October 9, 1998
Reference: "Genghis John," Proceeding of the US Naval Institute,
July 1997. Attached. It should now be clear to most readers of this list the
Defense Department is not adapting to the changing conditions brought about
by the end of the Cold War: We have a modernization plan that can not modernize
the force structure, a readiness nose dive, and a corrupt accounting system
that makes it impossible to figure out how to solve the modernization and
readiness problems. Moreover, while threats are changing, the Pentagon remains mired in a defense program inspired by the tired thinking of the cold war — a condition that is exacerbated and sustained by the porkbarrelling pressures of the military-industrial-congressional complex. The crisis inspires the
most basic question of all — Ready for What? — a question that seems forgotten
by the courtiers inhabiting the five-sided halls of Versailles on the Potomac.
[see comment #s 189 & 194].
I intend to expand the discussion to include this question
from time to time over the coming months. I will be referring often to the
theoretical studies of the conduct of by war by the late Col John R. Boyd
(USAF Ret), who was a close personal friend, as well as mentor for over 20
years. I believe a wider understanding of his work can help interested people evolve their own appreciation of the challenges now facing the American military as it moves into the very uncertain, albeit certainly unpredictable, world
of the post-cold war era.
The following essay will introduce you to Col Boyd. I
published it in July 1997 as a memorial to a man who dedicated his life to achievement without asking for anything in return.
[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, the following
material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed
a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.]
Proceedings of the U. S. Naval Institute
July 1997, pp. 42-47
By Franklin C. Spinney
One hardly expects the Commandant of the Marine Corps
to agree with a dovish former Rhodes Scholar, or an up-from-the-ranks, brass-bashing
retired Army colonel, or a pig farmer from Iowa who wants to cut the defense
budget. Yet, within days of each other in mid-March 1997, all four men wrote
amazingly similar testimonials to the intellect and moral character of John
Boyd, a retired Air Force colonel, who died of cancer on 9 March at the age
General Charles Krulak, our nation's top Marine, called
Boyd an architect of victory in the Persian Gulf War. General Krulak was "awed"
by Boyd's intellect, character, integrity, and his selfless devotion to our
nation's welfare. James Fallows, Editor of U.S. News and World Report, claimed
that Boyd's "ideas about weapons, leadership, and the very purpose of national
security changed the modern military." Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, one of our nation's most decorated combat soldiers, wrote that Boyd's "legacy will be that integrity — doing the hard right over the easy wrong — is more important than all the stars, all the plush executive suites and all the bucks."
And in a 20 March speech, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) declared that John
Boyd, "the leader of the Military Reform Movement," was a man who "always
set the example of excellence — both morally and professionally."
What kind of man could unite the emotions of such disparate
I met Colonel John Boyd in 1973, when I went to work for
him in the Pentagon as a 27-year-old captain in the Air Force. He already
was a legend, yet his most important work lay before him. Over the next 23
years, my life became intertwined with this maddening mix of eccentricity,
intellect, creativity, and moral courage — a mix that did not fit into neat
compartments. Over a career that spanned 50 years, he evolved from "40-Second Boyd," to the "Mad Major," to the "Ghetto Colonel," to "Genghis John."
Boyd opened his military career as a 19-year old draftee
in the U.S. Army occupying Japan during the cold, wet winter of 1945-46. Morale
was terrible. The soldiers froze in damp tents, often eating uncooked K-rations,
while their officers indulged themselves with hot food in warm quarters. Boyd
led the inevitable revolt — the mud soldiers chopped down a wooden hangar
and burned it to keep warm. The Army, being the Army, court-martialed Boyd for destroying government property, but Boyd, being Boyd, converted the trial into a referendum on leadership and responsibility. The officers lost, the troops got hot chow, and the military got its first look at John Boyd.
He left the Army and went to college on the G.I. Bill,
where he met his wife, Mary, a woman best described as a saint. He graduated
with a degree in economics, was commissioned in the Air Force, and became
a fighter pilot. He flew about 20 combat missions in F-86s at the tail end
of the Korean War — enough to warrant his selection as one of the first instructors
at the fledgling Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
He designed the dogfight tactics curriculum and earned the nickname "40-Second Boyd" as a result of a standing bet that he could maneuver from a position of disadvantage (challenger on his tail) to advantage (positions reversed) in 40 seconds — or pay the challenger 40 dollars. One of Boyd's lifelong friends,
Ron Catton, a retired fighter pilot, and one of the few ever to graduate from
the Fighter Weapons School with a perfect score, told me that Boyd usually
needed only 20 seconds to win, but liked a little insurance in case something
Boyd never lost. By the late 1950s, he was widely regarded
as the finest fighter pilot in the Air Force.
He personified the romantic image of a fighter jock — tall, lanky, wildly gesticulating, loud, and irrepressible, an in-your-face type of guy, who smoked long thin stogies and blew smoke in your face, while he shouted and sprayed saliva at you in a head-on attack, from two inches, nose to nose. But 40-Second Boyd's flamboyant exterior hid an incisive mind, and he was about to blossom into a warrior-scientist — the "Mad Major."
The Mad Major
In the late 1950s, he began this improbable mutation by teaching himself enough calculus to work out the formulas describing his view of the maneuver-countermaneuver aerial duel. He published his results in a book-length technical report, the Aerial Attack Study, a secret document that eventually spread throughout the Free World and became the international bible of air combat.
His next stop was Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Air Force
sent him there to learn industrial engineering, a standardized curriculum
that forced him to take a survey course in thermodynamics — the science of
heat and energy. On the way to class one day, he had a flash of insight: the laws of thermodynamics, particularly those governing the conservation and dissipation of energy, were like the tactical give-and-take of an air-to-air duel. It was the kind of insight that characterized his genius for using analogies to combine seemingly unrelated pieces of information, gleaned serendipitously from very different disciplines, into a new world view.
As any logician will tell you, reasoning by analogy is
a very dangerous game for most mortals. False similarities can capture our
imagination, restrict our vision, and seduce us into seeing things that do
not exist. To the orderly, Cartesian thinkers of the self-styled defense intelligentsia,
Boyd had a very spooky way of thinking. To make matters worse, he had an IQ
of only 90, which he claimed was an advantage because it forced him to be
Nevertheless, Boyd always seemed to end up with the winning
answer when the bureaucracy begrudgingly permitted the free market of ideas
to work its painful magic. Most people attributed his success to luck, but he had a secret weapon: his uninhibited imagination was tightly coupled to a maniacal discipline to follow the truth wherever it might lead — even if it meant trashing his own creations. Boyd subjected each new synthetic analogy to rigorous analysis and testing, rolling it over and over in his mind, checking it obsessively for internal consistency as well as its matchup to reality, tearing it to pieces on paper, or during interminable phone calls at two in the morning, or, in the case of the analogy between thermodynamics and tactics — inside a computer.
Boyd hypothesized that a fighter's performance at any
combination of altitude and airspeed could be expressed as the sum of its
potential and kinetic energies and its ability to change these energy states by maneuvering. With this idea as a point of departure, he thought he could
describe how well a fighter could perform at any point in its flight envelope.
If the hypothesis were true, the next step would be to compare the performance
of different fighters and determine which one was superior to the other at
each point in the envelope. Establishing such a global standard of comparison
promised two enormous payoffs:
First, he could compare the flying characteristics of
an existing fighter to those of another, say an American F-4 to a Soviet
MiG-17, and thereby identify what tactical regions of the flight envelope
were most advantageous or dangerous to the friendly pilot.
Second, he could evolve a design for a truly superior
fighter by developing a comprehensive tradeoff process that systematically
compared the performance of successive, marginally different designs.
While elegant in its simplicity, and computationally straightforward,
Boyd's energy-maneuverability theory was a gargantuan number-cruncher that
required millions of calculations. The only way to do these calculations was
with a computer, but in the early 1960s computer calculations were slow, computer
time was expensive — and Boyd had no budget. Furthermore, the aeronautical
engineers were not interested in the inspiration of a dumb fighter pilot with
a yukky industrial engineering degree. To make matters even worse, Boyd had
no right to design airplanes — he worked at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida,
where rednecks tested bombs designed by others, whereas the airplane designers
worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio, the home of the
Wright brothers and the mecca for aeronautical engineering. For a man like
Boyd, there was only one thing to do. He concocted a daring plan to steal thousands of hours of computer time by making it appear that the computer was being used for something else.
Much to the dismay of the autocrats at Wright-Pat, the
Mad Major's theory of energy-maneuverability (E-M) turned out to be a stunning
success. It provided a universal language for translating tactics into engineering
specifications and vice versa and revolutionized the way we look at tactics
and design fighter airplanes.
Boyd used it to explain why the modern F-4 Phantom performed
so poorly when fighting obsolete MiG-17s in Vietnam and went on to devise
new tactics for the Phantom — whereupon Air Force pilots began to shoot down
He used it to re-design the F-15, changing it from an
80,000-pound, swing-wing, sluggish behemoth, to a 40,000-pound fixed-wing,
high-performance, maneuvering fighter. His crowning glory was his use of the
theory to evolve the lightweight fighters that eventually became the YF-16
and YF-17 prototypes — and then to insist that the winner be chosen in the
competitive market of a free-play flyoff.
The YF-16, which won, is still the most maneuverable fighter ever designed. The production successors, the not-so-lightweight F-16 (Air
Force) and the F/A-18 (the Navy-Marine Corps aircraft that evolved from the
YF-17), together with the F-15, dominate the skies today. Naturally, Boyd believed they could have been much better war machines if the bureaucrats had not corrupted their thoroughbred design with so many bells and whistles.
Nevertheless, more than any other single person, the Mad Major is responsible
for our nation's unsurpassed air superiority, which began in the mid-1970s
and continues to this day.
Boyd received the accolades, if not the acceptance, of
the aeronautical engineering aristocracy for his pioneering work, and the
thanks of the combat pilots who now understood how to fight an F-4 against
the more maneuverable MiGs.
The Air Force, being the Air Force, tried to court-martial Boyd for stealing the computer time but it could not come up with the evidence; in the end, investigators found only four hours of stolen time. When confronted, the Mad Major blew cigar smoke in the chief inspector's face and explained calmly how he had stolen the rest. He then showed the inspectors a thick file of letters, which documented how his requests for computer time had been refused repeatedly by the bean counters at Eglin and the autocrats at Wright Patterson.
He suggested they call Headquarters, Tactical Air Command, and tell the Commanding
General that Boyd was about to be hosed for uncovering better combat tactics.
The inspectors, being inspectors, sensed a debacle and
retreated. The bureaucracy, being a bureaucracy, said it had always liked
Energy-Maneuverability and awarded Boyd a scientific achievement award and
the Legion of Merit.
The Ghetto Colonel
All this was the stuff of legend in 1973 when I met Boyd,
who was living modestly with Mary the Saint and their five children in a run-down
apartment complex in Northern Virginia. He was well into his third mutation:
the Ghetto Colonel. Like Immanuel Kant, he was an austere man of intense rectitude, whose life had become devoted to the study of science, philosophy, and the humanities in a small room. Like Kant, Boyd was obsessed with understanding how the mind creates knowledge, or in modern parlance, how it creates theoretical models of the real world — how new observations make existing theories obsolete, and how the mind replaces old theories with new theories in a never-ending cycle of destruction and creation.
To this end, he devoured books on physics, mathematics, logic, information theory, evolutionary biology, genetics, cognitive psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, political science, economics. Between 1973 and 1976, he poured his intellectual energy into producing a 16-page double-spaced, type-written paper describing his theory. Entitled "Destruction and Creation," this abstract treatise describes how a dialectical interplay of analysis and synthesis destroys and creates our mental images of the external world. It describes what pressures drive this mental process, and how internal phenomena naturally regulate it in a never-ending dialectic cycle, which takes on the outward manifestations of disorder turning into order, and order turning into disorder.
At the heart of Boyd's theory of knowledge was a natural
regulation mechanism that he discovered by unifying for the first time certain
aspects of the Incompleteness Theorem of Mathematics and Logic discovered
by Kurt Godel, an Austrian mathematician; physicist Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty
Principle; and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Typically, he did not even try to publish his paper, although he did vet it through many distinguished scientists and mathematicians — none of whom was able to poke any holes in it.
"Destruction and Creation" became the intellectual foundation
of his monumental study of competition and conflict — although at the time,
he had no idea where his philosophical musings might take him.
Looking back at those four years between 1973 and 1976,
I now understand that they were a period of intellectual refueling for the
next campaign in Boyd's war against a bureaucratic establishment that had
lost sight of its goal. For unlike Immanuel Kant, Boyd worked in the Pentagon, a moral sewer dedicated to using other people's money to feed the predators in the Hobbsean jungle known as the military-industrial-congressional complex.
