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The Proceedings of the 

8th MiUtary History Symposium 

United States Air Force Academy 

18-20 October 1978 

Edited by 

Alfred F. Hurley, Colonel, USAF 

Robert C. Ehrhart, Major, USAF 

Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF 


United States Air Force Academy 

Washington: 1979 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Military History Symposium (U.S.), 8th, United States 
Air Force Academy, 1978. 
Air power and warfare. 

Includes index. 

1. Air power — History — Congresses. 2. Air warfare — History — 
Congresses. I. Hurley, Alfred F. II. Ehrhart, Robert C. III. Title. 
UG623.M54 1978 358.4'009 79-9330 


The co-sponsor of this symposium series, the Department of History 
at the U.S. Air Force Academy, has had a special commitment since its 
inception in 1954 to the teaching of the history of air power. For many 
years, however, the very limited amount of scholarly work in this field 
has hampered the effective teaching of the subject at the Academy and 
elsewhere and stymied proposals to present a symposium on the topic. 
Then, as the 75th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight approached, 
scholarly efforts began to increase. Enough American and foreign schol- 
ars, both civilian and military, and some of the surviving shapers of the 
history of air power could now be brought together at least, as a minimum, 
to assess what has been done and to stimulate new work. In the event, 
the contributors to this volume have gone well beyond the minimum by 
providing herein a collection of essays, commentaries, and reminiscences 
that should enhance both the teaching and the public understanding of 
the record and potential of air power. Furthermore, future researchers 
and writers will appreciate the conscientious work of scholarly commen- 
tators who responded especially well to the invitation to identify the work 
yet to be done. 

The symposium committee structured this event so as to deal with 
the topic within as broad a framework as a two-day meeting would permit. 
Thus, the sweep of the papers extends chronologically from a study of 
British views on air power even before 1903 through a major pioneer's 
perceptions of the future role of air power in the defense of the United 
States and its allies. Geographically, the participants on the program 
addressed the air power record on three continents, specifically dealing 
with the experiences of six nations. 

To make the most of the available time, the planners began the 
symposium with an evening lecture and experimented with simultaneous 
sessions during the next two days. While there was the inevitable dis- 
appointment among our more than 250 attendees from outside the Acad- 
emy, as well as among the members of the Academy community, at not 
being able to hear each of the speakers, the editors believe that these 
published proceedings will justify the experiment. In addition, they 
sought to round out these proceedings by inviting comments from indi- 
viduals not on the program about topics a volume such as this should at 
least mention. 

Summaries of the material in each session appear in the introductions 
thereto, but certain ideas appear often enough in the sessions to serve 
as themes for this volume. 


First, the reader will be regularly reminded of the importance of the 
"human element" in air power. That element's significance appears not 
only in the papers dealing with the employment of air power, but also 
those on the development of doctrine, technological change, and the 
proper organization of air forces. Both the keynote speaker and the final 
commentator noted that man's central role in air power demands special 
attention from future historians so as to counter the perception of the 
public that the once glamorous heroes of air warfare have been over- 
shadowed by technology. 

A second theme, not unrelated to the first, is the intricate relation- 
ship among technology, doctrine, and the successful employment of air- 
power. The failure to appreciate this relationship, for example, helps to 
explain the defeat of the Luftwaffe and the Japanese air forces in World 
War II and, closer to home, may have led the United States Air Force 
into some questionable weapons choices in the period since World War 
II. Here the first theme appears again since human choices drive the 
results in matters of technology, doctrine, and employment of air power. 

The role of human choices helps to explain the third theme in this 
volume: the unity of the human experience with air power. That unity 
appears most clearly in the papers on the European and American ex- 
periences before World War II and those on Germany, Japan, and Russia 
during the war itself. 

A final theme, actually a combination of related ideas, occurred to 
the editors as they prepared these proceedings. One idea is the realiza- 
tion — familiar to historians but perhaps not to every reader — that the 
historical study of air power is most useful when examined within the 
overall context of time, place, and circumstances. Moreover, an accurate 
understanding of the air power record is more than a hobby; it is a subject 
vital to the future of this nation. Little imagination is required to recognize 
that the contents of this volume repeatedly touch on very current issues. 
At the same time, one must be wary of the trap of calling upon history 
to provide easily digestible "lessons." The reader can expect that this 
volume will support the proposition recently advanced by Professor Philip 
Crowl in a Harmon Lecture that, at least, "the study of history will help 
us to ask the right questions so that we can define the problem — whatever 
it is.'" 

The Military History Symposium series began in 1967 as an annual 
event sponsored by the USAF Academy and the Association of Grad- 

' Philip A Crowl, The Strategist's Short Catechism: Six Questions Without Answers, 
Twentieth Harmon Memorial Lecture (U.S.A.F. Academy, CO, 1978). 


uates. Since 1970, the symposia have been held biennially. The purpose 
of the series is to provide a forum for scholars in military history and 
related fields, thereby promoting an exchange of ideas and information 
between scholars and military professionals, and another link between 
thought and application in military affairs. 

The USAF Academy and the Association of Graduates are indebted 
to the participants whose individual and collective efforts made the Eighth 
Military History Symposium possible. In addition to the participants, a 
number of other individuals and organizations were essential to the suc- 
cess of the symposium. The Superintendent of the Academy, Lieutenant 
General K. L. Tallman, and the Dean, Brigadier General William A. 
Orth, were steadfast in their support of the Symposium Steering Com- 
mittee which was responsible for conceiving, planning and carrying out 
the program. The committee, chaired by Colonel Alfred F. Hurley, began 
plans and preparations for the symposium more than two years before 
the first session began. Administrative and logistical details were the 
responsibility of the Executive Director of the symposium. Major John 
F. Shiner, who made a very difficult job appear easy. Assisting Major 
Shiner, and the editors of these Proceedings was a secretarial staff of 
Carol Meredith, Judi Tobias, Yo Sneddon, Linda Milburn, and Deborah 
Smalls, whose diligence and wholehearted cooperation contributed 
greatly to the smooth operation of the conference and to the preparation 
of these contents. Acknowledgements would not be complete without 
mention of Mrs. Robert Jones, without whose patience and typing skill 
this volume could not have appeared. 


Current Concepts in Military History. (First Military History Symposium, 
held in May 1967.) Proceedings were not published. 

Command and Commanders in Modern Warfare, 2d, enlarged edition, 
edited by Lt. Col. William Geffen, Washington, GPO, 1971, $1.60, stock 
number 0874-0003. (The Second Military History Symposium, held in 
May 1968.) 

Science, Technology, and Warfare: Proceedings of the Third Military 
History Symposium, 8-9 May 1969, edited by Lt. Col. Monte D. Wright 
and Lawrence J. Paszek, Washington, GPO, 1971, $1.25, stock number 

Soldiers and Statesmen: Proceedings of the Fourth Military History Sym- 
posium, 22-23 October 1970, edited by Lt. Col. Monte D. Wright and 
Lawrence J. Paszek, Washington, GPO, 1973, $1.60, stock number 0870- 

The Military and Society: Proceedings of the Fifth Military History Sym- 
posium, 5-6 October, 1972, edited by Major David Maclsaac, Washing- 
ton, GPO, 1975, $1.90, stock number 008-070-00367-8. 

Military History of the American Revolution: Proceedings of the Sixth 
Military History Symposium, 10-11 October 1974, edited by Major Stan- 
ley J. Underdal, Washington, GPO, 1976, $2.70, stock number 008-070- 

The American Military on the Frontier: Proceedings of the Sixth Military 
History Symposium, 30 September-1 October 1976, edited by Major 
James P. Tate, Washington, GPO, 1978, $3.25, stock number 008-070- 

Views or opinions expressed or implied in this publication are those of 
the authors and are not to be construed as carrying official sanction of 
the Department of the Air Force, the Air Force Academy, or the insti- 
tutions with which the contributors are affiliated. 


Advisory Committee 

to the 

Office of Air Force History 

Dr. I. B. Holley, Jr. 
Duke University 

Lt. Gen. Kennth L. Tallman Dr. Henry F. Graff 

Superintendent, USAF Academy Columbia University 

Dr. Joan K. Kinnaird 

Dr. Robert F. Byrnes Trinity College 

Indiana University r\ ca j t tt 

•^ Dr. Edward L. Homze 

University of Nebraska 
Lt. Gen. Albert P. Clark Or. Forrest C. Pogue 

USAF (ret.) Director, Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Institute for Historical Research 

Lt. Gen. Raymond B. Furlong Mr. Stuart R. Reichart 
Commander, Air University General Counsel, USAF 

Office of Air Force History 

Chief— Maj. Gen. John W. Huston 

Chief Historian — Dr. Stanley L. Falk 
Deputy Chief Historian — Max Rosenberg 
Chief, Histories Division — Carl Berger 
Senior Editor — Lawrence J. Paszek 

The Military History Symposium is sponsored jointly by the Department 
of History and the Association of Graduates, United States Air Force 

1978 Military History Symposium Steering Committee: 

Colonel Alfred F. Hurley, Chairman 
Colonel Philip D. Caine 
Lieutenant Colonel David Maclsaac 
Major John F. Shiner, Executive Director 

Major James F. Wheeler, Executive Secretary, Association of Grad- 




It is a special pleasure for me to open the proceedings of the Eighth 
Military History Symposium and to welcome to the Academy such a 
distinguished group of scholars, students, and participants in military 

Since the first symposium was held in 1967, the Department of 
History and the Association of Graduates have hosted these meetings 
for principally three reasons: First, to provide a forum for the presen- 
tation of original research in the field of military history; second, to 
contribute to the published body of this research by the preparation of 
edited proceedings; and third, to stimulate among our cadets a profes- 
sional interest in military history. I am confident, in looking around at 
this particular group, that no one here tonight will dispute the proposition 
that only through an understanding of the origins of the military profes- 
sion can we properly understand its nature and, with this understanding, 
best operate in the future. 

The topic for this symposium, "Air Power and Warfare," seems 
especially appropriate and timely since this year, of course, marks the 
75th anniversary of powered flight. During those seventy-five years air 
power has played an ever-expanding role in warfare. There was a time 
when the visionaries of the air arm preached with some fervor the idea 
that the airplane invalidated the old principles of war. After several wars 
and the integration of air power into the strategies of peace, we can now 
include the visions with the actual experience of air power. 

We are particularly pleased, of course, that the Academy is hosting 
this symposium on this very relevant topic. It was in 1954 that the pres- 
ident of Michigan State University, Dr. John A. Hanna, then serving as 
an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower administration, 
testified before Congress on the bill proposing to establish an air force 
academy. Dr. Hanna confessed in his testimony at that time that he had 
originally believed that civilian colleges and universities could produce 
the necessary officer corps of the new Air Force. After his experience 


at the Pentagon, however, he was persuaded that mihtary academies 
were essential and necessary, and I think you will find that one of his 
reasons for this persuasion is especially pertinent— that an air force acad- 
emy was necessary to indoctrinate its cadets with the "proud, historical 
traditions of American military airmen." 

Air power history, therefore, has always had a major role in the 
curriculum of the Academy. And we are very much aware from our 
teaching that much remains to be done in the research, analysis, and 
interpretation of air power history before we can truly say that we have 
helped to capture those traditions for our cadets. 

So we look to this symposium to help us accomplish that particular 
assignment. This symposium is also unique in our series of symposia 
because so much of it deals with events still within the memory of living 
men and women. We have with us men who flew in World War I and 
others who shared in the great struggles of World War II, Korea, and 
Vietnam; and during the next two days we can speak with men who knew 
Billy Mitchell, Air Marshall Trenchard, and "Hap" Arnold, with those 
who flew to Schweinfurt, Tokyo, Mig Alley, and Hanoi. I know we will 
benefit from the chance to hear from the participants as we debate and 
discuss — hopefully in a friendly manner— the events of the past. 

By joining the two realms of experience and analysis and bringing 
together two professions — history and the arms — I believe that this sym- 
posium will prove especially worthwhile to both the student of and the 
participant in military events. 

I trust that all of you will enjoy yourselves during the meeting, that 
you'll have a chance, and take advantage of the chance, to meet and talk 
with our young cadets, and that you'll return again and again. 


Preface jj j 

Opening Remarks, K. L. Tallman ix 

I. The State of Air Power History 1 

"The Influence of Air Power Upon Historians," Noel 
Parrish 3 

II. Air Power and Warfare, 1903-1941 21 

"The British Dimension," R. A. Mason 22 

"The Continental Experience," Edward Homze 36 

Commentary, Charles H. Gibbs-Smith 50 

"The American Dimension," Eugene M. Emme 56 

III. World War II in the Air: Different National Experiences 83 

"The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Air 

Forces," Alvin D. Coox 84 

"Soviet Air Power in World War II," Kenneth R. 

Whiting 9g 

"Higher Command and Leadership in the German 

Luftwaffe, 1935-1945," Horst Boog 128 

Commentary, Alfred Goldberg 159 

An Added Comment: "Ultra and the Air War in 

Europe and Africa," Harold Deutsch 165 

IV. World War II: American Air Leadership 167 

"The Wartime Leadership of 'Hap' Arnold," John W. 

Huston 168 

"The Perceptions of Three Makers of Air Power 

History" 186 

Curtis E. LeMay 
O. P. Weyland 
WiUiam I. Martin 

Discussion I97 

Commentary, Forrest Pogue 202 

V. The Search for Maturity in American Postwar Air 

Doctrine and Organization, 1945-1953 211 

Introductory Remarks, Ernest R. May 213 


"The Emergence of the Postwar Strategic Air Force, 

1945-1953," John T. Greenwood 215 

"American Postwar Air Doctrine and Organization: The 

Navy Experience," David A. Rosenberg 245 

Additional Observations, John Greenwood and David 

Rosenberg 279 

Commentary, David Maclsaac 283 

Added Comments: Marine and Army Air Power in the 

Postwar Years 290 

"A Marine's Perspective," J. E. Greenwood 290 

"The Emergence of Postwar Army Aviation," 

Robert L. WilUams 291 

"Army Aviation, A Short BibUography," James L. 

CoUins 297 

VI. Air Power Limits in Limited War, 1947-1978 299 

"From the Berlin Airiift to Vietnam and Beyond: A 

Participant's View," T. R. Milton 300 

"Air Power in Southeast Asia: A Tentative 

Appraisal," Ray L. Bowers 309 

Commentary, Edward G. Lansdale 33O 

Discussion 333 

An Added Comment: "Vietnam: The Perspective of a 

Former Vice-Director of the Joint Staff," John B. 

McPherson 33-7 

VII. A Major Pioneer Looks at Air Power 345 

Introduction, K. L. Tallman 346 

"Some Observations on Air Power," Ira C. Eaker 348 

VIII. Insights into Technology and Air Warfare: Past, Present, 

Future 36i 

"The Impact of War Upon Aeronautical Progress: The 

Experience of the NACA," Alex Roland 362 

"Technology, Doctrine, and Military Requirements," 

Robert L. Perry 386 

Commentary by a Scholar, I. B. Holley, Jr 402 

Commentary by a Serving Airman, Bryce Poe II 410 

IX. The Eighth Military History Symposium in Perspective .... 419 

Closing Commentary, Theodore Ropp 420 

Participants 423 

Index 437 





A Harmon Memorial Lecture served as the keynote address for this symposium. The 
series of which this Harmon Lecture is a part began in 1959, in honor of the late Lieutenant 
General Hubert R. Harmon, first Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy. 
Each year, a committee of internationally known historians and LSAF Academy represen- 
tatives invites an outstanding military historian or a scholar from a closely allied field to 
present an original lecture on a subject within the field of military history. The previous 
twenty lecturers and their topics are listed on the reverse side of this page. 

The Twenty-First Harmon Lecturer, Brigadier General Noel F. Parrish, USAF (Ret), 
typified the kind of individual uniquely available for this symposium. General Parrish is a 
first-hand source on the evolution of air power, through his career as a pilot, commander, 
and high-level staff officer. After his retirement from military service, he took a Ph.D. in 
military history and went on to another career as a university professor and perceptive 
analyst of defense policy. 

This unusual background gave a distinctive flavor to the keynote address. General 
Parrish could show with considerable credibility the pertinence to national policy of the 
widely acknowledged shortcomings in the historical record of air power. The continuing 
evolution of air power is burdened, he argued, by myths that had destroyed its original 
appeal as a method of reducing casualties in warfare and that now made the use of air power 
seem to be the epitome of inhumane and impersonal action. He blamed the prevalence of 
those myths, in part, on historians themselves, as well as on factors such as a deleterious 
climate within the United States government that inhibits the full and public examination of 
national defense matters and prevents official historians from addressing "serious and ti- 
mely" issues. After assigning top priority to the writing of biographies as a way to restore 
the human dimension to the story of air power, he closed with words that left no doubt as 
to the shortcomings in the field of air power history and the potential significance of the 
symposium itself: "Despite the commendable efforts of many, our traditions and the memories 
that made them have been neglected, our costly lessons from the recent past are in danger 
of being forgotten before they are really learned. That is why we are here." 


I. Why Military History, by W. Frank Craven, 1959 
H. The Military Leadership of the North and the South, by T. Harry 
Williams, 1960 

III. Pacific Command, by Louis Morton, 1961 

IV. Operation Pointblank, by William R. Emerson, 1962 

V. John J. Pershing and the Anatomy of Leadership, by Frank E. 

Vandiver, 1963 
VI. Mr. Roosevelt's Three Wars: FDR as War Leader, by Maurice 

Matloff, 1964 
VII. Problems of Coalition Warfare: The Military Alliance against 

Napoleon, by Gordon A. Craig, 1965 
VIII. Innovation and Reform in Warfare, by Peter Paret, 1966 
IX. Strategy and Policy in Twentieth-Century Warfare, by Michael 

Howard, 1967 
X. George C. Marshall: Global Commander, by Forrest C. Poeue 

XI. The War of Ideas: The United States Navy, 1870-1890, by Elting 

E. Morison, 1969 
XII. The Historical Development of Contemporary Strategy, by Theo- 
dore Ropp, 1970 

XIII. The Military in the Service of the State, by General Sir John 
Winthrop Hackett, G.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., 1971 

XIV. The Many Faces of George S. Patton, Jr., by Martin Blumenson 

XV. The End of Militarism, by Russell F. Weigley, 1973 
XVI. An Enduring Challenge: The Problem of Air Force Doctrine, by 

I. B. HoUey, Jr., 1974 
XVII. The American Revolution Today, by John W. Shy, 1975 
XVIII. The Young Officer in the Old Army, by Edward M. Coffman, 
XIX. The Contribution of the Frontier to the American Military Tra- 
dition, by Robert M. Utley, 1977 
XX. The Strategist's Short Catechism: Six Questions Without Answers, 
by Philip A. Crowl, 1978 



Friends, seniors, juniors, countrypersons from near and far, we come 
here not to praise the history of air power, nor yet to bury it, but rather 
to revive it if we may. We who are about to try salute you innocent but 
entangled spectators. In the arena, tomorrow and after, the lions will 
appear: the great lionized leaders and writers of air power who represent 
its teeth and its roar. As your speaker tonight, I represent the rest of us, 
the anonymous Christians who furnish the meat of the spectacle. 

Even among Christians there must be an opening gun, a little gun, 
firing blanks. So, as Horatio said to Daniel at Saratoga, "Let us begin 
the game." At this point ahead of time I announce a footnote, hoping 
to create at the outset a scholarly and professional illusion. ' Further 
footnotes will be provided later for any who read. 

This lightweight prelude has been presented so that veterans of open 
cockpit aircraft, and recent victims of hard rock music, may carefully 
adjust their hearing aids for what is to come. Please be assured, and 
warned, that within half an hour this discourse will become as heavy and 
as tragic as any you have ever heard. 

I beg your further indulgence to reminisce for a moment. Some of 
you may recall another gathering of historians here just eight years ago. 
It was my privilege then to comment on a fine paper entitled "John Foster 
Dulles: The Moralist Armed." My simple comment was that a moralist 
should, by all means, be armed. This followed Sir John Hackett's splendid 
lecture to the effect that a leader in arms should, above all others, be 
moral. ^ I hope that my minor comments established a precedent for 
harmony and simplicity. 

Our purpose in meeting here, as I understand it, is to enjoy the living 
elements of air power history, to mourn for the missing, the departed, 
and the ill-conceived, and to speculate hopefully on those elements yet 
unborn. Since the influence of air power upon most historians is largely 
negative, I will also discuss the influence of historians on air power which, 
by contrast, is practically non-existent. 

Before we enter into this purgatorial situation, let us adopt, like 
Dante, a classic guide. He could be no other than the great Alfred Thayer 
Mahan, who once ventured into global concepts then unknown and 
emerged in glory. Doubtless you noticed that the title of his classic history 
book resembles the title of our non-book here tonight. Since The Influence 
of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 was translated and published in 
eight other nations and was highly influential in Britain, France, Germany 
and Japan, he is perhaps our best known historian. Global strategists 
admit their debt to him. Yet most American historians, other than the 
small military minority, blame him for America's past expansion and 
strength, which they have happily helped reduce. 

Since Mahan also found American strength in relative decline, he 
is an appropriate companion for our brief journey. Except for his original 
dependence on two great sponsors, Mahan made it almost entirely on 
his own. The two sponsors were Admiral Stephen B. Luce, founder of 
America's first war college, and Theodore Roosevelt. 

