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1948 - 1968

AF Reserve history 1948 - 1968The historical origins of an air reserve in the US military stem from the Preparedness Movement and the National Defense Act of 1916 that authorized an Organized Reserve Corps. The Air Force Reserve was formally established on April 14, 1948 by President Harry Truman who envisioned a program similar to one established during the First World War, whereby Reservists stood ready to serve during wartime.

When the Korean War erupted in 1950, the Air Force Reserve consisted of over 315,800 non-drilling and nearly 58,500 drilling Reservists in combat sustaining units, namely 20 troop carrier wings outfitted with C-46s and C-47s (later C-119s), and five light bombardment wings of B-26s. Between July 1950 and June 1953, the Air Force mobilized nearly 147,000 Air Force Reservists to active service for periods from one to three years. Five Air Force Reserve units remained on active service while another 15 units were called up to replace and fill out active units. Air Force Reservists performed well, as demonstrated by unit citations and the recalled individuals who became fighter aces.

During the 1950s, several legislative acts addressed concerns with the national reserve program, establishing the Ready, Standby, and Retired Reserve categories. Units were provided with full-time air reserve technician (ART) trainers and the President was authorized to mobilize a portion of the Ready Reserve to active duty without advanced congressional notification.

In the 1960s the services relied on the Reserve forces to support the Berlin and Cuban Crises. While still transitioning to new aircraft, five Air Force Reserve C-124 units along with 5,613 Reservists were mobilized for a year during the Berlin Crisis. When the Cuban Crisis intensified, Reserve aircrews flew C-119s and materiel to Key West Naval Air Station and Homestead AFB, Florida. Mobilizations followed with 14,220 Air Force Reservists and 422 aircraft on active duty by 28 October 1962.

President John F. Kennedy talks to Reservists called up for the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Air Force again called on the Air Force Reserve to participate in the Vietnam War effort. Reservists voluntarily provided direct and indirect support with few mobilizations. Needing more strategic airlift into the Vietnam Theater, the Air Force Reserve responded by flying C-124 missions as part of their inactive duty, annual two-week training, and an additional 36 days of inactive duty days until US involvement ended in 1973. Air Force Reserve rescue and recovery, intelligence and medical specialists, aerial porters, maintainers, lawyers, and chaplains comprised the range of support provided. Desiring more augmentation from the Air Force Reserve and yet unable to procure enough new C-141s, the Air Force initiated in 1968 the associate concept whereby Air Force Reserve personnel would associate with an active duty unit equipped with new C-141s or C-9s, flying and performing maintenance together.