A Cold War Legacy
A Tribute to Strategic Air Command – 1946-1992
Alwyn T. Lloyd
Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc.
Right up front I suspect I should come clean. I have not read this entire book. My personal requirement has been that in order to properly evaluate a book; you should at least read it. I think one of my Jr. High School teachers drove that lesson home when I was rather loose in a school book review. I enjoy reading, and military histories and modeling references usually get consumed rather quickly around here.
This one almost defies complete reading. And that is by no means meant as criticism. This is one of those books you go to the reference section of the public library to look stuff up in, and they haul it out of one of those locked, glass covered bookcases for you to look at. It is that good!
It is also that big! 81/2” wide, 11 ½ high and almost 2” (714 pages) thick. Absolutely crammed with photos, drawings, charts and maps. The table of contents alone runs 10 pages.
Organization is pretty much chronological, starting with a review of early bombing operations and aircraft. Such items as early navigation and bombsight development are described. Chapter one sets the stage in some 52 pages for the establishment of SAC in 1946.
From here on the book covers every aspect of SAC one could ever hope for. A sampling of the section headings may provide some insight into the depth of this book; “Initial Bombardment Groups” “Project Nanook”, “Fighter Escort”, “War Plans”, “Significant Weapons Systems Changes”. And these are just a few of the headings in Chapter two alone.
Every aspect of SAC’s 46 years is explored, explained and examined in considerable detail. The people, the equipment, the bases, the mission, the aircraft and how it all came together and influenced the world during the cold war years.
As a history, this is one major effort. For the modeler, it has more little or unknown modifications and pictures than most of us will ever be able to use. SAC operated an amazing variety of airplanes during its existence. Fighters, transports, air/sea rescue, tankers, and reconnaissance: they all carried that blue band around the rear end at one time or another. This book does not just show you the usual factory rollouts or publicity shots either. Want to know what the lights on the bomb bay doors of the KB-29 looked like close up? Loading that huge TARZON bomb into the B-29? All this and much, much more!
While this is named “A Tribute to”, it does not ignore the warts by any means. Shortcomings, bad decisions, accidents, poor policies and other not always favorable items are covered right along with the good stuff. Pictures of accidents, bent and battered aluminum, and other related items of interest are also covered. One of the interesting pictures for me was the disposal site for 1,400 tons of slightly contaminated soil and vegetation shipped back to the US for disposal after the Spanish Plamares nuclear accident in Jan. 1966. Not the stuff you normally hear about, but only one small example of the details covered by this book.
If you are a SAC veteran, you should find a lot to identify with here, and perhaps even pictures, or at least mention of your outfit and bases. It may very well also bring back almost forgotten memories of the rather austere life of the ’50’s and ‘60’s SAC members and their families.
If you are a modeler, there are dozens of pictures of until now little known modifications and good detailed, but previously unpublished pictures of stuff we knew about but didn’t have enough information to do a good modeling job on. SAC was not known for colorful markings and paint schemes, but a thumb through this book will get your modeling juices flowing or you should start looking into stamp collecting or something else.
To be sure, this is not your everyday modeling fare. At $55.00 it is big and should be considered more of a history/reference than a modeling book. But there is so much information in it that helps the modeler to build more accurate models and understand what was happening during the time his model subject was around that I would recommend it.
Many of us modelers are also history buffs. The two go hand in hand. How can you not have the defining book on what must be the dominating world force during the last 50 years or so?
Review copy provided by (and thanks to) Al Lloyd.