Books by Walter J. Boyne

Walter J. Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, enlisted as a private in the United States Air Force in 1951 and retired in 1974 as a Colonel with more than 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft

Released: July 2, 2007

"Dedicated military buffs will appreciate this avalanche of information, but average readers may learn more about the Air Force than they want to know. "
Readers of veteran aviation writer Boyne will know what to expect in this update of The Wild Blue (1998): an enthusiastic account of American air power, rich in personal anecdotes as well as descriptions of weaponry, battle action, political infighting and important air force figures, but light on criticism. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 10, 2007

"Not much of a story, but the history is vivid enough that you might want to take a ride."
Back come the fictitious Shannons to help military historian Bourne propel his saga further into the jet age (Roaring Thunder, 2006, etc.). Read full book review >
ROARING THUNDER by Walter J. Boyne
Released: Jan. 10, 2006

"The characters are never more than stick figures, but aviation fans will eat up the history and put up with the fiction."
Military historian and novelist Boyne (Dawn Over Kitty Hawk, 2003, etc.) blends fact and fiction to chronicle the pulse-pounding ups and heart-breaking downs of the struggle to develop jet planes. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2003

"Though occasionally more generous with detail than is good for narrative momentum, Boyne (The Two O'Clock War, 2000, etc.), does the novelist's job well—converting the iconic brothers into appealingly quirky humans."
The stirring story of the Wright Brothers, plus a colorful supporting cast of high-flyers during the baby-step era of aviation, entertainingly presented—warts and all. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 20, 2002

"Boyne's skills as a battlefield analyst will make this of interest to military professionals, as well as to students of the Cold War and Middle Eastern affairs."
A brow-moistening tale of nuclear brinksmanship, high-level diplomacy, and an all but forgotten war. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 16, 1998

Historian Boyne (a retired colonel in the air force and author of Beyond the Wild Blue, 1997, etc.) offers a long and laudatory history of Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin), a mainstay of the military-industrial complex. Founded at the dawn of commercial flying, with aircraft made of fabric and sticks, the business of the brothers Loughead (pronounced "Lockheed") soon made fuselages of molded plywood, then planes of metal, and, later, spy satellites. Now producing space vehicles, stealth aircraft, and vehicles too secret to discuss, the firm has survived the Depression and the US's Cold War victory—a victory that Boyne credits in very large measure to Lockheed for its spy planes and satellites, missiles, and transports. The military, of course, is how Lockheed always made its money. "The military-industrial complex's existence," Boyne asserts, "is not based on the profit motive," but throughout he makes it clear that profits couldn't be made with commercial airliners alone. Lockheed's claim to a special corporate culture is supported by the establishment of its fabled Skunk Works, producer of some remarkable weaponry in secret and in record time. Indeed, Lockheed has developed some memorable aircraft, like the P-38, the Constellation, the U-2, and the C-130 (still in production after nearly half a century), and a curious reader will learn how Lockheed's distinctive tail assemblies evolved and how a stealth fighter got its shape. With enough technology for most buffs, but too much for casual readers (we are told of "bypass doors, bleed ports, suck-in doors" and "full-chord leading edge flaps, ailerons, and flaperons"), the technicalities are probably more than sufficient for anyone who isn't transported by tales of Fowler flaps and ullage rockets. The text is filled with names, statistics, and lost test pilots, but "back to the old drawing board" was the watchword. A perhaps overly comprehensive encomium for an American firm, this volume carries a heavy payload that limits performance. (illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: May 13, 1997

