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Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers: Innovation in the U.S. Army, 1917-1945 (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs) Paperback – March 28, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0801488474 ISBN-10: 0801488478 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801488478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801488474
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A powerful book. . . . Johnson convincingly takes aim at the current wishful thinking that a sound defense depends merely on money spent, and that only politicians, not soldiers, are responsible for their lack of preparedness. His powerful and convincing historical analysis offers profound implications for today."—Foreign Affairs



"This book gives great insights into our military's (not just the U.S. Army's) innovative process during the interwar years. As we now find ourselves in a similar interwar period, with similar interwar opportunities for either stagnation or innovation, the book is extremely relevant to today's national defense establishment. There is great insight to be derived from these pages. . . . Johnson has done a superb job of researching his subject. He has written an interesting book based on mountains of documentation. . . . There is much more to Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers than documented history. To the educated reader, this book is a warning for today."—Marine Corps Gazette



"This well documented and convincingly argued book . . . speaks to the follies of extremists in today's airpower versus land power debates."—Naval War College Review



"In Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers, David Johnson does an excellent job of taking in the big picture, breaking it down into its parts and then tieing it back together to form a cohesive whole of U.S.Army policy during the interwar period."—Air Power History



"Johnson's nicely researched and well written study is much more than an interesting account of tank and airplane development during the interwar years. Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers is a fascinating intellectual and cultural history of the interwar Army with intriguing implications for our own day. "—Parameters



"Johnson's book should be read and his conclusions debated. His work is timely and relevant to the Army and Air Force today."—Army Magazine



"The subject of Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers is familiar—an interwar army, crippled by austerity and public apathy—fails to modernize and enters the next war unprepared for the challenges it faces. But David E. Johnson departs from traditional interpretations of this scenario. . . . Johnson paints a bleak picture of an Army designed to preserve itself rather than prepare for the next war."—Military Review



"Johnson's densely factual volume is elegantly written. . . . He successfully demonstrates that the United States Army that entered World War II reflected the biases and resistance to innovation that existed throughout the interwar years."—Journal of American History



"A fine place to get a feel for the enormous task of military transformation—and also get a gritty appreciation of the risks involved—is David Johnson's Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers. The War on Terror and accelerating demands for change in the Pentagon . . . make this book extremely relevant. Every military transformer should read it—and reckon with it."—Houston Chronicle



"Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers is a superbly researched and tightly argued work that chronicles the period of transformation of the United States Army from a constabulary force to the military instrument of a major world power. It forces the objective reader to reconsider the notion that America's interwar Army was purely the product of social, political, and fiscal indifference. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a poignant reminder that the destiny of the Republic in the twenty-first century will be inextricably bound up with the vision, wisdom, and professional acumen of its military leaders."—Harold R. Winton, author of To Change an Army: General Sir John Burnett-Stuart and British Armored Doctrine, 1927–1938



"David Johnson has written a must-read for anyone following today's Pentagon debates concerning the culture and budgets of the United States military. He has provided one of the most insightful analyses of the development of the U.S. Army and Air Force between the World Wars with a special set of lessons to be learned about how a bureaucratic military system precludes the best decisions for the good of the nation's overall national security missions."—William A. Owens, Vice Chairman of the Board of Teledesic and CEO of Teledesic Holdings, Ltd.

From the Inside Flap

"Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers is a superbly researched and tightly argued work that chronicles the period of transformation of the United States Army from a constabulary force to the military instrument of a major world power. It forces the objective reader to reconsider the notion that America's interwar Army was purely the product of social, political, and fiscal indifference. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a poignant reminder that the destiny of the Republic in the twenty-first century will be inextricably bound up with the vision, wisdom, and professional acumen of its military leaders."--Harold R. Winton, author of To Change an Army: General Sir John Burnett-Stuart and British Armored Doctrine, 1927-1938

