Strategic Air Command

History of the Strategic Air Command
Page 2 - The Start-Up

The Continental Air Forces

During World War II, the United States Army divided it's Air Corps into numbered air forces.  In 1944, many of them were fighting in various parts of the world, such as the 8th Air Force in Europe and the 20th Air Forces in the Pacific. They were supported by four numbered air forces located within the United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or "ZI".)  They were the First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Forces.  On December 13, 1944, all were placed under the unified command of the Continental Air Forces.  I
      t's headquarters were at Bolling Field, only a few minutes from downtown Washington.  The Continental Air Forces would later evolve into the Strategic Air Command.

Demobilization and Contraction

      Germany surrendered on _____ , followed by the Japanese on August ___, 1945.  World War II was over and Americans basked in their nation's great victory.  There were no apparent enemies on the horizon so the United States began dismembering it's vast war machine. Soon hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, sailors and airmen were heading home.  The enormous number of aircraft produced for the war presented special problems.  Some trainers and transport planes could be sold, but not too many as it would flood the market and harm the aircraft industry.  Certainly the combat aircraft could not be sold as they could potentially be used to start another war.  In the Pacific, brand-new B-29s were destroyed and bulldozed over cliffs, but most were returned to the states.  Toward the end of 1945, enormous fleets of war-weary aircraft began to arrive from far-flung corners of the globe.  By June of 1946, almost 34,000 aircraft had returned to the U.S. 
     The war had been expensive and had caused years of deficit spending.  The Truman Administration was determined to balance the national budget.  It seemed as if America's vast military power was no longer needed, so appropriations were drastically slashed.  One unit after another was disbanded.  The War Assets Administration and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation were instructed to arrange the disposal of almost ten billions dollars in aircraft.  Soon most of the planes were being scrapped and melted down into aluminum ingots. 
     The 509th Composite Group had dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan and many regarded it as the nation's most important strategic air unit.  It was not spared.  In January of 1946, it was stationed Roswell AAB, New Mexico.  Drastic cutbacks in manpower and support had an enormous impact.  It could barley keep it's  bombers in the air to maintain even minimal pilot proficiency.  

The Strategic Air Command is Born

     On March 21, 1946, the United States Army Air Forces underwent a drastic reorganization.  It activated three combat commands: the Strategic Air Command, the Tactical Air Command, and the Air Defense Command.  The Strategic Air Command was created through a redesignation of the Continental Air Forces.  The Bolling Field headquarters went to SAC while the aircraft, men, bases and other resources were distributed between the three commands; the majority of them went to SAC.  General George C. Kenny was named as SAC's first commanding officer.  He was then the Senior U.S. Military Representative on the Untied Nations Military Staff Committee.  He did not assume command until October 15, 1946.
     SAC's mission is best described by General Carl Spaatz, Commanding General Army Air Forces.
"be prepared to conduct long-range offensive operations in any part of the world, either independently or in co-operation with land and naval forces; to conduct maximum-range reconnaissance over land or sea, either independently or in co-operation with land and naval forces; to provide combat units capable of intense and sustained combat operations employing the latest and most advanced weapons; to train units and personnel of the maintenance of the Strategic Forces in all parts of the world; to perform such special missions as the Commanding General Army Air forces may direct."
     On March 31, 1946, only ten days after SAC was formed, the Second Air Force was inactivated and replaced by the newly activated Fifteenth Air Force of World War II fame.  It brought into the newly formed Strategic Air Command ten existing very heavy bombardment groups. Demobilization was in full swing and few were fully equipped and manned.  Eight  would soon be deactivated.  Only two survived.  The Groups are listed on this page.
     The newly formed Strategic Air Command was ill-equipped to handle such an ambitious mission.  it had inherited the headquarters buildings previously occupied by the Continental Air Forces at Bolling Field and some of  "operational assets" that had been assigned to it.  These included one numbered Air Force, the Second Air Force, with headquarters at Colorado Springs, the 311th Reconnaissance Wing at Buckley Field Colorado and a motley assorted of bomber and fighter groups, most of which were more concerned with demobilization that with maintain a combat-ready status.  

Eighth Air Force assigned to SAC

           The Eighth Air Force distinguished itself in the European theater during World War II.  On July 16, 1945, it was relocated to Okinawa in preparation for the final assault on Japan, but the war ended before it saw action in that theater.  It's groups had been recalled and in many cases deactived.  On June 7, 1946, Eight Air Force was relocated to MacDill Field, Florida, but it was only moved on paper; it did not involve the moving personnel and equipment.  
      At that time, it was assigned to SAC, thus becoming it's second numbered air force.  However it reported administratively to the Fifteenth Air Force during the fall of 1946.  Eighth Air Force headquarters were manned chiefly by personnel from the 58th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, stationed at Fort Worth.  
     During the fall of 1946, new bombardment groups were activated and quickly distributed between the two numbered Air Forces.  On November 30, 1946, SAC had two numbered air forces and nine bomb wings:
Eighth Air Force
   7th Bombardment Group.  Transferred into SAC as part of 8th Air Force.
   Activated at Fort Worth AAFld on Oct 1, 1946.  B-29s.
   43rd Bombardment Group.   Transferred into SAC as part of 8th Air Force.
   Activated at Davis-Monthan Field, on October 4, 1946.  B-29s.
   509th Bombardment Group.  Transferred from 15th Air Force.
   Roswell AAFld, New Mexico.  B-29s. 
Fifteenth Air Air Force
   28th Bombardment Group.  Reassigned from 8th Air Force. 
   Activated at Grand Island AAFld, Nebraska on August 4, 1946. 
   92nd Bombardment Group. Reassigned from 8th Air Force. 
   Activated at Smoky Hill AAFld, on August 4, 1946. 
   93rd Bombardment Group. Retained from original 15th Air Force
   Merced Field, California.
   97th Bombardment Group.   Transferred from 8th Air Force.
   Activated at Smoky Hill AAFld on August 4, 1946.  Relocated to biggs AFB, Texas on May 14, 1948.
   301 Bombardment Group. Transferred from 8th Air Force.
   Activated at Clovis AAFld, New Mexico on August 4, 1946 . 
   307 Bombardment Group.  Reassigned from 8th Air Force.
   Activated at MacDill AAFld, Florida on August 4, 1946.
     Many of these new 8th Air Force Bomb Groups were activated at the same field and on the same day as the original 15th Air Force bomb groups were inactivated.  In many cases the assets of the earlier group were simply assigned to the newer one.  This was largely so that the Air Force could perpetuate the names of groups that that had distinguished themselves in World War II.  These nine bomb wings were drastically undermanned and under equipped.  Only six had aircraft.  At the close of  1946, they shared only 148 bombers, all B-29s.  Virtually all were equipped to drop conventional bombs, as the United States then had only nine a-bombs.  SAC had other resources, including reconnaissance, supply, fighter and administrative units.  There were 4,319 officers, 27,871 airmen and 4,902 civilians assigned to all of SAC. 

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