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Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War [Kindle Edition]

Robert Coram
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)

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Book Description

John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever -- the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country's most legendary fighter aircraft -- the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story. Boyd, more than any other person, saved fighter aviation from the predations of the Strategic Air Command. His manual of fighter tactics changed the way every air force in the world flies and fights. He discovered a physical theory that forever altered the way fighter planes were designed. Later in life, he developed a theory of military strategy that has been adopted throughout the world and even applied to business models for maximizing efficiency. And in one of the most startling and unknown stories of modern military history, the Air Force fighter pilot taught the U.S. Marine Corps how to fight war on the ground. His ideas led to America's swift and decisive victory in the Gulf War and foretold the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On a personal level, Boyd rarely met a general he couldn't offend. He was loud, abrasive, and profane. A man of daring, ferocious passion and intractable stubbornness, he was that most American of heroes -- a rebel who cared not for his reputation or fortune but for his country. He was a true patriot, a man who made a career of challenging the shortsighted and self-serving Pentagon bureaucracy. America owes Boyd and his disciples -- the six men known as the "Acolytes" -- a great debt. Robert Coram finally brings to light the remarkable story of a man who polarized all who knew him, but who left a legacy that will influence the military -- and all of America -- for decades to come. ..

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

John Boyd (1927-1997) was a brilliant and blazingly eccentric person. He was a crackerjack jet fighter pilot, a visionary scholar and an innovative military strategist. Among other things, Boyd wrote the first manual on jet aerial combat, was primarily responsible for designing the F-15 and the F-16 jet fighters, was a leading voice in the post-Vietnam War military reform movement and shaped the smashingly successful U.S. military strategy in the Persian Gulf War. His writings and theories on military strategy remain influential today, particularly his concept of the "OODA (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) Loop," which all the military services-and many business strategists-use to this day. Boyd also was a brash, combative, iconoclastic man, not above insulting his superiors at the Pentagon (both military and civilian); he made enemies (and fiercely loyal acolytes) everywhere he went. His strange, mercurial personality did not mesh with a military career, making his 24 years in the Air Force (1951-1975) difficult professionally and causing serious emotional problems for Boyd's wife and children. Coram's worthy biography is deeply researched and detailed, down to describing the fine technical points of some of Boyd's theories. A Boyd advocate (he "contributed as much to fighter aviation as any man in the history of the Air Force," Coram notes), Coram does not shy away from Boyd's often self-defeating abrasiveness and the neglect and mistreatment of his long-suffering wife and children, and keeps the story of a unique life moving smoothly and engagingly.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The late Colonel John Boyd, United States Air Force, began his career as a supremely proficient fighter pilot in the Korean War, after which he went on to develop the concept of energy maneuvering that has been the basis for fighter tactics and designs for 30 years. He proceeded militantly to advocate simpler fighter designs and attracted a group of like-minded civilian and uniformed reformers, known as the Acolytes, who were mostly as unorthodox as he. After his retirement, he developed strategic concepts based on the velocity of attack, which, while they may not be as original as Coram claims, reminded the armed forces of velocity of attack at a time when they direly needed reminding. On the personal front, Boyd, the product of a dysfunctional family, generated another, which doesn't make pretty reading. The sheer mass of information Coram pumps out requires some military knowledge, if only not to be taken in by all of Coram's claims about Boyd, and such knowledgeable readers will most appreciate this study of an American military reformer. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 682 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 21, 2002)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA5UEG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,331 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
205 of 210 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Theory, Ugly Corruption, Sad Personal Decay December 15, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In forty years of adult reading, thousands of books, hundreds of biographies, I have not in my lifetime found a better integration of subject, sources, and scholarship. This book will make anyone laugh, cry, and think. There is a deep spirit in this book, and knowing a little about all of this, I was quite simply stunned by the labor of love this book represents. The author's skill and devotion to "getting it right" is breathtakingly evident across the book. His sources, both those close to the subject and those more distant, have been exhaustively interviewed and the quality of this book is a direct reflection of some of the most serious "homework" I have ever been privileged to read.
On the theory of war, on the original contributions of John Boyd, the book renders a huge service to all military professionals by dramatically expanding what can be known and understood about the Energy-Maneuverability Theory and the nuances of the OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act--for the real Tigers, Observe-od-Act--a faster loop). Two things stuck out, apart from the heroic manner in which Boyd pursued the intellectual side of combat aviation: first, Boyd consistently had his priorities right: people first, ideas second, hardware last--this is the opposite of the existing Pentagon priorities; and second, truth matters--the book has some extraordinary examples of how both the Air Force and the Army falsified numbers, with disastrous results, while also selecting numbers (e.g. choosing to list an aircraft's weight without fuel or missiles, rather than fully loaded, a distortion that will kill aviators later when the aircraft fails under stress).
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - one of the best books I've read this year. September 1, 2004
By Publius
This book surpassed my expectations, I have a few quibbles with it, but nothing to lower it from a fully deserved 5 stars.

John Boyd was apparently an arrogant, stubborn, and brilliant man. I'm not sure I would want to work for him or with him, and I certainly would not want to be one of his children, but America needs more like him.

Boyd struck me as a real life version of The Fountainhead's Howard Roark. I found his example to be inspirational. The explanation of his "To be or to do" speech is worth reading the entire book, and in his life he personified the message of this speech.

