursuit" groups (renamed "fighter group" in May 1942), 9 "Observation" (renamed "Reconnaissance") groups, and 6 "Transport" (renamed "Troop Carrier" or "Combat Cargo") groups.
The Army Air Forces expanded rapidly in the first half of 1942. The training establishment then in place was inadequate to train units wholesale, and the concept of training cadres who in turn would direct the training of their assigned units was adopted. The
Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics(AAFSAT) was established October 9, 1942, to provide this training. By the beginning of 1944 there were 269 groups. 136 were deployed overseas, and of the remainder still in the United States, 77 were being organized and trained for overseas deployment. The other 56 served as defense units, as Operational Training Units (OTUs) preparing new units for combat, and as Replacement Training Units (RTUs) to train personnel replacements.
Early in 1944, all training was assigned to base units and the OTUs and RTUs inactivated, reducing the number of groups to 218. However, with the formation and deployment of the remaining 25 new groups, the USAAF grew to its final form and at the time of the invasion of France in June 1944, 148 combat groups were fighting against Germany. By August 1945, when all combat operations ended, 86 groups were deployed in the Pacific and Far East, and the remaining force was either in occupation duties in Europe or re-deploying to the United States.
After the operational deployment of the
B-29 Superfortressbomber, "Very Heavy Bombardment" units became part of the force structure. In February 1945, in its final organizational structure, the USAAF fielded 243 combat groups:
*25 Very Heavy, 72 Heavy, 20 Medium, and 8 Light Bombardment groups;
*71 Fighter groups; [Employing
P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, or P-80 Shooting Staraircraft.]
*29 Troop Carrier and Combat Cargo groups; [The four combat cargo groups, numbered 1-4, served in the CBI and 5AF in 1944-45. Two were later redesignated troop carrier groups and became part of the USAF.]
*13 Reconnaissance groups; and
*5 Composite groups. [These were the 509th CG (
B-29/ C-54), 28th CG ( B-24/ B-25), and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Air Commando Groups. The air commando groups were created for service in the CBI and 5AF with one cargo and 2 fighter squadrons each. A medium bomb group, the 477th BG, converted to a P-47/B-25 composite group in June 1945.]
1,226 combat squadrons were active in the USAAF between 7 December 1941 and 1 September 1945. [Maurer Maurer (1969). USAF Historical Study No. 82: "Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II", Air Force Historical Research Agency.] In 1945 a total of 937 squadrons remained active, with 872 assigned to the various groups. 65 squadrons, mostly
reconnaissanceand night fighter, were not assigned to groups but as separate units under higher command echelons.
The United States Army Air Forces used a large variety of aircraft in accomplishing its various missions, including many obsolete aircraft left over from its time as the Air Corps, with fifteen designations of types. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook", p. 113. The types were: A - Attack; AT - Advanced Trainer; B - Bomber; BT - Basic Trainer; C - Cargo/Transport; CG - Cargo Glider; F - Reconnaissance; L - Liaison; O - Observation; OA - Observation-Amphibian; P - Pursuit; PT - Primary Trainer; R - Rotary wing (helicopter); TG - Trainer Glider; and UC - Utility.]
The following were the most numerous types in the USAAF inventory, or those that specifically saw combat. Variants, including all photo-reconnaissance ("F") variants, are listed and described under their separate articles. Many aircraft, particularly transports and trainers, had numerous designations resulting from differences in power plants.
P-61 Black Widow
P-80 Shooting Star
Supermarine Spitfire[Maurer Maurer (1986). " [http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/usaaf1.html Air Force Combat Units of World War II] ". Spitfire Mk.Vs equipped the 4th Fighter Group until early 1943; Mk.Vs and Mk.IXs were the primary fighter of the 31st and 52nd FGs until 1944.]
*de Havilland Mosquito
Utility, rescue, and gliders
Impact of World War II
9 July 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, President Roosevelt directed the military services to prepare estimates of production required to "defeat our potential enemies." The Air War Plans Division of the USAAF, which had heretofore been shut out of the planning processes of the War Plans Division of the General Staff, [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.182.] produced its plan for a global air strategy, AWPD-1, in response. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.187.] [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", p.19.] AWPD-1 called for an air defense of the Western hemisphere, a strategic defense against Japan in the Pacific, and strategic bombardment by 6,800 bombers against Germany, identifying 154 key targets of the German economic infrastructure it considered vulnerable to a sustained campaign. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.188.] A strategic bomber requirement of 7,500 aircraft, which included the intercontinental B-36[Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.188.] (then still in the design phase), was far too large for American industry to achieve to be practical, and an interim plan to attack Germany with 3,800 bombers was included in AWPD-1. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.188.]
