AF History Fact Sheets
THE ARMY AIR CORPS TO WORLD WAR II|
Printable Fact Sheet
July 2, 1926. U.S. Army Air Corps is organized.
Feb. 15, 1928. President Coolidge signs a bill authorizing acceptance of a new site near San Antonio, Texas, to become the Army Air Corps training center. This center is now Randolph AFB.
March 1-9, 1928. USAAC Lt. Burnie R. Dallas and Beckwith Havens make the first transcontinental flight in an amphibious airplane. Total flight time in the Loening Amphibian is 32 hours, 45 minutes.
May 12, 1928. Lt. Julian S. Dexter of the Air Corps Reserve completes a 3,000-square-mile aerial mapping assignment over the Florida Everglades. The project takes 65 hours of flying, spread over two months.
June 15, 1928. Lts. Karl S. Axtater and Edward H. White, flying in an Air Corps blimp directly over an Illinois Central train, dip down and hand a mailbag to the postal clerk on the train, thus completing the first airplane-to-train transfer.
Jan. 1-7, 1929. Question Mark, A Fokker C-2 commanded by Maj. Carl. A. "Tooey" Spaatz and including Capt. Ira C. Eaker and Lt. Elwood R. Quesada among its crew, sets an endurance record for a refueled aircraft of 150 hours, 45 minutes, 14, seconds.
Sept. 24, 1929. Lt. James H. Doolittle makes the first blind, all-instrument flight.
April 12, 1930. Led by Capt. Hugh Elmendorf, 19 pilots of the 95th Pursuit Squadron set an unofficial world record for altitude formation flying over Mather Field, Calif. The P-12 pilots reach 30,000 feet, shattering the old record of 17,000 feet.
Feb. 19, 1934. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues an Executive Order canceling existing air-mail contracts because of fraud and collusion. The Army Air Corps is designated to take over airmail operations.
June 18, 1934. Boeing begins company-funded design work on the Model 299, which will become the B-17.
April 12, 1937. Frank Whittle bench-tests the first practical jet engine in laboratories at Cambridge University, England.
Oct. 15, 1937. The Boeing XB-15 makes its first flight at Boeing Field in Seattle Wash., under the control of test pilot Eddie Allen.
Feb. 17, 1938. Six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert Olds., leave Miami, Fla., on a goodwill flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The return trip to Langley Field, Va., is the longest nonstop flight in Air Corps history.
Sept. 29, 1938. Brig. Gen. H.H. "Hap" Arnold is named Chief of the Army Air Corps, succeeding Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover, who was killed in a plane crash September 21.
Oct. 14, 1938. Company test pilot Edward Elliott makes the first flight of the Curtiss XP-40 at Buffalo, N.Y. Almost 14,000 P-40s will be built before production ends in 1944.
April 3, 1939. President Roosevelt signs the National Defense Act of 1940, which authorizes a $300 million budget and 6,000 airplanes for the Army Air Corps and increases AAC personnel to 3,203 officers and 45,000 enlisted troops.
Dec. 29, 1939. The prototype Consolidated XB-24 Liberator makes a 17-minute first flight from Lindbergh Field in San Diego, Calif., with company pilot Bill Wheatley at the controls. More than 18,100 B-24s will be built in the next five and a half years, the largest military production run in U.S. history.
Oct. 8, 1940. The Royal Air Force announces formation of the first Eagle Squadron, A Fighter Command unit to consist of volunteer pilots from the United States.
June 20, 1941. U.S. Army Air Forces established.
Dec. 1, 1941. Civil Air Patrol established.
Dec. 7, 1941. Imperial Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor..
Dec. 16, 1941. Lt. Boyd "Buzz" Wagner becomes the first American USAAF ace of World War II by shooting down his fifth Japanese plane over the Philippines.
Dec. 20, 1941. The American Volunteer Group (Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers), in action over Kunming, China, enters combat for the first time.
April 18, 1942. Sixteen North American B-25s commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, take off from USS Hornet (CV-8) and bomb Tokyo.
July 4, 1942. The first Army Air Force bomber mission over western Europe in World War II is flown by B 17s of the 97th Bombardment Group against the Rouen-Sotteville Railyards in France.
