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Air Power: from Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II: A History of the People, Ideas and Machines That Transformed War in the Century of Flight [Hardcover]

Stephen Budiansky
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II
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Book Description

4 Dec 2003
Arguably no single human invention has transformed war more than the aeroplane. The potential of airpower to change the very nature - perhaps even the meaning - of combat was strikingly evident almost from the moment the Wright brothers first flew. Stephen Budiansky tells the story of airpower from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo, showing how, during the course of the 20th century, it transformed warfare. Drawing on combat memoirs, government and industry archives, technical studies and museum collections, this text brings together a complete narrative history of war in the air, with the people, events, ideas and inventions that made it possible.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st Edition edition (4 Dec 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670912514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670912513
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,103,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Publisher

'Excellent. The story of the journey from the skies over the Western Front to Baghdad is a long, fascinating and important one. There is no more intelligent and entertaining guide to it than Budiansky's admirable book.' - Patrick Bishop, Daily Telegraph

'A highly readable, enjoyable and fascinating book.' Financial Times

'Every war story you ever read, rolled into one... well-written, well-informed, full of lively detail' - Independent

'Gripping' - MRD Foot, Spectator


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Use and Abuse of Air Power 13 Mar 2004
I'm always a little wary of long history books authored by journalists, who sometimes have a problem writing narrative history without turning it into a tedious 500 page interview of various "sources." Stephen Budiansky, a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, is a happy exception to the rule. His prose is clear and crisp, and he tells a fascinating story that kept drawing me back to his rather lengthy "Air Power."
Budiansky begins his book by explaining the remarkable accomplishments of the Wright Brothers and thereafter focuses on the military uses, both real and imagined, of aircraft. The result is a history of technology and strategy told against the background of military developments in the 20th and early 21st century.
Budiansky carefully rebuts the views of theorists and generals who claimed that air power could be a "war-winning" weapon because it could be used to terrorize civilian populations into surrender or because it could cause rapid economic collapse by striking at the chokepoints in an enemy's supply system. The author argues that, with very few exceptions (such as the interdiction of German oil supplies in the last year of World War II), air power has not performed very well as a strategic tool and has always been most effective when used as a tactical weapon in support of forces on the ground. The Second Gulf War in Iraq can thus be viewed as the apotheosis of the effective use of air power: with the advent of readily available precision bombs and missiles, even "strategic" aircraft such as the B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers were used to great advantage in the role of close support of ground troops.
In the aftermath of the Second Gulf War, then, air power is for the moment ascendant on the battle field.
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By Mr X
Due to the length of this book it remained on my shelf for a long while. I thought that it might be a dull account of the development of military aviation.

So when I started reading it I was pleased to see that in fact it was fast paced, discussed theory, tactics, personalities, aeroplanes, strategy and a whole lot besides in fairly quick succession. It is certainly a well thought out book and, starting with the beginnings of aviation in 1903 (and even before) it proceeds to deal with how planes tactics and strategy changed from the First World War through to Gulf War II.

One of the most interesting features of the book is that it deals with the thinking behind the use of military aviation. For example throughout the 1920's and 1930s there was a great debate between those who thought precision bombing was practical and those who thought not (or thought it didn't matter if bombing was imprecise as its psychological effect was just as, if not more, important than the physical damaged caused). It also describes some of the main personalities in some detail to give a good idea of the men who were responsible for the important turning points in military aviation.

The book has very few minus points. I found it US-centric but perhaps that is unavoidable as the author is American and so clearly the materials most readily accessible are going to be US-based. Also the early chapters one could say are more Euro-centric, as it was not until after WWII that the US came to be the global hegemon and so one would expect more discussion of the US in the chapters dealing with the post-WWII period. Also I liked the little pictures within the text showing what some of the planes being described looked like.....even more would have been even better!

I knew a fair bit about the subject before reading this book but learnt so much from this review of the subject and read the c.440 pages in about a week. One of the few books deserving the full 5 stars!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - why out of print? 28 April 2013
By David Field - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
In an Amazon review someone recommended this book.

I couldn't agree more - the author describes the people who shaped air warfare and the machines the pilots used.

It's both comprehensive and easy to read. I can't believe that it's out of print - about the only thing it doesn't describe is the "Drone war" in Afghanistan, but since that is new since the book was published, it's perfectly understandable.

I've read a lot on this subject and this book gave me plenty of fresh insights.

The book was sent used from Britain and was in beautiful condition - the seller underestimated the quality of the volume.

Give it a read if you're interested in anything to do with the subject.
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