AWPD-1 was approved by General Marshall and
Secretary of War Henry Stimsonin September 1941. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.190.] Although war began before the plan could be presented to Roosevelt, it became the foundation for establishing aircraft production and training requirements used during the war, and the concept of a strategic bomber offensive against Germany became policy of the U.S. government, [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", pp.19-20.] in accordance with United States strategic policy stated in Rainbow 5, as the only means available to the United States to take the war to Germany. [Nalty, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.190.] In August 1942 Roosevelt called for a revision of proposed air requirements, and while the resulting AWPD-42 made combatting the German U-boatmenace a top priority, [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.234. The neutralization of the German " Luftwaffe" was the top priority of both plans.] the basic directives remained the same. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", p.23.]
The Air Force Historical Studies Office summarizes the execution of USAAF strategy during World War II: cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/Evolution.htm| title = The Evolution of the Department of the Air Force| format = | work = | publisher = Air Force Historical Research Agency| accessdate = 6 Jul| accessyear = 2008]
"Arnold's staff made the first priority in the war to launch a strategic bombing offensive in support of the RAF against Germany. The
Eighth Air Force, sent to Englandin 1942, took on that job. After a slow and often costly effort to bring the necessary strength to bear, joined in 1944 by the Fifteenth Air Forcestationed in Italy, strategic bombing finally began to get results, and by the end of the war, the German economy had been dispersed and pounded to rubble.
Tactical air forces supported the ground forces in the Mediterranean and European theaters, where the enemy found Allied
air supremacya constant frustration. In the war against Japan, General Douglas MacArthurmade his advance along New Guineaby leap frogginghis air forces forward and using amphibiousforces to open up new bases. The AAF also supported Admiral Chester Nimitz's aircraft carriers in their island-hopping across the Central Pacificand assisted Allied forces in Burmaand China.
Arnold directly controlled the
Twentieth Air Force, equipped with the new long-range B-29 Superfortresses used for bombing Japan's home islands, first from Chinaand then from the Marianas. Devastated by fire-raids, Japan was so weakened by August of 1945 that Arnold believed neither the atomic bombnor the planned invasion would be necessary to win the war. The fact that AAF B-29s dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nevertheless, demonstrated what air power could do in the future. The Strategic Bombing Surveyprovided ammunition for the leaders of the AAF in the postwar debates over armed forces unification and national strategy."
USAAF statistical summary of World War II
The United States Army Air Forces incurred 12% of the Army's 936,000 battle casualties in World War II. Over 90,000 airmen died in service (52,173
killed in actionand 37,856 non-battle deaths, including 13,093 in aircraft accidents). Only the Army Ground Forces suffered more battle deaths. 63,209 members of the USAAF were wounded in actionand over 21,000 became prisoners-of-war. Its casualties were 5.1% of its strength, compared to 10% for the rest of the Army. [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p.268.]
Combat losses of aircraft totalled 22,948 world wide, with 18,418 loss in theaters fighting Germany and 4,530 lost in combat in the Pacific. ["The US Army Air Forces at war: a statistical portrait of USAAF in World War II", "AIR FORCE Magazine", June 1995, Vol. 78 No. 6, summarizing "AAF Statistical Digest", p.34.] The USAAF credited its own forces with destroying a total of 40,259 aircraft of opposing nations by all means, 29,916 against Germany and its allies and 10,343 in the Pacific. ["The US Army Air Forces at war", p.33.]
The cost of the war to the USAAF was approximately $50 billion, or about 30% of the cost to the War Department, [Watson, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p. 268.] with cash expenditures from direct appropriations between July 1942 and August 1945 amounting to $35,185,548,000. [ [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/aafsd/aafsd_list_of_tables_miscellaneous.html AAF Statistical Digest Table 203] ]
sorties flown by the AAF during World War II were 2,352,800, with 1,693,565 flown in Europe-related areas and 669,235 flown in the Pacific and Far East. ["The US Army Air Forces at war", p.32.]
