Happy 66th -or 106th- Birthday, US Air Force

September 18, 2013

According to the Department of Defense’s website, the United States Air Force is 66 years ago today “that the National Security Act of 1947 turned what was then known as the Army Air Corps into the United States Department of the Air Force. A strategic, tactical and defensive force for the skies, the Air Force has become a vital role in our country’s military power.

USAF-Birthday-Video

Watch this US Air Force birthday video on YouTube.

However, if you add in the years since the Army Air Corps first flew in 1907, then the Air Force’s operations have really been going strong for 106 years today. It all depends on how you count it.

Therefore, it is fitting to look at the entirety of military aviation when looking at the US Air Force’s illustrious history.

A number of excellent publications have come out recently, both in print and eBooks, for the US Air Force, Army Air Corps and military aviation in general.

The ones we most recommend for understanding the evolution of today’s US Air Force include:

Overall History and Mission

008-070-00727-4The best two books covering the overall history and mission of what is now the United States Air Force are A Concise History of the United States Air Force and its recently released EPUB eBook version, as well as the extremely thought-provoking Air Force Roles and Missions: A History (also recently released as an eBook) which traces the evolution of the Air Force’s role and missions as well as the conflicts with other branches of the military over these definitions.

Early Beginnings through World War 1

Are you more interested in the earliest days of aviation when the Army first bought one of the Wright Brothers’ planes and its “daring young men in those flying machines” began to determine how airpower could be used for military purposes? Then you should read Logbook of the Signal Corps No. 1: The United States Army’s First Airplane in paperback or as a new eBook, which recounts the experiences of Benjamin D. Foulois, the pioneering, self-taught pilot of “Signal Corps No. 1″, the very first airplane of the United States Army Signal Corps.

HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator, Shown here as Army Flight Instructor in College Park, Maryland. ISBN: 0-16-049071-5And don’t miss HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator (Paperback) or the new EPUB eBook edition which tells the story of beloved Henry “Hap” Arnold, one of the first Army flight instructors and daring pilot. (See his image to the right as an Army Flight Instructor. Image courtesy: College Park Aviation Museum.)

Another very popular publication tells the story of air espionage during World War 1: Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front – World War I.

Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front - World War I (Paperbound)

World War 2

World War II is when it is widely acknowledged that military aviation came into its own. Toward Independence: The Emergence of the United States Air Force, 1945-1947 tells of the rapid evolution in use of airpower in the period leading up to its formation as a separate entity.

Korean War

By the Korean War, the US Air Force had become its own branch of the United States Armed Forces. Several publications chronicle the involvement of the newly formed USAF during this conflict, including Within Limits: The United States Air Force and the Korean War, Coalition Air Warfare in the Korean War, 1950 1953, and Silver Wings, Golden Valor: The USAF Remembers Korea which includes reminiscences and perspectives of Korean War Air Force veterans and historians.

Vietnam War

War Too Long: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1961-1975 ISBN: 9780160613692Over 50 years later, Americans are still wrestling with the lessons of Vietnam. So, too, is the Air Force in these excellent USAF publications War Too Long: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1961-1975  and War in South Vietnam: The Years of the Offensive, 1965-1968, as well as this Army digital publication, Interservice Rivalry and Airpower in the Vietnam War (eBook).

Cold War and Space Race

When the Soviets launched Sputnik, the space race was subsequently kicked off with the United States. The Air Force role was critical during the Cold War and in both in helping start our space exploration and ongoing support through to today in support of NASA. Read Early Cold War Overflights, 1950-1956 to understand the beginning of the espionage flights, and pick up a copy of the United States Air Force in Space, 1945 to the Twenty-First Century which covers the Air Force’s involvement in space exploration.

Gulf War to the Present

None of us can forget the images of bombs dropping during the Gulf War, the tale of which is told in Decisive Force: Strategic Bombing in the Gulf War.

Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011  ISBN: 9780160914485And anyone with family in or who themselves are in the National Guard or a military reservist knows how the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan have changed the role of these personnel from backup to active participants. One of the best books we’ve read on the subject is the excellent Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 which chronicles these stark changes in the Air Force Reserve since the terrorist attacks on 9.11.2001.

Air Force on TV and in the Movies

Fans of the movie “War Games” will know about NORAD. Learn the true story behind this important homeland airspace defense organization in Guarding What You Value Most: North American Aerospace Defense Command Celebrating 50 Years and a new EPUB eBook version. Includes the heart-warming story of NORAD’s Christmas Eve Santa Tracker. (Read about this in our blog post Tracking “Big Red”: NORAD’s Secret Santa Mission [UPDATED].)

Fans of the TV show “JAG” Will love to discover the real history of this Air Force department in First 50 Years: United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department.

Humanitarian Operations

Wings of Hope: The United States Air Force and Humanitarian Airlift OperationsLike the other branches of the US military, the US Air Force plays an important role in humanitarian operations, both here at home and worldwide. This publication—Wings of Hope: The United States Air Force and Humanitarian Airlift Operations—tells the overall story of various airlift operations. While it sounds like the plot of a disaster movie, the Ash Warriors (paperback) and its EPUB eBook version recounts the true story of the “Ash Warriors,” those Air Force men and women who carried out their mission in the face of an incredible series of natural disasters, including volcanic eruption, flood, typhoons, and earthquakes, all of which plagued Clark Air Base in the Philippines and the surrounding areas during June and July 1991. And the horrendous Hurricane Katrina brought out the best in the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, whose role is described in Operation Dragon Comeback: Air Education and Training Command’s Response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Blue Sky” Future

So join us in wishing a very happy 66th (or 106th) birthday to our very own United States Air Force. May there be blue skies in its future!

How can I obtain these Air Force History publications?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our United States Air Force (USAF) History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Sometimes Friends Just Seem Hard to Come By!

August 19, 2011

Guest Blogger Matthew Brentzel looks at relations between the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

I think all of us can agree that sometimes inter-organizational communication can be difficult.  Working with others just doesn’t always seem to work out in the end.  Issues can arise―such as misinterpretation of information, withholding information, and biased opinions―which in turn can lead to difficulties between two organizations.

That’s why I chose to write a blog post on Can’t We All Just Get Along?: Improving the Law Enforcement-Intelligence Community Relationship, from the National Defense Intelligence College.  Not only does it involve my interest in intelligence analysis, but it also brings in aspects of the work I currently do.  Although I have seen how hard it can be to come to an agreement sometimes, it can be done.  This is the main message the authors of Can’t We All Just Get Along? try to get across. “When the relationship between these communities works, it works very well.”  The authors set out to prove this theory with a series of essays that show the nature of this relationship.  One article in particular really shows what happens when a successful relationship occurs.  It focuses on the likelihood of domestic terrorism possibly developing in the U.S. prison system.  It goes on to explain the relationship between the Federal Correctional Intelligence Initiative and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Administration.  This relationship has allowed the Bureau of Prisons to evolve successfully into a network that shares gang and terrorist intelligence data.

This book brought to my attention a topic that I had never really thought about before.  I look forward to some day entering into the field of intelligence analysis, but never really thought about how the intelligence community interacted with law enforcement agencies. If I ever thought about it at all, I probably imagined that these conflicting agencies would cooperate easily with each other and supply the information each needed.  This publication revealed real differences, such as their relative willingness to divulge intelligence and their ideas about what intelligence actually is.  Finally, it covers the history of these two communities and how this history impacts their relationship today.

I would highly recommend this publication for anyone in the law enforcement or intelligence field.  In addition, I would recommend it to anybody interested in collaboration between Government agencies.  Feel free to visit the GPO bookstore and take a look at this publication here, or check out the online version via PDF format here.


