United States Army Air Forces
Overview
 
The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

.

The AAF was a component of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, which in 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

, the Services of Supply
Services of Supply
The Services Of Supply or "SOS" branch of the Army of the USA was created on 28 February 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department" and War Department Circular No. 59, dated 2 March 1942. Services of Supply became one of the three autonomous components of the...

 (which in 1943 became the Army Service Forces
Army Service Forces
The Army Service Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. They were created on February 28, 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department"...

), and the AAF. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
The Chief of Staff of the Army is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army; and is in...

.
Encyclopedia
The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

.

The AAF was a component of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, which in 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

, the Services of Supply
Services of Supply
The Services Of Supply or "SOS" branch of the Army of the USA was created on 28 February 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department" and War Department Circular No. 59, dated 2 March 1942. Services of Supply became one of the three autonomous components of the...

 (which in 1943 became the Army Service Forces
Army Service Forces
The Army Service Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. They were created on February 28, 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department"...

), and the AAF. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
The Chief of Staff of the Army is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army; and is in...

. The AAF controlled all parts of military aviation formerly distributed among the Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

, General Headquarters Air Force, and ground forces corps area commanders, and thus became the first air organization of the U.S. Army to control its own installations.

The peak size of the AAF was over 2.4 million men and women in service and nearly 80,000 aircraft in 1944, and 783 domestic bases in December 1943. By VE Day
Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day commemorates 8 May 1945 , the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not...

 it had 1.25 million men stationed overseas and operated from more than 1,600 airfields worldwide.

The Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 became the Army Air Forces in June 1941 to provide the air arm a greater autonomy in which to expand more efficiently, and to provide a structure for the additional command echelons required by a vastly increased force. Although other nations already had separate air forces independent of the army or navy (such as the British Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the German Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

), the USAAF remained a part of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 until the United States Air Force came into being in September 1947.

Lineage of the United States Air Force

  • Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps
    Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
    The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...

     August 1, 1907–July 18, 1914
  • Aviation Section, Signal Corps
    Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps
    The Aviation Section, Signal Corps, was the military aviation service of the United States Army from 1914 to 1918, and a direct ancestor of the United States Air Force. It replaced and absorbed the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, and was succeeded briefly by the Division of Military...

     July 18, 1914–May 20, 1918
  • Division of Military Aeronautics  20 May 1918–24 May 1918
  • Air Service, United States Army
    United States Army Air Service
    The Air Service, United States Army was a forerunner of the United States Air Force during and after World War I. It was established as an independent but temporary wartime branch of the War Department by two executive orders of President Woodrow Wilson: on May 24, 1918, replacing the Aviation...

      24 May 1918–2 July 1926
  • United States Army Air Corps
    United States Army Air Corps
    The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

      2 July 1926–20 June 1941*
  • United States Army Air Forces  20 June 1941–18 September 1947**
  • United States Air Force
    United States Air Force
    The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

      18 September 1947–present


* The Air Corps became a subordinate element of the Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941, and was abolished as an administrative organization on 9 March 1942. It continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army (similar to the infantry, armor, or artillery) until abolished by reorganization provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 495), July 26, 1947.

**The Army Air Forces were abolished by Transfer Order 1, Office of the Secretary of Defense, September 26, 1947, implementing the same provisions. Transfer Order 1 was the first of 200 Army-Air Force transfer agreements drawn up in June and July, 1947, and ordered the transfer of all military and civilian personnel of the Army Air Forces to the Department of the Air Force and the USAF.

Unity of command problems in the Air Corps

The roots of the AAF arose in the formulation of theories of strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 at the Air Corps Tactical School
Air Corps Tactical School
The Air Corps Tactical School, also known as ACTS and "the Tactical School", was a military professional development school for officers of the United States Army Air Service and United States Army Air Corps, the first such school in the world. Created in 1920 at Langley Field, Virginia, it...

 that gave new impetus to arguments for an independent air force. Despite a perception of resistance and even obstruction by the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 General Staff
General Staff
A military staff, often referred to as General Staff, Army Staff, Navy Staff or Air Staff within the individual services, is a group of officers and enlisted personnel that provides a bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units...

 (WDGS), much of which was attributable to lack of funds, the Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 made great strides in the 1930s, both organizationally and in doctrine. A strategy stressing precision bombing of industrial targets by heavily armed, long-range bombers emerged, formulated by the men who would become its leaders.

A major step toward a separate air force came in March 1935 when command of all combat air units within the Continental United States was centralized under a single headquarters called General Headquarters Air Force. Since 1920, control of aviation units had resided with commanders of the corps area
Corps area
A Corps area was a geographically-based organizational structure of the United States Army used to accomplish domestic administrative, training and tactical tasks from 1920 to 1942. Each corps area included divisions of the Regular Army, Organized Reserve and National Guard of the United States...

s (a peacetime ground forces administrative echelon), following the model established by General John Pershing during World War I. In 1924 the WDGS planned for a wartime activation of an Army general headquarters (GHQ), similar to the American Expeditionary Forces model of World War I, with a GHQ air force as a subordinate component. Both were created in 1933 when war with Cuba seemed possible following a coup, but were not activated.

Activation of GHQ Air Force represented a compromise between strategic airpower advocates and ground force commanders who demanded that the Air Corps mission remain tied to that of the land forces. Airpower advocates achieved a centralized control of air units under an air commander, while the WDGS divided authority within the air service and assured a continuing policy of support of ground operations as the primary role of the air arm. GHQ Air Force organized combat groups administratively into a strike force of three wings deployed to the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, Pacific, and Gulf coasts
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. A division of the air defense of the United States into four geographical districts followed in 1940 that laid the foundation for the subsequent numbered air forces when, in November, Army GHQ was activated and obtained full control of GHQ Air Force. Army Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
The Chief of Staff of the Army is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army; and is in...

 George C. Marshall requested a reorganization study from the Air Corps, and on October 5, 1940, Chief of the Air Corps Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold
Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

 submitted a proposal for creating an air staff, unifying the air arm under one commander, and giving it autonomy with the ground and supply forces, but it was immediately opposed by the General Staff in all respects.

GHQ Air Force was small in comparison to European air forces. Lines of authority were difficult, at best, since GHQ Air Force controlled only operations of its combat units while the Air Corps was still responsible for doctrine, acquisition of aircraft, and training. The corps area commanders continued to control all airfields and the support personnel manning them. The commanders of GHQ Air Force and the Air Corps, Major Generals Frank Andrews and Oscar Westover
Oscar Westover
Oscar M. Westover was a major general and fourth chief of the United States Army Air Corps.-Biography:He was born in Bay City, Michigan and enlisted in the Army when he was 18. He began his service as a private in 1901 before being appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point...

 respectively, clashed philosophically over the direction in which the air arm was moving, exacerbating the difficulties.

Army Air Forces created


The likelihood of U.S. participation in World War II prompted the most radical reorganization of the aviation branch in its history, developing a structure that both unified command of all air elements and gave it total autonomy by March 1942.

By the spring of 1941 the success of centralized control of air operations in Europe had made clear that the dichotomy of authority in the American air forces, deemed a "hydra
Hydra
Hydra is the name of the Lernaean Hydra, a many-headed serpent in Greek mythology."Hydra" may also refer to:- Astronomy :* Hydra , the largest of the modern star constellations* Hydra , a satellite of Pluto...

-headed air authority" by one congressman, had caused a disturbing lack of clear channels of command. A struggle with the WDGS over control of air defense of the United States had been won by airmen and vested in four command units called "numbered air forces", but the bureaucratic conflict threatened to renew the dormant struggle for an independent United States Air Force. Marshall had come to the view that the air forces needed a "simpler system" and a unified command. Working with Arnold and Robert A. Lovett
Robert A. Lovett
Robert Abercrombie Lovett was the fourth United States Secretary of Defense, serving in the cabinet of President Harry S. Truman from 1951 to 1953 and in this capacity, directed the Korean War. Promoted to the position from deputy secretary of defense Domhoff described Lovett as a "Cold War...

, recently appointed to the long-vacant position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air, he reached a consensus that quasi-autonomy for the air forces was preferable to immediate separation.

On June 20, 1941, to grant additional autonomy to the air forces and to avoid a legislative struggle in Congress, the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 revised the army regulation governing the organization of Army aviation, AR 95-5. Arnold assumed the title of Chief of the Army Air Forces, creating an echelon of command over all military aviation components and ending the dual status of the Air Corps and GHQ Air Force (renamed Air Force Combat Command). The AAF gained the Air Staff that had been long opposed by the WDGS, and a single air commander. However the AAF still did not have equal status with the Army ground forces within Army GHQ, and air units continued to report through two chains of command.

Arnold and Marshall agreed that the AAF would enjoy autonomy within the War Department until the end of the war, while its commanders would cease lobbying for independence. Marshall, a strong proponent of airpower, left understood that the Air Force would likely achieve its independence after the war. Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 on December 7, 1941, in recognition of importance of the role of the Army Air Forces, Arnold was given a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

, the planning staff that served as the focal point of American strategic planning during the war, in order that the United States would have an air representative in staff talks with their British counterparts on the Combined Chiefs
Combined Chiefs of Staff
The Combined Chiefs of Staff was the supreme military command for the western Allies during World War II. It was a body constituted from the British Chiefs of Staff Committee and the American Joint Chiefs of Staff....

