MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — Six years ago it seemed a zany idea when Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson , 45, a bespectacled Minnesota native with an outsized gee-whiz quality even by military standards, began a rather unusual hobby: documenting a century of US air power — bomb by bomb.
Robertson asked: “What if you had the detailed data on when and where every bomb was dropped from an airplane in combat? What would you know?”
He worked nights and weekends finding out. Robertson unearthed 1,000 original World War I raid reports, and entered each by hand. For World War II, he scanned roughly 10,000 hand-written or typed pages. More modern conflicts meant combing a hodgepodge of conflict-specific databases.
The result: a compilation that, at the click of a mouse and a few keystrokes, reveals for the first time the sheer magnitude of destruction inflicted by the US and its allies from the air in the last century.
One of the things that this database may do is help us to limit the potential damage of heretofore undiscovered unexploded ordinance. From 1965 to 1975, the United States dropped almost a half million cluster bomblets on Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to Laos and Cambodia. The United States Department of State Office of Weapons removal and Abatement has spent billions trying to clean this mess up.
The project is called THOR or Theater History of Operations Reports, and the database will be massive.