Eighth Air Force

The Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) (8 AF) is a numbered air force (NAF) of the United States Air Force's Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The command serves as Air Forces Strategic – Global Strike, one of the air components of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The Eighth Air Force includes the heart of America's heavy bomber force: the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the B-1 Lancer supersonic bomber, and the B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber aircraft.

Established on 22 February 1944 by the redesignation of VIII Bomber Command at RAF Daws Hill in High Wycombe, England, the Eighth Army Air Force (8 AAF) was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force in the European Theater of World War II (1939/41–1945), engaging in operations primarily in the Northern Europe AOR; carrying out strategic bombing of enemy targets in France, the low countries, and Germany;[4] and engaging in air-to-air fighter combat against enemy aircraft until the German capitulation in May 1945. It was the largest of the deployed combat Army Air Forces in numbers of personnel, aircraft, and equipment.

During the Cold War (1945–1991), 8 AF was one of three Numbered Air Forces of the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC), with a three-star general headquartered at Westover AFB, Massachusetts commanding USAF strategic bombers and missiles on a global scale. Elements of 8 AF engaged in combat operations during the Korean War (1950–1953); Vietnam War (1961-1975), as well as Operation Desert Storm (1990–1991) over Iraq and occupied Kuwait in the First Persian Gulf War.

Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic)
Eighth Air Force - Emblem
Shield of the Eighth Air Force
Active3 June 2008 – present (as Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic))
22 February 1944 – 3 June 2008 (as Eighth Air Force)
19 January 1942 – 22 February 1944 (as VIII Bomber Command)
(77 years, 3 months)[1]
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force (18 September 1947 – present)
Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army (US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg Army Air Forces, 19 January 1942 – 18 September 1947)
TypeNumbered Air Force
RoleProvides conventional and nuclear bomber forces to U.S. Strategic Command and serves as the air component for global strike for U.S. Strategic Command[2]
Part ofAir Force Global Strike Command.png Air Force Global Strike Command
Seal of the United States Strategic Command.svg U.S. Strategic Command
Garrison/HQBarksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, U.S.
Nickname(s)"The Mighty Eighth"[3]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer

World War II - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater
Asiatic-Pacific Streamer

World War II - Asiatic-Pacific Theater[1]
AFOUA with Valor

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Vietnam Gallantry Cross - Streamer

Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Maj. Gen. James Dawkins Jr., USAF
James Doolittle
Ira C. Eaker
Carl Spaatz
Samuel E. Anderson


Eighth Air Force is one of two active duty numbered air forces in Air Force Global Strike Command. Eighth Air Force, with headquarters at Barksdale AFB, in the Bossier CityShreveport, Louisiana, metro area, supports U.S. Strategic Command, and is designated as U.S. Strategic Command's Task Force 204, providing on-alert, combat-ready forces to the president. The mission of "The Mighty Eighth" is to safeguard America's interests through strategic deterrence and global combat power. Eighth Air Force controls long-range nuclear-capable bomber assets throughout the United States and overseas locations. Its flexible, conventional and nuclear deterrence mission provides the capability to deploy forces and engage enemy threats from home station or forward positioned, anywhere, any time. The 8th Air Force motto is "Peace Through Strength."

The Eighth Air Force team consists of more than 16,000 Regular Air Force (e.g., active duty), Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve professionals operating and maintaining a variety of aircraft capable of deploying air power to any area of the world. This air power includes the heart of America's heavy bomber force, deploying the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress. The Mighty Eighth's B-52 force consists of 76 bombers assigned to two active duty wings, the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and one reserve wing, the 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. The B-2 force consists of 20 bombers assigned to the active duty 509th Bomb Wing along with the Missouri Air National Guard's associate 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. The B-1 force consists of 62 bombers assigned to the active duty 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas and the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. The 131st Bomb Wing is operationally-gained by AFGSC and 8 AF from the Air National Guard, while the 307th Bomb Wing is operationally-gained from Air Force Reserve Command and 10th Air Force.[5][6]

Major General James Dawkins Jr. was named Commander of 8th Air Force on August 20, 2018, after having served as the Deputy Director for Nuclear, Homeland Defense, and Current Operations on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.


For additional history and lineage, see United States Air Forces in Europe

The history of Eighth Air Force begins on 2 January 1942 with its activation at Savannah Army Air Base, Georgia. In quick order, on 5 January, Major General Carl Spaatz assumed command of HQ Eighth Air Force at Bolling Field, Washington, DC. On 8 January the order activating the "U.S. Air Forces in the British Isles" (USAFBI) was announced. On 12 May, the first contingent of USAAF personnel arrived in England to join the Eighth Air Force. On 15 June, Spaatz arrived in England to establish the Headquarters of Eighth Air Force at Bushy Park, 15 miles (24 km) WSW of London.[7]

Eighth Air Force was the command and control organization over its operational components:

Strategic bombardment using heavy, 4-engined bombers.
Provide fighter escort of heavy bombers
Provide reconnaissance, troop transport, and tactical bombardment using twin-engine medium bombers.
Service and logistical support.

VIII Bomber Command was activated at Langley Field, Virginia, It was reassigned to Savannah Air Base, Georgia on 10 February 1942. An advanced detachment of VIII Bomber Command was established at RAF Bomber Command Headquarters at RAF Daws Hill England on 23 February in preparation for its units to arrive in the United Kingdom from the United States. The first combat group of VIII Bomber Command to arrive in the United Kingdom was the ground echelon of the 97th Bombardment Group, which arrived at RAF Polebrook on 9 June 1942.

Start of offensive operations against Nazi-occupied territory

Regular combat operations by the VIII Bomber Command began on 17 August 1942, when the 97th Bombardment Group flew 12 B-17Es on the first VIII Bomber Command heavy bomber mission of the war from RAF Polebrook, attacking the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France.

B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17 Flying Fortresses Over Europe during World War II

During World War II, the offensive air forces of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) came to be classified as strategic or tactical. A strategic air force was that with a mission to attack an enemy's war effort beyond his front-line forces, predominantly production and supply facilities, whereas a tactical air force supported ground campaigns, usually with objectives selected through co-operation with the armies.

In Europe, Eighth Air Force was the first USAAF strategic air force, with a mission to support an invasion of continental Europe from the British Isles. Eighth Air Force carried out strategic daytime strategic bombing operations in Western Europe from airfields in eastern England.

World War II (1944–1945)

Eighth Air Force - Emblem (World War II)
Living Legends
B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 398th Bombardment Group fly a bombing run to Neumünster, Germany, on 13 April 1945. On 8 May, Germany surrendered, and Victory in Europe Day was declared.
External video
Target For Today – 1943 VIII Bomber Command film on YouTube

On 4 January 1944, the B-24s and B-17s based in England flew their last mission as a subordinate part of VIII Bomber Command. On 22 February 1944, a massive reorganization of American airpower took place in Europe. VIII Bomber Command and Ninth Air Force were brought under control of a centralized headquarters for command and control of the United States Army Air Forces in Europe, the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF).

VIII Bomber Command was redesignated as Eighth Air Force, with VIII Fighter and VIII Air Support Commands being brought under the command of the redesignated Eighth Air Force. This is from where the present-day Eighth Air Force's history, lineage and honors derive.

General Carl Spaatz returned to England to command the USSTAF. Major General Jimmy Doolittle relinquished command of the Fifteenth Air Force to Major General Nathan F. Twining and took over command of the Eighth Air Force from Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker at RAF Daws Hill. Doolittle was well known to American airmen as the famous "Tokyo Raider" and former air racer. His directive was simple: 'Win the air war and isolate the battlefield'.

Spaatz and Doolittle's plan was to use the US Strategic Air Forces in a series of co-ordinated raids, code-named Operation 'Argument' and supported by RAF night bombing, on the German aircraft industry at the earliest possible date.

Big Week

Cold and clear weather was predicted for the last week of February 1944 and Operation Argument became known as "Big Week". On the night of 19–20 February, the RAF bombed Leipzig. Eighth Air Force put up over 1,000 B-17s and B-24s and over 800 fighters and the RAF provided sixteen squadrons of Mustangs and Spitfires. In all, twelve aircraft factories were attacked, with the B-17s heading to Leipzig (Allgemeine Transportanlagen-Gesellschaft - Junkers Ju 88 production and Erla Maschinenwerk - Bf 109), Bernburg-Strenzfeld (Junkers Ju 88 plant) and Oschersleben (AGO plant making Focke-Wulf Fw 190A fighters), while the B-24s hitting the Gothaer Waggonfabrik (production of Messerschmitt Bf 110), the Fw 190 Arado plant at Tutow and the Heinkel firm's "Heinkel-Nord" headquarters at Rostock (production of He 111). As a contrast, the Luftwaffe was undertaking the sixth major raid of the "Baby Blitz" the following night (February 20/21), with only some 165 German aircraft sortieing against British targets.