. In effect the head of the AAF gained equality with Marshall. While this step was never officially recognized by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, and was bitterly disputed behind the scenes at every opportunity, it nevertheless succeeded as a pragmatic foundation for the future separation of the Air Force.

The four geographical districts of the former GHQ Air Force were converted in January 1941 into numbered air forces, with a subordinate organization of 54 groups. Organizationally, the Army Air Forces was created as a higher command echelon encompassing both Air Force Combat Command and the Air Corps, thus bringing all of the air arm under the authority of one airman for the first time. Yet these reforms were only temporary, lasting just nine months. By November 1941, on the eve of U.S. entry into the war, the division of authority within the Army as a whole, caused by the activation of Army GHQ a year before, had led to a "battle of memos" between it and other agencies over administering the AAF, leading Marshall to state he had "the poorest command post in the Army." To streamline the AAF in preparation for war, with a goal of centralized planning and decentralized execution of operations, Arnold submitted to Marshall essentially the same reorganization plan rejected by the General Staff in October 1940.Executive Order 9082 issued 28 Feb 42 changed Arnold's title to "Commanding General, Army Air Forces" effective March 9, 1942, making him co-equal with the commanding generals of the new Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

 and Services of Supply
Services of Supply
The Services Of Supply or "SOS" branch of the Army of the USA was created on 28 February 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department" and War Department Circular No. 59, dated 2 March 1942. Services of Supply became one of the three autonomous components of the...

, the other two components of the Army of the United States
Army of the United States
The Army of the United States is the official name for the conscription force of the United States Army that may be raised at the discretion of the United States Congress in the event of the United States entering into a major armed conflict...

. The War Department issued Circular No. 59 on March 2 that carried out the executive order, intended as a wartime expedient to expire six months after the end of the war. The three components replaced a multiplicity of branches and organizations, saw the General Staff greatly reduced in size, and proportionally increased the representation of the air forces members on it.

In addition to dissolving both Army General Headquarters and the chiefs of the combat arms, assigning their training functions to the Army Ground Forces, War Department Circular 59 reorganized the Army Air Forces, disbanding the Combat Command (formerly GHQAF) and the Office of Chief of the Air Corps (changing the latter into a non-organizational branch of the Army), which eliminated an entire layer of authority. Replacing them were eleven numbered air forces (later raised to sixteen) and six major commands (which became eight in January 1943: Flying Training, Technical Training, Troop Carrier, Air Transport, Materiel, Air Service, Proving Ground, and Anti-Submarine Commands). In July 1943, Flying Training and Technical Training Commands merged into a single Training Command.

Between March 1942 and March 1943 the AAF operated under a division of administrative control activities by a policy staff, an operating staff, and the support commands. Field activities of many support commands operated under a "bureau" structure, with no separation of policy and operating functions. Staff officers often exercised command and policy authority without responsibility for results, a system remaining from the Air Corps years. The concept of an "operating staff," or directorates, resulted from a desire to place experts in various aspects of military aviation in key positions of implementation. However functions often overlapped, communication and coordination between the divisions failed or was ignored, policy prerogatives were usurped by the directorates, and they became overburdened with detail. Eventually more than thirty offices were authorized to issue orders in the name of the commanding general.

The hierarchical "command" principle, in which a single commander has direct final accountability but delegates authority to staff, was adopted AAF-wide in a major reorganization and consolidation on 29 March 1943. The four main directorates and nineteen subordinate directorates (the "operating staff") were abolished as an unnecessary level of authority and execution of policies was removed from the staffs and assigned solely to field organizations along functional lines. The policy functions of the directorates were reorganized and consolidated into offices regrouped under six assistant chiefs of air staff.

Most members of the Army Air Forces also remained members of the Air Corps. In May 1945, 88 per cent of officers serving in the Army Air Forces were commissioned in the Air Corps, while 82 per cent of enlisted members assigned to AAF units and bases had the Air Corps as their combat arm branch.

Expansion of the Army Air Forces

The Air Corps began a rapid expansion in the spring of 1939 at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 to provide an adequate air force for defense of the Western Hemisphere. An initial "25-group program", developed in April 1939, called for 50,000 men. When war broke out in September 1939 the Air Corps still had only 800 first-line combat aircraft and 76 bases, including 21 major installations and depots.

Following the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in May 1940, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a supplemental appropriation of nearly a billion dollars, a production program of 50,000 aircraft a year, and a military air force of 50,000 aircraft (of which 36,500 would be Army). Accelerated programs followed in the Air Corps that repeatedly revised expansion goals, resulting in plans for 84 combat groups, 7,799 combat aircraft, and the annual addition to the force of 30,000 new pilots and 100,000 technical personnel. The accelerated expansion programs resulted in a force of 156 airfields and 152,125 personnel at the time of the creation of the Army Air Forces.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, occurring only two days after the creation of the Army Air Forces, caused an immediate reassessment of U.S. defense strategy and policy. The need for an offensive strategy to defeat the Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 required further enlargement and modernization of all the military services, including the new AAF. In addition, the invasion produced a new Lend lease partner in Russia, creating even greater demands on an already struggling American aircraft production.

An offensive strategy required several types of urgent and sustained effort. In addition to the development and manufacture of aircraft in massive numbers, the Army Air Forces had to establish a global logistics network to supply, maintain, and repair the huge force; recruit and train personnel; and sustain the health, welfare, and morale of its troops. The process was driven by the pace of aircraft production, not the training program, and was ably aided by the direction of Lovett, for all practical purposes, "Secretary of the Air Corps".

A lawyer and a banker, Lovett had prior experience with the aviation industry that translated into realistic production goals and harmony in integrating the plans of the AAF with those of the Army as a whole. Lovett initially believed that President Roosevelt's demand following the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 for 60,000 airplanes in 1942 and 125,000 in 1943 was grossly ambitious. However, working closely with General Arnold and engaging the capacity of the American automotive industry
Automotive industry
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells motor vehicles, and is one of the world's most important economic sectors by revenue....

 brought about an effort that produced almost 100,000 aircraft in 1944.

The logistical demands of this armada were met by the creation of the Air Service Command to provide service units and maintain 250 depots in the United States; the elevation of the Materiel Division to full command status to develop and procure aircraft, equipment, and parts; and the Air Technical Service Command to ship the materiel overseas. In addition to carrying personnel and cargo, the Air Transport Command
Air Transport Command
Air Transport Command is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its mission was to meet the urgent demand for the speedy reinforcement of the United States' military bases worldwide during World War II, using an air supply system to supplement surface transport...

 made deliveries of almost 270,000 aircraft worldwide while losing only 1,013 in the process. The operation of the stateside depots was done largely by more than 300,000 civilian maintenance employees, many of them women, freeing a like number of Air Forces mechanics for overseas duty.

Growth of the USAAF, aircraft

Type of aircraft 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 31 August 1945 Date of maximum size
Grand total 12,297 33,304 64,232 72,726 63,715 July 1944 (79,908)
Combat aircraft 4,477 11,607 27,448 41,961 41,163 May 1945 (43,248)
Very heavy bombers - 3 91 977 2,865 August 1945 (2,865)
Heavy bombers 288 2,076 8,027 12,813 11,065 April 1945 (12,919)
Medium bombers 745 2,556 4,370 6,189 5,384 October 1944 (6,262)
Light bombers 799 1,201 2,371 2,980 3,079 September 1944 (3,338)
Fighters 2,170 5,303 11,875 17,198 16,799 May 1945 (17,725)
Reconnaissance 475 468 714 1,804 1,971 May 1945 (2,009)
Support aircraft 7,820 21,697 36,784 30,765 22,552 July 1944 (41,667)
Transports 254 1,857 6,466 10,456 9,561 December 1944 (10,456)
Trainers 7,340 17,044 26,051 17,060 9,558 May 1944 (27,923)
Communications 226 2,796 4,267 3,249 3,433 December 1943 (4,267)

SOURCE: Army Air Forces Statistical Digest (World War II), Table 84

Growth of the USAAF, personnel

The huge increases in aircraft inventory resulted in a similar increase in personnel, and changed the personnel policies under which the Air Service and Air Corps had operated since the National Defense Act of 1920. No longer could pilots represent 90% of commissioned officers. The need for large numbers of specialists in administration and technical services resulted in the establishment of an Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School or Officer Cadet School are institutions which train civilians and enlisted personnel in order for them to gain a commission as officers in the armed forces of a country....

 in Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, incorporated on March 26, 1915. The municipality is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter which separates the Beach from Miami city proper...

, and the direct commissioning of thousands of professionals. Even so, 193,000 new pilots entered the AAF during World War II, while 124,000 other candidates failed at some point during training or were killed in accidents.

The requirements for new pilots resulted in a massive expansion of the Aviation Cadet program, which had so many volunteers that the AAF created a reserve pool that held qualified pilot candidates until they could be called to active duty, rather than losing them in the draft. By 1944, this pool became surplus, and 24,000 were sent to the Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

 for retraining as infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, and 6,000 to the Army Service Forces
Army Service Forces
The Army Service Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. They were created on February 28, 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department"...

