Crosswinds: The Air Force's Setup in Vietnam

Crosswinds: The Air Force's Setup in Vietnam

Crosswinds: The Air Force's Setup in Vietnam

Crosswinds: The Air Force's Setup in Vietnam

Synopsis

Who lost the war in Vietnam? Popular mythology has blamed politicians, the press, or Jane Fonda and the antiwar movement. Crosswinds, a riveting and incisive analysis by a former Air Force officer who served as an intelligence specialist during the war, demonstrates convincingly that the U.S. Air Force was indeed "set up" for defeat, but not by an America that tied its hands. Rather, the Air Force was a victim of its own history, its institutional values, and an intellectually ossified leadership which could not devise a strategy appropriate to the war at hand. These factors within the Air Force itself created heavy flying. To many airmen and military analysts, the color of the flag over Ho Chi Minh City was the result of political betrayal of an Air Force that had delivered an unbroken string of unmitigated tactical victories. Many embrace the myth that the Christmas Bombing of December, 1972, for instance, had brought Hanoi to its knees before the politicians called the military off. Moreover, these commentators argue that the same "victory" could have been had at any time during the war if only air power had been unleashed. Yet, Earl Tilford convincingly demonstrates that - in spite of the nearly eight million tons of bombs dropped in Indochina, the 2,257 Air Force planes lost, and the untold thousands of people killed - air power failed to achieve victory. This book examines the entire Air Force experience in Southeast Asia, including the "secret wars" in Laos and Vietnam. Using previously untapped, recently declassified sources, Tilford challenges the accepted Air Force interpretation that it was betrayed. Tackling the issues of the air war, he traces the doctrine of strategicbombing from its roots in World War II through its development in the 1950s and early 1960s as a response to the Soviet threat abroad and interservice rivalries at home. In concluding, he compares the debacle of the Vietnam air

Excerpt

The United States Air Force of the 1990s faces perhaps the single greatest challenge to its institutional weltanschauung since it became an independent service in 1947. The specter of a hostile, expansionist Soviet Union--which, for the last 45 years, has justified the maintenance of a large strategic air force overwhelmingly oriented to the western European theater--is fading fast with no similarly immense threat on the immediate horizon to take its place. As a result, the USAF, perhaps more than any other US military service, faces the prospect of losing the foundation upon which it has based its entire institutional identity and even its very existence.

Strategic bombing is not mere doctrine to the USAF; it is its lifeblood and provides its entire raison d'être. Strategic bombing is as central to the identity of the Air Force as the New Testament is to the Catholic church. Without the Gospels there would be no pope; and without strategic bombing there would be no Air Force. The theology of strategic bombing has influenced every aspect of the Air Force's development since well before World War II. This system of belief too often has led the keepers of the USAF's institutional memory to dismiss as aberrant, peripheral, and irrelevant anything that fell outside the narrow confines of its strategic concepts. The USAF's uncritical approach to its own past has enabled it to declare strategic bombing decisive where it was not (Europe, 1943- 45); to claim victory where there was none (Vietnam, 1972); and to neglect those air operations that, indeed, proved indispensable and potentially decisive (tactical air campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters during World War II and in Korea during 1950 and 1951). This inability of the USAF to assess realistically the lessons and implications of its wartime experiences--failures along with successes--not only keeps it from . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.