The raids on the German aircraft industry comprising much of "Big Week" caused so much damage that the Germans were forced to disperse aircraft manufacturing eastward, to safer parts of the Reich.

The next day, over 900 bombers and 700 fighters of Eighth Air Force hit more aircraft factories in the Braunschweig area. Over 60 Luftwaffe fighters were shot down with a loss of 19 US bombers and 5 US fighters. On 24 February, with the weather clearing over central Germany, Eighth Air Force sent over 800 bombers, hitting Schweinfurt and attacks on the Baltic coast, with a total of 11 B-17s being lost. Some 230 B-24s hit the Messerschmitt Bf 110 assembly plant at Gotha with a loss of 24 aircraft.

On 22 February 1944, due to many mistakes, Nijmegen was bombarded by 12 aircraft of the 446th Bomb Group and 2 aircraft of the 453rd. They did not realize that they were above Dutch ground. 850 civilians, including children on their way to school, were among the casualties.

On 25 February, both Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces hit numerous targets at Fürth airfield, Augsburg and Regensburg, attacking Messerschmitt Bf 110 and Bf 109 plants. The 8th lost 31 bombers, the 15th lost 33.


Aircraft and ground crew of Boeing B-17F-25-BO Fortress "Hell's Angels" (AAF Ser. No. 41-24577) of the 358th Bomb Squadron, 303d Bomb Group, RAF Molesworth. This was first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in the 8th Air Force, on 13 May 1943. After completing 48 missions, the aircraft returned to the U.S. on 20 January 1944, for a publicity tour

Less than a week after "Big Week", Eighth Air Force made its first attack on the Reich's capital, Berlin. The RAF had been making night raids on Berlin since 1940, (with heavy raids in 1943) and nuisance Mosquito raids in daylight, but this was the first major daylight bombing raid on the German capital. On 6 March 1944, over 700 heavy bombers along with 800 escort fighters of the Eighth Air Force hit numerous targets within Berlin, dropping the first American bombs on the capital of the Third Reich. On 8 March, another raid of 600 bombers and 200 fighters hit the Berlin area again, destroying the VKF ball-bearing plant at Erkner. The following day, on 9 March, H2X radar-equipped B-17s mounted a third attack on the Reich capital through clouds. Altogether, the Eighth Air Force dropped over 4,800 tons of high explosive on Berlin during the first week of March. The photograph shows housing destroyed by the RAF during night raids.

On 22 March, over 800 bombers, led by H2X radar equipped bombers hit Berlin yet again, bombing targets though a thick rainy overcast causing more destruction to various industries. Because of the thick clouds and rain over the area the Luftwaffe did not attack the American bomber fleet, as the Germans believed that because of the weather the American bombers would be incapable of attacking their targets. Even so, the "pathfinder" bombers of the RAF Alconbury-based 482d Bomb Group proved very capable of finding the targets and guiding the bombers to them.

Prelude to Overlord

In a prelude to the invasion of France, American air attacks began in February 1944 against railroad junctions, airfields, ports and bridges in northern France and along the English Channel coastline. Fighters from both Eighth and Ninth Air Forces made wide sweeps over the area, mounting strafing missions at airfields and rail networks. By 6 June, Allied fighter pilots had succeeded in damaging or destroying hundreds of locomotives, thousands of motorized vehicles, and many bridges. In addition, German airfields in France and Belgium were attacked.

On 1 May, over 1,300 Eighth Air Force heavy bombers made an all-out attack on the enemy's rail network, striking at targets in France and Belgium. On 7 May, another 1,000 bombers hit additional targets along the English Channel coast, hitting fortifications, bridges and marshaling areas.

On D-Day, over 2,300 sorties were flown by Eighth Air Force heavy bombers in the Normandy and Cherbourg invasion areas, all aimed at neutralizing enemy coastal defenses and front-line troops.

Defeat of the Luftwaffe

North American P-51 Mustangs of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st FG, summer 1944
Destroyed Luftwaffe Fw 190, 1945

The P-51 Mustang first entered squadron service in Europe with the British in early 1942; the Allison V-1710 engined P-51A (Mustang I) having much success with the RAF, although it found the aircraft's performance inadequate at higher altitudes. Rolls-Royce engineers rapidly realized that equipping the Mustang with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine with its two speed, two stage supercharger would substantially improve performance. Also, by using a four-bladed propeller, rather than the three-bladed one used on the P-51A, the performance was greatly improved; the XP-51B achieved a level speed of 441 mph at 29,800 feet (9,100 m), over 100 mph faster than the Allison-engined P-51A at that altitude. At all heights, the rate of climb was approximately doubled.

The USAAF now finally had an aircraft that could compete on equal terms with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and the later models of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The USAAF was finally fully sold on the Mustang, and a letter contract for 2200 P-51Bs was issued. The engine was to be the Packard V-1650-3, based on the Merlin 68.

In late 1943, the P-51B Mustang was introduced to the European Theater by the USAAF. It could fly as far on its internal fuel tanks as the P-47 could with drop tanks. However, the P-51B was introduced as a tactical fighter, so the first deliveries of the P-51B in November 1943 were assigned to three groups in the tactical Ninth Air Force at the expense of VIII Bomber Command, whose need for a long range escort fighter was critical. The first escort mission for the bombers was not flown until 5 December.

As the new commander of the Eighth Air Force from January 1944 onwards, Major General Jimmy Doolittle's major influence on the European air war occurred early that year when he made a critical change to the policy requiring escorting fighters to remain with the bombers at all times. With Doolittle's permission, American fighter pilots on bomber defense missions would primarily be flying far ahead of the bombers' combat box formations in air supremacy mode, literally "clearing the skies" of any Luftwaffe fighter opposition heading towards the target. This strategy fatally disabled the twin-engined Zerstörergeschwader heavy fighter wings and their replacement, single-engined Sturmgruppen of heavily armed Fw 190As, clearing each force of bomber destroyers in their turn from Germany's skies throughout most of 1944. As part of this game-changing strategy, especially after the bombers had hit their targets, the USAAF's fighters were then free to strafe German airfields and transport while returning to base, contributing significantly to the achievement of air superiority by Allied air forces over Europe.

The effect of the Mustangs, fully operating as an air supremacy fighter force, on the Luftwaffe defenders was arguably swift and decisive. The result was that the Luftwaffe was notable by its absence over the skies of Europe after D-Day and the Allies were starting to achieve air superiority over the continent. Although the Luftwaffe could, and did, mount effective attacks on the ever-larger formations of Allied heavy bombers, the sheer numbers of B-17s and B-24s attacking enemy targets was overwhelming the German fighter force, which simply could not sustain the losses the Eighth Air Force bombers and fighters were inflicting on it. In order to quickly assemble these formations, specially outfitted assembly ships were created from older bombers.

By mid-1944, Eighth Air Force had reached a total strength of more than 200,000 people (it is estimated that more than 350,000 Americans served in Eighth Air Force during the war in Europe). At peak strength, Eighth Air Force had forty heavy bomber groups, fifteen fighter groups, and four specialized support groups. It could, and often did, dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and more than 1,000 fighters on a single mission to multiple targets.

By 1945, all but one of the Eighth Air Force fighter groups were equipped with the P-51D.

Destroying the German oil industry

Eighth Air Force did not strike at oil industry targets until 13 May 1944 when 749 bombers, escorted by almost 740 fighters, pounded oil targets in the Leipzig area and at Brux in Czechoslovakia. At the same time, a smaller force hit an Fw 190 repair depot at Zwickau. Over 300 German fighters attacked the bomber forces, losing almost half its aircraft, with claims of upwards of 47 Luftwaffe fighters by American fighter pilots. However, the Luftwaffe was successful in shooting down 46 bombers in a very unequal fight.[8]

After D-Day, attacks on the German oil industry assumed top priority which was widely dispersed around the Reich. Vast fleets of B-24s and B-17s escorted by P-51Ds and long-range P-38Ls hit refineries in Germany and Czechoslovakia in late 1944 and early 1945. Having almost total air superiority throughout the collapsing German Reich, Eighth Air Force hit targets as far east as Hungary, while Fifteenth Air Force hit oil industry facilities in Yugoslavia, Romania, and northeastern Italy. On at least eighteen occasions, the Merseburg refineries in Leuna, where the majority of Germany's synthetic fuel for jet aircraft was refined, was hit. By the end of 1944, only three out of ninety-one refineries in the Reich were still working normally, twenty-nine were partially functional, and the remainder were completely destroyed.

