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When The U.S. Army Air Forces Was Born

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When it comes to Washington, politics doesn’t change much. Just look at how the U.S. Army Air Forces was created 74 years ago.

At the time, Congress wanted to create an independent department of aeronautics. Rather than leave the planning to lawmakers, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson stepped in to create the U.S. Army Air Forces – what became an interim step toward the eventual U.S. Air Force in 1947.

Stimson told congressional leaders at the time the reorganization was needed for a “more workable method of developing air power,” Celeste W. Page, of Aviation Week’s predecessor American Aviation, reported at the time. Stimson’s plan established a headquarters, Air Combat Command, the Air Corps and other divisions.

By December, the Japanese launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and afterwards, the Army Air Forces undertook a massive buildup of aircraft under Gen. Henry (Hap) Arnold. At its height, the Army Air Forces had a fleet of 80,000 aircraft and 2.4 million personnel.

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