The United States Army Air Force at the end of World War II was the largest, most powerful aerial combatant the world had ever seen. The US monopoly on atomic weapons seemingly guaranteed peace, however, and the country began to draw down its military establishment. The optimism did not last, of course, and within a short time the military was gearing up to face a new threat: the Soviet-led communist bloc.
The assets of the Continental Air Forces were divided in early 1946 among three new commands: Tactical Air Command (TAC); Air Defense Command (ADC); and Strategic Air Command (SAC). The mission of the SAC was to conduct long-range combat operations of a strategic nature, long-range reconnaissance, and operations in conjunction with the Army and Navy. By the end of 1946, the command had 37,092 airmen operating 148 B-29 Superfortresses, 85 P-51 Mustang fighters, and a few transport and reconnaissance aircraft divided between the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces.
Deterrence & Stand-off
SAC became the primary controlling command for what would become known as “strategic attack,” referring to large-scale attacks on enemy infrastructure and cities, specifically with nuclear weapons. The hope was that being prepared to, and capable of, doing so would provide enough of a deterrent that the mission would not have to be executed. The key concept was the belief, based on the experience of World War II, that a determined, large-scale bombing raid would always reach the target.