Books by Robert E. Venkus

Released: April 1, 1992

An unsparing critique of the US Air Force's role in the 1986 raid against Tripoli. A colonel who retired after 24 years, Venkus was deputy commander of the British base where the USAF's F-111Fs began and ended their 14-hour bombing mission to punish Qaddafi for sponsoring terrorist acts against American troops in Western Europe. The actual flight apart, he gained an insider's knowledge of the mid-April sortie, which was code-named ``El Dorado Canyon.'' The author has high praise for his fellow pilots and the weapons- systems operators, who carried out the lengthiest combat strike ever, pointing out that these still unidentified airmen endured the mortal perils attendant to refueling aloft in the dark of night and facing deadly defensive batteries around their target areas. Venkus looks back in some anger, however, at the political considerations that skewed preparations for the long-range assault (in which carrier-based US Navy jets also participated). He zeroes in on the top-heavy command structure and planning errors that, in his opinion, led to so-called ``collateral damage'' (i.e., civilian casualties) when ordnance missed assigned objectives. Nor, does the author applaud the risky decision to pin the hellish mission's hopes on an aircraft whose equipment has an unfortunate tendency to fail, even under test conditions. Similarly, he decries the lack of official recognition for those who took part in El Dorado Canyon. On balance, though, Venkus (who denies that killing Qaddafi was a mission priority) concludes that the raid afforded the US a short- run success. A thoroughgoing audit of a feat of arms that, for all it unique aspects, will never be more than a footnote in American military history. (Sixteen pages of photos—not seen.) Read full book review >