Which country was the first to have an air force as its own branch of the service coequal to the army and navy?
Wikipedia says the RAF (Great Britain) was first, formed April 1, 1918. France was earlier, dating back to 1909, although it was an Armée de l’Air and thus disqualified by the terms of the OP, as was the Imperial German Army Air Service of 1910 and the Imperial Russian Air Force of 1909.
I suspect Canada’s RCAF might have been second, established 1924.
Co-equality, though, is a bit trickier. An interesting question would be which nation was first to have an Air Force officer as its Chief of Defense Staff, or local equivalent.
[sub]There’s nothing soft about the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps![/sub]
My question was phrased to exclude things like the United States Army Air Corps (Force? Was it Corps or Force? Was it both at different times? I never managed to get quite straight on that.) where the fliers were, well, Army.
In the current American system, the Air Force goes all the way to the top: There is an Air Force man on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That is what I’m talking about.
It was the Army Air Corps (I was in that at the end of WWII), and changed to Air Force after it became a separate branch of the armed forces. I can’t recall when that happened.
The old “Up We Go Into the Wild BluenYonder” song ended, “And nothing will stop the Army Air Corps.”
Immediately following the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.
The US Army Air Corps was renamed US Army Air Force while still part of the Army in 1942. The defense reorg act of 1947 created the current structure with the USAF alongside the Army, rather than inside it.
Who was first? No clue.
Bryan Ekers: Was the 1909 French Armée de l’Air truly part of the French army or was it a separate agency just using a similar-sounding name?
Per the Air Force Museum:
1907 - Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, U.S. Army
1914 - becomes Aviation Section, S.C.
1917 - becomes U.S. Army Air Service; overseas units are Air Service, A.E.F.
1926 - becomes U.S. Army Air Corps
1935 - G.H.Q. Air Force established as a separate combat arm; Air Corps responsible for training and matériel
1941 - U.S. Army Air Forces (plural) puts both commands under Hap Arnold
1947 - U.S. Air Force created as a separate service
Where did you find that? I’m just asking because there was no imperial German army.
On the contrary Darling, there’s nothing cushy about the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps!
This book documents their exploits during WWI and refers to them by that name (though the book specifically starts its history in 1914, other sources say its roots started several years before). How independent they actually were from established Army hierarchies and supply lines and whatnot (or if it was to a degree that would satisfy the OP), I can’t say.
Both the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces existed in World War II.
Was It the Air Corps or Army Air Forces in WW II?, by C. C. Elebash.
The short answer is that from June 1941 onward, the Air Corps was a subordinate organization of the Army Air Forces, responsible for materiel and training, while another subordinate organization, the Air Force Combat Command, was responsible for operational forces.
Which BTW is the name it has remained using all along. Spain’s Ejército del Aire also uses the name “Air Army” being an independent service.
According to its Wikipedia article, the Armée de l’Air became an independent service with its own Secretary only in 1934; it traces its origin to 1909 but in WW1 it was called the Aéronautique Militaire and was a separate command under Army jurisdiction (apparenlty like the Air Corps was in the USA later on).
In WW1 the German air service was attached to the Army as well, and was dissolved under the Versailles treaty – a proper Luftwaffe was not reinstated until the 30s.
According to the various histories at www.scrable.nl, the Royal Netherlands Air Force was established in 1913; the British RAF dates from 1918; Italy went to an independent Air Force in 1923. I’m hardly going to go country by country…
Shoot, let’s try that again:
www.scramble.nl is the right link
The not-so-short answer is it had been that way since 1935, when the Combat Command was established as GHQAF. At first its mission was purely defensive, based on heavy bombers like the B-17, which it put into service in 1937.