Library Fact Sheets
EIGHTH AIR FORCE|
Printable Fact Sheet
Headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in the communities of Bossier City and Shreveport, La., Eighth Air Force is one of two active duty numbered air forces in Air Force Global Strike Command. The mission of the "Mighty Eighth" is to safeguard America's interests through strategic deterrence and global combat power. The flexible, conventional and nuclear strategic mission gives Eighth Air Force the ability to deploy forces and engage enemy threats both from home station or forward positioned, anywhere and at any time.
Our motto is "Deterrence through strength, global strike on demand."
The Eighth Air Force team consists of more than 16,000 active-duty, Air National Guard and Reserve professionals operating and maintaining a variety of aircraft capable of deploying air power to any area of the world. This air power includes the heart of America's heavy bomber force: the B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress. The "Mighty Eighth's" B-52 force consists of 76 bombers assigned to two active duty wings and one reserve wing located at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Minot AFB, N.D. The B-2 force consists of 20 assigned bombers based at Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Eighth Air Force's 608th Ira C. Eaker Air & Space Operations Center is the "Mighty Eighth's" senior element of our global warfighting Command and Control capabilities. The AOC operates at the operational level of warfare; where specific missions are planned, integrated, controlled and assessed. At this level, the 608 AOC conducts global operations and intelligence motoring for situational awareness, develops integrated executable plans and tasking orders for selected courses of action and provides command and control capability for execution of assigned Global Strike forces when directed.
Eighth Air Force is also home to Task Force 204, the Air Force's nuclear command center responsible for the day-to-day capability provided by bomber assets. Task Force 204 presents worldwide strategic bomber capabilities to U.S. Strategic Command and ensures assigned bomber and reconnaissance forces are able to perform their taskings under the U.S. Strategic Command's Operations Plan. The task force also actively monitors force generation for bomber and reconnaissance assets, weapons stockpiles and nuclear force training.
The VIII Bomber Command (later redesignated 8th Air Force on Feb. 22, 1944) was activated as part of the U.S. Army Air Force on Feb. 1, 1942, at Langley Field, Va. About ten days later, the VIII Bomber Command joined its parent unit, Eighth Air Force at Hunter Field in Savannah, Ga. Thirteen days later, Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker took VIII Bomber Command to Daws Hill, England. Once on English soil, a permanent home for VIII Bomber Command was soon established. From May 1942 until July 1945, VIII Bomber Command would plan and execute the American daylight, precision, and strategic bombing campaign over Nazi-occupied Europe from a former girls school at High Wycombe, England.
During World War II, under the leadership of such generals as Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle, the VIII Bomber Command became the greatest air armada in history. On Feb. 22, 1944, the Army reorganized its Air Forces in Europe. In redesignation actions, 8th Air Force became the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (now the United States Air Forces in Europe), and the VIII Bomber Command became Eighth Air Force. By mid-1944, 8th Air Force had reached a total strength of more than 200,000 people (it is estimated that more than 350,000 Americans served in Eighth Air Force during the war in Europe.) At peak strength, 8th Air Force could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and more than 1,000 fighters on a single mission. For these reasons, 8th Air Force became known as the "Mighty Eighth."
The "Mighty Eighth" compiled an impressive record in the war. This achievement, however, carried a high price. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force's casualties in WW II were suffered by Eighth Air Force (more than 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 dead). Seventeen Medals of Honor went to 8th Air Force personnel during the war. By war's end, they had been awarded a number of other medals to include 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 442,000 Air Medals. Many more awards were made to Eighth Air Force veterans after the war that remain uncounted. There were 261 fighter aces in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Thirty-one of these aces had 15 or more aircraft kills apiece. Another 305 enlisted gunners were also recognized as aces.
Following the end of the war in Europe, Eighth Air Force headquarters moved to Okinawa in July 1945, to train new bomber groups for combat against Japan. However, the Japanese surrendered before Eighth Air Force saw action in the Pacific theater. In June 1946, the headquarters moved to MacDill Field, Fla., to join the newly established Strategic Air Command. In November 1950, the headquarters transferred to Fort Worth Army Air Field (later Carswell AFB), Texas.