. Pilot standards were changed to reduce the minimum age from 20 to 18, and eliminated the educational requirement of at least two years of college. One beneficiary of this change went on to become a general in the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, Charles E. Yeager
Chuck Yeager
Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound...

.

Air crew needs resulted in the successful training of 43,000 bombardier
Bombardier (air force)
A bombardier , in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force, or a bomb aimer, in the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces, was the crewman of a bomber responsible for assisting the navigator in guiding the plane to a bombing target and releasing the aircraft's bomb...

s, 49,000 navigator
Navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

s, and 309,000 flexible gunners, many of whom also specialized in other aspects of air crew duties. 7,800 men qualified as B-29 flight engineers and 1,000 more as radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 operators in night fighters, all of whom received commissions. Almost 1.4 million men received technical training as aircraft mechanics, electronics specialists, and other technicians. Non-aircraft related support services were provided by airmen trained by the Army Service Forces
Army Service Forces
The Army Service Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. They were created on February 28, 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department"...

, but the AAF increasingly exerted influence on the curricula of these courses in anticipation of future independence.

African-Americans comprised approximately six per cent of this force (145,327 personnel in November 1943). In 1940, pressured by Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

, General Arnold agreed to accept blacks for pilot training, albeit on a segregated
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

 basis. A flight training center was set up at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

. Despite the handicap—caused by the segregation policy—of not having an experienced training cadre as with other AAF units, the Tuskegee Airmen
Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Formally, they were the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps....

 distinguished themselves in combat with the 332nd Fighter Group
332nd Fighter Group
The 332d Fighter Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit, last assigned to the 332d Fighter Wing at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio. It was deactivated on 1 July 1949....

. The Tuskegee training program produced 673 black fighter pilots, 253 B-26 Marauder
B-26 Marauder
The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company. First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe....

 pilots, and 132 navigators.

The vast majority of African-American airmen, however, did not fare as well. Mainly draftees
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, most did not fly or maintain aircraft. Their largely menial duties, indifferent or hostile leadership, and poor morale led to serious dissatisfaction and several violent incidents.

Women served more successfully as part of the war-time Army Air Forces. Nearly 40,000 served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
Women's Army Corps
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943...

/Women's Army Corps
Women's Army Corps
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943...

 as AAF personnel, more than 1,000 as Women Airforce Service Pilots
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The Women Airforce Service Pilots and its predecessor groups the Women's Flying Training Detachment and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron were pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces...

 (WASPs), and 6,500 as nurses
Registered nurse
A registered nurse is a nurse who has graduated from a nursing program at a university or college and has passed a national licensing exam. A registered nurse helps individuals, families, and groups to achieve health and prevent disease...

 in the Army Air Forces, including 500 flight nurses. 7,601 USAAF WACs served overseas in April 1945, and women performed in more than 200 job categories.

The Air Corps Act of July 1926 increased the number of general officers authorized in the Army's air arm from two to four. The activation of GHQAF in March 1935 doubled that number and pre-war expansion of the Air Corps in October 1940 saw fifteen new general officer billets authorized. By the end of World War II, 320 generals were authorized the wartime AAF.
Date Total USAAF Tot Officers Tot Enlisted # overseas Officers o/s Enlisted o/s
31 July 1939 24,724 2,636 22,088 3,991 272 3,719
31 December 1939 43,118 3,006 40,112 7,007 351 6,656
31 December 1940 101,227 6,437 94,790 16,070 612 15,458
31 December 1941 354,161 24,521 329,640 25,884 2,479 23,405
31 December 1942 1,597,049 127,267 1,469,782 242,021 26,792 215,229
31 December 1943 2,373,882 274,347 2,099,535 735,666 81,072 654,594
31 March 1944 (Peak size) 2,411,294 306,889 2,104,405 906,335 104,864 801,471
31 December 1944 2,359,456 375,973 1,983,483 1,164,136 153,545 1,010,591
30 April 1945 (Peak overseas) 2,329,534 388,278 1,941,256 1,224,006 163,886 1,060,120
31 August 1945 2,253,182 368,344 1,884,838 999,609 122,833 876,776

SOURCE: Army Air Forces Statistical Digest (World War II), Table 4. 1939–1940 totals were U.S. Army Air Corps

Growth of the USAAF, installations

The Air Corps operated 156 airfields at the beginning of 1941. An airbase expansion program had been underway since 1939, attempting to keep pace with the increase in personnel, units, and aircraft, and using existing municipal and private facilities where possible. However the outbreak of war and the resulting accelerated expansion necessitated a wide variety of facilities for both operations and training within the Continental United States (CONUS).

In addition to the construction of new permanent bases and the building of numerous bombing and gunnery ranges, the USAAF utilized civilian pilot schools, training courses conducted at college and factory sites, and officer training detachments at colleges. In early 1942, in a controversial move, the USAAF Technical Training Command began leasing resort hotels and apartment buildings for large-scale training sites (accommodation for 90,000 existed in Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, incorporated on March 26, 1915. The municipality is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter which separates the Beach from Miami city proper...

, alone). The lease
Lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

s were negotiated for the USAAF by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, often to the economic detriment of hotel owners in rental rates, wear and tear clauses, and short-notice to terminate leases.

In December 1943, the USAAF reached a war-time peak of 783 airfields in the Continental United States.

Installations

CONUS Installations
Type of facility 7 December 1941 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 VE Day VJ Day
Total all installations 181 197 1,270 1,419 1,506 1,473 1,377
Main bases 114 151 345 345 377 356 344
Satellite bases - - 71 116 37 56 57
Auxiliary fields - - 198 322 309 291 269
Total CONUS airfields 114 151 614 783 723 703 670
Bombing & gunnery ranges - - unk - 480 473 433
Hospitals & other owned facilities 67 46 29 32 44 30 30
Contract pilot schools unk unk 69 66 14 14 6
Rented office space - - unk unk 79 109 103
Leased hotels & apartment bldgs - - 464 216 75 75 75
Civilian & factory tech schools - - 66 47 21 17 16
College training detchs - - 16 234 2 1 1
Specialized storage depots - - 12 41 68 51 43

SOURCE: USAF Historical Study No. 69 Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States, 1939–1945, Chart I, p. 169.


Overseas airfields
Location 31 December 1941 31 December 1942 31 December 1943 31 December 1944 VE Day VJ Day
US possessions 19 60 70 89 130 128
North America 7 74 83 67 66 62
Atlantic islands 5 27 - 20 21 21
South America - 27 28 22 32 32
Africa - 73 94 45 31 21
Europe - 33 119 302 392 196
Australia - 20 35 10 7 3
Pacific islands - 21 65 100 57 56
Asia - 23 65 96 175 115
Total overseas 31 358 559 751 911 634

SOURCE: AAF Statistical Digest, Table 217: Airfields outside the CONUS, 1941–1945.

Command structure

By the end of World War II, the USAAF had created 16 numbered air forces (First through Fifteenth and Twentieth) distributed worldwide to prosecute the war and defend the Americas, plus a Zone of the Interior general air force within the continental United States to support the whole.

Several air forces were created de novo as the service expanded during the war. Some grew out of earlier commands—for example, the Eighth Air Force was originally VIII Bomber Command, then later had its designation again assigned to the command when that organization was discontinued—as the service expanded in size and organization, and higher echelons such as United States Strategic Air Forces
United States Strategic Air Forces
The US Eighth Air Force in World War II, later designated the United States Strategic and Tactical Air Forces was the first and became the overall command and control authority of the United States Army Air Forces against the European Axis members during World War II, where it'd started as a...

 (USSTAF) in Europe and U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific became necessary to control the whole. In August 1945, the U.S. Strategic Air Forces became the United States Air Forces in Europe
United States Air Forces in Europe
The United States Air Forces in Europe is the United States Air Force component of U.S. European Command, a Department of Defense unified command, and is one of two Air Force Major Commands outside of the continental United States, the other being the Pacific Air Forces...

 (USAFE). A subordinate organizational tier, the command, was created to segregate units of similar functions (fighters and bombers) for administrative control.

An additional eight air divisions served as an additional layer of command for the vast organization, capable of acting independently if the need arose. Inclusive within the air forces and divisions were administrative headquarters called wings to control groups (operational units; see section below). As the number of groups increased, the number of wings needed to control them multiplied, with 91 ultimately activated, 69 of which were still active at the end of the war. As part of the Air Service and Air Corps, wings had been composite organizations, that is, composed of groups with different types of missions. Most of the wings of World War II, however, were composed of groups with like functions (denoted as bombardment, fighter, reconnaissance, training, antisubmarine, troop carrier, replacement, or composite).

Several independent support organizations, also called commands, remained under the control of Headquarters Army Air Forces. These were created, or expanded from earlier Air Corps organizations, in 1941 and 1942 to support and supply the numbered air forces, to which the operational units (groups and squadrons) were assigned.

These commands were:
  • Training Command
    Army Air Forces Training Command
    Army Air Forces Training Command was a command of the United States Army Air Forces. It was redesignated Air Training Command on 1 July 1946 as part of the reorganization of the Army Air Forces after World War II....

