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Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War Paperback – Illustrated, May 10, 2004
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Paperback : 504 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316796883
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316796880
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
- Publisher : Back Bay Books; Illustrated edition (May 10, 2004)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #37,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I divide this book into three sections. I'm a history buff and especially like aviation history which is why I read it, but there is so much more.
Section 1: Fighter pilot Boyd. He became the top dog fighter and was undefeated. He could win any air battle in less than 40 seconds. He wrote a book on fighter tactics that changed not only the US, but the world.
Section 2. Engineer Boyd. He goes back to school. Develops the mathematical models for Energy-Maneuver. It revolutionizes aircraft design and is used to develop the F-15, F-16, F-18 and the A-10.
Section 3. Academic Boyd. Boyd reads hundreds of history books on war and develops new tactics and ways of thinking about battle. Out of this comes his famous OODA Loop, Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. For these efforts, history will be rank him up there with Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz. In the 1980s, he and a small cadre of Pentagon reformers use these techniques to fight the Pentagon generals/contractors to reform acquisition. This section explains acquisition dynamics, how DOT&E was started, how IDA (Institute of Defense Analysis) was started. Lots of good information on acquisition strategic thought, reporting, presentations, playing a long game.
Boyd was his own worst enemy. He was insecure, narcissistic, and volatile. He also models how not to interact with decision makers.
Hope you get a chance to read this.
I had the opportunity to meet Patrick Collison (CEO and Co-Founder of Stripe) at a YC event last year. He mentioned Col. Boyd and the OODA Loop, so I decided to reread it. On second pass, I'm digging much more deeply into the mechanics of mastering the decision cycle. Like PDCA, the OODA Loop is basically a quick and simple heuristic, an abbreviated run-through of the scientific method.
In addition to being a quick way to test hypotheses and make iterative decisions, it adds an element for dealing with competition. The better a practitioner of OODA gets, the more they can get inside the decision cycle of their competition. I can see why the Marine Corps and blitzscaling startups find it so useful.
Coram doesn't pull any punches about Boyd. While each chapter of Boyd's life was another order of magnitude greater than the last (world's greatest fighter pilot, literally wrote the book on fighter tactics, developed EM theory completely turning upside down the way aircraft are designed, developed an advanced theory of the nature of human learning, and, with Patterns of Conflict, became the greatest strategist on warfare since Sun Tzu). While he was busy doing all that and using Patterns to upend the Pentagon, he lived the ascetic life of a warrior monk, ultimately neglecting his own family (severely) in his moral quest to set the world right.
There's much to admire about Col. Boyd. His zeal is the kind found in the great warriors, philosophers, and entrepreneurs. He's a man who used all of his bandwidth to accomplish his quest and ultimately became one of the few to make a dent in the universe.
Though with an extensive military background, I had not known about John Boyd until relatively recently, and this book helped me mightily along the way to becoming familiar with this strategic giant. I must say, however, that I’ve surprisingly found most of my Army theorist friends had never before heard of him, and this includes people who were on GEN Schwarzkopf’s Jedi Knights Staff, the folks who actually planned the details of the Iraq I Invasion. Some even said it was intuitively obvious that the Desert Storm “Left-Hook” strategy (for which the book gives large credit to Boyd) should have been the one chosen. Nevertheless, I did find one Army Jedi Knights high-level theorist who knew of Boyd...but didn’t know of his contribution to Desert Storm planning. Perhaps not surprisingly I did find any number of Air Force friends who knew of pilot Boyd’s contributions to maneuver conflict strategy.
For those curious about Boyd’s OODA Loop (aka the Boyd Cycle), I’ve included a Wikipedia graphic.
Bottom-line, I highly recommend Coram’s book for any serious student of strategy.
Of possible interest: Strategy Pure and Simple: Essential Moves for Winning in Competition and Cooperation and
George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key – the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul , a best-seller at Mount Vernon. “Character is Key for Liberty!”
His devotion to his country was without compromise and came at a great personal cost. I would bet my life that given the opportunity he would do it all over again.
The writing is spellbinding and a masterpiece by itself. I have seldom read anything like it.
40 Second Boyd...may he rest in peace.
Top reviews from other countries
This book is a great read which takes the reader through the life of Colonel John Boyd, it is engaging, well written and never dull. The only time I put it down was to research texts that were referenced within the book. Never in a biography have I learnt so much about a much wider subject than this book. Great work Robert!!!!!!
Coram's narrative can slip into hyperbole to make a point, particularly when describing Boyd's confrontations with 'the orthodoxy', be they his peers, superiors or a monolithic service [Navy, Army, Marines or Air Force]. However, this style does encourage you to identify with Col Boyd and understand why his unconventional approach allied with his sheer determination was so necessary to question dogma and unchallanged assumptions. You live Col Boyd's struggle to develop a mathmatical formula [the EM theory] to allow a comparative assessment of a fighter aircraft and how this was extrapolated to become a theory of manoeuvre applicable through the strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare. There is a price for this innovation and it was his family; it is clear Col Boyd was a singularly driven man.
Any military professional must read this book as it provides an ideal means to understand the development of the Manoeuvrist Approach in the modern Western context. I have a few criticisims; source referencing could be better and there really should be wider selection of photographs. Finally, alot of detail is invested in the the EM theory, the F-X and LWF that a explanatory diagrams would of added value in illustrating core points, but these do not detract from an engaging biography.