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Air Force, United States Department of the

Air Force, United States Department of the, military department within the U.S. Dept. of Defense (see Defense, United States Department of). The Air Force traces its roots to the founding of the Aeronautical Division of the Army Signal Corps (1907), variously renamed before becoming a separate service under the National Security Act of 1947. In 1949 the National Security Act Amendments made the Air Force a military department within the newly organized Department of Defense. The chain of command goes directly from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of the Air Force. The Air Force played an important role in World War I (see William Mitchell; Eddie Rickenbacker) and World War II (see H. H. Arnold; atomic bomb; James Harold Doolittle). After World War II, the Air Force quickly grew in importance, becoming the cornerstone of President Eisenhower's defense policy. The Air Force played a major part in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and numerous cold war confrontations (see Berlin airlift, Cuban Missile Crisis). Its control of long-range, land-based guided missiles and the strategic bombers gives the Air Force monopolies on two major components of U.S. nuclear strategy. It has the leading role in the military exploration of space and uses aircraft and satellites to collect photo, video, and signal intelligence.

See L. Kennett, A History of Strategic Bombing (1982); M. Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power (1987); W. J. Boyne, Beyond the Wild Blue (1997).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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