  • Air Technical Service Command
  • Air Transport Command
    Air Transport Command
    Air Transport Command is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its mission was to meet the urgent demand for the speedy reinforcement of the United States' military bases worldwide during World War II, using an air supply system to supplement surface transport...

  • Personnel Distribution Command
  • Proving Ground Command
  • I Troop Carrier Command
  • AAF Tactical Center
  • Antisubmarine Command
    Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command
    The Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command was a direct reporting agency of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Its mission was to deal with the German Navy U-boat threat.-Lineage:...

     (discontinued 31 August 1943)
  • Flight Control Command (established 29 March 1943, discontinued 1 October 1943)


While officially the air arm had become the Army Air Forces, colloquially the term Air Corps persisted among the public as well as veteran airmen, whose branch remained the Air Corps; in addition, the singular "Air Force" often crept into popular use, reflected by usage of the term "Air Force Combat Command" in 1941–42. This misnomer crept onto official recruiting posters (see image on right) and was important in promoting the idea of an "Air Force" as an independent service. The term appeared prominently in Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

's War Department indoctrination film War Comes to America
War Comes to America
War Comes to America was the seventh and final film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight World War II propaganda film series.The early part of the film is an idealized version of American history which includes mention of the first settlements, the American Revolutionary War , and the ethnic diversity of...

, of the Why We Fight
Why We Fight
Why We Fight is a series of seven war information training films commissioned by the United States government during World War II whose purpose was to show American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S...

series, as an animated map graphic of equal prominence to that of the Army and Navy.

Tactical organization

The key unit of the Army Air Forces for both administrative and tactical purposes was the group
Group (air force)
A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. Usage of the terms group and wing differ from one country to another, as well as different branches of a defence force, in some cases...

, an organization of three or four flying squadrons and attached or organic ground support elements, which was the rough equivalent of a regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 of the Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

. The Army Air Forces fielded a peak of 269 combat groups during World War II, and an operational peak in 1945 of 243 combat groups.
The Air Service
United States Army Air Service
The Air Service, United States Army was a forerunner of the United States Air Force during and after World War I. It was established as an independent but temporary wartime branch of the War Department by two executive orders of President Woodrow Wilson: on May 24, 1918, replacing the Aviation...

 and its successor the Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 had established 15 combat groups between 1919 and 1937, which on 1 January 1940 were designated:

  • 1st Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
  • 2d Bombardment Group (Heavy)
    2d Operations Group
    The 2d Operations Group is the flying component of the United States Air Force 2d Bomb Wing, assigned to the Air Combat Command Eighth Air Force. The group is stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

  • 3d Bombardment Group (Light)
    3d Operations Group
    The 3d Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 3d Wing. It is stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and is assigned to the Pacific Air Forces Eleventh Air Force....

  • 4th Composite Group
  • 5th Bombardment Group (Medium)
    5th Operations Group
    The 5th Operations Group is an operational component of the United States Air Force 5th Bomb Wing, stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota...

  • 6th Bombardment Group (Medium)
  • 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
    7th Operations Group
    The 7th Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 7th Bomb Wing, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas...

  • 8th Pursuit Group (Fighter)
    8th Operations Group
    The 8th Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 8th Fighter Wing. It is stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and is a part of Pacific Air Forces ....


  • 9th Bombardment Group (Medium)
    9th Operations Group
    The 9th Operations Group is the operational flying component of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California....

  • 10th Transport Group
    10th Troop Carrier Group
    The 10th Troop Carrier Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the Troop Carrier Command, based at Alliance Army Airfield, Nebraska. It was inactivated on 14 April 1944....

  • 16th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
  • 17th Pursuit Group
    17th Training Group
    The 17th Training Group is a component organization of the 17th Training Wing assigned to the United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command. The group is stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas....

  • 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
    18th Operations Group
    The 18th Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 18th Wing, stationed at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan....

  • 19th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
    19th Operations Group
    The 19th Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 19th Airlift Wing, stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas....

  • 20th Pursuit Group (Fighter)
    20th Operations Group
    The 20th Operations Group is a component of the 20th Fighter Wing, assigned to the United States Air Force Air Combat Command. The group is stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina....


With the buildup of the military forces beginning February 1, 1940, the Air Corps expanded from 15 to 30 combat groups. By the time the United States entered World War II, the number had increased to 67, but half were in the process of being organized and were unsuitable for combat. Of the 67 groups formed or being organized, 26 were bombardment: 13 Heavy Bomb groups (B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

), and the rest Medium and Light groups (B-25 Mitchell
B-25 Mitchell
The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.The B-25 was named...

, B-26 Marauder
B-26 Marauder
The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company. First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe....

, and A-20 Havoc). 26 were Pursuit groups (renamed fighter group
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

in May 1942), 9 Observation (renamed Reconnaissance) groups, and 6 Transport (renamed Troop Carrier or Combat Cargo) groups.

In the first half of 1942 the Army Air Forces expanded rapidly. The extant training establishment was inadequate to train units wholesale, and so a concept was adopted of training cadres who would direct the training of their assigned units. The Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics
Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics
The Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics was a military training organization of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II...

 (AAFSAT) was established 9 October 1942 to provide this training. By the beginning of 1944 there were 269 groups. 136 were deployed overseas, and of the remainder still in the United States, 77 were being organized and trained for overseas deployment. The other 56 served as defense units, as Operational Training Units (OTUs) preparing new units for combat, and as Replacement Training Units (RTUs) to train personnel replacements.

Early in 1944, all training was assigned to base units (non-standard administrative organizations of all units at a particular airfield under a single headquarters, and commonly seen designated as "AAF Base Units") and the OTUs and RTUs inactivated, reducing the number of groups to 218. However, with the formation and deployment of the remaining 25 new groups, the USAAF grew to its final form and at the time of the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944, 148 combat groups were fighting against Germany. By August 1945, when all combat operations ended, 86 groups were deployed in the Pacific and Far East, and the remaining force was either in occupation duties in Europe or re-deploying to the United States.

After the operational deployment of the B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

 bomber, Very Heavy Bombardment units became part of the force structure. In February 1945, in its final organizational structure, the USAAF fielded 243 combat groups:
  • 25 Very Heavy, 72 Heavy, 20 Medium, and 8 Light Bombardment groups
    USAAF bombardment group
    A bombardment group or bomb group was a group of bomber aircraft the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. It was the equivalent of an infantry regiment in the Army Ground Forces, or a bomber wing in the British Commonwealth air forces...

    ;
  • 71 Fighter groups;
  • 29 Troop Carrier and Combat Cargo groups;
  • 13 Reconnaissance groups; and
  • 5 Composite groups.


The basic permanent organization of the AAF for both combat and support elements was the squadron. 1,226 combat squadrons were active in the USAAF between December 7, 1941 and September 1, 1945. In 1945 a total of 937 squadrons remained active, with 872 assigned to the various groups. 65 squadrons, mostly reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 and night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

, were not assigned to groups but as separate units under higher command echelons.

Norms for AAF combat units

February 1945
Type of unit Type of aircraft Number of aircraft Number of crews Men per crew Total personnel Officers Enlisted
Very heavy bombardment group B-29 45 60 11 2,078 462 1,816
Heavy bombardment group B-17, B-24 72 96 9 to 11 2,261 465 1,796
Medium bombardment group B-25, B-26 96 96 5 or 6 1,759 393 1,386
Light bombardment group A-20, A-26 96 96 3 or 4 1,304 211 1,093
Single-engine fighter group P-40, P-47
P-51
111 to 126 108 to 126 1 994 183 811
Twin-engine fighter group P-38 111 to 126 108 to 126 1 1,081 183 838
Troop carrier group C-47 80 - 110 128 4 or 5 1,837 514 1,323
Combat cargo group C-46, C-47 125 150 4 883 350 533
Night fighter squadron P-61, P-70 18 16 2 or 3 288 50 238
Tactical reconnaissance squadron F-6, P-40
L-4, L-5
27 23 1 233 39 194
Photo reconnaissance squadron F-5
P-38 Lightning
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament...

24 21 1 347 50 297
Combat mapping squadron F-7, F-9 18 16 8 474 77 397

Aircraft

Maint article: List of military aircraft of the United States

The United States Army Air Forces used a large variety of aircraft in accomplishing its various missions, including many obsolete aircraft left over from its time as the Air Corps, with fifteen designations of types.

The following were the most numerous types in the USAAF inventory, or those that specifically saw combat. Variants, including all photo-reconnaissance ("F") variants, are listed and described under their separate articles. Many aircraft, particularly transports and trainers, had numerous designations resulting from differences in power plants.

Bomber

  • A-20 Havoc
  • A-24 Banshee
  • A-26 Invader
  • A-35 Vengeance
    Vultee A-31 Vengeance
    The Vultee A-31 Vengeance was an American dive bomber of World War II, built by Vultee Aircraft. The Vengeance was not used in combat by US units, however it served with the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and Indian Air Force in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific.The...

  • A-36 Apache
  • B-17 Flying Fortress
  • B-18 Bolo
  • B-24 Liberator
  • B-25 Mitchell
  • B-26 Marauder
  • B-29 Superfortress
  • B-32 Dominator
  • B-34 Ventura
    Lockheed Ventura
    The Lockheed Ventura was a bomber and patrol aircraft of World War II, used by United States and British Commonwealth forces in several guises...


