U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force


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9 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Armed Forces

At the beginning, the military was practically nonexistent. Believing that “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican governments [and] dangerous to the liberties of a free people,” the U.S. legislature disbanded the Continental Army ...read more


A History of the Army Air Corps

The Army Air Corps were the U.S. military service dedicated to aerial warfare between 1926 and 1941. It coalesced as aviation evolved from a component of ground-based infantry tactics into its own branch of the military. It became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on June 20, 1941 to signify greater autonomy from the Army’s command structure. It remained as a combat arm of the Army until 1947, when the Department of the Air Force was established.

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Army Air Corps of the U.S. Military

By the end of 1941 the army air forces had grown substantially but had a long way to go. General Henry H. Arnold commanded a service of twenty-five thousand officers and men, with four thousand aircraft. That year President Franklin Roosevelt called for production of fifty thousand planes, Hermann Göering reportedly laughed at the notion, yet American industry in fact delivered ninety-six thousand to the U.S. services and Allied nations in 1944 alone. At war’s end the army air corps comprised seventy-five thousand planes and 2.5 million men—in four years, a hundred-fold increase in personnel and nearly nineteen-fold in aircraft.

Eighth U.S. Army Air Force

In 1942 the ‘‘Mighty Eighth’’ came to Britain, where it experienced a lengthy, painful gestation period. Its mission of conducting precision daylight bombing of German industry was hampered, as bomber and fighter groups originally assigned to Gen. Ira Eaker’s fledgling force were constantly siphoned off to support the North African and Mediterranean theaters. Additionally, a period of heavy bomber losses threatened morale during 1943, causing doubt whether the daylight air offensive could be sustained. However, by the start of 1944 the Eighth had evolved into a powerful striking arm and was growing stronger. Increasingly capable long-range fighter escorts reduced bomber losses to acceptable levels. It was among the best of the army air corps.

The composition of USAAF units was standardized by 1943. A heavy bombardment group with B-17s or B-24s had four squadrons, each of which typically put up nine planes per mission. Fighter groups had three squadrons, divided into three or four flights of four each. Thus, full-strength bomb groups flew about thirty-six aircraft, while fighter units launched thirty-six to forty-eight planes. The number of planes dispatched on a specific mission depended on maintenance, crew availability, and the nature of the target.

At the time of D-Day the Eighth Air Force numbered forty-one bomb groups, fifteen fighter groups, two special-mission groups, two photo-recon groups, and several independent units. Eighth Bomber Command operated three air divisions: the First, with a dozen B-17 groups the Third, comprising eleven B-17 Flying Fortress and three B-24 Liberator groups and the all-Liberator Second Division, with fourteen B-24 groups.

Fighter Command comprised six P-47 Thunderbolt groups, five P-51 Mustang groups, and four still-flying P-38 Lightnings. All the Lightnings were gone within months, replaced by Mustangs. By VE-Day only one Eighth Fighter Command group still flew Thunderbolts.

Bombers of the Mighty Eighth launched 2,362 sorties on 6 June, with merely three Liberators shot down. Most targets were German coastal defenses or transport systems, but poor weather (a widespread undercast) hampered bombing efforts.

Ninth U.S. Army Air Force

The U.S. Army had two army air corps based in Great Britain, with operations after D-Day expected on the continent. The Ninth was the tactical air force, trained and equipped to support Allied ground forces. Originally established and based in northwest Africa, the Ninth moved to England in August 1943 and built up to its June 1944 strength of forty-five groups deployed in eleven combat wings.

The Ninth’s eighteen fighter groups (plus two reconnaissance groups) operated under the Ninth and Nineteenth Tactical Air Commands, with three and two wings, respectively. Probably the most influential tactical air commander was Maj. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada of the Ninth TAC. At the time of D-Day by far the most widely flown fighter was the Republic P-47, which was extremely well suited to the fighter-bomber role. Thirteen groups flew Thunderbolts, while three were equipped with Lockheed P-38s and two with North American’s P-51. A photo group and a tactical reconnaissance group flew ‘‘recce’’ versions of the P-38 and P-51—the F-5 and F-6, respectively.

Eleven tactical bomb groups constituted Ninth Bomber Command, under Brig. Gen. Samuel E. Anderson. He controlled three bomb wings of three or four groups each: eight groups with Martin’s sleek B-26 Marauder and three with Douglas A-20 Havocs. As with the Eighth Air Force, bomb groups comprised four squadrons, fighter groups three.

Of direct importance to Overlord was Ninth Troop Carrier Command, with fourteen Douglas C-47/C-53 groups in three wings. Both types were military versions of the enormously successful DC-3 airliner the C-47 Skytrain was capable of towing gliders as well as delivering parachutists, while C-53 Skytroopers carried only troops. Seventeen Skytrains were shot down on D-Day.

On 6 June the Ninth Air Force lost only twenty-two combat aircraft from 3,342 sorties: seven P-47s, six B-26s, five A-20s, two P-38s, and two F-6s.

Airborne Units of the Army Air Corps

In the fifteenth century Leonardo Da Vinci envisioned airborne soldiers, and in the nineteenth century Napoleon Bonaparte pondered invading Britain with French troops in hot-air balloons. But not until the 1940s did the technology exist to transport large numbers of specially trained soldiers behind enemy lines and deliver them by parachute, glider, or transport aircraft.

German army airborne units included paratroops and glider and transport-lifted infantry, all controlled by the Luftwaffe. Eventually nine parachute divisions were established, but few Fallschirmjaeger (literally ‘‘parachute hunters’’) made combat jumps. Nonetheless, Germany led the way in combat airborne operations, seizing Belgium’s Fort Eben Emael in 1940. The Luftwaffe also made history in the first aerial occupation of an island—the costly Crete operation in 1941. However, Germany’s Pyrrhic victory proved so costly that no Fallschirmjaeger division was again involved in a major airborne operation. Thereafter, the Luftwaffe parachute forces were employed as light infantry in every theater of operation. Two German airborne divisions, the Third and Fifth, responded to the Allied invasion in Normandy but were hampered by inadequate ground transport.

The British army authorized small army airborne units in 1940 but did not form the Parachute Regiment until 1942. That unit served as a training organization, producing seventeen battalions, of which fourteen were committed to combat. The battalions were formed into the First and Sixth Airborne Divisions, the latter involved in Operation Overlord. Both divisions were committed to the Arnhem assault, Operation Market-Garden, in September 1944.

The U.S. Army formed five army airborne units and divisions during World War II, of which three (the Eighty-second, 101st, and Seventeenth) saw combat in the Mediterranean or the European Theater of Operations. The Eleventh served in the Pacific the Thirteenth went to Europe in 1945 but was not committed to combat.

Apart from isolated uses of airborne battalions, the first Allied army airborne units operation of note occurred during Operation Husky, the Anglo-American invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Subsequent operations on the Italian mainland perfected doctrine and techniques so that by 1944 the United States and Britain could integrate three airborne divisions into the plan for Overlord. By isolating the vulnerable beachheads from German reinforcements during the critical early hours of 6 June, the airborne troopers gained valuable time for the amphibious forces.

Later uses of British and American army airborne units included the Arnhem operation in September 1944 and the Rhine crossing in March 1945.

Airborne operations were considered high-risk undertakings, requiring commitment of large numbers of valuable assets—elite troops and airlift—and incurring the danger of assault troops being isolated and overwhelmed. The latter occurred on a large scale only once, when supporting Allied ground forces were unable to reach British paratroopers at Arnhem, Holland, in September 1944.

Army Airborne Units in D-Day

Because they were by definition light infantry—without armored vehicles or heavy artillery—paratroopers were laden with enormous personal burdens. Many D-Day troopers carried nearly two hundred pounds of equipment, including their main and reserve chutes, life preserver, primary and secondary weapons and ammunition, water and rations, radios or mines, and other gear. It could take as much as five minutes for a trooper to pull on his parachute harness over his other equipment, and if they sat on the ground many men needed help standing up.

Normal parameters for dropping paratroopers were six hundred feet of altitude at ninety miles per hour airspeed. Owing to weather and tactical conditions, however, many troopers were dropped from 300 to 2,100 feet and at speeds as high as 150 miles per hour.

American paratroopers had to make five qualifying jumps to earn their wings, after which they received a hazardous-duty bonus of fifty dollars per month, ‘‘jump pay.’’

The U.S. Eighty-second and 101st Airborne Divisions dropped 13,400 men behind Utah Beach on the west end of the Allied landing areas, while nearly seven thousand men of the British Sixth Division secured bridges behind Sword Beach to the east. The primary objective of the airborne troops was to isolate the beachhead flanks from substantial German reinforcement the British were more successful than the Americans in doing so. The Sixth Division’s seizure of the Orne River bridges became a classic airborne operation.

The elite of the elite among paratroopers were the pathfinders, who were first on the ground. Preceding the main force by nearly an hour, the pathfinders were responsible for guiding troop-carrier aircraft to the landing zones and for marking the target areas. Specialized navigational equipment included the Eureka/Rebecca radar beacon, which transmitted to the lead aircraft in each C-47 formation, and automatic direction-finder (ADF) radios. Holophane lights were laid in T patterns on the ground to mark each drop zone.

Owing to fog, enemy action, and the confusion common to warfare, in Overlord only one of the eighteen U.S. pathfinder teams arrived at the correct drop zone. One entire eight-man team was dropped into the English Channel.

Because of wide dispersion over the Cotentin Peninsula, only about one-third of the American paratroopers assembled themselves under organized leadership, and many landed in the wrong divisional areas. One battalion commander roamed alone for five days, killing six Germans without finding another American. While some troopers sought cover or got drunk on Calvados wine, many others displayed the initiative expected of elite troops. In Normandy the airborne was especially effective in disrupting German communications.

Glider-borne infantry regiments were part of every airborne division, and though they did not originally receive ‘‘jump pay,’’ these soldiers were still part of an elite organization. Gliders possessed the dual advantages of delivering a more concentrated force to the landing zone and providing certain heavy equipment unavailable to paratroopers—especially light artillery and reconnaissance vehicles. Gliders were usually flown by noncommissioned pilots, who, once on the ground, took up personal weapons and fought as part of the infantry units they had delivered to the target.

