Reference Guide to United States Military History: 1945 to the Present

By Howard, David | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Reference Guide to United States Military History: 1945 to the Present


Howard, David, Air & Space Power Journal


Reference Guide to United States Military History: 1945 to the Present by Charles Reginald Shrader, general editor. Facts on File, Inc., 460 Park Avenue South, New York 10016, 1995, 328 pages.

Reference Guide, the fifth and final volume in Facts on File's series on the US military, represents the work of several contributors. The book is divided into three major parts: "The Organization of American Armed Forces and Their History," "Biographies," and "Battles and Events." Part 1 makes up half the volume, containing seven chapters. In addition to describing the different services, this part breaks up the period from 1945 to the present according to major events and world changes.

Although the scope of the Reference Guide is quite broad, most readers will use it to find specifics about individual military services, people, or events. Even though the Reference Guide contains much good information, I was disappointed in it for several reasons. For example, despite its publication date of 1995, the book covers none of the reorganization measures implemented since the early 1990s. Tactical Air Command and Military Airlift Command are still listed as major commands, while neither Air Combat Command nor Air Mobility Command is addressed or even mentioned as near-term possibilities.

Further, Air Force missions as described do not correspond fully to any of the accounts presented in the last three editions of Air Force Manual (AFM) 1-1, Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force. For example, the Reference Guide refers to the mission of strategic attack as strategic bombardment, a term used only in its historical sense in volume 2 of the 1992 edition of AFM 1-1. Other listed "missions" such as area air defense, ground attack, and air superiority are not missions at all. Perhaps they are closely related to actual USAF roles and missions, but such descriptors are inappropriate and confusing when used as part of a brief overview of the Air Force.

The Reference Guide also seems biased in its coverage of the Air Force and its leaders. The Army and maritime services each have twice as much text devoted to them as does the Air Force. The Gulf War's five-week air campaign is covered in only one-and-a-half pages; one-third of that total is devoted to efforts to stop Scud missiles. And most of that discussion is about the alleged success of the Patriot antimissile missile. Tellingly, the following account of the four-day ground phase of operations is much more in-depth, filling seven pages.

Further, the section of biographies is heavily weighted towards Army personnel and includes a fair number of Navy and Marine Corps bios. …

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