Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia were a close-knit group of American military men who believed that long-range heavy bomber aircraft in large numbers were able to win a war. The derogatory term 'Bomber Mafia' was used before and after World War II by those in the military who did not share their belief, and who were frustrated by the insistence of the men that the heavy bomber should take a primary position in planning and funding.

After World War II, the 20 years of foundational work by the bomber mafia resulted in the separation of the United States Air Force from the Army to become an independent military arm.[1] The bomber mafia's strategic doctrine, changed by war and experience, helped shape the mission of the new Air Force and its Strategic Air Command.[2]

Many years later a related term "Fighter Mafia" described those within the Air Force that favoured light weight fighters good at dog-fighting instead of heavy missile-firing fighters.

Spaatz, Fairchild and Wilson
Daylight precision-bombing advocates Carl A. Spaatz, Muir S. Fairchild and Donald M. Wilson at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1946


Developed over the years 1926–1929 at Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) at Langley Field in Virginia, a forward-looking doctrine of daylight precision bombing was promulgated by Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell who advocated a greatly expanded role for the bomber force. After graduating from ACTS in 1931, Mitchell protégée Harold L. George stayed at the school to refine and teach the new bombing theory, soon recruiting as teachers his former students Haywood S. Hansell, Donald Wilson and Laurence S. Kuter as fellow bomber advocates. These four instructors, the core of US bomber advocacy, argued that an enemy's army and navy could be defeated intact due to the destruction of industrial and military targets deep within enemy-held territory.[3]

This theory was first espoused by Italian General Giulio Douhet, though his ideas included the terror bombing of population centers that the American theorists eschewed.[4][5] In contrast, American theorists devised a strategy of pin-point bombing that targeted the enemy economy and the production of weapons.[6] Though unproven, the major attraction of this sort of strategic bombing doctrine was that a war was expected to be won relatively quickly, with minimal casualties, and that grinding, static trench warfare as seen in World War I could be avoided.[2] In November 1932 when British Lord President of the Council Stanley Baldwin said "the bomber will always get through", he was talking about the terror bombing of cities. The US Bomber Mafia agreed with Baldwin only in that the bomber would prevail in its mission. They intended the mission to be against military and industrial targets, not populations.[7]

To effect this doctrine, the United States Army Air Corps would be required to expend the majority of its resources in amassing a fleet of self-defending heavy bombers, and in the training and maintenance of a great number of airmen to fill aircrew and ground crew positions. The ACTS officers who believed in the heavy bomber doctrine realized that any other Air Corps expenditures such as for tactical bombers and fighter aircraft would take away from the proposed large fleet of heavy bombers. Moreover, the men realized that the United States government would have to reduce funding to naval and ground forces in order to establish a great air fleet. To implement these changes, the ACTS instructors began to instill a sense in their students that a separate and independent air arm of the type described earlier by Mitchell, to be called the United States Air Force, was the way forward. As a compromise first step, the General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force was established within the Army Air Corps in 1935, commanded by General Frank M. Andrews, a strategic bombing advocate. Andrews staffed the command with like-minded officers such as Henry H. "Hap" Arnold.[8]

Although flawed and tested only under optimal conditions, the doctrine (originally known as the "industrial web theory")[9] became the primary airpower strategy of the United States in the planning for World War II. Members of the "Bomber Mafia" produced the two airpower war plans (AWPD-1 and AWPD-42) that guided the wartime expansion and deployment of the Army Air Forces.[1]


The term 'bomber mafia' came from the sometimes bitter debates between United States Army staff and Air Corps men who observed, and argued with, the insistence by instructors and students of the ACTS that heavy bombers were the new primary weapon of war, and that a separate air arm was required to command them. For the first few years, the strongest voice at ACTS against the bomber doctrine was Captain (later General) George C. Kenney who called for the use of air power to attack enemy fighting units on the ground. He advocated the close coordination of air and ground forces, with an emphasis on medium bombers and fighter bombers. Kenney left ACTS in 1929, and heavy bomber doctrinarians filled the vacancy.[10] The doctrine also ran counter to the theories of Billy Mitchell himself, who espoused that pursuit support was essential for daylight bombing operations.[11]

As an expert in the use of air units to aid artillery and infantry, Gordon P. Saville held to the concept of tactical air power through his time as ACTS instructor from 1934 to 1936. Later, Saville successfully implemented his ideas in the Mediterranean Theater.

