Military History Book Review: From Kites to Cold War by Tyler Morton

From Kites to Cold War

by Tyler Morton

Book Cover


When we watch movies nowadays, we do not bat an eyelash at the wild capabilities of the intelligence community. Satellites, drones, aircraft, and the ability to listen, track, and kill the enemy is a given. But, it had not always been that way. In fact, while the concept of intelligence and finding out where your enemy is located and doing is as old as time (or Sun Tzu) - the means by which it was accomplished has evolved.

From Kites to Cold War tells that story of the path of airborne intelligence's evolution.

Morton does a wonderful job in transforming his doctoral research into a plain-language story for the common reader. He chronicles the evolution of intelligence and reconnaissance from the days of the Chinese use of Kites and spotters to the use of airborne (aircraft) intelligence during the Gulf War. His thorough research details what could have been a laborious and boring set of facts and weaves it into a story that is easily understood and entertaining. 

Morton explains not just the aspects of intelligence, but also its ties to the start of Airpower, and its challenges in separating from the ground forces and influence in the military and government. In pursuing its own independence as a service, missions to demonstrate (and justify) its existence, and technology to optimize the delivery of strategic results - he shows how the Air Force transformed and its pivotal moments in history. Roughly, you could group it in; the beginning, WWI, the interwar years, WWII, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam Conflict, and the Gulf War. Additionally, his use of international (other than American) examples for contrast is unique and great.

Ultimately, it is the constant advocacy and investment into the US Air Force and the airborne reconnaissance platforms that bring the tools that enable decision makers at all levels. They do this in providing geographic locations of enemy data, order of battle, imagery intelligence, signals intelligence, and communications intelligence. These sources help give the who, what, where, and sometimes why of adversary action.

While this is not really my type of book, I did not find it difficult to read and digest the ~200 page book (after that it's notes and bibliography). His passion and knowledge is evident in his writing, and his turn of phrase is great. It's well worth the read if you are a military history, aviation, or intelligence buff.

Included are some links to stores from which you can purchase the book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Thriftbooks (second-hand).

Also included are some additional in-depth book reviews by journals of the history book.


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Lifelong learner. Amateur author. Want to talk books, scifi, fantasy, steampunk, tech, science, crypto, or world politics? I'm here for you.

Books, television, and movies
Books, television, and movies

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