cover image Rolling Thunder: Jet Combat from WW II to the Gulf War

Rolling Thunder: Jet Combat from WW II to the Gulf War

Ivan Rendall, Author Free Press $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-85780-0

Over the course of the last half-century, warfare has been completely transformed by jet aircraft and aerial combat. This is a tale that has been often told, but rarely as eloquently and insightfully as by RAF veteran Rendall (now a TV producer and writer). Working from the premise that jet-dominated Western war strategy may soon be eclipsed by computer-driven combat, Rendall evokes both the mystery and the power of the deadly but, for some, romantic airborne machines. (A jet fighter, he writes, is ""like a stunningly beautiful and dangerous courtesan."") Rendall's vivid battles scenes, often reconstructed from original reports or testimony, are interspersed with knowledgeable technical discussions as he takes readers through 50 years of fighters, beginning with the Luftwaffe's Me 262s and the USAF's answering X-I (in which Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to fly faster than sound). He then surveys jet warfare in the Korean War, the early years of the Cold War and Operation Rolling Thunder, America's 1965 entry into the Vietnam War. Chapters on the wars in the Middle East and computerized aviation lead inexorably to the Gulf War, to which Rendall accords his authorial standing ovation--a response that aviation-loving readers will be happy to bestow on this book. (May)