Captain Claire Lee Chennault, senior instructor in fighter tactics at ACTS, was a vocal Air Corps officer who challenged the bomber mafia for more than a decade; he was forced into early retirement in 1937, leaving the precision bombing advocates unopposed.[12] The teaching of fighter ("pursuit") tactics declined, though Earle E. Partridge and Hoyt S. Vandenberg continued to discuss the role of the fighter.[13]

Other opposition was more subtle. USAAC Fighter Projects officer Lieutenant Benjamin S. Kelsey appreciated that a large bomber fleet would be able to perform many military tasks, not just strategic bombing, and felt that the force's doctrine should remain flexible to meet any demand.[14] Because of his lower rank, he was in no position to challenge the bomber mafia, and instead strove to work around their restrictions on pursuit aircraft. Kelsey formulated a new "interceptor" class of aircraft in order to sustain his idea that a well-armed fighter aircraft could successfully attack enemy bombers, and that, given drop tanks for long range, it could defend friendly bombers all the way to the target and back.[15]

The bomber mafia, through a "failure of imagination" in not expanding the doctrine to include establishing air superiority as a prerequisite for success,[16] would not accept either of these concepts—they believed the heavy bomber fleet could protect itself, and thus they contributed to the delay in the development of a long-range escort fighter until two years into the war. However, the doctrine nonetheless became the foundation for the separation of the Air Force from the Army, and the basis for modern airpower theory.[1] Hansell concurred that both the theorists and the authors of the AWPD-1 war plan (of which he was both) made a serious mistake in neglecting long-range fighter escort in their ideas.[17] Hansell wrote:

It was recognized that fighter escort was inherently desirable, but no one could quite conceive how a small fighter could have the range of the bomber yet retain its combat maneuverability. Failure to see this issue through proved one of the Air Corps Tactical School's major shortcomings.[18]





In World War II, the bomber mafia's theory of the primacy of unescorted daylight strategic bombing was proved wrong.[2] Fleets of heavy bombers were not able to achieve victory without the cooperation of the Army and Navy, and required the protection of long-range fighters for deep penetration missions. Overall casualties in the war were not minimal, and victory did not come significantly quicker.[2] Precision in bombing was not achieved until long-range fighter escorts became available and air superiority was achieved, as opponents had warned. The strategic bombing concept, however, was a major factor in the eventual victory and became the first core doctrine of the independent United States Air Force. Its proponents continued to promote the doctrine into the nuclear age, forming the Strategic Air Command to carry out a vision modified to fit the needs of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear warfare.[2] The bomber mafia was gradually replaced in the 1950s and 1960s by advocates of intercontinental ballistic missile warfare.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Boyne, Walter J. "The Tactical School", in Air Force Magazine, September 2003.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lee, 1997, pp. 219–220.
  3. ^ Braxton, Leon E.; Wagner, Arthur H. (2012) Birth of a Legend: The Bomber Mafia and the Y1B-17, pp. 65–66. ISBN 9781466906037
  4. ^ Griffith, Charles (1999). The Quest: Haywood Hansell and American Strategic Bombing in World War II. Air University Press ISBN 1-58566-069-8, pp. 39–40.
  5. ^ Miller, Donald L. (2006). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-3544-4, pp. 49–50.
  6. ^ Belote, Howard D. (1999). "Warden and the Air Corps Tactical School: What Goes Around Comes Around." Airpower Journal, Fall 1999.
  7. ^ Coggins, Edward V. (2000). Wings That Stay On. Turner. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-56311-568-4.
  8. ^ Rentfrow, James C. (2001). Electronic Combat Support for an Expeditionary Air Force: The Lessons of History. Air Command and Staff College, Wright Flyer Paper No. 15.
  9. ^ Griffith, p.45. Lt.Col. Donald Wilson of ACTS and a "Bomber Mafia" member is credited with the term.
  10. ^ Murray, 1998, p. 174.
  11. ^ Griffith, p.13.
  12. ^ Severs, 1997
  13. ^ Murray, 1998, p. 124.
  14. ^ Kelsey, Benjamin S. (1982). The Dragon's Teeth?: The Creation of United States Air Power for World War II. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0-87474-574-0.
  15. ^ "Featured Aircraft" (PDF). Plane Talk: The Newsletter of the War Eagles Air Museum. 19 (4): 1–3, 6. October – December 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  16. ^ Miller, p.41.
  17. ^ Hansell, Haywood S. Jr. (1979). The Air Plan That Defeated Hitler, Ayer Press, ISBN 0-405-12178-4, p.22.
  18. ^ Hansell, Haywood S. "AWPD-1, The Process". Air University, USAF. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  19. ^ Miller, 2006, pp. 38–42
  20. ^ Belote, Maj. Howard D. (1999). "Warden and the Air Corps Tactical School". Airpower Journal. Air University. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
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 relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama, in July 1931. Instruction at the school was suspended in 1940, anticipating the entry of the United States into World War II, and the school was dissolved shortly after. ACTS was replaced in November 1942 by the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics.