"David Johnson has written a must read for anyone following today's Pentagon debates concerning the culture and budgets of the United States military. He has provided one of the most insightful analyses of the development of the U.S. Army and Air Force between the World Wars with a special set of lessons to be learned about how a bureaucratic military system precludes the best decisions for the good of the nation's overall national security missions."--William A. Owens, Vice Chairman of the Board of Teledesic and CEO of Teledesic Holdings, Ltd.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Anyone interested in history and military strategy would find this as an excellent read.
Joshua Ackerman
In it Odom traces the development of U.S. Army doctrine between the wars and the factors preventing the emergence of a really sound set of doctrines and plans.
Retired Reader
Moreover, the US Army was convinced that the best way to fight an armored attack was with anti-tank guns.
T. Graczewski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. D ONEIL on November 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This absorbing history of the U.S. Army between the world wars and on into the Second World War illuminates not only the past but the present and future. As his title indicates, author David Johnson traces two main themes: the Army's responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by the airplane and tank. He shows that these responses, although very different, were both seriously inadequate in ways that proved very costly in the test of war -- and he shows why and how these inadequacies developed. Johnson, a former professional Army officer and National War College instructor, is not dedicated to any theoretical framework. He tells the story very clearly and directly, relying on deep research in primary sources, and draws his lessons from the events as they occurred. He understands the people and the institutions and organizations within which they acted, and he views them sympathetically but dispassionately and objectively.
The story Johnson tells is not one of inevitable historical forces but of human decisions. The decisions were made under the influence of institutions and events, but were not determined by them. They were not catastrophic, but they were well short of optimum. Many Americans died as a result of deficiencies that could well have been avoided.
Because it does not tie the story up in a neat theoretical package, Johnson's book offers no canned recipe for success in responding to present and future challenges and opportunities. Instead, it provides a rich source of inspiration and caution, and a stimulus to thought.
There are a few disappointments, although minor in comparison to the book's strengths: (1) I would have liked to have seen a deeper analysis of the part played by technological factors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides a compelling and well researched account of how the U.S. Army interpreted its experiences in WWI and how it attempted to transform itself from an internal security force into a modern army ready for an other world war. The author does so by reviewing how the Army reacted to the new weapons systems that emerged from World War I (WWI) and were to dominate military operations for the rest of in the 20th Century. He wisely concentrates on two specific weapons systems: armored fighting vehicles (tanks and armored cars), and by extension mechanization in general; and military aircraft (bombers, fighters and reconnaissance aircraft). The author discusses how U.S. Army attempted to further develop these systems and integrate them into its force structure and force planning. It quickly becomes clear that the unprepared state of the U.S. Army at the start of World War II was the direct result of misunderstanding the implications of these weapon systems for modern warfare and the faulty tactical doctrines that resulted form this misunderstanding. The author demonstrates that the extreme austerity imposed on the Army between the wars exacerbated this unprepared condition, but it was not the sole cause of it. In the end, lack of well thought out doctrines impeded not only the Army's efforts to prepare for modern war, but the development of the weapon systems with which to fight it.

This reviewer would suggest that anyone interested in this book would be well advised to also read a second book, "Beyond the Trenches" by General William E. Odom (ret). In it Odom traces the development of U.S. Army doctrine between the wars and the factors preventing the emergence of a really sound set of doctrines and plans.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Newt Gingrich THE on May 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Words cannot do this book justice. This is one of the finest studies of military bureaucracies rejecting change and protecting the old order that has ever been written. Anyone who wants to know how big Rumsfeld's challenge is in trying to transform the Pentagon must read this book.
Johnson was a career soldier before going to RAND. He has a deep sense of how military cultures operate. His portrait of the cavalry wing rejecting modernity is humorous and tragic simultaneously. It is a case study in how large bureaucracies protect themselves and their caste system from being threatened by new developments.
Equally, if not more fascinating, is his conclusion that the Air Corps was equally one sided in favoring its theory of big bombers. While the cavalry drove out officers who believed the time of the horse was past, the Air Corps drove out officers who believed fighter planes were powerful opponents for bombers. In some ways the Air Corps self-blindness was as dangerous as the cavalry's total identification with an obsolete past. The refusal to recognize the vulnerability of the bomber meant that bomber crews in Europe would have the greatest risk of dying of any elements of the American military.
Johnson also reports on the tankers fixation with lighter, less powerful "fast tanks" rather than the heavier, more powerfully armed versions the Germans settled on. The American fixation was on a fast tank that could break through and run amok behind enemy lines but was incapable of standing up to German tanks in one on one fights. The result was a tank that led to many more American casualties than necessary. Interestingly, all post World War II American tank designs have been based on the German model of heavy armor and heavy guns.
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