Dec. 4, 1942. Ninth Air Force B-24 Liberator crews, based in Egypt, bomb Naples--the first American attacks in Italy.
Dec. 9, 1942. The U.S. Army is reorganized into three autonomous forces: Army Air Forces, Ground Forces and Services of Supply.
Jan. 5, 1943. Army Air Forces Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz is appointed commander in chief of the Allied Air Forces in North Africa.
Jan. 9, 1943. The Lockheed C-69 transport (a military version of the Model 49 Constellation) makes its first flight at Burbank, Calif.
Jan. 27, 1943. The first American air raid on Germany is made by Eighth Air Force B-17 crews against Wilhelmshaven and other targets in the northeastern part of the country.
Feb. 15, 1943. It is announced that Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker will succeed Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz as commander of USAAF's Eighth Air Force.
March 10, 1943. Fourteenth Air Force is formed under the command of Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault.
March 19, 1943. Lt. Gen. H.H. Arnold is promoted to four-star rank, a first for the Army Air Forces.
April 18, 1943. P-38 pilots from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, intercept and shoot down two Mitsubishi "Betty" bombers over Bougainville. The Aerial ambush kills Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the Pearl Harbor attack.
June 15, 1943. The 58th Bombardment Wing, the Army Air Forces' first B-29 unit, is established at Marietta, Ga. Also on this day, the world's first operational jet bomber, the German Arado Ar-234V-1 Blitz, makes its first flight.
July 19, 1943. Rome is bombed for the first time. Flying from Benghazi, Libya, 158 B-17 crews and 112 B 24 crews carry out a morning raid. A second attack is staged in the afternoon.
Aug. 1, 1943. Staging from Benghazi, 177 Ninth Air Force B-24s drop 311 tons of bombs from low level on the ail refineries at Ploesti, Romania, during Operation Tidal Wave. Forty-nine aircraft are lost, and seven others land in Turkey. This is the first large-scale, minimum altitude attack by AAF heavy bombers on a strongly defended target. It is also the longest major bombing mission to date in terms of distance from base to target.
Aug. 17, 1943. Eight Air Force bombers attack the Messerschmitt works at Regensburg, Germany, and ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt in a massive daylight raid. German fighters down 60 of the 376 American aircraft.
Sept. 27, 1943. P-47s with belly tanks go the whole distance with Eighth Air Force bombers for a raid on Emden, Germany.
Oct. 14, 1943. Eighth Air Force conducts the second raid on the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, Germany. As a result, the Germans will disperse their ball-bearing manufacturing, but the cost of the raid is high; 60 of the 291 B-17s launched do not return, 138 more are damaged.
Dec. 5, 1943. P-51 pilots begin escorting U.S. bombers to European targets. Ninth Air Force begins Operation Crossbow raids, against German bases where secret weapons are being developed.
Jan. 8, 1944. Developed in only 143 days, the prototype Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star, Lulu Belle, makes its first flight at Muroc Dry Lake (later Edwards AFB), Calif., with Milo Burcham at the controls. It is the first American fighter to exceed 500 mph in level flight.
Jan. 22, 1944. Mediterranean Allied Air Forces fly 1,200 sorties in support of Operation Shingle, the amphibious landings at Anzio, Italy.
Feb. 15, 1944. The Nazi-occupied Abbey of Monte Cassino, Italy, is destroyed by 254 American B-17 crews, B-25 crews and B-26 crews attacking in two waves.
Feb. 20, 1944. The first mission of "Big Week"--six days of strikes by Eighth Air Force (based in England) and Fifteenth Air Force (based in Italy) against German aircraft plants--is flown.
March 16, 1944. NACA proposes that a jet-propelled transonic research airplane be developed. This ultimately leads to the Bell X-1.
March 25, 1944. Fifteenth Air Force crews close the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria. This mission, against the Aviso viaduct, is the first operational use of the VB-I Azon (Azimuth Only) radio-controlled bomb.
May 21, 1944. Operation Chattanooga Choo-Choo--systematic Allied air attacks on trains in Germany and France--begins.
June 2, 1944. The first shuttle bombing mission using Russia as the eastern terminus is flown. Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, head of Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, flies in one of the B-17s.
June 6, 1944. Allied pilots fly approximately 15,000 sorties on D-Day. It is an effort unprecedented in concentration and size.
