History of the United States Air Force

We are celebrating 71 years of the United States Air Force with some history and fun facts

By Courtney Cooper

Before the Air Force became one of the five branches of service, it went through many different stages and names. The United States (U.S.) military bought its first air craft in 1908 and for many years the Air Force went through a number of classifications, such as Aeronautical Section, Signal Corps in 1907, Aviation Section, Signal Corps in 1914, U.S. Army Air Service in 1918, U.S. Army Air Corps in 1926, and U.S. Army Air Force in 1941.

It wasn’t until September 18, 1947 that the United States Air Force (USAF) became an independent service when Chief Justice Fred Vinson swore in Stuart Symington as the first secretary of the air force, which officially founded a new branch of the U.S. military. Just eight days later, Gen. Carl A. Spaatz became the first chief of staff of the USAF.


cheering fans
Fans cheer on team Air Force during a sitting volleyball match at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. at the Air Force Academy. (Photo by Courtney Cooper)

The Aeronautical Section’s first aircraft consisted of kite balloons, before they bought their first official airplane from the Wright Brothers in September of 1908 for $25,000. World War I gave the opportunity to test their limits during combat, but World War II was when the Air Force really came of age. Since then, the Air Force has taken the lead in developing sophisticated weapons platforms and equipment.

Today, the Air Force continues to be innovative and strive to produce more platforms to protect the nation. Their yearly birthday celebrations consist of ceremonies and parties for members of the Air Force.

In honor of the USAF 71st birthday, we’ve rounded up some fun facts about the Air Force that you may not know.

  • The Air Force shares its birthday with the CIA, which were both founded in 1947.
  • They built a supercomputer out of 1,760 PlayStation 3’s, which was used by Air Force centers across the country for tasks such as radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research.
  • Both former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush served as airmen.
  • The Air Force has an official band that drops singles and makes music videos.
  • Since December 24, 1955, the Air Force tracks Santa Claus with NORAD and gives children Santa’s current location and now handles calls from over 200 countries.


Air Force team players

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