Air Force - You've Come A Long Way!
The Wright Brothers first flight in 1903 launched new possibilities for service to America.
Air Force - you come a long way!

by Dr. Robert Kane
Air University Director of History

9/16/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al  -- Today's Air Force began with the ingenuity of Orville and Wilbur Wright, two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 17, 1903, and nurtured in the hearts and minds of aviators like Glenn Curtiss, Eddie Rickenbacker and Billy Mitchell during World War I and the 1920s, as well as Claire Lee Chennault, "Hap" Arnold, and Carl Spaatz in the 1930s. Although it was starved by funding and hindered by tradition-minded individuals in the interwar years, the Air Force came to full term during World War II.

To recognize its tremendous contribution to the Allied victory in that war and the uniqueness of its mission, the U.S. Army Air Forces became the United States Air Force, an independent military service equal with the Army and Navy, on Sept. 18, 1947, with the signing of the National Security Act of 1947.

Since its birth, the Air Force has matured into the greatest air force in the world. It saved Berlin during the 1948 Soviet blockade and fought North Korean and Soviet pilots in the Korean "police action," the first conflict that saw the extensive use of jet aircraft. During the Cold War, the Air Force watched over the free world from "northern tier" bases in subzero temperatures during long winters, isolated missile silos on 24-hour, seven-day alerts, and far-flung bases around the world thousands of miles away from home.

It was marked by the race to the moon and the conflict in Southeast Asia. The space race culminated in the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon on July 20, 1969, which included two Air Force pilots -- Michael Collins and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. At the same time, it conducted thousands of sorties in the skies over Southeast Asia. Many crewmen were killed, and others spent years in the hands of brutality and torture as prisoners of war.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Air Force received new aircraft -- the B-1 Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon and F-117 Nighthawk. The Air Force also received precision-guided weapons, mature satellite systems and well-trained and motivated men and women. With these new weapons, the men and women of the Air Force demonstrated to the world just how much the service had grown and learned from the 1960s. During Desert Storm, the Air Force led a coalition air campaign that allowed the ground forces to quickly evict the Iraqi invaders from Kuwait with less than 500 coalition casualties.

The Air Force entered the 21st century with state-of-the-art weapons and outstanding men and women to operate them. The members of the Air Force have proven themselves again and again, most recently in the ongoing insurgency against terrorists in Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

"Airmen of all ranks should take sincere pride in the tradition of honor and legacy of valor embodied in the United States Air Force," commented 42nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Brian Killough. "It is an honor to serve and our responsibility to uphold the values of our magnificent service."

From the Wright Flyer of 1903 to the B-2, F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning, II the Air Force has come a long way!