I am a doctoral candidate in history at Temple University. My research focus is on the military and diplomatic history of the Cold War, and I am particularly interested in the Federal Republic of Germany’s unique path from quasi-independent pariah state to assuming a leadership role among the nations of Western Europe. I am currently serving as a J. William Fulbright scholar at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, where I am conducting dissertation research at the Bundesarchiv Militärarchiv in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany.
My dissertation research examines the long-term impact of the scandal-ridden F-104G Starfighter in service with the Federal Republic of Germany’s Luftwaffe. While the overt military dimensions of the Starfighter’s acquisition play an important part of my analysis, I am largely employing the aircraft as an analytical lens to examine its impact on the trajectory of Bonn’s security diplomacy and economic policy-making between 1958-1980. Diplomatically, the Starfighter was envisioned by the Federal Republic’s Defense Ministry as a means through which it could both strengthen ties with the United States, while ascending to a place of normalized leadership within NATO by playing a key role in the NATO-Starfighter Management Office. The Starfighter would eventually be adopted by nine European air forces: Belgium, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Turkey as well as the United States and Canada. This dovetailed with its economic ambitions for the program, as the Federal Republic purchased the exclusive right to issue sub-production licenses within Europe, rendering it the de facto head of the European Starfighter consortium and the nexus of its unified logistics and training programs. Further, the Starfighter was envisioned as the means by which the West German aerospace sector could achieve the technical expertise and facilities to design and mass-produce advanced aircraft of its own. These twinned objectives would eventually come to fruition with the successful development of the multinational “Multi-Role Combat Aircraft” program that resulted in the founding of Panavia Aircraft GmbH and the Tornado family of combat aircraft.
However, the Starfighter’s advanced nature proved to be a double-edged sword for the Luftwaffe, as its technical sophistication laid bare glaring logistical, training, and doctrinal deficiencies in the immature service. This led to over 100 pilots losing their lives in training accidents, which caused a public backlash against the West German government (particularly the ruling Christian Democratic Party) and triggered open scrutiny of the Federal Republic’s relationship with the United States and American defense companies like Lockheed. The inability of the Luftwaffe’s leadership to cope with the difficulties of operating the Starfighter in real-time would only be remediated with their replacement by General Johannes Steinhoff, who in 1966 ordered the fleet grounded so that solutions to the cumulative problems could be enacted without the added pressure of maintaining operational readiness. This traumatic experience with the Starfighter forced the Luftwaffe to embark on fundamental reforms that forged it into a more cohesive and professional force for the remainder of the Cold War.
I previously earned my MA in international security and diplomacy from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. I earned my B.A. from the Ohio State University with a double-major in history and German. As a longtime student of both history and international relations, I am perpetually intrigued by the interconnections, political, military, economic, or otherwise, that bind the world together. One of my major professional goals is to strike a balance between these two disciplines and develop a more assertive historical perspective into the analysis of contemporary events and international affairs.