POINT OF NO RETURN by Wilbur H. Morrison


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The story of the Twentieth Air Force is the story of the B-29 Superfortress and of strategic air power. When General Hap Arnold was made chief of the new Army Air Corps, classical army thought was that aircraft should support ground troops. General Billy Mitchell had already been hounded out of the service for bombing some target ships to show the navy that bombers have strategic uses. Nonetheless, Arnold and his boss General Marshall concentrated on developing a bombing plan that would allow for the strategic destruction of Germany from the air without need for a manned invasion of the Continent. Suddenly we were attacked by Japan and the design of the new B-29 became Arnold's hottest concern. He ordered $3 billion worth of B-29s right off the drawing board even before a model had been made. Problems grew: the engines tended to catch fire, and when the plane was shipped to India for strikes against Manchuria and Japan, the Indian heat made the engines catch fire even more easily. (All B-29s went to the Pacific, none to Germany.) Every mission faced terrific attrition just from malfunctioning. On the B-29s' first run ever, over railway shops at Bangkok, only 77 out of 112 scheduled bombers actually released their bombs, and few of those hit their targets. Even when the brilliant General Curtis LeMay, an experienced bomber strategist, took over the ChinaIndia command, the results were not spectacular; but eventually he came to plan the bombing of Japan and might, Morrison contends, have ended the war without the A-bombs or an invasion. Among the best accounts of tactics and air hardware in the Pacific war, and distinctly readable.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1978
Publisher: Times Books