Boyd (Book Review)


title: Boyd – The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

author: Robert Coram

what you’ll learn: the life of a man who could not tolerate mediocrity, pissed of Pentagon generals, and changed the course of warfare forever

Why You Must Read It

If you’re like most people, you love going to the DMV — the place where you get your driver’s license. Just imagine … spending an hour or two waiting around, a mildly retarded person with a piss-poor attitude telling you what you can and cannot do, and getting your application rejected because you missed one little thing.

Oh wait … you don’t like going to the DMV? And when you’re there, you say, “Someone, please put me out of me misery.” Who would have known?

If the DMV is bad enough, imagine the DMV multiplied by 1,000,000. What do you get? The US military. If you thought getting your license took forever, imagine how much longer it will take to get anything approved in the military.

What if you all you wanna do is kick ass and take names, but the powers that be — the bureaucrats — impede your every progress? (That is exactly what is happening in medicine.)

Most people would bend over and take it up the a-hole. But there are a select few who do not tolerate that. They don’t take hell. Instead, they give it.

These are the people who don’t ask for permission. They just do what they wanna do.

These are the people who don’t adopt a higher-up’s frame. They master their own frame.

These are the people who piss off administrators and bureaucrats … and get away with it relatively unscathed.

These are the people who march to the beat of their own drums and shake up the world around them.

John Boyd was one such person. He was a fighter pilot, a scholar, and a philosopher all rolled into one.

He did not respect authority figures until they have proven themselves worthy of respect. As a result, he pissed off a whole bunch of people, including some high-ranking generals. And then he pissed them off again and again and again …

Oh … they tried their hardest to get back at him. To demote him. To fire him.

And you know what? He doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Someone who can only brown nose and ascend the ranks, but cannot do much else, deserves no respect. He did what he wanted, navigated through the treachery, and got away with it. And all the while, he single-handedly changed the course of air-to-air combat and general warfare.

Do you wanna see how he did it?

Do you wanna avoid getting beaten down in the politics?

Do you wanna become a man gives hell, rather than a man who takes hell?

Do you wanna become a John Boyd and make your mark in the world?

If so, you really should read his story and learn the life of a great man.

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Table of Contents

Prologue – Reminiscences

Part I – Fighter Pilot

  • 1. Haunted Beginnings
  • 2. The Big Jock and the Presbytreian
  • 3. Fledgling
  • 4. K-13 and Mig Alley
  • 5. High Priest
  • 6. Pope John Goes Severely Supersonic
  • 7. Rat-Racing
  • 8. Forty-Second Boyd and the Tactics Manual

Part II – Engineer

  • 9. Thermo, Entropy, and the Breakthrough
  • 10. P = ((T-D)/W)V
  • 11. The Sugarplum Fairy Spreads the Gospel
  • 12. Pull the Wings off and Paint It Yellow
  • 13. “I’ve Never Designed a Fighter Plane Before”
  • 14. Bigger-Higher-Faster-Farther
  • 15. Saving the F-15
  • 16. Ride of the Valkyries
  • 17. The Fighter Mafia Does the Lord’s Work
  • 18. A Short-Legged Bird
  • 19. Spook Base
  • 20. Take a Look at the B-I
  • 21. “This Briefing is for Information Purposes Only”
  • 22. The Buttonhook Turn

Part III – Scholar

  • 23. Destruction and Creation
  • 24. OODA Loop
  • 25. Reform
  • 26. The Great Wheel of Conspiracy
  • 27. Boyd Joins the Marines
  • 28. Semper Fi
  • 29. Water-Walker
  • 30. They Think I’m a Kook
  • 31. The Ghetto Colonel and the SecDef

Epilogue – El Cid Rides On

Choice Excerpt

Little else is known of Boyd’s brief service as an enlisted man. About the only thing that has survived is a story he often told, a story where the John Boyd of fact and the John Boyd of legend begin to merge, the first of the countless “Boyd stories” that accumulated over the years. The winter of 1945–1946 was particularly cold and wet in Japan. On the former Japanese air base where Boyd was stationed, officers lived in warm quarters, slept in beds, and ate hot food, while enlisted ranks lived in tents, slept on the ground, and ate K rations. Large wooden hangars suitable for barracks-type housing stood empty and unused. Fed up with this situation, Boyd led a revolt. He and his fellow soldiers tore down two hangars and used the wood to build fires so they could stay warm. Soon after, the Army inventoried base property and discovered the hangars had gone missing. Boyd was identified as the leader of the perpetrators and brought up on charges. A court-martial loomed. Officers believed this would be the quick and uncontested trial of an enlisted man who clearly was guilty. But Private Boyd went on the attack and turned the pending court-martial into a referendum on officer leadership and responsibility. He asked the investigating officer if the Army’s general orders were in effect at the time he used wood from the hangars to build fires. When he was told that of course the general orders were in effect, he said one of the general orders stated that the first responsibility of an officer was to take care of his men. Officers were not doing that, not if enlisted personnel were sleeping on the ground while suitable quarters stood empty. Boyd said that if the court-martial proceeded, he would raise the issue of officer responsibility with higher authorities.

The charges were dropped. The U.S. military had lost its first runin with Boyd. In later years Boyd often told this story, especially to Pentagon subordinates who idolized him. Among the Acolytes, Boyd’s most dedicated followers, the story achieved almost ecclesiastical weight. Boyd also told the story to newspaper reporters with the added fillip: “If they had court-martialed me, then they wouldn’t have had to put up with me later on.”

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