Air Force

September 1, 2017

The sky was never the limit

Courtesy photo
Avengers fly in formation September 1942 over Norfolk, Va.

For more than a century, the U.S. Air Force has defended this country in the air, space and cyberspace through the skill and the bravery of American Airmen.

• 1903 – 1911: The dawn of the new century witnessed man take to the air for the first time in a heavier-than-airspace powered aircraft conceived and flown by two Ohio bicycle salesmen. Their maiden flight on that cold, windy December day in 1903, and the subsequent decade of innovation that followed, would help put the U.S. on a course to become the most powerful, most advanced country in the world.

• 1912 – 1939: For centuries, war was reserved for the battlefields and the high seas. But when the war to end all wars broke out in Europe on July 28, 1914, the once-peaceful skies would quickly know the ravages of manned conflict. Soon, fixed-wing aircraft would be conducting ground attacks and taking part in aerial dogfights with the U.S. poised to take the lead.

• 1940 – 1945: The Second World War would draw over 30 countries and all the world’s superpowers into the deadliest conflict in human history. There was no battleground more vital to victory than the sky above. Beginning with Japan bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and ending with the U.S. dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese cities almost four years later, the skies became the ultimate high ground.

• 1946 – 1949: It was a time of relative peace, but not idle times. The lessons learned during the global conflict of WWII propelled the U.S. to push the envelope of what was possible both technologically and organizationally, including the separation of the Air Force into its own branch of the military. In the process, the U.S. became a leading superpower.

• 1950 – 1953: When war broke out between North and South Korea, the United States once again found itself thrust into an international conflict thousands of miles from home. Backed by China and the Soviet Union, North Korea was on the brink of victory when America entered the fray and turned the tide. The war ultimately ended in a stalemate, but the U.S. reconfirmed its role as a global military power.

• 1954 – 1964: The decade that separated the Korean and Vietnam wars bore witness to many achievements of the human spirit. Suddenly the skies were no longer high enough, as man began reaching for the stars. Airmen continued to test the boundaries of the human body by flying faster and higher and longer than anyone had ever traveled before.

• 1965 – 1973: The battle to halt the spread of communism drew the U.S. back to Southeast Asia once more and into a conflict unlike any other. Over the course of the campaign, the importance of air superiority and the use of new tactics and more sophisticated weapons systems would forever change the way wars are fought.

• 1974 – 1989: After nearly a decade of fighting an unpopular war overseas, the Air Force experienced an era of relative peace that saw new breakthroughs in technology and service. In the years that followed the Vietnam War, the many contributions by women and minorities in the Air Force were being recognized and new opportunities were being opened.

• 1990 – 1999: As the 20th century came to a close, the U.S. cemented its role as the most advanced Air Force in the world with its display of air power during the liberation of Kuwait, the activation of the GPS system and the launching of the first unmanned aerial vehicle, which would once again change the way battles are fought from the skies.

• 2000 – Present: Shortly after the world celebrated the birth of a new century, the U.S. would be plunged into its longest war ever after it was attacked on September 11, 2001. The war on terror would be an ongoing conflict against an enemy without traditional borders and see the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles as a dominant player in the Air Force’s air attack.

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