Viewed from this perspective, the Ghetto Colonel's lifestyle
was much more than an aesthetic philosopher's quirk. It was a deliberate choice
reflecting that bureaucratic warfare in the Hobbsean jungle had replaced the
aerial dogfight as his first love.
Boyd loved a good skunk fight and he played for keeps — instinctively applying Napoleon's dictum of preparing a circumspect defense before unleashing an audacious attack. He built up his defenses by eschewing careerism and materialism, which left the generals and bureaucrats nothing to work on, no opportunity to gain leverage on him, no bait to tempt him into corruption. The Ghetto Colonel became an impenetrable fortress, a bastion
of moral power in a way that Mohandas Gandhi would have easily understood.
From the perspective of the bureaucracy's authoritarian mentality, however,
the man was certifiably insane; even worse, he was completely out of control.
I once asked him why he lived this way. He got in my face,
the ever-present cigarillo clenched between his teeth, its hot tip popping
up and down a quarter of an inch from my nose, and amidst a gush of suffocating
smoke, he explained: "The most important thing in life is to be free to do things. There are only two ways to insure that freedom — you can be rich or you can you reduce your needs to zero. I will never be rich, so I have chosen to crank down my desires. The bureaucracy cannot take anything from me, because there is nothing to take."
This statement went to the core of a puritanical ethos.
For the Ghetto Colonel, life revolved around a simple choice: To be or to do? He could be somebody, with all the shallow accoutrements of power and small achievements — high rank, a big office in the Pentagon's E-ring, and a big post-retirement job with a defense contractor — or he could do important things and make a real contribution to society. The Ghetto Colonel was more
interested in doing things than in being somebody, so he cranked down his
needs. His choice really was very simple and logical, if somewhat bizarre
and indecipherable to the inhabitants of Sodom on the Potomac.
I resigned from the Air Force in 1975. Boyd retired a
few months later. He stopped smoking cigars, but not before accidentally burning
a hole in a general's tie while using one as a pointer. By 1975, his work
on Energy-Maneuverability, the F-15, and the Lightweight Fighters had made
him the pre-eminent designer on new fighter concepts in America, if not the
world. Most people with his kind of resume would have sold out to industry
for a high six-figure income. The airplane contractors, in particular, wanted
his talents desperately. One even offered me a fat job if I could convince
Boyd to come with me. But the Ghetto Colonel had other things on his mind.
His refueling operation was over, and he was ready for action. He was about
to mutate into "Genghis John," the creator, chief strategist, and spiritual
leader of the Military Reform Movement.
The transformation began quite modestly. After he retired,
his old friend and partner in crime from the E-M days at Eglin, Thomas Christie,
now a senior civilian in the Pentagon, arranged to hire Boyd as a consultant
to the Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate in the Office of the Secretary
of Defense. Housed in a small cubicle of room 2C281, the infamous TacAir shop,
Boyd worked 50-hour weeks, although he would accept payment for only one day per two-week pay period. He wanted to work for free, and the Ghetto-Colonel
lifestyle enabled him to live on his retirement salary, but a minimal stipend
was necessary to keep his security clearance current, and more important,
to give him unfettered access to telephones and Xerox machines, which in the
primitive days before e-mail were the weapons of choice among the small fraternity
of reform guerrillas.
Operating out of this tiny cubicle, a man who held no official position used the force of his intellect and character to become,
in the words of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, an architect of victory
in the War with Iraq. The transformation of the Ghetto Colonel into Genghis
John, however, had its origins in an unrelated anomaly.
The paradoxical results of the flyoff between the YF-16 and YF-17 continued to bother Boyd after he retired. The energy-maneuverability calculations predicted a much closer outcome, with the YF-17 theoretically superior in some portions of the flight envelope. But the pilots were unanimous — the F-16 won hands down. To a man of Boyd's mental discipline, test results in the real world had to be the final authority. So something was missing from his theory, but he did not know what.
