The Ninth Air Force was unofficially born per the following quotation from the official history: "on 28th June 1942, Major General Lewis H. Brereton was placed in command of the U.S. Army - Middle East Air Force (USAMEAF)"
General Brereton brought a dozen B-17's with him from India. They joined a misfit number of B-24's originally to ferry airplanes from the U.S. to China, but were waylaid in the Middle East because of Rommel's alarming successes in North Africa. They were pressed into service to help the British 8th Army hold Cairo. A Colonel Halverson was the original leader of this ferry mission. Simultaneously, Colonel Mears led a group of P-40's off the aircraft carrier "Ranger" on the west coast of Africa and without loss delivered them to Middle East A.F. in Cairo.
After Rommel was halted at El Alamein, the importance of having heavy bombers in the theater had been demonstrated.
The U.S. Army Middle East Air Force was finally re-designated the Ninth Air Force on November 12, 1942 with General Brereton in command. By this time the force had received a few fighter planes, troop carrier units and more bombers, both heavy and medium. Meager as they were in the theater at first, it was an important morale boost for the ground forces fighting there.
So, it was out of combat necessity that the Ninth Air Force came into existence - not some planning table or ivory tower think tank. At first it was a touch-and -go operation at best. In 1943 these fellows were the real pioneers. Additional units were assigned as the might of the gigantic United States industrial arsenal kicked into gear with trained pilots and more aircraft.
Out of the initial experience came the "Three Commandments" that have been the Ninth Air Force's tactical purposes even today.
1. Gain air superiority. 2. Deny the enemy the ability to replenish or replace losses.
3. Offer ground forces close support.
After success in North Africa, the Ninth took on an even more essential mission, the invasion of Sicily and the boot mainland of Italy. Bombers, fighters, troop carriers and support units were reinforced and given new designations. In just one year's time the small beleaguered Middle East Air Force had developed into a formidable air armada.
Highlights of the North Africa and Sicily campaigns must be mentioned - even in the briefest of histories. Namely, the "Palm Sunday Massacre," April 18, 1943, when Ninth Air Force fighters caught hundreds of German JU52 transports low over the water of the Mediterranean attempting to evacuate troops from North Africa. It was just that. A massacre. Axis Sally called the Ninth Air Force fighters "Butchers of the Ninth" that evening. And of course, the most famous of all, the Ploesti oil refinery raids in July 1943. Colonel John "Killer" Kane, leader of the 98th Bomb Group (B-24's), was among four Medal of Honor awardees for special heroism on that expensive but heroic mission.
In October 1943, the plan called for relocation of the Ninth Air Force to England preparatory to the "D" Day Invasion. At first the Ninth was assigned to operation "Point Blank" along with the Eighth Air Force. Mission: to smash the German Luftwaffe in the air and on the ground to bring about complete air supremacy. Medium bombers of the Eighth were reassigned to the Ninth. In effect, the plan was to prepare the Ninth's units for their major role: that of direct tactical support for ground forces in the coming invasion.
By "D" Day, June 6, 1944, the Ninth had become the largest tactical Air Force ever assembled under one command, 250,000 people with 3,500 airplanes in 1,500 units. It consisted of fighters, bombers, troop carriers, air defense, engineering and service commands.
On June 15, 1944, General Eisenhower hosted his newly commissioned son, John Eisenhower, on a tour of the battle zone in Normandy. John was startled to see vehicles moving bumper-to-bumper in complete violation to military textbook doctrine. "You would never get away with this if you didn't have air supremacy" he told his father. General Eisenhower snorted, "If I didn't have air supremacy, I wouldn't be here!"
General Patton's Third Army pushed through France so quickly that Patton was known to relocate the command post each evening. General Bradley put the Third Army on that one road south, sending 200,000 vehicles through the narrow corridor at Avranches, risking being cut off by flanking enemy units. The flanks held - the break through was safe. This mobility of the Third Army was now a reality, superbly supported by the XIX Tactical A.F., commanded by Brigadier General Weyland.
With the invasion successfully accomplished, this great fist of war smashed across Europe from the Normandy beaches to the redoubts of Bavaria, hounding the Hun as its creators couldn't have foreseen. Whole enemy divisions surrendered to the Ninth in Southern France after being harassed to the point of utter desperation. Rommel himself was shot off the road. Hardly a German unit could move in any kind of visibility without being gunned, rocketed and bombed down. As soon as the fog lifted in the "Battle of the Bulge" the enemy offensive was halted, once and for all. The carnage inflicted on the German retreat out of the "Bulge" by the Ninth A.F. during January 1945 was something participants will never forget.