A survey of air force history from the time it succeeded the old Army Air Corps after WW II. Retired Air Force colonel and military historian Boyne (Clash of the Titans, 1995, etc.) writes of the enormous changes in postwar US air power wrought by the chance of the Cold War turning hot. Boyne criticizes the rapid demobilization of our powerful armed forces after WW II and Truman's deep cuts in the defense budget. Boyne's hero is the WW II general Henry ``Hap'' Arnold, the visionary architect of air power and the advocate of constant technical research and development; he aggressively pushed for intense training, an action that made possible the air force of today. He credits our rapidly rebuilt air power with saving American and South Korean forces from defeat in the early days of the Korean War; argues that the Strategic Air Command was crucial in preventing nuclear war; and reminds us of the success of the Berlin airlift and other humanitarian efforts. Boyne's villain is former defense secretary Robert McNamara, whom he blames for losing the Vietnam War as a result of his arrogant disregard of military advice, but he is strangely uncritical of President Johnson, the commander-in-chief. He credits Nixon's bombing offensive with forcing North Vietnam to the peace table. Reagan's great increase in military budgets, and the subsequent growth of the air force, won the Cold War and the Gulf War, in his view. He sees today's air force as the best on the planet, reflecting ``Hap'' Arnold's vision and faith. A comprehensive study of the development of the air force and a spirited argument for the necessity of long-term planning. (color and b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

Military historian Boyne (Clash of Wings, 1994, etc.) offers a general account of the naval engagements fought from 1939 to 1945. In the author's view, the Treaty of Versailles and the Washington Naval Disarmament Conference of 192122 lulled the Western allies into a false sense of security while Japan and Nazi Germany secretly built huge machines of war that enabled them, when hostilities began, to overwhelm the weak and obsolete defenses of their victims. Boyne stresses the rise of naval air power and fast carriers as weapons in WW II and the decline of the battleship as the most important factor in naval warfare. However, he argues, carriers were vulnerable to both air and submarine attacks, requiring much protection from other ships in battle. After suffering grievously in the early years of the war, Britain and the US mobilized their resources of innovation, leadership ability, production, and organization to outclass their enemies on the sea. For instance, the Allies broke the secret codes of Japan and Germany; Axis commanders never figured out why their ``surprise attacks'' were often met with Allied units in place and prepared for battle. Boyne praises the high professional standards of American naval officers, as well as the courage and fighting abilities of American and British sailors and fliers, and offers detailed accounts of Japanese barbarism. In the end, Boyne argues, the Allied naval victory was a ``tribute to the same democratic system that had allowed the conditions for war to occur in the first place'' by failing to stop Axis aggression in its nascent stages. An engrossing narrative, not overburdened with detail, and a perceptive analysis of the vital victory at sea for the Western democracies. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1994

A comprehensive survey of the worldwide conflict that defined the role of air power in modern warfare. The years leading up to WW II were marked by apocalyptic fears of poison gas dropping from the skies, a distorted image spread by Western politicians and exploited by Germany, Italy, and Japan, according to aviation historian Boyne (Air Force Eagles, 1992), a retired US Air Force colonel and former director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Boyne covers every theater of the air war, from the lopsided struggle between the Luftwaffe and the overmatched Polish Air Force in September 1939 to the atomic destruction rained down by the US on Japan nearly six years later. His observations on each country's use of its air force are concise and sharp. He finds, for instance, that Germany and Japan did not step up plane production in the early stage of the war, allowing the Allies time to catch up, and that the surprisingly good Italian pilots were badly served by incompetent commanders. Boyne demonstrates just how narrowly Allied victory came in the Battle of Britain, masterfully explains the critical role of air power at Midway and Guadalcanal, and sheds new light on how the Soviet air force, its top brass devastated by Stalin's purges, pulled itself together in time for the Battle of Stalingrad. One caveat: While Boyne convincingly sets out why the Allies were forced to use area bombing rather than more humane precision bombing in their 1944-45 raids on Germany, he lamely dismisses criticism of that campaign's morality—this despite the fact that Britain's Gen. Arthur ``Bomber'' Harries was nicknamed ``Butch'' (short for ``Butcher'') by his own troops for his profligate use of their lives. An often tart, consistently incisive analysis of how the Allies, through trial, error, and anguish, achieved their winged victory. Read full book review >
AIR FORCE EAGLES by Walter J. Boyne
Released: June 1, 1992

