Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Robert Williams


009 Dulles Hall
230 Annie and John Glenn Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

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Areas of Expertise

  • Military History
  • American History; US History since 1877
  • Diplomatic History
  • Human Conflict, Peace, and Diplomacy


  • PhD, History, Ohio State University, 2023
  • MA, History, Ohio State University, 2020
  • BA, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018

Rob Williams is a historian of 20th century military history at The Ohio State University. His research focuses on the relationship between organizational culture, operational behavior, and institutional change in military institutions throughout history.  

He defended his dissertation, “The Airborne Mafia: Organizational Culture and Institutional Change in the U.S. Army, 1940–1965,” in February 2023. His work analyzes the creation and transmission of one subculture to the larger Army bureaucracy, and its impacts on Cold War institutional development. Rob argues that a maverick group of World War II airborne officers cemented a unique set of values, beliefs, and norms and that as these officers ascended to the highest ranks of the army, they transmitted this culture throughout the army in four major ways—strategic formulation, preparation for perceived atomic combat, helicopter airmobility, and strategic response forces. This research demonstrates the capacity for a tactical subculture to have an enormous effect on its parent organization as well as national strategic strategic policy during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. To do so he analyze the efforts of Generals Matthew Ridgway, Maxwell Taylor, James Gavin, and their acolytes. Exploring the development of a distinctive airborne mindset through the lens of organizational culture, "The Airborne Mafia" shows that this tactical-level subculture thrust its leaders to prominence and undergirded significant strategic, tactical, and cultural changes during the Cold War that have an important legacy to this day.

Rob earned a BA in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018, and an MA and PhD in history from The Ohio State University in 2020 and 2023 respectively.

Selected Publications


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