In This Review

Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982
Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982
By Mike Worden
Air University Press, 1998, 281 pp
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Military organizations change most durably and profoundly when they draw their leadership from new groups. This interesting sociological study by an active-duty colonel focuses on one such transformation. In the late 1940s bomber generals, such as the famous Curtis LeMay, dominated the U.S. Air force. By the 1980s fighter generals ran it. The credential of combat service in Vietnam helps account for this shift: far more fighter pilots went to war and came back with the prestige that comes with battle. But, Worden argues, technology (the rise of intercontinental ballistic missiles as competition for bombers) and a narrow doctrinal outlook, in particular, profound reluctance to think through the requirements of limited war, also crippled the bomber pilots' ability to lead. Today, bomber generals are not an endangered species, but there is no doubt who won the competition.