- Series: Smithsonian History of Aviation Series
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Smithsonian Books (June 17, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560989491
- ISBN-13: 978-1560989493
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,226,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hap Arnold and the Evolution of American Airpower (Smithsonian History of Aviation Series) Paperback – June 17, 2001
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Winner of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics History Manuscript Award
“[U]ntil now [Hap Arnold] hasn’t been blessed with a serious biography. Dik Daso, one of a handful of fighter pilots to earn a Ph.D. in history, fills the gap, and in the process uses Arnold’s life as a metaphor for the development of US air power in the first half of the twentieth-century. . . . [Arnold] was a consummate politician . . . [and a] strategist, one who almost single-handedly built up the US Army Air Forces and gave it a distinct mission.”—Air & Space
About the Author
Dik Alan Daso is a US Air Force pilot and the author of Architects of American Air Supremacy: General Hap Arnold and Dr. Theodore von Kármán.
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In 1907, the West Point cadet from Ohio was commissioned in the infantry, but he became one of the first Army aviators, trained to fly at the Wright Brothers' school. Daso tracks Arnold's assignments and shows how unit, school, and staff experiences; missions such as flying the air mail and organizing the deployment of B-10 bombers to Alaska in 1934; and association with scientists and industrialists gave Arnold a comprehensive vision of air power.
Daso calls it a complex magasystem. To put well trained airmen in capable aircraft in the air against our enemies needed a "balanced" air program. This meant the parallel development of aircraft, aircrews, units, maintenance, munitions, bases, schools, supply, replacements, the aviation industry, technology, and experimental science. All these necessary elements of air power were already linked in Arnold's mind well before the war. They only needed rapid implementation on a large scale, and Arnold's drive and overwork to create the air arm in a few short years during the war surely shortened his life.
The small size and limited reach of the pre-war Air Service and Air Corps allowed Daso to narrate all of this in detail through the 1930s. Arnold's role in the war years was so large -- expansion, strategic decisions, rushing the manufacture and deployment of the B-29s, participation in the allied conferences -- that Daso narrowed his focus to Arnold's role in harnessing advanced science and technology. At Arnold's urging, Theodore von Karman played a large role in assessing future trends, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the RAND Corporation, the Arnold Engineering and Development Center, and the Air Force Institute of Technology are part of Arnold's legacy.
Yes, a full multi-volume biography of Arnold is still needed, but this is first class history.
There are only two biographies of Arnold: this book and another by Thomas M. Coffey. Both are good, but Dik Alan Daso has written the better book. Daso, as a former USAF officer, has a better understanding of how the military works and offers a portrait that really develops the personality of the man. Arnold was an air pioneer--he was the second trained pilot in the U.S. Army, having learned to fly from the Wright brothers themselves--and he made enormous contributions to the outcome of the war in developing strategy and procuring supplies. This material is often less than sexy but it is of critical importance to the outcome of a conflict. Daso shows that Arnold poured himself into his job, putting in 12, 14, and 16 hour days. It is no surprise that he suffered four heart attacks during the war years and nearly destroyed his marriage.
Coffey's book is thicker and fuller of more stories, but he seems primarily interested in telling a good story. Daso gives his readers a full account of his subject's life and shows how this rather simple man ended up leading, managing, and administering the millions that made up the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Highly recommended.
Considering how much personal attention Arnold devoted to the 29 program, there is surprisingly little coverage of how the Superfortress was developed and deployed. Arnold pushed the program beyond its limits, committing it to combat in Asia (at the end of the world's longest supply line, with primitive bases) before either the aircraft or the crews were ready. The name of Kenneth B. Wolfe does not appear in the book: he took the 29 from Kansas to India and China but Arnold fired him after XX Bomber Command flew two missions!
The author does not address another contention worth covering: Arnold's main contribution to WW II was made between 1938 and 1942. Thereafter, his hands-on management style simply could not keep up with events, and he nearly killed himself trying to do so.
For a detailed look at Hap Arnold the man, this is a strong offering. But the definitive biography awaits publication.