Strictly speaking Colonel Boyd wanted "to do" something for America and the Air Force, and chose to make sacrifices, endured much abuse, and repeatedly jeopardized his career with that goal in mind. He purposely chose "to do" something, rather than "to be" somebody, which he defined as one who gives up his integrity to get ahead in the system. This insight is one that applies not only to the military but to any organization. It is the fundamental choice that everyone has to make, and hearing of his successes against the system has encouraged me to follow his example, if only in some small measure.

Everyone in business, the government, or the military should read this book.
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130 of 144 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Outstanding, the Second Half..... January 3, 2003
When I returned from Vietnam in 1969 to Luke AFB, AZ my Commander was Lt Col Doral Connor who had roomed with John Boyd during a tour in Korea, I believe. He told how his roommate would sit in his room working for hours on mathematical calculations involving air-to-air engagements. Col Connor was a tactical weapons controller, as was I, and had a good understanding of what Boyd was trying to accomplish. My next involvement with Boyd's work on Energy Maneuverability (EM) was when I attended the Air National Guard (ANG) Fighter Weapons School (FWS) at Tucson, AZ, and also when Steve Hepburn and I served as the principal radar weapons controllers for the F-15 Operational Test & Evaluation. It was during that period that I was sent TDY to Nellis AFB to become certified as an Aggressor Controller with the 64th. Based upon this background, and after reading Bob Coram's book, "Boyd" I can say the first half of the book is both very accurate and extremely well done. And If I had never gone to Air Force Project Checkmate in 1978 where I worked for 8 years I could give Coram's work nothing but a rave review. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Things are not always what they seem, and this book clearly overlooks several important points when it comes to the Reformists, including Boyd. Anyone going back and reading the material released by the Reformist at the time would see that they were against the whole concept of complex technology. The same technology that permitted striking results during Desert Storm and numerous other lesser engagements. Boyd's single focus on air-to-air overlooked the importance of accuracy during air-to-ground. For example, those hard points on the F-16 and the avionics added weight, which Boyd and the Reformists fought. Read more ›
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Conflict Between Theory and Reality November 11, 2002
Robert Corum has done a masterly job in writing and telling a true to life story of what the United States culturally says it admires in people-intelligence, hard work and truth! The story of John Boyd should be read by as many people as possible, beginning with those aspiring to be leaders in both the military and civilian sectors. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War will begin a national renaissance in truth telling and seeking responsibility to stem the tide against our great nation becoming a 4th Century Rome.
In reality, as Corum points out in page after page, the culture does not hold those like Boyd as the epitome of honor and selfless service. Instead, he retired a colonel (despite an incredible contribution to Air Force Fighter aviation and the theories of the art of war) and his family in poverty. But Boyd's greatest achievement of riches came not in the form of tangibles known greedily as money and property, but in the intangibles he achieved, a devoted following-the "Acolytes"-from talented men who are the true defenders of the Constitution; and who in the pursuit of truth, attempt to force the military establishment to provide our servicemen the leaders, doctrine and equipment they need to do their mission. Boyd set the heroic example for others to emulate as they desire to call themselves professionals against the tide of dishonesty; against those who are the worse when they say they speak of truth, yet practice something mendacious in promoting themselves.
In light of the great popularity that the defense establishment now holds in the eyes of a novice and ignorant public, this book is a warning, maybe belatedly late one at that, given the timing of the war with Iraq.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an amazing biography of the most brilliant military man that...
This is an amazing biography of the most brilliant military man that ever lived. The performance of U.S. Read more
Published 3 days ago by David Shannon
5.0 out of 5 stars Hagiographic excellence
The author seeks unnecessarily to make Boyd's story artificially interesting by lacing his text with superlatives. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Fiebinator
2.0 out of 5 stars overall disappointed
misleading , claims that Boyd fought in 3 wars; not true ... he enlisted a few months before the end of WWII and did not participate in any action. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Rambo
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary genius and fighter pilot
Why I didn't know of Colonel Boyd before now is a mystery. He was an intellectual giant and extraordinary fighter pilot with skills no one else possessed. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Historken
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic human being
What a fantastic human being, really a pilot Einstein. The fact he didnt make general is a sad reflection on the US Airforce. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The man who discovered why success and failure happen.
This book is well-written, and gives a glimpse of the earth-shattering developments this guy came up with. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Prince Hal
5.0 out of 5 stars Do something
Don't try and be someone, but do something. Well told and inspiring story of a lesser known but key figure in American military history.
Published 12 days ago by Jon M.
4.0 out of 5 stars Might make you happy when you are very open but it can come ...
Makes the reader more in touch when "voicing" an opinion. Might make you happy when you are very open but it can come back to bite you. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Jim Wiggins
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book about a very important man.
Published 1 month ago by Rich Border
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Interesting!!
By far one of the best books I've read in the last 5 years. Anyone who has experience with the military or a large corporation will be able to relate to the bureaucracy Boyd... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Harry
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More About the Author

I was born and grew up in deep southwest Georgia. For many years I have lived and worked in Atlanta. But southwest Georgia remains a big part of who and what I am. Unfortunately.

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Differences between hardcover and paperback editions?
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