Air Power The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-04-12
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
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Within a decade of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, pilots were dropping the first crude bombs out of airplanes in combat while visionaries were predicting that the crushing power of an aerial assault would end warfare as we knew it.Yet for much of the first century of flight the myth of the airplane’s unstoppable power often surged far ahead of technological reality. It would take both brilliant new inventions and bold new thinking for air power to triumph at last—as it did with such devastating effect in the two Gulf wars.This sweeping history includes the latest inside details of air operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where precision weapons and unmanned drones quickly determined the outcome of the fight against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Stephen Budiansky draws on combat memoirs, government archives, and museum collections to create a sobering and dramatic account of the air wars of the last hundred years. A story of ideas and men, of intricate machines and fierce passions, Air Poweris an edge-of-the-seat drama of contemporary warfare and technology crafted by one of our most gifted writers.

Author Biography

Stephen Budiansky is the author of Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II. A former national security correspondent and foreign editor of the weekly newsmagazine, U.S. News & World Report, he worked on classified military studies of -ôsmart-ö weapons technology for the U.S. Congress. Budiansky-'s articles frequently appear in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix
1. Visions
An age of miracles
Visions of total war
The Wrights' method of invention
Wind tunnel
"Success assured"
Selling a military flying machine
2. Bogeymen
Scientists and empiricists
Invading Frenchmen and phantom airships
The Italians awe the natives; or possibly not
Organizing for war
Igor Sikorsky
3. Realities
The Marne and Tannenberg
A rash of experimentation
The birth of the fighter
Verdun and the Somme
C.G. Grey takes the offensive
Training to fly
A new breed of men
4. Grand Plans
The Zeppelin and Gotha raids
Hugh Trenchard and the RAF
The precocious birth and premature demise of operational analysis
Plans for a breakthrough
The aerodynamic revolution
5. Lessons Learned and Mislearned
Hollywood's air force
The British bombing survey
The Prophets
The British awe the natives
Billy Mitchell and the battleships
6. The Quest for Precision
Lindbergh, von Kármán, and the civil aviation boom
Fog flying
The Norden bombsight
Precision bombing and the Air Corps Tactical School
The B-17
7. The Fight for the Fighter
Claire Chennault's lonely battle
"The bomber will always get through"
The birth of radar
The Spitfire
Condor Legion
Guernica, and Guernica
Eve of war
8. Finest Hour
Phony war and real war
Battle joined
The Luftwaffe miscalculates
The Blitz and the boffins
Willow Run
9. Air Versus Sea
"Daring but incompetent aviators"
Bombs versus guns
Midway and the rise of the fast carriers
The war against the U-boats
10. The Temporary Triumph of Tactical Aviation
Bomber realities
Coningham, Monty, Rommel, and Patton
The birth of the fighter-bomber
D-Day and interdiction
Seeds of invention
11. The Allied Bomber Offensive
Morale and madness
"Are we beasts?"
Fighter escorts, oil, and the war of attrition
Los Alamos
The kamikazes, Tokyo, and Hiroshima
12. Strategic Air Command
"We wanna go home!"
Just another weapon
Jets and swept-back wings
Fighting without fighting
The problem of limited war
13. Hard Knocks
Nuclear theory, conventional war
Helicopters and gunships
Thuds and SAMS
Comic books and reformers
Bekaa Valley
14. Precision, at Last
Smart bombs
"Air power airheads"
Desert Storm
Dumb targets Afghanistan and Gulf War II
The new American way of war?
Notes 443(42)
Bibliography 485(16)
Index 501


Author's Note A writer contemplating a subject as full of dramatic action, flamboyant personalities, hallowed institutions, and brilliant inventions as this one faces a temptation he must bravely resist. My aim from the start was to tell the story of air power-of the revolutionary transformations that the airplane has brought to the conduct, consequences, and meaning of war in the hundred years since its invention. It is a story that brings together some of the greatest events and greatest minds of that century, and one of the fascinations in researching this subject has been tracing the intriguing and often unexpected interactions among personalities, institutions, and technology that conspired to foment this revolution in the way wars are fought and won, and indeed in the way we have come to think about war itself.But telling the story of air power is not the same as offering up a complete history of aerial combat or a definitive account of the men, the institutions, or the machines that have waged war in the air. As I soon discovered, the only way I could stick to my chosen path was if I was prepared to be quite ruthless. There is, accordingly, much that is justifiably famous in the history of military aviation that I simply had to abandon by the wayside if I was to have a prayer of getting where I was going. To those who would condemn me for failing to mention this famous airplane or that decisive battle, this legendary squadron or that heroic flyer, I plead completely guilty, and only hope that I may seek mitigation on the grounds that my intent has been to follow my tale where it led me and not (as so much military history so often does) to provide an exhaustive cataloging of all who undoubtedly deserve credit. I would also appeal to the wisdom of the French saying that Winston Churchill always said was his favorite: "L'art d'etre ennuyeux, c'est de tout dire"-"The art of being boring is to tell all." I am deeply indebted to the great scholars of air power and aviation history without whose works I could never have found my bearings in this vast field. Many were also extraordinarily generous in their personal assistance to me: answering questions, suggesting sources, and offering much-appreciated critiques of portions of this work. I would like to thank in particular James S. Corum, professor of comparative military studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base; Richard P. Hallion, the former United States Air Force Historian; Herman Wolk, Roger Miller, and Wayne Thompson of the U.S. Air Force History Support Office; and John D. Anderson, Jr., professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland. If I have managed to get above the trees and see the forest at all, it is because of the trails these and many other scholars of air power and aeronautical history have blazed to the vistas. In recounting specific incidents and details that illustrate and substantiate this story, I have, whenever possible, tried to consult original sources, including memoirs and personal letters; official publications, reports, and memoranda; and contemporaneous views as expressed in newspapers, films, and other popular media. I am grateful to the archivists and staffs of the United Kingdom Public Record Office, the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the Imperial War Museum, the Royal Air Force Museum, the German Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv, and the U.S. Air Force History Support Office for their kind assistance. My sincere thanks also go to Ralph Erskine, whose broad knowledge of military and naval history, not to mention his exceptional critical eye, generosity, and sound judgment, has made me just one of the many writers who are in his debt; Bill Cook, for valuable discussions and advice; Will O'Neil, Chief Scientist, Center for Naval Analyses, for valuable suggestions and for providing many copi

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