Military history, except during and right after wars, is not a subject 
of wide popular appeal in our country. Military historians have seldom 
gained distinction without faithful sponsors and supporters, as you well 
know. Though lucky in some respects, Mahan suffered the wisdom pangs 
of most normal historians. Not only did he suffer with the past, but also 
in the present. The depth of his insight into the past prevented him from 
accepting the shallow pretensions of most political administrations. He 
felt it his duty to say as much, from the very beginning, yet he survived. 
He enjoyed the freedom of military speech that flourished in America 
until the early 1960s, and he took full advantage of it, as we shall see. 

Let us consider, then, the slow but sure influence of sea power upon 
two — yes, two — persistent historians. 

This is their early story. Nearly ninety years ago. Captain Mahan, 
Professor at the Naval War College, urged by his wife, edited and ex- 
panded his War College lectures. Mrs. Mahan bought a secondhand 
typewriter, taught herself to use it, and typed the five hundred and fifty 
pages. No publisher would accept them. 

A "vanity press" offered to publish the book at a cost of two thousand 
dollars. Mahan invited two men of wealth to finance the book and keep 
all returns. Both declined, but J. P. Morgan offered to advance two 
hundred dollars. The Captain, tired of asking, gave up. No so his wife. 
Finally, Little, Brown and Company agreed to take the risk. So great 
was the book's success, though mostly abroad, that Mahan eventually 
wrote nineteen more books and many magazine articles. He had no more 
problems of publication.' 

None of the later books reached the stature of the first. It was Hke 
Herman Kahn and his great book, On Thermonuclear War. A friend 
said: "We should learn from Herman's experience and never put the 
most important things we know all into one book." And yet, a full 
generation after Mahan, Secretary of War Henry Stimson could refer to 
the United States Navy as "a dim religious world in which Neptune was 
God, and Mahan his prophet, and the United States Navy the only true 
Church.'"* So much for the influence of sea power upon two historians. 
Captain and Mrs. Mahan. 

For reasons we have not time to examine here, historians had tra- 
ditionally included, in general history, the history of warfare on land. 
Yet the great general and military historians, even those most admired 
by Mahan — Arnold, Creasy, Mommsen, and Jomini — had tended "to 
slight the bearing of maritime power on events." This was due, said 
Mahan, to their having "neither special interest nor special knowledge" 
concerning the sea. This reasoning is, of course, even more applicable 
to air and space. 

Naval historians, on the other hand, Mahan saw as having "troubled 
themselves little about the connection between general history and their 
own particular topic, limiting themselves generally to the duty of simple 
chroniclers of naval occurrences."^ This is perhaps less true of air power 
historians. We are often accused of limiting our knowledge of other 
histories, but not of limiting our opinions. 

It is surprising that time has changed little since Mahan's observation. 
Recently military historian Peter Paret has commented on the striking 
lack of interpretive synthesis in military history. Military historian Allan 
R. Millett has called for works "that would link the writings of American 
military history to questions of lasting historiographical significance."' 

More important, perhaps, is Millett's opinion that American military 
historians can work in the mainstream of research without "abandoning 
the historian's skepticism about quantification and models of predictable 
behavior." This is very encouraging. Would that military historians could 
spread their distrust of these tricks to our puzzled press, our bewildered 
Congress, and our disarming civilian controllers. 

No history before Mahan's, military, naval or general, had proposed 
to "estimate the effect of sea power upon the course of history and the 
prosperity of nations." Prosperity, in the nineteenth century, and doubt- 
less in the future, often meant survival. Remembering that sea power is 
as old as civilizatioii itself, we must regard this oversight, which Mahan 
rectified, as the most amazing oversight in all the history of history. We 
have now endured but a tiny fraction of so long a delay in convincingly 
relating air power to the fate of nations. Yet our failure to define and 

to apply the lessons of air power history now threatens to bring our 
civilization to an end. Why are we so slow? 

No one but a historian can understand the tardiness of historians. 
Sometimes no historian can understand it. Let us remember that full 
comprehension of the meaning of any period of history requires insight 
into the meaning of life itself. No wonder the honest and modest historian 
may often feel no rush to publish. Ideologues and formula-mongers, on 
the other hand, suffer no such misgivings. The mysteries of historical 
cause and effect are easily resolved for them. They can be prematurely 
and continuously prolific, for they believe they can open every door to 

Mahan had no early illusions as to the depth of his wisdom. When 
he wrote his book, he was almost over-qualified, with thirty-three years 
of naval service and an even longer period of study in European and 
American history. While acknowledging his debt to many historians, he 
gave full credit to Jomini as the inventor of military "science" and of 
certain principles equally appropriate to war at sea. One idea alone 
Mahan claimed as his own: that control of the sea as a factor in history 
should be "systematically appreciated and expounded."'' 

The true secrets of Mahan's success lie in the depth of his thought 
and the persuasive skill of his expounding. It was his ability to make 
naval history an indispensable and sometimes dominant feature of na- 
tional histories that did the trick. Question: How many historians have 
tried to do as much for air power? Who has introduced air power into 
general history? 

The question of decreasing breadth in historical research and writing 
is a serious one. It exists even within the special field of military history, 
where we find experts concentrating on just one war, one service, and 
even one type of weapon. Some have attributed this increasing trend to 
the circumstances of graduate study, government employment, and teach- 
ing duties.* Many of us are aware of these pressures from experience, 
yet there are means of resistance. Biography relates military men to other 
elements of society. Other studies, involving military and race relations, 
civil-military relations, military education, the critical interdependence 
of military and commerical aviation, the military in politics, air power 
as a political issue, and similar subjects, may help penetrate the vast 
domain of general history. 

At a session during the 1977 meeting of the American Historical 
Association, a successful publisher of military magazines explained the 
lure of pictures displaying such renowned weapons carriers as the B-29. 
Two well-bearded young professors rose to challenge the usefulness of 
attracting readers with such objects as B-29s. In the manner of oracles, 

they announced that "history is not history unless it has social signifi- 
cance." It was obvious that they meant political significance. They were 
true believers in the great historical forces conjured up by their chosen 
prophet; they could never see the pilots, the designers, the commanders 
of B-29s, as anything but pawns in an evil charade. 

Is it not strange that the ideologues are as impersonal as the tech- 
nology zealots who see us only as the robot operators of their favorite 

Technology is an indispensable ingredient of military history. Air 
power historians, as well as naval historians, have recognized its impor- 
tance. The Army, forever plagued with manpower problems, is more 
inclined to treat it as a separate subject. As a result, the technology 
portion of the U.S. Army's eighty volume history of World War II is 
seldom used at the Army War College. 

In the words of Benjamin Cooling, it is possible for historians to be 
"captives of technology as well as captives of ignorance about technol- 
ogy.'" Many of us resist the constant implications that technology is our 
master, and we tend to avoid the subject. Knowledge of the trends and 
effects of technology is valuable, but we need not accept the pretense 
that it is some kind of supernatural juggernaut, whose predestined mach- 
inations will destroy us, which is conceivable, or control us forever, which 
is inconceivable. 

Air power historians now face, or refuse to face, a serious problem 
similar to one surprisingly solved by Mahan. A present solution, if one 
is achieved, must necessarily resemble his in some degree. The similarity 
is that we have witnessed the end of complete dependence on wings as 
he had witnessed the end of complete dependence on sail. Steam power 
had been used only sporadically in major wars, as missiles and rockets 
were used in World War II. If we are not to depend entirely on the 
artificial pre-calculations of total human and weapon behavior that most 
historians despise, then we must discover in past experience lessons ap- 
plicable to the changing technology of the future. Mahan went about it 
in a surprising way. 

His first great book began with an honest recognition that "steam- 
ships have as yet made no history which can be quoted as decisive in its 
teaching." He said, "I will not excogitate a system of my own." That 
would be unreliable. So he retreated two hundred years to begin his story 
and closed it in 1783, a full one hundred years before the time of his 
writing. He had determined, as he put it, "To wrest something out of 
the old woodensides and twenty-four pounders that will throw some light 
on the combinations to be used with ironclads, rifled guns and torpe- 

How did he do it? Not by ignoring current technology, for he was 
an ordnance officer. Instead, he bypassed technology into the past rather 
than into the future. His insight was that while the behavior of ships may 
vary, the behavior of people who direct them changes but little. As he 
put it: "Finally, it must be remembered that, among all changes, the 
nature of man remains much the same; the personal equation, though 
uncertain in quantity and quality in the particular instance, is sure always 
to be found."" 

Not even those cool technicians the Wright Brothers were motivated 
entirely by the challenge of experimentation. As our colleague, Charles 
Gibbs-Smith is doubtless aware, they were inspired by the story of the 
first truly scientific martyr to the control of wings. Lilienthal. He, in turn, 
had been inspired to master the air by his reading the story of Count 
Zambeccari, a truly adventurous Italian balloonist. '^ 

Mahan made yet another useful contribution when he showed us 
that the burden of advocacy is not so overpowering when it rests upon 
a broad historical base rather than a narrow one. Mahan wrote of the 
rise and fall of nations over periods of centuries. Yet he introduced a 
new factor. He said: "Writing as a naval officer in full sympathy with his 
profession, the author has not hesitated to digress freely on questions of 
naval policy, strategy and tactics."" 

He did indeed speak his mind without hesitation, and with the 
results that plague all men who do so. Most American naval officers did 
not, at first, agree with him. The British, French, German, and Japanese 
navies accepted his recommendations before his own navy did. He was 
immediately ordered to sea by an admiral who said: "It is not the business 
of a naval officer to write books.""* Another admiral placed several cages 
of canaries near his cabin while at sea and announced that he wanted to 
drown out the scratching of Mahan's pen. '* 

As sometimes happens to historians today, Mahan had much less 
trouble with his civilian controllers. The disturbed admirals had no 
thought of silencing him, but tried, instead, to close his beloved War 
College. Two successive Secretaries of the Navy saved it. This despite 
the fact that, in mid-career, young Commander Mahan had written nu- 
merous letters to influential congressmen and others concerning political 
corruption at the Boston Navy Yard. He recommended "a thorough 
investigation of the Secretary of the Navy," which he predicted would 
result in the Secretary's removal: 

Mahan expressed his views completely and openly, regardless of 
their popularity. Senior officers were not then required to speak only in 
agreement and thus help re-elect each incumbent administration. Theo- 
dore Roosevelt wrote: "It is important for you to write just what you 

think."" Other presidents adopted policies that were strongly criticized 
by Mahan, but they did not deny him the protection of the First Amend- 
ment just because he was a naval officer. Only Woodrow Wilson, in his 
neutralist-pacifist phase, caused any trouble, and that was an aberration. 
The currently touted notion that American tradition silences military 
opinion is, of course, quite false. 

From the beginning, Mahan proposed "to draw from the lessons of 
history inferences applicable to one's own country." It was proper, he 
said, in case of national danger "to call for action on the part of the 
government," and that was what he did. He saw the United States as 
"weak in a confessed unpreparedness for war" and lacking defenses to 
gain time for belated preparation." In less than a generation he was 
proven correct as far as the Army was concerned, but the Navy had 
prepared just in time for the Spanish-American War. 

Three generations later, free speech for military leaders was still the 
American practice. Just before the so-called surprise of the Korean War, 
Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg sounded very much like Ma- 
han. He said bluntly: "I have freedom to speak in one area and that is 
the military point of view, while our secretaries have to take the view of 
both the military and economic area, insofar as they can."'* In a prepared 
public speech just before the Korean War he made a statement which 
is again uncannily appropriate: 

It is always pleasant to be cheerful and reassuring. But I must ask you, as re- 
sponsible citizens, to face some facts from which I can find no escape. I know of 
no military calculations which indicate that the risk we take is decreasing ... to 
speculate upon whether Russia would attack us after building forces capable of 
defeating us is the most fateful speculation in all history ... the time to begin our 
preparation is now." 

Nevertheless, the Truman administration continued to reduce Amer- 
ican military forces until the Korean explosion, but Truman overruled 
Secretary of the Air Force Finletter to keep Vandenberg in office beyond 
the normal four year tour. All this was considered to be the American 
tradition. So was President Eisenhower's forbearance two years later in 
granting Vandenberg complete and uncensored freedom to make public 
attacks on the new Eisenhower force levels for the Air Force. *' 

These events and many others belie the current myth that American 
history justifies gagging its military leaders and its official historians. 
Distortions of history often are used to conceal present truths. The num- 
ber of such distortions concerning air power and its leaders are too nu- 
merous even to mention, yet few corrections have been written. Here 
are a few of the still popular myths: The Douhet Myth, the Bombing of 
Dresden Myth, the Claude Eatherly Myth, the B-36-Was-Useless Myth, 
the Foulois Air Mail Disaster Myth, the Dien Bien Phu Intervention 

Myth, the Bay of Pigs Myth, the Cuban Missile Crisis Myth, the "Li- 
nebacker-II" Losses Myth, the Myth of Superior Historiographical Wis- 
dom in the Higher Grades, and finally the Myth of Ineffective Air Power 
in World War I. 

An especially persistent myth is that of the Air Force's positions on 
the nuclear weapon. Far from being elated at the gift of the atomic bomb, 
Air Force leaders were long reluctant to accept it and even more reluctant 
to depend upon it. General Spaatz, who received the first order to drop 
the bomb, demanded a written order and even asked to be allowed to 
drop it near, rather than on, a city.^' He was overruled by the scientists, 
who wanted a "virgin target," an unbombed city, for testing the effects 
of their bomb." As years passed and military budgets were further re- 
duced, it became apparent that our "shoestring" Air Force would have 
to depend upon our few big bombs. Even then. General Earle Partridge, 
in a letter here in the Academy collection, wrote General Muir Fairchild 
at the War College to ask why only one hour of the curriculum in an 
entire year was devoted to the atomic bomb. 

Earlier, General Arnold had written that he hoped for United Na- 
tions control of the bomb. In any case, he said, "There is historic prec- 
edent for withholding destruction in wars. The case of gas in Europe is 
an example . . . other instances of non-destruction are . . . the open cities 
of Paris and Rome."" 

General Vandenberg, who had to face the question repeatedly, 
stated many times the now traditional Air Force position. Asked whether 
he would bomb a city in retaliation, he said. "No." World War II ex- 
perience had shown him that civilian killing tended to unite the survivors. 
He said, "We do not believe in indiscriminate bombing of cities."^ On 
another occasion he said that after absorbing an attack, our strategic 
force would be deployed for defense. He said: "It must be employed to 
insure that air attacks against us cannot be repeated. This is more im- 
portant than mere retaliation. Our principal aim is not to destroy another 
nation, but to save this nation. We cannot waste our forces on mere 
revenge."" General Nathan Twining, as Chief of Staff, announced that 
the Air Force would not bomb cities. General Thomas D. White officially 
adopted the term "counterforce" in contrast to counter-city. 

General Curtis E. LeMay, who was once pictured as an airborne 
Genghis Khan, continued the Air Force tradition on targeting in October 
of 1964. He explained that some cities were targeted in the early days 
of meager forces and few bombs as a possible way to check the advance 
of massive Soviet ground forces into Europe. The early 1950s brought 
us both the means and the necessity to "place Soviet air bases and bomb- 
ers at the top of the target list. This was the first step toward the Air 
Force's concept of strategic counterforce." General LeMay expressed 


what has proved to be misplaced confidence in the nation's top-level 

Today we are not hearing as many proposals for the adoption of bargain basement 
alternatives to a counterforce posture. There was a time not so long ago when 
some people seemed to think that all we needed as a deterrent was the ability to 
destroy a few Russian cities. Almost everyone who has thought this problem 
through has rejected that proposal for a posture based on strategic advantage." 

The Vietnam War, engineered by Mr. McNamara's "Charles River 
School of Strategy," soon began to cost so much that our ability to 
challenge Russian military strength was abandoned. We were reduced 
to mutual assured destruction or the "MAD" plan. Since we did not wish 
to pay the price necessary to overcome Russian military power, we offered 
our population, undefended, as a hostage against our use of nuclear 
weapons. Yet nuclear weapons are necessary in our NATO defense plan. 
The old, desperate expedient of launching missiles against cities on warn- 
ing of a Russian attack, without knowing the Russian targets, was con- 
sidered briefly after the Russians launched Sputnik. This suicidal proposal 
was abandoned as quickly as our protective silos could be built. According 
to Edward Teller, inventor of the H-bomb, the mere suggestion of such 
a murderous plan was the most immoral idea in history. Now that our 
silos are vulnerable, the amazing (cheap) answer for high defense officials 
has been to revive such a plan again, as what they call a viable option." 
It may be suicidal, but it is cheap. 

As long as we builders and operators of air power allow ourselves 
to be branded with potentially self-destructive "'bargain basement" strat- 
egies, the population we offer as hostages will scarcely regard us as worthy 
of confidence and respect. The first requirement for the salvation of our 
pride is establishing clearly that a strategy of civilian slaughter, involving 
necessarily our own people, is not military in any sense. Until we can 
divest ourselves of the albatross of false blame for such a horrible evasion 
of human and military responsibility, we shall be regarded, increasingly, 
as heralds of the Apocalypse. 

The only way out, of course, is up. Most of us have failed to un- 
derstand the basis of the once great enthusiasm for sea power and later 
for air power. That enthusiasm rested on the hope that each offered an 
escape from the devastation and the civilian casualties of land warfare. 
We forget, for instance, that air warfare in World War II, by preventing 
a deadlock, saved more casualties than it caused. We forget that the 
fascination of Star Trek, and especially of Star Wars, is based on warfare 
far away in the sky, with no threat to anyone but the distant participants. 
Such a reaction is not foolish at all. 

A decision in space is the only possibility now for evading a holocaust 
on our already polluted globe. Yet the official attitude toward space is 
that it is some kind of semi-religious and sacred sanctuary, while our 


cities, crowded with humans, are fair game. This foolish notion, as our 
colleague Eugene Emme will probably testify, is the result of our lassitude 
in getting our heads up far enough to see where the thrust of our future 
effort should be. Established land, sea, and air power remain the basis 
for such a thrust. But up and out is the only departure from the booby- 
trapped cage of options our politicized, computerized, and richly voca- 
bularied civilian controllers have built for us. 

The widening gap in our history, which means the gap in our un- 
derstanding of the past and our planning for the future, lies between our 
airborne achievements of World War II with its two sequels, and our 
space potential of the present and of the future. Unless we awaken and 
bridge this gap, we may not earn for ourselves a future. Only a bold, 
thorough, and uncensored treatment of history can suggest for us such 
a bridge. 

Unfortunately, recent history is being written almost entirely by our 
slowly awakening journalists. Official histories are slow to appear, and 
most are deliberately non-controversial, with no lessons drawn or implied 
that might be applicable to our present crises. Other historians tend to 
follow the popular anti-military myths. In fact, some two decades ago, 
a deputy chief of military history, moving ahead of the tide, observed, 
"Serious dangers attend any historian who wishes to prophesy, or to get 
into the realm of what he thinks should not have happened."^* 

Prophecy should indeed be restrained. But as for judgments of the 
past, who can be so hypocritical as to deny them? Does spreading timidity 
have to ignore all that should not have happened? Where is the spirit of 
the great historians of the past? 

A long generation ago, John Cuneo, one of the best early historians 
of air power, was critical of most air power histories. "Besides presenting 
an obviously incomplete picture," said Cuneo, "they unfortunately are 
written by authors who are advocates rather than historians."^' Recently, 
Robin Higham, our most active editor and publisher of air power history, 
explained that "the history of air power has been much confused ... by 
lack of historical perspective on the part of its exponents."'* 

Mahan's long labors in the salt mines of previously non-significant 
naval history were inspired entirely by the conviction that his effort was 
necessary. It was his response to a revelation of general history that, as 
he expressed it, "The United States in her turn may have the rude awak- 
ening of those who have abandoned their share in the common birthright 
of all people, the sea."" Indeed, before he died, another and greater sea 
began to become navigable. 

Long ago another prophet. Sir Charles Cayley, had seen the new 
sea as "an uninterrupted navigable ocean, that comes to the threshold 


of every man's door," and that "ought not to be neglected." To extend 
Mahan's basic concept into the present we need only to add the still 
controversial words "air" and "space" or their equivalent. It would come 
as no surprise to the departed admiral that his principles are expandable 
to infinity. To all seamen from the unrecorded beginnings to the nine- 
teenth and into our present century, the sea was infinity. 

The basis for sea power and air power development was the histor- 
ically demonstrated requirement of all great nations for access to the sea, 
and later, by extension, the power to use the sky. It was seen that nations 
lose their chance for survival as great nations if they lose the power to 
use sea and air space and to prevent others from using this space effec- 
tively against them. 

Concepts of warfare expand, eventually, as human activity expands. 
Areas of warfare often expand ahead of concepts, as new capabilities of 
navigation reach out, first across the seas, then into the air, and ultimately 
into space. The first great expansion left the narrow limits of traversable 
land to cross the global oceans. From there, curiously, progress extended 
up and down at the same time and established a peculiar commonality 
between aircraft and submarines. Each operates in only one medium, yet 
in its medium each is supreme and each operates there alone. Naval 
historian Theodore Roscoe has noted that in the last great war Japan was 
drowned in the third dimension, losing most of its vital shipping to aircraft 
and submarines. ^^ But the third dimension is limited on the way down 
and has no limit on the way up. This means that whether we like it or 
not, the zone of war can no longer be limited. 