He questioned the pilots closely, and with their help, he gradually determined that the decisive advantage of the YF-16 rested in flying characteristics like its "buttonhook" turn. When a YF-16 pilot pulled into an increasingly tight turn, the aircraft lost energy faster than did the YF-17. Normally, this would have been a disadvantage. Since the dawn of
fighter aviation in 1914, power limitations made this kind of energy-dumping
maneuver a desperation tactic. Once the energy was lost, it was difficult,
if not impossible, to regain energy quickly enough to continue the dogfight
if one was facing a competent adversary. But the high thrust-to-weight ratios
of the new fighters changed the tactical nature of energy dumping in a very
The high-powered YF-16 could regain energy very quickly, and although the E-M calculations had led to the high thrust-to-weight designs of the lightweight fighters, the tactical effects of the added power were not fully appreciated during the design stage. During the flyoff, however, the pilots learned by trial and error to take advantage of this power by evolving quick energy-dumping as well as quick energy-pumping tactics. The energy-maneuverability theory could not predict the tactical advantages accruing from such fast-transient maneuvers, and it is a tribute to Boyd's iron discipline and integrity that he uncovered the limitations of the very theory that made him a world-renowned designer.
The discovery of the importance of fast-transient maneuvers,
together with his research and writing of "Destruction and Creation" triggered
the transformation of the Ghetto Colonel into Genghis John. Strangely, the
evolution began with a return to his roots and a new look at F-86 performance
in the Korean War.
American fighter pilots achieved roughly a 10:1 kill ratio
over their North Korean and Chinese adversaries. Nevertheless, it had long
been recognized that the enemy's principal fighter, the MiG-15, could out-turn
and out-climb the F-86 in most parts of the flight envelope. Why had American pilots done so well?
The conventional wisdom was that our advantage lay in
better-trained pilots, a significant and undeniable fact. Boyd was the first
to agree that people always are far more important than hardware in war. He
often said "Machines don't fight wars, people do — and they use their minds."
Nevertheless, his new appreciation of the tactical benefits of fast-transient
maneuvers enabled him to understand how two technical advantages of the F-86
gave the pilot a powerful tactical advantage in a mind-time-space frame of
The first related to visibility. The MiG-15 and F-86 were
roughly the same size (the MiG was slightly smaller) and therefore about equally
visible at a given distance with perhaps a slight edge going to the MiG. The pilot of the F-86, however, had a high-visibility bubble canopy and could see out of the F-86 much better than his counterpart in the MiG, whose head was confined by a more compact, aerodynamically streamlined canopy. So, in terms of one's ability to observe his adversary, the F-86 had a distinct advantage over the MiG.
In addition, the F-86 had a fully-powered hydraulic flight
control system, whereas the MiG had a hydraulically-boosted mechanical system.
An F-86 pilot could move the control stick with one finger, but the greater resistance of the control stick in the MiG meant that its pilot had to exert himself physically every time he turned. This difference in control power enabled the pilot of the F-86 to flip from maneuver to another more easily and quickly than his adversary. Moreover, this advantage grew more important
as a dogfight continued, because the higher workload on the MiG pilot increased
his mental and physical fatigue at an ever-increasing rate.
Putting these two advantages together, Boyd reasoned that a competent pilot in an F-86 could observe more effectively and decide and act more quickly than an equally competent pilot flying a MiG-15. Put simply, an F-86 that was losing the fight — with a MiG about 40 degrees of his tail — could start a turn in one direction, then, as the MiG followed, reverse the turn using the F-86's superior maneuverability. The maneuver might gain the F-86 pilot 10 degrees almost immediately, putting the MiG 50 degrees off. Repeating this maneuver-counter maneuver sequence — often called a scissors — would put the MiG pilot farther and farther out of sequence: relatively quickly, the F-86 pilot would be able to work himself into an advantageous firing position. Add in the decision-making effects of better-trained pilots, and our cumulative advantage in the observation-decision-action cycle permitted the F-86 pilot to operate inside his adversary's mind-time-space frame of reference.
Grasping another of his analogies, Boyd reasoned that the Germans had used their blitzkrieg to penetrate the French mind-time-space frame of reference in 1940. Perhaps his insight applied to ground warfare
as well as air combat. Over the 15 years between 1977 and 1992, Boyd became
obsessed with expanding his insight in to a general theory of competition
and conflict. To this end, he absorbed the writings of great military theorists,
like Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Jomini. He analyzed campaigns of the master
practitioners, like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Belisarius, Frederick the Great,
Napoleon, Grant, Manstein, T. E. Lawrence, Lettow-Vorbeck, Mao, and Giap.
Beginning with the Peleponnesian War, he studied conventional battles and
Boyd did not read books, he devoured them — marking them up, cross-correlating information in the front with information in the back, seeking out contradictions with every turn of the page, gleefully tearing each author's argument to pieces. After only six months, his copy of Clausewitz
looked as if it were 100 years old. He never attempted to publish his work, but assembled all his research into a 13-hour briefing called a "Discourse on Winning and Losing." He gave the briefing to enlisted men and generals,
congressmen, newspaper reporters, scientists, futurists, academics, anyone
who would listen.
