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Pop-Up Library - Harold Glasser World War II Bombardier and Veteran of the United States Army Air Corps


The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare service component of the United States Army and de facto aerial warfare service branch of the United States during and immediately after World War II (1941–1947). It was created on 20 June 1941 as the successor to the previous United States Army Air Corps and is the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force, today one of the six armed forces of the United States. The AAF was a component of the United States Army, which on 2 March 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces, the United States Army Services of Supply (which in 1943 became the Army Service Forces), and the Army Air Forces. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower, recognized that the United States might be drawn into a European war, and believed firmly, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, "that airpower would win it." Assured of a favorable reception in the White House, the Air Corps prepared plans in October 1938 for a force of some 7,000 aircraft. Soon afterward, President Roosevelt asked the War Department to prepare a program for an Air Corps composed of 10,000 airplanes, of which 7,500 would be combat aircraft. In a special message to Congress on January 12, 1939, the President formally requested this program. Congress responded on April 3, authorizing $300 million for an Air Corps "not to exceed 6,000 serviceable airplanes." (Records of the Army Air Forces [AAF])

Beginning in September 1939, the German Army and the German Air Force rapidly conquered Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France, and within one year had driven the British off the continent. Leaders of the Air Corps now found themselves in the novel position of receiving practically anything they requested. Plans soon called for 54 combat groups. This program was hardly underway before revised plans called for 84 combat groups equipped with 7,800 aircraft and manned by 400,000 troops by June 30, 1942. All told U.S. Army air forces strength in World War II would swell from 26,500 men and 2,200 aircraft in 1939 to 2,253,000 men and women and 63,715 aircraft in 1945. (The Birth of the United States Air Force)