75 years of American Airmen: Past, present, future

Today’s 8th Air Force activated under the designation of VIII Bomber Command at Langley Field, Virginia, as part of an expansion of the U.S. Army Air Corps Feb. 1, 1942. The 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., celebrated its 75th anniversary with retired 8th Air Force commanders and command chiefs, and several Air Force Global Strike leaders and Royal Air Force personnel. The Eighth commands the U.S. Air Forces entire fleet of long-range, stealth, and heavy bombers, to include the recently added E4-B National Airborne Operations Center fleet. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

Today’s 8th Air Force activated under the designation of VIII Bomber Command at Langley Field, Virginia, as part of an expansion of the U.S. Army Air Corps Feb. 1, 1942. The 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., celebrated its 75th anniversary with retired 8th Air Force commanders and command chiefs, and several Air Force Global Strike leaders and Royal Air Force personnel. The Eighth commands the U.S. Air Forces entire fleet of long-range, stealth, and heavy bombers, to include the recently added E4-B National Airborne Operations Center fleet. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

Barksdale Air Force Base honor guard members participate in a building dedication and cake cutting ceremony at Barksdale AFB, La., Feb. 2, 2017. On Feb. 1, the 8th Air Force celebrate its 75th diamond anniversary and hosted various events throughout the week to commemorate and honor its past, present and future Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

Barksdale Air Force Base honor guard members participate in a building dedication and cake cutting ceremony at Barksdale AFB, La., Feb. 2, 2017. On Feb. 1, the 8th Air Force celebrate its 75th diamond anniversary and hosted various events throughout the week to commemorate and honor its past, present and future Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force commander, participates in a cake cutting ceremony with a former 8th AF commander, Gen. James McCarthy, (retired), and Airman 1st Class De’Andre Pool, 608th Air Operations Center administration apprentice, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 2, 2017. Various events, such as a memorial run, building dedication, cake cutting ceremony, and a local organization sponsored gala, took place to honor and commemorate the former, present and future Airmen of the “Mighty Eighth”. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force commander, participates in a cake cutting ceremony with a former 8th AF commander, Gen. James McCarthy, (retired), and Airman 1st Class De’Andre Pool, 608th Air Operations Center administration apprentice, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 2, 2017. Various events, such as a memorial run, building dedication, cake cutting ceremony, and a local organization sponsored gala, took place to honor and commemorate the former, present and future Airmen of the “Mighty Eighth”. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

The 8th Air Force headquarters building was dedicated to General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle during a series of 8th AF 75th diamond anniversary events at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 2, 2017. Doolittle commanded the 8th Air Force during World War II and led the historic air combat mission known today as the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

The 8th Air Force headquarters building was dedicated to General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle during a series of 8th AF 75th diamond anniversary events at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 2, 2017. Doolittle commanded the 8th Air Force during World War II and led the historic air combat mission known today as the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force commander, stands with former 8th AF commanders at a gala hosted by a local support organization at Sam's Town
Hotel and Casino in Shreveport, La., Feb. 3, 2017. Former and present bomber Airmen from across the country celebrated the anniversary by partaking in various events to honor the past, present and future Airmen of the "Mighty Eighth." (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force commander, stands with former 8th AF commanders at a gala hosted by a local support organization at Sam's Town Hotel and Casino in Shreveport, La., Feb. 3, 2017. Former and present bomber Airmen from across the country celebrated the anniversary by partaking in various events to honor the past, present and future Airmen of the "Mighty Eighth." (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

A B-1B Lancer soars over the 2nd Bomb Wing headquarters building at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in commemoration of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary Feb. 2, 2017. The modern day 8th Air Force traces its lineage to VIII Bomber Command, which came to life Feb. 1, 1942. Former and present bomber Airmen from across the country celebrated the anniversary by partaking in various event to honor the past, present and future Airmen of the “Mighty Eighth.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

A B-1B Lancer soars over the 2nd Bomb Wing headquarters building at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in commemoration of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary Feb. 2, 2017. The modern day 8th Air Force traces its lineage to VIII Bomber Command, which came to life Feb. 1, 1942. Former and present bomber Airmen from across the country celebrated the anniversary by partaking in various event to honor the past, present and future Airmen of the “Mighty Eighth.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

A B-2 Spirit flies over Barksdale Air Force Base, La., during a retreat ceremony in honor of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary Feb. 2, 2017. The 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, hosted a variety of events throughout the week to honor and commemorate its 75th anniversary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

A B-2 Spirit flies over Barksdale Air Force Base, La., during a retreat ceremony in honor of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary Feb. 2, 2017. The 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, hosted a variety of events throughout the week to honor and commemorate its 75th anniversary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

A B-52 Stratofortress flies over Barksdale Air Force Base, La., during a retreat ceremony Feb. 2, 2017. A B-2 Spirit, B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress participated in the flyover as part of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary events. Other events, such as a building dedication, memorial run, World War II dog tag presentation and a gala hosted by a local support organization, took place throughout the week to honor and celebrate the past and future of the “Mighty Eighth.”  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

A B-52 Stratofortress flies over Barksdale Air Force Base, La., during a retreat ceremony Feb. 2, 2017. A B-2 Spirit, B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress participated in the flyover as part of the 8th Air Force’s 75th anniversary events. Other events, such as a building dedication, memorial run, World War II dog tag presentation and a gala hosted by a local support organization, took place throughout the week to honor and celebrate the past and future of the “Mighty Eighth.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE --

On Feb. 1, 1942, the history of today’s 8th Air Force began to write its story. With milestones such as the Doolittle Raid and Operation Linebacker II, it’s no surprise that the 8th Air Force made a lasting legacy and is known today as the “Mighty Eighth.”

