Struggle for predominance: Evolution and consolidation of nuclear forces in the Strategic Air Command, 1945-1955
This work analyzes the evolution of the U.S. strategic air forces from 1945 to 1955. In World War II, U.S. air power demonstrated its superior effectiveness as a weapon. Yet no military arm can stop improving and survive. The nuclear age changed the characteristics of war. No longer would general wars become lengthy engagements involving massive armies. The threat of atomic bombing now threatened the vital center of a nation. Under the new horror of a nuclear Pearl Harbor, the country that prepared in advance and mastered the technology of the nuclear bomb might survive. As commander of the Strategic Air Command from 1948 through 1955, Curtis E. LeMay shaped U.S. strategic forces to survive in the new world. He insisted that the Air Force have access to atomic energy information for strategic planning. In the Cold War, the United States had very few bombers capable of delivering an atomic attack against its probable enemy the Soviet Union. LeMay worked to obtain the best planes that industry could produce. He also struggled to find, promote, and retain the most qualified pilots and support personnel in the air force. To keep the planes flying, LeMay relied heavily on his wartime experience. He revitalized maintenance procedures and trained his combat crews endlessly to perfect their bombing skills. To this end LeMay emphasized radar bombing and better intelligence on targets in the Soviet Union. This work has six chapters. The first describes the evolution of Air Force strategic planning from 1945 to 1953. The second chapter explains the New Look emphasis on strategic forces. The third chapter explains the importance of personnel to the SAC mission and how LeMay addressed the problem. The fourth chapter examines the development of specialized maintenance in SAC. The fifth chapter traces the transition from the B-47 to the B-52. The sixth chapter explores the importance of intelligence and targeting.