The AF seal and Jupiter's Thunderbolt

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss -- Symbols have been used throughout history to identify individuals, families, noblemen, knights and communities. The military uses heraldic symbols on emblems as a means of identification and for esprit de corps. Emblems signify an organization's history, mission or function. 

As with commands, groups, wings or squadrons, the Air Force also has its own distinctive emblem. The Air Force was formed as a separate service on Sept. 18, 1947. That same month, a group of 30 high-ranking general officers met to select an appropriate seal to be used by the newly formed Air Force. The original green background had a Wright Brothers' airplane at the high point of the shield. 

After reviewing and discussing the proposed seal, the committee decided the background should be blue instead of green and that a symbolic design should be added in place of the airplane. 

Mr. Arthur E. DuBois also attended the meeting. Earlier, he had prepared a study of flags and seals for the three services. He made a pencil sketch of Jupiter's thunderbolt on the back of the proposed seal. Jupiter was the Roman mythological God of the Heavens. 

After the committee saw the thunderbolt and realized its significance, they adopted it as the basic symbol to be used on the shield instead of the Wright Brothers' airplane. The words "Department of the Air Force" were taken from the National Security Act. The significance of the symbols listed below will help you understand the meaning of the Air Force seal. 

1. The predominant colors, ultramarine blue and gold, are the colors of the Air Force through transition from the Air Corps. 

2. The 13 stars represent the 13 original colonies of the United States. The grouping of three stars at the top of the design portrays the three departments of the national defense establishment -- Army, Navy and Air Force. 

3. The crest includes the American bald eagle, which is the symbol of the United States and air striking power. The cloud formation depicts the creation of a new firmament; and the wreath, composed of its six alternate folds of silver and blue, incorporate the colors of the basic shield design. 

4. The shield, divided with the nebuly line formation, representing clouds, is charged with the heraldic thunderbolt. The thunderbolt portrays striking power through the medium of air. 

5. The Roman numerals beneath the shield indicate the year 1947, in which the Department of the Air Force was established. 

6. On a band encircling the whole is the inscription "Department of the Air Force" and "United States of America." 

At the high point of the shield is a lightning bolt or elongated projectile-like mass, conceived of as the missile cast to earth in the lightning flash or Jupiter's t hunderbolt.The pair of wings and smaller lightning flashes surrounding the bolt complete the design. The eagle's head is turned to the right and symbolizes facing the enemy --looking toward the future and not dwelling on past deeds. 

On Sept. 22, the base will celebrate the Air Force's 59th birthday. A night of food, fellowship, historic displays and music, with retired Gen. Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong as the distinguished guest speaker, promises to be a fitting tribute to celebrate the birthday of the U. S. Air Force. For more information on Air Force history, go to www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil

(Editor's note: Information used for this article was taken from the Air Force Historical
Studies Office.)