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B-52 Stratofortress: The Complete History of the World’s Longest Serving and Best Known Bomber  by Bill Yenne, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2012, $40

 We were overdue for an updated history of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. This is it. If you’re a buff of the BUFF—the “big ugly fat fellow,” as crews call the B-52 when speaking politely—you’ll want this volume. Bill Yenne, a seasoned author on military and aviation topics, gives us a high-quality, profusely illustrated account of the design, development, modification and operational and combat use of the B-52. He begins with nascent engineering efforts in the 1940s and takes us up through today, when 76 of the 744 Stratofortresses remain in service after more than half a century of full-time duty.

To the extent it can be done, this volume delivers the whole story between two covers. In that respect, it fills a vacuum left when earlier B-52 histories written by reviewers in this magazine—Walter J. Boyne and me—went out of print. The B-52 isn’t going out of service and doesn’t need to. According to squadron commander Lt. Col. David Leedom, each of the BUFFs in the Air Force Reserve’s 93rd Bombardment Squadron has about 17,000 hours on its airframe; some of the reservists at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., also pilot airliners that have routinely accumulated 60,000 hours.

Yenne’s narrative covers Cold War nuclear alerts, bombing missions in Vietnam, specialized duties such as carrying the X-15 rocket plane aloft and of course bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s an excellent selection of mostly color photographs, cutaway drawings, diagrams and tables. Appendices give us a full roster of B-52 squadrons, variants and serial numbers, making this a handy reference to have on your shelf.


Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.