Casualties and awards

These missions, however, carried a high price. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force's casualties in World War II were suffered by Eighth Air Force (more than 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 dead). Seventeen Medals of Honor went to Eighth Air Force personnel during the war. By war's end, they had been awarded a number of other medals to include 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 442,000 Air Medals. Many more awards were made to Eighth Air Force veterans after the war that remain uncounted. There were 261 fighter aces in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Thirty-one of these aces had 15 or more aircraft kills apiece. Another 305 enlisted gunners were also recognized as aces.

Victory in Europe

In January 1945, the Luftwaffe attempted one last major air offensive against the Allied Air Forces. Over 950 fighters had been sent west from the Eastern Front for "Operation Bodenplatte". On 1 January, the entire German fighter force in the West, comprising combat aircraft from some eleven Jagdgeschwader day fighter wings, took off and attacked 27 Allied airfields in northern France, Belgium and the southern part of the Netherlands in an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries of Europe. It was a last-ditch effort to keep up the momentum of the German forces during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge (Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein). The operation was a pyrrhic success for the Luftwaffe as the losses suffered by the German air arm were irreplaceable and over 300 Luftwaffe aircraft were shot down, mostly by Allied anti-aircraft guns. The losses of the Allied Air Forces were replaced within weeks. The operation failed to achieve air superiority, even temporarily, and the German Army continued to be exposed to air attack.

First seen by Allied airmen during the late summer of 1944, it wasn't until March 1945 that German jet aircraft started to attack Allied bomber formations in earnest. On 2 March, when Eighth Air Force bombers were dispatched to attack the synthetic oil refineries at Leipzig, Messerschmitt Me 262As attacked the formation near Dresden. The next day, the largest formation of German jets ever seen, most likely from the Luftwaffe's specialist 7th Fighter Wing, Jagdgeschwader 7 Nowotny, made attacks on Eighth Air Force bomber formations over Dresden and the oil targets at Essen, shooting down a total of three bombers.

However, the Luftwaffe jets were simply too few and too late to have any serious effect on the Allied air armadas now sweeping over the Reich with near-impunity. A lack of fuel and available pilots for the new jets greatly reduced their effectiveness. The Me 262A was a difficult foe for the P-47s and P-51s, possessing a distinct speed advantage. Allied bomber escort fighters would fly high above the bombers – diving from this height gave them extra speed, thus reducing the speed difference. The Me 262 was also less maneuverable than the P-51 and so trained Allied pilots could turn tighter than an Me 262A. However, the only reliable way of dealing with the jets, as with the even faster Me 163B Komet rocket fighters, was to attack them on the ground and during takeoff and landing. Luftwaffe airfields that were identified as jet and rocket bases, such as Parchim and Bad Zwischenahn, were frequently bombed, and Allied fighters patrolled over the fields to attack jets trying to land. The Luftwaffe countered by installing flak alleys along the approach lines in order to protect the Me 262s from the ground and providing top cover with conventional fighters during takeoff and landing. Nevertheless, in March and April 1945, Allied fighter patrol patterns over Me 262 airfields resulted in numerous losses of jets and serious attrition of the force.

On 7 April 1945, the Luftwaffe flew its most desperate and deadliest mission, with the dedicated aerial ramming unit Sonderkommando Elbe. This operation involved German pilots of the unit ramming their worn-out Bf 109Gs, each barely armed with only one MG 131 heavy machine gun and 50 rounds of ammunition, into American bombers in order to get the Allies to suspend bombing raids long enough for the Germans to make a significant amount of Me 262A jet fighters. The 8th Air Force was targeted in this operation. Fifteen Allied bombers were attacked, eight were successfully destroyed.

Destroyed Berlin, Germany, May 1945

On 7 April, Eighth Air Force dispatched thirty-two B-17 and B-24 groups and fourteen Mustang groups (the sheer numbers of attacking Allied aircraft were so large in 1945 that they were now counted by the group) to targets in the small area of Germany still controlled by the Nazis, hitting the remaining airfields where the Luftwaffe jets were stationed. In addition, almost 300 German aircraft of all types were destroyed in strafing attacks. On 16 April, this record was broken when over 700 German aircraft were destroyed on the ground.

The end came on 25 April 1945 when Eighth Air Force flew its last full-scale mission of the European War. B-17s hit the Skoda armaments factory at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia, while B-24s bombed rail complexes surrounding Hitler's mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden.

Pacific Theater

Following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945 plans were made to transfer some of the B-17/B-24 heavy bomber groups of Eighth Air Force to the Pacific Theater of Operations and upgrade them to B-29 Superfortress Very Heavy (VH) bomb groups. As part of this plan, Eighth Air Force headquarters was reassigned to Sakugawa (Kadena Airfield), Okinawa, on 16 July 1945, being assigned to the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific without personnel or equipment.[9]

On Okinawa, Eighth Air Force derived its headquarters personnel from the inactivated XX Bomber Command, and Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle assumed command, being reassigned from England on 19 July. The command controlled three airfields on Okinawa, Bolo, Futema, and Kadena Airfield. The Eighth received its first B-29 Superfortress on 8 August 1945.[9]

Eighth Air Force's mission in the Pacific was initially to organize and train new bomber groups for combat against Japan. In the planned invasion of Japan, the mission of Eighth Air Force would be to conduct B-29 Superfortress raids from Okinawa in coordination with Twentieth Air Force operating from airfields in the Mariana Islands.[9]

Units assigned to Eighth Air Force in the Pacific were:

Ie Shima Airfield, Okinawa, 31 July – 29 November 1945
318th Fighter Group (P-47N Thunderbolt)
Ie Shima Airfield, Okinawa, 31 July – 29 November 1945
413th Fighter Group (P-47N Thunderbolt)
Ie Shima Airfield, Okinawa, 31 July – 29 November 1945
507th Fighter Group (P-47N Thunderbolt)
Ie Shima Airfield, Okinawa, 31 July – 29 January 1946
Kadena Airfield Okinawa, 5 September 1945 – 7 June 1946
22d Bombardment Group, (B-29 Superfortress)
Kadena Airfield Okinawa, 15 August – 23 November 1945
333d Bombardment Group, (B-29 Superfortress)
Kadena Airfield, Okinawa, 5 August 1945 – 28 May 1946
346th Bombardment Group, (B-29 Superfortress)
Kadena Airfield, Okinawa, 7 August 1945 – 30 June 1946
382d Bombardment Group, (B-29 Superfortress)
Northwest Field, Guam, 8 September – 16 December 1945
Note: Only 420th Bombardment Squadron of group arrived with B-29 Aircraft, 464th and 872d Bomb Squadrons only ground echelons arrived. Air Echelon of squadrons with assigned aircraft remained in United States until inactivation.
383d Bombardment Group, (B-29 Superfortress)
West Field, Tinian, 12 September – 19 December 1945

The atomic bombings of Japan led to the Japanese surrender before Eighth Air Force saw action in the Pacific theater. Eighth Air Force remained in Okinawa until 7 June 1946.

Strategic Air Command

Shield Strategic Air Command
Martin-Omaha B-29-40-MO Superfortress AF Ser. No. 44-27353 of the 509th Bomb Wing, Walker AFB, 1948. During World War II, when it was named The Great Artiste, 353 flew on both Atomic Bomb missions against Japan on 6 and 9 August 1945 as an instrument aircraft monitoring the nuclear explosions. On 3 September 1948, during a polar navigation training mission, it developed an engine problem after takeoff from Goose Bay Air Base, Labrador, and ran off the end of the runway when attempting to land. Heavily damaged, it never flew again, and was eventually scrapped at Goose Bay in September 1949, despite its historical significance.
1947 8th AF OC
8th Air Force organizational chart, 1947

World War II proved what the proponents of air power had been championing for the previous two decades—the great value of strategic forces in bombing an enemy's industrial complex and of tactical forces in controlling the skies above a battlefield. As a result, Eighth Air Force was incorporated into the new Strategic Air Command (SAC).

On 7 June 1946, Headquarters Eighth Air Force was reassigned without personnel or equipment from Okinawa to MacDill AAF, Florida, becoming SAC's second numbered air force. At MacDill, Eighth Air Force headquarters were manned chiefly by personnel from the 58th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, stationed at Fort Worth AAF, Texas. The organization reported administratively to the Fifteenth Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado. That base assignment lasted until 1 November 1946, when SAC transferred the Eighth to Fort Worth (later renamed Carswell AFB).