Army Air Corps and their British Counterpart

Avro Lancaster

The Lancaster evolved from the Avro firm’s ill-fated Manchester to become one of the great bombers of World War II. With two Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, the Manchester lacked reliability for combat operations and was abandoned after limited production. However, to retrieve as much of the investment as possible, Avro extended the Manchester’s wings and put four Merlins on its airframe pilots were delighted with the result.

The Lancaster Mark I could carry a maximum load of fourteen thousand pounds, and though the average operational loadout was much less, the potential was easily recognized. Stable, easy to fly, and capable of 280 mph at altitudes above most other RAF bombers, the ‘‘Lanc’’ was loved by its aircrews.

Though not built in the variety of its Halifax stablemate, the Lancaster nevertheless demonstrated its versatility. The most famous Lancaster mission occurred in 1943, when No. 617 Squadron’s modified Avros made low-level attacks on the Rhine dams using Dr. Barnes Wallis’s revolutionary skip bombs. The same squadron later used Wallis’s awesome eleven-ton ‘‘earthquake’’ bombs. On 6 June 1944 Lancasters participated in saturation bombing of German coastal batteries to suppress opposition on the beaches, as well as in attacks on the Le Havre river bridges.

From 1941 to 1945 some eighty Lancaster squadrons flew 156,000 sorties over Occupied Europe, dropping 681,000 tons of bombs—an average of 4,300 pounds of bombs per sortie. The Lanc’s peak strength occurred in August 1944 with forty-two operational squadrons, including four Royal Canadian Air Force, two Australian, and one Polish manned. Attrition was heavy, especially during the ‘‘Battle of Berlin’’ in early 1944, but production exceeded 7,300 aircraft (87 percent were Mark I and III) from six manufacturers, including Victory Aircraft in Canada.

Bristol Beaufighter

German defenses and coastal shipping. The type also was deployed against Japan, and 364 of the total 5,928 were built under license in Australia.

DeHavilland Mosquito

The plywood Mosquito was a serious challenger for the title of most versatile aircraft of World War II. It performed virtually every mission asked of a land-based aircraft: day and night fighter, light bomber and nocturnal intruder, antishipping and photo-reconnaissance aircraft. The ‘‘Mossie’’ accomplished each task with excellent results and was so successful that Germany attempted to build its own Moskito.

Like Bristol’s Beaufighter, the Mosquito was conceived as an in-house project by the DeHavilland Company. In 1938 the lightweight, twin-engine DH-98 was regarded as a fast, unarmed bomber. The molded plywood airframe gave rise to the nickname ‘‘Wooden Wonder,’’ but the RAF was slow to warm to the concept. However, work progressed, and the prototype first flew in November 1940.

Mosquitos were produced in startling variety, with approximately twenty fighter and thirty bomber variants from 1941 onward. Throughout the type’s life it was powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlins rated between 1,230 and 1,700 horsepower. Exceptionally fast, some marks were capable of 425 miles per hour at altitude, and during the V-1 ‘‘Buzz Bomb’’ campaign of 1944–45, Mosquitos were among the most successful aircraft at intercepting and destroying the speedy robot bombs.

Entering squadron service in 1942, Mosquitos proved ideal for the pathfinder mission, marking target areas for multi-engine bombers. They also performed low-level strikes against precision targets, such as Gestapo headquarters in Oslo and the Nazi prison at Amiens.

RAF Coastal Command valued the Mosquito as a partner to the Bristol Beaufighter in the antishipping role. Long-range missions against German-controlled shipping in Scandinavian waters were flown with rockets and heavy cannon armament. Mosquitos also logged combat in the Middle East and the Pacific, while American reconnaissance squadrons flew them in Europe and Africa.

During the Normandy campaign, RAF squadrons committed a monthly average of not quite three hundred Mosquitos. From June through August, seventy were shot down and twenty-eight damaged beyond repair—33 percent of the total available.

Mosquito production approached seven thousand, built in Britain, Canada, and Australia, with the last aircraft delivered in 1948. Mosquito pilots and navigators were proud of their machine, knowing they flew one of the most capable combat aircraft of its generation.

Fairey Swordfish

One of the most remarkable military aircraft of all time, the Swordfish was a biplane designed in 1933 and was still in combat in 1945. It was conceived as a carrier-based torpedo plane powered by a Pegasus radial engine of some six hundred horsepower, with a nominal crew of three: pilot, observer, and gunner.

The Mark I entered Royal Navy service in 1936 and appeared little different from most carrier planes of its day—an open-cockpit biplane. Already regarded as obsolete when war began three years later, the ‘‘Stringbag’’ had, however, the priceless advantage of availability. It proved its worth repeatedly over the next few years, including a stunningly successful night torpedo and bombing attack on the Italian fleet in Taranto Harbor in 1940. The example set by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish so impressed the Japanese navy that the Pearl Harbor operation was based in part on the Taranto strike.

In 1941 Swordfish off HMS Ark Royal torpedoed the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic, leading to her destruction by surface forces. That same year Swordfish attacked Italian ships in the Mediterranean battle off Cape Matapan. In 1942 the land-based Swordfish attempted to stop the ‘‘Channel Dash’’ by German battle cruisers and were nearly all destroyed by German fighters.

Perhaps the Swordfish’s greatest contribution during its long service was in the realm of antisubmarine warfare. Flying from escort carriers, late-model aircraft with radar persistently hunted U-boats in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and northern waters. During D-Day, land-based Swordfish conducted antisubmarine patrols in the Channel and its approaches.

Nearly 2,400 of the type were constructed, and one of the many ironies of the Swordfish’s career is that it outlived its intended replacement, Fairey’s closed-cockpit Albacore. Even when the more advanced Barracuda monoplane arrived in fleet squadrons, the ‘‘Stringbag’’ soldiered on, in its own way irreplaceable.

Handley-Page Halifax

The four-engine, twin-tail Halifax bore a general resemblance to its more famous counterpart, the Avro Lancaster, and shared the ‘‘Lanc’s’’ rags-to-riches story. The Lancaster evolved from the Avro Manchester similarly, the Halifax began life on the drawing board as a twin-engine bomber but was altered to the multi-engine configuration. Originally powered by four 1,280 hp Rolls-Royce Merlins, the Halifax Mark I first flew in October 1939, barely a month after the war began. However, developmental problems delayed its combat debut until March 1941. The original version, as well as the Mark II and V, retained Merlins until increased demand for Lancasters, Spitfires, and Mosquitos mandated an engine change.

The most common Halifax variants were the Mark III, VI, and VII, all powered by Bristol Hercules air-cooled radials of 1,600 to 1,800 horsepower. The later models also had a different silhouette, with the original front turret deleted in favor of a more streamlined nose to improve top speed. The Mark III was rated at 277 mph.

Halifaxes dominated RAF Bomber Command’s No. 4 and 6 Groups but also flew in Coastal Command and Transport Command. Like most British bombers, the Halifax was a single-pilot aircraft, with six other men completing the crew: flight engineer, bombardier (bomb aimer in the RAF), navigator, and gunners. In four years of RAF Bomber Command operations, Halifaxes logged 75,500 sorties with an average bomb load of three thousand pounds.

Extremely versatile, the Handley-Page bomber doubled as a maritime patrol plane, electronic countermeasures platform, paratroop transport, and glider tug. The latter duty was an especially important aspect of the Halifax’s contribution to Overlord. In June 1944 at least twenty Halifax squadrons flew from the UK with Bomber Command while others served in the Mediterranean theater.

Total production was 6,176 aircraft, including some postwar manufacture. The type remained in RAF service until 1952.

Hawker Typhoon

The 1938 replacement design for the Hawker Hurricane was the Typhoon, probably the heaviest and potentially the most powerful singleseat fighter proposed until that time. Originally called the Tornado, following a series of engine changes it emerged as the Typhoon in early 1940.However, a difficult development period occupied the next year and a half before engine and airframe problems were resolved.

The first production Typhoon was tested in May 1941 with the 2,200 hp Sabre IIA engine. The new fighter was committed to combat sooner than it should have been, but by late 1942 it was successfully defending British airspace from Luftwaffe hit-and-run raids. Maximum speed was 417 mph at 20,500 feet.

The ‘‘Tiffy’’ earned a hard-won reputation as an excellent tactical support aircraft. Distinctive with its chin-mounted radiator, its rugged airframe was able to withstand considerable battle damage and still return home. The Typhoon’s armament was optimized for ground attack, with four 20 mm cannon and underwing rails for eight rockets as well as two five hundred-pound bombs.

These rugged British planes were ideally suited for the ground-attack role, and Typhoons took a major toll on German armor and transport during the Normandy campaign.

During the Normandy and Falaise campaigns, Typhoons perfected ‘‘cab rank’’ tactics and reported a heavy toll of German transport and armor (one thousand tanks and twelve thousand other vehicles were claimed) but sustained heavy losses. From June through August, 243 Typhoons were lost in action and 173 damaged beyond repair, the heaviest loss rate of any RAF aircraft in the campaign. Hawker produced 3,300 Typhoons before the type was phased out in favor of the bigger, faster Tempest in 1944. Tempests played a limited role in the Normandy campaign, with an average monthly availability of fifty-fifty aircraft.

Short Sunderland

The Short Brothers company gained considerable prewar experience with its ‘‘Empire’’ series of transoceanic airliners, so it was no surprise that the Sunderland became Britain’s premier flying boat of the Second World War. The prototype, first flown in October 1937, was powered by four 1,065 hp Pegasus radial engines. The Mark V, delivered in 1943, used American Pratt and Whitney radials of 1,200 horsepower. With as many as a dozen crewmen, the big boat had enormous range (nearly three thousand miles) and could remain airborne for more than thirteen hours, cruising at about 135 mph.

Most Sunderlands in Great Britain were assigned to RAF Coastal Command general reconnaissance squadrons, conducting patrol and antisubmarine missions. Various marks had different armament, but all included at least bow and tail turrets a dorsal turret also was added. On rare occasions when aerial opposition was encountered, the seemingly ungainly Sunderland could protect itself against enemy twin-engine aircraft.

Prior to D-Day, Sunderlands covered the Bay of Biscay on a daily basis, suppressing U-boats and tracking coastal convoys. It was tedious, unglamorous work but an important part of the Allied effort.

The Sunderland remained in production until war’s end, by which time 739 had been delivered, and it was kept in service until 1958.

