From their humble beginnings, working alongside the Wright Brothers, Army aviators have been pioneers in aviation and they have played a key role in forming and shaping Army doctrine and tactics on the battlefield.
This site is designed to give a glimpse into the birth and growth of the aviation community showcasing the Soldiers, equipment, missions and conflicts that helped shape the Army into what it is today.
Today, modern Army aviators perform a multitude of complex missions. From patrolling the skies over modern battlefields while piloting unmanned aerial vehicles from remote locations to dominating the modern battlefield in the middle of the day or during the dark of night.
United States Army Air Corps, 1926 - 1941
In the first major step toward an independent Air Force, the Army Air Service was re-designated, July 2, 1926, as advocates of air power fought for a separate branch under the Department of Defense, and others fought to keep the aviation assets within the Army command structure.
During this time, the primary mission of aviators was still to support troops on the ground and aviation assets still reported to ground forces commanders and not the Air Corps. The Air Corps staff was solely responsible for overseeing procurement, maintenance, supply and training.
The Air Corps also sought to grow the ranks of aviators and aircraft but never saw this to fruition because of a lack of funding during the Great Depression.
Although the Army Air Forces took the lead from the Army Air Corps in 1941, the Army Air Corps played a combat role in the Army and was not dissolved until 1947 - with the creation of the Air Force.
Featured Historical Image - First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France., 10/18/1918. Image courtesy of the Department of Defense.
United States Army Air Forces, 1941 - 1947
The Army Air Forces was formed in 1941, from the Army Air Corps, in response to the growing structure and mission that Army aviators were playing and the need for a more independent command structure. When created, several other nations had already adopted independent air forces but the United States made the decision to leave aviators as a part of the Army.
The Army Air Forces was born in one of the biggest steps toward an independent Air Force. With the threat of war looming, the aviation branch underwent a massive reorganization and the Army Air Forces was given control over all of Army aviation under the direct orders of then-Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall.
At the Air Corps' height, it had more than 2.4 million people and 80,000 aircraft in service and flew more than 2.3 million missions during World War II.
Eventually becoming the Air Force in 1947, many of the pilots and missions of the Army Air Forces moved to the newly formed branch of service.
The Army was left with a handful of pilots and planes flying observation missions for field artillery units, but this would be short-lived as a new and revolutionary concept in aviation would change modern combat forever.
The Modern Era of Army Aviation, 1983-Present
After the formation of the Air Force, the Army was left with very little in the way of aviation assets. Relegated to a support mission, a relative handful of aircrafts were used in an observation role in support of field artillery units.
Even at the tail end of World War II, the winds of change were blowing and a new rotary-wing aircraft would come into play. Unknown, at the close of World War II, is how quickly helicopters would gain prominence for a multitude of missions on a battlefield half-a-world away on the Korean peninsula.
The Korean and Vietnam Wars would ultimately prove the versatility, adaptability and capability of helicopters and many key Army leaders helped shape what is now current Army doctrine based on lessons from those wars.
Aviation became a basic branch of the Army, April 12, 1983, and today the mission of Army aviation is to find, fix and destroy any enemy through fire and maneuver and to provide combat support and combat service support in coordinated operations as an integral member of the combined arms team fully integrated within joint operational framework.
U.S. Army's First Astronaut
Brigadier General Robert L. Stewart became the Army's first astronaut in 1979 and served on two separate shuttle missions, logging 289 hours in space. He is also the first Army astronaut to walk in space, un-tethered, while using a man-maneuvering unit.
Stewart entered on active duty with the United States Army in May 1964 and was assigned as an air defense artillery director at the 32nd NORAD Region Headquarters (SAGE), Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama. In July 1966, after completing rotary wing training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and Fort Rucker, Alabama, he was designated an Army Aviator. He flew 1,035 hours of combat time during Vietnam War from August 1966 to 1967, primarily as a fire team leader in the armed helicopter platoon of "A" Company, 101st Aviation Battalion.
Over Fifty-two U.S. Army Aviators have been awarded the medal of honor
See all their names and campaigns in which they served here at the United States Army Aviation Museum website.
Casualty evacuation, also known as CASEVAC, or by the callsign 'Dustoff' is a military term for the emergency patient evacuation of casualties from a combat zone. Casevac can be done by both ground and air. "DUSTOFF" is the callsign specific to U.S. Army Air Ambulance units. CASEVACs by air today are almost exclusively done by helicopter, a practice begun on a small scale toward the end of World War II.
Maj. Charles L. Kelly, who went by the call sign of "Dustoff" while flying in Vietnam, was killed in action, July 1, 1964. Before his death, he was well-known for his selfless actions and his mantra "When I have your wounded." After his death, "Dustoff" became the call sign for all aero-medical evacuation missions in Vietnam.
Read the full history of U.S. Army Medevac at the National Museum of the United States Army
The mission of Army aviation is to find, fix and destroy any enemy through fire and maneuver and to provide combat support and combat service support in coordinated operations as an integral member of the combined arms team.
RELATED VIDEOS - PRESENT DAY
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers discuss what they do and why they love their aviation careers. About U.S. Army: The Army Mission - our purpose - remains constant: To deploy, fight and win our nation's wars by providing ready, prompt and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the joint force. See more videos about U.S. Army aviation on our youtube channel
Credit: U.S. Army video by Sgt. 1st Class John Freese and Sgt. William Washburn