Fighter

  • P-35
    Seversky P-35
    The Seversky P-35 was a fighter aircraft built in the United States by the Seversky Aircraft Company in the late 1930s. A contemporary of the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109, the P-35 was the first single-seat fighter in U.S...

  • P-36 Hawk
  • P-38 Lightning
  • P-39 Airacobra
  • P-40 Warhawk
  • P-47 Thunderbolt
  • P-51 Mustang
  • P-59 Airacomet
  • P-61 Black Widow
  • Supermarine Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire
    The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

  • Bristol Beaufighter
    Bristol Beaufighter
    The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design...



Observation

  • L-2 Grasshopper
    Taylorcraft L-2
    -External links:***-See also:...

  • L-3
    Aeronca L-3
    |-See also:-External links:* * *...

  • L-4
    Piper J-3
    The Piper J-3 Cub is a small, simple, light aircraft that was built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. With tandem seating, it was intended for flight training but became one of the most popular and best-known light aircraft of all time...

  • L-5 Sentinel
  • O-47
    North American O-47
    |-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Eden, Paul and Soph Moeng. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2002. ISBN 0-7607-3432-1.* Fahey, James C. U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1946....

  • de Havilland Mosquito

Transport

  • C-45 Expeditor
    Beechcraft Model 18
    The Beechcraft Model 18, or "Twin Beech", as it is better known, is a 6-11 seat, twin-engine, low-wing, conventional-gear aircraft that was manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas...

  • C-46 Commando
  • C-47 Skytrain
  • C-54 Skymaster
  • C-56 Lodestar

Trainers

  • AT-6 Texan
    North American T-6 Texan
    The North American Aviation T-6 Texan was a single-engine advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1950s...

  • AT-11 Kansan
    Beechcraft Model 18
    The Beechcraft Model 18, or "Twin Beech", as it is better known, is a 6-11 seat, twin-engine, low-wing, conventional-gear aircraft that was manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas...

  • AT-18 Hudson
    Lockheed Hudson
    The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter...

  • AT-8/AT-17 Bobcat
    Cessna AT-17
    -References:NotesBibliography* Mondey, David. American Aircraft of World War II . London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7537-1461-4....

  • BT-13/BT-15 Valiant
  • PT-13/17 Kaydet
  • PT-16/PT-21/PT-22
    Ryan ST
    The Ryan STs were a series of two seat, low-wing monoplane aircraft built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company. They were used as sport aircraft, as well as trainers by flying schools and the military of several countries.-Design and development:T...

  • PT-19/PT-23/PT-26
    Fairchild PT-19
    |-See also:-Bibliography:* Mondey, David. American Aircraft of World War II . London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7537-1461-4....


Utility, rescue, and gliders

  • UC-43 Traveler
    Beechcraft Staggerwing
    The Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing is an American biplane with an atypical negative stagger , that first flew in 1932.-Development:...

  • UC-61 Argus
  • UC-64 Norseman
    Noorduyn Norseman
    The Noorduyn Norseman is a Canadian single-engine bush plane designed to operate from unimproved surfaces. Norseman aircraft are known to have been registered and/or operated in 68 countries throughout the world and also have been based and flown in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.-Design and...

  • UC-72
    Waco C-72
    C-72 was a blanket designation given to a variety of privately owned Waco enclosed-cabin biplanes impressed into service by the United States Army Air Forces in 1942. In all, 42 aircraft were taken and used for light transport duty wherever needed.-Variants:...

  • UC-78 Bobcat
    Cessna AT-17
    -References:NotesBibliography* Mondey, David. American Aircraft of World War II . London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7537-1461-4....

  • Airspeed Oxford
    Airspeed Oxford
    The Airspeed AS.10 Oxford was a twin-engine aircraft used for training British Commonwealth aircrews in navigation, radio-operating, bombing and gunnery during the Second World War.-Design and development:...

  • OA-10 Catalina
  • R-4 Hoverfly
    Sikorsky R-4
    The Sikorsky R-4 was a two-place helicopter designed by Igor Sikorsky with a single, three-bladed main rotor and powered by a radial engine. The R-4 was the world's first large-scale mass-produced helicopter and the first helicopter to enter service with the United States Army Air Forces, Navy, and...

  • CG-4 Waco
    Waco CG-4
    The Waco CG-4 was the most widely used United States troop/cargo military glider of World War II. It was designated the CG-4 by the United States Army Air Forces, and named Hadrian in British military service....

  • Airspeed Horsa
    Airspeed Horsa
    The Airspeed AS.51 Horsa was a British World War II troop-carrying glider built by Airspeed Limited and subcontractors and used for air assault by British and Allied armed forces...


Strategic planning

On 13 August 1941, the Air War Plans Division
Air War Plans Division
The Air War Plans Division was an American military organization established to make long-term plans for war. Headed by Harold L. George, the unit was tasked in July 1941 to provide President Franklin D...

 of the USAAF produced its plan for a global air strategy, AWPD-1. Formally known as "Annex 2, Air Requirements" to "The Victory Program," a plan of strategic estimates involving the entire U.S. military, the plan was prepared in accordance with strategic policies drawn earlier that year in the ABC-1 agreement with the British Commonwealth and the U.S. war plan Rainbow 5. Its forecast figures, despite planning errors from lack of accurate information about weather and the German economic commitment to the war, were within 2 percent of the units and 5.5 percent of the personnel ultimately mobilized, and it accurately predicted the time frame when the invasion of Europe by the Allies
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 would take place.

AWPD-1 called for an air defense of the Western hemisphere, a strategic defense against Japan in the Pacific, and strategic bombardment by 6,800 bombers against Germany, identifying 154 key targets of the German economic infrastructure it considered vulnerable to a sustained campaign. A strategic bomber requirement of 7,500 aircraft, which included the intercontinental B-36  (then still in the design phase), was far too large for American industry to achieve to be practical, and an interim plan to attack Germany with 3,800 bombers was included in AWPD-1.

AWPD-1 was approved by General Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson in September 1941. Although war began before the plan could be presented to Roosevelt, it became the foundation for establishing aircraft production and training requirements used during the war, and the concept of a strategic bomber offensive against Germany became policy of the U.S. government, in accordance with United States strategic policy stated in Rainbow 5, as the only means available to the United States to take the war to Germany.

In August 1942 Roosevelt called for a revision of proposed air requirements. AWPD-42 was presented on 6 September 1942, and although never accepted by the U.S. Navy, its revised estimates (which more than doubled production requirements to nearly 150,000 aircraft of all types, including those of the Navy and exports to allies) guided the Roosevelt Administration in 1943. The estimate was later reduced to 127,000, of which 80,000 were combat aircraft.

Like its predecessor, AWPD-42 laid out a strategic plan for the daylight bombing of Germany by unescorted heavy bombers, but also included a similar plan for attacks on Japan. Unfortunately the B-17 bomber command of the U.S. Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 had flown just six missions when AWPD-42 was drawn up, and the prior mistake in AWPD-1 of disregarding the need and feasibility of long-range fighter escorts was repeated.

Both plans called for the destruction of the German Air Force (GAF) as a necessary requirement before campaigns against priority economic targets. AWPD-1 established four target sets in order of priority: electrical power production, inland transportation, petroleum production, and Berlin; while AWPD-42 revised the priorities, placing U-Boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 facilities first, followed by transportation, electricity production, petroleum production, and rubber production.

Operations summary

The Air Force Historical Studies Office summarizes the execution of USAAF strategy during World War II:


"Arnold's staff made the first priority in the war to launch a strategic bombing offensive in support of the RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 against Germany. The Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

, sent to England in 1942, took on that job. After a slow and often costly effort to bring the necessary strength to bear, joined in 1944 by the Fifteenth Air Force
Fifteenth Air Force
The Fifteenth Expeditionary Mobility Task Force is one of two EMTFs assigned to the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command . It is headquartered at Travis Air Force Base, California....

 stationed in Italy, strategic bombing finally began to get results, and by the end of the war, the German economy had been dispersed and pounded to rubble.


Tactical air forces supported the ground forces in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Theater of Operations
The Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army was originally called North African Theater of Operations and is an American term for the conflict that took place between the Allies and Axis Powers in North Africa and Italy during World War II...

 and European theaters
European Theater of Operations
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army was a United States Army formation which directed U.S. Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. It referred to Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the...

, where the enemy found Allied air supremacy
Air supremacy
Air supremacy is the complete dominance of the air power of one side's air forces over the other side's, during a military campaign. It is the most favorable state of control of the air...

 a constant frustration. In the war against Japan, General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 made his advance along New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 by leap frogging his air forces forward and using amphibious
Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 forces to open up new bases. The AAF also supported Admiral Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, GCB, USN was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet , for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas , for U.S...

's aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s in their island-hopping across the Central Pacific and assisted Allied forces in Burma and China.


Arnold directly controlled the Twentieth Air Force
Twentieth Air Force
The Twentieth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.20 AF's primary mission is Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operations...