Sea power expanded, very slowly, beyond the limits of land power. 
As global strategy followed the spread of warfare in the age of sail, it set 
the pattern for air power as the range of aircraft extended. As the age 
of globe-ranging air power was launched from land and sea, the age of 
space is now being launched from land and sea, but also through and 
from the air. Whether we speak of aerospace power or just air power 
extended makes little difference. 

Since we now are long past all hope for deceptively simple answers 
to questions raised by our topic tonight, we should admit that we are now 
considering the impact of recent air power historians on air power. This 
is not the moment for blanket self-decoration, despite Ken Whiting's 
demonstrated understanding of Russian strategy which exceeds anybody's 
understanding of our own strategy; despite the timely social work of Alan 
Osur and Alan Gropman;" despite some useful and partially available 
monographs which have been said to "smack of interservice rivalry"; 
despite the readable and much appreciated Schweinfurt story by Thomas 


It has been said that a major problem of military history is signifi- 
cance rather than quality or quantity, since there are more than half a 
hundred dissertations annually in American military history alone, nearly 
a hundred academic military historians and half again as many university 
courses, and hundreds of military historians in defense agencies.'' Un- 
doubtedly, air power history comes up short in all these categories, partly 
because air power history is short and partly because air power leaders, 
with notable exceptions, are short of interest in the subject. We were off 
to a bad start when we were funded for just seven volumes of World War 
II history, which were excellent, while the Army alone was funded for 
ten times that number and at last report was still typing away. 

Nevertheless, despite handicaps and fluctating support, some excel- 
lent products have appeared. Al Goldberg's outstanding brief history of 
the Air Force was readable yet sound, and appropriately embellished 
with nostalgic pictures. '* I.B. Holley's unique synthesis of policy, tech- 
nology, and industry is out of print and disappearing from some libraries. '' 
Eugene Emme has produced NASA history that reads better than reports 
of its present delayed capabilities. One phrase alone is worth an anthol- 
ogy: "The unknown will, as always, yield up many yet-undreamed-of- 
rewards."'* This principle was accepted for Mahan's sea and Mitchell's 
air, but for whose space? Perhaps the Russians' space. 

On that sad note we may now consider our deficiencies. According 
to Army historians, who seem more capable of self-criticism than we 
have been lately, the major deficiencies are common to all types of 
military history: army, navy, and air. They are: a dearth of successful 
integration of technological factors into narrative, an area where air 
power historians have an edge, though not in major works. Worse is our 
sad lack of synthesis, or "putting it all together"; and, finally, our weak- 
ness in biography. In both the latter, air power is down, well down. 

Of the digesting and interpretation of massive research into a major 
work we have just three examples at the moment. Most recent is David 
Maclsaac's definitive work on the much abused and misused strategic 
bombing survey report." The other two are the work of the most dedi- 
cated and productive Air Force historian now living, though he is not 
well. Frank Futrell's history of Air Force doctrine will be indispensable 
long after the otherwise unused sources are forgotten and destroyed. His 
United States Air Force in Korea gained better treatment and has been 
used constantly.** No other accounts are available. It was admitted by 
Air University officials that the massive Vietnam history project known 
as "Corona Harvest" should be greatly reduced unless people capable 
of helping Futrell distill it and put it together could be found. No one 
was found, and Frank's health was failing. The massive effort now lies 


overclassified and unused, while other historians, poorly informed, go 
on writing histories that, loaded with error, will become fixed in tradition. 
The military lessons of the Vietnam war, freely spoken by colonels, may 
not please all above them, and in any case may never be declassified and 
presented in usable form. 

Our weakness in biography is almost equally damaging. While the 
Army and Navy have biographical works on some eight generals and 
admirals of World War II and after, we have only an interesting and 
somewhat underrated autobiographical work on General Hap Arnold,"' 
and a well-written though discursive biography of General LeMay by 
distinguished novelist MacKinley Kantor."^ 

Fortunately, we are seriously rocking the cradles of elementary 
aviation and of military aviation. Charles Gibbs-Smith, following Fred 
Kelley, is doing an in-depth study of how powered flight, like powerless 
balloons, was born of two brothers. Colonel Al Hurley has studied Billy 
Mitchell's overactive mind as he stood alone against slings and arrows 
and got himself reduced to a half-dip retired pay, which he refused.""' 
Hurley is now digging a deep trap for Air Force history, which has been 
almost as elusive as Air Force doctrine. We are painfully missing the 
impressive story of General Carl Spaatz, the George Washington of Air 
Force independence; of General Hoyt Vandenberg, the most spirited and 
determined chief; and of durable General Nate Twining, the great sta- 
bilizer and the last survivor of the period when chiefs were allowed to 
talk and to act like chiefs. Finally, we need an account of General Thomas 
White, the gentleman diplomat who formally clarified Air Force strategy 
and doctrine only to see it mangled by aeronautically illiterate think-tank 
forces from the north and west. 

Lack of biography may be our most crippling weakness. It may have 
encouraged such aberrations as a recent dictum from a history admin- 
istrator warning that "we are interested in issues, not personalities." 

There was no understanding of systematic warfare until the story of 
Napoleon was written. Mahan recognized that he had not created an 
understanding of sea power until he had written a biography of Nelson."" 
It became his most difficult but in some respects his most successful effort. 
Not until you read Forrest Pogue's story of George Marshall's heroic 
struggle to avoid a drain on American manpower near the close of World 
War II can you understand the chronic problem of our manpower limi- 
tations in war."' As Emerson said: "Perhaps there is no history, only 

We may agree with Benjamin Cooling that we "need to spend less 
time administering pedantic programs and more time pondering the great 


issues raised by the material they hoard.'"" It is scarcely possible to 
understand issues without knowledge of the men who created them. 

Having painfully reviewed our deficiencies, let us note with dubious 
comfort that sea and land power historians, despite their achievements, 
share the same basic problem. As Benjamin Cooling of the Army War 
College put it, "Somehow, historians and particularly military historians 
have failed to convey the utility of their discipline to those charged with 
national defense today.'"" Also, uniformed historians of live issues, such 
as Mahan, could not survive today, and neither could the Vandenbergs, 
or even civilians on government sponsored payrolls. The journalists had 
to take over the serious and timely issues. 

It was not easy to use the whip on journalists, but there were other 
methods, such as the golden carrot. In the early 1960's journalist Richard 
Fryklund was the principal historian of how we developed and debated 
the strategy of targeting populations, a strategy which guaranteed the 
sacrifice of our own. His book, 100 Million Lives, is still the best historical 
account of that strange happening. On the last page he wrote: "A final 
obstacle to the adoption of a rational strategy was the unfortunate effort 
by Mr. McNamara to cut off authoritative discussion of strategy. . . . 
Even conversations about abstract theory of strategy were banned. . . . 
Fortunately for us all, his rule could not be enforced.'"** 

It could, of course, be enforced on everyone or anyone paid by Mr. 
McNamara's Department of Defense, but not on journalists. Eventually, 
Fryklund and a journalist friend were appointed to Mr. McNamara's staff 
as the senior officials in his Directorate of Public Information. Other 
journaHsts, too numerous to mention, were influenced in a similar man- 
ner, either by accepting political appointments or suffering restrictions 
by publishers responding to political pressures. 

With journalists alone capable of digging beneath the surface and 
not always succeeding, it is scarcely surprising that "those charged with 
national defense today" seldom seek enlightenment from historians. 
Nevertheless, there are ways of bringing reahty to light, as General Eaker 
and a few others have demonstrated. One way is the writing of recent 
history by influential participants. Here again, air power has not fared 
too well. At least four army generals in recent years have written histories 
of the Korean and Vietnam wars, with considerable assistance, quite 
properiy, from army historians. We have none from the air leaders except 
for General Momyer's recent Air Power in Three Wars and Admiral 
Sharp's Strategy for Defeat.*'^ 

Official military histories have long been denigrated, not always with 
sound reason. Alfred Vagts, sympathetic but critical, said, "If confession 
is one test of truthfulness, then there is little of reality in military 


memoirs." The history of warfare, he said, is "dependent to a large extent 
on the writers' desire to preserve reputations, their tendency to 
diches, . . ."'" Obviously, there has been improvement in recent years, 
but iconoclastic historians, such as Peter Karsten, have revived the old 
derogatory theme. Less dogmatic historians admit that the split between 
"official" and "counter-official" military historians has damaged both." 

The introduction of oral history into military history has helped to 
make military history more believable. From the time Admiral EUer 
encouraged Navy cooperation with the Columbia program, this breeze 
of fresh air has produced more convincing truth than many times its 
weight in documents. Anyone who has attended a training course at 
Maxwell AFB, supervised by Dr. Hasdorff and Colonel Dick, has wit- 
nessed in these sessions a revival of the old spirit, when air power history 
was considered a revelation and not just an officially supervised chore. 
The introduction of active veterans of recent actions into all our history 
programs is also inspiring. 

Only in recent years have air power historians begun to exploit the 
greatest advantage of their field: that so many important participants and 
their associates are still ahve. Ardant du Picq, a long time ago, wrote a 
passage which expresses a truth that many historians have found too great 
a challenge: "No one is willing to acknowledge that it is necessary to 
understand yesterday in order to know tomorrow, for the things of yes- 
terday are nowhere plainly written. The lessons of yesterday exist solely 
in the memory of those who know how to remember because they have 
known how to see, and those individuals have never spoken."" 

In the air age some have spoken and spoken well, but not enough. 
As Frank Futrell discovered in writing his last book, "Men who believed 
and thought and lived in terms of air power were the makers of the 
modern air force." Their thinking was not limited by the current military 
policy or by the national policy of the moment. It was not even limited 
by the prevailing state of technology. Their perspectives, their awareness 
of history, taught them how these things change. Had they been awed 
by the national policy of isolation in the 1930's, a lack of advanced air 
power in Europe and the Pacific would have drained American manpower 
before the decisions there could be reached." There are young men 
today, necessarily silent, who believe and work with the same dedication 
as the air power pioneers. They see the same need, or an even more 
urgent need, to be able to operate in upper space as effectively as we 
have in the lower space. It is this spirit that must prevail, though machines 
and circumstances change. 

In the past our great problem was our rate of loss of leaders. General 
Doolittle recently named four men as leading air power thinkers: Mitch- 
ell, Arnold, Hickam and Andrews.^" Many of us can remember the last 


three, but all are gone. Mitchell and Arnold died early; Hickam and 
Andrews crashed in their planes before or during World War II Spaatz 
Vandenberg, White and many others of similar significance are gone' 
Despite the commendable efforts of many, our traditions and the mem- 
ones that made them have been neglected, our costly lessons from the 
recent past are m danger of being forgotten before they are really learned 
That IS why we are here. 



1. Horatio Gates and Daniel Morgan. Bemis Heights. New York, 7 Oct 1777. 

2. Monte D. Wright and Lawrence J. Paszek, eds.. Soldiers and Statesmen: Proceedings 
of the Fourth Military History Symposium, USAF Academy, 1970, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. 
Government Printing Office, 1973), pp. 183, 167f. 

3. W.D. Puleston, Mahan (New Haven. Conn.: Yale University Press, 1939), p. 89. 

4. Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New 
York: Harper and Brothers, 1947), p. 506. 

5. A.T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (Boston: Little, 
Brown and Co., 1890), p. v. 

6. Alan R. Millett, "American Military History: Struggling Through the Wire," essay 
given at Ohio State University, 1975, pp. 6, 25. 

7. Puleston, op. cit., p. 69. 

8. Millett, op. cit.. p. 17 

9. Benjamin Franklin Cooling, "Technology and the Frontiers of Military History," 
paper presented to the International Commission on Military History Symposium, Wash- 
ington, D.C., 18 August 1975. pp. 12. 13 

10. Puleston, op. cit., p. 77. 

11. Mahan, op cit., p. 89. 

12. L.T.C. Roll, The Aeronauts (New York: Walker and Company, 1966), p. 98. 

13. Mahan, op. cit., p. vi. 

14. Puleston, op. cit.. p. 115. 

15. Ibid, p. 151. 

16. Ibid., p. 270. 

17. Mahan, op. cit., pp. 34, 83. 

18. General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. Briefing to Civilian Orientation Conference. Wash- 
ington, D.C., 17 April 1950, author's file. 

19. General Hoyt S. Vanderberg, Armed Forces Day address, Detroit, Michigan, 19 May 
1950, author's file, also Office of the Chief Historian, Department of Defense. 

20. Author's notes. 

21. General Carl Spaatz, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Noel Parrish at the Air 
University Library. Alabama. 21 February 1962. 

22. Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, interview by Noel Parrish at the Air Force 
Historical Documentation Center, September 1966. 

23. Charles Masters and Robert Way, eds.. One World or None (New York: McGraw- 
Hill Book Company, 1946), p. 31. 

24. Vandenberg briefing, op cit. 

25. General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Public Briefing Questions Period, 19 April 1950, 
author's file. 

26. Curtis E. LeMay, "Strength -I- Vigilance = Deterrence." General Electric Forum, 
Vol. III. No. 4, Oct-Dec, 1964. pp. 14-16. 

27. Secretary of the Air Force Harold K. Brown, Remarks to the Commonwealth Club, 
San Francisco, 23 June 1965. 

28. Stetson Conn, quoting Army Deputy Chief Historian Miller in OCMH Seminar Series, 
23 June 1965. 

29. John R. Cuneo, Winged Mars {HauKburg. Pa: Military Science Publishing Co., 1940), 
p. i. 

30. Robin Higham, Air Power: A Concise History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1972), 
p. 1 

31. Mahan, op. cit., p. 42. 

32. Theodore Roscoe, United States Submarine Operations in World War II (Annapolis: 
United States Naval Institute Press, 1949), p. 495. 

33. Alan M. Osur, Blacks in the Army Air Forces During World War 11 (Washington, 
D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977). Alan L. Gropman. The Air Force Integrates, 
1945-1964 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1978). 

34. Thomas M. Coffey, Decision Over Schweinfurt (New York: David McKay Co., Inc., 

35. Millett, op. cit., p. 19. 

36. Alfred Goldberg, &A., A History of the United States Air Force 1907-1957 (Princeton: 
D. Van Nostrand, 1957). 


1953) ''"'"^ ^ "°"^''' '''""' ""'' ^'"P""' (New Haven, Conn,: Yale University Press, 

NASa'!^°975).°P. n?'''' "*•' ^'''"'"'"" '" '^' "'""'y of^^SA (Washington, D.C.: 

lisWng'^nc'!' K''' '' '^'""'^" *'""*'"^ '" ^'"■''^ ^"^ ^'"" *^'^ ^'''^- ^"■''"'^ P""- 

40 Robert F. Futrell, The United Stales Air Force in Korea. 1950-1953 (New York- 

Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1961). Robert F. Futrell, Ideas, Concepts. Doc rineT History 

^^4L Henry H. Arnold, Global Mission (New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 

Doubledatand cf ?nc"";9^5T''"'''' ""'"• """"" """ '^''"" ^°^'''^" °'y- ^'^-^ 


Tht%SrPr^ssX,''chS^ ^;S;^^^-'^-ofV.ctory. ,943-,945 (New York: 

46. Cooling, op. cit., p. 20 

47. Ibid., p. 13. 

Yort Th^M '''^> '""^' '^ni^f '°" ^''"■' ^''^''""'" ^"^'"■^''' '« « ^"c/''«^ W'"^ (New 
York. The Macmillan Co., 1962). pp 169-170 

PrintinTSffrce'^19';8T'"'" "" ''"""■"' '''"''' "^"^ (^^^hington, D.C.: U.S. Government 

pp^*23'!^25^26^^^"' ^ ^"""'^ of Militarism (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 1937) 

51. Millet, op. cit., pp. 4, 5. 

Roberfr r'..'^'''^fu ^""u'"^' ^""'^ ^'"^'"' "■^"^- Colonel John N. Greely and Major 
f-tl ^ ' ?" (Harr,sburg, Pa.: Military Service Publishing Co., 1947) p 5 
3J. hutrell. Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine, op. cit Vol 2 p 808 
54. James H. Doolittle, interview at the USAF Histori'cal Documentation Center, 1965. 




Of all the subjects in the symposium, historians were best prepared to deal with the 
topic of this session. An energetic figure in air power history, Professor Robin Higham of 
Kansas State University, was in the chair while several scholars collectively laid the basis for 
a comparative analysis of the experiences of several nations with military aviation. 

Previous scholars already had examined individual national experiences in isolation; the 
planners of this session saw an opportunity for the speakers to piece together the international 
story. Group Captain R.A. Mason, the Director of Defence Studies for the Royal Air Force, 
persuasively identified the distinctive elements in the British contribution to the international 
story. A scholar who has done important work on the German experience. Professor Edward 
Homze of the University of Nebraska, presented what might well be the best short survey 
yet to appear of the early experiences of the major nations on the European continent. Doctor 
Eugene Emme, a veteran aviation historian, worked around the gaps in the scholarship on 
the American experience and identified factors that would be important in any future analysis 
of this country's contribution to international development. 

All three of these speakers and the session commentator gave a prominent place to the 
influence of World War I. Homze explicitly and Mason by implication saw that war as "the 
turning point" for military aviation in Europe because the requirements of the conflict 
changed it "from an oddity to a military necessity." Charles Gibbs-Smith, the English- 
speaking world's most famous historian of the invention of the airplane, commented about 
the even greater significance World War I could have had for international military aviation 
if the Wright Brothers' achievement had been publicized earlier than it was. For the United 
States, Emme suggested, the war was important as the setting for a vision of the reality that 
would not occur until the nation entered World War II. 

The session ended before questions and observations from the floor could have high- 
lighted the full value of the work of the speakers. For example, some observer might well 
have noted the suggestions in the papers of the importance of timing in technological advance 
and also its non-partisan and international character. The continental powers knew the 
potential of the strategic bomber, but its development usually seemed too far off for their 
war planners or had to give way to pressing tactical needs. Both England and the United 
States, on the other hand, had the time to take advantage of a technological advance available 
to any country able to wait for it. 




For over eighty years now, close co-operation and mutual respect 
have marked the relationship between air power exponents in Britain 
and the United States. It is, therefore, a very great honour for me, as 
a servmg Royal Air Force officer, to be invited to address such a distin- 
guished audience on the subject of "The British Dimension" before 
World War II in the broader theme of the impact of air power on twentieth 
century warfare. 

I should like to identify three features in this British dimension 
which, I believe, have made a major contribution to that evolution. They 
are, first, the presence in Britain even before 1914 of a clearly recognis- 
able body of fundamental air power doctrine; second, the example of the 
first independent, unified air force; and, third, the formulation of con- 
cepts of tactical and strategic offensive air power. 

The First Ideas 

The first feature is the presence in Britain before 1914 of ideas about 
the application of air power. I would distinguish between speculative 
ideas, which these were, and systematic theories based on observed facts 
which they could not yet be. 

The early British aeronautical enthusiasts, civilian and military were 
a relatively small group. They exchanged ideas verbally at meetings at 
the Aero Club, at the Aeronautical Society, at increasing numbers of 
flying exhibitions and, less frequently, at the Royal United Services In- 

I am indebted to Colonel Hurley for the information that as early 
as 1893, Major J.D. Fullerton of the Royal Engineers had presented a 
paper at a meeting of military engineers in Chicago in which he pro- 
phesied that the impact of aeronautics foreshadowed "as great a revo- 
lution in the art of war as the discovery of gunpowder," that future wars 
may well start with a great air battle, that "the arrival of the aerial fleet 
over the enemy capital will probably conclude the campaign," and that 
"command of the air" would be an essential pre-requisite for all land and 
air warfare. ' 


Although Major Fullerton does not seem to have included such 
prophetic statements in his addresses to British audiences during the next 
twenty years, his engineering friend, F.W. Lanchester, expressed a sim- 
ilar view in the Aeronautical Journal: 

Under the conditions of the near future, the command of the air must become at 
least as essential to the safety of the empire as will be our continued supremacy 
of the high seas. ' 

In 1909 Flight became the official journal of the Aero Club, "De- 
voted to the Interests, Practice and Progress of Aerial Locomotion and 
Transport."' On 27 February, Flight published the first international 
survey of military aviation, by Major George O. Squier of the Signal 
Corps of the United States Army. * In 1911 the magazine Aeroplane under 
the dynamic editorship of Charles Grey began its stern monitoring of 
developments in British military aviation. These journals, together with 
occasional contributions in the Journal of the Royal United Services In- 
stitution, were the primary breeding ground for British ideas about air 

On 15 May 1909, the editorial in Flight was titled "Britain and the 
Command of the Air" and expressed concern at the nation's vulnerability 
to hostile aircraft even at their current stage of development, quite apart 
from the advent of "all-weather aircraft."' In May 1911, Captain C.J. 
Burke wrote the first article on air power to be published by the Journal 
of the Royal United Services Institution, initially concentrating on the 
airplane as a reconnaissance vehicle, but then reaching the same conclu- 
sion as his civilian friends: "May not the command of the air be as 
important to us in the future as the command of the sea is at the present 
moment?"* Yet this idea was not the prerogative of English theorists. 

