The B-29 Superfortress is an icon of World War II and “the greatest generation.” It represents a national commitment to meet the immense challenge this country faced when the winds of war blew across two oceans and forced the United States to ramp up fighting forces and production of military hardware.
Thankfully, the Commemorative Air Force AirPower History Tour offers the curious a firsthand look at the B-29 — considered an incredible feat of engineering in its time. Without the preservation efforts of the CAF, the plane would be consigned to history books. But the refurbished bomber on display at Grand Junction Regional Airport through the holiday weekend is a flying museum that provides a glimpse of the military might the U.S. was forced to achieve in short order in response to a global threat.
The United States relied heavily upon the B-29 during the latter stages of WWII, utilizing the warbird to drop two atomic bombs on Japan to facilitate a surrender. As flight technology evolved, the B-29 quickly became obsolete and phased out.
But it’s emblematic of U.S. military dominance, which seems to be in doubt lately. U.S. military readiness has emerged as a hot issue in the presidential election. Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus recently penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that America’s fighting forces remain second to none.
Since World War II, America has become the world’s police force. The presidential debates should give us a better sense of each candidate’s views on whether we should take a more isolationist stance, boost military spending or scale back combat operations in favor or higher homeland security funding.
But the notion that we’re ill-equipped or underprepared to flourish militarily compared to World War II and the Cold War is a myth.
The current national defense budget in excess of $600 billion a year far exceeds the Cold War average of $525 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. The national defense budget, which doesn’t include Veterans Affairs or Homeland Security, constitutes 35 perent of global military spending and is more than that of the next eight countries combined, Petraeus wrote. That includes Russia and China.
Most equipment remains in good shape. Training for “full-spectrum operations” is resuming after more than a decade of focus on counterinsurgency. New recruits are scoring higher on qualifications tests than they did during Reagan years and the average time of service for enlisted personnel is better than it was in the 1980s.
In short, military readiness has never been stronger, though Petraeus noted that improvements can always be made depending on the availability of resources. That’s where we need to hear more from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton about how their foreign policy goals intersect with military spending — not fictional depictions of a failing fighting force.
The deadly B29 ultimately proved to be a peacemaker. We need to hear how Trump and Clinton would deploy the finest fighting force in the world to the best peace-making effect.