Studying the Politics of Militant Islam in Southeast Asia

May 23, 2011

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m interested in international politics and global strategic issues, among many, many other things (as a reader, I’m a total magpie – and proud of it!). Since the recent unlamented demise of Osama bin Laden, the issues of terrorism and Islamic militancy are back in the news, but sometimes only superficially. Whole areas of the world continue to be ignored by the media, or appear to be on their back burner.

That’s why a book like A Muslim Archipelago: Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia, from the National Defense Intelligence College, is so illuminating. It provides both historical perspectives and contemporary insights into the origins and political position of Islam in Indonesia and its various components, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Islam in Indonesia, for example, has assimilated many characteristics of Hindu and animistic beliefs, making it vastly different than the austere Wahabism of Saudi Arabia or the fundamentalism of the Taliban. The book also points out that places like Acheh in Indonesia and the southern region of Thailand were independent Muslim polities until relatively recent times, resulting in a potent blend of religion and regionalism that sometimes explodes into insurrection. America’s own experience with the Moros of the Philippines in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War is only one example – and the Moros are still challenging the Filipino state today.

A Muslim Archipelago is also a lucidly written guide to the bewildering proliferation of militant groups. as in many extremist political movements, factions and splits are common. Jemaah Islamiyeh, Laskar Jundallah, and Laskar Jihad all appear within a few pages of each other in the section on Indonesia, but the book does a good job of differentiating their aims and actions. When (and I’m afraid it’s not “if”) the next flare-up of  insurgency or terrorism crops up in Southeast Asia, this book will provide the context within which to explicate the issues and personalities involved.

I hope policy makers and strategists, and political leaders around the world can benefit form the information in this excellent book – it’s in all of our best interests if they do. You can browse through it here or here (where you can also order it as an eBook!), get your own copy here, or find it in a library.


Orientalism, Intelligence, and Empire

January 7, 2011

It took me awhile to get a handle on this one. Imperial Secrets: Remapping the Mind of Empire, published by the  National Defense Intelligence College, cites Edward Said, Francis Bacon, Jorge Luis Borges, Michel Foucault, Jeremy Bentham, T.E. Lawrence, and Joseph Conrad just in the Introduction, uses the intelligence experiences of the Roman, Ottoman, and British Empires as its core focus, and includes chapters  headed “Thuggee”, “Barzakh”, “Rhizomes”, and “Boukoloi.” This is a book that challenges its readers.

My take is that Edward Said is the real intellectual godfather of this book. His Orientalism was and remains a brilliant exposition of the West’s perceptions of the “mysterious East”. Although like all seminal works, Said’s work has been challenged, and in some ways refuted, it remains a starting point for anyone in the many fields it touches.

Although Imperial Secrets is too rich and complex a work to summarize here, it proposes that the United States, although not a classic empire, can be viewed as such, from the perspective of knowledge gathering, or intelligence, in the lands over which it exercises “imperial” influence. In the chapter on Thuggee in the British Raj, for example, an age-old Indian problem of robbery carried out via the strangulation of victims, was transmogrified by the British imagination into an organized cult of religious stranglers. Informers and punitive laws  then were employed to eliminate this phantom cult. Imperial Secrets uses this narrative to demonstrate the way empires, when faced with unfamiliar social and cultural environments, use an Orientalist discourse to fit those environments into their own frames of reference.

Another interesting theme is the value of informal networks of information, whether through the Sufi lodges of the Ottoman Empire or the transnational Freemasonic lodges of 19th Century Europe. Related to these networks are attempts by empires to use their own agents (T.E. Lawrence or the remarkable American Josiah Harlan, who had at least a shot at becoming an Afghan prince in the 1830s) and the emotional and psychological stresses that influence, or even distort, these agents’ perceptions however deeply they have steeped themselves in the cultures they infiltrate.

As I said earlier, Imperial Secrets is too intellectually challenging to review in a limited space. I haven’t even touched on its examination of Flavius Josephus as the kind of marginal informant that can to some extent transgress the boundary between and empire and its subjects, or the situationist travels of the 16th century Turkish traveler and official Evliya Celebi and their relevance as an example of  detecting information in the empty spaces between intelligence sources. (I’m starting to sound like the book, which may mean that I’m getting the point!)