At the same time as he wrote that article. Captain Burke had re- 
viewed a book for the Aeronautical Journal by the French General Frey, 
who had posed the question: "May not the command of the air be of 
such importance that the power who loses it may be forced to sue for 
peace?"' But then Captain Burke concluded his review with a very dif- 
ferent idea: "No one can question the need for the fourth arm at the 
present minute, and if aviation continues to advance at its present rate, 
a new service will be a necessity."* 

During this period, the Aeronautical Journal quarterly surveyed the 
French and German, but not the Italian, aviation press. So there is no 
evidence that the British coterie heard about Douhet's first thoughts in 
1910 on Problems of Air Navigation, which included his proposals for a 
separate service. 


mutual neglect in others, all of which almost inevitably accompanied the 
presence of two autonomous agencies frantically seeking to meet the 
ever-expanding demands of commanders for more aircraft, more crews, 
more technicians, and more supporting equipment. " 

A series of boards and committees were established in an attempt 
to resolve these problems, but they were not invested with executive 
authority and were dependent on the goodwill of the individual service 
and civihan members. However, a further board, under Lord Cowdray 
was established in April 1917 with greatly increased powers. It could 
organize and maintain a supply of aircraft; it could appoint and draft its 
own staff; and it did have its own building at the Hotel Cecil on the 
Thames Embankment. '* RFC and RNAS staffs worked side by side under 
their respective directors, and it was seen at the time as a natural step 
towards an independent Air Ministry. " 

But the Cowdray Board remained absolutely dependent on the War 
Office and the Admiralty for such things as non-technical stores, arma- 
ments, and airfields. Its advice was given by soldiers and sailors back to 
their own services, and it had no power to allocate men and airplanes 
and certainly none to provide for home defence or independent opera- 
tions. And, sadly, as in earlier days, co-operation and provision were 
constantly bedevilled by the persona! rivalries and jealousies of senior 
commanders, politicians, presslords, and industrialists— so much so that 
It became cynically known as the "Hotel Bolo," after a well-known enemy 
agent who had done a great deal of harm to the allied cause. In short 
the Cowdray Board could only provide the equipment; it could not say 
how or where it should be employed. Internal evolution alone could not 
produce that kind of authority, and without it the potential of air power 
remained stultified. 

Another view of the creation of a unified RAF holds that the British 
Government's decision in 1917 was taken as an act of panic in the wake 
of the German bombing of that summer and autumn. '« Certainly, airship 
and later four-engine Gotha raids had disproportionately affected British 
morale, perhaps only locally in initial impact, but spread nationwide by 
the press and thrust into politics by Members of Parliament who had 
been vociferous critics of aerial policies for a considerable period '» One 
airship raid on Hull in 1915, for example, caused widespread panic and 
prompted the local MP to write to Mr. Arthur Balfour: 

Citizens of all classes are in a state of great alarm; the night after the raid a further 
warning was given and tens of thousands of people trooped out of the city The 
screams of the women were distressing to hear. Could you let us have half a dozen 

Then, on 2 April 1916 Scottish morale was severely impaired when a 
Scotch Whisky bonded store was destroyed near Edinburgh. 


100 hp, ideal for reconnaissance in peacetime but wholly unsuited to 
hostile battlefield conditions. Nor was enthusiasm stimulated by the al- 
leged attitude of General Haig: 

I hope none of you gentlemen is so foolish as to think that aeroplanes will be able 
to be usefully employed for reconnaissance purposes in war. There is only one 
way for a commander to get information by reconnaissance, and that is by the use 
of cavalry.'^ 

Fortunately for the future development of British air power, naval 
aviation enjoyed the vigorous support of Winston Churchill as First Lord 
of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915. From the outset, the Naval Wing 
of the Royal Flying Corps regarded aircraft as an extension of the of- 
fensive and defensive power of a fleet: for attacks on naval units at sea, 
dockyards and other shore installations, and for the protection of British 
units afloat and ashore. Navigational instruments and bombsights were 
developed, and, because of the envisaged range and payload required, 
more powerful engines and airframes were commissioned from a variety 
of civilian companies. But much depended on the support of Churchill 
and the enthusiasm of relatively junior officers; between them stood 
many admirals whose interests were far more traditional and who were 
suspicious of what Captain Neumann of the German airship battalion in 
1908 had called "excessively optimistic expectations, fantastic conclusions 
and impossible schemes. . . 


Somehow a climate and an organization had to be created which 
would permit the implementation of air power ideas despite the presence 
of an unsympathetic mihtary and naval hierarchy. 

The Third Service 

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was constituted in 1912 with a Naval 
Wing, Military Wing, and a Central Flying School for the training of both 
army and naval pilots. An Air Committee was established to co-ordinate 
the contribution of the two parent services, but within a very short time 
the wings began to develop more in isolation than in harmony. The 
separation of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was officially rec- 
ognized on 1 July 1914. So, on the outbreak of war there were two British 
air forces: one despatched to France intended to provide long range 
reconnaissance for the army; the other located in Britain and in Belgium 
with a very new responsibility for the air defence of the United Kingdom 
but with imprecise ideas about its potential contribution to naval oper- 

Many cogent and coherent explanations have been offered for the 
momentous decision by the British Government in 1917 to create a unified 
Royal Air Force. '" The RAF historian has stressed the wasteful com- 
petition for resources, the duplication of effort in some cases, and the 


mutual neglect in others, all of which almost inevitably accompanied the 
presence of two autonomous agencies frantically seeking to meet the 
ever-expanding demands of commanders for more aircraft, more crews, 
more technicians, and more supporting equipment. " 

A series of boards and committees were established in an attempt 
to resolve these problems, but they were not invested with executive 
authority and were dependent on the goodwill of the individual service 
and civihan members. However, a further board, under Lord Cowdray 
was established in April 1917 with greatly increased powers. It could 
organize and maintain a supply of aircraft; it could appoint and draft its 
own staff; and it did have its own building at the Hotel Cecil on the 
Thames Embankment. '* RFC and RNAS staffs worked side by side under 
their respective directors, and it was seen at the time as a natural step 
towards an independent Air Ministry. " 

But the Cowdray Board remained absolutely dependent on the War 
Office and the Admiralty for such things as non-technical stores, arma- 
ments, and airfields. Its advice was given by soldiers and sailors back to 
their own services, and it had no power to allocate men and airplanes 
and certainly none to provide for home defence or independent opera- 
tions. And, sadly, as in earlier days, co-operation and provision were 
constantly bedevilled by the persona! rivalries and jealousies of senior 
commanders, politicians, presslords, and industrialists— so much so that 
It became cynically known as the "Hotel Bolo," after a well-known enemy 
agent who had done a great deal of harm to the allied cause. In short 
the Cowdray Board could only provide the equipment; it could not say 
how or where it should be employed. Internal evolution alone could not 
produce that kind of authority, and without it the potential of air power 
remained stultified. 

Another view of the creation of a unified RAF holds that the British 
Government's decision in 1917 was taken as an act of panic in the wake 
of the German bombing of that summer and autumn. '« Certainly, airship 
and later four-engine Gotha raids had disproportionately affected British 
morale, perhaps only locally in initial impact, but spread nationwide by 
the press and thrust into politics by Members of Parliament who had 
been vociferous critics of aerial policies for a considerable period '» One 
airship raid on Hull in 1915, for example, caused widespread panic and 
prompted the local MP to write to Mr. Arthur Balfour: 

Citizens of all classes are in a state of great alarm; the night after the raid a further 
warning was given and tens of thousands of people trooped out of the city The 
screams of the women were distressing to hear. Could you let us have half a dozen 

Then, on 2 April 1916 Scottish morale was severely impaired when a 
Scotch Whisky bonded store was destroyed near Edinburgh. 


It was, of course, the Gotha airplane attacks in 1917 which produced 
the heaviest casualties, the greatest panic, and the strongest criticism of 
the aerial defences of the United Kingdom. But they also provoked the 
greatest indignation and the most vociferous demands for reprisals. It 
was certainly in response to widespread public dissatisfaction that General 
Jan Smuts was directed on 11 July 1917 to examine "the defence ar- 
rangements for home defence against air-raids and the existing general 
organization for the study and higher direction of aerial operations."^' 
His recommendations on UK defence were presented to the government 
eight days later and immediately implemented. 

His second report, presented to the government on 17 August, has 
been called the "Magna Carta of British Airpower." Smuts traced the 
previous attempts at co-ordination of army and naval air services and 
stressed the inability of the existing Air Board to embark on a policy of 
its own. He then continued: 

The time is however rapidly approaching when that subordination of the Air Board 
and the Air Service can no longer be justified. Essentially, the postion of an Air 
Service is quite different from that of the Artillery Arm . . . [it] can be used as 
an independent means of war operations. Nobody who witnessed the attack on 
London on 7 July could have any doubt on that point. Unlike artillery, an air fleet 
can conduct extensive operations far from, and independently of, both Army and 
Navy. As far as at present can be foreseen, there is absolutely no limit to the scale 
of its future independent war use. And the day may not be far off when aerial 
operations with their devastation of enemy lands and destruction of industrial and 
populace centres on a vast scale may become the principle operations of war, to 
which the older forms of military and naval operations may become secondary and 

Smuts had been advised that aircraft production in the next twelve 
months would far surpass the joint requirements of the Army and Navy, 
and, therefore, an Air Staff to plan and direct independent operations 
would soon be necessary. Moreover, he warned, "The enemy is no doubt 
making vast plans to deal with us in London if we do not succeed in 
beating him in the air and carrying the war into the heart of his country ." ^^ 

To realize the full potential of air power, he recommended the cre- 
ation of a separate Air Ministry, Air Staff, and Air Service. ^^ He then 
concluded his report with a sentence almost identical to one used by 
Lanchester ten years before: 

It is important for the winning of the war that we should not only secure air 
predominance, but secure it on a very large scale; and having secured it in this 
war we should make every effort and sacrifice to maintain it for the future. Air 
supremacy may in the long run become as important a factor in the defense of the 
Empire as sea supremacy." 

I have no evidence that Smuts ever thought about air power before 
1917. We know that he was misled into expecting a large surplus of 


aircraft; we know that he was convinced by exaggerated estimates of 
German intentions; and we know that some of the enthusiasts he con- 
sulted looked far beyond the immediate capability of strategic bombing. 
His closest confidante was General G. F. R. Henderson, who, in turn, 
had moved steadily closer to the views of men like Lanchester. The latter^ 
in the 1916 reprint of his articles from the journal Engineering, argued 
strongly that the aeronautical arm was a national affair, because not only 
would it tax national resources to the uttermost but "because it is the 
arm which will have to be ever ready, ever mobilized, both in time of 
peace and war: it is the arm which in the warfare of the future may act 
with decisive effect within a few hours of the outbreak of hostilities."^ 

So, in 1917 air power was freed from the constraints of army and 
navy priorities partly by the force of unique circumstances, partly by 
mistaken interpretations, partly even by the self-seeking of opportunists, 
but above all because in Britain ideas were maturing into theories and 
visions into forecasts. Air power was given the chance to become a living, 
self-developing organism endowed with a voice, a brain, and a limb. 

If I might digress for just a moment, there are several other features 
of the British experience before World War II which you may wish to 
touch upon in discussion. For example, the use of air power to control 
under-developed areas, or the struggle over naval aviation which had 
such a debilitating effect on the evolution of British naval air power, or 
the constant fight to persuade a democratic government in peacetime that 
Its defensive insurance policy should keep pace with the growth of the 
external threat. None of these could be adequately surveyed in the re- 
maining time at my disposal. 

The influence of imperial responsibilities on the RAF between the 
wars still awaits comprehensive analysis. Sufficient here to say that from 
1919 until the beginning of the armament programme in the 1930s, more 
than half the RAF's squadrons were based overseas and of those re- 
maining in the "metropolitan" area, approximately one-third were al- 
located to naval duties, one-third to army co-operation, and one-third 
to home defence, which itself was a misleading title. 

The internecine struggles between the Royal Navy and the Royal 
Air Force for control of naval aviation have, on the other hand, been 
well documented in several official histories and biographies." The Air 
Council feared, with some justification, that the creation of a Fleet Air 
Arm would be the first step towards the disintegration of an independent 
Royal Air Force. They were, therefore, opposed in principle to the es- 
tablishment of strong naval air institutions because of fears that their own 
authority would be undermined. Resources dedicated to naval aviation 
varied, but were always a small percentage of the whole, reflecting the 
overall allocation of effort summarized above. Meanwhile, no naval staff 


was responsible for long-term studies of naval aviation, and no naval air 
lobby existed either to fight the political, technical, and economic pres- 
sures which tended to restrict progress or to challenge "the Admiralty's 
habit of associating the battleship's well-being with their own."^' Con- 
sequently, it is hardly an oversimplification to state that British naval 
aviation between the wars fell between the Scylla of a sorely-pressed Air 
Council and the Charybdis of an Admiralty denied the power of air- 
minded admirals. Rather than pursuing any of these themes, I should 
like instead to comment briefly on the British application of offensive 
tactical and strategic air power. 

Offensive Air Power 

Trenchard, while working for General Douglas Haig as GOC Royal 
Flying Corps in France, consistently demanded offensive tactical action 
by his aircrews. His attitude is best summarized in a memorandum which 
he addressed to General Haig in September 1916: 

... An aeroplane is an offensive and not a defensive weapon. Owing to the 
unlimited space in the air, the difficulty one machine has in seeing another, the 
accidents of wind and cloud, it is impossible for aeroplanes, however skilful and 
vigilant their pilots, however numerous their formations, to prevent hostile aircraft 
from crossing the line if they have the initiative and determination to do so. . . . 
British aviation has been guided by a policy of relentless and incessant offensive. 
Our machines have continually attacked the enemy on his side of the line, bombed 
his aerodromes, and carried out attacks on places of importance far behind the 
lines. It would seem probable that this has had the effect so far on the enemy of 
compelling him to keep back or to detail portions of his forces in the air for 
defensive purposes ... the sound policy, then, which should guide all warfare in 
the air would seem to be this: to exploit the moral effect of the aeroplane on the 
enemy, but not let him exploit it on ourselves. Now this can only be done by 
attacking and by continuing to attack." 

Note, however, that this was not an argument for air operations inde- 
pendent of land fighting, but simply a proposal for the best way of giving 
air support to it, by forcing the enemy air on to the defensive and keeping 
it there. Trenchard, in 1916, was strongly opposed to the use of air power 
independently of other military operations. 

Inevitably, losses of men and materiel seemed heavy, but as Lanch- 
ester commented, "The defence of modern arms is indirect: tersely the 
enemy is prevented from killing you by your killing him first. "^« During 
the German spring offensive of 1917, for example, when the enemy 
enjoyed temporary air predominance, the RFC lost slightly less than 
eight men a day, against a daily average for the British Army as a whole 
of ten thousand killed or missing. " 

The impact of the RFC on the enemy ground troops in return for 
these losses was carefully recorded at Headquarters." Except when ob- 
scured by fog, gas, or very low cloud, modifications to German defences 


were photographed daily, prompting regular German concern. German 
troops were reluctant to dig trenches by day and frequently assumed that 
very low flying air attack was directed against their own dugouts. The 
association of spotter aircraft and highly accurate artillery bombardment 
was particularly resented when accompanied by the belief that German 
aircrew were reluctant to give battle. "The RFC pilots," on the other 
hand, "seem to seek air combat whether it is necessary or not."^' Never- 
theless, Trenchard's RFC was discovering an inherent paradox of offen- 
sive air power. Attacks on enemy targets, either tactical or strategic, will 
undoubtedly force him to divert more resources to air defence. But the 
more successful the policy in forcing the enemy on to the defensive, the 
more difficult and costly it becomes to inflict proportional damage on the 
original targets. 

Meanwhile, the Royal Naval Air Service had conducted long range 
bombing operations intermittently since the early days of the war, first 
against airship sheds and then, in 1916, against industrial targets in Al- 
sace, Lorraine, and the Rhineland. The strategic activities of No. 3 Wing 
RNAS from October 1916 to April 1917 were curtailed by bad weather 
and by constant pressure from the RFC for assistance. Nevertheless, 
contemporary reports of German attempts to organize air defences 
against them clearly indicate that they also were forcing the diversion of 
resources away from offence to defence, although with little effect. RNAS 
staff realized that their bombers' immunity would inevitably be threat- 
ened as the German air defences improved, and, therefore, even before 
the end of 1916 they were planning the development of long range escort 
fighters and modified fighter bombers.'* 

The RNAS anticipated what the Independent Force and Royal Air 
Force were later to discover: that a second paradox of offensive air power 
is that concentration of force is required for maximum offensive effect, 
but concentration of force in that age could only be achieved by large 
numbers of aircraft and repeated attacks, which in turn provided the 
opportunity for the defending air force to concentrate its own fighter 
squadrons to maximum defensive effect. 

Hard thinking about air power employment was not confined to 
tactics. Under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Tiverton, exper- 
iments were carried out with bombsights, ballistic trajectories, and a 
variety of long range navigafion aids.'' The activities of the RNAS staff 
in this period clearly illustrate that, contrary to the views of the official 
history of World War II, the problems of long range aerial navigation 
were fully appreciated and were being addressed.'* Moreover, special 
attention was paid to practical training and target acquisition, because 

experience has shown that it is quite easy for five squadrons to set out to bomb 
a particular target and for only one of those five ever to reach the objective, while 


the other four, in the honest belief that they had done so, have bombed four 
different villages which bore little, if any, resemblance to the one they desired to 

Later that year, Tiverton presented a second paper to the Air Board 
which appears to contain the first analysis of strategic targets based on 
the scientific principles which are usually associated with the operational 
analysis of World War II. He identified chemical plants as the key in- 
dustrial targets because of the dependence of the German war industry 
on them and their vulnerability to air attack. Further, he studied indi- 
vidual factories to identify the departments whose destruction would have 
the greatest effect and studied their areas to assess the bombloads re- 
quired to achieve the necessary amount of destruction. Not surprisingly, 
he concluded that success could only be achieved by concentrated and 
repeated attacks. ^ These ideas were incorporated in the policies of the 
infant Royal Air Force and relayed to Trenchard, now Commander in 
Chief of the Independent Force in France, in May 1918. 

There was, however, one problem. The Air Board believed that in 
1918 they would have a strategic bombing force of 2,000 aircraft, of which 
1,000 would be serviceable at any one time, each carrying nine bombs 
or approximately 1,000 lbs. In fact, Trenchard never had more than 100 
aircraft under his command from June to November 1918. Rarely were 
twelve aircraft serviceable in a squadron, and combined operations by 
more than one squadron were seldom undertaken because of difficulties 
of inter-unit coordination and lack of preparation and training time.^' 

Trenchard identified his problems in his first report to the Secretary 
of State for Air on 2 July 1918: 

I took over the tactical command of this Force on the sixth of June, and the plan 
on which I decided to work was to attack a large number of objectives in Germany 
so as to force the enemy to disperse if possible his defensive forces at various 
points, and then to concentrate for two or three days and nights on the same 

This plan, however, was unable to be carried out in its entirety. Wind, together 
with the necessity for training new squadrons and new pilots . . . [and] the few 
squadrons at my disposal, prevented the plan being entirely carried out.* 

Nor did matters improve. From June to November the entire force was 
grounded completely by weather for almost 50 percent of the time, quite 
apart from the numerous occasions when the aircraft sought secondary 
targets because of weather over the primary targets. 

At the third session of the Inter Allied Aviation Committee held at 
Versailles on 21 and 22 July 1918, the French delegate asked what weight 
of projectiles each of the Allied Aviation Services could drop in twenty- 
four hours between July and December 1918.*' Trenchard prepared a set 
of notes for Sykes, who was the British delegate at this session, stating 
that he could give such figures but that they would not mean very much. 


He attached a table which included the theoretical weight in tons which 
the aircraft of the Independent Force could drop daily for each of the 
specified months. The nearest the Force ever got to the estimate was 3.5 
percent.** No one at headquarters was surprised because the table had 
carried the following note: "These figures are purely theoretical and can 
in no way expect to be borne out by fact.'"*' 

It has been frequently pointed out that Trenchard was less than 
enthusiastic about his role,"* but contemporary evidence clearly illustrates 
that he discharged his duties with a clear eye to the practical difficulties 
which faced him: in this case, numbers, serviceability, weather, distance, 
the need for French goodwill, and frequent allied requests for shorter 
range support. When GOC of the Royal Flying Corps, he maintained a 
meticulous collection of intelligence reports on the effects of his Force's 
raids under the headings of "British Official Report," "German Official 
Report," "Materiel Results," and "Moral Effects."*' The fundamentals 
of his strategy were spelled out on the first page: 

Though materiel damage is as yet slight when compared with moral effect it is 
certain that the destruction of 'moral' [morale] will start before the destruction of 
factories and, consequently, loss of production will precede materiel damage.* 

It is, therefore, not surprising to find that when Trenchard was di- 
rected by the military representatives of the Supreme War Council at 
Versailles in the autumn of 1918 to produce a "methodical plan" for the 
proposed allied strategic bombing force, it began as follows: 

There are two factors— moral effect and materiel effect— the object being to obtain 
the maximum of each. The best means to this end is to attack the industrial centres 
where you: 

a. Do military and vital damage by striking at the centres of supply of war 

b. Achieve the maximum of effect on the moral by striking at the most sensitive 
part of the whole of the German population— namely, the working class."' 

Here was a definition of the Third Dimension of Warfare. Some 
roots lay partly in the ideas formulated before 1914, others in the use of 
air power in indirect deeper support of the land battle, others in the angry 
demand for reprisals for German attacks on Britain, others in the need 
to find employment for the expected thousands of additional aircraft. 
Other roots perhaps lay in the technological fact of life of 1918 that 
morale seemed much easier to damage than material, or even in the 
inexorable implication of democratic warfare that all who contribute to 
a war effort, military and civilian alike, may be said to be justifiable 
millitary targets. 

