American Airpower Comes of Age: General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold's World War II Diaries

By Daso, Dik Alan | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

American Airpower Comes of Age: General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold's World War II Diaries


Daso, Dik Alan, Air & Space Power Journal


American Airpower Comes of Age: General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold's World War II Diaries, 2 vols., edited by Maj Gen John W. Huston, USAF, retired. Air University Press (http://www.maxwell. af.mil/au/aul/aupress), 131 West Shumacher Avenue, Maxwell AFB, Alabama 36112-6615, 2002, 592 pages (vol. 1), 458 pages (vol. 2), $47.00 (vol. 1, softcover), $39.00 (vol. 2, softcover).

The two volumes that cover Gen Henry H. "Hap" Arnold's World War II experiences contain more than 1,000 pages! But don't be afraid. Reading them is worth the effort. The editor, Maj Gen John Huston, USAF, retired, served as a B-17 navigator with the 379th Bombardment Group in England during World War II. During his academic career, General Huston, who earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, held such posts as chair of the Naval Academy's History Department, chief of the Office of Air Force History, and distinguished visiting professor at the Air Force Academy. Clearly, General Huston is a true soldier-scholar.

His long-awaited edition of Arnold's World War II diaries is monumental in scope and detailed in content. In fact, the work is really three different projects tied together. The diaries make up just under 300 pages of the entire project, certainly a smaller number than one might expect. Huston provides a biographical text that, by itself, could stand as a completely separate book. Finally, he has created a masterful set of chapter notes-just over 200 pages in a much smaller font than the one used for the text. These notes are so extensive that they are almost worth reading independently of the text. Overall, this collection is clearly a labor of love-a magnum opus for any writer/editor.

This reviewer stands in awe of the final product, which absolutely must be read by military-especially airpower-historians and anyone interested in the functions of the Army's high command (and it was indeed the Army) during wartime. Any publication of important sections of the personal papers of this five-star general is valuable because, until now, none of Arnold's papers have seen publication in any form. These diaries provide insight into the general's day-to-day activities and the nature of his major concerns during these crucial trips abroad. As described by the editor, "In all cases, the aim has been to let Arnold's notes speak for themselves as he recorded them in his diaries" (vol. 1, p. xi). That said-and as most reviewers are wont to do-I will now relate what the editor (perhaps more directly, the publisher) should have done with these diaries.

This collection could have been much easier to digest had one separate book included the biographical and operational-history segments. The diaries and Huston's postscript to each would have made another excellent single volume, and assembling them in that fashion might have made more sense. Quite frankly, without the editor's commentary, the diaries are not very helpful-actually mundane for the most part. …

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