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The Eighth Air Force Historical Society

P.O. Box 3556, Hollywood, FL 33083 (305) 961-1410

 

The Eighth Air force was activated as a part of the U. S. Army Air Force on 28 January 1942 at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia. Colonel Asa N. Duncan was named the first commander of the 8th AF (it was only a paper organization at that time—soon afterward, command of the 8th AF was given to the noted "Tooey" Spaatz).

 

Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker took the 8th AF Bomber Command Headquarters to England on 20 February 1942, locating it at High Wycombe (30 miles WNW of the center of London). On 24 April 1942, Major General Carl Spaatz arrived in England. He established the Headquarters of the 8th Air Force at Bushy Park, 15 miles WSW of London center.

 

On 29 June 1942 a crew of the 15th Bomb Squadron (Light) flew a RAF Boston (A-20) in a British formation on a bombing mission on the railroad marshalling yards to Hazebrouck, France. The Squadron Commander, Charles C. Kegelman, and his crew, were the first USAAF members to bomb occupied Europe. On 4 July 1942 the 15th BS, with Kegelman in the lead, flew the first combat mission of the 8th Air Force. They flew six borrowed Bostons in a RAF formations to hit airfields in Holland. Two crews were lost on this historic mission.

 

The 31st Fighter Group flew six Spitfires with the RAF on a sortie over the French coastal areas on 26 July 1942. This was the first 8th AF fighter operation in WWII.

 

On 17 August 1942, twelve B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group (Heavy) flew the first heavy bomber raid of the 8th AF. The target was Rouen, France. Colonel Frank A. Armstrong was the air commander for the missions. The lead pilot was Paul Tibbets (of "Enola Gay" fame—he dropped the first atom bomb). General Eaker was in the lead aircraft of the second flight.

 

Lt. General Ira Eaker took command of the 8th Air Force on 1 December 1942 (General Spaatz went to North Africa to command the air forces there under General Eisenhower). Lt. General James H. Doolittle took command of the 8th AF on 6 January 1944. Eaker moved to Italy to be C-in-C, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, comprising the American 12th and 15th AF and the British Balkan and Desert AF. Major General William A. Kepner took command of the 8th AF on 10 May 1945. General Doolittle moved to the U. S. to begin setting up B-29 groups for the 8th AF in the Pacific. On 16 July 1945, the 8th AF flag was moved from England to Okinawa, with General Doolittle assuming command once again. The war ended just before the 8th AF was ready for bombing operations.

 

In World War Two the 8th Air Force became the greatest air armada of any country in any war, reaching a total strength of 200, 000 persons by mid-1944 (it is estimated that more than 350,000 Americans served in the 8th AF in the three years in Europe). At peak strength the 8th AF could put up over 2000 four-engined bombers and more than 1000 fighters on a mission. For these reasons the 8th Air Force has become known as "The Mighty Eighth."

 

Half of the USAAF casualties in World War Two were suffered by the 8th AF (over 47,000 casualties, with over 26,000 dead). Seventeen Medals of Honor went to 8th AFers in WWII. By war’s end 8th AFers were awarded a number of other medals: 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 852 Silver Stars, 7,000 Purple Hearts, 46,000 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 442,000 Air Medals. Many more awards were made after the war. They remain uncounted. There were 261 fighter aces in the 8th Air Force in WWII, 31 of them had 15 or more aircraft kills.

 

The Eighth Air Force has continued in active service since its inception, with its units serving in every armed conflict the U. S. A. has engaged in ever since. It presently consists of most of the SAC units in the eastern half of the United States, plus England, Germany, Spain and Greece. The 8th AF has about 50,000 persons assigned. The 8th AF flies B-52’s, FB-111’s, tankers (including the new tanker version of the DC-10), reconnaissance, and command-and-control aircraft. It also has Titan, Minuteman and Air-Launched Cruise Missiles in its arsenal. A recent 8th AF Commander has stated that it is still the most powerful air striking force in the world.

 

Nearly 650,000 have served in or have been attached to the 8th Air Force since WWII. Of the one million persons who have been associated with the 8th AF since its inception, we estimate that more then 850,000 are alive today.

 

The 8th AF Clearinghouse was formed in late 1974. Out of this the 8th AF NEWS was born, January 1975. In May of 1975 the Eighth Air Force Historical Society was founded, beginning with 160 subscribers of the 8th AF NEWS. It has grown ever since at a rapid rate, passing member number 12,300 in August 1983.

 

The Eighth Air Force Historical Society, a non-profit organization, chartered in the State of Florida, was founded to perpetuate the history of the 8th AF and to provide opportunities for 8th AF veterans to get together. The Society maintains a Clearinghouse that reunites "lost" 8th AF veterans with their unit veterans organization. It also arranges annual reunions. The first reunion was held in Miami Beach in 1975. 650 persons attended. The eighth reunion was held in Cincinnati in October of 1982. 2,500 persons attended that reunion. If featured the dedication of the 8th AF Dayton Memorial, on the grounds of the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. The 8th AFHS also sponsors tours of England and other points of interest for members from time to time.

 

In 1977 the 8th Air Force Memorial Museum Foundation, Ins. (a non-profit organization chartered in the State of Florida) to fulfill the purpose of perpetuating the history of the 8th AF. The two organizations are linked by members who serve on the Board of Directors of both organizations. The 8th AFMMF carries out its mission by establishing 8th AF museum exhibits in various air museums and by sponsoring annual Air-War Symposia and "The Mighty Eighth Theater" in conjunction with 8th AF Reunions. They have also produced an 8th AF Bibliography, have a project underway to produce an AF Biography document on senior staff officers and commanders, and they are jointly sponsoring the publication of selected biographies with the Air Force Historical Foundation. In addition and 8th AF Photo Collection is maintained at the Library of Congress and the 8th AF Document Collection is maintained at the Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center of the USAF at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

All 8th AFers, past and present, may become members of the Society. Family members, air historian and others interested in furthering the purposes of the Society may sign on as Associates. Dues are set at $8.00 a calendar year ($10.00 for foreign addresses). Persons seeking more information are asked to contact:

James W. Hill, Managing Editor, 8th Air Force News

125 Ramblewood Rd. Blueberry Hill

Pennsylvania Furnace, PA. 16865

Phone: 814/234-1276 Fax: 814/234-0650