USAFE celebrates 64 years of service

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U.S. Air Forces in Europe -- the Air Force’s oldest active major command -- celebrates its 64th anniversary this month.

It is a command that has helped shape world events since its inception during World War II. Its legacy continued through the Cold War, conflicts in Southeast Asia, and remains equally vital today as we continue that tradition in the global war on terrorism, said Gen. Tom Hobbins, the 34th and current USAFE commander.

"For more than half a century, USAFE airmen have taken the fight to America’s and our allies’ enemies," General Hobbins said. "All Airmen and civilians assigned to USAFE today, like those who came before, should take pride in the fact that, every day, their service to our nation adds to this command's proud legacy."

What became USAFE began its existence as Eighth Air Force at Savannah, Ga., on Jan. 19, 1942. A few weeks later, the War Department put Eighth Air Force at the center of the Allies’ plans for winning the war by giving it the mission of directing the U.S. strategic bombing campaign against Axis Europe from the United Kingdom.

In February 1944, the headquarters took control of strategic bombing missions based in the Mediterranean. The broader mission brought with it a new name, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, later shortened to U.S. Air Forces in Europe in August 1945.

USAFE helped deter Soviet attack on Western Europe though the long years of the Cold War, contributed forces to victorious coalitions in the Persian Gulf War and the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, and saved countless lives while participating in nearly 200 humanitarian operations.

Its commanders have included such legendary Air Force leaders as Gen. Carl Spaatz, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, and Gen. Lauris Norstad, and more recently Gen. Michael Ryan and Gen. John P. Jumper, both of whom later served as Air Force Chief of Staff.

The headquarters’ continuing commitment to excellence is reflected in the fact that it has won 11 Air Force Organizational Excellence Awards since 1986. Its current missions include strengthening America’s ties with the more than 90 countries in its area of responsibility and defending American interests in the region against the full spectrum of threats.

The command has played a leading role in the global war on terrorism, deploying people and equipment to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf region, as well as the trans-Sahara region of northern Africa.