Air War in Vietnam

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Michael E. Weaver
Other Publication Information
640 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Provided by: Longleaf Services, Inc. - Website: Visit Site

Air War in Vietnam is not your typical “chronological order” book. It is more of an in-depth study of the Vietnam Air War, which makes for some very interesting reading. Rather than have a chronological timeline of events (as is typically the case with historical books), the author has arranged his book based on studies of various individual aspects of the air war.

This book has 612 total pages, of which 413 are the main text of the book. There are relatively few illustrations and maps in relation to the text, with a total of 36 illustrations sprinkled throughout the book. Footnotes comprise 155 pages, and the extensive index is 24 pages.

The author benefits from having a wealth of research material available now versus the available research material shortly after the war. For example, Vietnamese records (the former North Vietnam) are now available as research material. Another example is the declassified records and files of the U.S. Armed Forces on the Vietnam Air War.

Some subjects covered in this book (this is not a comprehensive list) are: Aerial Refueling; Pursuing Air Superiority; Immature Technology; Photo Reconnaissance; Airlift Effectiveness; and Restrictions and Rules of Engagement during the Air Campaign. Out of the many chapters in the book, space (and time) will allow me to review just three sections of the book.

One example of the in-depth study of the various subjects in the book is Air Superiority by Shooting Down MiGs. The author examines the subject from both American and Vietnamese perspectives. He discusses one problem of the air-to-air combat, notably the lack of training for U.S. aircrews in air-to-air combat post World War II and the advent of the air-to-air missile.

Another in depth study is of the immature technology with regards to aircraft offensive systems, specifically the air-to-air missiles carried by U.S. fighter aircraft. Some of the pilot’s frustrations with the early versions of these missiles can be felt with reports incorporated into this section – an example of which is that one aircraft, a U.S.A.F. F-4 Phantom II, whom the aircrew fired four AIM-7s, using the “boresight” mode. “The first would not launch, the second launched but did not guide, the third would not launch. The fourth was fired with a radar lock on in a beam attack (.95M [Mach], 30,000’ [feet]) but missed.”

The last subject that I will cover in this review is Photo Reconnaissance: Significance for Strategy and Policy. Photo reconnaissance was vital to the American aerial effort, both to discover targets and to attempt to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties. “Photo reconnaissance not only documented what was happening, it also provided necessary targeting intelligence…”. Both high altitude (Lockheed U-2) and low altitude (McDonnell RF-101) aircraft were used to provide leadership with information for both targeting missions and giving national leadership information to decide on national policy.

Overall, I found this book to be a very fascinating, quite informative, and well-researched history of the various aspects of the Vietnam Air War. It is quite a long read, and not your typical “chronological order” history book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a history buff or is very interested in the how and why behind the scenes of the Air War.

My thanks go to both Longleaf Services for providing my review book, and to the publisher, Texas Tech University Press.


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