Cutting Edge Military Theory: A Primer (Part II.)

Part I. in this series dealt with the topic of COIN, which is not a theory but rather a type of warfare. Part II. appropriately begins with the late theorist Colonel John Boyd, whose many contributions to American military thinking went generally unrecognized in his own lifetime, except for a narrow group of senior officers and political appointees. A group that included Dick Cheney, who as Defense Secretary in the first Bush administration, reportedly sought and followed Boyd’s counsel in regard to revising the warplans for Operation Desert Storm ( what John Boyd would have thought of the current Iraq war, I’ll leave to others, but that Cheney was deeply impressed by Colonel Boyd and his ideas in 1991 is difficult to dispute). In the aftermath of the Gulf War, USMC General Charles C. Krulak wrote:

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November 11, 1918

“Peace has been declared! No more fighting!” he shouted. “C’est le finis de la guerre!”.

Without reply, I dropped the phone and turned and faced the pilots of Squadron 94. Not a sound was heard; every eye was on me but no one made a movement or drew a breath. It was one of those peculiar psychological moments when instinct tells everyone that something big is impending.

In the midst of this uncanny silence a sudden BOOM-BOOM of the Archy battery outside was heard. And then pandemonium broke loose. Shouting like mad, tumbling over one another in their excitement the daring young pilots of the Hat-in-the-Ring squadron sensing the truth darted into trunks and kitbags and drew out revolvers, German lugers that some of them had found or bought as souvenirs from French poilus, Very pistols, and shooting tools of all descriptions, and burst out of doors. There the sky over our old aerodrome was aglow and shivering with bursts of fire. Searchlights were madly cavorting across the heavens, paling to dimness the thousands of colored lights that shot up from every conceivable direction. Shrill yells pierced the darkness around us, punctuated with the fierce rat-tat-tat of machine guns that now added their noise to the clamor. Roars of laughter and hysterical whoopings came to us from the men’s quarters, beside the hangar. Pistol shots were fired in salvos, filled and emptied again and again until the weapons became too hot to hold.

At the corner of our hangar I encountered a group of my pilots rolling out tanks of gasoline. Instead of attempting the impossible task of trying to stop them, I helped them get it through the mud and struck the match myself and lighted it. A dancing ring of crazy lunatics joined hands and circled the blazing pyre, similar howling and revolving circuses surrounding several other burning tanks of good United States gasoline that would never carry fighting aeroplanes over enemy lines. …

Another pilot, this one an Ace of Squadron 27, grasped me securely by the arm and shouted incredulously, “we won’t get shot at anymore!”

Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, Fighting the Flying Circus

Fallen Warrior

My pal Fighter Pilot Pundit wrote to tell me that his friend Kelly Hinz was one of the Marine pilots killed in the recent midair collision over Iraq. FPP was also friends with Kelly’s Dad, Don Hinz who died last year. Hinz collected and restored antique warbirds. As FPP tells it the elder Hinz “crashed his P-51 Mustang (experiencing an engine failure), in a vacant lot to avoid houses. Rather than dissipate energy by gliding to a safe landing speed, the trajectory of which would have put him in a residential neighborhood, he put the Mustang on the ground hot, and no one was hurt but him.” When he died he had two sons in the Marines flying F-18s.

FPP says “The only good news here is that Don and Kelly fly together again.” He asks: “Please pray for the Hinz family which has sacrificed so much for our America and for the freedom of Iraq.” I pass that request on, and not just for the Hinz family, but all who have lost their lives or been injured in this war, and their families.