Wherever we choose to place our emphasis, we can recognize that 
even by 1919 the British had contributed conceptual ideas, organizational 
example, and offensive operational experience which were to have a 


strong influence on the evolution of air power later in our century. These, 
I suggest, are the three major permanent features of the "British Di- 



1. Quoted by Colonel A. F. Hurley in his appendix "Additional Insights" to Billy 
Mitchell: Crusader for Air Power (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), p. 142. 

2. F. W. Lanchester, "Aerial Flight," Aerodynamics, vol. 1 (London: Constable, 1908), 
p. vi. 

3. Flight, 2 January 1909, p. 1. 

4. George O. Squier, "The Present Status of Military Aeronautics," ibid, 27 February 
1909, pp. 121 ff. (This paper was previously presented in December 1908 to a New York 
meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.) 

5. Flight, 15 May 1909, p. 272. 

6. Captain C. J. Burke, Royal Irish Regiment (Army Air Battalion), "Aeroplanes of 
Today and Their Use in War," Journal of the Royal United Services Institution (JRUS!) 
May 1911, Vol. LV, pp. 624-9. 

7. Burke. 

8. Op. cit. 

9. JRUSI, Vol. LVII, 1913, p. 333. 

10. Lanchester, "Engineering," 27 November 1914, later included in Aircraft in Warfare, 
The Dawn of the Fourth Arm (London: Constable, 1916). 

1 1 . An excellent comprehensive analysis of the findings and long-term influence of the 
Technical Sub-Committee is in Neville Jones, The Origins of Strategic Bombing (London: 
William Kimber, 1973), pp. 36 ff. 

12. This comment is attributed to General Haig in July 1914 by Sir Frederick Sykes in 
his autobiography From Many Angles (London: Harrap, 1942), p. 105. While there is no 
reason to doubt that Haig held such sentiments, it should be remembered that Sykes' 
testimony was that of a man embittered by his personal rivalries with both Haig and 
Trenchard before, during and after World War I. 

13. Captain Neumann, "The Possibility of Making Use of Balloons and Motor Airships 
in the Navy," Marine-Rundschau, July 1908, translated in JRUSI, Vol. LII, p. 1502. 

14. E.g., J. M. Spaight, The Beginnings of Organized Airpower (London: Longmans, 
1927). Among recent analyses of the events leading to the creation of the RAF, this study 
by a British civil servant may not have been given quite the attention it deserves. Despite 
a classical eulogy of independent air power in the opening chapter, largely included in 
Emme's compilation, the greater part of the book offers a well balanced, detailed and 
comprehensively documented account of the press, parliamentary and other pressures which 
had a powerful cumulative influence on the British government's decision in 1917. 

15. Summarized in Royal Air Force Air Publication 125, 1936, pp. 290-295. 

16. Spaight, op. cit., pp. 92 ff. 

17. Hansard, House of Lords, 21 December 1916, Vol. 23, Col. 1070. 

18. D. Divine, The Broken Wing (London: Hutchinson, 1966), p. 105. 

19. The contribution of Messrs, Pemberton-Billing, Joynson-Hicks and other members 
of both Houses of Parliament to the incessant debates on the application of British air 
power between 1914 and 1918 is comprehensively described in B. D. Powers, Strategy 
Without Slide Rule (London: Croom Helm, 1976). 

20. Quoted in Squadron Leader C. J. Mackay MC DFC, "The German Air Raids in 
England," RAF Staff College, Andover, 1924. 

21. Appendix II to Cabinet Minutes WC233 24 August 1917. 

22. Ibid. 

23. Ibid. 

24. Ibid. 

25. Note 3 above. 

26. F. W. Lanchester, Aircraft in Warfare, The Dawn of the Fourth Arm (London: 
Constable, 1916), p. 202. 

27. H. Montgomery-Hyde, British Air Policy Between the Wars 1918-1939 (London: 
Heinemann, 1976) is the most comprehensive and best documented account of the Royal 
Air Force viewpoint of the implications of the RN-RAF struggles. On the naval side, the 
official RN histories by Captain Stephen Roskill will receive a most valuable supplement 
in 1979 with the publication by MacDonald and Janes of London of The Bomb and the 
Battleship, by Geoffrey Till, Senior Lecturer at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. 

28. Till, supra, chap. 15. 


29. HQ RFC Memo, 22 September 1916; quoted in full in Higham, Military Intellectuals 
in Britain 1918-39 (New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1966), pp. 253-256. 

30. Lanchester, op. cit., p. 40. 

31. Quoted by Divine, op. cit., p. 141. 

32. "What the Germans say about the RFC": typescript collection of German letters, 
prisoner of war reports and Army Orders retained in the Trenchard files at the RAF Staff 
College Bracknell; hereafter referred to as "Bracknell Papers." 

33. Ibid., several similar comments. 

34. Jones, op. cit., pp. 120 ff. 

35. Ibid., p. 142. 

36. Sir Charles Webster and Noble Frankiand, Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany 
1939-45, Vol. 1 (London: HMSQ, 1916), p. 48. 

37. Report by Lieutenant Commander The Lord Tiverton, submitted to the Air Board 
on 3 September 1917, quoted in Jones, op. cit., p. 146. 

38. Second Tiverton report, 2 November 1917. Quoted in Jones, op. cit., pp. 154 ff. 

39. "Experiences of Bombing with the Independent Force," lecture by Wing Commander 
J. E. A. Baldwin DSO QBE to the Royal Air Force Staff College 1922; printed in AP956 
December 1923 (Bracknell Papers). 

40. Trenchard to Weir. IFG/79 2 July 1918, Bracknell Papers. 

41. Annexure to Proces Verbal, third session. International Allied Aviation Committee, 
p. 2, Bracknell Papers. 

42. Ibid., Table A, together with monthly classified reports by Trenchard to Weir, June- 
November 1918, Bracknell Papers. 

43. Ibid. 

44. Most recently by Montgomery-Hyde, op. cit., pp. 43-44. 

45. "Confidential Results of Air Raids on Germany 1 Jan-30 Sep 1918," DAI No. 5, 
Bracknell Papers. 

46. Ibid, p. 1. 

47. Undated typescript duplicate originating from IF HQ in Autumn 1918 retained by 
Trenchard in his own IF file, Bracknell Papers. 



The Pre-World War I Era 

The Wright brothers' initial exploits with heavier-than-air flight in 
1903 were an incentive for the major military powers of Europe to discuss 
the application of the airplane in modern warfare. Prior to the Wrights' 
experiments, the Italian and Prussian armies had concentrated on balloon 
and airship development. ' Both armies believed until 1911 that the airship 
was superior to the airplane in range, load, and speed. The Russians, 
too, believed in the airship's superiority, and in 1906 their War Ministry 
rejected an offer to purchase one of the Wrights' airplanes. The French, 
however, exhibited extensive interest in heavier-than-air flight. Contin- 
ued successes by French flyers in 1907 spurred the Prussians to set up an 
aviation technical section of the General Staff. By August of 1908, the 
Prussian General Staff questioned the Army's policy of rejecting the 
airplane in favor of the airship and recommended that the Army actively 
support the development of the flying machine by constructing its own 

From 1908 to 1911 a combination of factors focused on the airplane's 
development. Technological improvements, the founding of a number 
of aircraft companies, the formation of public lobbying groups such as 
the German Air Fleet League and the Imperial All-Russia Aero Club 
(both started in 1908), and the lively interest of prominent individuals 
such as Prince Heinrich of Prussia and Grand Duke Alexander of Russia 
gave impetus to the airplane among military circles. ' It became patently 
clear that the airplane had potential military value for reconnaissance 
and communication. By 1911, the major European continental armies 
had contracted for the purchase of airplanes and were actively training 

The last three years of peace before World War I were characterized 
by the gradual assimilation of air machines into the organizational struc- 
ture and doctrines of the European military establishments. Although 
appropriations for aviation were modest compared to total armament 
expenditures, the pace of aeronautical rearmament had quickened. When 
hostilities commenced in August of 1914, each of the major European 
powers had a few hundred aircraft fit for active service, and the crucial 
base for the aviation industry had been laid in each nation." 


Organizationally, aviation had been incorporated into the military 
structure on the basis of its intended use . Herein lay the greatest weakness 
of prewar military aviation. Given the generally accepted expectations 
of a short war and the limited role aircraft would play, the consensus 
among military authorities was that the aircraft would primarily be used 
for reconnaissance— an improved cavalry. Secondary duties such as ar- 
tillery spotting and message carrying were also recognized. 

The further possibility of the airplane's use as an attack weapon was 
considered, for there had been some experimentation with bombing be- 
fore the war. The Italians had dropped some two-kilogram grenades 
during the Libyan War in 1911, and the Germans had ordered some of 
their planes equipped with five- and ten-kilogram bombs in mid-1913; 
but there was no systematic study of the problems involved and surpris- 
ingly little theorizing on the subject. Presumably, the load bearing factor 
for the flimsy airplanes of the era precluded further speculation. The 
airship, with its greater lifting capacity, appeared to be a much better 
possibility as a bomber. The appalling picture of cities destroyed by 
airships had long been a part of the European literary tradition of "voices 
prophesying war." More profitable speculation was centered on the arm- 
ing of aircraft with light-weight machine guns for defense or attack. The 
development of the machine gun and the growing reliability and safety 
of aircraft meant that two of the three necessary ingredients for effective 
aerial combat— the armament and the gun platform— had been worked 
out before the war; the third ingredient— tactics— would soon follow. ' 

The War 

World War I was a major turning point in military aviation on the 
continent, perhaps the turning point. In four bloody years of combat 
aviation evolved from an oddity to a military necessity. Very much in 
the manner that the military absorbed and mastered the technology of 
the railroad for war purposes in the nineteenth century, a process that 
took decades, the military absorbed and mastered aviation technology 
in the incredibly short period of four years. In the areas of doctrine, 
tactics, organization, and weapon development, the First World War 
established the patterns for future development. 

Some idea of the quantum jump in aviation during the war can be 
gleaned from a few statistics. When the war began, the French had 150 
to 200 pilots and 24 squadrons; when it ended, they had 320 squadrons 
and 4,398 aircraft. French industry produced 52,000 airframes and 92,000 
motors. Germany produced approximately 44,000 airframes and 48^000 
engines. Italy, which had 106 aircraft and 5 dirigibles when it went to 
war in May of 1915, ended the conflict with 1,778 aircraft and 22 dirigibles. 
The Italian air industry produced approximately 12,000 aircraft and 


20,000 engines. Even the Russians, with a much smaller industrial base 
than the other major European countries, produced nearly 5,600 aircraft 
during the war.* 

Development of supporting materials grew at the same astonishing 
rate. Before the war, for example, not a single European military service 
had an aerial bomb, bomb rack, bombsight, or release mechanism on 
aircraft; but four years later, their air services not only had the bombs, 
but the bombers to carry them considerable distances, the technical pro- 
ficiency and equipment to aim and release bombs, and the organizational 
structure and military doctrines to plan mass bombing attacks. 

It is clear that the European powers surmounted the thousands of 
problems associated with the expansion, organization, and development 
of aviation during the war. The intermeshing of the development of 
tactics, weapons, doctrine, and organization during the war is so pro- 
nounced that it is difficult to analyze any strand separately. However, an 
analysis of the organization of the military will serve as a framework. 

The most obvious changes in organization were the evolution of a 
more compatible structure to fit the new service and the enormous in- 
crease in size of all units. At first, the usual army cavalry organization 
was applied as befitted a reconnaissance arm. Flying units were equally 
distributed to ground commanders. No thought was given to concen- 
trating forces or differentiating additional functions. Gradually the lim- 
itations of the traditional organizational structures were recognized and 
changed. A more flexible pattern was developed to fit the rapidly in- 
creasing functions and potential of the air services. This was a difficult 
task since the new flying services were often outranked by the senior 
services, suffered from a lack of appreciation at higher headquarters, and 
were hindered by a healthy dose of the fliers' own impudence.' 

The Germans and the French were the trendsetters in redistributing 
and concentrating their aircraft into fighter, reconnaissance, and bombing 
units. The Germans had also placed all of their air arm under a separate 
organization in October 1916, but this was more administrative than 
operational since most units were still under the control of local army 
commanders except for some fighter and bomber units directly under the 
General Headquarters. The French persisted in keeping their units tied 
to local commanders, but the Italians showed a great deal of ingenuity 
by retaining most of their long-range reconnaissance and bomber units 
under the command of a central Army Headquarters. 

The Italians were also quick to see the advantages of massing air 
power over key ground operations, but they were surpassed by the French 
in the latter stages of the war. The French, who had concentrated on 
short-range tactical bombing under the control of subordinate military 


formations, had not achieved much success until they massed forty squad- 
rons into the First Air Division over Soissons in 1918." Although the 
Europeans had learned by the end of the war how to mass air power, to 
organize it with more flexibility, and to handle larger aggregates of men 
and materials, they still had not resolved how to command and use air 
power most effectively. What they had learned from tactics did not solve 
their problems. 

World War I opened up the entire spectrum of tactics in air power. 
From fumbling improvisation to controlled experimentation, to stand- 
ardization and, in a few cases, to deft mastery, the Europeans learned 
their trade of making war in the air. In fighter tactics alone, the long, 
arduous melees of 1915 gave way to the brief, deadly, orchestrated dog- 
fights of 1918. In bombing, the sporadic ventures over enemy lines 
evolved into the raids of 1918 involving hundreds of aircraft. Not only 
did the numbers increase, but the types and functions of bombing raids 
changed as the Europeans used bombers for close support, interdiction 
and strategic bombing. 

Although the Germans and Italians achieved some success in stra- 
tegic bombing by forcing their opponents to divert sorely needed re- 
sources to home defense, the psychological effect was probably more 
important than the material damages done — a point noted by the critics 
of air power. The war was to end before any convincing proof of the 
offensive power of aircraft was gathered; this reinforced the skeptical 
attitude of senior officers of the army and navy about the ability of the 
air arm to carry out independent missions. The results of tactical bombing 
were also not too impressive, but there was no denying the effectiveness 
of close-support aircraft. At the Somme and Verdun, air support was 
used extensively, but it was not until 1917, when the Germans introduced 
specially built ground attack fighters, that the assault fighters came into 
their own. The other European powers quickly followed, and the French 
in particular appreciated the possibilities of close support missions.* 

Fighter tactics showed a slow but steady progression throughout the 
war; and, probably because of the wartime propaganda and the inherent 
drama of the heroic dogfight, they were the most publicized part of the 
war. The struggle for aerial supremacy was a bitter one and one which 
seesawed back and forth as each side brought out new aircraft and tactics. 
The struggle was intently followed by the military as well as the general 
public, for in a grim and impersonal war, this was a flamboyant and 
personalized form of combat that captured the imagination of all. Like 
mythical heroes of the past, these twentieth-century "knights of the air" 
flung themselves into dangerous jousts ending in victory or flaming de- 
feat. These dashing, gallant aviators were ready-made heroes for the 
publicity men. Enormous amounts of time, money, and energy were 


devoted to fighter development and tactics, and the results were forth- 

Speed, sturdiness, reiiabihty, and maneuverability of fighters were 
rapidly improved, but the biggest steps were the introduction of the 
synchronized machine gun and the standardization of its production. A 
number of patents for synchronized machine guns had been taken out 
in Europe before World War I, but none was in operation when the war 
started. '" The crude Garros deflector system was tried with some success 
in March of 1915, but the first workable system was designed by Anthony 
Fokker for Germany a few months later. In the hands of such pilots as 
Boelcke, Immelmann, and Udet, the tractor type fighter revolutionized 
fighter tactics. The Allies matched the Germans a year later when they 
too introduced a hydraulic synchronized gear system to the fixed-gun 

The standardization of production which allowed for identical per- 
formance of aircraft in units promoted formation flying, the second most 
important change in tactics. By later 1915 the Germans had achieved 
this, followed by the French, British and Italians in the next year. " 
Although there would be many more changes in aircraft and tactics in 
the last two years of the war, the broad lines of tactics for the fighters 
had been worked out by 1917. 

Fighter pilots may have grabbed most of the headlines, but the flyers 
who took the same risks and produced even more results were the re- 
connaissance airmen. From the first Battle of the Marne until the last 
shot was fired, these airmen gathered vital information for their com- 
manders. The mounting of cameras on aircraft and the growing sophis- 
tication of the photo interpreter opened up new vistas for ground 
commanders planning their operations. At sea, the military potential of 
the airplane in extending the visibility of surface ships was soon appre- 
ciated, but it would not be until World War II that the full potential of 
over-water aerial reconnaissance would be utilized. Strategic photo-re- 
connaissance was also conducted by European armies with notable suc- 
cess. The techniques employed during World War I may have been 
primitive, but they marked the beginning of what may have been the 
most important contribution of the aircraft to modern warfare. '^ 

The Russians may have gained more from their Civil War than World 
War I. The Imperial Air Service was markedly inferior to the other major 
air services. Equipped largely with foreign models, it was chronically 
short of supplies and poorly handled during the war. " Their organization, 
patterned after the French, was closely tied to ground support tasks, buti 
ironically, their chief success was in strategic bombing. Igor Sikorski's 
famous four-engine bomber, Il'ya Muromets, established a precedent of 
directly supporting frontal operations with large bombers. '" By the time 


the Bolshevik revolution broke out, the Air Service was in wretched 
condition. The Civil War that followed was dominated by land engage- 
ments; but the fluid battlelines, great distances and lack of good ground 
and sea communications greatly influenced Russian interest in maintain- 
ing air communications and in concentrating their forces. While leaders 
of the Red air fleet appreciated the need for air power, they found it 
impossible to secure. On the whole, the Russians viewed ground support 
operations as the most valuable form of air power, but they did not lose 
sight of the need for centralizing some of their air power for tactical or 
strategic goals. The experience gained in the Civil War, while modified 
by ideas inherited from the Imperial Air Service and the Germans, re- 
mained dominant in the formation of the Red Air Force." 

In summary, most of the weapons and ideas used in World War II 
had their origin in the First World War, except for devices such as radar 
and the atomic bomb, which depended on technological progress in other 
scientific fields. Furthermore, as historian John W. R. Taylor pointed 
out, ". . . it is clear that almost every basic tactical and strategic appli- 
cation for air power had been tried out, at least experimentally, by the 
end of the 1914-18 War. Advances since then have been concentrated 
mainly on refining the weapons in terms of both aircraft and equip- 

The Post- War Years 

After World War I, the military airmen concentrated on three major 
activities: first, an analysis of the war; second, a justification of air power 
in the defense structure, preferably as an independent and equal service 
branch; and third, a general consideration of stalemate in warfare. The 
shocking disparity between the ends sought and the enormous price in 
blood and material paid for the meager results obtained during World 
War I had not only sharply reduced the independence as well as the 
prestige of the military in the eyes of the general public and the politicians, 
but also had illustrated the narrowmindedness of modern strategic think- 

It is easy to see the seductive charm that Douhet's theories had for 
airmen grappling with these concerns, since he seemed to supply the 
answers to their problems. His strategy appeared revolutionary, bold and 
in tune with the new industrial age and the experiences of World War 
I, when in fact it was none of these. Douhet had borrowed heavily from 
contemporary prewar sea strategy; his observations about modern in- 
dustrialism were inaccurate; and his emphasis on strategic bombing was 
derived from the weakest example of air power during World War I." 

A word of caution about Douhet. Many, if not most, of the key 
officers and officials in the air services of Europe during the interwar 


period had neither heard of him nor read his works, but, like all great 
theorists, Douhet had synthesized and articulated a body of thought that 
had occurred in whole or in part to many others. 

The evidence supporting Douhet's major assumptions— the capa- 
bility and destructive power of the heavy bomber, the impotence of air 
defense, and the fragility of a modern industrial society in the face of 
heavy bombing— was thin and inconclusive. Like most prophets, Douhet 
was long on prognostications and short on facts, but his theories had a 
sweeping boldness and grandeur that his critics could not match. Airmen 
on the continent especially found him useful in arguing for an independent 
air force and supplying a conceptual framework for the next war, but 
they ran afoul of many well-entrenched vested interests, bureaucratic 
inertia, and lots of evidence drawn from World War I. 

The prevailing pattern for the European air forces from 1919 to 1936 
was to fight out with the other military services and the governmental 
bureaucracies the issues of an independent air force and use of strategic 
bombing, only to have the first idea accepted and the second rejected. 
In Italy in 1923, in Sweden in 1926, in France in 1928, and in Germany 
m 1933, independent air forces or air ministries were set up, clear rec- 
ognition of the new role of air power, but the drive for a strategic bombing 
force failed everywhere." 

The reasons why the Europeans ended with basically tactical air 
forces by the mid-1930s vary from country to country, but in general they 
have this much in common: they were land powers; they were in agree- 
ment on the direction and pace of aircraft technology; and, militarily, 
they were traditional and conservative. Germany and Russia were the 
classic cases of continental land powers, but even the French and the 
Italians, both of whom had had long associations with the sea, were by 
then conditioned to think in terms of continental land power. In short, 
although they could appreciate the potential of strategic air power their 
immediate interest and security appeared to depend on fielding' mass 
armies to fight decisive battles along their frontiers. 

