12TH USAAF Army Aircorps patch
The origins of Twelfth Air Force are traced back to a series of mid-1942 Allied planners’ meetings to develop a strategy for the North African invasion or “Operation TORCH”. Because this extensive operation required a new organization to provide enough manpower and equipment, activation plans were prepared simultaneously with the invasion strategy.
On 20 August 1942, Twelfth Air Force was activated at Bolling AAF, Maryland. On 23 September 1942, Brigadier General Jimmy Doolittle formally assumed 12th AF command with Colonel Hoyt S. Vandenberg as chief of staff. Barely four months after it was conceived, 12th AF made its first contributions to World War II. When D-Day for the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) arrived on 8 November 1942, 12th AF was organized as shown in the table below:
XII Bomber Command XII Air Support Command XII Fighter Command 51st Troop Carrier Wing Photographic Reconnaissance Wing
*97th BG (B-17) 47th BG (A-20) *1st FG (P-38) 60th TCG (C-47) 3rd Photo Group (B-17, F-4)
*301st BG (B-17) 310th BG (B-25) *14th FG (P-38) 62nd TCG (C-47) 68th Observation Group (A-20)
+17th BG (B-26) 33rd FG (P-40) 31st FG (Spitfires) 64th TCG (C-47)
+319th BG (B-26) *81st FG (P-39) 52nd FG (Spitfires)
+320th BG (B-26) *350th FG (P-39)
+321st BG (B-25) *82nd FG (P-38) (*Groups from 8th Air Force)
*15th BS (Bostons) (+Groups training in U.S.)
Initially, 12th AF was a composite organization containing both strategic heavy bombardment groups; and tactical light and medium bombardment, fighter-bomber, and fighter groups. Based in French Morocco and Algeria after Operation Torch, it became very important for 12th AF to coordinate and cooperate with the Royal Air Force which had been fighting in North Africa for two years. Such Allied cooperation was a major concern of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and their staffs at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 where they created the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC) with Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder as Air Commander-in-Chief. For planning of the Tunisian campaign, Tedder’s MAC headquarters were adjacent to those of his immediate superior, the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower at Algiers, Algeria soon after the new Allied air force reorganization took effect on 18 February 1943.