Eighth Air Force spent the next few years building its strategic capabilities. As a result, the Eighth had a minimal role in the Korean War, only deploying the 27th Fighter Wing to fly combat missions over Korea. On June 13, 1955, 8th Air Force moved to Westover AFB, Mass., and began the transition to the jet age with the B-47 and KC-97 aircraft. These aircraft were phased out in the early 1960s and were replaced by the KC-135 tankers, the Atlas Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the Titan I ICBM, and early models of the current workhorse, the B-52.
Eighth Air Force was called upon again in 1965 to perform combat missions in Southeast Asia. The Eighth periodically deployed its stateside-based B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker units to operating bases in Guam, Okinawa and Thailand. In April 1970, Eighth Air Force Headquarters transferred to Andersen AFB, Guam to direct these operations. The intensive bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong areas during the 11-day period in December 1972, known as LINEBACKER II, or the Christmas-Day Bombing Campaign, was but one highlight of the period. Those bombing missions influenced the North Vietnamese government to return to the negotiating table. Following the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, Eighth Air Force moved to its current home, Barksdale AFB, La., replacing Second Air Force on Jan. 1, 1975.
In the 1980s, the Eighth participated in several key operations such as operating the tanker task force for Operation URGENT FURY in 1983 and directing all air refueling operations for Operation EL DORADO CANYON in 1986 and Operation JUST CAUSE in 1989.
Eighth Air Force units played a key role in Operation DESERT SHIELD, and Operation DESERT STORM, spearheading the combat phase with B-52G strikes from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The B-52s launched conventional air-launched cruise missiles on Iraq targets to begin the war. Eighth Air Force units, temporarily forward deployed into the Persian Gulf region, bombed Iraq's Republican Guard forces and other key strategic targets during the conflict. The majority of air refueling and tactical reconnaissance assets came from the "Mighty Eighth" as well.
On Dec. 16, 1998, Eighth Air Force was once again called into action during Operation DESERT FOX. Joining other allied forces in the Arabian Gulf, B-52s, as well as B-1 bombers, in their combat debut, participated in the air strike campaign to reduce Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and other strategic targets.
Units from the "Mighty Eighth" returned to combat in Europe for the first time in more than 50 years during Operation ALLIED FORCE, March 24 - June 10, 1999. During the 78-day air campaign, B-1s, B-2s, and B-52s joined other NATO and allied forces in the operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This first offensive action in NATO history included the combat debut of the B-2.
B-1 and B-52 bombers (deployed to RAF Fairford U.K.) and B-2s (which operated from Whiteman AFB, Mo.) flew close to 325 sorties, while dropping more than 7 million pounds of ordnance.
Eighth Air Force is again at the forefront of a new campaign...the war on terrorism. Since the beginning of Operations NOBLE EAGLE and ENDURING FREEDOM in September 2001, the "Mighty Eighth's" bomber forces have repeatedly deployed into the combat zone and engaged terrorist targets with precise lethal force. The bombers unique combination of all-weather precision strike, large payload, and long range/extended loiter time have greatly contributed to the nation's success in the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under Air Force Global Strike Command since Feb. 1, 2010, Eighth Air Force controls strategic bomber assets throughout the United States and overseas locations. Eighth Air Force is organized as a general purpose numbered Air Force with a warfighting mission to support the U.S. Strategic Command.
Active duty units and aircraft include:
- 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La. (B-52)
- 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, N.D. (B-52)
- 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo. (B-2)
Air Force Reserve Total Force Integration assets include:
- 307th Wing (AFRC), Barksdale AFB, La. (B-52)
- 131st Bomb Wing (ANG), Whiteman AFB, Mo. (B-2)
Partner units include:
-102nd Air Operations Group, 102nd Intelligence Wing (ANG), Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass.
Point of Contact
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office; 334 Davis Ave. West., Bldg. 3433, Basement, Barksdale AFB, LA 71110; DSN 781-1015 or 318-456-1015.
Current as of November 2013