(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)
2-minute history of the U.S. Air Force
From Civil War era hot-air balloon spying to modern stealth fighter jets, the United States has been always been involved in achieving military air superiority during wartime. And let’s not forget that the first NASA astronauts were former Air Force fighter pilots and test pilots, as well. In terms of the entity today that is the air branch of the United States Armed Forces, the history of the United States Air Force begins as a subset of another department long before airplanes became part of the picture.
Early air force alternatives
These days, the United States Army Signal Corps, a division of the Department of the Army, manages communications and information systems for the command and control of combined arms forces. When it was established in 1860, though, the corps played an important role in the Civil War, especially in terms of its control over military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation — all of which eventually became their own armed services divisions or were transferred to the control of other departments.
This was the case for the Air Force, the next iteration of which came into existence following the Civil War with the establishment by the Signal Corps in 1893 in the form of the War Balloon Company based at Fort Riley, Kansas. The next step, the Aeronautical Services Division of the Signal Corps, existed from 1907 to 1914, and was the direct progenitor of today’s Air Force. During its time, the Aeronautical Division took delivery of the military’s first powered military aircraft in 1909, and organized aviation flight schools to train its future pilots.
What department is this?
In 1914, the United States Congress issued a statutory authorization for an Aviation Section in the Signal Corps, and this division continued as the primary organizational component of the fledgling Air Force until 1918. When the Aviation Section failed to mobilize effectively for World War I, the War Department replaced it with a department outside the signal corps, which was titled the Army Air Service.
Another shift, to the Army Air Corps, lasted from 1926 to 1941, just before the ramp up to World War II. This precipitated the final designation, when in September 1947 the United States Air Force officially became a separate military service division. This came as part of the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Military Establishment. Today we know it simply as the Department of Defense, which comprises the modern Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.
Today’s ever-changing mission
Before 1947, military aviation was divided between the other branches, with the Army handling land-based air operations and the Navy and Marines taking charge of airplane and helicopter deployments from aircraft carriers and amphibious aircraft.
Since then, technology has only continued to make the role of the Air Force more important in national security. We can take a strong sense of pride and protection when expert fighter pilots of the Air Force Thunderbirds flash overhead at an air show, flying tight formations wing to wing. Just as important for our protection these days as the roaring jets, though, are the Air Force-launched military satellites floating silently in space to help fight our next cyber wars.