The 8th Air Force, 80 years on

Updated: Apr 20

This month marked the 80th Anniversary of the 8th Air Force. Formed on the 1st February 1942 their story began during World War II & continues to this day.


Originally formed as the VIII Bomber Command at Langley Field in Virginia they soon moved to East Anglia in England under its parent unit of the 8th Air Force. On the 22nd February 1944 the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) went through much organisation which would see the 8th Air Force become the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe & from this day VIII Bomber Command would become known as the 8th Air Force. They would carry out their first operation on the 4th July 1942 flying aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang Fighter, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator & P-47 Thunderbolt & would continue to carry out heavy bombardment operations across Europe for the duration of the war.


Known as the Mighty Eighth they obtained this title due to their manpower & the amount of Aircraft that were able to be despatched on a single operation.


The Eighth has an impressive war record which sadly would come with much sacrifice. Almost half of the Army Air Forces Casualties were suffered by the 8th Air Force & of the number of fighters & bombers lost 33% were assigned to the them.


They also saw a total of 17 Medal of Honors being awarded. The Medal of Honor is the highest & most prestigious decoration that can be awarded to recognise acts of valour by American Military Personnel.


B-47 Public Domain - Wikicommons

Following World War II, the Eighth continued to grow & by early 1960 had gained missile systems & units which would see them take part in bombing operations in South East Asia during the 1960s & 1970s.


Following the 9/11 attacks of 2001 the Air Force would take part in the war on terror against countries such as Afghanistan & Iraq, as well as ensuring the protection of homeland security.


In 2010 the Eighth would be assigned to the new Air Force Global Strike Command & by 2016 the Eighth would take in the 595th Command & Control Group from Offutt Air Base. With this brought the E-4B Aircraft along with their Ground & Aircrew as well as the relevant Operations & Communication squadrons too.


At present there are plans for the Eighth to introduce a new long range strike bomber named the B-21 Raider (after the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942). This new aircraft is expected to deliver strikes anywhere in the world & will be able to penetrate the toughest defences.


On the 1st February two F-15E Stike Eagles, a B-1B Lancer, a F-35B Lightening from RAF Marham & an RAF XX191 Hawk Camera Ship took to the skies over the UK to mark the anniversary. During their flight they flew over the IWM at Duxford, RAF Marham, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Lakenheath & the Cambridge American Cemetery & Memorial.

 

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