The History of the Air Force Historical Foundation: An Extract.

Author:Kreis, John

The Air Force Historical Foundation originated after World War II from an informal group of senior officers, friends in many cases since the 1920s, who met from time to time to play poker or at other social functions. General Carl Spaatz and Lt. Gen. Ira Eaker were key proponents of an organization to preserve and promote the history and heritage of the new United States Air Force and of aviation in general. Both men were icons who had the respect, stature, and reputation necessary to support an organization created to promote awareness of air power history. One person influential in forming the concept for the Foundation was Lt. Col. Arthur J. Larsen, slated to become librarian at a new Air Force Academy, if one were ever to be organized. Larsen recognized that some impetus from outside the Air Force was needed in conjunction with the Service's own efforts if the history of air power were to be developed as a distinct academic discipline useful for the Air Force.

Early in the 1950s, Larsen wrote several staff studies recommending creation of an independent but quasi-official Air Force Historical Foundation similar to the Naval Historical Foundation; one model Larsen used was the relationship between the federal government and the Smithsonian Institution. At the time, the Air Force had no historian or history office, and whatever historical work was done took place at the Air University at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. The Air University staff, however, had much to do, and had to use their limited resources to prepare teaching materials from scratch for the Service schools there. At the middle of the Twentieth Century, after a decades-long struggle to gain independence and develop aviation technology, their new Service was under attack. Of particular concern were the post-war budget battles with the other Services and restrictions placed upon the use of air power in the Korean conflict. Casting about for an intellectual basis for defending the potential of air power, these men found that there was almost no literature examining and recording the Army Air Forces' accomplishments during the European and Pacific wars. There were no published works on air operations or air warfare available for use by the Service schools at Maxwell AFB; Craven's and Cate's seven volume The Army Air Forces in World War II was not published until 1955. So desperate for material were the developers of the new Air Force ROTC program that they had to write and mimeograph by...

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