In the years before World War I, the division of labor within the international military establishment was relatively simple. Armies handled all threats to the national security by land, navies dealt with any dangers at sea. The advent of the airplane, however, disturbed this arrangement, for the airplane could function over both land and sea. Moreover, air power could be employed independently (strategic bombing) or as a complement to tactical operations.
In the United States, this division was resolved in favor of strategic bombing, the responsibility of the United States Air Force. The United States Army was not comfortable with the institutional promises that air support would be available in time of war, and, in 1964, the army began to develop its own structure for tactical air support and transport--the “air-assault” division. This development engendered a jurisdictional dispute between the army and the air force which reached to the highest levels of the military and political establishment.
THE AVIATORS is an admirable and historically accurate attempt to relate the human side of the story behind the development of the air-assault concept. W.E.B. Griffin once again demonstrates his ability to present military history in a palatable story that avoids pedantry. With the possible exception of Thomas Fleming or James Bassett, Griffin is the most accomplished author in print in evoking the reality of military experience. Readers of the author’s previous work, THE NEW BREED, will note that THE AVIATORS chronologically precedes and overlaps the material in the earlier volume.