On July 26, 1947, while aboard the presidential C-54 aircraft, Sacred Cow, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, officially establishing the United States Air Force as a separate service under the National Military Establishment (renamed in 1949 the Department of Defense). The Act set out requirements for the Air Force that "it shall be organized, trained and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war."
On the same day he signed the National Security Act, President Truman signed Executive Order 9877 assigning the primary functions and responsibilities of the armed forces. The United States Air Force was charged to organize, train and equip air forces for air operations including joint operations; to gain and maintain general air superiority; to establish local air superiority where and as required; to develop a strategic air force and conduct strategic air reconnaissance operations; to provide airlift and support for airborne operations; to furnish air support to land and naval forces including support of occupation forces; and to provide air transport for the armed forces except as provided by the Navy for its own use.
Stuart Symington was sworn in as the first Secretary of the Air Force by Chief Justice Fred Vinson on Sept. 18, 1947, establishing the United States Air Force as truly an independent arm of the U.S. military.
President Obama sent along some birthday wishes of his own:
I send greetings to all those celebrating the 64th birthday of the United States Air Force.
As president, I have no greater honor than serving as commander in chief of the greatest force for peace and security the world has ever known. Performing their duties with impeccable gallantry and excellence, members of the United States Air Force embody the highest ideals of our nation.
Since America's earliest forays into flight, brave patriots have answered the call to defend our way of life from the skies above. Serving in times of war and peace, these guardians of freedom and justice have kept our people safe and strengthened our security at home. Our Airmen have also exemplified our spirit of compassion abroad, from bringing hope to a divided Berlin to aiding a recently devastated Japan.
Today, we pay special tribute to the 9/11 Generation -- the more than 5 million Americans who have worn the uniform over the past 10 years. These service members have contributed immeasurably to the excellence and professionalism of the United States Air Force. Tour after tour, they have borne the extraordinary burden of a decade of war. They have written their own remarkable chapter in the narrative of America's armed forces and earned a place among our greatest generations. It is with unending gratitude that we pledge to serve them and their families as well as they serve us.
On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your service. May God bless and protect you and your families, and may God bless the United States of America.
President Barack Obama
My husband served in the USAF during the Vietnam war. The astronauts at NASA come from the USAF.
In January 1968, Helen O'Day became the first woman promoted to colonel in the USAF. She died this year at the age of 98 years old.
Our nation is grateful to all who serve.