In June 1941, the Army Air Corps
and the Air Force Combat Command were reorganized and renamed the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), which remained officially part of the Army throughout World War II. It was not until 1947 that am independent Air Force was established.
Numerous Floridians served in the USAAF, and nearly one-fourth of all the personnel in the USAAF had trained in Miami Beach during the war. Many others had been stationed at one of the Army Air Force bases that dotted the state.
B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators of the 8th, 12th, and 15th Air Forces began daylight precision bombing of targets in German-occupied Europe in 1942. Initially, American squadrons suffered heavy casualties due to German anti-aircraft and fighter defenses, and the lack of escort fighters that could accompany the bombers. Eventually, the P-51 Mustang was adopted as the main bomber escort, and losses dropped dramatically.
During the last eighteen months of the war, American bombers pounded German industrial and transportation targets, as well as enemy cities.
In the Pacific, Army Air Force planes, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, conducted the first offensive operation of the war in April 1942 with a dramatic bombing raid on Tokyo. Following specialized training in Florida, Doolittle launched his B-52 bombers from the aircraft carrier Hornet.
USAAF bombers and fighters took part in most of the major campaigns in the Pacific theater. In early 1945, B-29 bombers devastated Japanese cities in a series of fire bomb raids, which ended in the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.