Beyond the Wild Blue

Walter J. Boyne, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (442p) ISBN 978-0-312-15474-5
Retired Air Force colonel Boyne (Clash of Titans, 1995, etc.) effectively describes the development of aerospace technology: aircraft, missiles and the electronic systems that shape their employment. His operational narratives, particularly those of MIG Alley during the Korean War and Vietnam's Rolling Thunder, are useful for non-specialists. The intellectual framework of his history of the USAF, however, seldom goes beyond whatever passes as conventional Air Force wisdom on the nature and use of air power. Boyne depicts senior Air Force officers in terms usually reserved for George Washington or Robert E. Lee. Errors of judgment or failures of insight are spin-doctored. He brushes over the long and bitter internecine struggle between tactical and strategic factions, while describing the reorganizing and downsizing of the early 1990s as a harmonious process. Instead of analyzing doctrines and policies, Boyne focuses on criticizing bureaucrats and politicians for repeatedly cutting Air Force strength to the bone, for refusing to fund new weapons systems and for intervening in the conduct of operations. Robert McNamara is a particular villain, repeatedly indicted as responsible for ""inane restrictions"" and ""unreasonable rules of engagement"" during the Vietnam War. In developing this argument, Boyne presents what amounts to a theory of betrayal that is unsubstantiated by archival evidence and rejected by Air Force scholars such as Earl Tilford and Mark Clodfelter. Boyne takes a similarly unsophisticated approach to Desert Storm, making claims for air power's role that have been challenged even by Air Force analyses of the campaign. This book cannot be considered a significant contribution to the still-developing field of Air Force history. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-312-18705-7
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