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Ultimately, this study is about a smaller Vietnam War than that which is commonly recalled. It focuses on expectations concerning the impact of air power on the ground war and on some of its actual effects, but it avoids major treatment of some of the most dramatic air actions of the war, such as the bombing of Hanoi. To many who fought the war and believe it ought to have been conducted on a still larger scale or with fewer restraints, this study may seem almost perverse, emphasizing as it does the utility of air power in conducting the conflict as a ground war and without total exploitation of our most awe-inspiring technology.
Although the chapters in this study are intended to form a coherent and unified argument, each also offers discrete messages. The chapters are not meant to be definitive. They do not exhaust available documentary material, and they often rely heavily on published accounts. Nor do they provide a complete chronological picture of the uses of air power, even with respect to the ground war. Nor is coverage of areas in which air power was employed—South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam—evenly distributed nor necessarily proportionate to the effort expended in each place during the war. Lastly, some may find one or another form of air power either slightly or insufficiently treated. Such criticisms are beside the point, for the objectives of this study are to explore a comparatively neglected theme—the impact of air power on the ground—and to encourage further utilization of lessons drawn from the Vietnam experience.