In addition to the training of officers in more than 20 areas of military education, the school became the doctrine development center of the Air Corps, and a preparatory school for Air Corps officers aspiring to attendance at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College. The motto of the Air Corps Tactical School was Proficimus More Irretenti—"We Make Progress Unhindered by Custom".The Air Corps Tactical School was notable as the birthplace of the Army Air Forces doctrine of daylight precision bombing. This doctrine held that a campaign of daylight air attacks against critical targets of a potential enemy's industrial infrastructure, using long-range bombers heavily armed for self-defense, could defeat an enemy nation even though its army and navy remained intact. The Tactical School, in formulating the doctrine, rejected the idea of attacking civilians.Four former instructors of the school, the core of a group known as the "Bomber Mafia", were grouped together in the Air War Plans Division to produce the two war-winning plans—AWPD-1 and AWPD-42—based on the doctrine of precision daylight bombing that guided the wartime expansion and deployment of the Army Air Forces.

In a broader sense, the strategic bombing doctrine, adapted by factors encountered during combat, was also the foundation for the final separation of the Air Force from the Army as a military service independent of and equal to the other services. In 1946 the AAF created the Air University to carry on the work and traditions of the ACTS.

Benjamin S. Kelsey

Benjamin Scovill Kelsey (March 9, 1906 – March 3, 1981) was an American aeronautical engineer and test pilot. Serving as America's chief fighter projects officer, he helped bring success in World War II to the United States Army Air Forces by initiating the manufacture of innovative fighter aircraft designs, and by working to quickly increase American fighter production to meet the needs of the coming war.

Kelsey co-authored the technical specifications which led to the development of the P-39 Airacobra and the P-38 Lightning. He worked around Air Corps strictures to initiate the development of drop tanks for American fighters. Kelsey was the driving force behind a program of advanced airfoil research which eventually resulted in the P-51 Mustang.

After the war, Kelsey served in various staff assignments supervising weather operations, personnel and materiel. He was an important committee member of the group that approved and funded the rocket-powered North American X-15.

Donald Wilson (general)

Donald Wilson (25 September 1892 – 21 June 1978) was a United States Army Air Forces general during World War II.

Wilson enlisted in the Maryland National Guard as a private in 1916 and served with it on the Mexican border and the Western Front during World War I before transferring to the United States Army Air Service. After the war, he obtained a regular commission. Already qualified as an aerial observer, he became a pilot in 1922. For many years he was an influential instructor at the Air Corps Tactical School. Wilson became a leading theorist who embraced the doctrine that strategic bombing was the most important aspect of air power. He argued that by attacking vulnerabilities, whole industries could be brought to a halt without necessarily having to destroy all of the factories. The doctrine which Wilson expounded later became the basis for AWPD-1, the Army Air Forces' strategic war plan developed in 1941.

During World War II, Wilson served as Chief of the Personnel Division (G-l) of the War Department General Staff. He became Chief of Staff of the Fifth Air Force in September 1942, before returning to the United States in 1944 to become Assistant Chief of Staff, United States Army Air Forces for Organization, Commitments and Requirements. For a time he was acting Chief of Staff of Army Air Forces. In February 1945, Wilson was present at the Battle of Iwo Jima as an official Army Air Forces observer. In June 1945, he assumed command of the Air Force Proving Ground Command.

