Today in History, July 14, 1974:
General Carl Spaatz dies.
Spaatz was a fighter pilot in his youth during WW1. He remained in the Army Air Corps, and when WW2 began went to England.
As German bombs fell on London during the Blitz and everyone else ran for the shelters, Spaatz sat on rooftops to gain knowledge of German tactics by watching their bombers and fighters in action.
When America entered the war, he became the commander of the Eighth Air Force as it began daylight bombing raids over Germany.
After the war, the Army Air Corps was separated from the US Army and became its own military branch, the US Air Force in 1947. Spaatz was it’s first Chief of Staff.
Today in History, July 18, 1914:
“Be it enacted…, that there shall hereafter be, and there is hereby created, an aviation section, which shall be a part of the Signal Corps of the Army, and which shall be, and is hereby, charged with the duty of operating or supervising the operation of all military aircraft, including balloons and aeroplanes, all appliances pertaining to said craft, and signaling apparatus of any kind when installed on said craft; also with the duty of training officers and enlisted men in matters pertaining to military aviation.Public Law 63-143, July 18, 1914”
By an act of Congress, the Aviation Section of the US Army Signal Corps is created…Grandfather to the US Air Force, separated only by the US Army Air Corps? The members of this poorly paid, poorly funded, poorly equipped group fought in Mexico against Pancho Villa and then in WWI.
Today in History, March 9: 1945:
The Firebombing of Tokyo. General Curtis Lemay, hero of the air war in the Pacific, had been given the task of using American air power to end the war without losing untold numbers of American lives.
As part of that effort, on this date in 1945, over 300 B-29 Superfortress bombers took off from Tinian and Saipan in the Marianas en route to Tokyo. A little after midnight, they began dropping thousands of tons of incendiary bombs.
The result was a firestorm that engulfed 15 square miles of the city, which was composed mostly of wooden structures with paper walls. The numbers vary from 90,000 to 120,000, but the death toll was enormous. The citizens of Tokyo were unable to escape the flames fueled by 30 knot winds.
As much is made of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, neither matched the death toll of the firestorm in Tokyo. The only difference was that the atomic attacks took one bomber with one bomb rather than thousands of bombs with hundreds of bombers.
Today in History, February 26: 1935:
Adolph Hitler secretly signed a decree creating the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, and names Hermann Goering it’s commander. At the end of WWI the Treaty of Versailles signed between the combatants, including Germany, declared that Germany could have no military air service.
Hitler quietly built up what would become a larger, and more modern, air force while the rest of Europe and America let their forces languish.
Lufthansa, the civilian airline that was permitted, was used to provide flight training to the men that would become Luftwaffe pilots.
By September 1939 when the German Blitzkrieg swept across Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, the Luftwaffe consisted of 1,000 modern fighter planes and 1,050 modern bombers.
This build up, and the build up of the Wehrmacht, all took place while the future allies practiced appeasement and protested verbally (the British had built up the Royal Air Force, but it was still much smaller than the Luftwaffe).