Supermarine Spitfire

No single aircraft has so captured the world’s imagination as the Royal Air Force’s sleekly elegant Spitfire. Tracing its ancestry to a successful line of racers, the Spitfire was designed by Supermarine’s chief engineer, Reginald J. Mitchell, who had produced the Schneider Trophy champions of the 1930s. First flown in March 1936, the prototype was powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin, a liquid-cooled V-12 of one thousand horsepower.

Production Spitfires were delivered in June 1938, and they equipped eleven RAF squadrons when war broke out in September 1939. Over the next year their strength increased nineteen squadrons were available at the start of the Battle of Britain. The 199 Spitfire Ia models constituted not quite one-third of the RAF’s frontline fighter strength.

By 1944 the most significant types were the Mark IX fighter and the Mark XI, a high-altitude photo-reconnaissance platform. ‘‘PR’’ Spitfires were flown by U.S. Army Air Forces units as well. The Mark IX featured a Merlin 60 engine, two 20 mm cannon, and four .303 caliber machine guns its top speed was 400 mph at twenty thousand feet. Though considered an interim ‘‘anti Focke-Wulf ’’ design, the Mark IX proved itself versatile and long-lived, accounting for one-quarter of total production of the type.

One unusual aspect of the Spitfire’s career involved training U.S. Navy pilots to fly the British fighter. Realizing that naval gunfire spotting would be an important part of Overlord, cruiser-based aviators were qualified in Spitfires on the theory that it was easier to transition a trained spotter to fighters than to train a fighter pilot in gunfire support. Because the spotters had to fly over hostile territory, the Curtiss SOC biplanes ordinarily used would have been highly vulnerable to German flak.

During the Normandy campaign nearly half of all RAF fighters were Spitfires, which roamed almost at will over northern France, attacking German transport and lines of communications. Despite its potentially vulnerable liquid-cooled engine, the Spitfire was well suited as a tactical support aircraft owing to its speed, armament, and dive-bombing capability. Some 365 Spitfires were shot down from June through August, with nearly three hundred written off—41 percent of the nearly two thousand available.

Later in the war, more powerful Griffin engines were mated to the Spitfire airframe, resulting in even better performance. Additionally, both modified and specially built Supermarines were flown off British aircraft carriers as Seafires, bringing a degree of fighter performance previously unknown to the Royal Navy.

Total Spitfire and Seafire production reached twenty-two thousand units, in at least forty marks.

Westland Lysander

The gull-wing Lysander established a notable record on RAF special operations during World War II. Originally received as Army Co-Operation Command’s first monoplane in 1938, it was powered by a Bristol Mercury or Perseus radial engine of 870 to 905 horsepower. Top speed was rated at 219 miles per hour. Its two-man crew comprised a pilot and observergunner, with room for a passenger in the middle cockpit.

The Lysander was designed to land in confined spaces, affording liaison between army units or the army and air force. With aerodynamically activated slats and flaps, it could be flown down to airspeeds as slow as 65 mph. Though the seemingly ungainly machine carried three machine guns and could drop small bombs, it was seldom used offensively. It was more often employed in liaison and tactical reconnaissance missions as well as target towing and air-sea rescue.

In support of D-Day, Lysanders were often the machine of choice in delivering British, French, and other Allied intelligence operatives and agents into Occupied Europe. Lysanders succored resistance forces as well.

Total production was 1,425 aircraft.

Army Air Corps and Operation Torch

Until late 1942 much of northwestern Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco) was under control of the Vichy French government, totaling 125,000 soldiers in the territories, along with 210 tanks, 500 aircraft, and coastal artillery. Victory would mean clearing Axis powers from North Africa, reducing German pressure on Russia and improving Allied naval control of the Mediterranean Sea. The British-American invasion plans of French North Africa was known as Operation Torch.

Operation Torch landed on the shores of French Morocco on November 8, 1942, with Ranger (CV-4), Suwanee (ACV-27), Sangamon (ACV26), and Santee (ACV-29) supporting U.S. forces north and south of Casablanca. In all, the four flattops embarked 109 Grumman F4F-4 fighters with sixty-two Douglas SBD-3 and Grumman TBF-1 bombers. Operation Torch was assembled and launched so quickly that many pilots had little opportunity for training. Some had not flown in two weeks—an inordinately long layoff for carrier aviators.

The Casablanca landings were opposed by Vichy French forces allied with Germany. The defenders counted about two hundred aircraft, including American-built Curtiss fighters and Martin bombers.

Things began poorly. On November 8 a flight of seven Santee Wildcats got lost and ran low on fuel. One ditched and five crashlanded ashore with one pilot lost. Ranger’s Fighting Squadron Four lost six planes on its first mission, though Sangamon F4Fs claimed four shootdowns without loss. Later that day eighteen Ranger SBDs attacked harbor facilities including the thirty-five thousand-ton battleship Jean Bart, whose fifteen-inch guns posed a threat to Allied ships. She was partly sunk at her mooring while a submarine was destroyed.

When a French surface force steamed out to engage the U.S. warships, Dauntlesses and Wildcats descended to bomb and strafe. A light cruiser and two destroyers were damaged enough to be run aground to prevent their sinking.

On November 9, Ranger SBDs were back over Casablanca Harbor where Vichy antiaircraft batteries still posed a threat. Dauntlesses hit Jean Bart again, knocking out her remaining AA mounts. Meanwhile, Curtiss P-40s took off from Chenango (ACV-28), flying ashore to newly captured airfields. It was a precursor of other joint ArmyNavy operations throughout the war.

Operation Torch provided a laboratory for carrier aviators to perfect their trade. They flew support missions for ground troops, sank a Vichy submarine at sea, and engaged in air combat. Some of their opponents were combat veterans of the 1939–40 campaign. A Ranger pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Charles A. Shields, bailed out of his riddled F4F, and a Frenchman flying a Hawk buzzed him as he parachuted to earth, “wagging his wingtips and waving and laughing like hell.” Still, the tailhook fighters downed twenty-five Vichymen against five Wildcats lost in dogfights.

Losses were stiff, however, amounting to nearly 25 percent by the time the fighting ended on November 10. Ground fire and operational losses were by far the greatest causes, forcing planners to allot more aircraft to future operations.

Army Air Corps: The Final Aerial Combat Mission of WW2

The P-51s’ mission that day started out well.

Cruising above the Pacific under the morning sun, the Americans had approached the Japanese coastline without incident. Jerry wondered how many more missions like this he would have to fly. They’d all thought the war was over, but now, here he was again, heading to strike a stubbornly resistant enemy.

But down below, in the nation they were about to attack, a philosophical battle was raging on whether to surrender or fight on. The “Big Six”—the six military officers running Japan—had been split by a vote of 3-3 on when and how to end the war with honor. In general, hard, passionate divisions of opinion existed among the Japanese military: some of the older officers wanted to surrender to prevent the destruction of Japan, while others wanted to fight on to the death and kill as many Americans as possible.

The previous night, while another 300 American B-29s strafed Japan again, a group of rogue Japanese officers had started a coup against Prime Minister Suzuki and Emperor Hirohito. The officers burned the prime minister’s office and surrounded the Imperial Palace, hoping to kidnap the emperor, all in an effort to prevent Japan’s leadership from thinking about surrendering. For these officers, and for so many of the Japanese people, surrender was not an option. There was glory in death, but only shame in surrender Japan, for its part, had never been invaded or lost a war in its history.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, the coup did not succeed. A group of senior Japanese officers talked the insurgents off the ledge, convincing them that there was nowhere to go. Bu while the revolt ended, the war did not, and so, with the shoreline of the enemy territory coming into view and Phil Schlamberg, his dear friend and fellow pilot, on his wing, Jerry knew it was time to go back to work.

On Jerry’s order, al the planes in his squadron dropped their external fuel tanks over the ocean, then started their familiar aerial trek over the great, snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. As of yet, there had been no radio signal with the word “UTAH,” signaling the end of the war.

As the Americans approached the Japanese capital, they began to identify targets. Within minutes, they swooped down over airfields and attacked despite heavy ground fire. Tracer bullets flew up from the Japanese guns as the Severity-Eighth made multiple passes at each target. Phil stayed tight on Jerry’s wing, just as instructed.

After strafing the last airfield, Jerry checked his fuel gauge and saw he was still in good shape. But when one of the pilots radioed that his tank had reached the ninety-gallon mark—the amount a Mustang needed for the return flight—it was time to pull up and begin plotting the course back to Iwo Jima.

Jerry looked over at Phil, who was still on his wing, and give him a thumbs up.

Phil looked back and returned the gesture.

Confidence. Maybe it was working.

With the battle of Tokyo complete, Jerry set his course back out to the ocean and banked to the south. The three other Mustangs in Jerry’s squadron returned with him. A few moments later, as they approached the coast where they would rendezvous with the navigational B-29s, they neared a cloud cover in front of them, often the case when approaching the atmospheric temperature inversions near the coast. With Phil still tight on his wing, Jerry led the four Mustangs into the cloud bank. Flying at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Jerry focused his eyes on his navigation instruments, as the interior of the white, puffy clouds blocking his view of everything else.

But when the Mustangs emerged on the other side of the clouds, a devastating reality soon surfaced. Phil was gone. Most likely, he had been brought down by antiaircraft bullets fired into the clouds. There was no sign of him.

Jerry was devastated. When he landed at Iwo Jima, meanwhile, he learned something else: the war was over. The emperor had announced Japan’s surrender three hours earlier, while Jerry and his flight were still over Japan. The code word UTAH had been broadcast to U.S. aircraft over the country, but the word had not reached the planes of the Seventy-Eighth until they landed.

It was a surreal feeling as Jerry climbed out of his plane and jumped down to the airfield, standing on a once-bloody Pacific island. Now, suddenly, it was a world at peace. The men of the Seventy-Eighth had a saying, “Alive in 󈧱.” That had been their goal, and now it was their reality. They were going home, alive.

As Jerry walked away from his plane, another realization hit him: he had just flown the final combat mission of the war, and Phil was the final combat death of the great war. One day, after Jerry had time to collect his emotions and his thoughts, the great historical significance of the mission he’d just flown would sink in. But for now, one thought consumed his mind.


Air Force History Quiz

The Air Force might be the youngest branch of the U.S. military services, but it doesn't lack for memorable moments and famous members. In celebration of the service's birthday on September 18, we present this Air Force History quiz -- see how well you can score!