 

Lining the corridors of the historic 8th Air Force headquarters building at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., are photographs, paintings and mementos that illustrate to all Airmen who walk the halls, the triumphant history and feats the Eighth has made over the past 75 years.  

 

Today’s Mighty Eighth actually activated under the designation of VIII Bomber Command (BC) at Langley Field, Va., as part of an expansion of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. The VIII BC was a subordinate unit to the former 8th Air Force, today known as U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and relocated to Savannah, Ga., within days after settling in Virginia. Soon after, the VIII BC deployed to the European theater of operations where it found a permanent war-time home at the former Wycombe Abbey School for Girls in High Wycombe, England, under its first commander, Ira C. Eaker. 

 

“Some monikers from WWII have stood the test of time and are still in use today across the command,” said Lane Callaway, 8th Air Force historian.

 

For example, the wartime codename for the VIII BC headquarters was “Pinetree,” and now is the name of the command conference room in the Eighth’s headquarters building, where meetings address issues impacting worldwide operations and items of national interest.  

 

However, with great feats also come trial and tragedy. From May 1942 to July 1945, the Eighth was responsible for America’s daylight and strategic bombing campaign against Nazi-occupied Europe. With this responsibility, the Eighth suffered large losses. Out of 115,332 troops, more than 47,000 were taken out of the fight, including more than 26,000 killed in action. With this, the Eighth's brave men, from general officer to enlisted, earned 17 Medals of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses and 442,000 Air Medals.

 

On Feb. 28, 1944, the VIII BC was given the official designation of 8th Air Force. Later by mid-1944, the Eighth received its nickname, the Mighty Eighth, in recognition of its strength and ability to send more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighters in a single mission against enemy targets in Europe. The unit was composed of more than 200,000 people.

 

Finally in January 1975, Eighth Air Force moved to Barksdale, its ninth location and has since called the Bossier City and Shreveport area home. Barksdale also serves as the unit’s longest standing home station in its history.

 

While the Mighty Eighth was born into battle in the 1940s, its influence and impact can be seen spanning the post WWII and modern day eras.

 

The Mighty Eighth has participated in a string of contingency operations in support of bomber assurance and deterrence missions using the worlds most advanced and equipped bombers. Some examples being:

 

  1. 1991: Gulf War involving the 2d Bomb Wing

  2. 1996: OPERATION DESERT STRIKE against Iraq

  3. 1998: Operation DESERT FOX against Iraq

  4. 1999: Operation ALLIED FORCE against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- bombers flew 325 sorties to drop over 7 million pounds of ordnance on enemy targets.

     

    Even in today’s operations, Eighth Air Force’s bomber presence is felt globally.

     

    The Mighty Eighth continues to maintain a continuous bomber presence in the Pacific where B-1s not only deter aggression, but assure our allies that the U.S. is committed to international security. In the Central Command region, B-52s carry out a bombing campaign against ISIL forces. The B-2 operates globally as well, most recently seen striking terrorist training camps in Libya.

     

    “There is no doubt that Mighty Eighth forces are as relevant today as they were in the early years,” said Callaway.

     

    Today, the 8th Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary; 75 years of progression, strength, national assurance and pride. The Mighty Eighth commands the U.S. Air Force’s entire fleet of long-range, stealth and heavy-bombers, in addition to the recently added E4-B National Airborne Operations Center fleet.

     

    To commemorate the occasion, bomber Airmen from across the country have gathered at Barksdale for a special retreat and flyover. Additional scheduled events include a building dedication, memorial run, WWII veteran dog tag presentation, and a gala hosted by a local support organization to commemorate the American Airmen of the Mighty Eighth.

     

    Within the next decade, the Eighth will boast their newest capability -- the B-21 Raider -- a long-range strike bomber, named after the surprise attack against Japan during WWII in 1942 -- the Doolittle Raid. This bomber will play in allowing the Air Force to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment, and in providing the Air Force the flexibility and capability to launch from the continental U.S. and deliver air strikes on any location in the world. The Air Force plans to field the initial capability of the bomber in the mid-2020s.

     

    “I am extremely proud to be part of a unit engrained with such a rich heritage,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force commander. “From early on, Eighth Air Force has played a major role in our nation’s security, and we will carry that legacy into the future.”