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And the Wind Blew Cold
Changing the Rules of Engagement
No Uncle Sam
The Wrong Stuff
Battle of Dogger Bank
Abuse of Power
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Confederate Outlaw
We Were Going to Win, Or Die There
True Faith and Allegiance
Vietnam, 1969 - 1970:
Beyond Shangri-La

American Military AviationAmerican Military Aviation

The Indispensable Arm

Charles J. Gross

Narrated by Jim Woods

Available from Audible

Book published by Texas A&M University Press

Since the Wright brothers made their famed flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, aviation has emerged as the indispensable arm of American military power. In this detailed and informative history, Charles J. Gross traces its development from the technological antecedents of the Wright brothers’ triumph through the air war for Kosovo. Drawing on examples from all periods and all service branches, he explains the roles of politics, economics, and technology in shaping air power in the U.S. armed forces and assesses the actual impact of military aviation on warfare.

Gross discusses major developments in aircraft, doctrine, training, and operations. He also provides discussions of airlift, in-flight refueling, military budgets, industry, and inter-service squabbling. He deftly sketches the evolution of the air arms of each of the different services and provides clear analysis of military budgets. He provides assessments of Eisenhower’s “New Look” and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction); of McNamara’s effort to use “commonality”of equipment to cut costs and Kennedy’s buildup of the military; of the Nixon Doctrine and the failure of air power to resolve the long drawn-out conflict in Southeast Asia; and of the growing reliance on American air-power in the post-Cold War world.

This volume offers the first broad history of American military aviation. Military professionals, scholars, civilian government policy makers and planners, members of the media who concentrate on defense matters, and interested members of the general public will all rely on this book as the invaluable guide to the “indispensable arm.”

Charles J. Gross has worked as a U.S. Air Force civilian historian and is currently the chief of the Air National Guard history program. He has written numerous studies for the air force and Air National Guard and has contributed widely to service and scholarly journals. He served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1969 and retired as a colonel in 1994 after a long career in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard.


“This book is an ideal source for undergraduate history courses dedicated to aerospace and military topics, ROTC curricula, and especially for advanced training for military officers.... Gross fills a significant gap in the literature of aerospace history.... Gross’s one-volume synthesis of American military aviation masterfully brings together current interpretations of the topic, which reflects his overwhelming reliance on secondary sources and broader trends in military history.”

Air Power History

“ assiduously balanced and ecumenical guide to military aviation in all its forms....I found myself wanting to say a few huzzahs for the author’s insight and fair-mindedness....he writes with clarity and with enough lively detail to make his narrative both engaging and rich. His range is impressive, and he is equally at home discussing the technical details of the inter-war ‘airframe revolution’ as he is discussing the rise and impact of the postwar aerospace industry. Throughout the book he makes sure to give due attention to naval aviation. Gross is not afraid to reinterpret the conventional wisdom....Those who study air power will want to have American Military Aviation: The Indispensable Arm on their bookshelf for ready reference, and those who teach air power courses may want to contemplate assigning all or portions of it to their students. Charles Gross has provided us with a fine survey that is unusual—and indeed inspired—in its balance and its emphasis on jointness.”

—Tami Davis Biddle, Parameters

“Dr. Gross has written an interesting, useful, and readable account of U.S. military aviation. The work is especially valuable for its perspective on what military aviation promised to accomplish and what it actually did.”

—Norman Polmar

“Dr. Gross’ amazing analysis of the moment in history that shaped American airpower is truly unique. He describes events from the time of the Wright brothers to recent Kosovo operations, always deftly defining the critical events that make aviation the dominant force in battle today. The history of Air Power is America’s history of warfare as we know it today. This view of 100 years of aviation captures the significant events that became the turning points of that history. This book is must reading for novice and expert alike.”

—General Chuck Horner

“... he has successfully traced the evolution of American military aviation from the dunes of Kitty Hawk and the Wrights’ first flight, to the outskirts of Sarajevo and America’s air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic...can easily count itself toward the front of the pack when it comes to single-volume works on the evolution of American airpower.”

Military History of the West

“Charles Gross has accomplished a formidable task: in just over 300 pages of text, he has successfully traced the evolution of American military aviation from the dunes of Kitty Hawk and the Wrights’ first flight, to the outskirts of Sarajevo and America’s air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic. Gross clearly shows how the air arm has become an indispensable ingredient in the modern American way of war, how it has affected America’s culture, politics, and economy, and how it has transformed the very nature of warfare itself.”

Military History of the West

“As the series requires, he synthesizes the best literature in books, monographs, and journals and provides a well-organized, fast-paced, clear narrative for the general reader–and military historian.... By focusing on the broad topic ‘military aviation,’ cutting across services and institutions, he presents a unique, up-to-date scholarly study on the subject.”

Journal of Military History

“His sustained inclusion of guardsmen and reservists in the volume gives the book a valuable ‘total force’ characteristic.”

Journal of Military History

“An ably penned history designed for readers of diverse sophistication (military, policy makers, general public).”


“An ably penned history designed for readers of diverse sophistication (military, policy makers, general public).”


“An excellent history. His survey is a balanced account, both interesting and readable, and particularly valuable for its perspective on what military aviation promised and what it actually accomplished. Again, this fine history provides a balanced perspective on ‘military’ aviation.”

Almanac of Seapower

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks