As aviation advanced after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the nation’s military aviation service followed a constantly growing lineage from 1907 to 1947. Officials had discussed the establishment of an aeronautical academy much earlier, and when the Air Force became a separate service in 1947 under the National Security Act, plans officially got underway.
Still the Air Force Academy plan made little progress until 1949 when Secretary of Defense James Forrestal appointed a board of military and civilian educators. This board, headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Columbia University President, and Robert L. Stearns, University of Colorado President, was tasked to recommend a general system of education for the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Congress finally authorized creation of the Academy in 1954. Harold E. Talbot, then-Secretary of the Air Force, appointed a commission to assist him in selecting the permanent site. After traveling 21,000 miles and considering 580 proposed sites in 45 states, the commission recommended three locations.
The main question of concern for the Colorado location was if the mountains or wind currents would affect flight training. Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh flew over the proposed site and declared it fit for flying. Secretary Talbot selected the site near Colorado Springs, and the state of Colorado contributed $1 million toward the purchase of the property.