Boyne completes the trilogy covering the birth of the American Air Force that began with Trophy for Eagles and Eagles at War. Covering the years from the end of WW II to the beginning of missile development in the late 1950's, Boyne's cast of fliers, manufacturers, and politicians slog their way through demobilization, the Berlin airlift, the Korean War, the McCarthy menace, and the birth of the civil-rights movement. The framework for the action, which is largely earthborne, is the racist scheming of Arkansas Congressman Milo Ruddick. Ruddick, who controls Air Force appropriations, uses his considerable power and influence to advance the careers of his son and son-in-law at the same time that he thwarts the careers of more deserving fliers—particularly that of John Marshall. Marshall, one of the black graduates of the WW II Tuskegee flight school who's now working as a test pilot, loses his chance to be the first man to break the sound barrier when Ruddick orders his removal from the test program. It's the first of a series of ordeals that will beset Marshall. Working for the fledgling Israeli air force, Marshall shoots down two Egyptian planes but can't go on record as the first black ace since his employment is a secret. When he's called up for the Korean conflict and again comes close to becoming an ace, his kills are credited to Congressman Ruddick's son-in-law. Captured and tortured by the North Koreans, Marshall survives to find that, while he was out of circulation, his beautiful wife, with the help of a handsome African-American entrepreneur, has become the new queen of black cosmetics. While Mrs. Marshall's business grows, so does the military-industrial complex—as well as the new growth industry, McCarthyism. Heavier on politics and social activism than Boyne's many flying fans may feel necessary, but that's life. Read full book review >
EAGLES AT WAR by Walter J. Boyne
Released: May 1, 1991

The big cast of characters who flew through the 1930's in Trophy For Eagles (1989), trying to prepare for the coming air war, get their chance to test their flying skills and theories when America at last enters the war. Col. Henry Caldwell—who fought like a terrier all through the Depression to get the Army's air corps ready for the next war instead of the last war—has hit a major snag just as he is making headway. The snag is Elsie Rayner, the sexpot air-industry executive whose last great affair was with Bruno Hafner, now an evil genius of Nazi air power. Caldwell is so besotted with Elsie that love clouds his judgment and he throws important business to her corporation even though the company builds lousy planes. Across the Atlantic, Hafner hopes to turn out the world's first jet fighters, and handsome Helmut Josten hopes to fly them. Josten also hopes to win the heart of Lyra, a Russian countess who lives for one purpose—to mortally wound the Nazis. She manages to do quite a bit of damage through spying and seduction that take her to Hitler's inner circle. But no one's hope is completely satisfied. Elsie cheats; Germany's industrial machinery is too heavily damaged to turn out more than a few jets; and the Truman commission is looking into corruption in the aircraft industry. When the fighting ends, however, there are still enough characters to continue the saga into the Korean episode. The war seems to go awfully fast, but that's because the concentration is on jets and politics rather than on the big scene. Apart from the usual curse of stereotypes, then, this is done well enough to entertain fans of flying. Read full book review >
TROPHY FOR EAGLES by Walter J. Boyne
Released: June 2, 1989

One of the coauthors of The Wild Blue (1986) tells a longish story of love, ambition, jealousy, and technology around and about the development of aviation in the US—from the time of Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing to the Spanish rehearsal for WW II. This leisurely look at the birth of the modern aviation industry hangs on the doings of two flyers, one American, one German. The American is Frank "Bandy" Bandfield, a flying-school classmate and chum of Charles Lindbergh who is all set to go after the transatlantic prize in competition with Lindy—until the plane he has developed with his partner Hadley Roget goes up in a mysterious hangar fire. Bandfield can't prove it, but he feels certain the fire is the work of very unpleasant rival Bruno Hafner, another contestant for the flying prize. Roget nurses a lifelong hatred for WW I German ace Hafner, who, like Bandfield, is trying to stake out a claim in the aircraft business. Hafner has a lot going for him. He's married to a glamorous, wealthy widow, also a pilot, and he's got none of those pesky scruples that seem to hold Bandfield back. The two knock heads throughout the 1930's, competing for prize money and industrial and military contracts, not even patching things up when Bandfield marries Hafner's stepdaughter, who is—like her mum, her husband, her stepfather, and her late father—one heck of a fine pilot. Everything comes to a head in the skies over Guernica. The times are interesting, the industry is interesting, the real personalities are interesting, and some of the views of flying as a rough-and-tumble low-tech activity are interesting; but Bandfield's a bit of a stick, Hafner's an unrelieved louse, and things move just a little too slowly. All taxi, no takeoff. Read full book review >