, equipped with the new long-range B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

es used for bombing Japan's home islands
Japanese Archipelago
The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

, first from China and then from the Marianas. Devastated by fire-raids
Bombing of Tokyo in World War II
The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a "firebombing", was conducted by the United States Army Air Forces during the Pacific campaigns of World War II. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with large morale effects...

, Japan was so weakened by August 1945 that Arnold believed neither the atomic bomb nor the planned invasion
Operation Downfall
Operation Downfall was the Allied plan for the invasion of Japan near the end of World War II. The operation was cancelled when Japan surrendered after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan. The operation had two parts: Operation...

 would be necessary to win the war. The fact that AAF B-29s dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nevertheless, demonstrated what air power could do in the future. The Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was a board tasked with examination and analysis of the United States' involvement in the World War II. Its primary purpose was to determine the effectiveness of Allied, and more specifically American, strategic bombing campaigns in Europe and in Asia...

 provided ammunition for the leaders of the AAF in the postwar debates over armed forces unification and national strategy."

USAAF statistical summary of World War II

The United States Army Air Forces incurred 12% of the Army's 936,000 battle casualties in World War II. 88,119 airmen died in service. 52,173 were battle casualty deaths: 45,520 killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

, 1,140 died of wounds, 3,603 were missing in action
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

 and declared dead, and 1,910 were nonhostile battle deaths. Of the United States military and naval services, only the Army Ground Forces suffered more battle deaths. 35,946 non-battle deaths included 25,844 in aircraft accidents, more than half of which occurred within the Continental United States. 63,209 members of the USAAF were other battle casualties. 18,364 were wounded in action
Wounded in action
Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

 and required medical evacuation, and 41,057 became prisoners-of-war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. Its casualties were 5.1% of its strength, compared to 10% for the rest of the Army.

Total aircraft losses by the USAAF from December 1941 to August 1945 were 65,164, with 43,581 lost overseas and 21,583 within the Continental United States. Combat losses of aircraft totaled 22,948 world wide, with 18,418 lost in theaters fighting Germany and 4,530 lost in combat in the Pacific. The USAAF credited its own forces with destroying a total of 40,259 aircraft of opposing nations by all means, 29,916 against Germany and its allies and 10,343 in the Pacific.

The cost of the war to the USAAF was approximately $50 billion, or about 30% of the cost to the War Department, with cash expenditures from direct appropriations between July 1942 and August 1945 amounting to $35,185,548,000.

Total sortie
Sortie
Sortie is a term for deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops from a strongpoint. The sortie, whether by one or more aircraft or vessels, usually has a specific mission....

s flown by the AAF during World War II were 2,352,800, with 1,693,565 flown in Europe-related areas and 669,235 flown in the Pacific and Far East.

36 members of the Army Air Forces received the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 for actions performed during air missions, 22 of them posthumously. Two additional awards were made, one posthumously, to AAF officers attached to the Western Task Force during Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

.

Demobilization and Air Force independence

With the defeat of Japan, the entire United States military establishment immediately began a drastic demobilization
Demobilization
Demobilization is the process of standing down a nation's armed forces from combat-ready status. This may be as a result of victory in war, or because a crisis has been peacefully resolved and military force will not be necessary...

, as it had at the end of World War I. The USAAF was hit as hard or harder as the older services by demobilization. Officers and members were discharged, installations were closed, and aircraft were stored or sold. Between August 1945 and April 1946, its strength fell from 2.25 million men to just 485,000, and a year later to 304,000. Aircraft inventory dropped from 79,000 to less than 30,000, many of them in storage. Permanent installations were reduced from 783 to 177, just 21 more than pre-war.

By July 1946, the Army Air Forces had only 2 combat-ready groups out of 52 that remained on the list of active units. A rebuilt air force of 70 groups, the authorized peacetime strength, was anticipated, with reserve and national guard forces to be available for active duty in an emergency. However considerable opposition to a large peacetime military establishment, and to the financial cost of such an establishment, resulted in planning cuts to 48 groups.
In February 1946, ill health forced the retirement of General Arnold before he could fulfill his goal of achieving independence of the Air Force as an equal service with the Army and Navy. General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Carl A. Spaatz replaced Arnold as the only other commanding general of the USAAF, and he oversaw both the demobilization of the largest air force in military history and its rebirth as envisioned by Generals Billy Mitchell and Arnold.

Arnold left the USAAF with two important legacies, based on his experiences in World War II, which shaped the post-war USAAF and their independent successor. The first was a requirement that the command staff of the service must include staff officers of varying expertise besides pilots. The second was the belief that despite the unqualified success of training methods that had expanded the Air Forces, the United States would never again have the time to mobilize and train the reserve components as they had in 1940, necessitating that reservists and National Guardsmen be immediately ready for service in case of national emergency.

For his part, Spaatz consulted closely with the new Army Chief of Staff, General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, and reorganized the USAAF into three major commands (Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

, Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command is an inactive United States Air Force organization. It was a Major Command of the United States Air Force, established on 21 March 1946 being headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia...

, and Air Defense Command) that would not require a second restructuring once the Air Force became independent. He also re-structured the reserve components to conform with Arnold's concepts, including creation of the Air National Guard
Air National Guard
The Air National Guard , often referred to as the Air Guard, is the air force militia organized by each of the fifty U.S. states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia of the United States. Established under Title 10 and...

 in April 1946.

Following the immense buildup in aviation infrastructure and personnel during the war, and in recognition of the tremendous new importance and strength of airpower, Congress, at the recommendation of President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

, created the Department of the Air Force in 1947. This legislation created the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, a completely separate branch of the U.S. military. The transfer of personnel and assets was effected 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, and the Army Air Forces abolished.

The initial delineation of service roles, Executive Order 9877, was supplanted on April 21, 1948, by the approval by President Truman of the Key West Agreement
Key West Agreement
The Key West Agreement is the colloquial name for the policy paper Function of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted by James V. Forrestal, the first United States Secretary of Defense...

, which outlined the air assets that each service would be permitted to maintain. The Air Force was assigned the bulk of strategic, tactical, and transport aircraft, but the issue remained divisive well into the 1950s.

USAAF Uniforms

Service dress

USAAF uniforms for all members consisted of a winter service uniform of olive drab wool worn in temperate weather and a tropical weather summer service uniform of khaki
Khaki (color)
The name of the color khaki coined in British India comes from the Hindustani language , meaning "dusty, dust covered or earth colored." It has been used by many armies around the world for uniforms, including camouflage...

 cotton the same as those of other U.S. Army forces. In addition to the service uniforms usually worn for dress purposes and on pass from posts there were a variety of fatigue and flying uniforms. Summer and winter service uniforms were both worn throughout the year in the continental U.S. During World War II the European theater of operations was considered a year round temperate uniform zone and the Pacific theater of operations a year round tropical uniform zone.

The issue enlisted men's winter service uniform consisted of a four pocket coat and trousers in olive drab shade 33 (light shade) 16 oz wool serge
Serge
Serge is a type of twill fabric that has diagonal lines or ridges on both sides, made with a two-up, two-down weave. The worsted variety is used in making military uniforms, suits, great coats and trench coats. Its counterpart, silk serge, is used for linings. French serge is a softer, finer variety...

. Shirts with two patch pockets and without shoulder straps were either 8.2 oz chino cotton
Chino cloth
Chino cloth is a twill fabric, originally made of 100% cotton. Today it is also found in cotton-synthetic blends.Developed in the mid-19th century for British and French military uniforms and known as khaki, it has since migrated into civilian wear. Pants of such a fabric gained popularity in the...

 khaki, a light tan, shade No. 1, or 10.5 oz olive drab wool light shade No. 33. Either shirt could be worn under the coat however the cotton shirt could not be worn as an outer garment with the wool trousers. The wool necktie for the winter uniform was black and the summer necktie was khaki, cotton originally. In February 1942 a universal mohair wool olive drab shade 3 necktie was authorized for both uniforms. An overcoat of OD shade 33 Melton wool was worn in cold weather. The enlisted man's summer service uniform consisted of the same cotton khaki shade No. 1 uniform shirt with matching trousers, the coat for this uniform stopped being issued in the 1930s. Whenever the shirt was worn as an outer garment the necktie was tucked between the second and third button of the shirt.

The male officer's winter service uniform consisted of a coat of finer wool fabric in olive drab shade No. 51 (dark-shade) with a fabric belt matching the coat, nicknamed "greens". Officers could wear trousers matching the color and fabric of the coat, or optionally they were allowed taupe colored, officially called "drab shade 54", trousers of the same material as the coat, nicknamed "pinks", leading to the nickname "pinks and greens" for the combination. Officers were also authorized to use the harder-wearing olive drab shade 33 serge uniforms, except for the enlisted men's four pocket service coat, as long as they were not mixed with OD Shade 51 or Drab Shade 54 clothing. An officer's OD overcoat and taupe rain coat were also authorized. Officers wore same cotton khaki shade No. 1 or olive drab wool light shade No. 33 shirts as enlisted men except with the addition of shoulder straps. Officers also had additional shirt color and fabric options, OD dark shade No. 50 or No. 51 and in 1944 drab shade No. 54.