Key Findings

Force presentation plays distinct and varied roles in the four services

  • Each of the services uses more than one construct to accomplish six key functions: (1) sizing forces, (2) deploying forces, (3) employing forces, (4) sustaining operational effects, (5) managing force rotations, and (6) articulating service purpose. Force presentation is arguably most central to the Marine Corps and Navy, but neither the Army nor the USAF uses it to articulate service purpose.

The squadron has been the most common USAF force presentation construct for the combat air forces

  • The squadron has been the preferred deployment construct for all major conflicts, and although it is central to USAF culture and possesses a familiarity to outside audiences, it is probably not the best vehicle for public outreach.

Force presentation has been largely ignored by airpower theorists and historians

  • Force presentation concepts are largely absent from USAF planning documents and the writings of prominent airpower theorists. Histories of the USAF at war also usually ignore organization rather, they describe the air campaign objectives, planning process, and key participants identify critical targets and tell the story of air combat, typically centered around particular individuals and platforms.

USAF aircraft are the most visible and accessible manifestation of airpower

  • The modern USAF is an air, space, and cyber force, but news accounts of USAF activities typically focus on the deployment or movement of aircraft. Specialized audiences will care that the USAF presents specialized forces, but the broader public has little use for such hard-to-visualize abstractions.

Was This Strange Jet the Best Fighter the U.S. Air Force Never Bought?

The F-107A hit Mach 1.03 on its September 10, 1956, first flight.

Courtesy of Erik Simonsen

Odd though the North American F-107A looked, it was a promising candidate to become the Air Force’s frontline fighter-bomber.

North American Aviation’s F-107A was the last fighter created by the makers of the iconic P-51 Mustang of World War II, the F-86 Sabre of the Korean War and the F-100 Super Sabre of the Vietnam War. It was designed to satisfy a U.S. Air Force requirement for a Mach 2 fighter-bomber capable of delivering a tactical nuclear weapon. Originally conceived as a development of the F-100, the aircraft was initially designated XF-100B and it bore a family resemblance to the “Hun” when viewed from above. The design diverged so much from the F-100, however, that the Air Force issued it a separate designation. Although the F-107A was never given a name, it has sometimes been referred to as the “Super Super Sabre” or the “Ultra Sabre.”


An F-107A displays its unusual vertically opening canopy. (Courtesy of Erik Simonsen)

First flown on September 10, 1956, the F-107 was considerably larger and heavier than the F-100, but it was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J75 turbojet delivering 24,500 pounds of thrust—50 percent more thrust than the Hun. The most distinctive visual difference between the two fighters was the deletion of the nose-mounted engine air intake of previous North American fighters in favor of a new variable-area inlet duct directly above and behind the cockpit. This was necessary to satisfy the Air Force’s nuclear-bomb-carrying requirement. The bomb was accommodated partly within a recess in the aircraft’s belly, taking up considerable space in the fuselage, which drove the decision to reroute the air intake above it.

Due to the unusual location of the air intake, the pilot squeezed into the cockpit under a special vertically opening canopy rather than via a conventional sliding or hinged canopy. In an emergency the ejection seat was designed to blast right through the canopy, though fortunately for all who flew it that particular feature never had to be used.

Although smaller than its hefty rival, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, the F-107 was no midget at 61 feet 10 inches long, with a 36-foot-7-inch wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 41,537 pounds. The F-107 demonstrated a top speed of 1,295 mph, a range of 2,428 miles and a service ceiling of 53,200 feet.


The second prototype is exhibited at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force/Ken LaRock)

North American had high hopes for the F-107’s future. There was even speculation that its production might be subcontracted out to rival Republic Aviation. Before it flew, however, the fate of the F-107 had already been sealed. The Air Force had ordered the F-105 into production six months earlier, in March 1956.

To this day some still consider the F-107’s abandonment a mistake and declare that it was the best fighter the Air Force never bought. The F-107’s superior rate of climb and higher ceiling in comparison to the F-105 are often mentioned, as are its many highly advanced features, such as augmented longitudinal control surfaces, a one-piece movable vertical tail and roll control via spoilers rather than ailerons. Some also point to the high losses sustained by F-105s over Vietnam.

There were a number of reasons, however, that could explain why the F-105 was chosen. The Thunderchief, which was also powered by the J75 engine, had a fully internal bomb bay and could carry 40 percent more ordnance (14,000 pounds of bombs and munitions—4,000 pounds more than the F-107’s payload). Moreover, ceiling and rate of climb were less important in aircraft intended for low-level strike missions, as were the F-105 and F-107. While the production F-105 had issues remaining to be ironed out, so did the F-107. As for the losses later sustained by “Thuds” over Vietnam, it is debatable whether any other aircraft could have performed better under similar operational conditions.


The belly-mounted nuclear bomb pod drove the F-107’s design. (Courtesy of Erik Simonsen)

Perhaps the most important reason why the F-105 was chosen over the F-107 had more to do with the state of affairs at the two competing companies that developed them. At the time Republic Aviation was winding up production of its F-84 series of fighters and had nothing else in hand for the future. In contrast, North American was engaged in a great deal of development work on several important new defense projects, including the A-5 Vigilante carrier-based nuclear bomber for the Navy, the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 strategic bomber for Strategic Air Command and the XF-108 Rapier Mach 3 interceptor for Air Defense Command. In the late 1950s all three of those projects were expected to be at the cutting edge of the next generation of U.S. air power. Nobody at that time could have foreseen that, of the three, only the Vigilante would ever enter production and become operational. The XB-70 was canceled during the mid-1960s when it became clear that ballistic missiles constituted a far more effective and less vulnerable nuclear deterrent than any manned bomber. As for the XF-108 Rapier, which was intended to replace the Convair F-106 Delta Dart as the North American continent’s principal air defense against incoming Soviet super­sonic bombers, that project was canceled in 1959 while still in the mockup stage due to its high cost.

Only three F-107As were ever completed, of which two survive. One is housed in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, while the other is at Arizona’s Pima Air & Space Museum. The third was damaged during an aborted takeoff on September 1, 1959. For­tun­ately the test pilot, the famous Scott Crossfield, survived the mishap, but the aircraft was not repaired and was eventually destroyed during firefighting training a few years later.

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here!


Records of the Army Air Forces [AAF]

Established: In the War Department, to consist of the Air Force Combat Command (AFCC) and the Air Corps, by revision of Army Regulation 95-5, June 20, 1941.

Predecessor Agencies:

In the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (OCSO), War Department:

  • Aeronautical Division (1907-14)
  • Aviation Section (1914-15)
  • Aeronautical Division (1915-17)
  • Air Division/Air Service Division (1917-18)
  • Division of Military Aeronautics (1918)
  • Bureau of Aircraft Production (1918)
  • Division of Military Aeronautics (1918-19)
  • Bureau of Aircraft Production (1918-19)
  • Air Service (1919-26)
  • Air Corps (1926-41)
  • General Headquarters Air Force (GHQAF, 1935-41)
  • Air Force Combat Command (AFCC, 1941)

Abolished: By Transfer Order 1, Office of the Secretary of Defense, September 26, 1947, implementing reorganization provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 495), July 26, 1947.

Successor Agencies: U.S. Air Force (USAF) under the newly created Department of the Air Force, pursuant to provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 502), July 26, 1947.

Finding Aids: Kathleen E. Riley, comp., "Preliminary Inventory of the Records of Headquarters Army Air Forces," NM 6 (1962) Maizie H. Johnson, comp., "Preliminary Inventory of the Textual Records of the Army Air Forces," NM 53 (1965) Maizie H. Johnson and Sarah Powell, comps., "Supplement to Preliminary Inventory No. NM-53, Textual Records of the Army Air Forces," NM 90 (Oct. 1967).

Security-Classified Records: This record group may include material that is security-classified.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Army Air Forces in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government. Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, RG 340.
Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force (Air Staff), RG 341.
Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, RG 342. Records of the U.S. Air Force Academy, RG 461.

18.2 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER
1914-18.

History: Aeronautical Division established in Office of the Chief Signal Officer by OCSO Memorandum 6, August 1, 1907, with responsibility for all aspects of military aviation. Recognized in law as the Aviation Section by an act of July 18, 1914 (38 Stat. 514). Aviation Section organized as the Aeronautical Division, November 4, 1915.

Under provisions of the National Defense Act (39 Stat. 174), June 3, 1916, and the Aviation Act (40 Stat. 243), July 24, 1917, aviation support functions were gradually transferred from the Aeronautical Division to newly established OCSO organizations: Procurement and distribution of aviation supplies to Engineering Division, April 6, 1917 later designated Finance and Supply Division and redesignated Engineering Division, August 2, 1917. Air field construction and maintenance to Construction Division, May 21, 1917 redesignated Supply Division, October 1, 1917, with added responsibility for procurement and distribution of aviation supplies transferred from Engineering Division and vested in subordinate Materiel Section, organized January 24, 1918. Research and design to Aircraft Engineering Division, May 24, 1917 redesignated Science and Research Division, October 22, 1917. Airplane lumber contracts to Wood Section, August 1917 expanded and redesignated Spruce Production Division (SEE 18.4.3), November 15, 1917.

Aeronautical Division redesignated Air Division (also known as Air Service Division), with functions limited to operation, training, and personnel, October 1, 1917. Air Division abolished by order of Secretary of War, April 24, 1918, and OCSO aviation functions realigned to create Division of Military Aeronautics (SEE 18.3), with responsibility for general oversight of military aviation and Bureau of Aircraft Production (SEE 18.4), which had charge of design and production of aircraft and equipment.

18.2.1 General records

Textual Records: Extracts of letters, telegrams, and memorandums of War Department offices, relating to regulations and authorities for U.S. flying schools, 1917-18. Reports, drawings, photographs, blueprints, and other records relating to airplanes and airplane performance, 1914-18.

Related Records: For aviation correspondence of the Chief Signal Officer, 1917-18, SEE 18.5.1.

18.2.2 Records of the Planning Section of the Equipment Division

Textual Records: Charts, reports, and correspondence relating to the organization and duties of the section and to a program of airplane production, 1917-18.

18.2.3 Records of the Balloon Section of the Air Division

Textual Records: Correspondence relating to balloon instruction, 1917-18.

18.3 RECORDS OF THE DIVISION OF MILITARY AERONAUTICS
1914-19

History: Established as part of reorganization of OCSO aviation functions, April 24, 1918. Separated from OCSO as an autonomous unit within the War Department by EO 2862, May 20, 1918. Responsible for all aviation functions except aircraft production. Consolidated with Bureau of Aircraft Production (SEE 18.4) to form Air Service by EO 3066, March 19, 1919. SEE 18.5.

