Strategy for Defeat

Strategy for Defeat : The Luftwaffe 1933-1945

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As with all military thought, a wide variety of political, historical, and economic factors guided the development of air doctrines in the period between the First and Second World Wars. Yet standing above all other influences was a revulsion against the mud and despair of the trenches. Thus, it is not surprising that an Italian senior officer, Giulio Douhet, would argue that airpower could prevent the repetition of a war that had cost Italy more than 400,000 dead. In terms of the first formulations of air doctrine, Douhet's thought did not prove particularly influential. In Britain, the development of doctrine, both within and outside of the Royal Air Force (RAF), already was well advanced by the end of the First World War. Douhet may have exercised more influence on American doctrine, since various translated extracts of his work found their way into the library and schools of the American Air Service as early as 1922. But the formulation of a precision bombing doctrine in the United States raises the question of how deeply his writings influenced early Army Air Corps pioneers. Yet, Douhet's theories are symptomatic of intellectual attitudes current among military and civilian thinkers in the post-World War I era. They are, therefore, a useful point of departure. Douhet's central, single-minded argument was that the decisive mission for an air force was "strategic" bombing. All other missions would only detract from this role and thus were considered counterproductive and a misuse of air resources. Douhet excluded the possibility of air defense, denied fighter aircraft a place in future air forces, and argued that close air support and interdiction were an irrelevant waste of aircraft. The only role for the air force of the future would be that of "strategic" bombing. Douhet further reasoned that the more heavily armed bomber would always prove superior to the fighter in air-to-air combat. Underlying Douhet's arguments was a belief that bombardment of an enemy's population centers would shatter his morale and lead directly to the collapse of his war effort. Such an attitude underlay most airpower theories between the wars and reflected a fundamental disbelief in the staying power of civilian societies. Douhet's approach represented the hope that airpower and "strategic" bombing would enable international conflict to return to an era of short, decisive wars and thus would allow Europe to escape the mass slaughter of the last war. However, nowhere in Douhet's writing is there a sense of the technological and industrial underpinnings necessary for air war. This may subconsciously reflect the circumstance that Italy possessed none of the resources, expertise, or industrial requirements for such a war. It is worth noting, however, that most other theorists of the period were similarly reluctant to recognize the technological and industrial complexities of their subject. In retrospect, what makes the present-day conventional wisdom that Douhet was the prophet of airpower so surprising is the fact that his theory denigrated all the major missions of modern air forces except "strategic" bombing. Douhet dismissed air defense, tactical air, airlift, reconnaissance, and air superiority as immaterial. Not surprisingly, he also argued that airpower eliminated the requirement for armies and navies; consequently, there was no need for interservice cooperation.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 215.9 x 279.4 x 22.1mm | 1,093.15g
  • Createspace
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 151480316X
  • 9781514803165

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