MacArthur's Airman: General George C. Kenney and the War in the Southwest Pacific

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MacArthur's Airman: General George C. Kenney and the War in the Southwest Pacific by Thomas E. Griffith Jr. University Press of Kansas (, 2502 Westbrooke Circle, Lawrence, Kansas 66045-4444, 1998, 368 pages, $39.95 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-7006-0909-3.

The assertion that the best history is biography seems especially true when the subject of the biography proved instrumental in the implementation of significant military operations during World War II, not to mention his major contributions to and influence on the postwar Air Force. One finds that story in MacArthur's Airman by Thomas Griffith Jr.

The book begins by recounting General Kenney's formative years in Nova Scotia, the son of parents whose rich ancestry included voyagers on the Mayflower. Although the author does not delve into the details of family problems, the sudden departure of Kenney's father suggests that such issues did exist. The future general attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but dropped out, claiming he was bored with school. Europe was preparing for war, and Kenney, influenced by air shows and aerobatic demonstrations common in the early twentieth century, joined the Army to fly airplanes. From that point on, Griffith discusses Kenney's career, his experience in World War I, and the events and associations that led to his assignment as the top air commander in the Pacific theater during World War II.

A forward-thinking man, Kenney was among the first to understand the true function of air superiority-to gain control of the airspace, not simply conduct operations in it. In fact, the author points out that Kenney's strategy, effectiveness, and advocacy for total air superiority may have influenced operations led by his counterparts in the European theater during the war.

Griffith provides a balanced view of Kenney, praising him for his management style, knowledge, and vision concerning the use of airpower, and for his relationship with Gen Douglas MacArthur. At the same time, he does not ignore Kenney's more controversial traits and positions, such as his racist attitude toward the Japanese, the controversy over the B-29, his disputes with Gen Henry "Hap" Arnold, and the constant quarrels with his Navy counterparts. …