Air Force ROTC History
Holding The High Ground Throughout Our Nation’s History
Since 1947, the United States Air Force has defended this country in air, space and cyberspace through the skill and bravery of American Airmen.
The story of the United States Air Force begins well before its inception as a separate military service. The dawn of the new century witnessed man take to the air for the first time in a heavier-than-air-powered aircraft conceived and flown by two Ohio bicycle salesmen. Their maiden flight on that cold, windy day on December 17, 1903, and the subsequent aeronautical innovations that followed, helped propel airpower to fantastic limits in the decade to come.
For centuries, war was reserved for the battlefields and the high seas. When World War I broke out in Europe on July 28, 1914, the untouched skies quickly knew the ravages of armed conflict. Soon, fixed-wing aircraft began conducting ground attacks and taking part in aerial dogfights with the U.S. poised to take the lead.
When World War II drew in over 30 countries and all the world’s superpowers into the deadliest conflict in human history, there was no battleground more vital to victory than the skies above. Beginning with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and ending with the U.S. dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese cities almost four years later, the skies became the ultimate high ground for America’s air forces.
It was a time of relative peace but not idle times. The lessons learned during World War II propelled the country to push the envelope of what was possible both technologically and organizationally, including the creation of the United States Air Force as a branch of service. In the process, it transformed the country into the world’s foremost airpower.
After war had broken out on the Korean Peninsula, the United States found itself once again in the midst of a devastating multinational conflict on the far side of the world. Airpower played crucially in helping recapture South Korea by forcing the communist forces north. After over three long years of fighting, an armistice was agreed to between the two sides, leading to the current division of the Korean Peninsula into two countries.
The decade that separated the Korean and Vietnam wars bore witness to many achievements of the human spirit. Suddenly, the skies were no longer high enough as man began reaching for the stars. During this time, Airmen continued to test the boundaries of the human body by flying faster, higher and longer than anyone ever had before.
The battle to halt the spread of communism drew the country back to Southeast Asia once more and into a conflict unlike any other: the Vietnam War. Over the course of the campaign, the importance of air superiority and the use of new tactics and more sophisticated weapons systems would forever change the way wars are fought.
After nearly a decade of fighting a devastating war overseas, the United States experienced an era of relative peace that saw new breakthroughs in technology and service. In the years that followed the Vietnam War, the many contributions by women and minorities in the Air Force were being recognized and new opportunities were being opened.
As the 20th century came to a close, the United States cemented its role as the most technologically advanced and capable combat air force in the world with its display of airpower during the liberation of Kuwait, the activation of the GPS system and the launching of the first unmanned aerial vehicle, which would once again change the way battles are fought from the skies.
Shortly after the world celebrated the birth of a new century, the United States was plunged into its longest war ever after it was attacked on September 11, 2001. The war on terror is an ongoing conflict against an enemy without traditional borders and established the emergence of remotely piloted aircraft as a dominant player in the country’s arsenal. As our adversaries advance, the United States Air Force must continue to progress to maintain our supremacy in air, space and cyberspace, and we will constantly need new and innovative officers to lead the way!