801st Aviation Engineers

 

Aviation Engineers in World War II

American Theater Ribbon

World War II was a global war. Campaigns covered hundreds and even thousands of miles, and command of the air was vital. America built and sent into action tens of thousands of combat and transport aircraft. These planes needed a large and complex infrastructure: runways, fuel tanks, ammunition bunkers, parts depots, maintenance shops, and places where the men who flew and maintained the planes could eat, sleep, and even enjoy a bit of relaxation

Engineers poster  

The solution to this problem was engineers. They had always been the army's construction specialists, called in to create defensive positions or remove those of the enemy, to bridge a river, set up a depot, or create a road out of wilderness. The job of creating a base structure for the Army Air Force (the Air Force would not come into existence as a separate branch of service until after the war) required specialized engineering skills, so Engineer Aviation units were created. In the words of the official history of the 801st, these were tasked with “building, camouflaging, maintaining and defending air bases in whatever part of the world it would be called upon to do so." They were soldiers as well as builders, being "organized and equipped to work in combat zones."

During the war 86 Engineer Aviation Battalions would be formed, numbered 801 through 886. Oddly, the 801st, although first in numerical order, was not the first formed. That honor went to the 805th, formed in the Panama Canal Zone in June of 1941. Four other battalions formed before America's entry into the war, and about sixty had formed before someone apparently noticed that the 801 number slot had not been used, and the 801st was born.

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