He thought that any conflict could be viewed as a duel wherein each adversary observes (O) his opponent's actions, orients (O) himself to the unfolding situation, decides (D) on the most appropriate response or counter-move, then acts (A). The competitor who moves through this OODA-loop cycle the fastest gains an inestimable advantage by disrupting his enemy's ability to respond effectively. He showed in excruciating detail how these cycles create continuous and unpredictable change, and argued that our tactics, strategy, and supporting weapons' technologies should be based on the idea of shaping and adapting to this change — and doing so faster than one's adversary.
While the concept of disrupting an opponent's decision cycle is an old idea in military affairs, Boyd's theory of operating inside an adversary's decision cycle — or OODA loop — and its relationship to conflict is a bold new conception. His strategic aim was to isolate his adversary — physically, mentally, and morally — from his external environment by destroying his view of the world: his orientation. The key to appreciating the power of Boyd's idea is to understand why the orientation function is the door through which a competitor can penetrate his opponent's decision cycle.
Each of us bases our decisions and actions on observations of the outside world that are filtered through mental models that orient us to the opportunities and threats posed by these observations. As Konrad Lonrenz
and others have shown, these mental models, which the philosopher of science
Thomas Kuhn called paradigms, shape and are shaped by the evolving relationship between the individual organism and its external environment.
In conflict, each participant, from the individual soldier trying to survive to the commander trying to shape strategy, must make decisions based on his orientation to reality — his appreciation of the external circumstances which he must act on. Boyd argued that one's orientation to the external world changes and evolves, because it is formed by a continuous interaction between his observations of unfolding external circumstances and his interior orientation processes that make sense of these circumstances. These interior process take two forms activity: analysis (understanding the observations in the context of pre-existing patterns of knowledge) and synthesis (creating new patterns of knowledge when existing patterns do not permit the understanding needed to cope with novel circumstances).
The synthetic side of the dialectic is crucially important to one's orientation, because it is the process by which the individual (or
group) evolves a new world view, if and when one is needed to cope with novel
circumstances. But as Kuhn and others have shown, the synthetic process can be extremely painful, because its nature is to build a new paradigm by destroying the existing one. Boyd strove to use multiple, quick-changing destructive thrusts to isolate his adversary from reality by destroying his existing paradigm, and at the same time, deny his adversary the opportunity to synthesize a new paradigm. The combination of menacing pressure and an inability to cope with external circumstances cause the adversary to experience various combinations of uncertainty, doubt, confusion, self-deception, indecision, fear, panic, discouragement, and despair — which, in turn, overload his capacity to adapt or endure.
John Boyd is dead, but his ideas live on. They are cropping up in books, often without proper citation, in subjects ranging from warfare to economic competition to political strategy. Representative Newt Gingrich
(R-GA) used them to plot the Republican takeover of Congress. Secretary of
Defense Dick Cheney used Boyd's ideas when he overrode the Army's plan and
insisted on the famous left hook into Kuwait. But the Marines have paid the
retired Colonel the highest compliment. They will dedicate a section of their
library at the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia, to a collection
of his unpublished papers and research materials.
His intellectual achievements pale beside the moral example he set. He asked for nothing other than the opportunity to contribute. I saw first hand how he passed up riches and status to make his contribution. He put service to truth and country ahead of everything else. He set an example
of integrity and morality that is rare in a Washington where the Lincoln bedroom
is for sale, the Speaker of the House flunks the ethics test, and the special
interests of the defense contractors carry more weight that the needs of our
soldiers and the rights of taxpayers — which is why men as different as General
Charles Krulak, James Fallows, Colonel David Hackworth, and Senator Charles
Grassley went out of their way to page homage to a great man's passing.
John Boyd always said the choice facing us all is "To Be or To Do." Paradoxically, Genghis John did things — and still ended up being somebody.
Colonel Boyd is survived by his wife, five children, two
grandchildren, and — much to the chagrin of the card-carrying members of the
military-industrial-congressional complex — a growing number of disciples
who are carrying forward his good work.
Franklin Spinney, a former Air Force officer, has worked
in the Office of the Secretary of Defense since 1977. He worked closely with Colonel Boyd for more than 23 years.
Copyright U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD