About Us

The Air Force Historical Research Agency is the repository for Air Force historical documents. The Agency's collection, begun in Washington, DC, during World War II, moved in 1949 to Maxwell Air Force Base, the site of Air University, to provide research facilities for professional military education students, the faculty, visiting scholars, and the general public. It consists today of over 70,000,000 pages devoted to the history of the service, and represents the world's largest and most valuable organized collection of documents on US military aviation.

More than 90% of the Agency's pre-1955 holdings are declassified. The Agency's collection is also recorded on 16mm microfilm, with microfilm copies deposited at the National Archives and Records Administration and the Air Force Historical Studies Office (AFHSO), Anacostia Naval Annex, Washington D.C.

Reading Room

Because our collection consists of invaluable one-of-a-kind documents, we ask that patrons observe the following rules:

  • You must provide acceptable proof of identity and sign the register at the reception desk daily. 

  • No beverages or food are allowed in the Reading Room. Smoking is not allowed in the building. 

  • A card catalog, computer database (IRIS) and published finding aids are available to assist you in your document selection. Archivists and archives technicians are ready to assist you in your search, just ask the receptionist for assistance. No catalog cards may be removed from the card index drawers without permission of Reading Room attendant. 

  • In order to preserve the original documents and keep them in their proper order, researchers are not allowed in the stacks. Please complete a Form 1297 for the documents you wish to use and turn it in at the Reading Room desk. For each requester, no more than one cart of documents may be retrieved at a time. The records will be brought to the Reading Room reference desk and may be picked up there. You may use only one box at a time. Do not fold, write on, or otherwise damage the papers. Turn document pages carefully. Return documents to the box in the same order as when you received the box. Advise the attendant if you wish to have the material held for use the next day. 

  • No material may be removed from the Reading Room without permission from the attendant. 

  • Typewriters, portable personal computers, cameras, and tape recorders may be used in the Unclassified Reading Room unless they are disturbing other patrons. Please ask permission from the Reading Room attendant prior to use. These items are not allowed in the Classified Reading Room. 

  • A photocopying machine is available. The cost is ten cents per page. If you are conducting official research, there will not be a charge for photocopying. If you are a contractor, you will be required to pay for unclassified photocopies (there will not be a charge for copying classified materials if you possess a clearance). However, classified photocopies may not be carried out of the building. We will mail these materials to you at an official address. Any declassified pages still containing security markings should have the markings lined through on the photocopies before removing the material from the Reading Room. 

  • Researchers are encouraged to bring to the attention of the Reading Room attendant any misfiled items, errors in cataloging, and other comments. Please do not rearrange the collection yourself. 

  • Patrons may use the Agency telephone only in case of an emergency or for official business. Excessive use is prohibited. 

  • The Reading Rooms are open from 0830 until 1600, Monday through Friday, federal holidays excepted. Patrons must have all materials returned to the Reading Room desk prior to 1600. 

  • Staff members may ask to inspect items in your possession as you leave the Reading Room. Your signature on the registration form and this rule sheet is an acknowledgment of your agreement to cooperate with any inspection. 

  • If you have any questions and/or problems, please ask to see the Branch Chief, Division Chief, or Commander. 
  • Access

    The Agency's collection is currently available for access by visiting the Agency or purchasing the documents on CD.
     
    Patrons are welcome to submit requests in writing or emails for documents held at the Agency. See the section Archival Requests and Freedom of Information Act Requests.

    The Agency shares Building 1405 with the Air University Library, located in the middle of Chennault Circle at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.
     
    Potential visitors to the AFHRA are very strongly encouraged to contact the Agency to let us know when you plan to arrive and how long you plan to stay. We will attempt to accommodate all visitors, but security is tight and "drop-in" visitors may be denied entry, at least until the Agency staff can make the appropriate arrangements.

    Researchers are required to register at the Maxwell Visitors Center prior to entering the base. Identification Required: U.S.Government ID, a valid drivers license, and proof of automobile insurance.

    Unclassified documents in the Agency are available to the public and there is no need for special authorization to use them.

    Many of the Agency's holdings have been, or are now, subject to security classification under the Department of Defense Information Security Program. If your research involves classified material, you will need to provide proper evidence of an appropriate security clearance and authorization (need to know).

    The Agency cannot copy documents for either official or unofficial purposes. It will make available copying equipment for researchers engaged in official US Government projects as well as a coin-operated machine for persons engaged in private research. Patrons are advised to bring their own change.

    The Agency does not provide photographic services to researchers. However, researchers who visit the Agency may bring their own photographic equipment to copy photographs contained in the documents, provided the documents will not be damaged in the process. A light stand is available for patron use. 

    Holdings - Unit Histories

    The major portion of the collection consists of unit histories that the various Air Force organizations have prepared and submitted periodically since the establishment of the Air Force History Program in 1942. Reporting requirements have changed from time to time over the years, and the submissions vary in quality. Taken as a whole, the unit histories with their supporting documents, provide remarkably complete coverage of Air Force activities. 

    Special Collections

    The coverage provided by unit histories is supplemented by special collections, including historical monographs and studies; oral history interview transcripts; End-Of-Tour Reports; personal papers of retired general officers and other Air Force personnel; reference materials on the early period of military aviation; course materials of the Air Corps Tactical School of the 1920s and 1930s; working documents of various joint and combined commands; miscellaneous documents or collections of various organizations, including the US Army, British Air Ministry, and the German Air Force; USAF individual aircraft record cards, and a large collection of material relating to the USAF activities in the war in Southeast Asia and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

    The Agency accessions approximately 2,000,000 pages of historical material each year, including the annual and quarterly histories of Air Force units as well as additions to the special collections. Working closely with the Air Force Historian and the History Offices of the major commands, the Agency conducts an oral history program to record important historical data that would otherwise be lost. The Agency also gives special attention to the acquisition of personal papers of value for documenting Air Force and airpower history.

    Over the years, the Agency's collection has been used by the Air Force for preparation of plans, development of programs, analyses and evaluations of operations, staff studies on many subjects, textbooks and other course materials for Air Force schools, student papers and theses, orientation and indoctrination of personnel, and many other purposes. The collection has provided information regarding military aviation in general and the US Air Force in particular to Congress, the military services, and other government agencies. The collection has been used extensively by scholars, students, and writers, for books and monographs, master's theses, doctoral dissertations, magazine articles, and TV and movie scripts.