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HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND: 1944-1963

Posted 4/3/2007 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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George S. Howard, USAF Band Commander & Conductor, 1944-1963
George S. Howard, USAF Band Commander & Conductor, 1944-1963
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George S. Howard, Commander & Conductor, 1944-1963
Conductor Emeritus

Many Air Force Band components that are in place today saw their start during the 20-year command of George S. Howard. He made many changes in the organization he inherited from Alf Heiberg adding some innovations that have become Air Force Band trademarks and have been incorporated by other bands, both military and civilian. Under his leadership, the ensemble became a truly influential organization in the Air Force and throughout the world. An important contribution he made to the military band program was securing commissioned officer ranks for all commanders and conductors of Air Force bands; a policy that was then adopted by the other service bands.

An historic year in the development of the organization came in 1944. The Band visited six cities in eastern Canada on its first major tour. After the enormous success of this tour, the group returned to the United States to play a command performance for President Roosevelt. Late in 1944, Howard took the Band on its first international tour; the group performed in England and France while the Royal Air Force Band toured the United States. This was the first tour for The Army Air Forces Band that included sites outside continental North America.

Despite this success, 1945 was the first true test of the Army Air Forces' commitment to the band program. The end of the war, the immediate separation of all but five of the members of the group, the immediate cutback of funds to the military, and the rush to demobilize the armed forces could have sounded a death knell to the organization. However, because of the program's success during the war, Howard was asked to remain in command of the Band and was given the charge of reorganizing it to serve in peacetime functions. He immediately embarked on a recruiting program to return the group to its original size, and the total manpower strength was increased to 115.

Because of this influx of new bandsmen, the necessity for a Bandsman Training School became obvious, and one was formed in October of 1945. The number of officers increased to five in order to accommodate the responsibilities of the new band and the school. Howard was named leader of the Band School in addition to his duties as commander and conductor of The Band.

The Symphony Orchestra was instituted during this reorganization and was the first group of its kind in any military band organization. The orchestra made its debut at the Watergate Auditorium on August 17, 1946. The Symphony Orchestra ultimately supplied players not only for the Strolling Strings (now known as The Air Force Strings) but also for the Concert Band, which, under Howard's direction, included cellists.

The group truly became The United States Air Force Band in 1947 when the Army Air Forces were officially designated as the United States Air Force. All units of the organization assumed the official "Air Force" title. Yet the Band itself remained the same and continued to grow in quality and number of performing units.

By 1948, the fledgling Air Force organization began to show its effect on the United States. It played an important role promoting the new service through its hour-long broadcasts titled, "The Air Force Hour," which began on January 18, 1948. That year also saw The Air Force Band evolve into a total entertainment organization capable of presenting the following units:

- 100 piece Marching Band
- 90 piece Symphony Orchestra
- 85 piece Symphonic Band
- 40 piece Symphonette
- 25 voice Glee Club
- 4 combos: Jumping Jacks, Crew Chiefs, Top Hats and Max Impact
- The Strolling Strings
- A Jazz-Dance group similar to The Airmen of Note

The Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps and Pipe Band were organized in 1949 and became part of the Band squadron in 1950. The Airmen of Note was also officially organized in 1950 with Chief Warrant Officer Fred Kepner as the leader.

The Air Force Band resumed its international tour schedule by returning to Europe and drawing enormous audiences at sold-out houses. Concert tours to Europe took place in 1951, 1953, and 1954. The Band also toured the Far East in 1956 and again in 1957. A 1959 trip to Central and South America and a 1960 visit to the Far East were the final tours of the Howard era. Colonel George S. Howard retired on September 1, 1963.







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