In November 1981, Lt. Gen. Hans H. Driessnack, Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, asked the Historical Program to assemble a small number of retired officers for a group oral history interview. General Driessnack believed that in reminiscing together, these officers would recall incidents and experiences that might otherwise go unrecorded; by exchanging ideas and questioning each other—in effect, interviewing each other—they would recall material that would be of interest and importance to the Air Force today. General Driessnack also suggested selecting retired officers from the senior statesman conference, a gathering every spring at which retired four-star generals are briefed on Air Force issues and then discuss them with contemporary Air Force leaders.
The result is the following interview. The four participants—Gen. James Ferguson, Gen. Robert M. Lee, Gen. William W. Momyer, and Lt. Gen. Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada—gathered on May 21, 1982, around a table in the Vandenberg room at the Bolling Air Force Base Officers’ Club. For approximately two and one half hours they responded to questions sent to them earlier and discussed air superiority in World War II and Korea. Their discussions ranged far and wide: flying in the pre-World War II Army Air Corps, campaigning in North Africa and Western Europe in World War II, planning and participating in the Normandy invasion, using secret intelligence supplied by Ultra, struggling to codify tactical air doctrine in the post-war years, fighting the air battle in Korea, and thinking about the general problem of air superiority throughout their careers. This collective interview is not history but the source material on which history rests; it is a memoir, a first-hand account by air leaders who flew, fought, and commanded tactical air forces in combat.
Eyeing the Red Storm examines the birth of space-based reconnaissance not from the perspective of CORONA (the first photo reconnaissance satellite to fly) but rather from that of the WS-117L. Robert M. Dienesch's revised assessment places WS-117L within the larger context of Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency, focusing on the dynamic between military and civilian leadership. Dienesch demonstrates how WS-117L promised Eisenhower not merely military intelligence but also the capacity to manage national security against the Soviet threat. As a fiscal conservative, Eisenhower believed a strong economy was the key to surviving the Cold War and saw satellite reconnaissance as a means to understand the Soviet military challenge more clearly and thus keep American defense spending under control.
Although WS-117L never flew, it provided the foundation for all subsequent satellites, breaking theoretical barriers and helping to overcome major technical hurdles, which ensured the success of America's first working reconnaissance satellites and their photographic missions during the Cold War.
MAJOR GENERAL HAYWOOD S. HANSELL, JR., USAF (Retired), is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology (1924), he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1928. Trained as a fighter pilot, he flew in the Air Corps Aerobatic and Demonstration Team (1932) led by Captain Claire Chennault. In the mid-1930s Hansell specialized in strategic bombardment, teaching tactics and doctrine at the Air Corps Tactical School from 1935 to 1938. Just prior to World War II, he went to Army Air Forces Headquarters where he helped draft the fundamental war requirements plan for the service. In 1942 he became Commanding General, Third Bombardment Wing (B-26s), Eighth Air Force, in the European Theater. Subsequently General Hansell commanded the First Bombardment Division (B-17s), Eighth Air Force, and in 1944-45 the XXI Bomber Command (B-29s), Twentieth Air Force, in the Pacific. The latter command was one of only two long-range B-29 commands conducting strategic air warfare against Japan. In 1946 he retired, suffering from a physical disability. During the Korean War (1950-53), the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force recalled him to active duty, assigning him as Chief, Military Assistance Program Headquarters, USAF, and subsequently as Air Member Review Board, Weapons Systems Evaluation Group, reporting to the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Research and Development and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After four years as a senior program manager and advisor, General Hansell retired again. He is the author of The Air Plan That Defeated Hitler (1972) and Strategic Air War Against Japan (1980).
The Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race reviews the state of American military affairs in the late 1940s and describes the role of atomic power in American strategy. It also outlines the factional fighting within the Truman administration over military spending and deployments and considers the Truman administration's perceptions of Soviet military power and intentions. The author presents a fascinating account of the strategy and politics behind the Truman administration's decision to engage in a massive arms build-up that initiated the Cold War arms race.
Kaplan throws into question both the inevitability and preferability of the strategic doctrine of MAD. He looks at the process by which cultural, institutional, and strategic ideas about MAD took shape and makes insightful use of the comparison between generals who thought they could win a nuclear war and the cold institutional logic of the suicide pact that was MAD. Kaplan also offers a reappraisal of Eisenhower’s nuclear strategy and diplomacy to make a case for the marginal viability of air-atomic military power even in an era of ballistic missiles.