18.3.1 General records

Textual Records: Letters and memorandums relating to the establishment of the Division of Military Aeronautics, 1916-18. Orders and memorandums relating to policies and procedures governing military aviation, 1918. Balloon bulletins, 1914-18.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Division of Military Aeronautics in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

18.3.2 Records of the Information Section

Textual Records: Correspondence and other records relating to foreign and domestic air services, airplane construction and equipment, flight training, and schools of military aeronautics, 1917-19.

18.3.3 Records of the Radio Branch of the Training Section

Textual Records: Reports and other records relating to radio development and the training of radio officers, 1918-19.

18.4 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION
1917-21

History: Established as part of reorganization of OCSO aviation functions, April 24, 1918. Separated from OCSO as an autonomous unit within the War Department by EO 2862, May 20, 1918. Responsible for aircraft production. Consolidated with Division of Military Aeronautics (SEE 18.3) to form Air Service by EO 3066, March 19, 1919. SEE 18.5.

18.4.1 Records of the Administration Division

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1917-19, and issuances, 1918-19, of the Executive Department, including correspondence of the Executive Department of the Signal Corps Equipment Division and of the Director and Assistant Director of Aircraft Production. General correspondence of the Program and Statistics Department, 1917-18.

18.4.2 Records of the Production Division

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1917-18. Organizational histories of the Production Division, its subdivisions, and its field units, 1917-19. Diaries of the Detroit district office, 1918 (in Chicago).

18.4.3 Records of the Spruce Production Division (SPD)

History: Established in OCSO, November 15, 1917, from predecessor Wood Section (August 1917), with headquarters in Portland, OR, to increase the output of timber for airplane construction. Transferred to the Bureau of Aircraft Production (BAP), May 20, 1918. Functions and properties of the SPD passed to the U.S. Spruce Production Corporation (SEE 18.7.9), November 1, 1918, with formal demobilization of SPD, August 31, 1919. Spruce Production Section, originally the Washington, DC, office of the SPD, functioned until 1921.

Textual Records (in Seattle): Issuances, 1917-19. Organizational history, 1917-18. Medical records, 1917-19, including records of camp hospitals and infirmaries of Spruce Squadrons 9-150. General correspondence of the Spruce Production Section, 1917-21. Correspondence, issuances, and other records of Spruce Production Districts headquartered at Clatsop, 1918 Coos Bay, 1918 Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, 1918 Puget Sound, 1918-19 Vancouver Barracks, 1918 and Yaquina Bay, 1918-19. Records of Spruce Production units, including 1st-4th Provisional Regiments, 1918- 19 Casual Detachment, 1918-19 and 1st-98th and 100th-150th Spruce Squadrons, 1917-19.

18.4.4 Records of the Airplane Engineering Division

Textual Records: Correspondence, reports, and other records of the Chemistry Section, Science and Research Department, relating to chemical products used in aircraft production, 1917-18.

18.4.5 Records of the Aircraft Board

Textual Records: Minutes of the board and its predecessor, the Aircraft Production Board, May 1917-April 1919. General correspondence, 1917-18. Resolutions of the board, 1917-18.

18.5 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF THE AIR SERVICE AND
THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF THE AIR CORPS
1917-44

History: Air Service established by EO 3066, March 19, 1919, consolidating Division of Military Aeronautics and Bureau of Aircraft Production. Confirmed as a combat arm by the National Defense Act (41 Stat. 759), June 4, 1920. Name changed to Air Corps by the Air Corps Act (44 Stat. 780), July 2, 1926. Responsibility for unit training and tactical air employment transferred to General Headquarters Air Force, established March 1935. GHQAF renamed Air Force Combat Command and placed with Air Corps under newly established Army Air Forces by revision to Army Regulation 95-5, June 20, 1941. AFCC and Office of the Chief of the Air Corps abolished in the general reorganization of the army, effective March 9, 1942, by Circular 59, War Department, March 2, 1942, implementing EO 9082, February 28, 1942. Air Corps formally abolished by transfer of functions to newly established United States Air Force pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 502), July 26, 1947. SEE 18.1.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Office of the Chief of the Air Service in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

18.5.1 Records of the Administrative Group (Air Service) and the
Administrative Division (Air Corps)

Textual Records: General correspondence of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps and the Office of Chief of the Air Service, and their predecessors, including the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1917-38 (624 ft.). Project files for correspondence relating to airfields (666 ft.), camps, forts, corps areas, territorial departments, districts, aviation schools, National Guard units, and aviation examining boards, 1917-38 aero squadrons, 1917-22 balloon schools, 1919-22 and district offices of the BAP and Air Service, 1918-21. Document collection of the Air Corps Library, 1917-38 (341 ft.), with related indexes and card catalogs, 1917-44. Annual reports, 1925- 40. Issuances, 1924-42.

18.5.2 Records of the Information Group (Air Service) and the
Information Division (Air Service, Air Corps)

Textual Records: Correspondence, 1917-23, 1929-39. Histories, reports, and studies of the Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, 1917-19. Historical files relating to the activities of the Division of Military Aeronautics and the BAP in World War I, 1917-21.

18.5.3 Records of the Supply Group (Air Service) and the Material
Division (Air Corps)

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1919-21. Records relating to airplane programs and production, 1939-41. Proceedings and related correspondence of the Procurement Planning Board, 1925-36. Catalogs and inventories of aircraft and spare parts, 1921. Claims files of the Material Disposal and Salvage Division, Supply Group, 1919-20. General correspondence, 1919-26, and correspondence relating to stock liquidation, 1919- 24, of the Procurement Section, Supply Division, Supply Group.

18.5.4 Records of the Training and Operations Group (Air Service)
and the Training and Operations Division (Air Corps)

Textual Records: Correspondence and reports relating to cross- country flights, training, and exhibition flights, 1918-21. Correspondence relating to the 1920 Alaskan Flying Expedition, 1920, and to the sinking of USS Alabama ("Project B"), 1919. Correspondence and other records relating to balloon companies and balloon training, 1918-21. Monthly reports from training fields and centers, 1921-39.

18.5.5 Records of the Training and War Plans Division (Air
Service) and the Plans Division (Air Corps)

Textual Records: Correspondence, reports, and maps relating to defense and mobilization plans, 1919-35. Correspondence, reports, and other records relating to lighter-than-air craft and to helium, 1919-26, including records of the 1924 Round-the-World Flight. General correspondence and correspondence of the Airways Section relating to commercial aviation, 1921-26. General correspondence and other records of the Photographic Section, 1918-25.

18.5.6 Records of miscellaneous Air Service boards

Textual Records: Correspondence and reports of the Air Service Advisory Board, 1919-21. Minutes of meetings, 1918-19, and miscellaneous records, 1918-21, of the Air Service Claims Board. Correspondence of the Air Service Control Board, 1918-19.

18.5.7 Records relating to the Air Corps mail operations

Textual Records: Correspondence relating to handling of mail by the Air Corps, February-May 1934, including records of Headquarters of the Eastern, Central, and Western Zones.

18.6 RECORDS OF GENERAL HEADQUARTERS AIR FORCE AND THE AIR FORCE
COMBAT COMMAND
1935-42

History: GHQAF established March 1, 1935, by instructions from Headquarters Air Corps, February 19, 1935, in compliance with recommendations of the War Department Special Committee on the Army Air Corps (Baker Board), as approved by the Secretary of War, July 18, 1934, with responsibility, transferred from Air Corps, for unit training and tactical air employment. Renamed AFCC and assigned with Air Corps to newly created Army Air Forces by Army Regulation 95-5 (revised), June 20, 1941. Formally abolished in the reorganization of the AAF, effective March 9, 1942, by Circular 59, War Department, March 2, 1942, implementing provisions of EO 9082, February 28, 1942. SEE 18.1.

18.6.1 Records of the Office of the Commanding General

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1939-42 (115 ft). Declassified correspondence, 1936-42. Declassified reports relating to intelligence and training, 1935-42. Issuances, 1936- 40.

18.6.2 Records of the General Staff

Textual Records: Records of G-2 (Intelligence), consisting of general correspondence, 1935-42 security-classified correspondence and reports from army and navy intelligence units relating to foreign aviation, 1939-41 security-classified military intelligence instructional material, 1936-41 and security-classified meteorological and climatological studies, 1941. Office file of the section chief, G-3 (Operations), 1941- 42. Security-classified G-4 (Supply) airplane and engine specifications, 1936-42.

18.6.3 Records of the Special Staff

Textual Records: Correspondence, 1941-42 and security-classified correspondence and reports, 1938-42, of the Air Defense Section, including security-classified correspondence and reports relating to the Aircraft Warning Service, 1941-42. Records of the Signal Section, including general correspondence, 1935-42 correspondence relating to codes and ciphers, 1936-42 message file, 1939-42 security-classified air maneuver files, 1935-41 radio equipment and systems files, 1936-42 and issuances, 1935- 42.

18.7 RECORDS OF HEADQUARTERS ARMY AIR FORCES (AAF)
1917-49

18.7.1 Records of the Office of the Commanding General

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1939-48 (2,268 ft.), with cross- reference sheets to correspondence with air force officers, 1942-44, and a microfilm copy of cross-reference sheets to correspondence with federal agencies and members of Congress, 1939-42 (20 rolls). Security-classified general correspondence, 1939-48 (1,624 ft.). Separate project files for correspondence relating to airfields (300 ft.), camps and forts, corps areas, territorial departments, and foreign bases and air forces, 1939- 42. Security-classified project file relating to foreign countries, 1942-44. Unclassified, confidential, and secret incoming and outgoing messages, 1941-47, with microfilm copy, 1941-45 (631 rolls). Top secret incoming and outgoing messages, 1941-47. AAF World War II combat operations records ("Mission Reports"), consisting of narrative and statistical summaries, intelligence reports, field orders, loading lists, and other records, arranged by unit, 1941-46 (1,855 ft.). Statistical summaries and other papers relating to World War II combat operations of the various air forces, 1942-45. Eighth Bomber Command "Day Raid" reports, 1942-43. Eighth Air Force tactical mission reports, 1943-45. General correspondence, 1939-42 and AAF policy letters, 1946-47, of the Air Adjutant General. Security-classified document collection of the Air Corps and AAF Library, 1939-49, with indexes.