June 9, 1944. Allied units begin operations from bases in France.
June 15, 1944. Forty-seven B-29 crews based in India and staging through Chengdu, China, attack steel mills at Yawata in the first B-29 strike against Japan.
June 19-20, 1944. "The Marianas Turkey Shoot", in two days of fighting, the Japanese lose 476 aircraft. American losses are 130 planes.
July 5, 1944. The Northrop MX-324, the first U.S. rocket-powered airplane, is flown for the first time by company pilot Harry Crosby at Harper Dry Lake, Calif.
July 17, 1944. Napalm incendiary bombs are dropped for the first time by American P-38 pilots on a fuel depot at Coutances, near St Lo, France.
July 22, 1944. In the first all-fighter shuttle raid, Italy-based U.S. P-38 Lightning's and P-51 Mustangs of Fifteenth Air Force attack Nazi airfields at Bacau and Zilistea, northeast of Ploesti, Romania. The planes land at Russian bases.
Aug. 4, 1944. The first Aphrodite mission (a radio-controlled B-17 carrying 20,000 pounds of TNT) is flown against V-2 rocket sites in the Pas de Calais section of France.
Aug. 28, 1944. Eighth Air Force's 78th Fighter Group claims the destruction of an Me-262, the first jet to be shot down in combat.
Nov. 1, 1944. A Boeing F-13 (photo reconnaissance B-29) crew makes the first flight over Tokyo since the 1942 Doolittle Raid. The first XXI Bomber Command raid will be made Nov. 24, when 88 B-29s bomb the city.
Dec. 17, 1944. The 509th Composite Group, assembled to carry out atomic bomb operations, is established at Wendover, Utah.
Dec. 21, 1944. Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold becomes General of the Army--the first airman to hold five-star rank.
Jan. 20, 1945. Army Air Forces Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay succeeds Brig. Gen. Haywood "Possum" Hansell as commander of XXI Bomber Command in the Mariana Islands.
Feb. 3, 1945. A total of 959 B-17 crews carry out the largest raid to date against Berlin by American bombers.
March 9, 1945. In a change of tactics in order to double bomb loads, Twentieth Air Force sends more than 300 B-29s from the Marianas against Tokyo in a low-altitude, incendiary night raid, destroying about one fourth of the city.
March 27, 1945. B-29 crews begin night mining missions around Japan, eventually establishing a complete blockade.
April 23, 1945. Flying Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateers, Navy crews from VPB-109 launch two Bat missiles against Japanese ships in Balikpapan Harbor, Borneo. This is the first known use of automatic homing missiles during World War II.
May 9, 1945. V-E Day. The war ends in Europe.
June 26, 1945. B-29 crews begin nighttime raids on Japanese oil refineries.
Aug. 6, 1945. The "Little Boy" (uranium) atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima from the B-29 Enola Gay, commanded by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. Also on this date, Maj. Richard I. Bong, America's all-time leading ace, is killed in a P-80 accident. He had 40 confirmed victories.
Aug. 9, 1945. The "Fat Man" (plutonium) atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki from the B-29 Bockscar, commanded by Maj. Charles W. Sweeney.
Aug. 15, 1945. V-J Day.
Sept. 2, 1945. On board USS Missouri (BB-63), Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Chief of Staff Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu sign the instruments of surrender ending World War II. The next day USAAF Maj. G. E. Cain, flying a Douglas C-5i, sets a Tokyo-to-Washington speed record of 31 hours, 25 minutes in getting film of the surrender ceremony to the United States.
Nov. 6, 1945. The first landing of a jet-powered aircraft on a carrier is made by Ens. Jake C. West in the Ryan FR-1 Fireball, a fighter propelled by both a turbojet and a reciprocating engine. The landing on USS Wake Island (CVE65) is inadvertent; the plane's piston engine fails, and Ensign West comes in powered only by the turbojet.
June 26, 1946. "Knot" and "nautical mile" are adopted by the Army Air Forces and the Navy as standard aeronautical units of speed and distance.
Material for this chronology courtesy of Air Force Magazine, December 1993. The chronology was compiled by Jeffrey P. Rhodes, a former Aeronautics Editor of Air Force Magazine.
Air Force Historical Studies Office, Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, DC.