Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo

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Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo edited by Sebastian Cox and Peter Gray. Frank Cass Publishers (http://www., 5824 NE Hassalo Street, Portland, Oregon 97213-3644, 2002, 362 pages, $64.50 (hardcover), $26.50 (softcover).

By all reports, the conference sponsored by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Air Historical Branch/RAF director of defense studies in July 2001 was a smashing success. Some of the most prominent scholars in airpower history gathered at the RAF's marvelous museum at Hendon, a most appropriate setting, to deliver some stimulating essays on their discipline. Afterwards, they participated in a Battle of Britain staff ride, an event reported to have been splendid in every regard. It is fitting, then, that the proceedings of the conference should appear in such fine shape and so soon. The work reflects the judgment and efficiency of the editors, Sebastian Cox and Peter Gray-the former the head of the Air Historical Branch and the latter the director of defense studies. Both editors are widely published in airpower topics, chiefly European, and are clearly authorities on the subject.

The editing is clean-hardly an error occurs anywhere in the text, a considerable achievement in such an anthology. Some of the chapters are well written and informative, although a few are unsurprising and fewer still engage in some airmen's chest thumping. As always, the parts of the work vary in quality, and the overall theme is difficult to maintain. Most of the essays focus on airpower in Europe, but some address air wars in other arenas. Ian MacFarling, of the Australian air force, has a chapter on World War II in the Pacific, and the USAF historian deals with that topic in passing in his essay of a more general character. The collection also includes two very fine chapters on airpower and maritime wars, one dealing with World War I by Christina Goulter of the Royal Naval Air Service and the other with World War II by John Buckley. American experts on naval aviation are conspicuous by their absence. John Ferris's wonderful chapter on the development of the air defense of Great Britain makes clear that the victory was due to much more than the fortunate invention of radar in 1935 and the ascendancy of Air Marshal Hugh Dowding. …