In This Review

To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973
To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973
By Wayne Thompson
Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000, 416 pp

Airpower -- to a far greater degree than operations on land or sea -- elicits overstatement and dogma from advocates and critics. Both sides resort to badly distorted history, either to prove that leaders such as Ho Chi Minh and Saddam Hussein were utterly undone by airpower or that "bombing just improves morale." This meticulous study is therefore all the more praiseworthy. Thompson, a professional historian in the highest sense of the term, closely examines American operations against North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. In addition to a careful combat narrative, he describes the evolution of the command organizations behind the operating forces, the experiences of prisoners of war, and the Lavelle affair (in which an Air Force general exceeded instructions to bomb targets in the North). In its lucid prose, ample data, and above all judicious tone, this work is a model of military history.