Patton’s Air Force

Cover of "Air Power for Patton's Army: Th...

Cover via Amazon

One of the most consistently underrated factors in the Allied victory in Europe during World War II is the quality of tactical air support to the troops on the ground. Each for its own reasons, the Army and the Air Force tend to underplay the importance of tactical air support to their operations: the Army because it is afraid of admitting that it cannot do without air support; and the Air Force because the service has been built over the past 66 years as a temple to strategic bombing and air-to-air combat.

Air Power for Patton’s Army: The 19th Tactical Air Command in the Second World War offers food for thought to both services. By delving into how General George S Patton worked with his counterpart at the XIX Tactical Air Command, General Otto P. Weylandthis book reminds the Army of how strong air-ground coordination actually changes the traditional rules of battle, and that air support was arguably much of the “secret sauce” behind Patton’s successes in his advance across France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. When the planes flew, Georgie’s tanks advanced. When the weather grounded the planes, Third Army found the Wehrmacht a brutally challenging foe.

For the Air Force, the book is a reminder that the most important roles it played in World War II are not what service histories say they are. For all of the noise around strategic bombing, the parts of the USAAF that made the most difference were engaged in battlefield interdiction, close air support, and airlift both strategic and tactical.

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