Airdrop and the birth of the US Air Force

President Truman signing the National Security Act into Law
President Truman signing the National Security Act into Law
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State

In the beginning of the Army paratrooper movement most paratroopers packed and maintained their parachute themselves. As World War II took its course and the airborne units continued to rapidly expand, the need for a parachute packing course increased. By the time five new Airborne divisions were created, a new parachute packing and maintenance training course opened at Fort Benning.

Early pioneers and paratroopers relied simply on trial and error while dropping supplies from US aircraft. Troops were dropping everything from medical supplies, clothes, foods, truck parts, ammunition, petroleum, and even blood plasma. Eventually soldiers built containers for air drops, learned how to properly push cargo out of planes, and effectively pack parachutes.

In December of 1944 when the German army began the Battle of the Bulge, “flying Quartermasters” were able to drop over 800 tons of weapons, ammunition, medical food and supply with excellent accuracy to the cut off 101st Airborne Division. It was WWII that demonstrated the absolute need for an air force to keep up with international technologies and to protect national interest.

The National Security Act of 1947 was an Act of Congress signed into Law by President Truman. It reorganized the U.S. Armed forces, foreign policy and relations and national security of the United States post-World War II. The Act was responsible for the creation of a Department of the Air Force which made the Army Air Forces its own military branch. The Act also merged the Department of War and the Department of Navy into the National Military Establishment, which was later renamed the Department of Defense. The purpose of this department was to unify the Army, Navy and eventually the Air Force into one military establishment.

It was September 18, 1947 that the Department of the Air Force was formed, per the National Security Act of 1947. With the new separation of the Army and Air Force it was decided that the primary ownership of parachute packing, maintenance and equipment repair, along with research, training and development would belong to to the Quartermaster Corps of the United States Army.

The Quartermaster Creed

I am Quartermaster
My story is enfolded in the history of this nation.
Sustainer of Armies…

My forges burned at Valley Forge.
Down frozen, rutted roads my oxen hauled
the meager foods a bankrupt Congress sent me…
Scant rations for the cold and starving troops,
Gunpowder, salt, and lead.

In 1812 we sailed to war in ships my boatwrights built.
I fought beside you in the deserts of our great Southwest.
My pack mules perished seeking water holes,
And I went on with camels.
I gave flags to serve.
The medals and crest you wear are my design.

Since 1862, I have sought our fallen brothers
from Private to President.
In war or peace I bring them home
And lay them gently down in fields of honor.

Provisioner, transporter.
In 1898 I took you to Havana Harbor and the Philippines.
I brought you tents, your khaki cloth for uniforms.
When yellow fever struck, I brought the mattresses you lay upon.

In 1918, soldier… like you.
Pearl harbor, too. Mine was the first blood spilled that day.
I jumped in darkness into Normandy, D-Day plus 1.
Bataan, North Africa, Sicily. I was there.
The ‘chutes that filled the gray Korean skies were mine;
I lead the endless trains across the beach in Vietnam.

By air and sea I supported the fight for Grenada.
Helicopters above the jungles of Panama carried my supplies.
In Desert Storm, I was there when we crossed the border into
Iraq…sustaining combat and paying the ultimate sacrifice as we liberated Kuwait.

I AM QUARTERMASTER.
I can shape the course of combat,
Change the outcome of battle.
Look to me: Sustainer of Armies…Since 1775.

I AM QUARTERMASTER. I AM PROUD.

SYSTEMS ARE COMPLEX. YOUR CHOICE IS SIMPLE.