The United States Air Force (USAF) was founded on September 18, 1947.
Chief Justice Fred Vinson swore in Stuart Symington as the first secretary of the air force, officially founding a new branch of the U.S. military. General Carl A. Spaatz became the USAF’s first chief of staff eight days later on September 26, 1947.
The origins of the USAF lie in a decision made just four years after the Wright Brothers conducted the world’s first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps created an Aeronautical Division and put it in “charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects.” As aviation technology improved, the army’s air force grew bigger.
An independent military arm became virtually inevitable after the Army Air Forces became an autonomous U.S. Army Command in 1942 and then grew substantially throughout the remainder of World War II. On July 26, 1947, President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on board the presidential aircraft, the Sacred Cow, and set the creation of the USAF in motion.
The Branch is also famous for Tracking Santa Claus. The Air Force tracks Santa’s movements on Christmas Eve across the globe through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The tradition began in 1955, when a young child accidently called the unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, believing she was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper. The commander on duty that night quickly realized the mistake and reassured the child that the Air Force would ensure Santa’s safe journey. NORAD continued the tradition in the following decades and today, children can follow Santa Claus’ journey online or call NORAD on Christmas Eve to receive reports on Santa’s up-to-date location.