A Century of Air Force Magazine

July 26, 2018

Illustration: Mike Tsukamoto/staff

This editorial that you are reading in your paper magazine, on your phone, tablet, or desktop computer, marks a milestone in a long, convoluted history. Air Force Magazine was published by the US Army for its first 28 years and has been an Air Force Association product for the past 72 years. It repeatedly changed names and formats, and this month it is 100 years old.

The very first issue of the Army Aeronautical Information Branch’s Weekly News Letter was for the week of Sept. 15 to Sept. 21, 1918. It was a simple publication, a newsletter in the truest sense of the word—typewritten words on a page. But it began a philosophy that continues to do this day: Get useful information about airpower to the readers in an accessible, engaging way.

That first issue began with news that the Air Service needed more mechanics, pilots, bombers, observers, and balloonists. World War I was in full force.

“The fast moving overseas of air squadrons, planes, motors, and material for American airdromes, fields, and assembly plants in France and England” required skilled airmen, that first issue read. “The Air Service, alone, is now half as large again as the whole American Army was at the outbreak of the war,” we noted. Yes, there were pilot and mechanic shortages in 1918.

The world, the Air Force, and technology have changed, and so have we. No one could have envisioned that this humble newsletter would someday be called Air Force Magazine, that it would be published by an Air Force Association, or that its products would include daily news distributed electronically through a website, email blast, and social media.

Name changes were common early on. Between 1918 and 1942, the Weekly News Letter became the Air Service News Letter, then Air Corps News Letter, and then Air Forces News Letter.

Finally, in December 1942, Army Air Forces published the first issue under the title Air Force Magazine. The name stuck.

Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold and Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz had made plans to transfer the magazine’s ownership to the fledgling Air Force Association upon AFA’s creation in 1946. The changeover occurred from June to July 1946.

“Hereafter, Air Force will be published as the official magazine of the Air Force Association, the organization knitting together all present and former members of the Army Air Forces,” read a notice in the final government-published issue. “Membership … includes a subscription to Air Force.”

The magazine has been central in AFA’s existence ever since, serving as a communication and educational tool without rival. Over the ensuing decades, we have reported on AFA, USAF, and national security news as it happened, wherever the Air Force operates. The Berlin Airlift, Korean War, Vietnam, Cold War, 9/11, and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria all played out in our pages, frequently with our reporters present.

In 2018, Pentagon Editor Brian W. Everstine has just returned from visiting Air Force units in Hawaii, Japan, and Guam. He met with airmen countering threats from China and North Korea, and with the crews that make USAF’s continuous bomber presence possible. And at the time of this writing, News Editor Amy McCullough is at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, before heading out to visit numerous USAFE units on the front lines of the new Cold War with Russia.

We’ve documented the Air Force’s evolution over the years as we’ve evolved ourselves. If you’re not familiar with our website, you’re obviously not reading us online. Set this magazine down for a moment, go to airforcemag.com, bookmark the page, and take a look around. We’ll be here when you get back.

Likewise, if you have not subscribed to the Daily Report’s email blast, go sign up using the simple form on our website—you don’t have to wait for the monthly magazine to get your news from Air Force Magazine!

We’ll be commemorating our centennial with a variety of special features through the rest of 2018. On p. 38 of this issue, we revisit many of our favorite and most interesting covers from the past 100 years. An even-more comprehensive version is available on our website.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first 100 years of Air Force Magazine, because we’ve enjoyed creating them. It is through the support of you, our readers and AFA members, that we will make our next century even better.