Bomb units

Both Davis-Monthan and Fort Worth Army Airfields were B-29 training bases during World War II, and the Eighth Air Force Bomb Groups were simply activated at the same field and on the same day as the original Army Air Force Continental Air Forces training bomb groups were inactivated. The assets of the former training units were simply assigned to Eighth Air Force. This was largely so that the Air Force could perpetuate the names of groups that had distinguished themselves in World War II.

These bomb wings were drastically undermanned and under equipped. At the close of 1946, they shared only a handful of operational bombers, all B-29 Superfortresses. Although there were many available which were returned from Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific Theater they were war-weary from the many long combat missions flown during the war. However, it was believed that a strong strategic air arm equipped with B-29s would deter a possible aggressor from attacking the United States for fear of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons.

By the late 1940s, the B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators used in the European Theater of the war were thoroughly obsolete as combat aircraft and were mostly sent to the smelters. A handful remained in service performing non-combat duties though the mid-1950s as air-sea rescue aircraft (SB-17, SB-24); photo-reconnaissance aircraft (RB-17, RB-24), and as unmanned target drones (QB-17) and their controllers (DB-17).

Initially, Eighth Air Force under SAC consisted of the following:

58th Bombardment Wing (later Air Division)
Reassigned from March Field, California 8 May 1946
Reassigned to Andrews AFB, Maryland 1 March 1948 (Inactivated 16 October 1948)
449th Bombardment Group
Reassigned from McCook AAF, Nebraska December 1945 (McCook AAF Closed)
Inactivated on 4 August 1946
7th Bombardment Group
Activated on 1 October 1946
7th Bombardment Wing established on 17 November 1947. 7th Bomb Group assigned as subordinate unit.

Personnel and equipment from the inactivated 449th Bomb Group were reassigned to the 7th Bomb Group (later 7th Bomb Wing). The command staff and all personnel of the 58th Bomb wing were eliminated on 1 November 1946 and the organization was reduced to a paper unit. For two years, the wing remained in this status until the 58th Bomb Wing was inactivated on 16 October 1948.

40th Bombardment Group
Reassigned from March Field, California, 8 May 1946
Inactivated on 1 October 1946
444th Bombardment Group
Reassigned from Merced AAF, California 6 May 1945
Inactivated on 1 October 1946
43rd Bombardment Group
Activated on 4 October 1946
43d Bombardment Wing established on 3 November 1947. 43d Bomb Group assigned as subordinate unit.

Personnel and equipment from the inactivated 40th and 444th Bomb Groups were reassigned to the 43d Bomb Group

509th Bombardment Group
Reassigned from North Field, Tinian on 8 November 1946
509th Bombardment Wing established on 3 November 1947. 509th Bombardment Group assigned as subordinate unit.

The Eighth Air Force was specifically charged with the atomic mission; however, only the 509th Composite Group at Roswell AAF had B-29s that had the capability to drop nuclear weapons - the 7th Bomb Group at Fort Worth AAF was modifying their aircraft to carry the atomic bomb.

  • Smoky Hill AAF (Later Smoky Hill Air Force Base), Kansas Transferred from Fifteenth Air Force, 16 May 1948
301st Bombardment Wing
Reassigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, 1 August 1949. Smoky Hill AFB Inactivated.
523d FES North American F-82E Twin Mustang 46-332
Strategic Air Command 8th Air Force North American F-82E "Twin Mustangs" of the 27th Fighter Wing on the flightline of Kearney Air Force Base, Nebraska, 1948. Serials 46-322 and 46-332 are identifiable.
Republic P-47N-5 three ship formation 061020-F-1234P-037
Three ship formation of Republic P-47N Thunderbolts

From 1946 through 1949, what little money became available was used to buy new planes (B-50 Superfortress, B-36 Peacemaker) for SAC, and as the newer aircraft became available, the older B-29s were sent to storage depots or sent to Air Force Reserve units for training missions.

Fighter units

SAC was founded by the men who fought in World War II, who knew the importance of fighter escorts. In its early days, SAC had fighter wings for the escorting its aircraft equipped with the new F-82E Twin Mustang along with long range F-51H Mustangs and F-47N Thunderbolts, all of which were designed late in World War II for use in the planned invasion of Japan. SAC fighter wings assigned to Eighth Air Force were:

  • 27th Fighter Wing (F-82E Twin Mustang)
Activated at Kearney AFB, Nebraska on 27 July 1947
Reassigned to Bergstrom AFB, Texas on 16 March 1949 (Base Closed)
  • 31st Fighter Wing (F-47N Thunderbolt)
Activated at Turner AFB, Georgia on 25 June 1947
Inactivated on 16 June 1952
Attached to 509th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, Walker AFB, New Mexico 17 November 1947
Reassigned to Otis AFB, Massachusetts, 15 November 1948
  • 82d Fighter Wing (F-51D Mustang)
Activated at Grenier AFB, New Hampshire on 12 April 1947
Inactivated 2 October 1949

Fighter escorts were no longer needed once SAC was equipped with Boeing B-47 Stratojet and then Boeing B-52 Stratofortress jet bombers carrying nuclear bombs. As the nuclear weapons carried by the bombers were so powerful that only one plane was assigned to a target that might have previously needed a whole bomb group of aircraft. Although SAC fighter squadrons upgraded to Republic F-84F Thunderstreak jet fighters in the early 1950s, the new jet bombers flew so high and so fast there was little danger of them being intercepted by enemy fighters. By 1955, SAC no longer needed its fighters and these fighter units were transferred to Tactical Air Command and utilized in a tactical role.

In 1949, a realignment of responsibilities for SAC's two air forces occurred. Fifteenth Air Force was relocated to March AFB, California. As part of this realignment, most SAC bomber forces west of the Mississippi River were reassigned to 15th AF. Those east of the Mississippi were assigned to SAC's other strategic air force, Eighth Air Force, which was reassigned to Westover AFB, Massachusetts, where it commanded all SAC bases in the eastern United States.

Several events in the late 1940s reversed the drawdown of United States strategic forces. The 1948 blockade of West Berlin by the Eastern bloc and the outbreak of the Cold War caused the United States to deploy SAC's B-29 bomber force back to the United Kingdom and West Germany. Communist victories in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 meant that the United States would have to expand SAC to address these potential threats both in Europe as well as Asia.

By the time of the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Eighth Air Force consisted of the following units:

7th Bombardment Wing (B-36 Peacekeeper)
11th Bombardment Wing (inactive)
97th Bombardment Wing (B-29 Superfortress)
43d Bombardment Wing (B-29, B-50 Superfortress)
28th Bombardment Wing (B-36 Peacekeeper)
6th Bombardment Wing (B-36 Peacekeeper)
509th Bombardment Wing (B-29, B-50 Superfortress)
2d Bombardment Wing (B-29, KB-50 Superfortress)
27th Fighter-Escort Wing (F-84 Thunderstreak)

Korean War

On 25 June 1950, the armed forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded South Korea. On 27 June, the United Nations Security Council voted to assist the South Koreans in resisting the invasion. Although Eighth Air Force's strategic bomber force was not committed to combat in Korea, the Eighth deployed the 27th Fighter Escort Wing for combat action in Korea and earned numerous honors and awards for their combat record during the Korean War.

On 21 January 1951, Lt. Col. William Bertram, commander of the 523rd Fighter-Escort Squadron, shot down the first MiG-15 for the wing and became the first F-84 pilot with a confirmed MiG kill. Two days later, on 23 January, the 27th FEW participated in the raid on Sinuju Airfield in North Korea and shot down four more MiG-15s. By the time the group rotated back to the United States, they had flown more than 23,000 combat hours in more than 12,000 sorties.

For its Korean War service, the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing received the Distinguished Unit Citation, covering the period of 26 January through 21 April 1951, for their actions in Korea.

The 27th was relieved of its duties supporting U.N. forces in Korea and returned to Bergstrom AFB on 31 July 1951, but was redeployed to Misawa AB, Japan during 6 October 1952 – 13 February 1953 to provide air defense.

Cold War

Eighth Air Force Boeing B-47E-50-LM (S/N 52-3363) in flight
Eighth Air Force Boeing B-52D-70-BO (S/N 56-0582) being refueled by Boeing KC-135A-BN (S/N 55-3127)

With the end of fighting in Korea, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a "new look" at national defense. The result: a greater reliance on nuclear weapons and air power to deter war. His administration chose to invest in the Air Force, especially Strategic Air Command. The nuclear arms race shifted into high gear. The Air Force retired nearly all of its piston-engined B-29/B-50s and they were replaced by new Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft. By 1955 the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress would be entering the inventory in substantial numbers, as prop B-36s were phased out of heavy bombardment units rapidly.

