Many of America's pioneer airmen advocated the creation of an academy to prepare officers especially for the air service. One of them, Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, tried in vain to persuade first, the government, then, private interests to establish such a school.
In 1948, the Air Force appointed a board of leading civilian and military educators to plan the curriculum for an Air Force academy. The idea made little progress outside the Air Force, until 1949 when Secretary of Defense James Forrestal appointed a board of military and civilian educators. This board headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, and Robert L. Stearns, president of the University of Colorado, was tasked to recommend a general system of education for the Army, Navy and Air Force.
In 1950, this board found the needs of the Air Force could not be met by a desirable expansion of the older service academies. The board recommended that an Air Force academy be established without delay and proposed that, in peacetime, not less than 40 percent of the regular officers taken into each service should be academy graduates.
Congress authorized creation of the Air Force Academy in 1954. Harold E. Talbott, then secretary of the Air Force, appointed a commission to assist him in selecting the permanent site. After traveling 21,000 miles and considering 580 proposed sites in 45 states, the commission recommended three locations. From those, Secretary Talbott selected the site near Colorado Springs. The state of Colorado contributed $1 million toward the purchase of the property.
On July 11, 1955, the same year construction began, the first class of 306 men were sworn in at a temporary site at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon, a key figure in the development of the Academy since 1949, was recalled from retirement to become the first superintendent.
Two years later, Maj. Gen. Briggs took over as the Academy's second superintendent. During his tour, on Aug. 29, 1958, the wing of 1,145 cadets moved to its present site from Denver. Less than a year later the Academy received accreditation. On March 3, 1964, the authorized strength of the Cadet Wing was increased to 4,417 and later reduced to its present number of 4,000.
Perhaps the most controversial event in academy history was the admission of women. President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation Oct. 7, 1975, permitting women to enter the nation's military academies. Women entered the Air Force Academy for the first time on June 28, 1976. The first class with women graduated in May 1980.
As with any other institution, the Air Force Academy has suffered growing pains. But in its relatively short period of existence, the school has excelled in its quest for excellence to a degree that similar organizations achieved only after much longer periods.
The Academy has provided the Air Force with a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the high standards of the United States. The Air Force has provided a proving ground for these officers and a source for the dedicated staff members who have come to the academy to educate and train these future leaders.
Throughout its history, one theme has been constant and persistent a "Commitment to Excellence." And, it's with that theme that the Air Force Academy looks forward to the future.
phone numbers: Commercial (719)333-1818 or
address: U.S. Air Force Academy, CO 80840
2,541 active duty; 4,000 cadets; 25 reservists;
3,991 family members; 2,661 civilians
officer family units; 773 enlisted family units; 64
unaccompanied personnel units (719)333-2100
elemetary schools, one high school run by District
Care: Three centers for 147, three-month
wait; 40 approved homes (719)333-6779
care: 67-bed hospital. Appointments
(719)264-5000; benefits (719)333-4983; Tricare
U.S. Air Force Academy - Colorado Springs, CO
large size commissary - (719)333-4573,
a small exchange, and one shoppette (719)472-0861. Recreation at U.S. Air Force Academy - Colorado Springs, CO
includes arts and crafts, bowling, library, auto hobby,
recreation center, golf, gym, tennis, swimming, outdoor
activities, camping, fishing, and stables.