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Synopsis

Captain Matt Rodman's book is an intriguing study of a moment in history when combat airpower played a key role in achieving victory. He expertly recounts how Fifth Air Force quickly developed new tactics and procedures that "saved the day." The perfection of low-altitude bombing, strafing, and skip bombing made differences that in hindsight are easy to recognize and quantify. Without them the Fifth would have found itself in a longer, costlier fight with an uncertain outcome. However, these new tactics hurt the enemy to the extent that the Allies eventually prevailed.

The real value of Captain Rodman's study, however, lies not so much in his excellent retelling of significant developments in air-power as in his pushing the need for us to be flexible, adaptive, opportunistic, and entrepreneurial while safeguarding our core values and capitalizing on our core competencies. He therefore helps us take some of the uncertainty out of the largely unpredictable future by stressing the importance of "effective adaptability." Obviously, many components determine success— preparation, resources, knowledge, and determination, to name just a few. None of these, however, have nearly the importance as the creative ability to adapt effectively in order to confront the threat and deliver victory. By telling us the story of Fifth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific, Captain Rodman schools us on our need to employ all of our resources creatively, no matter their limitations. Our future battles will be new and different, as will the actions we take, even though they derive from our past successes.

In the mid-1980s, experts would have had difficulty forecasting the effectiveness of the precision and near-precision aerial strikes we executed in Iraq just a few years later. In the mid-1990s, almost no one could have envisioned allied and joint ground forces, some riding on horseback, communicating through satellites to a multitude of aircraft that produced effects leading to our triumph in Operation Enduring Freedom. Today we can only venture a guess—and probably not very accurately— at what we will confront in the coming years. But this much is certain: we will face challenges unlike those of the past, and victory will go to the team that can best adapt its resources to stop the enemy. Captain Rodman's great effort convinces us that it is our legacy to maintain and even enhance that ability.

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