The prospects of developing a true strategic bomber, that is to say, 
a multi-engine, long range aircraft with a big bomb load, also seemed 
dim. Before such an aircraft could be built, many tough technical prob- 
lems had to be solved. New, powerful engines had to be developed as 
well as better fuels, more accurate bombing systems, and improved long- 
range navigational and radio equipment. Such an aircraft would have had 
to meet the standards of reliability and serviceability essential for their 
use in operational units, and, above all, every one of these factors had 
to be combined into a successful aeronautical design. Despite the fact 
that the Italians and Russians in the early 1930s and the Germans in the 
late 1930s conducted some amazing long-range flights, only the Russians 


were willing to gamble a disproportionate amount of their scarce materials 
and factory capability to build a large fleet of heavy bombers. ^ The 
results for the Russians were not encouraging, since the speed, ceiling, 
and range of the Tupolev TB-3 proved markedly inferior to the warplanes 
coming off the drawing boards by the mid-1930s. 

The French tried another tack. Instead of building a strategic 
bomber, much of their effort was concentrated on developing a multi- 
purpose "battleplane" which may have owed something to Douhet for 
its origins but nothing in its final form. The French effort produced only 
small, slow, and heavily-armed aircraft designed to support ground op- 
erations. " The Italians opted for medium bombers, as did the Germans. 
Medium bombers were more appropriate for the European-scale war 
they were planning. The Germans, however, did design one other so- 
lution to the problem — the dive bomber. The dive bomber was a bridge, 
an interim solution, to cover the technological deficiencies that had arisen 
in medium and heavy bomber development. A cheap, quick way to 
achieve maximum bombing punch with a minimum use of resources, the 
dive bomber was a calculated-risk aircraft designed to serve until either 
a superior heavy aircraft or a new generation of medium bombers could 
be developed." 

In sum, there was a consensus among the European military staffs 
that the aviation technology of the 1930s, especially in terms of engine 
development, was not mature enough to deliver a strategic bomber that 
could become the capstone of a complete air force. Later, pressures of 
rapid rearmament, shortages of fuel and raw materials, and Hmited pro- 
duction facilities would strongly militate against a decision to build a fleet 
of heavy bombers. 

In addition to technological objections, the Europeans had many 
doctrinal reasons for preferring tactical over strategical air power. Older, 
ground oriented officers were in the key command and staff positions; 
and, although they were comfortable in accepting aviation as an auxiliary 
arm, they resented the "young Turks" who wanted aviation as an in- 
dependent arm with a strategic bombing role. In France, the army's 
doctrine of defense dominated and eventually perverted air theory and 
practice. Although the increasing importance of aerial bombardment was 
recognized, the emphasis remained on tactical bombing. Even the estab- 
lishment of an air ministry in 1928 and the independent Armee de I'Air 
in 1933 did not appreciably alter air power. Still, France was at least able 
to maintain her aerial superiority until the depression, when a combi- 
nation of financial difficulties, war- weariness, political polarization, and 
the influence of Maginot and Petain accentuated a defensive strategy at 
precisely the time Germany started rearming and a major breakthrough 
in aerial technology had occurred. " By the time the French woke up and 


started to rearm for offensive air operations again, they found themselves 
behind the power curve in production, equipment, and strategy. By the 
spring of 1938, too much valuable time had been lost. French aircraft 
production had dropped to less than a hundred monthly, French spending 
for aviation had plummeted to 19 percent of the total defense expendi- 
tures compared to 54 percent in Great Britain, and French appreciation 
of air power had sunk so low that the Chief of the General Staff, General 
Gamelin, could comment, ". . . the role of aviation is apt to be exag- 
gerated, and [that] after the early days of war the wastage will be such 
that it will more and more be confined to acting as an accessory to the 

army "" 

The Italians did not fare much better than the French, despite the 
brief presence of Douhet in the ministry and the unbounded enthusiasm 
of Mussolini for a revolutionary. Fascist air force. Under the energetic 
Italo Balbo, the Italians built a formidable air force by the late 1920s and 
early 1930s, but it still was a conventional force. The rhetoric of the 
Fascist regime might have been Douhetan, but the aircraft were not." 

The Russian experience was different in that the Red Air Force 
never became an independent service, even though a strategic bomber 
force was built in the 1930s. The Red Army kept the air force tied closely 
to the ground forces, and the doctrines of tactical bombing and close 
support prevailed. The strategic bombing advocates did make some se- 
rious inroads in these doctrines. In 1926, theoretician Lapchinskii pressed 
for strategic bombing under the guise of independent air operations. A 
lively debate ensued, with some Russians arguing the necessity of an 
independent air force. They never took the extreme position of some of 
their western counterparts that the next war could be won solely with 
massive long-range bombardment, but they were effective to the extent 
that their government began building a fleet of heavy bombers. By the 
May Day parade of 1933, 50 TB-3s were seen over Moscow and a year 
later 250 appeared.^' By 1936, the Soviets had reorganized their heavy 
bombers into a strategic force— the first of its kind in the 1930s. The 
chain of events then swiftly reversed this trend. The purges by Stalin, 
the Russian experiences in Spain and in Asia, and the rapid technological 
advances in tactical aviation by the western European powers led the 
Soviets to conclude that their strategic bombing doctrine was erroneous. 
They changed direction and entered World War II with the most tactically 
oriented air force in Europe. 

Perhaps the experience of the Luftwaffe is the most revealing. Orig- 
mally organized as an independent force and headed by the second most 
powerful man in the country, the Luftwaffe was tendered the kind of 
preferential treatment reserved for a favorite son. The political leadership 
favored a strategic force and, in fact, cleverly cultivated the image of 


such a force at home and abroad. Hitler soon became the most adroit 
manipulator of the "bombing scare" technique as he bullied his neighbors 
with the threat of wholesale destruction from the air. But the professionals 
of the Luftwaffe, many of whom were drawn from the army, had come 
to the same conclusions as those of the other European professional 
staffs — that a strategic bombing force was desirable but not feasible and 
that a tactical force was a sounder and easier choice. Their overwhelming 
emphasis on tactical rather than strategic bombing continued throughout 
the history of the Luftwaffe." 

In summary, the most striking aspect of the thinking of the Euro- 
peans from 1919 to 1936 on the nature of the next air war was the disparity 
between the popular and the professional estimates of that conflict. The 
Douhetans won the debate with the general public, but lost it with the 
professional military. There was a wide-spread popular fear of the de- 
struction of civilization through mass bombing and use of gas. Yet those 
charged with the responsibility of planning for the next war rejected this 
view. Aside from their brief flirtations with the Douhetan theory, the 
professionals held to a more balanced, rational and less exaggerated view 
of air warfare, a view based on a war they had fought in, studied and, 
yes, hoped would be like the last one. Neither the popular nor profes- 
sional view of the character of the future air war was correct, as the real 
wars of the 1930s would show. 

Warfare From Ethiopia Through Poland 

Starting with the Ethiopian war and through the first phase of World 
War II, the European states fought a series of wars on three continents 
that ultimately either overthrew or drastically modified their principal 
ideas about aerial warfare. The Italian experience in Ethiopia proved 
little. They fought a colonial-style war against a feudal regime that could 
not protect itself against air power. The lessons learned from the expe- 
rience were scant, save for the imperative need for air transport in a 
country largely devoid of modern land communications.^' Spain, how- 
ever, offered an entirely different perspective. For nearly three years the 
major European air forces tested their equipment, tactics and personnel 
there in a combat situation similar to what they might expect in the 
immediate future. There was a surprising degree of uniformity in how 
they perceived the results of their experiences in Spain. Strategic bombing 
was downgraded and tactical bombing emphasized, perhaps unduly. High 
level bombing was found to be ineffective, while low level, close support 
bombing was judged effective and an absolute necessity for successful 
ground operations. The Spanish Civil War experience convinced the 
Russians, Germans, Italians, and French of the need to integrate the 
work of their air forces with that of their ground units. Naval aviation, 
long range bombing, and even air defense were now slighted. The concept 


of strategic bombing was decisively downgraded in favor of the more 
orthodox view of combined military operations. ^' 

In France, the concept of the multi-purpose battleplane was brought 
into question, and the experience in Spain contributed to French inde- 
cision in development. More prototypes were ordered, adding to the 
confused welter already existing in the development program while pro- 
duction languished. Although the French digested the lesson of tactical 
bombing behind the battlelines, they were much slower in understanding 
the need for close ground support. Indeed, the results of the Spanish 
Civil War seemed to the French to validate the lowly estate of air power 
in their defensive strategy. ^ 

The impact of the German experience in Spain on their tactics, 
development and theory were profound. The Luftwaffe and the German 
Army had been organized along conventional lines, but both were groping 
for a new style of warfare. The formation of the new Panzer divisions in 
late 1935 coincided with the "dive bombing craze" in the Luftwaffe, and 
the experience in Spain seemed to confirm the views of the "young Turks" 
in the ground forces and in the air arm that the wave of the future lay 
in a combination of armour, infantry, and air power. More than anything 
else, the Spanish war helped to weld the Luftwaffe to a tactical concept 
of operations geared to direct air support. " The successes of the Condor 
Legion precluded the evolution of a more independent, strategic type of 
air force, with the impact seen most clearly in the German production 
and development programs, where they swung into mass production of 
tactical aircraft. Spain convinced the top leadership in Germany that, 
like the proverbial gunfighter, they had achieved the technological "drop" 
on their neighbors, and they intended to use their advantage. 

In Asia and in Spain, the Soviet Union had engaged in wars that 
tested its equipment and tactics. In China and later in Mongolia in 1939, 
the Soviets found themselves involved in some of the largest air battles 
fought since World War I. Hundreds of airplanes were used, and losses 
were heavy on both sides; but the Russians found they were equal to the 
Japanese except in \he cases of the newer single-engine fighters. Again, 
as in Spain, the accent was on tactical air power, and the need of the 
Soviets for new fighters and close support aircraft was glaring.'^ The 
winter war in Finland confirmed these results and spurred the Russians 
to reorganize and re-equip their air force. By the time the Nazis struck 
at the Soviet Union, the Soviets were caught in the middle of their 
modernization cycle, but in terms of doctrine the Soviets were firm. They 
were committed to a doctrine of air power that stressed the integration 
of air power with their ground forces, while rejecting a reliance on air 
power as a single strategy to win a war.'^ 


The first year of World War II seemed to confirm the theories of 
the European air forces. The brilliant successes of the Luftwaffe in Po- 
land, Norway, the Lowlands, and France were attributed to an aggressive, 
offensive-minded tactical air force. Curiously, the same air force had 
value as a strategic deterrent. From Munich to the Battle of Britain, the 
key to the Nazis' successes was their ability to pursue three objectives 
simultaneously. First, they were able to deter conventional military op- 
erations by issuing warnings of strategic instability. Second, they deterred 
all-out air attacks by promises of restraint and threats of retaliation, and, 
third, they were able to isolate combat zones for their tactical air attacks. ** 
As long as the Luftwaffe seemed to possess a strong deterrent value, it 
was far more formidable than in actual practice. Once it had to prove 
that value in the Battle of Britain, the inadequacies of the Luftwaffe were 
fully exposed. 

In looking back at the conventional experience with military aviation 
from Kitty Hawk to the Battle of Britain, two observations stand out 
most clearly in my mind. The first is the astonishing pace of the tech- 
nological development of aviation and the ingenuity and perseverance 
of the Europeans in using it to make war. I am reminded of a few Unes 
George Bernard Shaw wrote in Man and Superman in the year of Kitty 
Hawk: "In the arts of peace Man is a bungler. I have seen his cotton 
factories and . . . machinery . . . they are toys compared to the Maxim 
gun and submarine torpedo boat. There is nothing in Man's industrial 
machinery but his greed and his sloth: his heart is in his weapons." 

The second observation is the seemingly inexplicable failure of the 
Europeans to understand and properly conceptualize air power. Granted, 
by the yardstick of human experience two generations of time represent 
too brief an interval to expect much conceptualization. Still, the disparity 
between the ingenious military utilization of air power and the ineffective 
theorizing about it is striking. One can only conclude that Rebecca West 
was correct in 1937 when she wrote, "Before a war military science seems 
a real science, like astronomy, but after a war it seems more like as- 



& BroS'rs"l97'ir''''" fr^7 *'""'""''''"^"'' """ ""'^ °f '" devetopmem (New York: Harper 

2. John Howard Morrow, Jr., Building German Airpower. 1909-1914 (Knoxville Tenn • 
University of Tennessee Press, 1967), p. 17. 'ivmc. lenn.. 

3. /6id pp. 23-25 45; for early interest in Russia see Robert A. Kilmarx, A History 
of Soviet Air Power (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962) pp 4-5 ^ 
iom' Ia"'' '^T' '° ''^ ".'"'^ agreement on the total number of aircrafi available in August 
1914 Morrow, German Airpower. p. 87, using German records, claims the French had 300 
ftrst-lme aircraft out of 600. the Prussians 295-320 fit out of 450, the English 160 and the 

^!iww?N °°v "? o°"' "'"J"- '^'""*'" °'"" '"" J°hn Fricker, The Air ForceTofthe 
VVorW(New York: Hanover House, 1958), pp. 98, 112, 244, list Germany with 281 aircraft 

airiaff A?ch Wh^;h'^''"'rr''!:,r '"Y''\ '"" '' "'"g'""^^ ^"^ '^e Russians with 244 
aircraft. Arch Whitehouse, The Military Airplane, its history and development (New York- 
Doubleday, 1972), pp. 3-9, cites another set of figures. / u ew rork. 

5. Whitehouse. Military Airplane, pp. f-8 22-^3 31-38 

Polfcv mt-m9 "fpTn^°;''Tr "^n°"' Robert W.Krauskopf. "French Air Power 
folicy 1919-1939 (Ph.D. dissertation, Georgetown University, 1965), pp 1-2- for Ger- 
'"^"''k fn^o^ S'^*'*'PP^' ^'^'"^ Geschiehte der deutschen Luftfahrt (Berlin: Haude & Spe- 
nersche, 1968) pp. 6^71 7^77, and J. A. Gilles, Flugmotorin ,910 bis /9//(Frankfurt- 
E. S. Mittler 197 , pp. 123-24; for Italy, ■■Italian Air Force; An Official History - Aer- 
rS7r/C/r'''"'"'°pH'-"'" l^^3): 17*^79, Piero Vergnano, Origini DelZiazine 
^J^JtIA A^% I Ed'z-oni Intyprint, 1964), p. 91; and for Russia, Alexander 

Solt't JlrPoZerp. ^y" ^ '^ ''"''^ "'"" '"" ^''' '"'''• P' '• '""^ '^"'^^™' 

DD ^g^'j!^ R^lifr" n ' '^''/"'^"'■' ^ fonnV History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1972), 
J 78 "' '^ "^ '^°"'*°"- We*'^e"feld and Nicolson, 1974)! 

8. Charles Messenger, The Art of Blitzkrieg (London: Ian Allan, 1976), p 29 
^^ 9. Bill Gunston, Fighters. 1914-1945 (London: Phoebus Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 30- 

10. Ibid., pp. 15-16; Whitehouse, Militarv Airplane, pp 63-67 

11. Higham, Air Power, pp. 35-36. 

12. Whitehouse, Military Airplane, pp. 72-79. 

13. Kilmarx, Soviet Air Power, pp. 13-14. 

14. Ibid., p. 24; Boyd, Soviet Air Force, pp. 4-5. 

15. Kilmarx, Soviet Air Power, p 50 

Yoll: G''p.ltnam^Ss,^r9'"69?,'p^T^' "^ "' '''"" ^""" '"^ '^ "' ''--' <^- 
1959),^p^'7."'^ ^'°'^'^' ^'""'^^ '" '^' ^'''"^ ^^' (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 

Jn\ ^f°' J^°"'' v' '^^"" '"■■ °'"''° '^°"''^'- ^^' Command of the Air, Dino Ferrari 
InHTh (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1942) and Frank J Cappelluti "The Life 
and Thought of Giulio Douhet," (Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University 1967 A few of 
or, 7T83 *;:, ' Jw '^'^'^"1^ D°"he''^ '"""-- -e: Brodie, Strategy In the Missile Age 
Edwif M HP 1 Z",: ^7^''- ^"='^""' ^'""'^y-' 'theories of Air Warfare," from 
Edward Mead Earle's, Makers of Modern Strategy (New York: Atheneum, 1967). pp 485- 

Inh; R^^""",^ '■/"T''; PJ^- ^^~^^' ^'^ ^°°'h, The Evolution of Strategic Th^king " 
John Bayhs, Ken Booth John Gernett and Phil Williams. Contemporary Strltegy: ThZries 
and Policies (London: Croom Helm. 1975). pp. 3(V32; B. H Liddell Hart HistorvoftZ 
Second World War (G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1970), pp. 59(K93; Hanson WBaldwn'fil^te 
Lost and Won (New York: Discus Books. 1968), pp. 79-81 ; Hilton P. Goss, Civilian Mo ale 
pp 70-72" ^'""^'"•'''"'"'' ^^'^^«9 (Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base. 1948)' 

FolL? Wo°rld W.'rii A Tv'! ^- ''T'"' "■^*'' OP^^'tional Doctrine of the Polish Air 
ber 1976^ nn .r^ J tV T^T ^^^P^'^"^-." Aerospace Historian 23/3 (Fall/Septem- 
tr!ne ^9 LTq.^ "1 ""^ ^°' ^J^"^'" Klaus-Richard Bohme. "Swedish Air Defense Doc- 
trine, 1918-1936. Aerospace Historian 24/2 (Summer/June 1977) pp 94-99 
20. Taylor. Combat Aircraft, pp. 613-15. 


21. Krauskopf, "French Air Policy," pp. 89-92, 101-2; Robert J. Young, "The Strategic 
Dream: French Air Doctrine in the Inter-War Period, \9\9~\929:' Journal of Contemporary 
History 9/4 (October 1974), pp. ft.S-6A. 

22. Edward L. Homze, Arming the Luftwaffe, The Reich Air Ministry and the German 
Aircraft Industry. 1919-39 (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1976) pp 165- 

23. Krauskopf, "French Air Policy," pp. 95-99; Young, "French Air Doctrine," pp. 63- 
67; Russell H. Stolfi, "Reality and Myth: French and German Preparations for War, 1933- 
1940," (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1966), pp. 49-50. 

24. As quoted in Anthony Adamthwaite, France and the Coming of the Second World 
War (London: Frank Cass, 1977), p. 162. 

25. George H. Ouester, Deterrence before Hiroshima: The Airpower Background of 
Modern Strategy (New York: John Wiley, 1966), p. 75; "Italian Air Force," pp. 181-83. 

26. John Erickson, The Soviet High Command: A military -political history 1918-1941 
(London: St. Martin's Press, 1962), pp. 382-83; Taylor, Combat Aircraft, p. 614. 

27. Reichministerder Luftfahrt und Oberbefchlshaberder Luftwaffe, Generalstab, "Luft- 
kriegfuhrung," L. Dv. Nr. 16, 1936, Lw 106/12, in Dokumentenzentrale des Militarges- 
chichtlichen Forschungsamtes, Freiburg; also reproduced in Karl-Heinz Volker, Dokumente 
und Dokumentarfotos zur Geschichte der deutschen Luftwaffe, Beitrage zur Militar-und 
Kriegsgeschichte, vol. 9 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1968), pp. 466-86; "Die 
Entwicklung der deutschen Luftstrategie," von Rohden document (4376-447) in the Bundes- 

28. Higham, Air Power, p. 81; Green and Fricker, Air Forces, p. 171; George Werner 
Feuchter, Der Luftkrieg (Frankfurt a.M.: Athenaum, 1962), p. 143. 

29. Kilmarx, Soviet Air Power, pp. 146-47; Kenneth R. Whiting, "Soviet Aviation and 
Airpower under Stalin, 1928-1941," in Robin Higham and Jacob W. Kipp, Soviet Aviation 
and Air Power, A Historical View (London and Boulder, Colo.: Brassey's and Westview 
Press, 1977), pp. 52-54; Robert Jackson, The Red Falcons: The Soviet Air Force in Action 
1919-1969 (London: Clifton Books, 1970), pp. 55-56; Boya, Soviet Air Force, p. 69. 

30. Krauskopf, "French Air Policy," p. 371; Young, "French Air Doctrine," p. 67; M. 
Astorkia, "Les lecons aeriennes de la guerre d'Espagne," Revue Historique des Armees 4/ 
2 (1977): 145-73. 

31. General der Flieger a.D. Paul Deichmann, German Air Operations in Support of the 
Army (U.S. Historical Study No. 163, June 1962), p. 55. 

32. Whiting, "Soviet Aviation under Stalin," pp. 57-59; Jackson, Red Falcons, pp 61- 
62; Boyd, Soviet Air Force, pp. 86-87. 

33. Richard E. Stockwell, Soviet Air Power (New York: Pageant Press, Inc., 1956), p. 
14; Raymond Garthoff, "Soviet Attitudes towards Modern Air Power," Military Affairs' 19/ 
6 (Summer 1955): pp. 77-78. 

34. Quester, Deterrence before Hiroshima, p. 101. 

35. As quoted in B. H. Liddell Hart, Europe in Arms (London: Cassell, 1937), p. 199. 




Ladies and gentlemen, I really don't know why I have been asked 
to appear in front of this noble assembly, except that I am in my seventieth 
year and am probably the only person in the room who has survived the 
Gotha raids. I remember them very well indeed clustering over London 
one Saturday morning in 1918. 

