History of the Strategic Air Command
Page 2 - The Start-Up
During World War II, the United States Army divided it's Air Corps into
numbered air forces. In 1944, many of them were fighting in various
parts of the world, such as the 8th Air Force in Europe and the 20th Air
Forces in the Pacific. They were supported by four numbered air forces
located within the United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or
"ZI".) They were the First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Forces.
On December 13, 1944, all were placed under the unified command of the
Continental Air Forces. I
t's headquarters were at Bolling Field, only a
few minutes from downtown Washington. The Continental Air Forces
would later evolve into the Strategic Air Command.
| Germany surrendered on _____ , followed
by the Japanese on August ___, 1945. World War II was over and
Americans basked in their nation's great victory. There were no
apparent enemies on the horizon so the United States began dismembering
it's vast war machine. Soon hundreds of thousands of American soldiers,
sailors and airmen were heading home. The enormous number of
aircraft produced for the war presented special problems. Some
trainers and transport planes could be sold, but not too many as it would
flood the market and harm the aircraft industry. Certainly the
combat aircraft could not be sold as they could potentially be used to
start another war. In the Pacific, brand-new B-29s were destroyed
and bulldozed over cliffs, but most were returned to the states.
Toward the end of 1945, enormous fleets of war-weary aircraft began to
arrive from far-flung corners of the globe. By June of 1946, almost
34,000 aircraft had returned to the U.S.
The war had been expensive and had caused years
of deficit spending. The Truman Administration was determined to
balance the national budget. It seemed as if America's vast military
power was no longer needed, so appropriations were drastically
slashed. One unit after another was disbanded. The War Assets
Administration and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation were instructed
to arrange the disposal of almost ten billions dollars in aircraft.
Soon most of the planes were being scrapped and melted down into aluminum ingots.
The 509th Composite Group had dropped the two
atomic bombs on Japan and many regarded it as the nation's most important
strategic air unit. It was not spared. In January of 1946, it
was stationed Roswell AAB, New Mexico. Drastic cutbacks in manpower
and support had an enormous impact. It could barley keep
it's bombers in the air to maintain even minimal pilot proficiency.
The Strategic Air
Command is Born
| On March 21, 1946, the United States Army Air Forces underwent a
drastic reorganization. It activated three combat commands: the
Strategic Air Command, the Tactical Air Command, and the Air Defense
Command. The Strategic Air Command was created through a
redesignation of the Continental Air Forces. The Bolling Field headquarters went
to SAC while the aircraft, men, bases and other resources were distributed
between the three commands; the majority of them went to SAC.
General George C. Kenny was named as SAC's first commanding officer.
He was then the Senior U.S. Military Representative on the Untied Nations
Military Staff Committee. He did not assume command
until October 15, 1946.
SAC's mission is best described by General Carl
Spaatz, Commanding General Army Air Forces.
|"be prepared to conduct long-range offensive
operations in any part of the world, either independently or in
co-operation with land and naval forces; to conduct maximum-range
reconnaissance over land or sea, either independently or in co-operation
with land and naval forces; to provide combat units capable of intense
and sustained combat operations employing the latest and most advanced
weapons; to train units and personnel of the maintenance of the
Strategic Forces in all parts of the world; to perform such special
missions as the Commanding General Army Air forces may direct."
| On March 31,
1946, only ten days after SAC was formed, the Second Air Force was
inactivated and replaced by the newly activated Fifteenth Air Force of
World War II fame. It brought into the newly formed Strategic Air
Command ten existing very heavy bombardment groups. Demobilization was in
full swing and few were fully equipped and manned. Eight would
soon be deactivated. Only two survived. The Groups are listed
on this page.
newly formed Strategic Air Command was ill-equipped to handle such an
ambitious mission. it had inherited the headquarters buildings
previously occupied by the Continental Air Forces at Bolling Field and
some of "operational assets" that had been assigned to
it. These included one numbered Air Force, the Second Air Force,
with headquarters at Colorado Springs, the 311th Reconnaissance Wing at
Buckley Field Colorado and a motley assorted of bomber and fighter groups,
most of which were more concerned with demobilization that with maintain
a combat-ready status.
Eighth Air Force
assigned to SAC
The Eighth Air Force distinguished itself in the European theater during
World War II. On July 16, 1945, it was relocated to Okinawa in
preparation for the final assault on Japan, but the war ended before it
saw action in that theater. It's groups had been recalled and in
many cases deactived. On June 7, 1946, Eight Air Force was relocated to MacDill Field,
Florida, but it was only moved on paper; it did not involve the moving
personnel and equipment.
At that time, it
was assigned to SAC, thus becoming it's second numbered air force.
However it reported administratively to the Fifteenth Air Force during
the fall of 1946. Eighth Air Force headquarters were manned
chiefly by personnel from the 58th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy,
stationed at Fort Worth.
During the fall of 1946, new bombardment groups
were activated and quickly distributed between the two numbered Air
Forces. On November 30, 1946, SAC had two numbered air forces and
nine bomb wings:
|Eighth Air Force
7th Bombardment Group. Transferred into SAC as part of 8th
Activated at Fort Worth AAFld on Oct 1, 1946. B-29s.
43rd Bombardment Group. Transferred into SAC as part
of 8th Air Force.
Activated at Davis-Monthan Field, on October 4, 1946. B-29s.
509th Bombardment Group. Transferred from 15th Air Force.
Roswell AAFld, New Mexico. B-29s.
Fifteenth Air Air Force
28th Bombardment Group. Reassigned from 8th Air
Activated at Grand Island AAFld, Nebraska on August 4, 1946.
92nd Bombardment Group. Reassigned from 8th Air Force.
Activated at Smoky Hill AAFld, on August 4, 1946.
93rd Bombardment Group. Retained from original 15th Air Force
Merced Field, California.
97th Bombardment Group. Transferred from 8th Air
Activated at Smoky Hill AAFld on August 4, 1946. Relocated to
biggs AFB, Texas on May 14, 1948.
301 Bombardment Group. Transferred from 8th Air Force.
Activated at Clovis AAFld, New Mexico on August 4, 1946 .
307 Bombardment Group. Reassigned from 8th Air Force.
Activated at MacDill AAFld, Florida on August 4, 1946.
| Many of these new 8th Air Force Bomb Groups
were activated at the same field and on the same day as the original
15th Air Force bomb groups were inactivated. In many cases the
assets of the earlier group were simply assigned to the newer one.
This was largely so that the Air Force could perpetuate the names of
groups that that had distinguished themselves in World War II.
These nine bomb wings were
drastically undermanned and under equipped. Only six had
aircraft. At the close of 1946, they shared only 148 bombers, all B-29s.
Virtually all were equipped to drop conventional bombs, as the United
States then had only nine a-bombs. SAC had other
resources, including reconnaissance, supply, fighter and administrative
units. There were 4,319 officers, 27,871 airmen and 4,902
civilians assigned to all of SAC.
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