Saturday, September 18 marks the 74th birthday of the U.S. Air Force. Established as its own military branch in 1947 by Congress and President Harry S. Truman, the Air Force has been protecting the skies for generations as the world’s largest airborne fleet.
Prior to the U.S. Air Force’s official establishment, aircraft and pilots were part of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. The U.S. military has used airborne craft since it purchased its first airplane from Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1909. Before then, U.S. military forces utilized hot-air balloons for reconnaissance purposes and to make tactical observations from above.
Since its beginning, the U.S. Air Force has played pivotal roles in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cold War, the first Gulf War, and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Air Force has had its fair share of tremendously proud moments, including:
- Bringing much-needed food and aid to trapped Berlin citizens during the height of the Cold War, when Soviet-occupied Germany had cut off all food and supplies bound for the capital. This event is popularly known as “The Berlin Airlift.”
- Making history by naming Benjamin O. Davis Jr., former commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, as the first African-American 4-star general in the U.S. Air Force.
- Leading one of the largest airborne campaigns ever during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, during the first Gulf War. The campaign led to swiftly driving Iraq out of Kuwait.
These days we know the American Air Force to be the mightiest airborne combat fleet in the world — second to none — flush with over 13,000 aircraft and more than 300,000 soldiers.
All members of the Air Force, whether active duty personnel or retired veterans, have made incredible sacrifices to protect our nation against threats at both home and abroad.
Ways to Celebrate the U.S. Air Force’s Birthday
There are many ways to get involved in the celebration of the U.S. Air Force’s birthday this year.
Some ideas include:
1. Attending U.S. Air Force Events
Events are widespread across the country on the Air Force’s birthday, and though this day is not an official holiday, the military branch will be celebrating its 74th birthday with air shows, parades, and exhibits. Each year, a popular annual air show is put on by the Thunderbirds precision combat air demonstration squadron.
2. Thanking an Airman for Their Service
It can’t be understated just how important it is to pay gratitude back to U.S. service members. When a person joins the U.S. Air Force, they make hundreds of personal sacrifices. Simply calling, writing a letter, or sending a message to an active duty Air Force member or a veteran can go a long way toward showing soldiers how much their sacrifices mean to us.
3. Learning About the U.S. Air Force
These days, it’s much easier to learn about any subject matter that interests you. Spending some time online or in your local library educating yourself on the history and accomplishments of the U.S. Air Force can help you gain a deeper appreciation for the military branch and the things they do to protect our nation.
4. Volunteering for Air Force Organizations
A number of nonprofit organizations and charities operate on the premises of U.S. Air Force military bases, such as the American Red Cross and the Air Force Aid Society. Show your appreciation for the U.S. Air Force by donating either your time or money to one of these invaluable organizations that benefit people worldwide.
5. Watching an Air Force Movie With Family and Friends
Watching a movie is as American as apple pie, and what better way to learn about the impact of the U.S. Air Force on American culture than watching a movie featuring the airborne fleet? As for which movie to watch, there are hundreds of choices. And, while many commonly mistake Top Gun for being an Air Force film, it is actually about a U.S. Navy flight training program.
Some critically acclaimed feature films and documentaries about the Air Force include:
- The Right Stuff
- The Tuskegee Airmen
- World War II in Colour
Regardless of how you decide to celebrate the Air Force’s birthday, be sure to take some time to share your gratitude online or in-person!
Happy birthday to the United States Air Force — and thank you for your service!