Having heard the brilliant talks last night and this morning, L as a 
historian of hardware, have come to the conclusion that our thinking in 
regard to war in the air has, from the very outset, been indescribably 
confused. So many of those concerned with aerial warfare have been so 
utterly wrongheaded at times that it amazes me that we got through wars 
as we did, particularly the First World War. 

Incidentally, Ustening to the Group Captain's remarks, repeating 
Haig on the function of cavalry, I am led to wonder if it was Haig who 
said that the trouble with aeroplanes was that they always frightened the 
horses. He was certainly capable of it. 

Let me remind you that planning for aerial warfare began long before 
the twentieth century. In 1670 Francesco de Lana Terzi, an Italian, wrote 
some of the most fearful descriptions of aerial bombing at sea ever pro- 
duced, although, of course, his airplanes wouldn't fly. Napoleon, in the 
1790s, introduced aerial reconnaissance. The first bombing raid in history 
occurred in 1849, when the Austrians launched unmanned bomb-carrying 
balloons against Venice, in an operation very similar to the Japanese 
effort against the west coast of the United States in World War II. The 
United States, of course, employed balloons during the Civil War. Un- 
fortunately, Mr. Lowe and his colleagues were convinced that they were 
being inefficiently employed and had a terrible row with the U.S. Military. 
By the 1890s the British were using observation balloons in the South 
African War to good effect. 

Work was also proceeding on powered airships during the nineteenth 
century. In 1852 Gifford's steam-powered airship flew at least five miles 
per hour. Two decades later, in 1884, Renard and Krebs, artillery captains 
in the French Army, developed a more efficient airship run by electricity. 
So you see, attempts to develop an aerial weapon, and some limited 


thinking as to the employment of such a weapon, antedated the invention 
of the airplane by several centuries. 

In spite of this preconditioning, the advent of the practical flying 
machine took the military leaders of the world by surprise. As a result, 
they reacted with the muddle and confusion that our learned historians 
have detailed this morning. 

In order to clarify such muddle and confusion, I have sometimes 
found it useful to speculate as to what might have happened had certain 
key elements of a situation been altered. For example, had the airplane 
been adopted by military organizations a year or two earlier than it was, 
would the generals have been able to wield their new weapon more 
decisively and effectively during the early stages of the First World War? 

This could easily have happened. Most people do not realize that 
for two and a half years after their Kitty Hawk adventure the Wright 
Brothers did nothing further to develop aviation. They stood down pri- 
marily because they couldn't get proper business agreements. They re- 
ceived three very disappointing responses from the United States Army 
and several disappointing replies from the British Army. In defense of 
the military, it must be noted that the Wrights imposed the difficult 
condition that prospective owners and buyers of their aircraft were not 
allowed to see the product before they bought it. This is an unenviable 
position for any buyer. After all, they didn't know whether they were 
going to get something in the form of a dachshund or whatever, with an 
engine in it. They had to pay according to performance, which was fair 
enough, but they were not allowed to see any photographs of the aircraft 
in flight. The only man who got over that difficulty was Colonel Capper 
of the British Army, who made friends with the Wrights and saw pho- 
tographs of the craft, but even he wasn't allowed to see the airplane itself. 

As a result of this bargaining, the Wrights did nothing from the 
autumn of 1905 to the spring of 1908. Literally nothing. They never rose 
an inch off the ground. As an aside, the psychology of the Wrights is 
another story which we are working on quite keenly at the moment. 

The fact of the matter is that if the Wright Brothers had taken their 
1905 machine to the Mall in Washington and put it down on its launching 
rail just to the east of the Washington Monument, and flown it for half 
an hour over the White House and over Capital Hill, they would have 
electrified the world. Such a thing would have been so startling, so un- 
imaginable. But the Wrights were by this time so curiously secretive that 
they refused to fly in public until they were sure they would receive the 
financial rewards they deserved. 

The Wrights' attitude, even if understandable, was unfortunate, for 
had a public demonstration taken place in the autumn of 1905, all the 


technical advances of the First World War might have occurred at least 
two years earlier, probably more. There were, after all, some extremely 
clever and adaptive men in those days, except that they were all going 
along the wrong lines. Once the Wrights had shown them the right lines 
in the summer of 1908, aviation was absolutely revolutionized within nine 

As it was, in the two-and-a-half years between 1905 and 1908, Eur- 
opean and American designers and engineers stumbled through all sorts 
of impractical monstrosities. For example, everybody thinks the French 
were doing wonders. In reality, they were doing very unwonders. I wrote 
a boring book about the lack of significant developments in French avia- 
tion. ' They had all the clues for such development (given to them by 
Octave Chanute in 1902). Yet when Wilbur came over in August of 1908, 
they could only just fly a circle and even then had no concept whatever 
of flight control. In January of 1908, Henri Farman flew the first circle 
in Europe (can you imagine— 1908?) and he flew it in a quasi-biplane, 
with no control in roll at all. Can you imagine an airplane yawing itself 
around using only the rudder? The moment he would put his rudder 
over, of course, the thing would begin to lift, and he would almost crash 
into the ground. Then he would have to reverse his rudder. In this fashion, 
he yawed in the most perilous manner for one kilometer, and that was 
thought to be the end of the earth. The French papers said that the age 
of flight had arrived. Mind you, they had said the same thing in 1906, 
when their dapper little Santos Dumont flew for 21 '/s seconds, which 
you wouldn't really call a very long flight. For that miniscule effort, he 
was given the fattest luncheon and dinner that was ever given in Paris. 

The French were absolutely bereft of ideas and could not produce 
a decent airplane of any kind whatsoever until 1909. And they had been 
doing their damndest to do this since 1902. There was ample talent in 
France all through these years. They had a number of very talented 
designers who put good engines and everything into their planes, but 
they could not control roll, and they had problems with stability and 
aircraft structures. 

Despite this talent, however, they made no real progress until Wilbur 
Wright demonstrated flight control. Wilbur had to show what control in 
roll did to an airplane, or could do in an airplane, combined by controlling 
yaw. Once that was demonstrated to the French, and to the world, nothing 
could stop them. Within a year, the French had moved into the lead in 
aviation and by 1910 had begun to look at military aviation. Indeed, in 
1910 there was a famous meeting in France for military purposes, the 
Concorde Militarie, it was called. Unfortunately, very little came out of 
it. The best airplane in the whole thing, a most pathetic-looking Anto- 
inette, all cabin and fuselage, couldn't fly; it was too underpowered. 


Then what happened? More mystery for you historians of air war. 
It took two specific events to literally shock the world into a realization 
of what war might mean in the air. Those two events were very extraor- 
dinary. One event took place on 25 July 1909 when Bleriot managed to 
fly the Channel in a highly unsatisfactory airplane. The next day, after 
reading the newspapers, you might have thought the atom bomb had 
fallen. All the papers carried caricatures of the sky covered in airplanes 
and England underneath, and everybody thought, for heaven's sake, if 
one small mustachioed Frenchman could fly across the Channel in a very 
unsuitable airplane before breakfast on a Sunday morning, what on earth 
would we do if 5,000 mustachioed Frenchmen came in 5,000 little air- 
planes before lunch? It would, indeed, be a startling event for Great 
Britain. Thus, Bleriot's flight showed sea power had lost its predominance 
in Britain's defense system. 

The second thing that forced the airplane into the minds of military 
commanders was the big brass meeting — the first great air meeting of all 
time — in August of 1909. If you look at the photographs of the com- 
manders-in-chief and their military aides and the political/military people 
who attended, it is clear that every important military person in Europe 
turned out for that meeting. It was this meeting that showed for the first 
time and celebrated, if you care to use that word, the arrival of the 
airplane as a practical vehicle. Until August of 1909, airplanes were 
virtually a joke, except to the people who made them and who were 
killed in them. August 1909 marks the beginning of all air war, all air 
everything. Within a year, everybody was flying. 

If the armies and governments of Europe had had those two extra 
years the Wrights could have given them, many of the arguments and 
the trials and tribulations and miseries would have all been solved by the 
time the war started, and the completely asinine behavior that occurred 
on the part of the armies would not have happened. I don't know about 
America, but certainly in England the military and the political leaders 
acted like lunatics. I am very proud of my country, but I am not proud 
of its air record during the early years. We had not a single man rise off 
the ground until 1908 except an expatriate American, S. F. Cody, who 
was a most picturesque character. (He once upset the army terribly at 
Farnborough, by riding with a ten gallon hat around Farnborough Com- 
mon on a white horse.) This man did, in fact, build an ingenious and 
quite good airplane and fly it in October of 1908, but he didn't build a 
passably practical airplane until mid-1909. 

The British government, in that charming tardy way we have, com- 
posed an official secret document in 1908 and 1909. It was — those who 
haven't seen it, please take note of this — a very, very high level, highly 
secret conference on aerial navigation chaired by Lord Esher. It was, in 


fact, so secret that it was made a sub-department or a sub-function of the 
Imperial General Staff. They have now at last released, not only the 
conclusions, but the transcriptions of every word spoken; and it reads 
like an absolutely, unutterably crazy Alice in Wonderland. (The Chief of 
the Imperial General Staff, for example, argued with his own colonel, 
before Lord Esher, about how to spot gunfire from balloons.) They didn't 
mterview a single pilot. Think of it, not one pilot! Since the commission 
took place at the end of 1908 and 1909, they could have brought Wilbur 
Wright over for two cents from France where he was doing wonderful 
flying. They had no pilot; they had only one esteemed witness because 
of the lack of experience in England at that time. That was the honorable 
Charlie S. Rolls (Rolls of Rolls Royce), whose sole distinction in aviation 
at that time was in having been given a six-minute ride by Wilbur Wright. 
The committee also discussed airships, which, in the end, they thought 
were worth subsidizing, whereas they didn't really think airplanes were 

The most charming element of this farce, which really is hilarious, 
was the examination of Sir Hiram Maxim by Lord Esher, who was a very 
shrewd cookie indeed. Sir Hiram Maxim was a self-appointed guardian 
of aviation. He had never made anything beyond a ghastly test in 1894 
of a contraption which just rose off its rail before he shut the steam off. 
That was the end of his researches. He was questioned by Lord Esher 
m a most delightful way. Asked, for example, whether he had ever built 
an airplane, he answered, "Oh, yes, I did. I built one in 1894. And all 
the modern airplanes follow the principles that I laid down then." Need- 
less to say, no principle he ever laid down was ever followed at any time 
whatsoever.* Then Esher asked him, "Do you know about airplanes in 
general?" He replied, "I know everything on this planet about airplanes " 
Looking through the ghostly hand of the shorthand writer at the time, 
one can imagine Esher's lips curling as this pompous old ass went through 
his rigamarole about what he did and didn't know about things— espe- 
cially when we remember that Wilbur Wright had already been flying for 
two hours and twenty minutes at a time in France, had done everything 
you could do in an airplane at that time, and had won every prize in the 
world. To top it off, when Esher asked, "Do you think you could produce 
as good an airplane as Wilbur Wright?" Maxim said, "One really 
shouldn't have to do very much to produce an airplane as good as the 
Wrights, t 

Fwr/M*"** '?*''f "" ^J'P'*"^V« f"' «'fP'ane. which he produced in 1911 and to which 
Flight Magazine devoted two whole articles with about 30 illustrations. Unfortunately it 
never managed to take off once. '' 

tC.H. Gihbs-Smith The Rebirth of European Aviation, 1902-1908: A Study of the Wright 
Brothers Influence (London, 1974). "rigm 


To put this all in perspective, one needs to keep in mind the time 
frame, 1908-1909, and recall where developments in land and naval war- 
fare were leading. And here was this high-faluting committee talking for 
days and days about airplanes or flyers, as they were sometimes called, 
or even airships, as they were referred to by those people who were 
thoroughly confused between a dynamic airplane and an airship. 

But can you imagine if all this had occurred two years earlier, which 
it would have if the Wrights had not waited until 1908 to demonstrate 
their airplane. The whole world would have been in a totally different 
state altogether, and history might have been absolutely transformed. 




Previous papers in this session have well supported the logic of the 
architects of this first Air Force Academy Symposium on "Air Power 
and Warfare." The Continental powers and England gained considerable 
wartime experience in the exercise of air power before the United States 
belatedly entered the fray and then had to create an air force "virtually 
from whole cloth." 

The United States had only just acquired some measures of world 
influence at the turn of the century. It had inherited new responsibilities 
m the Philippines and Cuba from Spain, and soon completed the Panama 
Canal. As historian Mahan had argued, and the Naval War College 
understood, the "New Navy" was still the "first line of defense." The 
"dreadnaught," or battleship, was now the capital ship. The submarine 
was just coming out of its experimental stage. Coastal artillery still re- 
mained in place as the key to a second line of defense. The Army had 
begun a major reorganization featuring a general staff and a war college 
which studied the classic principles of war derived from the great battles 
of the past. The validity of that experience and, ultimately, all American 
defense arrangements would be called into question by the arrival of the 
airplane and the powered balloon called the airship. 

The Beginning: 1903-1917 

Military aviation received its decisive impetus in December 1903 
from Orville and Wilbur Wright, whom we commemorate here. In world 
military history, balloons such as the American vehicle flown in action 
at San Juan, Cuba, in 1898, had made a mark, but never as lasting as 
that to be made by the successor vehicles of the Wright invention.^ 

While perfecting their flying machine at Dayton, Ohio, in 1905, the 
Wrights twice offered their airplane, or exclusive use of their pending 
patents, to the U. S. Army. They explained that they considered their 
Flyer practical for scouting and communications, but that any potential 
commercial use must await further development beyond their present 
resources. The Army's Board of Ordnance and Fortifications brusquely 
turned down each offer of the Wrights because it still smarted from the 
bad press over the failure of the aerodrome built by Dr. Samuel P. 


Langley with an unpublicized federal grant of $50,000. Rebuffed by their 
government, the Wrights stopped flying, fearful that further exposure 
would invite the theft of their hard-earned innovations.^ 

A New York congressman and some Ohioans stirred the interest of 
Theodore Roosevelt and his administration in both the Wright Flyer and 
its implications. A miniscule Aeronautics Section of the Signal Corps, 
organized on 1 August 1907, became the government's instrument for 
staying in touch with aeronautical advances. The Signal Corps soon was 
advertising for "a practical means of dirigible aerial navigation" and set 
up a balloon facility at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. By December 1907, the 
Signal Corps was seeking bids for one flying machine. On 8 February 
1908, the Wrights agreed to deliver one Flyer within 200 days. 

In July 1908, Lt. Benjamin Foulois, who always had one eye cocked 
to the future, submitted his thesis to the Signal Corps School at Ft. 
Leavenworth on the "tactical and strategical value of balloons and aero- 
dynamic flying machines." In a future war, Foulois wrote, an air battle 
would influence "the strategic movement of hostile forces before they 
have actually gained contact."" As Foulois explained later, he had mainly 
elaborated upon the doctrine in the Infantry Manual by inserting aviation 
whenever tactical employment of the cavalry or artillery had been called 
for. The first fruit of the thesis was his assignment to aeronautical duty.' 

In August, Wilbur Wright began his spectacular flights in France, 
from which he would go on to make over a hundred more in Europe, all 
demonstrating the superior flight control of the Flyer over any European 
aircraft. But the first demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia, also in Au- 
gust, was that of the impressive non-rigid airship of Thomas Scott Baldwin 
of California. His flight engineer was Glenn Curtiss, a builder of mo- 
torcycles and of the airship's 20 hp engine. The Army bought the airship, 
designated it "Signal Corps 1," and later shipped it to Fort Omaha, where 
it was used to check out a few airship pilots and to provide demonstrations 
at Fort Leavenworth and at air shows and state fairs. In 1912 it was sold 
for scrap.* (Also in 1908, German Army accepted its first large rigid 
Zeppelin, and Kaiser Wilhelm was to declare Count von Zeppelin the 
"greatest German of the century."^ Later, in Nazi days, a German history 
of flight was to pubhsh a picture of the Wright Brothers' "German grand- 

On 9 September 1908 Orville Wright made two spectacular flights 
at Fort Myer, one of fifty-seven minutes, the other of over an hour, to 
be followed by other demonstrations before Washington officials and 
thousands of onlookers. The most qualified Army officer was Lt. Thomas 
Self ridge, who had worked with Alexander Graham Bell and associates 
and had already flown an aircraft. When he flew with Orville, the Flyer 
crashed from a height of seventy-five feet, killing Self ridge. Orville 


Wright was seriously injured, thus postponing completion of the Army 
acceptance flights until 1909. It was little wonder, given the fragile state 
of the flying art and its barely organized sponsorship in the Signal Corps 
that the Congress rejected a budget request of the Secretary of War in 
1908 for $500,000 for Army aeronautics. 

Already increasingly evident in the public arena were the non-mil- 
itary speculations about the potentialities of military power to be served 
by an air weapon not tethered to surface forces. In 1908 H G Wells 
published The War in the Air, which, even before Louis'Bleriot's hop 
across the English Channel, depicted "The Battle of the North Atlantic" 
and "How War Came to New York" in Italian-style airships. In Wells' 
account, the United States was attacked because: 

It was known that America possessed a Hying machine of considerable prac- 
Ucal value, developed out of the Wright model; but it was not supposed that the 
Washmgton War Office [sic] had made any wholesale attempts to create an aeria' 
navy. It was necessary to strike before they could do so.' 

Orville Wright completed the trials of the Flyer at Fort Myer in July 
1909 m the presence of President Taft and the Secretaries of the War 
and Navy Departments. The rebuilt Wright Flyer exceeded all Signal 
Corps specifications, remaining aloft seventy-two minutes and averaging 
forty-two mph with a passenger. The U. S. Army soon had the first and 
only military airplane in the world, a short-lived and singular technolog- 
ical lead never again enjoyed by the United States until the appearance 
of the B-17 and the later atomic bomb. As agreed in the contract with 
the Army, Wilbur Wright proceeded to check out Lts. Lahm and Hum- 
phreys at College Park, Maryland. Although both officers were then 
transferred back to their respective non-flying line organizations, others 
including Henry H. Arnold, were later given instruction at locations such 
as Dayton, Ohio; College Park, Maryland; and Augusta, Georgia. 

After the International Air Meet in Rheims, France, in 1909 the 
flying machines of dedicated mechanics and sportsmen generated a fl'ying 
boom around the world. In September of that year, Orville Wright flew 
a record altitude flight of 1,600 feet above Berlin, Germany while on 
the same day, Wilbur flew around the Statue of Liberty in New York 
Soon many airplanes were built in the United States, and, even if they 
did not fly very well, they replaced balloons at county fairs. "» 

The first congressional appropriation of $125,000 in 1911 for Army 
aviation ended the Wright Flyer era. Five new aircraft were ordered and 
a permanent flying school was soon established at North Island San 
Diego. A few experiments, beyond those involving only higher and fur- 
ther flights, had long term significance but were not immediately pursued 
by the Army. The low-recoil machine gun developed by Colonel Isaac 
Lewis and fired from an aircraft by Captain Chandler, chief of the Aero- 


nautical Section, was to become a standard air weapon in Europe. A 
bomb sight was tested, bombs dropped, and airborne photography and 
radio tests made. Twelve of the first forty-eight officers assigned to Army 
aviation were killed in accidents. Pusher aircraft of the Wrights and 
Curtiss were dropped in favor of tractor aircraft (with the propeller in 
front of rather than behind the crew) such as the Curtiss JN-1 or "Jenny." 
This tractor evolved after 1914 into the basic trainer used throughout the 
war to come, and later was used as a bomber by Marine aviators and as 
a plaything by hundreds of civilians. 

On 18 July 1914, Congress authorized the Aviation Section of the 
Signal Corps, with a strength of 60 officers and 260 enlisted men. After 
the outbreak of war in Europe in August, the First Aero Squadron was 
created on 1 September 1914, under Captain Foulois. In his "History of 
Rockwell Field," Major Henry H. Arnold later wrote about the First 
Aero Squadron: 

This was the first operating unit of any kind ever organized. . . . 

The question now arose for the first time as to whether a flying officer of 
Hmited administrative experience or non-flying officers of considerable adminis- 
trative experience in the Army should not be placed in command of such a squad- 
ron. It is also to be noted, however, that this question had not been satisfactorily 
solved even several years later [1916]." 

The First Aero Squadron was always provisional until 1917, in the 
sense that it did not have a full complement of planes, even when three 
other squadrons were organized on paper. Also apparent was the need 
for greater understanding of the potential of combat aircraft, beyond the 
obvious reconnaissance mission. Lt. Thomas D. Milling summarized very 
well the relationship between doctrine and equipment at that time when 
he observed, "Our doctrine has been consistent since 1913 within the 
limits of our equipment."'^ 

On the day before the founding of the First Aero Squadron, a British 
Royal Flying Corps reconnaissance plane spotted the armies of German 
General von Kluck's "inward wheel" heading southeast to Paris. This 
intelligence, soon confirmed, led to a series of battles called the "miracle 
of the Marne."" The halt of the German offensive and the eventual 
"race to the sea" created the trenches of the Western Front. Within a 
few months, the Army Signal Corps issued its first specification for a 
reconnaissance two-place biplane with a speed of VOmph. Twelve bids 
were received, but the lack of a reliable engine thwarted procurement 
of the desired airplane. ''* 

At first, few Americans, including military leaders in Washington, 
seriously believed that the war in Europe would involve the United States. 
With the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, unrestricted German U- 
boat operations greatly increased military concern despite President 
Woodrow Wilson's strict neutrality posture.'* Hindering American un- 


derstanding of the war, especially its evolving air operations, was the 
inability of neutral observers to penetrate the cloak of secrecy laid down 
by both sides. 