Microfilm Publications: M1065.

Related Records: For additional records of the Air Corps Library, SEE 18.5.1.

18.7.2 Records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of the Air
Staff, A-1 (Personnel)

Textual Records: Personnel correspondence, 1939-46. Correspondence and other records relating to ground safety programs, 1943-48.

18.7.3 Records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of the Air
Staff, A-2 (Intelligence)

Textual Records: Records relating to German, French, and Austrian industrial installations, 1940-45.

18.7.4 Records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of the Air
Staff, A-4 (Materiel and Services)

Textual Records: Records relating to the Congressional investigation of the wartime activities of Maj. Gen. Bennett E. Myers, Director of Aircraft Production, 1942-47. Research and development records, 1941-46. Records of the Office of the Air Engineer relating to overseas air base construction, 1943-46, and construction in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations, 1942-45. Correspondence and other records of the International Branch of the Supply Division, including minutes of the Munitions Assignment Committee and Joint Munitions Assignment Committee, relating to allocations of aircraft, engines, and spare parts under the Lend-Lease Act, 1941-48.

18.7.5 Records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of the Air
Staff, Plans

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1942-45. Correspondence relating to aircraft procurement, production, and program requirements, 1941-46. Correspondence of the Operational Plans Division relating to AAF strategic planning, 1944-45.

18.7.6 Records of the Budget Office

Textual Records: Budget estimates of the Division of Military Aeronautics, BAP, Air Service, and Air Corps, 1918-42.

18.7.7 Records of the Office of the Air Judge Advocate

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1943. Records of the Patent Branch, including security-classified records relating to patent applications ("Inventors File"), 1918-45 and correspondence and other records concerning disclosures on inventions furnished through the Office of Scientific Research and Development college programs, 1941-46.

18.7.8 Records of the Director of Aircraft Production

Textual Records: General correspondence and other records, 1941- 44.

18.7.9 Records of the U.S. Spruce Production Corporation

History: Established August 20, 1918, as a corporation under the laws of the State of Washington by the Director of Aircraft Production pursuant to an act authorizing the creation of marketing corporations (40 Stat. 888), July 9, 1918, to facilitate business activities of lumber production and sale of timber products to Allied governments and airplane factories, with Brig. Gen. Brice P. Disque, director of the Spruce Production Division (SEE 18.4.3), serving as corporation president. Acquired functions and properties of Spruce Production Division, November 1, 1918. Last meeting held November 1946, at which time provision was made for liquidation.

Textual Records (in Seattle): General correspondence, 1918-46, with name and subject card indexes. Minutes of meetings of corporation stockholders, 1918- 46. Progress reports, 1918-19. Field survey notebooks, 1917-23. Contracts, 1917-43. Miscellaneous financial reports, vouchers, and records, 1918-46.

18.7.10 Records of Headquarters, Twentieth Air Force

Textual Records: Correspondence relating to the use of B-29's in the Pacific incoming and outgoing messages and mission reports of the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands, 1944-45.

18.7.11 Records of AAF participation in boards and committees

Textual Records: Report of the Reprogramming Committee of the Air Board relating to the long-range AAF program, February 1947. Records accumulated by Theodore Von Karman, Director of the AAF Scientific Advisory Board and its predecessor, the AAF Scientific Advisory Group, relating to the long-range AAF science research and development program, 1941-47.

18.8 OFFICE FILES OF AIR CORPS AND ARMY AIR FORCES OFFICERS
1922-47

Textual Records: Briefs of incoming and outgoing messages of primary interest to Gen. Henry Harley ("Hap") Arnold, Commanding General, AAF ("General Arnold's Logs"), 1942-45. Issuances, reports, messages, and other documents concerning the assignments and activities of Lt. Col. Frank Andrews, 1932 Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, 1945-47 Maj. Gen. James R. Fechet, 1925-30 Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Giles, 1945-46 Maj. Gen. Millard F. Harmon, 1939-45 Lt. Gen. Harold A. McGinnis, 1944-45 Maj. Gen. Mason M. Patrick, 1922-27 Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, 1946-47 Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, 1942 and Brig. Gen. Lyman P. Whitten, 1941-46.

18.9 RECORDS OF COMMANDS, ACTIVITIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
1917-45

18.9.1 Records of air fields and air bases

Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.

Textual Records: Records of Albrook Field, Balboa, CZ, 1932-39 Barksdale Field, Shreveport, LA, 1933-39 Barron Field, Everman, TX, 1917-21 Bolling Field, Washington, DC, 1918-39 Brindley Field, Commack, Long Island, NY, 1918 Brook Field, San Antonio, TX, 1918-22, 1929-39 Call Field, Wichita Falls, TX, 1917-19 Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL, 1918-21 (in Atlanta) Carruthers Field, Benbrook, TX, 1918-19 Chandler Field, Essington, PA, 1917- 19 Chanute Field, Rantoul, IL, 1917-39 (in Chicago) Chapman Field, Miami, FL, 1918-19 (in Atlanta) Crissy Field, Presidio of San Francisco, CA, 1922- 23 (in San Francisco) Henry J. Damm Field, Babylon, Long Island, NY, 1918 Dorr Field, Arcadia, FL, 1918-19 (in Atlanta) Duncan Field, San Antonio, TX, 1926-27, 1930-39 Eberts Field, Lonoke, AR, 1917-20 Ellington Field, Houston, TX, 1917-22 Flying Field, Park Place, Houston, TX, 1918-19 Gerstner Field, Lake Charles, LA, 1917-19 Hamilton Field, San Rafael, CA, 1929-40 (in San Francisco) Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, NY, 1918-19 Hickam Field, Honolulu, HI, 1939 (in San Francisco) Kelly Field, San Antonio, TX, 1917- 39 Langley Field, Hampton, VA, 1917-39 Lindbergh Field, San Diego, CA, 1925-41 Love Field, Dallas, TX, 1917-21 Lowry Field, Denver, CO, 1937-39 (in Denver) Lufbery Field, Mineola, Long Island, NY, 1918 Luke Field, Ford's Island, HI, 1931-38 (in San Francisco) McCook Field, Dayton, OH, 1918-20 (in Chicago) March Field, Riverside, CA, 1918-39 Mather Field, Sacramento, CA, 1918-23 Maxwell Field, Montgomery, AL, 1925-40 (in Atlanta) Mitchel Field, Garden City, Long Island, NY, 1917-39 Offut Field, Fort Crook, NE, 1936-39 (in Kansas City) Park Field, Millington, TN, 1917-20 (in Atlanta) Patterson Field, Fairfield, OH, 1920-39 (in Chicago) Payne Field, West Point, MS, 1918-19 (in Atlanta) Pope Field, Fayettville, NC, 1918-1919 (in Atlanta) Post Field, Fort Sill, OK, 1918-19 (in Atlanta) Randolph Field, San Antonio, TX, 1920-39 Rich Field, Waco, TX, 1918-19 Rockwell Field, Coronado, CA, 1917-35 Roosevelt Field, Mineola, Long Island, NY, 1918 Ross Field, Arcadia, CA, 1918-29 Scott Field, Belleville, IL, 1917-39 (in Chicago) Selfridge Field, Mt. Clemens, MI, 1917-37 (in Chicago) Souther Field, Americus, GA, 1918-20 (in Atlanta) Taliaferro Field, Hicks, TX, 1917-20 Taylor Field, Montgomery, AL, 1918-19 Wilbur Wright Field, Fairfield, OH, 1917-19 (in Chicago) and Wright Field, Dayton, OH, 1920-39 (in Chicago).

18.9.2 Records of aviation schools

Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.

Textual Records: Records of the School of Military Cinematography, Columbia University, New York, NY, 1917-18 Aerial Photography School, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1918 Aerial Photography School, Rochester, NY, 1918 Collegiate Balloon School, Macon, GA, 1918 (in Atlanta) U.S. Army Balloon School, Fort Crook, NE, 1918-19 (in Kansas City) U.S. Army Balloon School, Fort Omaha, NE, 1918-21 (in Kansas City) U.S. Army Balloon School, Lee Hall, VA, 1918-20 School of Military Aeronautics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1917-19 School of Military Aeronautics, Georgia School of Technology, Atlanta, GA, 1917-18 (in Atlanta) School of Military Aeronautics, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, 1917-19 (in Chicago) School of Military Aeronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1917-18 (in Boston) School of Military Aeronautics, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 1917-18 (in Chicago) School of Military Aeronautics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 1917- 18 School of Military Aeronautics, Texas University, Austin, TX, 1917-19 Aviation Mechanics Training School, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, 1918 Aviation Mechanics Training School, St. Paul, MN, 1918-19 (in Chicago) Signal Corps Detachment, David Rankin School of Mechanical Arts, St. Louis, MO, 1918 (in Kansas City) Air Service Radio School, Columbia University, New York, NY, 1918-19 Air Service School for Radio Operators, University of Texas, Austin, TX, 1918-19 School for Radio Mechanics, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, PA, 1918-19 and Officers School, Vancouver Barracks, WA, 1918-19 (in Seattle).

18.9.3 Records of air depots

Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.

Textual Records: Records of the Americus Air Intermediate Depot, Americus, GA, 1921-22 (in Atlanta) Buffalo Aviation General Supply Depot and Acceptance Park, NY, 1918-19 Fairfield Air Intermediate Depot, Fairfield, OH, 1921-31 (in Chicago) Garden City Air Service Depot, Garden City, Long Island, NY, 1917-19 Hawaiian Air Depot, Honolulu, HI, 1936-39 (in San Francisco) Little Rock Aviation General Supply Depot, Little Rock, AR, 1918- 21 Long Island Air Reserve Depot, Long Island City, NY, 1919-23 Middletown Air Depot, Middletown, PA, 1917-39 Panama Air Depot, France Field, Canal Zone, 1927-40 Rockwell Air Depot, Coronado, CA, 1920-39 Sacramento Air Depot, Sacramento, CA, 1938-39 (in San Francisco) Sam Houston Aviation Supply Depot, Houston, TX, 1918 San Antonio Air Depot, Duncan Field, TX, 1918-39 Speedway Aviation Repair Depot, Indianapolis, IN, 1918-21 (in Chicago) and Wilbur Wright Field Aviation General Supply Depot, Fairfield, OH, 1917-19 (in Chicago).

