In 1947, at an AFROTC field training camp, cadets from the University of Cincinnati discussed and presented the idea of an honorary society to Lt Col James F. Pierce, Major Victor J. Sampson, and Captain James I. Nolkamper.

In October 1947, a cadet committee was formed to write a constitution and choose a name for their newly founded society. The name they chose was "Arnold Society of Air Cadets," in honor of General Henry H. Arnold. In December 1947, Gen Arnold granted permission to use his name for the proposed Society.

The Arnold Society of Air Cadets grew very quickly from its inception in the summer of 1947. High morals, physical fitness, and positive mental attitude formed the foundation of the Society. These characteristics were the basis for the Society's efforts to mold young cadets into future Air Force leaders.

The United States Air Force officially recognized the Society on 6 April 1948, and the Air Defense Command sent out copies of the Society's constitution to all colleges and universities throughout the nation in the hopes of forming similar organizations. Within the next year, twenty new squadrons had been formed.

The death of the Society's first National Honorary Commander, General H. H. Arnold, marred the beginning years of the Society. General James Doolittle was unanimously chosen as his successor.