Officers wore black and khaki neckties until after February 1942 when neckties of wool cotton blend khaki shade 5 were authorized. Male officer's summer service uniforms usually consisted of the wash and wear cotton khaki shade 1 uniforms like those of the enlisted men the main difference being that the shirts had shoulder straps. An OD wool shirt and cotton khaki trouser combination was also authorized. However for dress purposes they also had the option of purchasing a khaki shade 1 summer service uniform of tropical weight suiting fabric. This uniform was identical in cut to the winter officers uniform except for the color and cloth however the cloth belt of the winter coat was omitted.

Personnel stationed in Europe, and after 1944 in the U.S., were authorized wear the wool waist length jacket, in either OD Shade 51 (for officers only) or OD Shade 33, nicknamed the "Ike jacket" and eventually standardized as the M-1944 Field Jacket, in lieu of the full-length tunic of the service dress uniform.

Headgear for service uniforms consisted of two types, similar to those in use in the Army ground forces, in olive drab for winter wear and khaki for summer. The garrison cap
Garrison cap
A Side cap is a foldable military cap with straight sides and a creased or hollow crown sloping to the back where it is parted. It is known as a garrison cap , a wedge cap , or officially field service cap, , but it is more generally known as the side cap.It follows the style which...

, commonly called the "flight cap" in the Air Forces, had been authorized for all ranks since 1926 to facilitate the wearing of radio headsets during flights. The "curtain" had piping for enlisted men in the USAAF branch colors of orange and ultramarine blue. Warrant Officers caps were piped with black and silver cord other officers had black and gold except for generals who had all gold cords. The oval service cap
Peaked cap
A peaked cap, forage cap, barracks cover, or combination cap is a form of headgear worn by the armed forces of many nations and also by many uniformed civilian organizations such as law enforcement agencies...

 was fitted with a spring stiffening device called a grommet
Grommet
thumb|right|250px|Some rubber grommets.A grommet is a ring inserted into a hole through thin material, such as fabric. Grommets are generally flared or collared on each side to keep them in place, and are often made of metal, plastic, or rubber. They may be used to prevent tearing or abrasion of...

, and prior to World War II uniform regulations authorized officers to remove the grommet to permit the use of headsets. This style became widely popular during World War II as a symbol of being a combat veteran, and was known as a "50-mission crush" cap. The service cap however was no longer generally issued to enlisted men after 1942.

Leather items, including shoes, were russet
Russet (color)
Russet is a dark brown color with a reddish-orange tinge.The first recorded use of russet as a color name in English was in 1562.The source of this color is the ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Color Names --Color dictionary used by stamp collectors to identify the colors of stampsThe name of the color...

 in color, and the USAAF became known as the "Brown Shoe Air Force" after the United States Air Force became a separate service.

Female service dress

Female USAAF uniforms were either the uniform of the Army Nurse Corps
Army Nurse Corps (United States)
The United States Army Nurse Corps was formally established by the U.S. Congress in 1901. It is one of the six medical Special Branches of officers which – along with medical enlisted soldiers – comprise the Army Medical Department ....

 (ANC) or that of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps
Women's Army Corps
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943...

 (WAAC) with appropriate USAAF branch insignia. Later, the Women's Army Corps
Women's Army Corps
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943...

 (WAC) replaced the WAAC. Although female auxiliary organizations such as the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Women Airforce Service Pilots
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The Women Airforce Service Pilots and its predecessor groups the Women's Flying Training Detachment and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron were pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces...

 (WASP) performed valuable service as pilots to the USAAF, only the ANC and the WAC were official members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Nurses attached to the USAAF wore Army hospital whites, or prior to 1943, the ANC winter service uniform consisting of the ANC pattern dark blue cap or garrison cap with maroon piping, suit jacket with maroon cuff braid and gold army buttons, light blue or white shirt, black tie and light blue skirt, shoes were black or white. The ANC summer service uniform consisted of a similar suit in beige with maroon shoulder strap piping and cuff braid, beige ANC cap or beige garrison cap with maroon piping, white shirt, and black four-in-hand tie. During World War II the first flight nurses uniform consisted of a blue wool battle dress jacket, blue wool trousers and a blue wool men's style maroon piped garrison cap. The uniform was worn with either the ANC light blue or white shirt and black tie.

After 1943 the ANC adopted service uniforms similar to the newly formed WAAC. In the USAAF they became unofficially known as "Air WACs". The WAAC (later WAC) service uniforms went through an evolution of patterns over the course of the war years, however throughout the period the service uniforms both summer and winter generally consisted of the WAC pattern hat or women's garrison cap, suit coat (winter only for enlisted women), shirtwaist, four-in-hand tie, skirt, russet leather women's service shoes and hand bag. The women's olive drab wool "Ike jacket" was also worn as were women's service trousers. The colors essentially mirrored those of their male counterparts of corresponding rank in the equivalent service uniform although fabrics differed. There were also special off duty dresses of summer beige and winter tan. The new olive drab ANC uniforms were the same as those for WAC officers except for the ANC pattern hat and the ANC pattern handbag. The off duty dress was a separate ANC pattern in olive drab shade 51 or beige. The ANC beige summer service uniform with maroon trim was retained except that the tie was changed to maroon. Sage green fatigue uniforms of herringbone
Herringbone (cloth)
Herringbone describes a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern usually found in twill fabric. It is distinguished from a plain chevron by the break at reversal, which makes it resemble a broken zigzag. The pattern is called herringbone because it resembles the skeleton of a herring fish...

 cotton twill
Twill
Twill is a type of textile weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs . This is done by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then under two or more warp threads and so on, with a "step" or offset between rows to create the characteristic diagonal pattern. Because of this...

 for women, along with women's combat boots, field jackets and flight clothing, were manufactured by the U.S. Army during World War II. However. when women's versions of these items were not available, as was often the case during the war, men's issue items were used instead.

Flight clothing

Flight clothing varied widely by theater of operation and type of mission. Innovative aviation flight suits, boots, leather helmets, goggles, and gloves were issued as early as 1928 to the Air Corps, and at least one style, the Type A-3 flight suit, continued in service until 1944. However, A-2 flight jackets
A-2 jacket
The Type A-2 leather flight jacket is a military flight jacket closely associated with World War II U.S. Army Air Forces pilots, navigators and bombardiers, who often decorated their jackets with squadron patches and elaborate artwork painted on the back...

, made standard issue in 1931, became one of the best known symbols of the USAAF. Made of seal brown
Seal brown
Seal brown is a rich dark brown color, resembling the color of the dyed fur from the fur seal.-Usage:The specifications for the U.S. Army Air Corps Type A-2 jacket , adopted in 1931 and the most familiar among all leather flight jackets, stated that it should be made of horsehide tanned to seal brown...

 leather with a beige spun silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 lining, the jackets featured an officer's stand-up collar, shoulder strap
Shoulder strap
A shoulder strap is a strap over a shoulder. They are often affixed to women's dresses to support its weight or as part of its style. The term is also applied to carrying bags and to epaulettes.-Carrier shoulder strap:...

s, knit waistbands and cuffs, a zipper closing, and unit insignia. Heavy, sheepskin-lined B-3 and B-6 flight jacket
Flight jacket
The flight jacket, or bomber jacket is a garment originally created for pilots, which eventually became part of popular culture and apparel. In the First World War most airplanes did not have an enclosed cockpit, which necessitated a garment that could keep pilots sufficiently warm...

s, A-3 winter flying trousers, and B-2 "gunner's" caps, all in seal brown shearling
Shearling
Shearling is a sheepskin or lambskin pelt that has gone through a limited shearing process to obtain a uniform depth of the wool fibers for a uniform look and feel. Contrary to misconceptions, shearling is not shorn wool; the term refers to the pelt of a yearling sheep that has been shorn only once...

, proved insufficient for the extreme cold temperatures of high altitude missions in unpressurized aircraft, and were supplemented by a variety of one-piece electrically heated flying suits manufactured by General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

. In addition to men's flight clothing, flight nurses wore specially manufactured women's lightweight and intermediate weight flight jackets and pants. Flight clothing such as the A-2 jacket was not authorized to be worn off the camp or post unless required for flight duty. The same sage green fatigue uniforms of herringbone cotton twill, and wind-resistant poplin
Poplin
Poplin, also called tabinet , is a strong fabric in a plain weave of any fiber or blend, with crosswise ribs that typically gives a corded surface.Poplin traditionally consisted of a silk warp with a weft of worsted yarn...

 field jackets used by Army ground troops, were also used by USAAF troops depending on duty assignment.

AAF uniforms were subject to Army Regulations, specifically AR 600-35 and AR 600-40, authorizing the wearing of emblems, badges, and insignia on the uniform. The vast size of the service saw the wearing of many custom-made variants of authorized emblems, badges, and insignia, and numerous examples of unauthorized insignia and emblems appeared throughout the forces, particularly in combat units overseas.

USAAF Badges

SOURCE: Martin Bowman, USAAF Handbook 1939–1945, p. 156. Reproduction of relevant page from The Officer's Guide, Military Service Publishing Co., July 1943.