18.9.4 Records of aviation examining boards

Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.

Textual Records: Records of the Aviation Examining Board, Chicago, IL, 1917- 18 (in Chicago) Aviation Examining Board, Cincinnati, OH, 1917-18 (in Chicago) Aviation Examining Board, Cleveland, OH, 1917-18 (in Chicago) Aviation Examining Board, Dallas, TX, 1918 Aviation Examining Board, Denver, CO, 1917-18 (in Denver) Aviation Examining Board, Detroit, MI, 1918 (in Chicago) Aviation Examining Board, Fort Sam Houston, TX, 1917- 18 Aviation Examining Board, Indianapolis, IN, 1917-18 (in Chicago) and Aviation Examining Board, Kansas City, MO, 1917-18 (in Kansas City).

18.9.5 Records of Headquarters, I Concentration Command, Luken
Field, Cincinnati, OH

Textual Records: General records, 1941-42. Records of the Chief of Staff, 1942. Records of A-1 Section (Personnel) and A-2 Section (Intelligence), General Staff, 1942. Records of the Communications Section and Medical Section, Special Staff, 1942. Records of Baer Field Detachment, Fort Wayne, IN, 1942.

18.9.6 Records of Air Service and Air Corps units

Textual Records: Records of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 18th Wings, 1934-41 3d, 17th, and 90th Attack Groups, 1920-37 Headquarters, Balloon Group, VI Army Corps, 1918-19 2d, 5th, 7th, and 20th Bombardment Groups, 1917-39 IV Army Corps Observation Group, 1918-19 1st, 8th, 17th, 18th, and 20th Pursuit Groups, 1918-45 1st-1111th Aero Squadrons, 1917-19 37th Attack Squadron, 1933- 38 11th, 14th, 23d, 72d, and 96th Bombardment Squadrons, 1918- 39 808th and 816th Depot Aero Squadrons, 1918-22 1st, 4th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 44th, 50th, 82d, and 99th Observation Squadrons, 1918-40 95th Pursuit Squadron, 1920-27 58th, 59th, and 69th Service Squadrons, 1922-36 31st, 32d, 33d, 35th, 40th, and 42d Air Intelligence Sections, 1921-24 1st-30th, 32d, 35th, 37th, 44th, 46th, 50th, 52d, 55th-57th, 62d, 63d, 65th, 67th-72d, 74th, 76th, 101st-105th, and 107th-109th Photographic Sections, 1918-37 1st-20th and 22d-39th Aero Construction Companies, 1918- 19 and 1st-10th, 12th-41st, 43d-81st, 91st-99th, 101st, and 102d Balloon and Airship Companies, 1917-30.

18.10 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
1917-47

Maps (6,084 items): Airfields in Texas, collected by the Aviation Section, OCSO, 1917-18 (5 items). Maps prepared by the Air Service showing landing fields and other military activities in the United States, plus experimental air navigation "strip" maps, 1918-25 (19 items). Army Air Corps "strip" maps, 1929-36 (24 items). Weather maps and climatic atlases compiled by the Weather Division, 1942-46 (434 items). Sets of published aeronautical charts at various scales prepared by the Aeronautical Chart Service, including World Aeronautical, World Outline, Regional Aeronautical, Pilotage, and Approach series, with index charts, 1939-47 (4,902 items). World War II aeronautical and target charts created by the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, A-2 (Intelligence) and several of the AAF Commands, including 13th and 14th Army Air Forces, 20th and 21st Bomber Commands, and U.S. Army Air Forces Pacific Ocean Areas-Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA), 1942-45 (700 items).

Aerial Photographs (573 items): Mosaic negatives and prints prepared by the 15th Photographic Section, Crissy Field, CA, and 15th Observation Squadron, Scott Field, IL, covering military reservations and airfields in several states, 1922-39.

18.11 MOTION PICTURES (GENERAL)
1912-49

Training in swimming through burning oil and surf, U.S. Coast Guard, n.d. (3 reels). Last Rites of the Battleship Maine, Selig Corporation, 1912 (2 reels). Development and use of lighter-than- air craft, 1925-35 (5 reels). Arkansas flood, Air Corps, 1938 (1 reel).

World War II training films illustrating the coordination of operational units of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in preparing and completing a bombing mission, and containing instructions in flight and gunnery and the maintenance and use of aircraft and equipment, 1942-44 (124 reels).

Air Transport Command briefing films, consisting of aerial and ground views of terrain and flight routes and landing facilities worldwide and animation for the briefing films, showing particular flight routes, locations of landing strips, radio beams, and the principal geographic configuration of specific areas, 1943-45 (743 reels).

World War II combat films and postwar films of prisoner-of-war and internee camps, concentration camps, Axis atrocities, operations in Europe filmed for the documentary Thunderbolt, V-E and V-J Days, the occupation of Germany and Japan, atomic scientists, the atomic bomb blast over Nagasaki, and damage to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, 1942-49 (5,181 reels).

Information films discussing aspects of Army Air Force personnel's daily life at home and abroad, including interaction with surrounding communities, sports activities, air operations and equipment, and relevant current events, 1943-55 (99 reels).

18.12 SOUND RECORDINGS (GENERAL)
1945
91 items

Radio programs in The Fighting AAF and Your AAF series, which include air combat accounts obtained by radio reporters and other eyewitness accounts of combat, 1945.

18.13 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)
1903-64

Photographs (75,455 images): Foreign and domestic aircraft, 1903- 39 (WP, 13,800 images). U.S. Army balloon and airship facilities and school, 1908-20 (MA, 250 images). Early aircraft developed by Glenn H. Curtiss and Glenn L. Martin activities and personnel at the Army-Navy Aviation School, Rockwell Field, CA and prominent individuals, photographed by H.A. Erickson and Harold A. Taylor, 1914-18 (HE, 1,230 images). Aviation activities during World War I, including aerial photographs, taken by the Photographic Division, Signal Corps, and the Photo Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, under the direction of Maj. Edward Steichen, 1918-19 (E, 6,335 images). Logging and other activities of the Spruce Production Corporation, 1918-20 (SPCA, SPCB, SPCC, SPCD 500 images). Important figures in history of aviation, 1918-45 (HP, 500 images). Flight personnel identification photographs, 1911-41 (P, PU 50,177 images). History and activities at Scott Field, IL and landscapes of nearby areas, including military and civilian structures, in IL, KY, MI, MO, IN, FL, and WI, 1923-39 (SF, 1,500 images). In-flight refueling operations, 1923 (HER, 10 images). Civil and military installations in various states and DC, including a photograph of the airship Graf Zeppelin over Oakland, CA, 1929, and the damage to Santa Barbara, CA, by a 1925 earthquake, 1925-47 (LMU, 430 images). Tuskeegee, AL, Training Field graduates, 1943-46 (T, 723 images).

Aerial and Ground Photographs (41,025 images): Airscapes of population centers, landmarks, national parks, geographical features, and the aftermath of natural disasters, 1917-64 (AA, AN 14,750 images). Activities at Air Transport Command facilities and bases, and topographical features for guiding pilots along military air routes around the world, 1943-45 (AG, AM, AO, ATC, ZC 26,275 images).

Lantern Slides (2,200 images): History of military aviation, including persons significant in aviation history, 1903-27 (AH).

Filmstrip (1 item): "Round the World Flight," about aviators Gatty and Wiley Post and their Lockheed-Vega monoplane, 1931 (LMU).

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


5 Fighters That Show the History of the U.S. Air Force

From biplanes to stealth planes, the Air Force has flown it all.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United States Air Force. The service, which was originally established as part of the United States Army, won its independence after helping to secure victory in World War II. As part of the commemoration, we're taking a look at five of the most iconic fighters ever to fly with the USAF and its predecessors&mdashthe Army Air Services and Army Air Forces&mdashhow each brought new tech to the skies, and how they helped pave the way for today's Air Force, the most powerful air force in the world.

Spad S.XIII

The American entry into World War I in April, 1917 saw the U.S. defense industry unprepared to support the American Expeditionary Force on the European battlefield. Three years into the war, the United Kingdom, France, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the other major powers all had assembly lines cranking out the latest weapons, particularly the newly invented army tank and fighter plane. The U.S., on the other hand, had nothing, and was forced to buy European designs.

The SPAD S.XIII was produced by the French Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés, or SPAD for short, for the fledgling U.S. Army Air Services. Twenty feet long and 27 feet wide, the S.XIII was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 8A V8 engine that gave it 150 horsepower. This propelled the plane to a speedy 135 miles an hour and a maximum altitude of 6,560 feet. The fighter had a single pilot, who operated two M1917 .30 caliber machine guns synchronized to fire through the airplane's propellers. The airplane had a range of 171 miles and weighed 1,806 pounds fully loaded.

P-51D Mustang

The U.S. entered World War II in December 1941 considerably better off than it was in 1917. The U.S. defense industry had already been producing aircraft for Allied combatants since before the war, and an established U.S. aviation industry consisting of companies such as Northrop, North American, Boeing, Lockheed, and others had aircraft designs on drawing boards, just waiting for the U.S. Army Air Forces when the war started.

The North American P-51D Mustang was a mainstay of the U.S. Air Force, carrying out a variety of missions from ground attack to bomber escort. Thirty two feet long and 37 feet wide, the P-51D was equipped with the amazing Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engine that gave 1,695 horsepower&mdasha more than tenfold increase in engine power over the S.XIII's Hispano-Suiza engine in just 25 years. The plane had a maximum speed of 425 miles an hour and with an enclosed, bubble-shaped cockpit could fly to an altitude of 42,000 feet. The P-51D was armed with six M2 .50 caliber machine guns, the same guns still used by the U.S. military today, and could carry 1,000 pounds of fuel, bombs, or rockets. The Mustang had a range of 750 miles and weighed 12,100 pounds fully loaded.

F-86 Sabre

Jet fighters made their first appearance at the tail end of World War II, with the U.K.'s Meteor fighter and the German Luftwaffe's Me163 Komet and Me262. The U.S. Army Air Forces, on the other hand, did not field an operational jet fighter until after the war but enthusiastically transitioned to jet aircraft as it transitioned to the U.S. Air Force. The advent of the Korean War in June 1950 saw the baptism of the air service's jet fighter fleet.

