While Ben Franklin theorized using airships to deliver troops to battle behind enemy lines as early as 1783 and the Union Army fielded a balloon service in the Civil War, today’s Air Force traces its origin to the heavier-than-air machines of the U.S. Army’s Aeronautical Division, founded in 1907– just four years after the Wright brothers first flew. After service in Army green during both World Wars, the Air Force became an independent branch of the military in 1947 with the first Secretary of the Air Force named on Sept. 18 and its first Chief of Staff named on Sept. 26.
May 10, 1972: Nixon was in office, Roberta Flack’s “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was on the top of the charts– which is a beautiful coincidence considering the love the public has for the A-10– and a gallon of milk cost 52 cents.
That was the day Fairchild-Republic test pilot Howard W. “Sam” Nelson made the first flight of the YA-10 prototype Thunderbolt II, 71-1369, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Fairchild Republic YA-10A (S/N 71-1369, the first prototype). (U.S. Air Force photo)