From the Wright Brothers’ first flight, a long convoluted road led to the creation of the modern independent United States Air Force. Despite frustrating bureaucratic delays and political maneuvering, the ultimate goal was clear. Two world wars had devastated whole continents and threatened long term global peace. Only a well-prepared American military establishment, fully utilizing its Air force could provide a strong national defense and help ensure world peace. As aerospace technology took off, an independent Air Force would lead the way into the atomic age, and a new military structure would be required. Just as important and technology, however would be the vision and energy of air power advocates. Over five decades, Air Force people would build the world’s finest air organization by following a simple creed: putting service above self.
This nearly 40 page booklet tells a brief history of the Air Force’s beginnings and impact on World War I and World War II to share the strategic role of air power and the changes in warfare including planning for the Postwar military. Within the pages of this booklet, the unification and creation of a Department of National Defense is addressed with the its organization and emphasis under President Truman’s leadership. In 1949 several amendments to the National Security Act gave the Secretary more authority, personnel and power and downgraded the services from executive to military departments. The service secretaries would no longer attend meetings of the National Security Council, but would advise the Secretary of Defense.
In the five decades since the creation of the Department of Defense and the separate United States Air Force, controversies over roles and missions have continued to divide the services, especially when they competed for shrinking defense funds. Yet the national security chain of command and the unique role of the Air Force have remained intact. In the 1990s, it would be difficult to imagine a “Revolt of the Admirals.” Throughout Korea, Vietnam and now in the post-Cold War era of joint operations and independence, the revolution in defense organization that occurred fifty years ago has continued to serve the nation well.