(This article does not give comment or credit to aircraft such as the A-20, the A-26 or the F-5. Efforts will be made to correct that omission.)
And so the war with Germany ended for the Ninth on May 7, 1945. Oh, there were other plans. Transfer to the Pacific Theater and invasion of Japan was a sure thing, but thank God our leaders had the fortitude to "pull the string." At the end of August 1945 the survivors had their fondest dreams realized; to return home to loved ones long separated, back to school, and the civilian life longed for.
On December 2, 1945 the Ninth Air Force was inactivated while headquarters were still in Germany. In just seven months after victory, the greatest tactical Air Force in history was dismantled.
But not for long!
On March 28, 1946, the Ninth Air Force was reactivated at Biggs field, Texas, albeit only a shadow of its former might. Continuing postwar demobilization kept the true rebirth of the Ninth's power far into the future. However, cold war pressure and especially Korea convinced the powers-that-be to begin rebuilding the magnificent organization. The Ninth's role in the Korea era was one of a huge tactical training air force. Whole units were trained in the States and sent overseas to reinforce or replace existing combat veterans.
Several reorganizations and reassignments took place for the Force in the late 50's and 60's, but through it all, the Ninth was recognized as the primary experts and authorities on tactical air warfare.
In September 1954, the Ninth Air Force Headquarters was assigned to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, where it remains today. This permanence has allowed the staff to concentrate on their main mission with the expertise gained from long experience.
Called again to the country's combat colors, the Ninth played a major role as far as they were allowed - in prosecuting air warfare in Vietnam. Again, for eight years, 1965 to 1973, the force furnished highly trained units to the fighting front.
For the balance of the 70's and most of the 80's, the Ninth Air Force's efforts were directed to rebuilding the attrition of the Vietnam mission and assimilating a new generation of high tech weapons. New jet fighters and "smart" bombs, with performance unheard of ten years before, were incorporated smoothly into the arsenal. The challenging transition was accomplished with professionalism earned from years of experience.
The critical test, of course, came in operation "Desert Shield and Storm," when Ninth Air Force units answered the call. In 43 days it was over. A more complete victory with minimal losses can hardly be imagined.....but such victories do not come by accident. Desert Storm was the culmination of a great effort. Training, professionalism, discipline and dedication -- four elements that have marked the spirit and successes of the Ninth Air Force since those1942 days in Egypt. Today this responsive and capable force stands at the ready to serve our nation anywhere, at any time, with valor and total commitment!
Sources: "The Ninth A.F. in WWII" by Ken Rust 1970, Akron U. Archives
Ninth A.F. Association Membership Pamphlet
The above history is remiss in not including the importance of the C-47 aircraft and crews during the WW II segments of the 9th Air Force. Special deference here is based on the close relationship of the 9th Air Force and the U.S. Army components it was dedicated to support. "Any documentation on the "U.S.A. Airborne Fiftieth Anniversary" must include the participation of the Troop Carrier Units. Certainly, the C-47 aircraft is the catalyst that brought the parachutists, the glider men and the aircrews together to execute a wide variety of airborne operations in all theaters of operation during World War II." (This quote is provided by Col. Vito S. Pedone, USAF Retired and 9AFA Director).
The importance of the 9th Troop Carrier Command has not been given the immense credit it warrants. The following comment has been received from Robert L. Cloer of the 315th Troop Carrier Group Association: The 9th Troop Carrier Command .. with about 1800 plus planes and gliders .. The Airborne operations of WWII played significant roles throughout the period. (see below regarding work done by Michael T. Fletcher)
This History page has been read and appreciated by many. Sad to say, it is not enough for those that served or know about other segments of our history. Service organizations have never had the recognition they deserve. The same is true for others such as communications, supply and maintenance elements. When additional information is provided and verified, it should be added to this page. All input will be given consideration and space. Can you help?
One individual has done a lot of research on the history of the Ninth Air Force. He has compiled the most detailed and interesting facts of how, where and when the Ninth Air Force was begun and operated. He has written to the 9AFA and said "To place an order for any of these titles, forward the amount in cash, check or money order (Made out to Michael T. Fletcher) and send to 591 Sadlier Way, #1, Reno,NV89512,USA
Titles currently available:
Special Operations: AAF Aid to European Resistance Movements 1943-1945, $30.00.
Ninth Air Force April to November 1944 (Army Air Forces Historical Studies No. 32. $20.00
Ninth Air Force in the ETO 16 October 1943 to 16 April 1944, $20.00
Participation of the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, $22.00.
These first four titles have been received and read and appreciated. The amount of detail in these volumes is too great to add to the above limited summaries. For instance, changes to the organizational structure of the Ninth Air Force is most interesting.