After the war, Wilson served as a member of the Gerow Board, which examined the military educational system and instituted a series of long-lasting reforms. In 1947, he was diagnosed with neurasthenia, and retired with the rank of major general.

Fighter Mafia

The Fighter Mafia was a controversial group of U.S. Air Force officers and civilian defense analysts who, in the 1970s, advocated for fighter design criteria that challenged the conventional thinking and ideologies of the time. Their assertions were that:

Air Force generals established the wrong criteria for combat effectiveness, ignoring combat history.

High technology and the focus on "higher, faster, and farther" increases costs and decreases effectiveness. The mafia argued for cheaper and better planes.

Air Force bureaucracies were corrupt as they did not conduct honest testing on weapons before buying them and deploying them in the field.

The focus should be on close air support and the use of combined arms to support maneuver warfare rather than interdiction bombing.

Multi-role and multi-mission capability compromises the plane.

Beyond visual range combat was a fantasy.The Fighter Mafia also advocated the use of John Boyd and Thomas P. Christie's Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) theory in designing fighter aircraft. The E-M model enabled quantitative comparison of the performance of aircraft in terms of air combat maneuvering in the context of dogfighting. The Fighter Mafia influenced the specifications for the F-X and went on to independently develop specifications for the Lightweight Fighter (LWF).The next generation of warplanes combined both maneuverability (which the group advocated) as well as large active radars and radar-guided missiles (which they opposed). Aircraft in this generation included the F-14, F-15, F-16 and F/A-18.

Harold L. George

Not to be confused with Harold Huston George for whom George Air Force Base was namedHarold Lee George (July 19, 1893 – February 24, 1986) was an American aviation pioneer who helped shape and promote the concept of daylight precision bombing. An outspoken proponent of the industrial web theory, George taught at the Air Corps Tactical School and influenced a significant group of airmen passing through the school, ones who had powerful influence during and after World War II. He has been described as the leader of the Bomber Mafia, the men who advocated an independent military arm composed of heavy bombers. George helped shape America's bomber strategy for the war by assisting Air War Plans Division with the development of a complete aircraft production and bombing strategy.

In 1934, George helped institute the Order of Daedalians, and served as that organization's first Wing Commander.During World War II, George led the Air Transport Command, taking it from 130 obsolescent aircraft to 3,000 modern transports, operated by 300,000 airmen. Following the war, he helped Hughes Aircraft become a very profitable company, and was twice elected mayor of Beverly Hills, California.

Haywood S. Hansell

Haywood Shepherd Hansell Jr. (September 28, 1903 – November 14, 1988) was a general officer in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II, and later the United States Air Force. He became an advocate of the doctrine of strategic bombardment, and was one of the chief architects of the concept of daylight precision bombing that governed the use of airpower by the USAAF in the war.

Hansell played a key and largely unsung role in the strategic planning of air operations by the United States. This included drafting both the strategic air war plans (AWPD-1 and AWPD-42) and the plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive in Europe; obtaining a base of operations for the B-29 Superfortress in the Mariana Islands; and devising the command structure of the Twentieth Air Force, the first global strategic air force and forerunner of the Strategic Air Command. He made precision air attack, as both the most humane and effective means of achieving military success, a lifelong personal crusade that eventually became the key tenet of American airpower employment.

Hansell also held combat commands during the war, carrying out the very plans and doctrines he helped draft. He pioneered strategic bombardment of both Germany and Japan, as commander of the first B-17 Flying Fortress combat wing in Europe, and as the first commander of the B-29 force in the Marianas.

Industrial web theory

Industrial web theory is the military concept that an enemy's industrial power can be attacked at nodes of vulnerability, and thus the enemy's ability to wage a lengthy war can be severely limited, as well as his morale—his will to resist. The theory was formulated by American airmen at the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) in the 1930s.

The term "industrial web theory" cannot be found in any official United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) doctrine. Instead, the term was coined in the 1930s by Donald Wilson, an instructor at ACTS, to cover the concept then under development.

Kenneth Walker

Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker (17 July 1898 – 5 January 1943) was a United States Army aviator and a United States Army Air Forces general who exerted a significant influence on the development of airpower doctrine. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor in World War II.

