|III Fighter Command|
|Branch|| United States Army|
United States Air Force
|Role||Command and training of fighter units|
|Clarence L. Tinker|
GHQ Air Force (GHQ,AF) had been established with two major combat functions, to maintain a striking force against long range targets, and the air defense of the United States. In the spring of 1941, the War Department established four strategic defense areas and GHQ, AF reorganized its Southeast Air District as 3rd Air Force with responsibility for air defense planning and organization in the southeastern. 3rd Air Force activated 3rd Interceptor Command at Drew Field, Florida in 1941, under the command of Major General Walter H. Frank. The command's initial tactical component was the 8th Pursuit Wing.
The attack on Pearl Harbor put all units on heightened alert. The command was charged with control of "active agents" for air defense in its area of responsibility, which included interceptor aircraft, antiaircraft artillery and barrage balloons. Civilian organizations provided air raid warnings and enforced blackouts and came under the authority of the Office of Civilian Defense and the command worked "feverishly" to create a ground observer corps as elements of its Aircraft Warning Service. However, it soon became apparent that having two commands responsible for air defense in the Eastern Theater of Operations was impractical. 1st Interceptor Command was given the mission of defending the East and Gulf coasts, while 3rd concentrated on the training mission starting early in 1942. Although the command retained responsibility for air defense on the Gulf coast west of the Apalachicola River, no "vital air defense zone" was established for this area, as it was for the Pacific and East coasts.