To Fly and Fight: The Experience of American Airmen in Southeast Asia




Andrews, William F.

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How did U.S. Air Force aviators, a well-trained cohort of volunteers, experience combat in Southeast Asia, and what motivated them to strap into high performance jet fighters, multiengine bombers and transports, or tiny spotter airplanes and fly into harm’s way? This dissertation argues that throughout the war, an affinity for the power, control, and freedom of military aviation provided a central core of internal motivation. These basic attractions of military aviation, and a set of closely-related corollaries including obligation, flying excellence, competition, and honor tied these aerial warriors to larger external groups, providing further motivation for combat flying. To operate powerful technology was intrinsically satisfying to these men, but controlling that power obligated them to help fellow combatants to fight, win, and live to fight another day. Changing American strategies, technologies, and domestic attitudes altered the motivational landscape throughout the war, but these major sources of combat motivation endured, although subtle shifts in their relative prominence and availability followed changes in the technological and strategic environment.



US Air Force, Warfare, Vietnam War, Air power, Pilots