Demobilization and Air Force independence
With the defeat of Japan, the entire United States military establishment immediately began a drastic
demobilization, as it had at the end of World War I. The USAAF was hit as hard or harder as the older services by demobilization. Officers and members were discharged, installations were closed, and aircraft were stored or sold. Between August 1945 and April 1946, its strength fell from 2.25 million men to just 485,000, and a year later to 304,000. Aircraft inventory dropped from 79,000 to less than 30,000, many of them in storage. Permanent installations were reduced from 783 to 177, just 21 more than pre-war. [Wolk, Herman S. (1997). "The Quest for Independence", "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p. 378.] [Futrell, USAF Historical Study No. 69, p. 156. These installations included main bases, sub (satellite) bases, and auxiliary airfields.]
By July 1946, the Army Air Forces had only 2 combat-ready groups out of 52 that remained on the list of active units. A rebuilt air force of 70 groups, the authorized peacetime strength, was anticipated, with reserve and national guard forces to be available for active duty in an emergency. However considerable opposition to a large peacetime military establishment, and to the financial cost of such an establishment, resulted in planning cuts to 48 groups.
In February 1946, ill health forced the retirement of General Arnold before he could fulfill his goal of achieving independence of the Air Force as an equal service with the Army and Navy.
GeneralCarl A. Spaatz replaced Arnold as the only other commanding general of the USAAF, and he oversaw both the demobilization of the largest air force in military history and its rebirth as envisioned by Generals Billy Mitchelland Arnold.
Arnold left the USAAF with two important legacies, based on his experiences in World War II, which shaped the post-war USAAF and its independent successor. The first was a requirement that the command staff of the service must include
staff officers of varying expertise besides pilots. The second was the belief that despite the unqualified success of training methods that had expanded the Air Forces, the United States would never again have the time to mobilize and train the reserve components as it had in 1940, necessitating that reservists and National Guardsmen be immediately ready for service in case of national emergency. [Wolk, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p. 374.]
For his part, Spaatz consulted closely with the new Army Chief of Staff, General
Dwight D. Eisenhower, and reorganized the USAAF into three major commands ( Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Air Defense Command) that would not require a second restructuring once the Air Force became independent. [Wolk, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p. 375.] He also re-structured the reserve components to conform with Arnold's concepts, including creation of the Air National Guardin April 1946. [Wolk, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", p. 377.]
Following the immense buildup in aviation infrastructure and personnel during the war, and in recognition of the tremendous new importance and strength of airpower, President
Harry S. Trumancreated the Department of the Air Force in 1947. This legislation renamed the air arm as the United States Air Force, elevating it to a completely separate branch of the U.S. military. The initial delineation of service roles, Executive Order 9877, was supplanted on April 21, 1948, by the approval by President Truman of the Key West Agreement, which outlined the air assets that each service would be permitted to maintain. The Air Force was assigned the bulk of strategic, tactical, and transport aircraft, but the issue remained divisive well into the 1950s. [Trest, Warren A. and Watson, George M. Jr. (1997). "Framing Air Force missions", "Winged Shield, Winged Sword", pp. 418-424.]
Culture of the U.S. Army Air Forces
Members of the USAAF wore a
wool sergeservice uniform very similar to that of other U.S. Army forces with few modifications. Officers wore a "No. 1" service uniform in "shade No. 51 (dark-shade)" olive drab, nicknamed "greens", while enlisted personnel wore "Class A" service dress of "shade No. 54 (light-shade)" OD. In garrison most officers, although authorized wear of the lighter shade trousers, wore khaki chino cotton or wool trousers that appeared pinkish in hue in contrast with the dark No. 51 shade, leading to the nickname "pinks and greens" for the combination. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", pp. 166-167.] Personnel stationed in Europe were authorized wear of the wool, shade No. 54 (light OD) M-1944 short dress jacket, nicknamed the "Ike jacket", in lieu of the full-length tunic of the service dress uniform.
Shirts for all ranks were either
khakishade No. 1, a light tan; dark shade No. 33 olive drab wool, or light shade No. 50 cotton. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook", p. 167.] Neckties were of the same colors. Summer and tropical dress for all ranks was in khaki. Leather items, including shoes, were russet in color, and the USAAF became known as the "Brown Shoe Air Force" after the United States Air Force became a separate service. [Janet R. Daly-Benarek (1995). "The Enlisted Experience: A Conversation With the Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force". Diane Publishing Company. ISBN 0788128248. By extension "brown shoe" refers to any practice or idea that harks back to the Army Air Forces era.]
