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Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War Paperback – May 10, 2004
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Read the book and find out how the F-16 and A-10 were born. Fascinating.
It is instead of a truly peerless book on military strategy. Coram's chronicle is artful, so well-researched and so informative that it brought John Boyd to the forefront of military strategy well after his death and many years of neglect. Compared to his fellow writers in this field, Coram is a god among men.
This book's strength is its ability to make complex, strategic theories that fundamentally shifted the art of war understandable to the average reader. Believe me, that is not an easy task. If the book inspires you to read some of Boyd's academic papers you will quickly discover how artful Coram has translated them. In journal form, Boyd's Creative Destruction is obtuse and confusing. Coram's book is the primer to its understanding for those of us who don't have ranking military professors to explain it.
Lastly, Coram doesn't shy away from the negative sides of Boyd's genius bubble. We see how it torn at his family life and how he bore little of the consequences. If it wasn't for the endless patience of his wife who subsidized and tolerated his lifestyle with her support, the world would have been deprived of his insights.
Coram does a good job bringing Boyd to life, and a strange life it was - a renown fighter pilot with only a few kills, a fighter instructor who was too late to Korea and almost never made it to Viet Nam, a "dumb" fighter pilot who influenced the design of fighter plans, a rough, irascible man who fostered "Acolytes" who sacrificed careers to follow his ideas. Boyd was complex, difficult in person, absolutely rigid when doing the right thing, seems to have been without empathy or the ability to see another person's viewpoint. He had influence because he had great ideas backed by hard data, and constantly proved the military (especially the procurement side) was overpaying for hardware and underestimating the human component of warfare.
My quibbles with the book have to do with Boyd's backstory. We really learn very little about Boyd's personal life. His wife and children seem to have been almost an afterthought to Boyd according to the book, but we never learn why or how his wife felt about Boyd's overwhelming career focus. The author constantly reminds us about Boyd's shortcomings and is often uses extravagant language when more simple descriptions would suffice. But if you don't know Boyd, this is a great book to pick up, both for the story about Boyd and his thinking, and as a means to uncover the procurement monster that lives in the Pentagon and that Eisenhower warned us about.