Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Coram)

Col. John Boyd, USAF, is one of the greatest military minds you’ve never heard of. Coram has written a supremely readable hybrid: it’s a biography and an entry-level introduction to Boyd’s two most seminal innovations: the energy-maneuverability theory (which quantified the previously ad-hoc business of air combat maneuvering) and the OODA loop, the first real practical explanation of the theory of maneuver warfare. Boyd’s theories– and his hard-fought efforts to publicize and prove them– gave us the F-15, the F-16, and the Marine Corps’ amphibious feint in the first Gulf War. As a man, Boyd was unyielding, incredibly stubborn, uncouth, profane, and more than a bit eccentric. He was a poor officer in most respects; he hated (and that’s not too strong a word) anyone who he perceived as having put expediency over accuracy, and he was more or less forced out of the Air Force as the result of the cumulative effect of all the impolitic things he said and did (and there were plenty!) At least the way Coram tells it, Boyd was also a terrible husband and father. In fact, the accounts of how indifferent this otherwise brilliant man was toward his wife and children to my mind diminished his stature considerably. A little more consideration and interpersonal skill could have made his life and career much more pleasant for everyone involved. However, that lack doesn’t reduce the scope of what Boyd did, and Coram tells the story with flair. There’s enough detail on E-M theory and the OODA loop to introduce them without overwhelming people who aren’t fighter pilots or military strategists; Coram also suggests several follow-up references that I’m digging into as time allows. Highly recommended. One final note: Boyd was also a Georgia Tech graduate. Go Jackets!

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One response to “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Coram)


    Erie,Pa. is the homtown of COL. JOHN BOYD. SOME of us are trying to get ERIE to honor him in some significat way. Politics being politics, it is atough job , but we shall persist!
    If you have any good info., please share.
    JUST CORRECTED e-mail address