Air Power Thru the Cold War

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Airpower Thru the Cold War


Overview National Security Act of 1947 Berlin Airlift Curtis LeMay Korean Conflict Cuban Missile Crisis Vietnam Rebuilding the Air and Space Force


National Security Act of 1947 Established the Department of Defense and created the Air Force Executive Order 9877 outlined the main functions of the Air Force United States Air Force stood up on 18 September 1947

The Berlin Airlift: OPERATION VITTLES: 



On 22 Jun 1948, in an effort to force communism upon the Germans, the Soviet Union closed all travel routes, and cut off all water/sewage systems to Berlin, East Germany. This action earmarked the first US/Soviet Cold War Confrontation known as the Berlin Airlift, nicknamed: “OPERATION VITTLES”


Soviet/Allies Outlook Soviets intent on security of their borders Their borders were invaded several times previously Soviets suffered millions of casualties Allies weren’t seeking vengeance in Germany Allies wanted to revitalize and stabilize economy


Zones of Occupation Soviets given East Germany to include Berlin United States given southwest Germany Britain given northwest Germany Berlin then divided and Allies, to include France, each given a sector inside Berlin itself


Blockade Soviets refused to supply food Soviets allowed three air corridors Soviets demanded their currency (money) be adopted Soviets blockaded road, rail, and waterways Soviets cut off all power


Allied Response (United States) Airlift mission begins Backup of airlift through basing of strategic nuclear capability in England, (36 B-29’s deployed)


Airlift Begins 25 Jun 1948 C-47 (Skytrain) could fly 2 to 3 tons of cargo C-54 (Skymaster) could fly 10 tons of cargo 2 million tons of cargo in almost 277,00 flights C-47 C-54


Diplomatic weapon Technological achievement Strength of airpower Results




1. What was the basic situation leading up to the Soviet blockade of Berlin? 4 zones dividing Berlin basically into east and west, Russians blockaded Berlin when their currency was not accepted


2. What actions did the Soviet Union take to blockade Berlin? Soviets blockaded road, rail, and waterways and cut off all power Allied aircraft carried 2,343,301.5 tons of supplies on 277,264 flights. U.S. planes carried 1,783,826 tons.


3. How did the Western Allies respond to the Soviet blockade? How did the US add “a level of lethality” to their response? Western Allies responded with an airlift and B-29s capable of carrying nuclear weapons were based in England C-74


4. After the Berlin Airlift, how was the nature of the Cold War altered? What did the Berlin Airlift say about airpower? U.S. and Soviets became adversaries Proved the importance of airlift as an integral function of the Air Force


“I don’t mind being called tough, since I find in this racket it’s the tough guys who lead the survivors.” Colonel Curtis E. LeMay, USA: to Lieutenant General Ira Eaker in England in 1943

General Curtis LeMay: 

General Curtis LeMay Navigator on B-17 as Lt in early airpower demonstration with ocean liner “Rex” in 1938 Commanded units in Berlin Airlift Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC) Air Force Chief of Staff


LeMay’s Impact on the Air Force More realistic training programs Bottom line - Discipline Procured personnel and aircraft Bombers became airborne nuclear alert Nuclear deterrence became a reality

VIDEO Curtis LeMay: 

VIDEO Curtis LeMay

VIDEO Korea: 



Korean Conflict National Security Council (NSC) directive 68 called for massive increase in defense spending to contain Communism (April 1950) Korea was the first test of American resolve Korean War Service Medal


Beginning of Korean Conflict 25 June 1950 North Korea launches a surprise attack invading South Korea Congress approved use of force to repel North Korean invasion (no formal declaration of war) UN Security Council authorizes aid (Gen Douglas McArthur named Commander)


Korean Conflict UN forces saved at Pusan Perimeter by around the clock bombing & interdiction McArthur launches surprise amphibious assault at Inchon UN forces drive North Koreans back across 38th parallel and attempt to unify the country China enters pushing the UN forces back

VIDEO Air Power in Korea: 

VIDEO Air Power in Korea


Air Power in Korean Conflict First use of jet fighters on both sides MiG-15 outperforms F-80 MiG-15 retreats back to bases in China Airspace south of Yalu known as “MiG Alley” F-86 Sabre proves superior to the MiG-15 Kill ratio of 10-to-1

VIDEO Korea Conclusion: 

VIDEO Korea Conclusion


Contributions of airpower to the Korean conflict assisted many mission areas Counterland: Operations conducted to attain and maintain a desired degree of superiority over surface operations by the destruction or neutralization of enemy surface forces Interdiction: Operations to divert, disrupt, delay or destroy the enemy’s surface military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces. Close-Air Support: Operations against hostile targets in close proximity to friendly forces Air Power in Korean Conflict


SNARK Atlas, Titan Minuteman becomes the mainstay of SAC’s missile retaliatory force NORAD established in 1957 Single Integrated Operational Plan for using nuclear weapons (SIOP) Deterrence and Missile Development


Cuban Missile Crisis U-2 Reconnaissance plane details Soviet missile launchers in Cuba (Sept 1962) US Missile force placed on alert status President Kennedy chooses option of naval quarantine Soviet Union backs down and the nuclear crisis was subsequently averted Doctrine of “Flexible Response” evolves


Summary Berlin Airlift Curtis LeMay Korean Conflict Cuban Missile conflict

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