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MacArthur's Airman : General George C. Kenney and the War in the Southwest Pacific (Modern War Studies) Hardcover – November 4, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; 1 edition (November 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700609091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700609093
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As General MacArthur's air commander in the southwest Pacific, General George C. Kenney has long been regarded as a key to American military success in that theater of the Second World War. Yet MacArthur's Airman is the first extensive treatment he has received from a historian. Using both official documents and Kenney's own private papers, Griffith reveals his subject to be a pioneer in the development of air warfare. Kenney employed flexible tactics to fit local circumstances but retained a consistent belief in the purpose of air power: to limit an enemy's ability to hurt friendly troops. This meant controlling the skies and attacking far behind the front lines. Flanking an enemy is a traditional battle strategy going back to the days of classical warfare, and Kenney understood that the development of reliable combat planes provided a critical new opportunity to employ the oldest trick in the book.

Griffith offers a few biographical details on the Canadian-born Kenney, but mostly concentrates on the command-level experience of airborne warfare, from actual operations to planning missions, gathering intelligence, and maintaining morale. In all, MacArthur's Airman represents an important contribution to our understanding of the war in the Pacific. --John J. Miller

From the Back Cover

"A model work of military history that brings to life the drama of air warfare in the Southwest Pacific."--Michael Schaller, author of Douglas MacArthur

"A cracking good operational history that raises Kenney to the front rank among American commanders in the war. An utterly fascinating book."--Richard H. Kohn, author of Eagle and Sword

"A critical and provocative assessment of Kenney's accomplishments and airpower's dominant role in the campaigns of Douglas MacArthur."--Edward J. Drea, author of MacArthur's ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War against Japan

"A well-written and lucid study of one of MacArthur's most important secret weapons in the Pacific War."--Stephen R. Taaffe, author of MacArthur's Jungle War

"George Kenney was perhaps the most effective combat air commander of World War II. An outstanding biography of a vitally important airman."--Phillip S. Meilinger, author of Hoyt S. Vandenberg

"An original and significant contribution."--Stanley L. Falk, author of Bataan: The March of Death

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David W. Bobb on February 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For a man of whom Gen MacArthur stated "I believe that no, repeat, no officer suggested for promotion to General has rendered more outstanding and brilliant service than Kenney... Nothing that Spaatz or any other air officer has accomplished in the war compares to what Kenney has contributed and none in my opinion is his equal in ability", surprisingly little has been written about this innovative and charismatic air power proponent. Griffith changes that with this well written, fast-paced biography. While not a comprehensive biography, Griffith focuses on Kenney's leadership in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II. Taking command of a weary, demoralized group of flyers in which MacArthur had lost confidence, and turning them into an offensive-minded, hard-charging unit was perhaps Kenney's greatest victory. Griffith clearly explores Kenney's philosophy of how to train and treat his men as well as the five point of his air power formula. Over and over again Griffith points out how Kenney stuck to his formula with resultant success against the Japanese war machine. While lacking the depth and completeness of an exhaustive biography, Griffith's book is nonetheless the best and most balanced account of General George Kenney's life to date; especially regarding his role as air component commander in the Southwest Pacific. The rather abrupt ending of the book at the conclusion of WW II leaves the reader wanting more and perhaps some future writer will examine Kenney's post-war life. Regardless, MacArthur's Airman is an excellent place for one to start any research on this superb, somewhat neglected air commander who was instrumental in turning the tide against the Japanese in World War II.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on January 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
George C. Kenney was one of the most significant air officers of the World War II generation. That is saying quite a lot because such well-known American air commanders as Hap Arnold, Carl Spaatz, Claire Chennault, and Curtis LeMay are also members of that cadre. But Kenney is less well-known than the others. This biography of Douglas MacArthur's air commander in the Pacific Theater is a welcome addition to the literature of air power, rescuing Kenney from obscurity. Born into an elite New England family and educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, rather than West Point, Kenney became enamored with flight during World War I and enlisted in the Army Air Service where he became a pilot. He flew 75 combat missions in Europe and shot down two enemy aircraft. He ended the war as a captain, and received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star for his valor.

The air arm of the Army during the period between the two world wars was small but filled with young officers fired with a vision of independence based on the possibility of strategic bombing to win future conflicts. Kenney was one of those young men. He served in a variety of positions, concentrating on aeronautical development and its application to warfare and pursuing the chimera of victory solely through air power.

In August 1942 with the United States entering the Second World War less than a year earlier, Kenney assumed command of all allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific, and worked throughout the war as MacArthur's air component commander. Kenney found that meeting MacArthur's stiff requirements was not easy.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Samuel E. McGowan Jr. on March 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book with high expectations, but they haven't been met. While there are some interesting facts, it appears that the author depends to a large extent on his own opinion and that of other historians. There are also contradictions - he accuses Kenney of exaggerating certain events, then a few paragraphs later will comment on his military brilliance. It also appears that the author failed to do all of the research he should have. In one instance he refers to a mission in Europe when B-26s went into Holland at low altitude as evidence that Kenney's faith in low-altitude attack was ill-founded. But while the missions - there were actually two - resulted in very heavy losses, about half of the losses were due to operational causes and most of the airplanes shot down were lost to German fighters. Such claims distract from what could have been an excellent book. The author also fails to place the Kenney's decisions in the context of World War II where casualties were expected and accepted, but rather follows the modern military aviation philosophy that casualties of any kind are unacceptable. While I would recommend the book for lack of anything else on the subject, the reader should beware.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James B. Walker on January 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book on one of America's finest air generals is long overdue, since the only other significant work on General George C. Kenney is his own book (titled "General Kenney Reports"), which was published in the late 1940's. "MacArthur's Airman" is well-researched, superbly written, and full of interesting information about World War II in the Southwest Pacifc Area, especially the air war. However, it does include a few minor flaws: 1) there are no photos in the book, and the few maps it contains do not show many of the locations discussed; 2) author Griffith states that one of the many modifications made to Gen Kenney's B-25 bombers was the addition of two more machine guns to the plane's top turret. This would have been impossible, since the turret already contained two guns and there was no room for more. Mr. Griffith was probably referring to the addition of two "packages", each of which contained a pair of .50-caliber machine guns. These 'packages' were mounted to the plane's sides, one just under the pilot's position and the other under the copilot's station; 3) although the book discusses Gen Kenney's early life, his service during World War I, and his assignments between the world wars, it mentions nothing about his post-WWII career. This leaves the reader wondering what happened to one of the Army Air Force's top generals after the Japanese surrender. A summary of General Kenney's postwar activities would have been appropriate, to include his involvement with the establishment of the U.S. Air Force in 1947; his assignment (and problems) as the first commander of the Strategic Air Command; and his final duty as commander of the Air University. Despite these three shortcomings, "MacArthur's Airman" is a must-read for anyone interested in finding out more about Gen George C. Kenney, an innovative, brilliant, and highly respected expert on tactical air warfare.
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