To denote the special training and qualifications required for membership in the USAAF, the following military badges
Military badges of the United States
Military badges of the United States are awards authorized by the United States armed forces that signify rating, qualification, or accomplishment in several career fields, and also serve as identification devices for personnel occupying certain assignments. Personal recognition is granted to...

 (known colloquially but ubiquitously throughout the service as "wings") were authorized for wear by members of the Army Air Forces during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

:
  • Aerial Gunner Badge
    Gunner Badge
    The Gunner Badge was a military aeronautical badge of the United States Army Air Forces and was issued during the Second World War. The badge was first created to recognize both the training and hazardous duty of aerial gunners, who manned defensive machineguns on board such aircraft as the B-17,...

  • Aircraft Observer Badge
    Observer Badge
    The Observer Badge is a military badge of the United States military which dates to the First World War. The badge was issued to co-pilots, navigators, and flight support personnel who had received a variation on the training necessary for the standard Pilot's Badge...

  • Aircrew Badge
  • Army Air Force Technician Badge
    Army Air Force Technician Badge
    The Army Air Force Technician Badge was a decoration of the United States Army Air Forces which was first created in 1941. Similar in design to the Weapons Qualification Badge, the Army Air Force Technician Badge was awarded to denote special training and qualifications held by members of the Army...

  • Balloon Observer Badge
    Observer Badge
    The Observer Badge is a military badge of the United States military which dates to the First World War. The badge was issued to co-pilots, navigators, and flight support personnel who had received a variation on the training necessary for the standard Pilot's Badge...

  • Balloon Pilot Badge
    Balloon Pilot Badge
    The Balloon Pilot Badge is a military badge of the United States Armed Forces which was issued during the First and Second World Wars. The badge was issued by both the United States Army and the U.S...

  • Bombardier Badge
    Bombardier Badge
    The Bombardier Badge was a military badge of the United States military which was issued between the years of 1918 and 1949. The decoration was intended to recognize the military training and qualification required by those service members who were bombardiers on board military aircraft.Originally...

  • Command Pilot Badge
    United States Aviator Badge
    A United States Aviator Badge refers to three types of aviation badges issued by the United States military, those being for Army, Air Force, and Naval aviation....

  • Flight Engineer Badge
    Flight Engineer Badge
    The Flight Engineer Badge was a qualification badge of the United States Army Air Forces authorized late in the Second World War on 19 June 1945. It was awarded to those military officers and NCOs who had qualified as flight engineers on board a military aircraft...

  • Flight Instructor Badge
    Flight Instructor Badge
    The Flight Instructor Badge was an aeronautical badge of the United States Army during the Second World War. The badge was issued to members of the United States Army Air Forces who were civilian pilots, appointed as military flight instructors and granted officer commissions to train at military...

  • Flight Nurse Badge
    Flight Nurse Badge
    The Flight Nurse Badge is a military badge of the United States armed forces which is issued by the U.S. Air Force and United States Navy to flight nurses...

  • Flight Surgeon Badge
    Flight Surgeon Badge (United States)
    The Flight Surgeon Badge is a military badge of the United States Armed Forces which has existed since the Second World War.The Flight Surgeon Badge is presented to those members of the military who are both qualified medical officers and certified flight surgeons. The original Flight Surgeon...

  • Glider Pilot Badge
    Auxiliary Pilot Badge
    The Glider, Service, and Liaison Pilot Badges were qualification badges of the United States Army Air Force which were issued during the years of World War II. The badges appeared as the standard USAAF Pilot Badge with one of three letters centered on the badges’ shield, or escutcheon...

  • Liaison Pilot Badge
    Auxiliary Pilot Badge
    The Glider, Service, and Liaison Pilot Badges were qualification badges of the United States Army Air Force which were issued during the years of World War II. The badges appeared as the standard USAAF Pilot Badge with one of three letters centered on the badges’ shield, or escutcheon...

  • Navigator Badge
    Navigator Badge
    The Navigator Badge is a military qualification badge of the United States Armed Forces which was first created during the Second World War. The current USAF badge is designated by Air Force Instructions as the Navigator/Observer Badge and is issued to rated officers in both rating categories.The...

  • Pilot Badge
    United States Aviator Badge
    A United States Aviator Badge refers to three types of aviation badges issued by the United States military, those being for Army, Air Force, and Naval aviation....

  • Senior Balloon Pilot Badge
    Balloon Pilot Badge
    The Balloon Pilot Badge is a military badge of the United States Armed Forces which was issued during the First and Second World Wars. The badge was issued by both the United States Army and the U.S...

  • Senior Pilot Badge
    United States Aviator Badge
    A United States Aviator Badge refers to three types of aviation badges issued by the United States military, those being for Army, Air Force, and Naval aviation....

  • Service Pilot Badge
    Auxiliary Pilot Badge
    The Glider, Service, and Liaison Pilot Badges were qualification badges of the United States Army Air Force which were issued during the years of World War II. The badges appeared as the standard USAAF Pilot Badge with one of three letters centered on the badges’ shield, or escutcheon...

  • Technical Observer Badge
    Observer Badge
    The Observer Badge is a military badge of the United States military which dates to the First World War. The badge was issued to co-pilots, navigators, and flight support personnel who had received a variation on the training necessary for the standard Pilot's Badge...

  • Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Badge
    Women Airforce Service Pilots Badge
    The Women Airforce Service Pilots Badge is a decoration of the United States Army that was issued during the Second World War. The badge created for the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP , was awarded to more than a thousand women who had qualified for employment as civilian, non-combat...



These aviation qualification
U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Ratings
U.S. Air Force aeronautical ratings are military aviation skill standards established and awarded by the United States Air Force for commissioned officers participating in "regular and frequent flight", The standard by which flight status has been defined in law, executive orders, and regulations...

 badges were typically worn in full three-inch (76 mm) size on service or dress uniforms, but two-inch versions (nicknamed "sweetheart wings") were also authorized for less-formal shirt wear. Most aviation badges were made of sterling silver or were given a silver finish, and various devices were used to attach them to uniforms. These included the traditional pin and safety catch and, later, clutch-back fasteners. Most USAAF badges of World War II became obsolete, having been superseded by later designs, and were not authorized for wear on the uniform after 1955.

USAAF Emblems

The first shoulder sleeve insignia authorized for Air Corps wear was that of the General Headquarters Air Force, approved 20 July 1937. This sleeve insignia, which consisted of a blue triskelion
Triskelion
A triskelion or triskele is a motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs, or any similar symbol with three protrusions and a threefold rotational symmetry. Both words are from Greek or , "three-legged", from prefix "τρι-" , "three times" + "σκέλος" , "leg"...

 superimposed on a gold circle was retained after GHQ Air Force became Air Force Combat Command on 20 June 1941. The triskelion represented a stylized propeller that symbolized the three combat wings of GHQ Air Force. On 23 February 1942, the GHQ AF patch was discontinued and the service-wide AAF sleeve insignia ("Hap Arnold Emblem") approved. The patch was designed by a member of Gen. Arnold's staff, James T. Rawls, and was based on the V-for-Victory sign popularized by Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

.

The wearing of sleeve insignia was authorized for members of numbered air forces based overseas on 2 March 1943, and for air forces in the United States on 25 June 1943. From that date forward, the "Hap Arnold Emblem" was worn only by personnel of units not assigned to a numbered air force. AR 600-40, "Wear of the Service Uniform," subsequently limited sleeve insignia to the 16 air forces and the AAF patch. The Quartermaster Corps, responsible for the design and supply of all authorized insignia, resisted further designs for the AAF until 28 July 1945, when command arcs (arc-shaped tabs) were authorized for wear above the AAF insignia by members of the various commands.



See also

  • Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics
  • History of the United States Army
    History of the United States Army
    From its formation in 1775, the United States Army has been the primary land based portion of the United States military. Though not solely used as a military force, sometimes helping in domestic violence and disaster situations, the Army's primary responsibility has been the fighting of land...

  • Operation Bolero
    Operation Bolero
    Operation Bolero was the commonly used reference for the code name of the United States military troop buildup in Great Britain during World War II in preparation for the initial cross-channel invasion plan known as Operation Roundup...

  • Project Alberta
    Project Alberta
    Project Alberta was a section of the Manhattan Project which developed the means of delivering the first atomic bombs, used by the United States Army Air Forces against the Empire of Japan during World War II...

  • Silverplate
    Silverplate
    Silverplate was the code reference for the United States Army Air Forces participation in the Manhattan Project during World War II. Originally the name for the aircraft modification project for the B-29 Superfortress to enable it to drop an atomic weapon, Silverplate eventually came to identify...

  • Strategic bombing during World War II
    Strategic bombing during World War II
    Strategic bombing during World War II is a term which refers to all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature between 1939 and 1945 involving any nations engaged in World War II...

  • USAAF bombardment group
    USAAF bombardment group
    A bombardment group or bomb group was a group of bomber aircraft the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. It was the equivalent of an infantry regiment in the Army Ground Forces, or a bomber wing in the British Commonwealth air forces...

  • USAAF unit identification aircraft markings
  • Women Airforce Service Pilots
    Women Airforce Service Pilots
    The Women Airforce Service Pilots and its predecessor groups the Women's Flying Training Detachment and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron were pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces...


External links

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