“If your going through Hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
The history of Eighth Air Force begins on January 2, 1942 with its activation at Savannah Air Base, Georgia. In quick order, on January 5, Major General Carl Spaatz assumed command of HQ Eighth Air Force at Bolling Field, Washington, DC. On January 8 the order activating the “U.S. Forces in the British Isles” (USAFBI) was announced. On May 12, the first contingent of USAAF personnel arrived in England to join the Eighth Air Force. On June 15 Spaatz arrived in England to establish the Headquarters of Eighth Air Force at Bushy Park, 15 miles WSW of London.
Eighth Air Force was the command and control organization over its operational components:
- VIII Bomber Command (Established January 19, 1942)
- Strategic bombardment using heavy, 4-engined bombers.
- VIII Fighter Command (Established January 19, 1942)
- Provide fighter escort of heavy bombers
- VIII Air Support Command (Established April 24, 1942)
- Provide reconnaissance, troop transport, and tactical bombardment using 2-engine medium bombers.
VIII Bomber Command was activated at Langley Field, Virginia, It was reassigned to Savannah Air Base, Georgia on Feb 10, 1942. An advanced detachment of VIII Bomber Command was established at RAF Bomber Command Headquarters at RAF Daws Hill England on Feb 23 in preparation for its units to arrive in the United Kingdom from the United States. The first combat group of VIII Bomber Command to arrive in the United Kingdom was the ground echelon of the 97th Bombardment Group, which arrived at RAF Polebrook on June 9, 1942.
Regular combat operations by the VIII Bomber Command began on Aug 17, 1942, when the 97th Bombardment Group flew 12 B-17Es on the first VIII Bomber Command heavy bomber mission of the war from RAF Polebrook, attacking the Rouen-Sotteville Marshalling Yards in France.
Bombardment operations by VIII Bomber Command continued until Feb 22, 1944, when a massive reorganization of American airpower took place in Europe.
- VIII Bomber Command’s parent unit, Eighth Air Force, was redesignated as the United States Strategic and Tactical Air Forces (USSTAF).
- The VIII Bomber Command was subsequently redesignated as Eighth Air Force and brought under the control of USSTAF. This is the Eighth Air Force the present-day organization’s history, lineage and honors derives from.
The Unites States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (the first Eighth Air Force) was redesignated United States Air Forces in Europe in 1945, and today is one of two United States Air Force overseas major commands.
Following the end of the war in Europe Eighth Air Force headquarters was reassigned to Sakugawa (Kadena Airfield), Okinawa, on July 16, 1945, being assigned to the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, with a mission to organize and train new bomber groups for combat against Japan. In the planned invasion of Japan. The Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Pacific war before Eighth Air Force could engage in combat operations.
During the Cold War, Eighth Air Force was one of three Numbered Air Forces of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), commanding USAF strategic bombers and missiles on a global scale. It engaged in combat operations during the Vietnam War, as well as Operation Desert storm.
With the inactivation of SAC and the realignment of USAF forces after the Cold War, Eighth Air Force became part of Air Combat Command in 1992.
Under Air Force Global Strike Command since Feb. 1, 2010, Eighth Air Force controls strategic bomber assets throughout the United States and overseas locations. Eighth Air Force is organized as a general purpose numbered Air Force with a warfighting mission to support the U.S. Joint Forces and U.S. Strategic Commands. Eighth Air Force has three wings, two Air Force Reserve Total Force Integration wings and one detachment in the continental United States.