October 6, 2017
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v2.1 Reference

Architect of Air Power

General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force

At age 36, Laurence S. Kuter (1905–1979) became the youngest general officer since William T. Sherman. He served as deputy commander of allied tactical air forces in North Africa during World War II and helped devise the American bombing strategy in Europe. Although his combat contributions were less notable than other commanders in the Eighth Air Force, few officers saw as many theaters of operation as he did or were as highly sought-after. After World War II, he led the Military Air Transport Service, Air University, Far East Air Forces, and served as commander-in-chief of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Despite these accomplishments and others, however, Kuter remains widely underappreciated.

In Architect of Air Power, Brian D. Laslie offers the first biography of this important but unsung pioneer whose influence can be found in every stage of the development of an independent US Air Force. From his early years at West Point to his days at the Air Corps Tactical School to his leadership role at NORAD, Kuter made his mark with quiet efficiency. He was an early advocate of strategic bombardment rather than pursuit or fighter aviation—fundamentally changing the way air power was used—and later helped implement the Berlin airlift in 1948. In what would become a significant moment in military history, he wrote Field Manual 100-20, which is considered the Air Force's "declaration of independence" from the Army.

Drawing on diaries, letters, and scrapbooks, Laslie offers a complete portrait of this influential soldier. Architect of Air Power illuminates Kuter's pivotal contributions and offers new insights into critical military policy and decision-making during the Second World War and the Cold War.

About the Author

Brian D. Laslie is Deputy Command Historian at NORAD and U.S. Northern Command as well as adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is the author of The Air Force Way of War: U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam.


"In Architect of Air Power, Brian Laslie expertly brings into focus perhaps the least known of the major Air Force personalities of World War II and the early Cold War. Kuter was the indispensable 'behind-the-scenes' man in those years, and this book fills a similarly indispensable gap in our understanding of the people and ideas that propelled the nation's air arm to independence and prominence."—Thomas Alexander Hughes, author of Over Lord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II

"Laslie's outstanding work on Laurence Kuter is the first full and highly effective look at this exceptionally important airman. It gives the reader ample evidence of Kuter's central role in making America the quintessential airpower nation during the course of the twentieth century. This will be the book on Kuter for many years to come."—Robert S. Ehlers, Jr., author of The Mediterranean Air War: Airpower and Allied Victory in World War II

"Brian Laslie has produced a comprehensive biography of one of the true 'Engineers of Victory' in the Second World War. Kuter's service as a planner, organizer and staff officer, though often behind the scenes, supplied critical leadership for the development, deployment, and sustainment of American airpower, cementing his role as one of the 'founding fathers' of the US Air Force. Laslie's work does full justice to these efforts, helping us understand how this American airman made vital contributions to the Allied victory in World War II and to the further development of the aerial weapon."—Christopher M. Rein, author of The North African Air Campaign: U.S. Army Forces from El Alamein to Salerno

"Laslie has assembled an impressive array of sources to discuss Kuter's life and career.

Laslie has played this balancing act marvellously. He pulls no punches, willingly calling out Kuter when his ideas or actions were wrong, especially his belief in strategic air bombardment as a war-winning approach. Laslie carefully provides the reader with enough context so that he or she may understand why Kuter made these errors. In fact, it is these very moments, so well captured by Laslie, that make Kuter and the history of the USAF such a fascinating subject."—From Balloons to Drones

"In this brief but lively survey of Kuter's life, Laslie successfully argues that although Kuter may not have risen to the fame of other Air Force leaders of his day, he nonetheless deserves recognition.

An examination of this often-overlooked figure reveals the conception, birth, and growth of the Air Force as an institution. As Laslie points out, 'Architects seldom get the same notoriety as builders.' Thanks to this work, in one instance that is no longer the case."—Strategy Bridge

"This book is an essential look at perhaps the most important quarter-century in the history of air power development through the eyes and career of a man who saw and experienced it from every angle."—Army Magazine

"This biography goes beyond a standard narrative of the life of Kuter. Laslie skillfully places this into

the wider development of air power thinking in the Air Corps, the US Army Air Force and, latterly, the

USAF in which Kuter commanded the Air University. This volume sheds interesting and new light on the development of US air power thinking and the inexorable path to an independent USAF."—Aerospace

"Thanks to the impressive research of Laslie, General Laurence Kuter's substantial role receives long overdue recognition. Laslie's book reveals not only the rise of this talented airman but also the larger story of how the United States became the world's leading air power. This insightful character study is skillfully told by an extremely knowledgeable subject matter expert. It should be required reading for all Air Force officers and enlisted personnel."—Aviation History

"A fascinating look into the inner workings of the Army Air Corps, Army Air Force, and United States Air Force, as it developed into one of the most powerful air forces in the world."—Journal of America's Military History Past

9780813169989 : architect-of-air-power-laslie
254 Pages
$45.00 USD

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