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Defending the West: The United States Air Force and European Security, 1946-1998

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The United States Army Air Forces became an independent service, the United States Air Force USAF, in 1947 -- the second year, supposedly, of peace. In reality, there had just begun a long conflict between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and the satellite states subject to it. In 1949, the United States and most of the non-Communist countries of Europe signed the North Atlantic Treaty. The United States Air Force, which had been only a token presence on the continent since the end of World War II, once more crossed the Atlantic in strength. The commitment of that service to peace and security in Europe, which continues still, has been the longest of its history. This monograph attempts to give the general reader some sense of the role the USAF has played in Europe since the end of World War II. It contains three sections. The first section reviews the reasons for the origins of the Cold War and describes the strategic concerns that drove the United States to commit itself to the military defense of distant lands. This section also describes the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO in 1946-1947. The second section reviews the higher strategy of NATO with special reference to the central role of air power. NATOs war plans remain classified, but the recent declassification of the alliances most important strategic documents makes it possible to trace the central role that air power would have played in the defense of Europe the strategic air offensive against the Soviet homeland, and the interdiction of Soviet forces advancing westward against NATO. The final section reviews the history of the United States Air Forces in Europe USAFE to show the many ways in which the United States Air Force has served American national security policy on the continent. This section is closely based on a brief history of the USAFE prepared by Dr. Daniel Harrington of USAFEs history office.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Aircraft

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