Air Force

April 12, 2012

History of the Twelfth Air Force


AFSOUTH (Twelfth Air Force) provisional origins are traced back to a series of mid-1942 Allied planners’ meetings to develop a strategy for the North African invasion or “Operation TORCH.” Because this extensive operation required a new organization to provide enough manpower and equipment, Twelfth Air Force activation plans were prepared simultaneously with the invasion strategy.

On Aug. 20, 1942, Twelfth Air Force activated at Bolling Field, Maryland. On Sept. 23, 1942, Brigadier General Jimmy Doolittle formally assumed 12 AF command with Colonel Hoyt S. Vandenberg as chief of staff. Barely four months after it was conceived, 12 AF made its first contributions to World War II. When the North Africa invasion D Day arrived on Nov. 8, 1942, 12 AF was ready to meet its assigned missions.

Later, Twelfth Air Force saw action in Sicily, Italy, and Southern France. By VE Day, 12 AF had flown 430,681 sorties, dropped 217,156 tons of bombs, claimed destruction of 2,857 enemy aircraft, and lost 2,667 of its own aircraft.

When hostilities ended, Twelfth Air Force was inactivated at Florence, Italy, on Aug. 31, 1945. Twelfth Air Force was reactivated at March Field, Calif., on May 17, 1946, and assigned to Tactical Air Command with training responsibilities. In the late 1940s, following several assignments and inactivations, 12 AF reactivated on Jan. 21, 1951 at Wiesbaden, Germany, assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe. Twelfth Air Force became the first USAFE unit to be committed to NATO. Along with French and Canadian air units, 12 AF was part of the 4th Allied Tactical Air Forces charged with conducting NATO’s Allied Air Forces Central Europe aerial mission.

On Jan. 1, 1958, Twelfth Air Force relocated to Waco, Texas, and was assigned to Tactical Air Command. During 10 years at Waco its mission began to focus on training tactical air crews to a state of combat readiness capable of conducting joint air operations. In September 1968, Twelfth Air Force moved to Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas. During the war in Vietnam, the Twelfth was a primary source for tactical fighter, reconnaissance, and airlift forces in that theater.

In 1987, the Twelfth Air Force commander took on the United States Air Forces in Southern Command responsibility. As such, the Lt. Gen. manages all Air Force personnel and assets in the United States Southern Command area of responsibility–Central and South America. During the 1989 Operation JUST CAUSE, for example, 12 AF and other Air Force units deployed in support of U.S. forces, returning democracy to Panama. In 1994, 12 AF managed and orchestrated Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY’s air operations, the mission to restore Haitian democracy while at the same time supporting US Southern Command’s Operation SAFE HAVEN for Cuban refugees.

On July 13, 1993, Headquarters Twelfth Air Force officially moved from Bergstrom AFB to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. Since then, 12 AF personnel and units have participated in operations in many other parts of the world: SOUTHERN WATCH, PROVIDE COMFORT, DENY FLIGHT, PROVIDE PROMISE, RESTORE HOPE, and JOINT ENDEAVOR. During Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM 12 AF provided fighter and reconnaissance aircraft to support U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, AFSOUTH (Twelfth Air Force) provisional has worked closely with Caribbean, Central, and South American countries in the Global War on Terrorism. The command has supported efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. and neighboring counties. AFSOUTH (Twelfth Air Force) provisional has also provided forces to Operations ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan, IRAQI FREEDOM, and NOBLE GUARDIAN in the U.S. Today AFSOUTH (Twelfth Air Force) provisional directs 10 combat wings, one Direct Reporting Units, as well as 12 AF gained Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units. With a history stretching over 60 years, AFSOUTH (Twelfth Air Force) provisional stands ready, today and always.




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(U.S. Air Force Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

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