Dr. David MacIsaac (USAF Lt. Col., Ret.) died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Montgomery, Alabama, on 25 March 2014 after a long career devoted to teaching - and inspiring - current and future Air Force officers.
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In four tours teaching history at the Air Force Academy during the 1960s and 70s, he challenged the thoughts of future officers with his dynamic seminars and lectures; from 1979-1981 when he served at Air University's Maxwell AFB as Chief of Military History at the Air War College, and from 1982 through 1991 when he was a dominant figure at Maxwell's Air Power Research Institute, he tested the thoughts of a generation of Air Force leaders.
During that almost thirty-year span as an educator, he also produced an array of writing that remains among the best works ever analyzing Air Force history and military theory. Those works include his masterful examination of America's World War II's strategic bombing survey: Strategic Bombing in World War II: The Story of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (Garland Press, 1976), accompanied by his adroit editing of the massive survey into ten volumes, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Selected Reports (Garland Press, 1976). He further summarized the development of the first five decades of air power theory in his essay, "Voices from the Central Blue: The Air Power Theorists," in the classic work, Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, edited by Peter Paret and published by Princeton University Press in 1986. Yet he perhaps best displayed his remarkable analytical talents in his 1979 Air University Review essay, "Master at Arms: Clausewitz in Full View," a dissection of the 1976 Michael Howard and Peter Paret translation of Carl von Clausewitz's magnum opus, On War. In his essay, MacIsaac not only provided an insightful critique of the now-standard edition of Clausewitz's great work, but he also summarized the Prussian's masterpiece in a single page-a synopsis that still presented to war college students today as an exceptional example of succinct summation.
Such ability, often demonstrated in the classroom, made MacIsaac an iconic figure to his colleagues and students both at the Air Force Academy and at Air University. He was a product of Trinity College's Air Force ROTC program in 1957, graduating as a Distinguished Military Graduate with a degree in history, which he supplemented with a master's in history from Yale University in 1958. In 1970, he graduated with a PhD in history from Duke University, and soon afterward deployed for service in Vietnam from January-December 1971.
He returned to the Air Force Academy's history department, and taught as a Visiting Professor at the Naval War College from 1975-1976. He then returned to the Air Force Academy, departing as Tenure Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of History in 1978 to secure a position as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Washington, DC, from 1978-1979.
He is survived by wife of 55 years, Charlotte, of Montgomery, Alabama; his daughter, Donna (MacIsaac) Clodfelter and her husband, Mark Clodfelter, of Alexandria, Virginia; his son, Paul MacIsaac, of Montgomery, Alabama; his daughter, Pamela MacIsaac, of Montgomery, Alabama; and his son, Patrick Roger MacIsaac of Birmingham, Alabama; and his grandson, Ian MacIsaac, who recently graduated Magna Cum Laud from Auburn University; his brother, John MacIsaac and his wife Donna of Columbia, Maryland; his sister, Ann (MacIsaac) and her husband, Walter Manwaring, of Ashland, New Hampshire. In addition, he is survived by the multitude of cadets and officers that he held sway over at the Academy and at Maxwell, individuals in whom he took a personal interest to assure that they were the best equipped intellectually to contribute to the service that he loved, and to which he had devoted his career. As such, his legacy will endure many long years beyond his time spent in the classroom, and the Air Force will continue to benefit from his efforts.
In a ceremony at The Memorial Pavilion on Friday, 20 June 2014, his ashes will be placed in the columbarium at the Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
His family request that individuals desiring to make donations in his name do so to the Military Heroes Fund of the PenFed Foundation or a
Published in The Gazette on June 19, 2014