Also after the deployment of forces to Far East Air Force to engage in combat over Korea, the history of Eighth Air Force becomes indistinguishable from that of Strategic Air Command. The Eighth's weapons inventory also changed to include KC-135 air refuelers and intercontinental ballistic missiles (the Atlas, Titan I and Titan II, and all Minuteman models.)

At the same time, aerial refueling techniques were improved to the extent that Eighth Air Force bombers could still reach targets in Europe and Asia even if overseas bases were destroyed by an enemy attack. To reduce the risk to its bomber fleet in the United States, Eighth Air Force aircraft stood nuclear alert, providing a deterrent against an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. It dispersed its planes to a large number of bases across the United States so as not to have too many concentrated at a single location.

Vietnam War

In 1965, Eighth Air Force entered combat again, this time in Southeast Asia. At first, the Eighth deployed its B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker units from the U.S. to operating bases in Guam, Okinawa and Thailand. Then in April 1970, SAC moved the Eighth without personnel or equipment to Andersen AFB Guam, absorbing resources of the 3d Air Division. At Anderson, the Eighth took over the direction of all bombing and refueling operations in Southeast Asia. The intensive bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong during 11 days in December 1972, known as Operation Linebacker II, was but one highlight of those war years. Importantly, the Eighth's bombing effectiveness influenced the North Vietnamese to end hostilities. With the end of combat in Southeast Asia, the Eighth Air Force moved without personnel or equipment to Barksdale AFB Louisiana on 1 January 1975, absorbing the resources of Second Air Force.

In the 1980s, the Eighth participated in several key operations such as running the tanker task force for Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 and directing all air refueling operations for Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986 and Operation Just Cause in 1989.

Operations over Iraq

The Eighth's units played a key role in the 42-day Gulf War in 1991. An Eighth Air Force unit, the 2d Bomb Wing, spearheaded the air campaign by dispatching B-52s from Barksdale to launch conventional air-launched cruise missiles against Iraqi targets. Eighth Air Force bomb wings, stationed in the Persian Gulf region, also attacked Iraq's Republican Guard forces and numerous key strategic targets, while other units provided air refueling and tactical reconnaissance throughout the conflict. As a headquarters, the Eighth had another important role in victory over Iraqi forces—operating the logistics supply and air refueling bridge between the U.S. and gulf region.

History from June 1992

Air Combat Command

Fifteen months after Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force reorganized. Eighth Air Force was relieved from assignment to Strategic Air Command and assigned to the new Air Combat Command (ACC) on 1 June 1992.

Under ACC, Eighth Air Force provides command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C2ISR); long-range attack; and information operations forces to Air Force components and warfighting commands. Eighth Air Force trains, tests, exercises and demonstrates combat-ready forces for rapid employment worldwide.

Eighth Air Force also provides conventional forces to U.S. Joint Forces Command and provides nuclear capable bombers, specified Global Strike assets, and C2ISR capabilities to U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Eighth Air Force also supports STRATCOM's Joint Force Headquarters – Information Operations and serves as the command element for Air Force wide computer network operations.

Under ACC, the Eighth received control over active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard units in the central U.S. and two overseas locations. Then in January 1994, ACC reorganized Eighth Air Force as a general purpose Numbered Air Force (NAF) with a warfighting mission to support the U.S. Joint Forces and U.S. Strategic Commands. Support to the latter command included the operation of Task Force 204 (bombers).

Since 1994, the Eighth has participated in a string of contingency operations, such as the 1996 Operation "Desert Strike" against Iraq, the 1998 Operation "Desert Fox" (similarly named but in no way associated with Field Marshal Erwin Rommel) against Iraq, which featured the B-1B in its combat debut, and 1999 Operation "Allied Force" against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which involved the B-2A Spirit in its first uncontested mission of aggression, which was officially designated "combat". The "Allied Force" campaign also marked the Eighth's return to Europe and the participation of U.S. bombers in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) first combat operation. Altogether, the Eighth's bombers flew 325 sorties to drop over 7 million pounds of ordnance on a nation slightly smaller than the state of Colorado.

In 2000, the Air Force decided to integrate information operations into Eighth Air Force. The integration process started on 1 February 2001, when the Air Force realigned the Air Intelligence Agency (AIA) under ACC and assigned the 67th Information Operations Wing and the 70th Intelligence Wing to the Eighth. The reorganization transformed the Eighth into the only information operations and bomber NAF in the Air Force. For the Mighty Eighth, that change heralded an interesting future, one that bring further restructuring, different aircraft system purchases, and a new challenging mission to the NAF.

While posturing itself for that mission change, the Eighth also supported Operation "Enduring Freedom" in which the Air Force operates against targets in Afghanistan, and "NOBLE EAGLE" for the defense of North American airspace. Throughout the first six months of "ENDURING FREEDOM", the Mighty Eighth's bombers were instrumental in the eradication of many targets and opposing combatants in Afghanistan.

Air Force Global Strike Command

Air Force Global Strike Command

Under Air Force Global Strike Command since 1 Feb 2010, Eighth Air Force controls strategic bomber (e.g., B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, and B-1 Lancer) forces throughout the United States and overseas locations. Eighth Air Force carries out its warfighting missions under U.S. Strategic Command and the air component commands of the other regional Unified combatant commands. Eighth Air Force has five Regular Air Force bomb wings, two Air Reserve Total Force Integration bomb wings (one in Air Force Reserve Command and one in the Air National Guard), and one detachment in the continental United States.

Bomber wings of the 8th Air Force include:

2d Bomb Wing, B-52H
307th Bomb Wing, B-52H (AFRC)
7th Bomb Wing, B-1B
28th Bomb Wing, B-1B
5th Bomb Wing, B-52H
509th Bomb Wing, B-2A
131st Bomb Wing (Associate), B-2A (ANG)
576th Flight Test SquadronVandenberg Air Force Base, California
595th Command and Control Group - Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska[10]

Lineage, assignments, components, and stations


  • Constitued in the United States in mid-1942 as the 8th Air Force and redesignated the Eighth Air Force. Redesignated the USSTAF at which time the VIII Bomber Command was resesignated as Eighth Air Force and activated on 2 February 1944
Redesignated: Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic - Global Strike) on 3 June 2008.


Major components


  • VIII Air Force Composite Command: 22 Feb 1944 – 1 Feb 1945
  • VIII Air Force Service Command: 22 Feb 1944 – 16 Jul 1945
  • VIII Fighter Command: 22 Feb 1944 – 16 Jul 1945