The North American F-86 Sabre was the U.S. Air Force's premier dogfighter in Korea. While the F-86 was not as fast as its rival, the MiG-15, it was more maneuverable, and Air Force pilots used that to their advantage. The F-86 was 37 feet long and 37 feet wide&mdashalthough slightly longer than its predecessor, the P-51D it was the same width. The General Electric J-47 GE-27 turbojet engine could produce 5,970 pounds of thrust, a different metric owing to the use of the jet engine. The F-86 could fly at 687 miles an hour at sea level, and had a maximum flight ceiling of 49,500 feet. Like the P-51D, the F-86 was also fitted with six .50 caliber machine guns, but could carry 5,300 pound of ordinance, five times more bombs, rockets,and fuel than the Mustang. The F-86 had a range of 1,525 miles and weighed 18,125 pounds ready for action.

F-4 Phantom

As the Cold War dragged on, advances in aerospace engineering proceeded at a rapid clip. The sound barrier was quickly overcome and within a decade aircraft were regularly flying at Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound. It wasn't uncommon for jet warplanes to serve only five or six years in frontline units before being replaced with a new aircraft, and accidents were common. At the same time, it became clear that the standoff between NATO and the Warsaw Pact wasn't going to end any time soon, and that large numbers of increasingly expensive aircraft were necessary. An effort was made to create multi-role aircraft that could perform the tasks of fighter and bomber equally well.

The two-seat McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II was one of the first credible multi-role jets, performing roles from fighter to nuclear bomber. At 63 feet long, the F-4 was seventy percent longer than the F-86 but at 38 feet was only a foot wider. The Phantom II was the first fighter on this list to have two engines, the famous J-79 that equipped many U.S. military fighters at the time, and which could generate a combined total of 23,810 pounds of thrust. The F-4 was also the first aircraft on this list equipped with afterburning engines that dumped fuel into the exhaust for a temporary speed boost, for a total of 35,690 pounds of thrust. The Phantom II had a maximum speed with afterburners of Mach 2.23, though it typically cruised at speeds of 584 miles an hour or less, and could fly to heights of up to 60,000 feet.

The plane was also the first on this list to feature an air-to-air radar at the outset, and the AN/APQ-52 radar allowed the aircraft to detect and launch missiles at targets for the first time beyond visual range of the pilot. The F-4 was typically equipped with four AIM-9 Sidewinder short range infrared homing missiles and four AIM-7 Sparrow medium range radar-guided missiles. The F-4 was also the first Air Force fighter built standard without an internal machine gun/cannon. It could also carry up to 18,560 pounds of air-to-ground weapons on wing-mounted hardpoints, including high explosive bombs, cluster bombs, early precision-guided bombs, and even nuclear gravity bombs. The F-4 had a combat range of 422 miles, and could weigh up to 61,000 pounds fully loaded.

F-22 Raptor

By the late 1980s, the U.S. defense industry was cranking out the most advanced combat aircraft in the world to face the airplanes of the Soviet Union. The F-22 Raptor fighter was designed to maintain that lead well into the 21st century with an emphasis on three vital areas: speed, maneuverability, and a new field&mdashstealth. The F-22 was the first of the so-called fifth generation of postwar fighters, and its attributes would come to define the entire category for decades to come.

The single seat Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is 62 feet long&mdashjust a bit shorter than the F-4 Phantom II&mdashwith a wingspan of 44 feet. The aircraft's two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofan engines generate 26,000 pounds of thrust each, more than the F-4's two engines combined, and enough for the aircraft to be the first to fly so-called "supercruise". That is, it can cruise at supersonic speeds. The engines have a maximum combined afterburner thrust rate of 70,000 tons, giving it a theoretical maximum speed equal to or exceeding the F-4 Phantom. The F-22 also incorporates thrust-vectoring technology, allowing the plane to adjust the direction of its thrust and perform some truly astonishing maneuvers. Maximum ceiling altitude is 65,000 feet.

The F-22's AN/APG-77 radar can detect targets at ranges of up to 138 miles, allowing the aircraft to detect adversaries first. The F-22 can then use another aspect of its technological superiority, its stealth technology, to remain undetected while getting into an ideal firing position for its six AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range radar-guided missiles and two AIM-9X Sidewinder short range infrared guided missiles. Alternately, in place of two AMRAAM missiles it can carry two 500 or 1,000 pound bombs. The F-22 also sports a M61 20-millimeter gatling gun for air-to-air combat. The F-22 has combat radius of 529 miles and maximum takeoff weight of up to 83,500 pounds.


U.S. Air Force - HISTORY

The Office of Air Force History possesses microfilm copies of archival materials in the United States Air Force Historical Research Center (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama 36112-6678), which number some 500,000 documents relating to the history of United States military aviation from the time of the Civil War.

A microfilm catalog provides access to the microfilm collection by subject and country. Published guides include the Air Force Historical Archives Document Classification Guide (1971) Personal Papers in the USAF Historical Research Center , compl. Richard E. Morse and Thomas C. Lobenstein (1980) U.S. Air Force Oral History Catalog (1982) and United States Air Force History: A Guide to Documentary Sources .

The collections include published and unpublished reports and oral histories on a variety of topics, including the following:

BALCHEN, COL. BERNT. Collection of correspondence, memos, and articles on polar regions.

BEST, BRIG. GEN. WILLIAM N. Air Force oral history program interview No. 717.

GEOPHYSICS IN CONNECTION WITH THE "INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN," 1964-65.

GERMAN METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE, WORLD WAR II. Report on its organization, duties, and responsibilities to the Luftwaffe. 1944.

400TH AEROSPACE APPLICATIONS GROUP. History, 1963-73.

AIR WEATHER SERVICE. History, 1945-46.
For meteorologists, a major consequence of World War II was the development of a world weather network utilizing new equipment and techniques.

AIR WEATHER SERVICE. History, 1966-67.
A Defense Environmental Services Study Group was created by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Cyrus Vance to review the whole spectrum of environmental services and R&D within the Department of Defense.

ARMY AIR FORCES TRAINING COMMAND.
History of the weather training program, 1939-1945.

CLIMATE AND WEATHER MODIFICATION.
AF History Narrative.

EASTERN TECHNICAL TRAINING COMMAND.
The contract meteorology schools, a report on the somewhat unique experiment adopted to train Air Force Weather Officers. 1944.

FIFTH AIR FORCE.
History of participation in Project GRAYBACK, 1955.

METEOROLOGICAL SATELLITE PROGRAM.

STUDY OF METEOROLOGY AFFECTING ALMOST EVERY PHASE OF AIR FORCE OPERATIONS, 1961.

THIRTEENTH AIR FORCE.
History of participation in Project 119-L, which provided for a world wide meteorological survey between 1 Nov. 1955 and 1 April 1956.

LEMAY, GEN CURTIS.
Correspondence on meteorology.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS DURING MILITARY OPERATIONS. 1942-present.

METEOROLOGICAL EQUIPMENT FOR POLAR ICE PACK STATION.

METEOROLOGICAL SOUNDING SYSTEM.
AF Global Weather Central.

METEOROLOGICAL SURVEY.
Aerial photography of Western Europe, etc. 1945.

METEOROLOGISTS TO THE BALLOON CORPS.
National Association of American Balloon Corps Veterans.


This Civil War veteran served all the way through World War I

Posted On February 05, 2020 19:00:33

Just days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Peter Conover Hains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At a time when officers and cadets were deserting the U.S. military in favor of serving their home states, especially those who seceded from the Union, this Philadelphia native stayed put — and the U.S. Army would get their investment back in spades.

After 26 of his 57 classmates left to join the Confederacy, Hains became an artillery officer, firing off the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run. There, he fought bravely, even though the Union Army lost terribly. After as many as 30 smaller combat engagements, he eventually found himself in the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States would never be the same.

During the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, the Union’s Chief Engineer fell ill and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, the responsibility shifted to then-lieutenant Hains. The engineering at Vicksburg would be crucial to the Union victory, so there could be no mistakes. The 12-mile ring of fortifications and entrenchments around the city kept the 33,000 Confederate defenders bottled up and isolated from the outside world. The surrender of Vicksburg, after a 40-days-long siege, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg sounded the death knell for the Confederacy.

Grant promoted Hains to captain for his work.

In the postwar years, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board and his constructions were so sound that many still stand to this day, undisturbed by rising sea levels or tropical storms. He also fixed the foul-smelling swamp that was Washington, D.C. by designing and constructing the Tidal Basin there, a sort of man-made reservoir that flushes out to the Washington Channel.

Still in the Army by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he served as a brigadier general of volunteers, but no known record of deploying to fight exists. Before and after the Spanish-American War, Hains served on the Nicaragua Canal Commission and was responsible for successfully arguing that such a canal should be built in Panama.

He retired from the Army in 1904 — but the Army wasn’t done with him. World War I broke out for the United States and in September, 1917, Peter Conover Hains was recalled to active duty one last time. For a full year, he managed the structural defenses of Norfolk Harbor and was the district’s Chief Engineer. At age 76, he was the oldest officer in uniform.

Just be advised, every veteran who just got off IRR: They will find you.

His sons and their sons all continued Hains’ military tradition, attending West Point and serving on active duty. He, his sons, and his grandson are all interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Aircraft History Cards

Our Archives holds microfilm copies of aircraft records created by the United States Air Force and its predecessors and the United States Navy. These records are commonly called Aircraft History Cards. The Museum's holdings are partial duplicate sets of those held by the services. The Museum holdings do not include history cards for aircraft operated by Army Ground Forces/Army Aviation (post-WWII), non-activated Air National Guard units, or the United States Coast Guard.

What is an Aircraft History Card?
An Aircraft History Card (or the USAF "Individual Aircraft Record Card") is a compilation of the inventory history of a single aircraft, showing the location or controlling unit and status of that aircraft at a given time. Other information may also be included, such as airframe time, time since overhaul, and so forth. In most cases, this history covers the period from the acceptance of the aircraft by the controlling service until it is removed from that service's inventory.

Aircraft History Cards are not an operational history of the aircraft. They do not include any information on missions flown, crews assigned, or markings. They do not generally include specific maintenance or modification information. The records for Army Air Forces (AAF) aircraft transferred overseas during World War II stop upon arrival in theater and do not resume until the aircraft either returns to the continental United States or is removed from the inventory. Gaps exist for both Navy and AAF aircraft during 1943-1944, apparently due to changes in record-keeping policies and systems. Other gaps may exist on some cards and most cards contain a variety of data formats.


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