If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting… Curtis LeMay


These two books are about the importance of air power and how it allowed the United States to defeat the Japanese and maintain the peace in a post World War II world. Each of them is well worth reading and both of them together will give an overview from the days of the Army Air Corps to the Cuban missile crisis.

Airplane landing on flight deck of aircraft carrier with American flag in foreground

Airplane landing on flight deck of aircraft carrier with American flag in foreground

Whirlwind : the air war against Japan, 1942-1945  Barrett Tillman  New York : Simon & Schuster, 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed later printing. xvii, 316 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Production. B-25 bombers. New B-25 bombers lined up for final inspection and tests at the flying field of a Western Aircraft plant. General Doolittle, who flew in a B-25 in the raid on Tokyo, has called this ship the best military plane in existence.

Production. B-25 bombers. New B-25 bombers lined up for final inspection and tests at the flying field of a Western Aircraft plant. General Doolittle, who flew in a B-25 in the raid on Tokyo, has called this ship the best military plane in existence.

WHIRLWIND is the first book to tell the complete, awe-inspiring story of the Allied air war against Japan — the most important strategic bombing campaign in history. From the audacious Doolittle raid in 1942 to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945,  Tillman recounts the saga from the perspectives of American and British aircrews who flew unprecedented missions overthousands of miles of ocean, as well as of the generals and admirals who commanded them.

Navy aircraft. Douglas dauntless dive bomber. Dive bomber peeling off for attack

Navy aircraft. Douglas dauntless dive bomber. Dive bomber peeling off for attack

Whether describing the experiences of bomber crews based in China or the Marianas, fighter pilotson Iwo Jima, or carrier aviators at sea, Tillman provides vivid details of the lives of the fliers and their support personnel. Whirlwind takes readers into the cockpits and gun turrets of the mighty B-29 Superfortress, the largest bomber built up to that time. Tillman dramatically re-creates the sweep of wartime emotions that crews endured on fifteen-hour missions, grappling with the extreme tedium of cramped spaces and with adrenaline spikes in flak-studded skies, knowing that a bailout would put them at the mercy of a merciless enemy or an unforgiving sea.

Navy fighter pilots in the ready room of their aircraft carrier before a strike somewhere in the Pacific in a recent battle operation

Navy fighter pilots in the ready room of their aircraft carrier before a strike somewhere in the Pacific in a recent battle operation

A major character is the controversial and brilliant General Curtis LeMay, who rewrote strategic bombing tactics. His command’s fire-bombing missions incinerated fully half of Tokyo and many other cities, crippling Japan’s industry while still failing to force surrender.

GENERAL VIEW LOOKING NORTHEAST OF THE ROLL OUT OF THE FIRST B-29 SUPERFORTRESS ON MAY 24, 1944, SHOWING THE NOSE RAISED TO ALLOW THE TAIL TO PASS UNDER THE CANOPY DOORS. WHO, 1944 - Offutt Air Force Base, Glenn L. Martin-Nebraska Bomber Plant, Building D, Peacekeeper Drive, Bellevue, Sarpy County, NE

GENERAL VIEW LOOKING NORTHEAST OF THE ROLL OUT OF THE FIRST B-29 SUPERFORTRESS ON MAY 24, 1944, SHOWING THE NOSE RAISED TO ALLOW THE TAIL TO PASS UNDER THE CANOPY DOORS. WHO, 1944 – Offutt Air Force Base, Glenn L. Martin-Nebraska Bomber Plant, Building D, Peacekeeper Drive, Bellevue, Sarpy County, NE

Whirlwind examines the immense logistics and construction efforts necessary to support Superfortresses in Asia and the Mariana Islands, as well as the tireless efforts of engineers to build huge air bases from scratch.It also describes the unheralded missions that American bomber crews flew from the Aleutian Islands to Japan’s northernmost Kuril Islands.

General panoramic view of Hiroshima after the bomb ... shows the devastation ... about 0.4 miles ...

General panoramic view of Hiroshima after the bomb … shows the devastation … about 0.4 miles …

Never has the Japanese side of the story been so thoroughly examined. If Washington, D.C., represented a “second front” in Army-Navy rivalry, the situation in Tokyo approached a full-contact sport. Tillman’s description of Japan’s willfully inadequate approach to civil defense is eye-opening. Similarly, he examines the mind-set in Tokyo’s war cabinet, which ignored the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, requiring the emperor’s personal intervention to avert a ghastly Allied invasion.

Second atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan

Second atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan

Tillman shows how, despite the Allies’ ultimate success, mistakes and shortsighted policies made victory more costly in lives and effort. He faults the lack of a unified command for allowing the Army Air Forces and the Navy to pursue parochial goals at the expense of the larger mission, and he questions the premature commitment of the enormously sophisticated B-29 to the most primitive theater in India and China.

B-29 Super Fortress bomb load. This is the largest laod that the B-29 has carried to date.

B-29 Super Fortress bomb load. This is the largest laod that the B-29 has carried to date.

Whirlwind is one of the last histories of World War II written with the contribution of men who fought in it. With unexcelled macro and micro perspectives, Whirlwind is destined to become a standard reference on the war, on multiservice operations, and on the human capacity for individual heroism and national folly.

LeMay  Barrett Tillman ; foreword by Wesley K. Clark  New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 205 p., [4] p. of plates ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Somewhere in China. Oct. 11, 1944. General Joseph W. Stilwell talking with Major General Curtis E. LeMay of the 20th Bomber command, at a B-29 base

Somewhere in China. Oct. 11, 1944. General Joseph W. Stilwell talking with Major General Curtis E. LeMay of the 20th Bomber command, at a B-29 base

LeMay was a terrifying, complex, and brilliant general. In World War II, he ordered the firebombing of Tokyo and was in charge when Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was responsible for tens of thousands of enemy deaths a fact he liked to celebrate by smoking Cuban cigars.  LeMay was also the man who single-handedly transformed the American air force from a ramshackle team of poorly-trained and badly equipped pilots into one of the fiercest and most efficient weapons of the war. Over the last decades, most U.S. military missions were carried out entirely through the employment of the air force – this is LeMay’s legacy. Packed with breathtaking battles in the air and inspiring leadership tactics on the ground, LeMay will keep readers on their edge of their seats.

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