Divisions during World War II

Emblem of the 1st Air Division
Nine-O-Nine, 91st BG/323rd BS B-17G, displaying 1st Combat Bomb Wing "Triangle-A" tail code
Operated the B-17F/G Flying Fortress with "Triangle" tail codes between 22 February 1944 and 16 July 1945
Headquartered at Brampton Grange, Brampton, Cambridgeshire
1st Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Bassingbourn (Call sign: Goonchild/Swordfish)
91st Bombardment Group (Triangle-A), RAF Bassingbourn
381st Bombardment Group (Triangle-L), RAF Ridgewell
398th Bombardment Group (Triangle-W), RAF Nuthampstead
482d Bombardment Group (No Tail Code), (B-17, B-24) RAF Alconbury
RADAR-equipped pathfinder group. Attached to: VIII Composite Command, 14 Feb 1944 – 1 Jan 1945
40th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Thurleigh (Call sign: Bullpen/Foxhole)
92d Bombardment Group (Triangle-B), RAF Podington
305th Bombardment Group (Triangle-G), RAF Chelveston
306th Bombardment Group (Triangle-H), RAF Thurleigh
41st Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Molesworth (Call sign: Fatgal/Cowboy)
303d Bombardment Group (Triangle-C), RAF Molesworth
379th Bombardment Group (Triangle-K), RAF Kimbolton
384th Bombardment Group (Triangle-P), RAF Grafton Underwood
94th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Polebrook (Call sign: Ragweed/Woodcraft)
351st Bombardment Group (Triangle-J), RAF Polebrook
401st Bombardment Group (Triangle-S), RAF Deenethorpe
457th Bombardment Group (Triangle-U), RAF Glatton
67th Fighter Wing, Walcot Hall, Northamptonshire (Attached from VIII Fighter Command) (P-51D/K Mustang) (Call sign: Mohair)
20th Fighter Group, RAF Kings Cliffe
352d Fighter Group, RAF Bodney
356th Fighter Group, RAF Martlesham Heath
359th Fighter Group, RAF East Wretham
364th Fighter Group, RAF Honington
1st Scouting Force, (Attached to: 364th FG), RAF Honington
Emblem of the 2d Air Division
448th BG/713th BS Ford B-24H-25-FO Liberator 42-95185 "Do Bunny". This aircraft was shot down by a Me 262 on 25 March 1945 over Soltau, Germany
Operated B-24D/H/J/L/M Liberator with "Circle" tail codes until early February, 1944. Later designation was by various color vertical tail fins with contrasting horizontal, vertical, or diagonal stripes designating a specific bomb group between 22 February 1944 and 25 June 1945
Headquartered at Ketteringham Hall[11] Norwich, Norfolk
2d Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Hethel (Call sign: Winston/Bourbon)
389th Bombardment Group (Circle-C, Black/White Vertical ), RAF Hethel
445th Bombardment Group (Circle-F, Black/White Horizontal[12]), RAF Tibenham
453d Bombardment Group (Circle-J, Black/White Diagonal), RAF Old Buckenham
14th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Shipdham (Call sign: Hambone/Hardtack)
44th Bombardment Group (Circle-A), RAF Shipdham
392d Bombardment Group (Circle-D), RAF Wendling
491st Bombardment Group (Circle-Z), RAF North Pickenham (Aug 1944 – 16 Jul 1945)
492d Bombardment Group (Circle-U), RAF Harrington
20th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Hardwick (Call sign: Pinestreet/Bigbear)
93d Bombardment Group (Circle-B), RAF Hardwick
446th Bombardment Group (Circle-H), RAF Bungay
448th Bombardment Group (Circle-I), RAF Seething
489th Bombardment Group (Circle-W), RAF Halesworth (Aug 1944 – 16 Jul 1945)
95th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Halesworth (May–Aug 1944) (Call sign: Shamrock)
489th Bombardment Group (Circle-W), RAF Halesworth
491st Bombardment Group (Circle-Z), RAF North Pickenham
96th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Horsham St Faith (Call sign: Redstar/Lincoln)
458th Bombardment Group (Circle-K), RAF Horsham St. Faith
466th Bombardment Group (Circle-L), RAF Attlebridge
467th Bombardment Group (Circle-P), RAF Rackheath
65th Fighter Wing (Attached from VIII Fighter Command), Saffron Walden (P-51D/K Mustang) (Call sign: Colgate)
4th Fighter Group, RAF Debden
56th Fighter Group, RAF Boxted (P-47D Thunderbolt)
355th Fighter Group, RAF Steeple Morden
361st Fighter Group, RAF Bottisham then RAF Little Walden
2d Scouting Force, (Attached to: 355th FG), RAF Steeple Morden
Emblem of the 3d Air Division
B-17G-70-BO Fortress Serial 43-37683 in England, WW2
Boeing B-17G-70-BO Fortress AAF Serial No. 43-37683 of the 96th BG/339th BS


Operated B-17F/G Flying Fortress with Square tail codes between 22 February 1944 and 16 July 1945
Headquartered at RAF Honington, Thetford, Norfolk
4th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Bury St Edmunds (Call sign: Franklin/Hotshot)
Redesignated from: 92d Combat Bombardment Wing, 22 November 1944
Redesignated from: 4th Bombardment Wing (Provisional), 16 February 1945
94th Bombardment Group (Square-A), RAF Bury St. Edmunds
447th Bombardment Group (Square-K), RAF Rattlesden
486th Bombardment Group (Square-O/W), RAF Sudbury
(Converted from B-24s to B-17s, Summer 1944)
487th Bombardment Group (Square-P), RAF Lavenham
(Converted from B-24s to B-17s, Summer 1944)
13th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Horham (Call sign: Zootsuit/Fireball)
95th Bombardment Group (Square-B), RAF Horham
100th Bombardment Group (Square-D), RAF Thorpe Abbotts
390th Bombardment Group (Square-J), RAF Framlingham
45th Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Snetterton Heath (Call sign: Zootsuit/Fireball)
96th Bombardment Group (Square-C), RAF Snetterton Heath
388th Bombardment Group (Square-H), RAF Knettishall
452d Bombardment Group (Square-L), RAF Deopham Green
93d Combat Bombardment Wing, RAF Mendlesham, (Call sign: Zootsuit/Fireball)
34th Bombardment Group (Square-S), RAF Mendlesham
(Converted from B-24s to B-17s, Summer 1944)
385th Bombardment Group (Square-G), RAF Great Ashfield
490th Bombardment Group (Square-T), RAF Eye
(Converted from B-24s to B-17s, Summer 1944)
493d Bombardment Group (Square-S), RAF Little Walden
(Converted from B-24s to B-17s, Summer 1944)
66th Fighter Wing, Sawston Hall, (Attached from VIII Fighter Command) (P-51D/K Mustang) (Call sign: Oilskin)
55th Fighter Group, RAF Wormingford
78th Fighter Group, RAF Duxford
339th Fighter Group, RAF Fowlmere
353d Fighter Group, RAF Raydon
357th Fighter Group, RAF Leiston
3d Scouting Force, (Attached to: 55th FG), RAF Wormingford
  • Special Groups: as of 1 Jan 1945
36th Bombardment Squadron, (B-24H/J)
Radar/Electronic-countermeasure operations: August 1944 – April 1945
RAF Cheddington

Divisions (Strategic Air Command)



Assigned directly to Eighth Air Force Headquarters, performed special operations (Operation Carpetbagger) missions.


  • 608th Air Operations Center (formerly 608th Air Operations Group and 608th Air and Space Operations Center), 1 Jan 1994 – present
  • Air Force Information Operations: 1 May 2007 – present


See also


  1. ^ a b "Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) (ACC)".
  2. ^ "8th Air Force > Home". www.8af.af.mil.
  3. ^ The Eighth Air Force's now commonly-accepted nickname, "The Mighty Eighth", derives from the title of British farmer and life-long Eighth Air Force historian Roger A. Freeman's seminal History of the U.S. 8th Army Air Force (Doubleday and Company, 1970).
  4. ^ Video: Allies Pierce Siegfried Line. Universal Newsreel. 1945. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Factsheets : Eighth Air Force". 8af.af.mil. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  6. ^ "B-1B Lancer".
  7. ^ "Account Suspended". www.usaaf.net. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009.
  8. ^ "Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces - May 1944". usaaf.net. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "USAF Historical Research Agency Document 00219137".
  10. ^ "E-4Bs realign under 8th Air Force, 595th CACG stands up".
  11. ^ "Headquarters". 2nd Air Division Memorial Library. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  12. ^ Simpson, Michael. "History of the 445th Bomb Group, Revised Edition". Unit Historian. Self. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  13. ^ Blacke, Kinder (1 October 2009). "12 AF welcomes back 552 ACW". 552nd Air Control Wing Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "http://www.barksdale.af.mil/8af".