Headgear for service uniforms consisted of two types, similar to those in use in the Army ground forces, in olive drab for winter wear and khaki for summer. The
garrison cap, commonly called the "flight cap" in the Air Forces, had been authorized for all ranks since the early 1930s to facilitate the wearing of radio headsets during flights. The oval service cap was fitted with a spring stiffening device called a grommet, and prior to World War II uniform regulations authorized officers to remove the grommet to permit the use of headsets. This style became widely popular during World War II as a symbol of being a combat veteran, and was known as a "50-mission crush" cap. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook", p. 171.]
Flight clothing varied widely by theater of operation and type of mission. Innovative aviation flight suits, boots, leather helmets, goggles, and gloves were issued as early as 1928 to the
United States Army Air Corps, and at least one style, the Type A-3 flight suit, continued in service until 1944. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook", p. 171.] However A-2 flight jackets, which became standard issue in 1931, became one of the best known symbols of the USAAF. Made of seal brown leatherwith a beigespun silk lining, the jackets featured an officer's stand-up collar, shoulder straps, knit waistbands and cuffs, a zipperclosing, and unit insignia. [Bowman, "USAAF Handbook", p. 172.] Heavy, sheepskin-lined B-3 and B-6 flight jackets, A-3 winter flying trousers, and B-2 "gunner's" caps, all in seal brown shearling, proved insufficient for the extreme cold temperatures of high altitude missions in unpressurized aircraft and were supplemented by a variety of one-piece electrically heated flying suits manufactured by the General ElectricCompany.
AAF uniforms were subject to Army Regulations, specifically AR 600-40, authorizing wear of emblems, badges, and insignia on the uniform. Authorized badges and insignia are covered in sections below. The vast size of the service saw the wearing of many custom-made variants of authorized emblems, badges, and insignia, and numerous examples of unauthorized insignia and emblems appeared throughout the forces, particularly in combat units overseas.
SOURCE: Martin Bowman, "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", p.156. Reproduction of relevant page from "The Officer's Guide", Military Service Publishing Co., July 1943.
To denote the special training and qualifications required for membership in the USAAF, the following military badges (known colloquially but ubiquitously throughout the service as "wings") were authorized for wear by members of the Army Air Forces during
World War II:
*Aerial Gunner Badge
*Aircraft Observer Badge
Army Air Force Technician Badge
*Aircraft Observer Badge
Airship Pilot Badge
*Balloon Observer Badge
Balloon Pilot Badge
*Command Pilot Badge
Flight Engineer Badge
Flight Instructor Badge
Flight Nurse Badge
*Flight Surgeon Badge
*Glider Pilot Badge
*Liaison Pilot Badge
*Senior Balloon Pilot Badge
*Senior Pilot Badge
*Service Pilot Badge
*Technical Observer Badge
*Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Badge
These aviation qualification badges were typically worn in full three-inch (76 mm) size on service or dress uniforms, but two-inch versions (nicknamed "sweetheart wings") were also authorized for less-formal shirt wear. Most aviation badges were made of sterling silver or were given a silver finish, and various devices were used to attach them to uniforms. These included the traditional pin and safety catch and, later, clutch-back fasteners. Most USAAF badges of World War II became obsolete, having been superseded by later designs, and were not authorized for wear on the uniform after 1955.
The first shoulder sleeve insignia authorized for Air Corps wear was that of the General Headquarters Air Force, approved
20 July 1937. [ [http://www.afa.org/magazine/KittyHawkNew/1920_1940.asp "Up from Kittyhawk", "AIR FORCE Magazine"] .] This sleeve insignia, which consisted of a blue triskelionsuperimposed on a gold circle was retained after GHQ Air Force became Air Force Combat Command on 20 June 1941. On 23 February 1942, the GHQ AF patch was discontinued and the service-wide AAF sleeve insignia ("Hap Arnold Emblem") approved. The patch was designed by a member of Gen. Arnold's staff, James T. Rawls, and was based on the V-for-Victory sign popularized by Winston Churchill. [ [http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/insignia.htm "Army Air Forces World War II Shoulder Sleeve Insignia" USAF Historical Studies Office] .]
Sleeve insignia was authorized for numbered air forces based overseas on
2 March 1943, and for air forces in the United States on 25 June 1943. From that date forward, the "Hap Arnold Emblem" was worn only by personnel of units not assigned to a numbered air force. AR 600-40, "Wear of the Service Uniform," subsequently limited sleeve insignia to the 16 air forces and the AAF patch. The Quartermaster Corps, responsible for the design and supply of all authorized insignia, resisted further designs for the AAF until 28 July 1945, when command arcs (arc-shaped tabs) were authorized for wear above the AAF insignia by members of the various commands.
