Nathan F. Twining succeeded Vandenberg as Air Force chief and was then named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first airman to hold that position. Twining came from a rich military background; his forebears had served in the American Army and Navy since the French and Indian War. Nathan himself enlisted in World War I but soon received an appointment to West Point. Because the program was shortened so as to produce more officers for combat, he spent only two years at the academy. After graduating in 1919 and serving in the infantry for three years, he transferred to the Air Service. Over the next 15 years he flew fighter aircraft in Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii, while also attending the Air Corps Tactical School and the Command and General Staff College. When war broke out in Europe he was assigned to the operations division on the Air Staff; then in 1942 he was sent to the South Pacific where he became chief of staff of the Allied air forces in that area. In January 1943 he assumed command of the Thirteenth Air Force, and that same November he traveled across the world to take over the Fifteenth Air Force from Jimmy Doolittle. When Germany surrendered, Arnold sent Twining back to the Pacific to command the B29s of the Twentieth Air Force in the last push against Japan, but he was there only a short time when the atomic strikes ended the war. He returned to the States where he was named commander of the Air Materiel Command, and in 1947 he took over Alaskan Command. After three years there he was set to retire as a lieutenant general, but when Muir Fairchild, the vicechief of staff, died unexpectedly of a heart attack, Twining was elevated to full general and named his successor. When Vandenberg retired in mid1953, Twining was selected as chief; during his tenure, massive retaliation based on airpower became the national strategy. In 1957 President Eisenhower appointed Twining chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Surprisingly, the only biography of this famous airman is a dissertation that covers his career up to 1953, and that effort is disappointing: J. Britt McCarley, "General Nathan Farragut Twining: The Making of a Disciple of American Strategic Air Power, 1897-1953" (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University, 1989). This study is based largely on secondary sources, official histories, and interviews Twining gave many years after his retirement. As a consequence, McCarley's account provides little insight into Twining's personality, leadership, reasons for success, or his impact on the great events happening around him. In short, the man is lost in the description of events, and by the end of this study we know little more about Twining than if we had read his entry in Who's Who. It is not clear, for example, why Twining was chosen as vicechief of staff in 1953; his performance in the five years after World War II was not impressive. Twining admitted he did not understand why he was given Air Materiel Command, and Alaskan Command was then considered a backwater. In fact, McCarley states the main attraction of this assignment was that it entailed "normal work hours" and allowed Twining plenty of time for hunting and fishing. There is a story here, and McCarley's argument that Twining was chosen because LeMay was unacceptable is inadequate. In addition, McCarley insists on referring to American air doctrine from the 1930s on as "Douhetian." This is incorrect; the tactical school barely knew of his ideas before World War II, and besides, Douhet advocated the destruction of enemy morale by attacking the population directly. The Air Corps Tactical School instead called for the collapse of an enemy's capability to wage war by targeting his industrial infrastructure. The two air strategies are therefore totally different, but McCarley seems not to realize this. Overall, a poor effort; the important story of Nate Twining remains to be told.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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