Walker joined the United States Army in 1917, after the American entry into World War I. He trained as an aviator and became a flying instructor. In 1920, after the end of the war, he received a commission in the Regular Army. After service in various capacities, Walker graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School in 1929, and then served as an instructor there. He supported the creation of a separate air organization that is not subordinate to other military branches. He was a forceful advocate of the efficacy of strategic bombardment, publishing articles on the subject and becoming part of a clique known as the "Bomber Mafia" that argued for the primacy of bombardment over other forms of military aviation. He advanced the notion that fighters could not prevent a bombing attack. He participated in the Air Corps Tactical School's development of the doctrine of industrial web theory, which called for precision attacks against carefully selected critical industrial targets. Shortly before the United States entered World War II, Walker became one of four officers assigned to the Air War Plans Division, which was tasked with developing a production requirements plan for the war in the air. Together, these officers devised the AWPD-1 plan, a blueprint for the imminent air war against Germany that called for the creation of an enormous air force to win the war through strategic bombardment.

In 1942, Walker was promoted to brigadier general and transferred to the Southwest Pacific, where he became Commanding General, V Bomber Command, Fifth Air Force. The Southwest Pacific contained few strategic targets, relegating the bombers to the role of interdicting supply lines and supporting the ground forces. This resulted in a doctrinal clash between Walker and Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, an attack aviator, over the proper method of employing bombers. Walker frequently flew combat missions over New Guinea, for which he received the Silver Star. On 5 January 1943, he was shot down and killed leading a daylight bombing raid over Rabaul, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning is a World War II–era American piston-engined fighter aircraft. Developed for the United States Army Air Corps, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil (German: der Gabelschwanz-Teufel) by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" (2飛行機、1パイロット, Ni hikōki, ippairotto) by the Japanese. The P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers and evacuation missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (27 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, since the exhaust was muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too low for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in large-scale production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. At the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled.

Mafia (disambiguation)

A mafia is an ethnic, family or culture-based organized crime enterprise.

Mafia also usually refers specifically to:

Sicilian Mafia, the original "Mafia", often referred to simply as “the Mafia”

American Mafia, an Italian-American offshoot of the original Sicilian Mafia often referred to simply as "The Mafia" in the United States

Organized crime in Italy

Odas Moon

Odas Moon (February 11, 1892 – November 19, 1937) was an American aviation pioneer who was among a team of United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) aviators to break endurance records by performing aerial refueling. Moon was a founding member of the Order of Daedalians. Through his teaching and leadership at the Air Corps Tactical School, Moon helped shape and promote the concept of daylight precision bombing, using heavy bombers.

Robert M. Webster

Robert Morris Webster (October 19, 1892 – March 1, 1972) was a United States Air Force major general who was an early advocate of daylight precision bombing as a war-winning strategy. A rated command pilot, he commanded a number of large air units during and after World War II and served as a senior military representative of the United States in foreign relations.

Robert Olds

Robert Olds (June 15, 1896 – April 28, 1943) was a general officer in the United States Army Air Forces, theorist of strategic air power, and proponent of an independent United States Air Force. Olds is best known today as the father of Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, a "triple ace" fighter pilot of World War II and the Vietnam War.He became an instructor at the Air Corps Tactical School between 1928 and 1931, the crucial period when the theory of strategic bombardment achieved ascendancy within the Air Corps as the most effective use of airpower. With eight colleagues at the ACTS, he was a member of the "Bomber Mafia," whose influence led to adoption of the theory as the doctrine of daylight precision bombing during World War II. Olds was a persuasive, sometimes controversial figure in the unsuccessful campaign during the 1930s to promote air force independence, but the bombardment doctrine the clique championed ultimately became the foundation for separation from the Army.Olds was also an accomplished aviator and flight leader. As commander of the 2d Bombardment Group between 1937 and 1940, he led the first operational unit of B-17 Flying Fortresses and put theory into practice by overseeing the development of standard operating procedures for the heavy bomber. Olds showcased the capabilities of the new weapon by leading several highly publicized goodwill flights to South America.

Despite his advocacy for strategic bombing, during the United States' participation in World War II Olds did not command bombers in the field. Instead his major contribution to the war effort was creation and organization of the Air Corps Ferrying Command, whose task was delivery of newly produced aircraft to all parts of the globe, and which eventually became the Air Transport Command and successors. Health problems resulted in his transfer to a training command and led to his early death in 1943.