Imperial Secrets is not a quick read, but it’s a stimulating one. Bear with it and you’re likely to  reap its rewards. You can read it here, get your own copy, or find it in a library.


Terrorism as Organized Crime

September 28, 2010

“Terrorist Networks Are Organized + Terrorism Is a Crime = Terrorism Is Organized Crime”

That’s the formula that Blue Planet: Informal International Police Networks and National Intelligence presents to the reader, and author Michael D. Bayer makes a good case for it. Bayer, a former chief of the Department of State’s transnational criminal investigative office, takes the view that police around the world are better positioned to know what’s going on in their local areas, no matter how remote they seem from the wider world. Through informal contacts with colleagues in their own countries and abroad, they can gather and disseminate vital intelligence to detect and suppress “worldwide manifestations of destabilizing violence, often indiscriminately labeled ‘terrorism.’”

I found Blue Planet to be an intriguing read for a number of reasons. It presents a reasonable and clearly written case for greater involvement of the police in fighting terrorism, argues forcefully against the post-9/11 militarization of U.S. anti-terrorism effort, and cites a number of fascinating case studies of how informal international police networks, even including such relatively closed societies as Cuba and China, have worked effectively to apprehend criminals. (Some of these stories could be the basis for your next suspense novel!)

Blue Planet also makes the interesting point that both international criminal operations and terrorist networks often use the same illegal methods (smuggling, money laundering, drug trafficking), and who better to learn about those links than those already tracking organized crime?  According to a recent RAND report cited in the book, “For terrorist groups that cannot or will not abandon terrorism, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy to destroy terrorist groups. The logic is straightforward: Police generally have better training and intelligence to penetrate and disrupt terrorist organizations. They are the primary arm of the government focused on internal security matters.”

Blue Planet is not just another policy report. It’s an insightful and intellectually stimulating book that also includes some terrific true crime stories. You can read it here on the National Defense Intelligence College Web site or track down your own copy here.


Prisoner Interrogation in Three Wars

June 3, 2010

Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq is an absolutely fascinating read. This book from the National Defense Intelligence College takes both an historical and policy-oriented view of prisoner of war interrogations in three wars. The World War II section examines the Army’s use of Japanese Americans – Nisei – as interrogators in the Pacific, along with incisive discussions of why Japanese soldiers seldom were taken prisoners, why a relatively high percentage of such POWs cooperated with their interrogators, and why they furnished such a significant amount of intelligence to their captors (the Japanese military hierarchy assumed that their men would not become prisoners and so did not indoctrinate them about the importance of not giving up information if they were.) This part of the book also analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Army and Navy Japanese language training  provided during the war.

The Vietnam section focuses on profiles of the most able interrogators in World War II (the wonderfully named R.W. G. “Tin Eye” Stephens for the British and Hans Scharff for the Germans) and a number of successful American officers during the Vietnam conflict. Throughout the book, the authors make the point that linguistic ability, a deep understanding of the captives’ culture and worldview, and a perception that torture or other violent methods were useless in soliciting information of value are the hallmarks of a successful interrogator of prisoners. This part of the book also describes these individuals’ occasional conflicts with the military bureaucracy, such as Sedgwick Tourison’s experience in reporting more information about the Tonkin Gulf incident than his superiors wanted to hear.

The final section, on Iraq, focuses on policy issues – specifically, whether Army doctrine should permit Special Operations personnel to interrogate prisoners. Again, real-world examples from personal experience provide a study that is both gripping and insightful.

Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq is a thoughtful and provocative analysis of what any army confronts in war – the need to gather intelligence from prisoners, the most effective way to do that, and the ineffectiveness of “harsh methods” in delivering useful information.

You can read the book here or get a copy from GPO here.  To find it in a library, search here.


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