To get the ball rolling, the US Army Air Forces activated the VIII Air Force in Georgia at the end of January 1942 with three sub-groups - a bomber command, a fighter command and a ground services command. These forces immediately began to assemble at Langley Field in southeastern Virginia.
American flyers first put boots on the ground in England a few weeks later, and the initial trickle of US aircraft and aircrews quickly became a flood, and, as American industry shifted into full wartime production, it became an unstoppable tidal wave.
The first European bombing mission, using an RAF plane flown by a single American crew from the Eighth was conducted in late June of 1942 against a railway target in Hazebrouck, France. A week later, fittingly on July 4, a full half-dozen RAF planes, all crewed by Americans, attacked several German airfields in Holland. This was also the first combat mission on which Americans were shot down and captured by the enemy.
As an official online USAF history recounts, “During World War II, under the leadership of such generals as Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle the VIII BC (then Eighth Air Force) formed the greatest air armada in history.” YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THE 1942 DOOLITTLE RAID HERE.
“By mid-1944, the unit had a total strength of more than 200,000 people, and it could send more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighters on a single mission against enemy targets in Europe. For this reason, Eighth Air Force is commonly known as the ‘Mighty Eighth.’”