American Airpower Strategy in Korea, 1950-1953

By Brown, Wilfred F. | Naval War College Review, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

American Airpower Strategy in Korea, 1950-1953


Brown, Wilfred F., Naval War College Review


Crane, Conrad C. American Airpower Strategy in Korea, 1950-1953. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2000.252pp. $35

Conrad Crane is a research professor for military strategy at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, and formerly a professor of military history at the U.S. Military Academy. Crane previously wrote Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War 11 (1993), which is widely respected for its rich and adroit analysis. American Airpower Strategy in Korea, 1950-1953 is a comprehensive, thoroughly researched treatment of the many issues that the newly constituted U.S. Air Force faced as a result of having to fight its first war as an independent service-a war that it was not doctrinally or materially prepared for, and that the service had neither anticipated nor especially wanted to fight. Crane logically takes the reader through the war from the prehostilities period, which generally set the stage for the limited character of the war and specifically established the character of the Air Force's contribution; the opening moves and initial setbacks; the miraculous end-around at Inchon and subsequent march to the Yalu; the bitter winter of 1950-51; and finally to the stalemate along the thirty-eighth parallel.

Crane analyzes the performance of the Air Force in conducting air warfare in a regional, limited conflict at a time when the service was focused on strategic nuclear war and restricted by government policy as to the resources that could be allocated to Korea. It was a condition that the Air Force would again confront in Vietnam. The Korean War presented the Air Force with a myriad of challenges, not the least of which was the attempt to meet high expectations for operational effectiveness based on results obtained during World War II.

However, the very nature of the new conflict constrained that effectiveness. A classic example of the limited nature of the Korean War was the prohibition against crossing the Yalu River to engage enemy forces or interdict lines of communication. Crane also takes great pains to highlight how austere were the resources made available to the Korean area of operations, because the Air Force was required to maintain the bulk of the active component in a ready status to respond to other worldwide threats. …

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