September 22, 2023

Happy 68th Birthday, U.S. Air Force

Written by graduate Mark McLean, BS Organizational Leadership

Every year in the month of September, airmen and their families celebrate the United States Air Force Birthday (September 18th, 1947). This was a vision advocated by Gen. Billy Mitchell and created by the National Security Act.

Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, US Army Air Service December 29, 1879 – February 19, 1936

The National Security Act of 1947 played a major role in shaping our nation’s current military structure, establishing a Department of Defense, a National Security Council, and most significantly, one might argue, an independent Air Force. The Act officially took effect on September 18 of that year, ultimately creating the birthdate of the U.S. Air Force; before that time, it was known as the Army Air Corp (US Department of State, 2013).

What many people are unaware of is that Army General Billy Mitchell was actually the loudest advocate for creating a separate Air Force. He believed that a thousand bombers would be a better economical investment by the government than one Navy battleship; proving his theory, his bombers were able to sink four surplus or captured war ships including the Ostfriesland and the USS Alabama in the fall of 1921 (abouteducation, n.d.).

His superiors often perceived him as insubordinate in his advocacy, ultimately leading to his trial by court martial. “In December 1925, Mitchell was found guilty of insubordination and sentenced to a 5-year suspension and loss of pay. Unwilling to accept the punishment, he retired; however, continued to advocate for air power and a separate Air Force until his death in 1936 (abouteducation, n.d.).”

Though it would take 11 years after Gen. Mitchell’s death before his vision of a separate and independent Air Force to become reality, he is still credited and considered the founding father of the United States Air Force. Airman and their families all over the world celebrate the Air Force’s birthday during the week of September 18 every year.