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Fifty Shades of Friction: Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War

26 September 2016

Fifty Shades of Friction: Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War, Mark Clodfelter, 2016, Case Study/National War College/National Defense University, 46 pp.


Fifty Shades of Friction: Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War by Mark Clodfelter

The weak attempt of humor in the title and the apparently diminutive number of pages may lead historians to dismiss this title—though at their great loss. Clodfelter’s study is thorough, on point, and concise as it addresses the B-52 bomber crews who flew the Arc Light and both Linebacker missions.

Their story has not been told in this comprehensive, intimate and naked way—neither has SACs leadership as well as management failures. It is a testament to the capability and courage of the aircrews and the ground crews. It is a validation of their training and professionalism.

Alas, the same cannot always be said of higher SAC authorities. In the current day trend to centralize all things, with thinking most of all, this is a management lesson in training people and let them do the work. It is also a lesson that professional managers without field experience should not run the enterprise and if there is success it is usually due to the staff and not the management.

In a day where business is treated as war (it is not) and sports as combat (oh please) Clodfelter’s case study is a refreshing bucket of cold water onto the faces of management folks who have the opinion they can color their sky. Fifty Shades of Friction is also the nuts and bolts of what may be the last of the classic heavy bomber raids over heavily defended and contested airspace. Get the PDF here (445 Kb).

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