The U.S. Air Force was formally instituted as its own branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on Sept. 18, 1947. The military had been interested in aircraft long before this date, but the first permanent adoption of aircraft into the military took place on August 1, 1907 as the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, undergoing name changes and expansions as aircraft became more important to war efforts.Continue Reading
Although hot air balloons were helpful to the Union in the Civil War, no enduring air unit was formed until after the Wright brothers developed aircraft capable of heavier-than-air flight in 1903. Eventually, the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps contracted with the Wright brothers for an airplane built to military specifications, which was delivered in 1909. Congress created an Aviation Section for the Signal Corps in 1914.
By the time the United States entered World War I, however, the embattled nations possessed far superior air technology. Aviation played a much larger role in World War I than anticipated, so the U.S. Army Air Corps was created as a larger division within the U.S. Army.
After World War II broke out in Europe, the United States upgraded the Army Air Corps to the Army Air Forces, which was equal in terms of personnel and importance. The achievements of the numerous squadrons and divisions of the Army Air Forces during the war led to the creation of a permanent military branch dedicated to U.S. air superiority, which would see much use in the years that followed as the Cold War began ramping up.Learn more about Military