Always At War, Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command, 1946-62

Other authors have covered aspects of SAC, its people and equipment but this is the first book to provide a comprehensive review of the establishment of SAC and its evolution through the Cold War. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of SAC in the winning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union – Strongly Recommended.


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NAME: Always At War, Organizational Culture in Strategic Air 
Command, 1946-62
FILE: R2685
AUTHOR: Melvin G Deaile
PUBLISHER: Naval Institute Press
BINDING: hard back
PAGES:  296
PRICE: $34.95
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Cold War, strategic bombing, nuclear deterrent, MAD, 
Mutually Assured Development, manned bombers, in flight refuelling, 
USAF, SAC, Strategic Air Command, B-29, B-36, B-47, B-52, B-58, 
B-70A

ISBN: 978-1-68247-248-4

IMAGE: B2685.jpg
BUYNOW: www.usni.org/store/books/spring-2018-catalog/always-war 
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: Other authors have covered aspects of SAC, its people 
and equipment but this is the first book to provide a comprehensive 
review of the establishment of SAC and its evolution through the 
Cold War. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of SAC 
in the winning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union – 
Strongly Recommended.

In 1946, American aviators faced two very significant events, the 
formation of the USAF in place of the USAAF, and the opening stages 
of the Cold War. Overnight, the new USAF was charged with providing 
a strategic bombing option to counter any warlike activity by the 
Soviet Union, requiring a bombing range in excess of in-service 
heavy bombers. The USAF already had nuclear weapons in its inventory 
and had already carried out two nuclear raids on Japan. How it was 
to build a reliable bomber force that could carry existing and new 
developments of nuclear weapons to any point on the globe was 
something it had to create as a sustainable capability. On a smaller 
scale, the RAF had to introduce nuclear weapons into its armoury and 
develop jet bombers able to deliver them to targets on the same 
global coverage. Having two Allied nuclear strategic bombing forces 
able to work together dramatically extended the threat they posed to 
any potential enemy.

The RAF had already existed since 1918 and developed an impressive 
heavy bomber force, but that force had effectively become obsolete. 
The weapons and aircraft had to be designed and developed to address 
the potential threat of the Cold War and the Treasury was depleted 
by the enormous cost of World War Two. The USAF had the weapons and 
initial aircraft but had to develop a new command structure that 
could create the squadrons and the culture that would provide the 
force to deliver the capability. Neither had time on their side. 
The Russians were already believed to be developing their own 
nuclear weapons and were actually well in advance of the projected 
timetable that Western intelligence had estimated. The opening moves 
of this new type of war were already heading from cold to hot as the 
Berlin siege was rapidly followed by the Korean War and a number of 
other insurgencies orchestrated by the Soviets. Once the Soviets had 
tested their first nuclear device the pressure was really on.

The USAF rose to the task ahead. Its early personnel had already 
built experience in the round the clock bombing of Germany and the 
bombing campaign against the Japanese. To achieve the numbers of 
bomber crews, many of those who had demobilized in 1945 were 
persuaded back into the USAF reserves. For both sets of crews, one 
challenge was to adapt rapidly to new fast jets and a host of new 
technology including in-flight refuelling.

One major equipment challenge was in bringing in jet engines that 
were still very new and not ideal of long term operation reliably 
at the thrust levels required by heavy long range aircraft. One 
solution was to introduce the very large B-36 with its piston 
engines and jet augmented power. Another was to maintain bases in 
Europe, particularly in Britain, to hold USAF bombers close to the 
Soviet border in Europe. The B-47 introduced a dramatic uplift in 
capability and was quickly followed by the even more impressive 
B-52 that has continued to soldier on as a frontline warplane with 
no immediate end in sight for its service. However, the logical 
upgrading of SAC beyond that was slow and faltering. Only the B-58 
was capable of supersonic flight and the B-70A was abandoned, 
leaving a USAF bomber gap until the introduction of the B-1 and 
B-2 into a very different environment.

The USAF and RAF both lost their primacy, as submarine-based 
ballistic missiles were introduced. For that reason, many of the 
logical developments on both the USAF and RAF nuclear bombing 
capabilities stopped suddenly. However, the period to 1962 saw the 
burden of the Cold War deterrent was reliant on manned bombers and 
SAC was the primary weapon for the West.

The author has researched in depth and presented a very convincing 
review of how SAC rose to the challenges and developed the 
structures that prevented the Soviets from winning the Cold War and 
preventing it becoming a cataclysmic Hot War. An impressive and 
very readable account. In particular, the author has addressed the 
tricky questions about morale and resolve as part of the necessary 
culture for SAC. During the 1939-45 bombing war, the RAF, and then 
the USAAF aircrew, had few problems with the practice of bombing on 
an industrial scale, along with all of the collateral damage where 
firestorms obliterated German cities. This was probably due to the 
fact that Germany started the process in the happy belief that they 
could bomb anyone they wanted to, but no one would bomb them. When 
USAAF aircrews dropped the first nuclear bombs on Japan there was 
also no problem for them but, until after the events and photographs, 
very few people understood how terrible these weapons would be, not 
just for the devastation at the time, but in the continuing death 
toll for years after. From 1946, aircrews did understand that they 
would be asked at some point to visit incredible damage on an enemy. 
Motivating crews and ensuring that the motivation was effective was 
an important task for SAC, with the deterrent of Mutually Assured 
Destruction being presented as the maintenance of peace by SAC.