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Victory in Europe Day pioneered 16th Air Force’s missions

  • Published
  • By Matthew McGovern and 1st Lt. Dorothy Sherwood
  • 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber)

Today, marks the end of World War II in Europe, a day known as Victory in Europe or V-E Day. Celebrations rang out around the world following the U.S. and Allies formally accepting Nazi Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945.

It’s been 78 years, and every year the U.S. and our Allies still commemorate this day together to show our unified bond is as strong as ever.

“The Allied victory in Europe marked a significant event in history,” said Gabriel Marshall, 16th Air Force historian. “Several nascent Information Warfare elements proved vital in achieving victory in the European theater of operations.”    

Shortly after V-E Day a new threat emerged, the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain. The U.S. and Allied forces’ bond was needed again to stand against this new threat.

On July 16, 1956, U.S. Air Force officials redesignated the Joint United States Military Group in Spain to 16th Air Force under Strategic Air Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe to counter the Soviet Union’s hardline occupation of eastern Europe. 

“In the early Cold War, decades before Spain joined NATO, 16th Air Force was at the forefront of building a U.S-Spanish partnership,” said Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, USAFE History Office director. “Together, they built air bases in Spain used by both Spanish and American Airmen in a cooperative defense effort.”

This defense effort consisted of 16th Air Force units’ B-47 Stratojets, B-52 Stratofortress, B-58 Hustler and KC-135 Stratotankers conducting reflex missions to deter the Soviets and back our Allies. It endured through the 1961 Berlin crisis and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

“After the Cold War, 16th Air Force employed unmanned aerial vehicles and enhanced NATO strike capabilities during the Serbian and Balkans crises in the 1990s,” said Marshall.

16th Air Force’s old mission continued, working with our Allied forces during one of the largest combat efforts in history called, Operation Allied Force. An operation in response to the humanitarian emergency happening in Kosovo.

For over 50 years, 16th Air Force was in Europe until it was finally closed.

However, from the ashes of the old 16th Air Force, a new 16th Air Force was reborn with a new mission on Oct. 11, 2019, adopting the phoenix as its morale logo. The new mission was Information Warfare that still supports our Allies across the world and was used back in WWII.

“Information Warfare was an integral part of winning World War II,” said BJ Jones, 16th Air Force historian. “The combined British and American cryptologic effort to exploit German codes shortened the war by as much as two years.”

Information Warfare was key in achieving V-E Day by gaining an information advantage to counter German ground and air operations.   

16th Air Force has now combined cryptologic activities with cyberspace operations, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance, electromagnetic spectrum operations, information operations, public affairs and weather across the competition continuum.

“Today, we are involved in multiple domains in multiple theaters supporting multiple combatant commanders,” said Marshall.

From exercises to missions, 16th Air Force ensures the U.S. Air Force and Allies are fast, resilient, and fully integrated in competition, crisis and conflict by integrating Information Warfare at the operational and tactical levels even today, the 78th Anniversary of V-E Day.