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Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this unique USAF publication attempts to give the general reader some sense of the role the USAF has played in Europe since the end of World War II. It contains three sections. The first reviews the reasons for the origins of the Cold War and describes the strategic concerns that drove the United States to commit itself to the military defense of distant lands. The second section reviews the higher strategy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with special reference to the central role of air power. The final section reviews the history of the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) in order to show the many ways in which the United States Air Force has served American national-security policy on the continent.
The United States Army Air Forces became an independent service, the United States Air Force, in 1947—the second year, supposedly, of "peace." In reality there had just begun a long conflict between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and the satellite states subject to it. In 1949 the United States and most of the non-Communist countries of Europe signed the North Atlantic Treaty. The United States Air Force, which had been only a token presence on the continent since the end of World War II, once more crossed the Atlantic in strength. The commitment of that service to peace and security in Europe, which continues still, has been the longest of its history.
The origins of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are to be found in the rivalry that developed after the Second World War between the former Soviet Union and the United States and its allies in Western Europe. The reasons for the Cold War, as that conflict came to be called, were many and complex. Historians still debate why the Grand Alliance of World War II so soon dissolved into protracted acrimony that at times seemed to threaten World War III. While there are few signs that the controversy about the origins of the Cold War will be soon stilled, much has been learned in the last decade. The collapse of the Soviet empire has for the first time allowed scholars access to the archives of the now vanished communist regimes of Eastern Europe and Russia. In the West, too, the progressive declassification of official documents has revealed much about events once obscure or even unsuspected.
Some writers have dated the Cold War to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent establishment of a communist regime in Russia by V. I. Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Since it is quite certain that there would have been no Cold War if Lenin's coup of 1917 had miscarried and there had been no "Great October Revolution," this argument seems plausible. But it posits too direct a line between the insurrectionary program of the early Bolsheviks and the hostility it inspired around the globe and the events that brought on the Cold War following the Second World War. The Soviet regime changed much under Joseph Stalin, who achieved dictatorial power after Lenin's death in 1924. Under Stalin the USSR acquired—outwardly, at least—many of the attributes of a conventional great power. And while there is no reason to doubt the Soviet ruler's adherence to the revolutionary precepts of Marxism, there is now much evidence to show that during World War II Stalin expected the wartime alliance to endure for some years once the fighting had stopped. Such an outcome would certainly have been to his interest. The USSR needed to recover from the war, and it would probably have received significant aid from the United States had serious postwar tensions failed to develop.