Notable personnel of the USAAF
Many persons on this list also served in the U.S. Air Force after it became an independent service on
September 18, 1947.
Carl Albert, U.S. Representative from Oklahoma, Speaker of the House (1971-1977)
Edward Anhalt, novelist and screenwriter
Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the USAAF, and the only general officerto hold two five-star ranks ( General of the Armyand General of the Air Force)
Xavier Atencio, Hollywood animator
Gene Autrey, film actor, singer, and owner of the California Angels
Sy Bartlett, Hollywood screenwriter and producer, co-author of " Twelve O'Clock High"
Chuck Bednarik, professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles
Lloyd Bentsen, U.S. Senator, Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 1988 presidential election, Secretary of the Treasury
* John Birch, East China missionary, volunteered for service after aiding the Doolittle raiders
Esther Blake, first female member of the United States Air Force
* Michael Brezas,
Hispanicfighter ace with the 14th Fighter Group, shot down 12 planes within two months. [ [http://www.neta.com/~1stbooks/def1c.htm Captain Micheal Brezas.] Hispanics in the Defense of the United States of America. Retrieved on June 27, 2007.]
Charles Bronson, Hollywood actor
* Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., Tuskegee Airman, educator, and TV personality
Dann Cahn, film editor
* Robert L. Cardenas, pilot of the B-29 launch aircraft for the X-1 experimental rocket plane flown by
Charles E. Yeager, and retired Brigadier General. [ [http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=4917 Brigadier General Robert L. Cardenas Biography.] United States Air Force. September 1, 1971. Retrieved August 4, 2007.]
Merian C. Cooper, adventurer and Hollywood film producer
Clyde Cowan, discoverer of the neutrino
James Gould Cozzens, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., first African-American USAF general, commander of the 332nd Fighter Group
Jules Engel, filmmaker and animator
Tennessee Ernie Ford, television comedian and recording artist
Nathan Bedford Forrest III, great-grandson of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest
Arthur Franz, film actor
Clark Gable, film actor
* Theodor Geisel, author of children's books ("Dr. Seuss")
* Mihiel "Mike" Gilormini, founder of the
Puerto Rico Air National Guardand retired Brigadier General. [cite web|accessdate=2007-06-27 |url=http://www.worldwar2pilots.com/earlspage.html |title=Memories of a Jug Driver
Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator, Republican nominee in the 1972 presidential election
Peter Graves, film and television actor
William Wister Haines, author, screenwriter, and playwright
Van Heflin, film actor
Charlton Heston, film actor, National Rifle Associationpresident
Arthur Harvey, oil pioneer, author, World War I veteran
Don Herbert, television personality as "Mr. Wizard"
William Holden, film actor
Tim Holt, film actor
* John Hope, television
* Bobby Jones, champion amateur golfer, attorney, and founder of
Nicholas Katzenbach, 65th United States Attorney General
DeForest Kelley, actor
Arthur Kennedy, film actor
* Algene and Frederick Key - brothers and aviation pioneers
Alan Ladd, film actor
Beirne Lay, Jr., Hollywood screenwriter, co-author of " Twelve O'Clock High"
Norman Lear, Television and motion picture producer
Curtis LeMay, USAAF and USAF General, commander Strategic Air Command, 1968 Vice Presidential candidate
Donald S. Lopez, Sr., ace with the Flying Tigers. [Correll, John T. [http://www.afa.org/magazine/March2004/0304hangar.asp The Nation's Hangar.] Air Force Magazine Online March 2004, Vol. 87, No. 3. Retrieved on August 4, 2007.]
John Lee Mahin, Hollywood screenwriter and producer
Paul Mantz, Hollywood stunt pilot
Joseph C. McConnell, leading U.S. ace of the Korean War
Gordon MacRae, Broadway and Hollywood actor
Walter Matthau, actor
George McGovern, U.S. Senator, Democratic nominee in the 1972 presidential election
Glenn Miller, popular musician and director of the Band of the USAAF Training Command
Walter M. Miller, Jr., science fiction author
Cameron Mitchell, film actor
George Montgomery, film and television actor
* Richard Murphy,
Jack Palance, film actor
Oscar Francis Perdomo, the last "Ace in a Day" for the United States in World War II. [http://www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com/Perdomo.htm 1st. Lt. Oscar Perdomo.] Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Retrieved August 5, 2007.]
* Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada, aerial pioneer, Air Force lieutenant general
Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States
George Reeves, film and television actor
William Rehnquist, jurist, Chief Justice of the United States
Roy Riegels, All-American football player for the California Golden Bears (Berkeley)
Gene Roddenberry. American television producer, " Star Trek" creator
Dan Rowan, comedian and television actor
Carl Spaatz, second USAAF commanding general, first Chief of Staff of the Air Force
* Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, test pilot,
Mercury Seven astronaut
Aaron Spelling, film and television producer
* James Stewart, brigadier general, film actor
Bert Stiles, author
Paul Tibbets, pilot whose B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb
Stewart Udall, United States Secretary of the Interior(1961-1969)
Joseph A. Walker, military test pilot
Harris Wofford, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
Kenneth N. Walker, brigadier general, Medal of Honorrecipient, airpower visionary
George Wallace, governor of Alabama, four-time presidential candidate
Jack L. Warner, Hollywood film executive
Jack Webb, film and television actor, director, and producer
David Westheimer, novelist
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, sportsman and financier
John Hay Whitney, newspaper publisher and Ambassador to Great Britain
* James C. "Jim" Wright, Jr., U.S. Representative from
Texas, Speaker of the House (1987-1989)
William Wyler, film director
Coleman Young, mayor of Detroit(1974-1994)
Chuck Yeager, USAF test pilot and general officer
Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics
Unit identification aircraft markings
USAAF bombardment group
Women Airforce Service Pilots
*Bowman, Martin W. (1997). "USAAF Handbook 1939-1945", Stackpole Books, ISBN 0-8117-1822-0
*Nalty, Bernard C. editor, "Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force" Vol. I (1997). Air Force History and Museums Program, USAF. ISBN 0-16-049009-X
*Maurer, Maurer. " [http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/usaaf1.html Air Force Combat Units of World War II] ". 1986.
* [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/numbered_studies/467602.pdf Dr. Chase C. Mooney (1956) USAF Historical Study No. 10 "Organization of the Army Air Arm, 1935-1945"]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/csppp/ch09.htm Mark Skinner Watson (1991). "Chief of Staff: Pre-war Plans and Preparations", "Chapter IX: The Movement Toward Air Autonomy"] "United States Army in World War II" (series), "The War Department", United States Army Center of Military History
* [http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/WCP/ChapterVI.htm#p90 Ray S. Cline (1990). "Washington Command Post: The Operations Division" "Chapter VI: Organizing the High Command for World War II"] "United States Army in World War II" (series), "The War Department", United States Army Center of Military History
* [http://www.armyairforces.com ArmyAirForces.com] —private site, comprehensive look at the USAAF. Includes searchable databases, histories, dictionary, and forum.
** [http://www.armyairforces.com/dborganization.asp USAAF air force/division/wing histories] History of all USAAF subdivisions.
** [http://www.armyairforces.com/dbterminology.asp USAAF jargon dictionary] —contains 526 words and abbreviations.
** [http://www.armyairforces.com/dbunitsearch.asp USAAF unit search] —searchable database of groups, squadrons, squadron codes, stations, and commanders.
** [http://www.armyairforces.com/dbmacr.asp USAAF missing air crew report search] —searchable database of missing air crew reports (MACRs) by MACR number, date, serial number, and group.
* [http://www.ww2incolor.com/gallery/movies/thunderbolt2 Allied Fighter Combat Footage] —Watch combat footage from Allied fighters
* [http://www.nightfighter.info/ Night Fighter by J R Smith]
* [http://www.specialforcesroh.com/browse.php?mode=viewc&catid=27 USAAF roll of honour] —1944–45
* [http://www.af.mil/history/overview.asp Air Force History Overview]
* [https://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/chron/contents.htm U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II: Combat Chronology 1941–1945]
* [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/Air_Force/AP33.htm Air Power: The United States Air Force]
* [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/guide_usaf_lineage_honors.html A Guide to United States Air Force Lineage and Honors]
* [https://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/AAFaircraft.htm Army Air Forces Aircraft: A Definitive Moment]
* [http://aafcollection.info/index.html AAFCollection.info] Historical Army Air Forces training manuals and class books
* [http://www.usaaf.net USAAF.net] —"Published accounts of the Army Air Forces in World War II available in the public domain."
* [http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii/usaf/html/ USAAF in WWII] —Combat chronology. Available for ZIP download.
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