  • Anderson, Christopher J. The Men of the Mighty Eighth: The U.S. 8th Air Force, 1942–1945 (G.I. Series N°24). London : Greenhill, 2001.
  • Astor, Gerald. The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as told by the Men who Fought it. New York: D.I. Fine Books, 1997.
  • Bowman, Martin. 8th Air Force at War: Memories and Missions, England, 1942–1945. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1994.
  • Bowman, Martin. Castles in the Air: The Story of the Men from the US 8th Air Force. Walton-on-Thames, UK: Red Kite, 2000.
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Office of Air Force History, 1961, republished 1983.
  • Freeman, Roger A. and Winston G. Ramsey. Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. London: After the Battle, 1978. Republished 1992.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men and Machines – A History of the US 8th Air Force. 1970. ISBN 0-87938-638-X.
    • Revised as The Mighty Eighth: a History of the Units, Men and Machines of the Us 8th Air Force. Cassell & Co., 2000. ISBN 1-85409-035-6.
  • Freeman, Roger A. et al. The Mighty Eighth War Diary. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1981.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (Ed.) The Mighty Eighth in Art. London: Arms & Armour, 1995.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Mighty Eighth in Colour. London: Arms & Armour, 1991.
    • New Edition as The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. London: Cassell & Co., 2001.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Mighty Eighth War Diary. 1990. ISBN 0-87938-495-6.
  • Freeman, Roger A. Mighty Eighth War Manual. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1984.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Mighty Eighth: Warpaint and Heraldry. London: Arms & Armour, 1997.
  • Lambert, John W. The 8th Air Force: Victory and Sacrifice: A World War II Photo History. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-7643-2534-5.
  • McLachlan, Ian and Russell J. Zorn. Eighth Air Force Bomber Stories: Eye-Witness Accounts from American Airmen and British Civilians of the Perils of War. Yeovil, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1991.
  • McLaughlin, (Brigadier General) J. Kemp. The Mighty Eighth in World War II: A Memoir. Kentucky University Press, 2000.
  • Miller, Kent D. Fighter Units & Pilots of the 8th Air Force September 1942 – May 1945. Volume 1 Day-to-Day Operations – Fighter Group Histories. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7643-1241-3.
  • Miller, Kent D. and Nancy Thomas. Fighter Units & Pilots of the 8th Air Force September 1942 – May 1945. Volume 2 Aerial Victories – Ace Data. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7643-1242-1.
  • Ramsey, Winston G. [Editor]. Airfields of the Eighth. London: 1978.
  • Scutts, Jerry. Lion in the Sky: US 8th Air Force Fighter Operations, 1942–1945. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1987.
  • Smith, Graham. The Mighty Eighth in the Second World War. Newbury: Countryside Books, 2001.
  • Steijger, Cees. A History of USAFE. Voyageur, 1991. ISBN 1-85310-075-7.
  • Strong, Russell A. A Biographical Directory of the 8th Air Force, 1942–1945. Manhattan, Kansas: Military Affairs – Aerospace Historian, 1985.
  • Werrell, Kenneth P. & Robin Higham. Eighth Air Force Bibliography : An Extended Essay & Listing of Published & Unpublished Materials. Manhattan, Kansas: Military Affairs – Aerospace Historian, 1981 (Second Edition 1997, Strasburg, Pennsylvania: 8th Air Force Memorial Museum Foundation, 1997).
  • Woolnough, John H. (Ed.) The 8th Air Force Album: The Story of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in WW II. Hollywood, Florida: 8th AF News, 1978.
  • Woolnough, John H. (Ed.) The 8th Air Force Yearbook: The current Status of 8th AF Unit Associations, 1980. Hollywood, Florida: 8th AF News, 1981.
  • Woolnough, John H. (Ed.) Stories of the Eighth: An Anthology of the 8th Air Force in World War Two. Hollywood, Fla.: 8th AF News, 1983.

External links

1st Strategic Aerospace Division

The 1st Strategic Aerospace Division (1st STRAD) is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command, assigned to Fifteenth Air Force, being stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It was inactivated on 1 September 1991.

The division directed and supervised heavy bombardment (1943–1945) and fighter (1944–1945) operations during World War II within the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater.

Replacing the Eighth Air Force in Okinawa in June 1946, the division directed fighter reconnaissance and bomber organizations, and provided air defense for the Ryukyu Islands, Japan until December 1948.

From 1954 to 1955, the division served as a holding unit at Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, for personnel of Eighth Air Force, who moved to the base as part of a transfer of Eighth's headquarters from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas.

Activated again under the Air Research and Development Command in April 1957, it was the first division level organization controlling intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It became an operational component of Strategic Air Command (SAC) in January 1958 and began operational testing of missile systems, supporting missile launchings by SAC and other agencies, and training SAC missilemen. These missions continued until the final disbandment on 1 September 1991.

339th Fighter Group

The 339th Fighter Group was a unit of the United States Air Forces during World War II. It comprised the 503rd, 504th, and 505th Fighter Squadrons.

The group was an Eighth Air Force fighter unit stationed in England assigned to RAF Fowlmere. It had the highest claims of air and ground enemy aircraft victories in one year, and was the only group to claim over a hundred ground strafing victories on two occasions – 105 on 4 April 1945 and 118 on 16 April 1945. It was inactivated on 18 October 1945.

352nd Fighter Group

The 352nd Fighter Group was a unit of the Eighth Air Force that was located in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. The unit served as bomber escort, counter-air patrols, and attacking ground targets. It initially flew P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft before converting to P-51 Mustang in April 1944. The group was located at RAF Bodney in England for the majority of its service and were nicknamed the Blue-nosed Bastards of Bodney due to the distinctive blue of the nose and upper cowl of the P-51 Mustangs of the group.

356th Fighter Group

The 356th Fighter Group is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with the Army Service Forces, being stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. It was inactivated on 10 November 1945.

During World War II the group was an Eighth Air Force fighter unit stationed in England. Assigned to RAF Martlesham Heath in 1943. Despite excellent leadership had highest ratio of losses to enemy aircraft claims of all Eighth Air Force fighter groups. It earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for actions on 17, 18, and 23 September 1944 for support of Operation Market-Garden airborne forces in the Netherlands.

357th Fighter Group

The 357th Fighter Group was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. The 357th operated P-51 Mustang aircraft as part of the U.S. Eighth Air Force and its members were known unofficially as the Yoxford Boys after the village of Yoxford near their base in the UK. (Group tradition holds that the name was the invention of Lord Haw Haw in a broadcast greeting the night of its arrival at RAF Leiston.)

Its victory totals in air-to-air combat are the most of any P-51 group in the Eighth Air Force and third among all groups fighting in Europe.The 357th flew 313 combat missions between 11 February 1944 and 25 April 1945. It is officially credited by the U.S. Air Force with having destroyed 595.5 German airplanes in the air and 106.5 on the ground. The 357th existed as a USAAF unit only during World War II and its immediate aftermath. Its history, lineage and honors were bestowed on an Ohio Air National Guard group therefore the Ohio ANG considers itself a direct descendant of the 357th FG.

379th Expeditionary Operations Group

The 379th Expeditionary Operations Group (379 EOG) is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces Central. It is the flying component of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed at Al Udeid AB, Qatar.

During World War II, its predecessor unit, the 379th Bombardment Group was a VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress unit in England. Assigned to RAF Kimbolton in early 1943, the group flew more sorties than any other bomb group in the Eighth Air Force, and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other group. The combat record of the 379th was the most successful of all the Eighth Air Force heavy bomber groups, receiving two Distinguished Unit Citations.

The Group is the flying component of the 379th AEW, with more than 90 combat and support attached aircraft, including eight coalition airframes. Aircraft come from every US service, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

4083d Strategic Wing

The 4083d Strategic Wing (4083d SW) is a discontinued United States Air Force unit, that was stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland, where it was discontinued on 1 July 1959.

The 4083d SW was a non-flying ground service support element for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Eighth Air Force, based at Thule Air Base, Greenland. It was established on 1 April 1957 and inactivated on 1 July 1959. When activated, the wing assumed the resources (Manpower, Equipment, Weapons, & Facilities) of the 6607th Air Base Wing, which had originally been established on 1 January 1956. Throughout its existence it was controlled by Strategic Air Command. Eighth Air Force provided intermediate command and control from its establishment until its inactivation, being assigned to Thule AB during its entire existence.

The wing controlled operations at Thule when SAC took control of base from Northeast Air Command. The 4083d primarily providing support for aerial refueling KC-135s and transient alert for aircraft being sent to Thule on 90-day rotational deployments. Also operated base host facilities. Operated NORAD early warning RADAR network for United States and Canada. Redesignated 4083d Air Base Wing 1 July 1959, the inactivated on 1 July 1960 when Air Defense Command's683d Air Base group took over host responsibility at Thule.

467th Bombardment Group

The 467th Bombardment Group is an inactive United States Army Air Forces unit. Its last assignment was to the Strategic Air Command, being stationed at Clovis Army Airfield, New Mexico. It was inactivated on 4 August 1946.

During World War II, the group was an Eighth Air Force B-24 Liberator unit in England assigned to RAF Rackheath. The group set unsurpassed record for bombing accuracy on 15 April 1945, holding the record for bombing accuracy in the Eighth Air Force. They destroyed a German battery at Pointe de Grave, on the west coast of France and scored a 100 per cent strike. The group commander, Colonel Albert J. Shower, was the only group commander to stay with the same group from beginning to the end of the war. Returned to the United States in July 1945, converted to B-29 Superfortresses and trained for deployment to the Pacific Theater. Deployment to Okinawa cancelled with the end of the Pacific War in August 1945.

After training completed, assigned to Clovis AAF, New Mexico and was one of the original ten USAAF bombardment groups assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946. The group was inactivated on 4 August 1946 due to the Air Force's policy of retaining only low-numbered groups on active duty after the war, and its B-29 aircraft, personnel and equipment were reassigned to the senior 301st Bombardment Group at Smoky Hill Army Airfield, Kansas.

47th Air Division

The 47th Air Division is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. It was inactivated on 27 February 1987.

