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.


BP in Hot Water over Deepwater

February 25, 2013

As the BP Oil Spill civil trial begins this week, the Federal Government will attempt to prove whether British Petroleum (BP) and/or any of its contractors such as Transocean (RIG), the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and Halliburton (HAL), which was responsible for pouring the cement plugs in the well, were “grossly negligent” and thus financially liable in causing the deadly BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig explosion on April 10, 2010, and the blowout of the Macondo well.

BP-Deep-Water-Explosion-April-20-2010

Image: Explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig at the Macondo prospect well. Photo credit: Associated Press.

The initial explosion killed 11 oil rig workers and triggered a subsequent oil spill which dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, with the full extent of the long-term ecological and economic damage to the Gulf states and aquatic and wildlife still unknown.  With tar balls linked to the BP oil spill still washing ashore from Louisiana and Alabama to as far away as Australia, if BP is found “grossly negligent” instead of “simply negligent,” it will be on the hook for $17.6 billion in additional clean-up costs on top of the $4.5 billion fine for the criminal case settled in November 2012.

The National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling produced two landmark and controversial reports about the oil spill causes and consequences that are critical in understanding the Government’s case against BP:

1)      Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011, and

2)      Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011.

THE MISSION

Established by Executive Order 13543 on May 21, 2010 by President Barack Obama, the mission of the National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission was to examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and develop options to guard against, and mitigate the impact of, any oil spills associated with offshore drilling in the future.

BP-Deep-Water-CommissionIn addition, they were to recommend any needed improvements to Federal laws, regulations, and industry practices concerning the oil and gas industry.

Image: Commissioners of the National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Image credit: C-SPAN

Key areas of inquiry for the Commission included:

  • The Macondo Well Explosion and Drilling Safety
  • The Role of Offshore Oil Drilling in Domestic Energy Policy
  • Regulatory Oversight of Offshore Drilling
  • Oil Spill Response
  • Spill Impacts and Assessment
  • Restoration Approaches and Options

THE INVESTIGATION

Macondo-Oil-Spill-Report-9780160879630The first order of business for the Commission was to carry out the directive in the Executive Order to “examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.” They instructed the Commission‘s Chief Counsel Fred Bartlit and his investigative team to provide “the most comprehensive, coherent, and detailed account of the events leading up to the blowout and explosion” of Macondo, the name of BP’s offshore prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in the sector called the Mississippi Canyon Block 252, or MC252 where BP was drilling at the time of the accident.

The result was this report, Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011, which provides additional details and documentation supporting the findings in the Commission’s final report.

The respected Library Journal, in selecting the Macondo report as one of its “Notable Government Documents” for 2011, said:

“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was created by President Obama and charged with investigating the root causes of the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The committee concluded that the cause of the blowout was not mechanical. Instead, a number of poor management decisions, combined with an inadequate regulatory structure and an indifferent regulatory agency, overwhelmed the safeguards designed to prevent such disasters. Plenty of illustrations and photographs offer a glimpse into the technology of offshore oil rigs.” – LJ

For trial watchers, this publication is a must-read as much of the initial documentary evidence is included.

THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Deep-Water-Report-9780160873713The second and final report is the best-selling Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011. It not only offers the full account of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and why, but also offers recommendations on proposed actions, changes in company behavior, reform of government oversight, and investments in research and technology that will be required to avert future disasters.

In Part I: The Path to Tragedy, “Chapters 1 through 3 describe the events of April 20th on the Deepwater Horizon, and, more important, the events leading up to it in the preceding decades—especially how the dramatic expansion of deepwater drilling in the Gulf was not met by regulatory oversight capable of ensuring the safety of those drilling operations.

In Part II: Explosion and Aftermath:  The Causes and Consequences of the Disaster, Chapters 4 through 7 lay out the results of the Commission’s investigation in detail, highlighting the crucial policy-related issues: the specific engineering and operating choices made in drilling the Macondo well, the attempts to contain and respond to the oil spill, and the impacts of the spill on the region’s natural resources, economy, and people—in the context of the progressive degradation of the Mississippi Delta environment.

BP-deepwater-2-yr-impact

Image: Chart illustrating some of the ongoing effects of the BP Macondo well oil spill two years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Infographic credit: ColorLines.com

In the final section, Part III: Lessons Learned: Industry, Government, Energy Policy, Chapters 8 through 10 present the Commission’s recommendations for reforms in business practices, regulatory oversight, and broader policy concerns.

Throughout the book, the Commission makes the case that outlines a number of primary conclusions, including these unsettling findings:

  • The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.
  • The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.
  • Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared…
  • To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated…to ensure [the regulators'] political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.
  • Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to dramatically increase safety…
  • The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling…
  • Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.

Delivered to the President on January 2011, the final report starts with a poignant dedication “to the 11 men who lost their lives on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010 and to their families, in hope that this report will help minimize the chance of another such disaster ever happening again.”

Will it help prevent another such disaster? Read these publications and decide for yourself.


How can I buy these BP oil spill publications?

  • Buy them 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, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find them in a federal depository library.

About the Author:  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.


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