Strategic bombing

Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying its morale or its economic ability to produce and transport materiel to the theatres of military operations, or both. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bombers, long- or medium-range missiles, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to the enemy's war-making capability.

One of the strategies of war is to demoralize the enemy, so that peace or surrender becomes preferable to continuing the conflict. Strategic bombing has been used to this end. The phrase "terror bombing" entered the English lexicon towards the end of World War II and many strategic bombing campaigns and individual raids have been described as terror bombing by commentators and historians. Because the term has pejorative connotations, some, including the Allies of World War II, have preferred to use euphemisms such as "will to resist" and "morale bombings".The theoretical distinction between tactical and strategic air warfare was developed between the two world wars. Some leading theorists of strategic air warfare during this period were the Italian Giulio Douhet, the Trenchard school in the United Kingdom, and General Billy Mitchell in the United States. These theorists were highly influential, both on the military justification for an independent air force (such as the Royal Air Force) and in influencing political thoughts on a future war as exemplified by Stanley Baldwin's 1932 comment that the bomber will always get through.

The bomber will always get through

The bomber will always get through was a phrase used by Stanley Baldwin in 1932 (although the theory was originally developed by Italian General Giulio Douhet), in the speech "A Fear for the Future" to the British Parliament. He and others believed that, regardless of air defences, sufficient bomber aircraft would survive to destroy cities.

United States Air Force

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

The U.S. Air Force is a military service branch organized within the Department of the Air Force, one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The Air Force, through the Department of the Air Force, is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force, who reports to the Secretary of Defense, and is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation. The highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who exercises supervision over Air Force units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force components are assigned, as directed by the Secretary of Defense, to the combatant commands, and neither the Secretary of the Air Force nor the Chief of Staff of the Air Force have operational command authority over them.

Along with conducting independent air and space operations, the U.S. Air Force provides air support for land and naval forces and aids in the recovery of troops in the field. As of 2017, the service operates more than 5,369 military aircraft, 406 ICBMs and 170 military satellites. It has a $161 billion budget and is the second largest service branch, with 321,444 active duty airmen, 141,800 civilian personnel, 69,200 reserve airmen, and 105,700 Air National Guard airmen.

United States Air Force Academy Cemetery

The United States Air Force Academy Cemetery is a cemetery at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado.

United States Army Air Corps

For the current active service branch, see United States Air Force

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the aerial warfare service of the United States of America between 1926 and 1941. After World War I, as early aviation became an increasingly important part of modern warfare, a philosophical rift developed between more traditional ground-based army personnel and those who felt that aircraft were being underutilized and that air operations were being stifled for political reasons unrelated to their effectiveness. The USAAC was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926, and was part of the larger United States Army. The Air Corps became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, giving it greater autonomy from the Army's middle-level command structure. During World War II, although not an administrative echelon, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing the Department of the Air Force.The Air Corps was renamed by the United States Congress largely as a compromise between the advocates of a separate air arm and those of the traditionalist Army high command who viewed the aviation arm as an auxiliary branch to support the ground forces. Although its members worked to promote the concept of air power and an autonomous air force in the years between the world wars, its primary purpose by Army policy remained support of ground forces rather than independent operations.

On 1 March 1935, still struggling with the issue of a separate air arm, the Army activated the General Headquarters Air Force for centralized control of aviation combat units within the continental United States, separate from but coordinate with the Air Corps. The separation of the Air Corps from control of its combat units caused problems of unity of command that became more acute as the Air Corps enlarged in preparation for World War II. This was resolved by the creation of the Army Air Forces (AAF), making both organizations subordinate to the new higher echelon.

On June 20, 1941, the Army Air Corps' existence as the primary air arm of the U.S. Army changed to that of solely being the training and logistics elements of the then-new United States Army Air Forces, which embraced the formerly-named General Headquarters Air Force under the new Air Force Combat Command organization for front-line combat operations; this new element, along with the Air Corps, comprised the USAAF.The Air Corps ceased to have an administrative structure after 9 March 1942, but as "the permanent statutory organization of the air arm, and the principal component of the Army Air Forces," the overwhelming majority of personnel assigned to the AAF were members of the Air Corps.

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