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Protecting the country from the sky, the United States Air Force is one of the major components of the armed forces which also includes Army, Navy and Marines. For the past 75+ years, the primary responsibility of this branch of the military has been to engage in air warfare, provide air defense and develop military space research. Plus, the U.S. Air Force is the air coordinator with other branches of the military that also fly the skies. 

U.S. Air Force Day is here to show appreciation for and celebrate every man and woman who has served to carry out this endeavor, whether in times of combat or times of peace.

History of U.S. Air Force Day

The United States Air Force was officially established on September 18, 1947, as part of the National Security Act, just after the end of World War II. Even so, several decades prior, in 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed an aeronautical division that functioned as a predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. Not long after this, in 1909, the U.S. military made its first aircraft purchase which was named the Wright Military Flyer and, of course, built by the famous Wright brothers.

It is worth noting that a day simply called “Air Force Day” was celebrated for just a few years in the late 1940s. Proclaimed by then U.S. President Harry S. Truman, August 1, 1945 was set apart as a day to celebrate and honor the men and women in the Army Air Forces. However, since the Air Force was technically still part of the army until 1947, the day was only observed until 1949 when it was exchanged for its current celebration in September.

U.S. Air Force Day, sometimes referred to as the Air Force Birthday, is celebrated each year to mark the September 18 anniversary of the establishment of this branch of the military that flies high above land and sea. Each year, this day continues to honor and show appreciation for the men and women who are currently serving or have served the Air Force in some capacity.

U.S. Air Force Day Timeline

1903

First heavier-than-air flight takes place

This controlled power flight occurs in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina under the direction of the Wright brothers. [1]

1907

U.S. Army Signal Corps Aeronautical Division begins

This is the first heavier-than-air military organization in history, in charge of “military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects”. [2]

September 18, 1947

U.S. Air Force is established

With roots in the Army Signal Corps, the U.S. Air Force is started as part of the National Security Act of 1947. [3]

1948

First woman in the U.S. Air Force

Esther Blake joins the WAF (Women in the Air Force) during the first minute of the first hour of the first day when it was allowed. [4]

1954

U.S. Air Force Academy is founded

This school is dedicated to the training of airmen and the state of Colorado was chosen as the site. [5]

How to Celebrate U.S. Air Force Day

Looking for ideas related to different ways to celebrate U.S. Air Force Day? Check out some of these plans and activities to get started:

Say “Thank You” to an Airman

One of the best ways to celebrate and show appreciation on U.S. Air Force Day is to take some time to say thank you to a current airmen or a veteran who served in the air force in the past. From those functioning as pilots to maintenance and repair engineers, from intelligence to logistics and administration, the range of people who serve in the U.S. Air Force can be quite varied and people with all sorts of skills are needed to keep everything running smoothly. In honor of the day, say thanks in person, give a veteran family member a call, or write an airman a note to thank them for serving their country in this way.

Learn More About the U.S. Air Force 

An excellent way to grow in appreciation for the hard work of this branch of the military in celebration of U.S. Air Force Day might be to learn a bit more about it and then share with friends or family members to raise awareness. Consider whether some of these important facts might be fun to learn or act as a way to start a conversation: 

  • The U.S. Air Force shares its birthday with the C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency) because both were created under the National Security act of 1947.

  • Many celebrities have served in the military, including the U.S. Air Force. This includes actors Jimmy Stewart, Chuck Norris, Morgan Freeman, Tom Skerritt and Johnny Cash.

  • The words, “Off we go into the wild blue yonder”, are part of the lyrics for the theme song titled “The U.S. Air Force”. 

  • Two U.S. Presidents also served as airmen: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. 

Visit an Air Force Museum

An up-close-and-personal way to celebrate U.S. Air Force Day might be to visit a museum that houses airplanes and reveals some history about the air force. The National Museum of the Air Force is located in Riverside, Ohio, located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Housing thousands of artifacts and displays, the museum traces the history of flight all the way back to the Wright brothers and beyond. Plus, the galleries display rare aircraft and aerospace vehicles from history into the modern era of space flight.

Watch a Movie with an Air Force Theme

Perhaps reading about or watching some stories about the Air Force, whether based on fact or fiction, might be a fun way to give a nod to U.S. Air Force Day. Check out some of these movies that include characters who serve as airmen:

  • Unbroken (2014). Since this movie takes place during WWII, it technically was just before the U.S. Air Force was created and happened, instead, under the auspices of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Even so, this film based on the true story of Prisoner of War Louis Zamperini is worth a watch on this day.
  • Aloha (2015). Definitely a bit less serious, this movie features actors like Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski. The story features Cooper as a former Air Force officer who returns to Hawaii.
  • Sunrise in Heaven (2019). This love story film is based on the 2016 novel called His Sunrise My Sunset by Jan Hurst. It tells the true story of a young woman who falls in love with an Air Force G.I. and the way their life unfolds.
  • The Tuskegee Airmen (1995). This one also takes place in WWII, just prior to the formation of the U.S. Air Force, and tells the true tale of the first African American military pilots and airmen who fought in the war. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Andre Braugher and many others. 

U.S. Air Force Day FAQs

What does the Air Force do?

The official mission of the U.S. Air Force is to “fly, fight and win” with “airpower anytime, anywhere”. [1]

Where is the U.S. Air Force Academy?

The U.S. Air Force Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs in Colorado.[2]

How long is basic training for the air force?

Basic Military Training (BMT) in the air force lasts for 7.5 weeks.[3]

When was the U.S. Air Force established?

The Department of the Air Force was founded on September 18, 1947. [4]

How many people are in the U.S. Air Force?

The U.S. Air Force has more than 320,000 active duty personnel. [5]

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