The unit's origins begin with its predecessor, the World War II 47th Bombardment Wing was part of Fifteenth Air Force. Although earmarked for Eighth Air Force, it served instead with the Twelfth, and later, Fifteenth Air Forces, first as a fighter wing, then as a medium bomb wing, and finally as a heavy bomb wing. In the 1942 early 1943 period many of its assigned components did not actually operate under wing control, while other components were temporarily attached. Its components supported the bombing of Pantelleria Island and the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and southern France in 1943–1944. Wing aircraft also flew missions to the Balkans, Austria, France, and Germany, with the Rumanian oil fields as primary targets from April–August 1944. The final mission on 25 April 1945 struck marshalling yards at Linz, Austria. It returned to the United States in May 1945 to prepare for bombardment operations in the Pacific as a very heavy bombardment wing. On 7 September 1945, the wing became a paper unit and in mid Oct inactivated at Sioux City, Iowa.

Reactivated an intermediate command echelon of Strategic Air Command in June 1952, the 47th Air Division served as an intermediate echelon between Strategic Air Command's Eighth Air Force and operational units in the field. From April 1955 to March 1970, it filled the same role for the Fifteenth Air Force and from March 1970 to July 1971, for the Second Air Force. In July 1971 the 47th returned to Fifteenth Air Force control where it continued to supervise subordinate unit training and other activities.

The eruption of Mount St Helens in the state of Washington in May 1980 seriously affected division operations. Aircraft were dispersed to various bases while around the clock shifts removed the volcanic ash. The division as inactivated in February 1987 as a result of budget restraints.

496th Fighter Training Group

The 496th Fighter Training Group (FTG) was a United States Army Air Forces unit, serving with the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom during World War II. Activated in December 1943, the unit trained replacement pilots on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and later the North American P-51 Mustang. In October 1944 its training mission was ended when the Eighth Air Force decided to instead train pilots in operational training units that were part of combat fighter groups. For the remainder of its service, the group provided support services for units at RAF Halesworth, including an air-sea rescue squadron. The group was inactivated in April 1945; its attached units were directly subordinated to the 65th Fighter Wing and remaining personnel transferred to an air service squadron.

Air Force Global Strike Command

Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) is a Major Command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. AFGSC provides combat-ready forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations in support of combatant commanders. It is subordinated to the USSTRATCOM.

Air Force Global Strike Command is the direct descendant unit of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command (SAC). It holds the lineage, history and honors of SAC.

List of USAF Bomb Wings and Wings assigned to Strategic Air Command

List of USAF Bomb Wings and Wings assigned to the Strategic Air Command and brief information of the unit; including unit nickname, lineage, reassignments, aircraft assignments, and link to main Wikipedia articles for that unit.

List of USAF Fighter Wings assigned to Strategic Air Command

This is a list of United States Air Force fighter wings assigned to Strategic Air Command.

List of USAF Strategic Wings assigned to the Strategic Air Command

During the tremendous U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) expansion of the early and mid-fifties, bases become overcrowded, with some of them supporting as many as 90 B-47s and 40 KC-97s. The first B-52 wings were also extremely large - composed of 45 bombers and 15 or 20 KC-135s, all situated on one base. As the Soviet missile threat became more pronounced and warning time became less, SAC bases presented increasingly attractive targets. It was necessary to break up these large concentrations of aircraft and scatter them throughout more bases. Several KC-97 squadrons were separated from their parent B-47 wings and relocated to northern bases. The B-47 dispersal program was a long range one and would be affected primarily through the phase out of wings in the late fifties and early sixties.

With the B-52 force, which was still growing, dispersal became an active program in 1958. Basically the B-52 dispersal program called for larger B-52 wings already in existence to be broken up into three equal-sized wings of 15 aircraft each, with two of them being relocated, normally to bases of other commands. In essence, each dispersed B-52 squadron became a strategic wing. This principle would also be followed in organizing and equipping the remained of the B-52 force. Headquarters USAF established the entire force at 42 squadrons in 1958. Ideally, each B-52 wing would have an air refueling squadron of 10 or 15 aircraft.

By the end of 1958, SAC had activated 14 strategic wings, but only three had aircraft assigned. The others were in various stages of development, with some having only a headquarters and one officer and one airman authorized.”.

RAF Aldermaston

Royal Air Force Aldermaston or more simply RAF Aldermaston is a former Royal Air Force station located 8 miles (13 km) east of Newbury, Berkshire and 9.8 miles (15.8 km) southwest of Reading, Berkshire, England.

Originally built as an RAF Bomber Command airfield during 1941-1942, Aldermaston was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces in August 1942. Placed under the jurisdiction of Eighth Air Force, it was home to several Douglas C-47 Skytrain Troop Carrier Groups. It was transferred to Ninth Air Force in 1943 primarily as a Troop Carrier Command base. Returned to RAF Control at the end of 1945, it was used by Technical Training Command before being placed on Care and Maintenance. In 1946, it was transferred to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and used by BOAC aircraft for training.Also used by the Ministry of Aircraft Production for Supermarine Spitfire assembly and flight testing, the airfield closed in 1950 and the site became home of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (later the Atomic Weapons Establishment) from 1950.

RAF Knettishall

RAF Knettishall is a former World War II airfield in Suffolk. It was numbered as Station 136 by the United States Army Air Forces while home to the 388th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945.

United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe

For the current active command, see United States Air Forces in Europe

The United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) was a formation of the United States Army Air Forces. It became the overall command and control authority of the United States Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II.

USSTAF had started as the Eighth Air Force, a complementary command to that of the smaller Ninth Air Force, Twelfth Air Force, and Fifteenth Air Forces. As the oldest command, which had begun the earliest American operations in Europe as VIII Bomber Command, the Eighth had provided British liaison and strategic tasking guidance to each of those younger organizations throughout the war.

With the in-depth Allied contacts and overall responsibility directly affecting the strategic bombing of industrial regions of Germany the Eighth's planning and intelligence staffs were the natural best choice to assert overall coordinated control with the D-Day Operation Overlord needs of the Allies, under General Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander. Subsequently, the strategic bombing effort's intelligence, targeting and planning, co-ordination, including mission designation command and control were separated—not without controversy and opposition—from actual operations commands in direct control of air forces on 23 February 1944. The new command was organized on the large nucleus of Eighth Air Force planning staff members, thereby creating the USSTAF—at which time the USSTAF was also given mission planning control over other US Air Forces opposing Germany and Italy, and shrinking the man-power assigned to the Eighth Air Force.

The USSTAF was established with the redesignation of the former VIII Bomber Command as the Eighth Air Force on 22 February 1944. The strategic planning command staff of what had formerly been the Eighth Air Force became a higher echelon command coordinating with the British in the target prioritization of the strategic bombing of the Axis. In this expanded role, USSTAF exercised operational control of the reorganized Eighth Air Force, administrative control of the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations and, to an extent, the operations of Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations—all of which had theretofore carried out their own strategic planning. VIII Fighter Command was brought under the command of the newly redesignated Eighth Air Force, while VIII Bomber Command was inactivated.

Beginning in March 1944, Air Service Command, USSTAF progressively took over all base service functions. IX Air Force Service Command did away with its base air depot area and on 17 May transferred its most important installations (Baverstock and Filton) to ASC, USSTAF, which continued to use them to provide base services for the Ninth.

VIII Air Support Command

The VIII Air Support Command is an inactive United States Army Air Forces unit. Its last assignment was with Eighth Air Force, stationed at Sunninghill, Berkshire, England. It was inactivated on 1 December 1943.

VIII Air Support Command engaged in training, with one reconnaissance and one troop carrier group assigned, until July 1943. Afterward, carried out medium bombardment operations against the enemy on the Continent until October 1943 when all components and personnel were withdrawn from the command

The command was inactivated and its units reassigned to other Eighth and Ninth Air Force units on 1 December 1943.

VIII Fighter Command

The VIII Fighter Command was a United States Army Air Forces unit of command above the Wings and below the numbered air force. Its primary mission was command and control of fighter operations within the Eighth Air Force. In the World War II European Theater, its primary mission was air superiority. Its last assignment was with the United States Air Forces in Europe, being stationed at RAF Honington,

It was formed at Selfridge Field, Michigan in February 1942. In May, the headquarters moved to England to conduct combat operations over Occupied Europe. After the end of the European War in May 1945, VIII Fighter Command took part in the occupation of Germany until May 1946 while simultaneously coordinating its own demobilization. It inactivated in March 1946 at RAF Honington, the last Royal Air Force station used by the USAAF to be returned to the British Air Ministry.

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