Always at War

Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command, 1946–62
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Published:April 15, 2018

Always at War is the story of Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the early decades of the Cold War. More than a simple history, it describes how an organization dominated by experienced World War II airmen developed a unique culture that thrives to this day.

Strategic Air Command was created because of the Air Force’s internal beliefs, but the organization evolved as it responded to the external environment created by the Cold War. In the aftermath of World War II and the creation of an independent air service, the Air Force formed SAC because of a belief in the military potential of strategic bombing centralized under one commander. As the Cold War intensified, so did SAC’s mission.

In order to prepare SAC’s “warriors” to daily fight an enemy they did not see, as well as to handle the world’s most dangerous arsenal, the command, led by General Curtis LeMay, emphasized security, personal responsibility, and competition among the command. Its resources, political influence, and manning grew as did its “culture” until reaching its peak during the Cuban Missile Crisis. SAC became synonymous with the Cold War and its culture forever changed the Air Force as well as those who served.

List Price: $34.95
Member Price: $27.96
Product Details
  • Subject: Aviation
  • Hardback : 328 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1682472485
  • ISBN-13: 9781682472484
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 23.36 oz
  • Air and Space Smithsonian Magazine Interview
  • “Deaile has created a wonderful distillation of Strategic Air Command into a single brief, enjoyable volume. This book is a useful starting point for research into Strategic Air Command and Air Force culture in the early Cold War.” —The Strategy Bridge
  • "This is perhaps an overdue and welcome book on the Strategic Air Command (SAC) through its formative years to apparent success in 1962 during the Cuba Missile crisis." —The NAVY Magazine
  • “The author of Always at War does a creditable job of explaining how SAC came into existence and its philosophy of always being prepared to go to war…. This book should appeal military historians, political scientists, sociologists, and business managers.” —The Journal of America's Military Past
  • “Deaile’s book makes a significant contribution to this growing subfield of Cold War military history. His use of organizational culture theory is illuminating without being overly dense. He clearly demonstrates the strong connections between the experience of World War II and choices made in the early Cold War, a link too often ignored. The historical and bureaucratic context during which SAC came into existence exerted powerful influences on the new command. As a well-written account of his important Air Force organization, Always at War is recommended for general readers interested in aviation history as well as specialist scholars.” —Air Space and Power Journal
  • “The author has researched in depth and presented a very convincing review of how SAC rose to the challenges and developed the structures that prevented the Soviets from winning the Cold War and preventing it becoming a cataclysmic Hot War. An impressive and very readable account.” —FIRE Reviews
  • “It is particularly interesting to note that Professor Deaile flew the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit; that he has flown combat operations as part of Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, including a record setting 44.3-hour combat mission; that he is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross; that he is a distinguished graduate of the USAF Weapon School. A uniquely informative and exceptionally well written history that offers a wealth of impressive details, Always at War: Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command, 1946-62 is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library 20th Century Military Aviation History collections in general, and SAC history supplemental studies reading lists.” —Midwest Book Review
  • "Melvin Deaile’s fascinating history of Strategic Air Command focuses on the culture of an institution at the center of American national security for most of the Cold War. A skilled historian and noted Air Force planner, Deaile has combined extensive work in the archives with detailed interviews to draw a textured portrait of an institution that insisted on high levels of professionalism and readiness for a core mission it hoped never to carry out. The author’s textured knowledge of the US Air Force and his astute historical instincts combine to make this an important study full of rich and illuminating detail. It ought to be on the bookshelves of all students of the Cold War, and all those interested in the way that powerful institutional cultures are created and preserved." —Tami Davis Biddle, Professor of National Security and Security, US Army War College, author of Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare
  • "Few military organizations have had a culture as distinctive and defining as that of the Strategy Air Command (SAC) and few scholars are as well prepared as Mel Deaile to understand and explain it. Dr. Deaile analyzes the formation of SAC culture with a veteran’s insight, a scholar’s rigor, and a teacher’s disposition." —Dr. Alex Roland, Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University
  • "Melvin Dealie’s Always at War examines the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, centerpiece of Cold War deterrence, through the lens of culture and leadership. His compelling approach puts the men of SAC at the center of the story, not their weapons. Key leaders like Curtis LeMay and Tommy Power built a command whose organization and culture primed it for instant war. From checklists and no-notice inspections to lead crews and alert procedures, the “SAC mentality” became the bedrock of the organization’s effectiveness and identity. Dealie’s careful scholarship places the focus squarely on the human element of SAC’s success." —Edward Kaplan, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg Chair of Aerospace Studies, U.S. Army War College

Melvin G. Deaile is an associate professor at the Air Command and Staff College. Dr. Deaile is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, with a PhD in American History from UNC-Chapel Hill, who flew the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit. He has flown combat operations as part of Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, including a record setting 44.3-hour combat mission. Dr. Deaile is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and is a distinguished graduate of the USAF Weapon School.  

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