The genesis for the Air Force Association began in August 1945 when Chief of the Army Air Forces General Henry H. Arnold asked Eastman Kodak executive, Edward Curtis, to create an organization of veterans returning from World War II that would promote airpower and promote the cause of a separate Air Force. Curtis held an organizing meeting in New York City on October 12, 1945, to create a nonprofit organization to meet Arnold's goals. Other significant founders of AFA in attendance were John Allard, Everett Cook, James H. Doolittle, Deering Howe, Rufus Rand, Sol Rosenblatt, Julian Rosenthal, James M. "Jimmy" Stewart, Lowell P. Weicker (Senior), Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, and John Hay Whitney.
Doolittle announced the Air Force Association in January 1946, explaining that it would be based on a "grass-roots structure", with affiliates on local, state, and regional levels, which would provide sponsorship for educational programs about the development of airpower.
The Air Force Association was incorporated in the District of Columbia on February 4, 1946. AFA's first national president was Doolittle, an aviation pioneer and recipient of the Medal of Honor. In July, Air Force Magazine, then the official service journal of the Army Air Forces, became AFA's official journal at Arnold's behest. In 1948 Doolittle took a year's leave of absence from Shell Oil, where he was a vice president, to establish AFA chapters nationwide.
“Whether you sported wings, or wore a plain shoulder patch; whether you were brass, non-com, or a private — you are WANTED and NEEDED in the Air Force Association.”
— JIMMY DOOLITTLE, FIRST PRESIDENT OF AFA, MAY 1947