National Geographic : 1957 Aug
History Written in the Skies Pictorial Highlights of the First 50 Years of the United States Air Force Just 50 years ago, on August 1, 1907, the Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army issued a brief three-paragraph order. Labeled "Office Memorandum," it began: "An Aeronautical Di vision of this office is hereby established to take effect this date." In an Army long adjusted to the pace of the cavalry horse, the order went all but unnoticed. Veteran soldiers, still swapping yarns of Indian campaigns and the Spanish-American War, found little of interest in an obscure branch with only three men. Today that small stepchild is the United States Air Force, an independent service with hundreds of thousands of men, planes, and missiles dispersed throughout the Free World. Photographs on these and following pages record highlights in the growth of the Air Force. Many of the historic photographs were compiled from back issues of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, which has chronicled the progress of aviation in more than 140 articles. The world's first military airplane (opposite) was the wood and-fabric marvel built by the Wright brothers and flown success fully in 1909 at Fort Myer. Here the type A Flyer skims over cheering crowds during the July 30 speed trial. Orville Wright flew 10 miles to Alexandria, Virginia, and return. + On another occasion Wilbur Wright (left) stands beside his mechanic, Charles Taylor, as Orville sweeps past the catapult. 273 (ulver Service (left) and Carl H. Claudy, Sr.