Library Fact Sheets
14TH AIR FORCE HISTORY|
Printable Fact Sheet
Origins of 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) - the American Volunteer Group and the "Flying Tigers"
Fourteenth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) traces its long and prestigious history back to Japan's invasion of China in 1937. The Chinese government looked to the U.S. for assistance and hired U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Claire Chennault to train its pilots. The Chinese Air Force sent Chennault to Washington, D.C., in the winter of 1940 to solicit American airplanes and pilots to try to save the country. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed a secret executive order which authorized Chennault to organize support. A group of active-duty recruits, 100 pilots and 200 support personnel, formed the American Volunteer Group (AVG). In addition, Chennault also procured 100 P-40 aircraft, rejected by the British as obsolete. The AVG shipped off to Burma in the summer of 1941, where Chennault trained them in innovative combat tactics. To enhance esprit de corps, the unit painted tiger shark teeth on the noses of the group's aircraft. They saw the same decorations in a magazine photo of English P-40s in North Africa. Subsequently, journalists used the tagline "Flying Tigers," which rapidly caught on worldwide.
Fighting against numerically superior forces, the AVG compiled one of the greatest records of the war before it was absorbed into the active-duty Army Air Corps in 1942. According to official Chinese statistics, confirmed losses to the enemy by the AVG were 268 enemy aircraft destroyed and another 40 aircraft damaged against 12 losses for the AVG. In a separate report, Chennault credits the AVG with 294 enemy aircraft shot down.
The Birth of 14th Air Force
The AVG was absorbed into the active-duty China Air Task Force in July 1942 and the "Flying Tigers" moniker went with it. Chennault was brought back on active duty as a brigadier general to command the unit. After the China Air Task Force was discontinued, the 14th Air Force was established by the special order of President Roosevelt on 10 March 1943. Chennault was appointed the commander and promoted to Major General. The "Flying Tigers" of 14th AF conducted fighter and bomber operations along a wide front that stretched from the bend of the Yellow River and Tsinan in the north to Indochina in the south, from Chengtu and the Salween River in the west to the China Sea and the island of Formosa in the east. They were also instrumental in supplying Chinese forces through the airlift of cargo across "The Hump" in the China-Burma-India theater. By the end of World War II, 14th AF had achieved air superiority over the skies of China and established a ratio of 7.7 enemy planes destroyed for every American plane lost in combat. Overall, military officials estimated that over 4,000 Japanese planes were destroyed or damaged in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. In addition, they estimated that air units in China destroyed 1,100,000 tons of shipping, 1,079 locomotives, 4,836 trucks and 580 bridges. The United States Army Air Corps credits 14th Air Force with the destruction of 2,315 Japanese aircraft, 356 bridges, 1,225 locomotives and 712 railroad cars.
Post World War II
14th Air Force moved to Orlando Army Air Base, Fla., in the spring of 1946 to administer Air Defense Command functions across the Southeastern United States. They supervised the air defense training of active duty units, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. Under a Department of Defense restructuring in 1948, 14th Air Force was aligned under the new Continental Air Command, which expanded the unit's mission to include the equipping and combat preparation of Air Force Reserve units under its jurisdiction. 14th Air Force headquarters moved to Robins AFB, GA in October 1949.
During the Korean Conflict, 14th AF participated in the mobilization of thousands of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units and individuals from its area of responsibility. After Korea, the reserve wings of 14 AF participated in various airlift operations, such as Operation SIXTEEN TON (1956), Operation SWIFT LIFT (1957-58) and Operation READY SWAP (1958).
14th Air Force remained a key Air Force Reserve organization, expanding into search-and-rescue operations in 1957, and ultimately became responsible for all Reserve airlift functions in the eastern United States by 1958. The unit retained this mission until it was inactivated Sept. 1, 1960.
Entry into Space
14th Air Force was reactivated at Gunter AFB, Ala., on April 1, 1966. The organization was reassigned to ADC, and given an additional mission of guarding the Southern Region of North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).
On July 1, 1968, 14th Air Force moved to Ent AFB, Colo., and was redesignated as the 14th Aerospace Force. The unit was now responsible for detecting foreign missile launches, tracking missiles and satellites in space, providing space vehicle launch services, maintaining a satellite data base of all man-made objects in space and performing anti-satellite actions. The 14th Aerospace Force also equipped, trained, administered and provided personnel to operate and maintain space surveillance, space defense and missile warning systems.
A Brief Return to Flying
In October 1976, the 14th Aerospace Force was redesignated the 14 AF (Reserve) at Dobbins AFB, Ga., where it managed airlift forces for Military Airlift Command (MAC) and participated in such missions as Operation JUST CAUSE. 14th Air Force performed this mission for MAC and its successor, Air Mobility Command (AMC), until 1993.
Return to Space
On July 1, 1993, 14th Air Force returned to its former space role and became a Numbered Air Force for Air Force Space Command, responsible for performing space operations. In 1997, 14th Air Force established the Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., for the 24-hour command and control of all space operations resources. In 2002, 14th Air Force became the Air Force space operational component of U.S. Strategic Command. On Sept. 12, 2006, the organization expanded into the Joint environment with the activation of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC Space). The new command and control capabilities of the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) ensured unity of effort for all space capabilities supporting joint military operations around the globe.
As the Air Force's sole Numbered Air Force for space and its concurrent U.S. Strategic Command mission of Joint Space Operations, the operational mission of 14th AF includes space launch from the east and west coasts, satellite command and control, missile warning, space surveillance and command and control of assigned and attached joint space forces. The overall mission is control and exploit space for global and theater operations, thereby ensuring warfighters are supported by the best space capabilities available. The 14th Air Force consists of two launch wings (the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla.); a space control and missile warning wing (the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo.); a satellite command and control wing (the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colo.) and a missile warning wing (the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colo.).
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