ON THE SHELF

"AIRPOWER" by Major Al Williams. Coward-McCann. 418 pages. $3.50.

TODAY, more than ever before, a book on air power written by so eminent an authority as Major Al Williams would seem to meet a vital need. But Major Williams' work itself is bound to disappoint the reader who hopes for a clear-cut expression of what's what in aerial warfare. When Major Williams is discussing such matters as fixed-pitch versus controllable-pitch propellers, his writing is clear and forthright, and it isn't hard to sense the assurance of a man who knows his business and enjoys talking about it. When he talks of engines and wing-structures, his book is absorbing even to the casual reader.

But unfortunately Williams spends very little time on what he knows best; he has axes to grind and grudges to settled, and he can't seem to forget them for much more than a page at a time. He tells his version of air power's growth with a animus of a persecuted fanatic who is at long last able to shout "I told you so!" For Williams was one of that group of airmen who foresaw the coming role of air power many year ago, and insisted on an intensive program of offensive and defensive preparation. In German, Italy, and Russia the prophets got their gospel across, with results that must by now convince even retired admirals and artillerymen. But in this country, as in England and France, army and navy opposition blocked the full development of aviation. so this book, to a large extend, is Major Williams thumbing his nose at the admirals and generals.

But Williams has a grudge that goes even deeper than his resentment against those who formerly scoffed at his ideas. It might be described as a hatred for economic democracy in action. There are whole pages from this book that might have been taken from Coughlin's "Social Justice." This goes beyond mere appeasement; it is reaction blending naturally into fascism. It flares clearly, as in the attacks on Roosevelt, the Spanish Loyalists, and the French Popular Front; or it emerges slyly from between the lines in praise for the Fascists that seems almost unconscious. He regards the Fascist troops in Spain as crusaders in a fine cause, and the International Brigade as the "hoodlum strata" of States seem to be drifting toward "government by the bleachers," i.e., the people. For this and for the remainder of the world's unrest, however, Williams has a sweeping cure-all; he proposes that the United States participate in a "wholesale attack" on Russia to stamp out Communism. He speaks of the Horst Wessel song as "born of the spirit of National rebirth." It is no wonder that his Fascist host in Italy could say as they met, "We think the same thoughts." All in all, Major Williams, for all the potentialities of his subjects, has here contributed nothing more than a rather muddled-up combination of "Sky Devils" and the "Voelkischer Beobachter."

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