- For additional history and lineage, see United States Air Forces in Europe
The history of Eighth Air Force begins on 2 January 1942 with its activation at Savannah Air Base, Georgia. In quick order, on 5 January, Major General Carl Spaatz assumed command of HQ Eighth Air Force at Bolling Field, Washington, DC. On 8 January the order activating the "U.S. Air Forces in the British Isles" (USAFBI) was announced. On 12 May, the first contingent of USAAF personnel arrived in England to join the Eighth Air Force. On 15 June Spaatz arrived in England to establish the Headquarters of Eighth Air Force at Bushy Park, 15 miles (24 km) WSW of London/.
Eighth Air Force was the command and control organization over its operational components:
- VIII Bomber Command (Established 19 January 1942)
- Strategic bombardment using heavy, 4-engined bombers.
- VIII Fighter Command (Established 19 January 1942)
- Provide fighter escort of heavy bombers
- VIII Air Support Command (Established 24 April 1942)
- Provide reconnaissance, troop transport, and tactical bombardment using 2-engine medium bombers.
VIII Bomber Command was activated at Langley Field, Virginia, It was reassigned to Savannah Air Base, Georgia on 10 Feb 1942. An advanced detachment of VIII Bomber Command was established at RAF Bomber Command Headquarters at RAF Daws Hill England on 23 Feb in preparation for its units to arrive in the United Kingdom from the United States. The first combat group of VIII Bomber Command to arrive in the United Kingdom was the ground echelon of the 97th Bombardment Group, which arrived at RAF Polebrook on 9 June 1942.
Regular combat operations by the VIII Bomber Command began on 17 Aug 1942, when the 97th Bombardment Group flew 12 B-17Es on the first VIII Bomber Command heavy bomber mission of the war from RAF Polebrook, attacking the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France.
During World War II, the offensive air forces of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) came to be classified as strategic or tactical. A strategic air force was that with a mission to attack an enemy's war effort beyond his front-line forces, predominantly production and supply facilities, whereas a tactical air force supported ground campaigns, usually with objectives selected through co-operation with the armies.
In Europe, Eighth Air Force was the first USAAF strategic air force, with a mission to support an invasion of continental Europe from the British Isles. Eighth Air Force carried out strategic daytime strategic bombing operations in Western Europe from airfields in eastern England.
Read more about this topic: Eighth Air Force
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