Synopses & Reviews
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 airplanes 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 lastas 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 Power is an edge-of-the-seat drama of contemporary warfare and technology crafted by one of our most gifted writers.
"A truly fascinating and insightful perspective on the history of air power." —Norman R. Augustine, former chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation
"A splendid job." —The Wall Street Journal
With "Air Power," a gifted writer pens an epic up-to-the-minute history of the airplane in combat--the pilots, the strategists, the weaponry, and the high-tech battles they increasingly dominate.
No single human invention has transformed war more than the airplane—not even the atomic bomb. Even before the Wright Brothers’ first flight, predictions abounded of the devastating and terrible consequences this new invention would have as an engine of war. Soaring over the battlefield, the airplane became an unstoppable force that left no spot on earth safe from attack. Drawing on combat memoirs, letters, diaries, archival records, museum collections, and eyewitness accounts by the men who fought—and the men who developed the breakthrough inventions and concepts—acclaimed author Stephen Budiansky weaves a vivid and dramatic account of the airplane’s revolutionary transformation of modern warfare.
On the web: http://www.budiansky.com/
About the Author
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 smart weapons technology for the U.S. Congress. Budianskys articles frequently appear in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Table of Contents
Authors Note ix
Part One: Kitty Hawk to Saint-Mihiel, 1900-1918
1. Visions 3
An age of miracles;Visions of total war;The Wrights method of invention;Wind tunnel;Success assured;Selling a military flying machine
2. Bogeymen 32
Scientists and empiricists;Invading Frenchmen and phantom airships;The Italians awe the natives; or possibly not;Organizing for war;Igor Sikorsky
3. Realities 55
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 90
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
Part Two: Versailles to Madrid, 1919-1939
5. Lessons Learned and Mislearned 125
Hollywoods air force;The British bombing survey;The Prophets;The British awe the natives;Billy Mitchell and the battleships
6. The Quest for Precision 153
Monoplanes;Lindbergh, von Krmn, 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 184
Claire Chennaults lonely battle;The bomber will always get through;The birth of radar;The Spitfire;Condor Legion; Guernica, and Guernica;Eve of war
Part Three: Warsaw to Nagasaki, 1939Ð1945
8. Finest Hour 219
Poland;Phony war and real war;Battle joined;The Luftwaffe miscalculates;The Blitz and the boffins;Willow Run
9. Air Versus Sea 255
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 281 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 308
Morale and madness;Are we beasts?;Fighter escorts, oil, and the war of attrition;Los Alamos;The kamikazes, Tokyo, and Hiroshima
Part Four: Omaha to baghdad, 1946-2003
12. Strategic Air Command 345
We wanna go home!;Just another weapon;Jets and swept-back wings;Fighting without fighting;The problem of limited war
13. Hard Knocks 376
Nuclear theory, conventional war;Helicopters and gunships;Thuds and SAMs;Comic books and reformers;Bekaa Valley
14. Precision, at Last 406
Smart bombs;ÒAir power airheadsÓ;Desert Storm;Dumb targets;Afghanistan and Gulf War II;The new American way of war?