A Brief History of the USAAF|
Brigadier General James Allen of the United States Army Signal Corps authorized the formation of an Aeronautical Division in 1907, although this consisted almost entirely of balloons and airships. Overall control remained with the Signal Corps until 1918 when, later in that year, the president (Woodrow Wilson) ordered the establishment of a Division of Military Aeronautics. This became a tactical extension to the United States Army and was re-named the Army Air Corps in 1926. It wasn't until 1935 that the General Headquarters Air Force (GHQAF), under the command of Hap Arnold, was established as an air defence and tactical striking force. Fighter and Bombardment Units were separated in 1940. A re-formation of this organization, The Army Air Forces, came into existence in early 1942.
As in many other parts of the world since the end of World War I , great attention had been made to training the new air force. But, as in nearly all cases, little or no attention had been paid to either night operations or those conducted in poor visibility. The principal heavy bomber in use at this time was the Boeing B-17, later named the Flying Fortress. It was believed that the protective fire afforded by this heavily armed aircraft when flying in close formation would be sufficient to deter fighter attacks.Thus it was considered that a daylight strategic bombing role could be carried out over Europe.
The USAAF Arrives in the ETO
The first Bombardment Groups of the Eighth AAF arrived in Britain in the summer of 1942. Such was the faith in the defensive armament of B-17 that no plans had been made for escorting fighter cover. The mistake was realized too late as appalling losses were taken in early missions. By this time Bombardment Groups of B-24 Liberators had joined the strategic bombing force. RAF fighter cover was provided together with Defiants with "Moonshine" radar jamming equipment. However, the range of the fighter escort was insufficient for the selected targets in Germany. American Fighter Groups flying P-38s and P-47s fitted with external fuel tanks were established to provide cover, but it wasn't until the introduction of the P-51 long-range escort that adequate protection could be afforded.
Operations in Europe
The 8th Air Force
The 9th Air Force
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