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View Diary: Books So Bad They're Good: The Legacy of Sax Rohmer (132 comments)

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  •  It's been a while since I read it, but... (6+ / 0-)

    Most of what I have here is based on the Wikipedia links.

    There are a number of copies for sale at Amazon. If you just want a copy to read, the prices are ridiculous. (Collectible grade are more.) The copy I had contained a number of black and white photos of airplanes, and a number of illustrations and diagrams. Walt Disney did an animated version of the book. (He thought it important enough that he bankrolled it himself.)

    De Seversky was preaching from the gospel of Billy Mitchell. He was an early military aviator for Russia; despite losing one leg in one of his first missions, he went on to become Russia's 3rd top ace in WWI. He came to the U.S. after the Revolution broke out in Russia - he was an aide to Billy Mitchell for a time.

    De Seversky was a strong advocate for Air Power - he grasped that air planes made isolationism impractical. The strategic use of airplanes was being hampered by those who still focused on war as between armies or navies; airplanes could reach out and strike the enemy behind the lines, take out the infrastructure for war, and make it impossible for an enemy to wage war without air superiority. Wikipedia picks out these key points from the book:

    1 "The rapid expansion of the range and striking power of military aviation makes it certain that the United States will be as exposed to destruction from the air, within a predictable period, as are the British Isles today;"
    2 Those who deny this possibility are exhibiting something like a "Maginot line mentality";
    3 The U.S. must begin preparing immediately for "an interhemispheric war direct across oceans;"
    4 The U.S. must become the dominant air-power nation, "even as England in its prime was the dominant sea-power nation of the world."
    The book came out in 1942 - De Seversky started writing it after Pearl Harbor. It was a best seller, sitting at Number 1 on the NY Times list for 4 weeks.

    De Seversky did not anticipate the atomic bomb or the intercontinental ballistic missile, but the doctrines he advocated were instrumental in the creation of the Air Force as a separate service and the vision underlying the Strategic Air Command. Wikipedia cites Eisenhower quoting De Seversky:

    1942: "It is though a bow-and-arrow army, having been routed by gunpowder, sought to win back lost ground by throwing in yet more bows and arrows." (page 338)
    (Seversky's criticism of the post-Pearl Harbor plan to use US airpower in the Pacific only to "assist surface operations" instead of for strategic bombing.)
    1959: "The President said he thought we were talking about bows and arrows at a time of gunpowder when we spoke of bombers [like the B-70] in the missile age."[1]
    It's somewhat surprising De Seversky isn't better known today.

    There is quite a bit on Youtube from the Disney film version of the book. It looks like the complete film is at this link:

    It begins by acknowledging Billy Mitchell was the first to realize what airplanes would do to and for war. (And it's very recognizably Disney.)

    Here's a link to a version in installments, starting with the first clip, which gives an intro to the book and the film:

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:08:12 AM PDT

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