Colonel David E. Johnson, PhD, USA, Ret., was a principal researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and an adjunct scholar at the Modern War Institute at West Point. After a long and dedicated career, first as an Army officer and then as a researcher, writer and lecturer for the defense community, he passed away in October 2022.
From June 2012 to July 2014 he established and led the Chief of Staff of the Army Strategic Studies Group for General Raymond Odierno. Before joining RAND, Johnson was a vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He joined SAIC after a 24-year Army career serving in the Infantry, Quartermaster, and Field Artillery branches in a variety of command and staff assignments in the United States, Korea, and Europe. He retired as a colonel in 1997. Johnson has received the National Defense University President's Strategic Vision Award; RAND President's, Gold, and Bronze awards; the Ancient Order of St. Barbara; the Noble Patron of Armor; and the Legion of Merit. His work has been on the professional reading lists of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Chiefs of Staff, The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Commander, the Chief of Staff Royal Air Force (United Kingdom), the Royal Australian Air Force Chief of Staff, the British Army and the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. His latest RAND publications include: The Challenges of the "Now" and Their Implications for the U.S. Army, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, and The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Reimagining Urban Combat. Johnson received a Ph.D. in history from Duke University.
Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers
Innovation in the U.S. Army 1917-1945
The U.S. Army entered World War II unprepared. In addition, lacking Germany's blitzkrieg approach of coordinated armor and air power, the army was organized to fight two wars: one on the ground and one in the air. Previous commentators have blamed Congressional funding and public apathy for the army's unprepared state. David E. Johnson believes instead that the principal causes were internal: army culture and bureaucracy, and their combined impact on the development of weapons and doctrine.
Johnson examines the U.S. Army's innovations for both armor and aviation between the world wars, arguing that the tank became a captive of the conservative infantry and cavalry branches, while the airplane's development was channeled by air power insurgents bent on creating an independent air force. He maintains that as a consequence, the tank's potential was hindered by the traditional arms, while air power advocates focused mainly on proving the decisiveness of strategic bombing, neglecting the mission of tactical support for ground troops. Minimal interaction between ground and air officers resulted in insufficient cooperation between armored forces and air forces.
Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers makes a major contribution to a new understanding of both the creation of the modern U.S. Army and the Army's performance in World War II. The book also provides important insights for future military innovation.