The U.S. Navy knew about Dr. Langley and the Wright brothers, 
Navy Lt. George Reed having almost flown in the tests at Fort Myer. 
Later he flew with Army Lt. Frank Lahm at College Park. To handle 
the queries about aviation being directed at the Navy Secretary's office, 
Captain W. L Chambers was made its air coordinator. Along with Glenn 
Curtiss, the developer of the first practical seaplane. Chambers brought 
the airplane into the Navy, which had expressed no interest in aviation 
until convinced it could help the fleet. 

Chambers arranged the first ship-to-shore flight by Eugene Ely, a 
pilot employed by Curtiss in one of his firm's pushers, from a plank 
platform on the cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads on 10 No- 
vember 1910. Two weeks later, Glenn Curtiss informed the Secretary of 
the Navy that he would provide free flight training for an officer at his 
winter camp on North Island, San Diego. Lt. T. G. Ellyson was detailed 
and became the first naval aviator. In early January 1911, Ely landed on 
a platform on the USS Pennsylvania at anchor in San Francisco Bay and 
soon took off again. Later in the month, Glenn Curtiss made the first 
successful hydro-airplane flight with his "Silver Fish" off North Island, 
Lt. Ellyson assisting in the preparations. In February, Curtiss taxied his 
seaplane out to the Pennsylvania, was hoisted aboard and then returned 
to the water to taxi back to North Island. It was a persuasive demon- 
stration, and in March, Congress appropriated $25,000 for naval aviation. 
The Wright Company now offered to train one Navy pilot, contingent 
upon the purchase of one airplane for $5,000. Lt. John Rodgers was sent 
to Dayton, to become Naval Aviator No. 2. By 8 May 1911, the U. S. 
Navy had purchased three airplanes: the Curtiss "Triad," a "hydra-terra- 
airplane" to whose float Curtiss had added wheels for both land and 
water landings, a Curtiss pusher, and a Wright Flyer. " 

Captain Chambers was directed to set up an experimental station at 
Annapolis, where Lt. John Towers and others were training. There and 
on exercises, experiments went on in the application of the airplane to 
Navy needs. Off Cuba, Lt. Towers confirmed that submerged submarines 
could be seen from the air; other experiments went on with radio teleg- 
raphy, photography, and water-based operations to include the testing 
of catapults. At the Washington Navy Yard, Naval Constructor Holden 
C. Richardson worked on hull designs for seaplanes, a wind tunnel for 
aircraft design, and flight testing. From 1912 on, year-round flight training 
and operations were located at the first Naval Aeronautics Station, Pen- 
sacola, Florida. 


In 1912, a Marine, Lt. A. A. Cunningham, began flight training at 
the Burgess and Curtiss factory at Marblehead, Massachusetts, and be- 
came Naval Aviator No. 5. Later called the "Father of Marine Corps 
Aviation," Cunningham and his associates soon were engaged in exercises 
in Cuba with an Advance Base Brigade. " 

One of the earliest steps taken by the United States after the "guns 
of August" began firing in Europe, was to create in March 1915 the first 
federal agency responsible for coordinating and stimulating aeronautical 
research. A rider to the Naval Appropriations Act of 1915 created the 
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, "N.A.C.A.," which 
could never live down its Navy birthright in the eyes of some Army 
airmen. Modelled after a British body founded in 1910, the NACA was 
to examine and make recommendations "on the problems of flight, with 
a view to their practical solution," a general and unwarlike charter in 
keeping with the neutral position of the United States. The twelve man 
membership of NACA included the chiefs of the Army Signal Corps and 
its Aviation Section, the director of Naval Aviation and its Constructor, 
the chiefs of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Standards, and 
professors interested in aerodynamics as it grew out of fluid mechanics. '* 

At the first meeting of NACA in the office of the Secretary of War, 
chaired by Brig. General George Scriven, Chief Signal Officer, on 23 
April 1915, the membership considered his previously submitted position 
that the problem "most requiring attention involved military aviation and 
national defense." "Nothing," he said, "will so readily bring order from 
chaos as the carefully considered decisions [sic] of this Advisory Com- 
mittee."" But the NACA was to become concerned with the technical 
problems of civilian as well as military aviation. Its recommendations 
bound none of its members, and, in unmilitary fashion, it elected its own 

A month after NACA's first meeting, the first German Zeppelin 
attacks on London highlighted a capability unavailable in the United 
States. The Committee, for its part, modestly surveyed research capa- 
bilities nation-wide, gathered what basic knowledge it could in Europe, 
and began to issue its widely-used bibliographies. In 1916, the NACA 
undertook some policy initiatives by inviting aircraft engine manufactur- 
ers to discuss the problems of attaining more powerful and more reliable 
aircraft engines, by recommending a government air mail service, and 
by seeking the creation of a laboratory at an Army-Navy aircraft proving 
field, which became Langley Field at Hampton, Virginia, in 1917.^" The 
dozen or so employees of NACA at Langley, however, did no research 
in its wind tunnels until after the war. 

Another scientific initiative, this time by the National Academy of 
Sciences in 1916, prompted President Wilson to establish a National 


Research Council (NRC) to engage scientists on defense problems, par- 
ticularly submarine detection. Once the United States entered the war, 
some scientists put on uniforms. Among them was Major Robert Millikan 
of the California Institute of Technology, the head of the Signal Corps 
Science Research Division.^' 

In November 1915, Major William Mitchell, then a General Staff 
officer, apparently prepared a survey of national defense needs in avia- 
tion. He claimed that aviation would be particularly useful as "a second 
line of defense," by acting as a backstop to the Navy when attached to 
harbor and coastal defenses, by carrying on reconnaissance and spotting 
for artillery, and by destroying attacking aircraft and submarines. Army 
aviation should be increased, said Mitchell, to 46 officers, 243 enlisted 
men, and 23 aircraft of various capabilities. By 1916, and at his own 
expense, Mitchell began taking flying lessons during his off-duty time." 

In early 1916, Congressional support for aerial rearmament greatly 
accelerated when the First Aero Squadron quickly wore itself out in 
supporting General John Pershing's Punitive Expedition against Pancho 
Villa. An emergency appropriation for the Aviation Section of $500,000 
was followed by the enormous sum of $13 million, a figure nine times 
the total of all funds which had been received by Army aviation to date. 
(Incidentally, Captain Foulois must have had a typing pool larger than 
the Aviation Section, since so many original and carbons of his report 
on the demise of the First Aero Squadron are scattered through the files 
in the National Archives.) 

In April 1917, when the United States entered the war in Europe, 
its Army's aviation had 131 officers (mostly pilots), 1,087 enlisted men! 
and no aircraft capable of combat. Naval aviation had forty-five float 
seaplanes, six flying boats, three land planes, and one blimp, none ready 
to operate with the fleet. Almost ten years had passed since the Army 
accepted its Wright Flyer, but American air power was almost non-ex- 
istent, with a handicraft industry, no organized planning or research and 
development, and very little knowledge of aviation progress in Europe. 

World War I: 1917-1918 

American air power in the Great War was scarcely born when it was 
demobilized. A nightmare for that air power ensued from the utterly rash 
promises by industrial, military and political leaders in 1917 that thou- 
sands of American planes would gain perpetual air superiority, darken 
the skies over Berlin, and end the war. The first American-built but 
British-designed DH-4s reached France in May 1918, unready for op- 
erations and often damaged in transit. The American model had a rep- 
utation as a "flaming coffin" until the gas tank between the pilot and 
observer was re-positioned after the war. To the hundreds of airmen 


arriving for flight training in France, it appeared that their presence was 
designed more to raise that country's morale rather than to get on with 
the air war. When promised first-Hne European aircraft were not dehv- 
ered, the American airmen who eventually qualified in Allied flight 
schools had to take whatever aircraft were offered them. Those American 
airmen who got to the front did a great job with what they had. James 
Lea Gate's assessment seems sound: "Had the war dragged on into 1919, 
the boasts might have been made good."" 


German Field Marshal Hindenburg and General John J. Pershing 
credited the Allied victory to the waves of fresh American infantrymen 
whose assaults cracked the Western Front. But it was also true that those 
ground forces were protected by air actions that denied superiority to the 
Germans over the battlefront. In the rear areas, by the fall of 1918, 
British bomber crews attempted to strike at the center of cities in the 
Reich. The resulting panic caused the German government to ask for an 
immediate halt to the bombing raids as part of its armistice proposals. ^ 

Perhaps it was indeed inopportune, as Raymond Fredette has ob- 
served, that General Pershing just missed witnessing the first bombing 
raid by German Gotha bombers on London on 13 June 1917." A vivid 
demonstration of air power's potential might have been most persuasive. 
The Gotha bomber raids on England, for example, helped to spur the 
creation of the independent Royal Air Force in the midst of the decisive 
phase of the war on the Western Front. ^' 

Professor-General Bill Holley has treated very well the incredible 
history of the American aircraft production program in his Ideas and 
Weapons. The haste and waste in the program offered lessons that were 
well learned in time for the World War II buildup. Hampering the World 
War I American air effort as well were the requirements to mobilize and 
train tens of thousands of raw recruits after the United States had entered 
the war, not to mention the problems of organizing and staffing the higher 
direction of the air effort." 

A few highlights from the American experience in the Great War 
may be suggestive. The splendid biography of Billy Mitchell by Colonel- 
Professor Al Hurley provides a clear understanding of Mitchell's early 
air power role. Mitchell got himself to Spain and then to Paris four days 
after the American declaration of war. Fluent in French, he wrangled 
his way to that nation's share of the front, absorbing briefings on air 
employment and taking lessons in flying its latest aircraft. Mitchell 
seemed more influenced by his three-day visit early in May with British 
airmen, principally Major General Hugh Trenchard.^' Trenchard im- 
pressed on Mitchell the concepts of "forward acfion" and the "relentless 
offensive."" For various reasons, Mitchell's reports to Washington about 
all this had little impact. 


Mitchell also had contributed to the preparation of French Premier 
Ribot's request for American resources that became the bottom line for 
the take-off of the ambitious U.S. aircraft construction program. Ribot 
asked for an American "flying corps" of 4,500 planes, 5,000 pilots, and 
50,000 mechanics to be sent to France in 1918. American acceptance of 
this goal led to sending the Boiling Mission to Europe to determine what 
kinds of airplanes should be built. Its prompt recommendations included 
ideas on the strategic bombing of enemy industries. Top priority was 
given to the production in the United States of the British DH-4 recon- 
naissance bomber and the American all-purpose Liberty engine, with the 
second priority, pursuit planes, to be purchased in France and England. 
In the meantime, Pershing made Lt. Colonel Mitchell the Aviation Of- 
ficer of the AEF. Soon, however, Mitchell was subordinated to Brigadier 
General Benjamin Foulois. Eventually, the leadership and talent Mitchell 
showed as Chief of the Army Air Service, First Brigade, on the American 
sector of the front won him fame. General Trenchard's early impression 
of Mitchell was noteworthy: "If only he [Mitchell] can break the habit 
of trying to convert opponents by killing them, he'll go far."'" 

Those few American squadrons which reached France by late 1917 
served with French and British units after they had been organized and 
trained. General Pershing refused to flesh out depleted and tired Allied 
air units with Americans. After April 1918, a few American squadrons 
began to operate in support of their own forces. While news from the 
trenches was drab and bloody, the individualism of air combat made 
heroes of Eddie Rickenbacker, Frank Luke, and others. Contrary to 
Hollywood's later dramatization, however, aerial combat involved a lot 
more than glamorous dawn patrols and was fully subject to the vagaries 
of the weather and the fragility of the flying machines themselves. 

Pershing made Brigadier General Mason Patrick, a West Pointer, 
his Chief of Air Service, A.E.F., in May 1918. Eventually Patrick assigned 
Mitchell the leadership of all American air units with the First Army. 
The struggle for the St.-Mihiel salient offered the best example of air 
power's potential on a battlefield. Mitchell's plan to gain air superiority 
required 1,500 planes, only 609 of them piloted by Americans, the rest 
being drawn from Trenchard's Independent Force, along with a French 
Air Division, and other Allied squadrons. Only a third of the force 
directly supported the First Army; the rest, in two brigades, struck at 
the flanks of the salient and at the German air force facilities in the rear 
of the salient. Pershing praised the action's success, and all airmen saw 
it as a model for the effective concentration of air forces. 

In the remaining Allied offensives, Mitchell usually had only Amer- 
ican squadrons at his disposal and used them mainly in close support and 
counterair roles. German air opposition persisted to the end. Meanwhile, 


Trenchard's Independent Force bombed German targets in an effort that 
gained momentum from September onward. The Armistice aborted plan- 
ning for a much larger bombing campaign by the Inter-Allied Independ- 
ent Air Force under Trenchard, who would have been responsible to 
Marshal Foch, the Supreme Commander. 

How is one to evaluate the limited American effort? Statistics are 
one measure. The U. S. Army Air Service in France constituted 10 
percent of the Allied air forces, dropped 139 tons of bombs, and reached 
as far as 160 miles behind the German lines. Some 237 American airmen 
were killed in battle; no figures for greater operational, training, and 
other losses are available. There were 58,000 Army airmen in France, 
20,000 in training in England, and some in Italy. A total of 10,000 Army 
aviators completed flight training, but one must also note that 27,000 
officers and men of the Air Service had been assigned to obtaining the 
spruce used in the manufacture of aircraft. 

Over 3,000 DH-4s and 7,800 training planes had been produced, a 
total of some 11,000 aircraft against the 27,000 planned. Of the 1,005 
aircraft in American air units at the front, only 325 were American made. 
There was no lack of doctrine, or leadership, or courage for the em- 
ployment of American air power in France, only the absence of the 
equipment and the manpower at the right time and place." 

For its part, U. S. Navy aviation concentrated on the development 
of the HS series of flying boats. The Royal Naval Air Service had used 
some of those flying boats, two-engine long-range Curtiss "Large Amer- 
ica" flying boats, to score a unique success by shooting down, at sea, two 
German naval dirigibles in May and June 1917. American naval aviation 
operated out of twenty-seven bases in Ireland, England, France, and 
Italy. On anti-U-boat patrol, the Navy reported attacks on twenty-five 
U-boats, sinking or damaging a dozen. '^ Operating with the Northern 
Bombing Group in France, the mission of the naval airmen was expanded 
to bomb German submarine and dirigible installations with DH-4s. 
Round-the-clock bombing was being discussed when the Armistice in- 
tervened. In the Itahan theater of war. Navy, Marine, and some Army 
pilots flew Caproni bombers in Allied air units against Austrian targets. 

The U. S. Navy's air force had grown to a total of 6,716 officers and 
30,693 men in Navy units, and 282 officers and 30,000 men in Marine 
Corps units. Of these, 18,000 had been sent abroad." 

Despite the employment of air power and its rapid development 
during the war, for many observers, air power had yet to prove itself in 
warfare as a military and naval instrument. As America demobilized her 


military forces after the Armistice, the contrast between reaUty and vision 
would set the tone for its military aviation during the next twenty years. 

Nascent Air Power: 1919-1937 

With the conclusion of "the war to end wars," "the long armistice" 
began. '^ From its position of isolation, the United States tried to secure 
peace through the Washington Naval Treaties of 1921-1922 and the Kel- 
log-Briand Peace Treaty six years later. In preparation for a presidential 
election during a deepening depression in 1932, the Hoover Administra- 
tion, supported by Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, considered 
a ban on all submarines and aircraft carriers for submittal to the World 
Disarmament Conference in Geneva. '' In an increasingly nationalistic 
world, fantasies about disarmament abounded while Congress investi- 
gated "merchants of death" and the impact of the airplane on national 
defense. Congress tried to perpetuate peace by passing the Neutrality 
Acts prohibiting the sale of armaments to any belligerent while Adolf 
Hitler tore up the Treaty of Versailles by announcing the existence of 
the Luftwaffe and universal military service in Nazi Germany. 

In the United States, the postwar demobilization was chaotic. 
American airmen returned from France to help answer Congressional 
mquiries about the failure of the billion dollar aircraft construction pro- 
gram. Of the 200,000 men in the wartime Army Air Service, only 10,000 
officers and enlisted men remained on duty by June 1920. A year later 
the aircraft inventory was 1,100 DH-4s, 1,500 Jenny trainers, 179 SE-5 
pursuits, and 12 Martin MB-2 bombers. There were fewer than 900 active 
Army pilots and observers. Sixty-nine of these were killed in 330 flying 
accidents in 1921 alone. Ninety percent of the aircraft industry was bank- 
rupt. The Army Reorganization Act of 1920 was a crushing blow to Army 
Air Service expectations. Although authorized strength was set at 1,516 
officers, 2,500 flying cadets, and 16,000 enlisted men out of a total post- 
war Army of 280,000, there was no money to recruit to these levels or 
to purchase many new airplanes. The airmen would have to make do 
with Liberty engines until late in the 1920s." 

Most frustrating to Army airmen who were usually junior in rank 
and rarely West Pointers, was the prevailing dim view of the future of 
military aviation held by those who managed the purse strings and the 
promotion lists. Frustration soon turned into a struggle not only with the 
General Staff and the Secretary of War, but also at the summit on Capitol 
Hill, where the fate of the post-war services was being deliberated. The 
fundamental issues then, as now, inevitably involved the White House. 

The first postwar Congressional dialogue on aviation centered on 
whether all Federal aviation activities should be centralized in a cabinet- 
level Department of Aeronautics. Foulois and Mitchell at least agreed 
on this possible step. But it proved impossible to achieve unified com- 

mand of "air power" whether it operated over land or over the sea, 
despite the precedent in the creation of the Royal Air Force in England. 
Billy Mitchell soon directly challenged the Navy's long-standing claim to 
be "the first line of defense," by asserting that his bombers could sink 
any battleship. The celebrated and highly publicized sinking of the un- 
sinkable German battleship Ostfriesland, seemed to justify Mitchell's 
claim, but his oral "bombs" led President Harding to note that Mitchell 
gave the admirals "apoplexy"; and later President Coolidge was provoked 
into calling him a "God-damned disturbing liar."'' 

After 1923, a single Department of Defense with an independent air 
force became the central issue in the American air power story. Mitchell, 
after cooling-off trips to Europe in 1922 and to the Far East in the first 
half of 1924, launched even more inflammatory attacks upon the Navy's 
admirals and the Army's General Staff. Having succeeded in alienating 
every responsible person with authority to help him, he was transferred 
into "exile" at San Antonio. The crash of the Navy dirigible, the Shen- 
andoah, gave Mitchell the occasion he wanted to assure his court martial. 
He accused the Navy and War departments of "incompetency, criminal 
negligence, and almost treasonable administration of aviation." To un- 
dercut the airman's charges. President Coolidge created the Morrow 
Board, which met, heard all of the familiar witnesses, and reported out 
before Mitchell's trial. The framers of the Army Air Corps Act of 1926 
would attempt to remove some complaints on flight pay and promotions 
and gave the Air Corps a spokesman by authorizing an Assistant Secretary 
of War for Air. In the meantime, Mitchell resigned and continued to 
express his views. '* 

Billy Mitchell's legacy was permanently ingrained in the Army Air 
Corps. Not the least of his marks was made by the corpus of his many 
papers on the role of airplanes in national defense. Defining "air power" 
as "the ability to do something in the air," Mitchell's central idea was 
that air forces rendered armies and navies obsolete because they could 
achieve a decision in war by directly attacking "vital centers" of an enemy 
nation. After he resigned, he continued to spread the gospel, wherever 
possible, that "the airplane is the arbiter of our nation's destiny." "Colonel 
Hurley's biography and Dr. Frank Futrell's monumental work on the 
history of Air Force thought permit me little opportunity to say more.*" 

The beliefs of Mitchell, however, made it absolutely unnecessary for 
him to quote Hugh Trenchard or, it he knew them, the theories of Giulio 
Douhet, later collected in The Command of the Air. Mitchell met and 
talked with Douhet, although where and when he did remains not fully 
clear. It would be interesting to know if there is more on the Mitchell- 
Douhet connection. We have more evidence about the views of Douhet's 
associate. Count Caproni, which were communicated to Americans in 


IQl?.*' At any rate, General "Hap" Arnold's later judgment on Billy 
Mitchell seems fair enough: despite his political failings, no one should 
ever forget that Mitchell was ahead of his time in his ideas on the em- 
ployment of air power. ''^ 

Demobilization proved equally as disruptive to Naval Aviation . Dur- 
ing the war, that aviation had been loosely organized and was mothered 
by various bureaus of the Navy. Most of its pilots were reservists, and 
few remained on active duty after demobilization. The Navy had only 
319 active naval aviators in June 1920, with 3,296 inactive, including 

The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William Benson, vehe- 
mently opposed the proposal in 1919 to combine Army and Navy aviation. 
Billy Mitchell lashed out directly at Benson, decrying his shabby outlook 
on the "ugly duckling" of the Navy. More air-minded admirals on the 
Navy's General Board advised the Secretary of the Navy in June 1919 
that "a naval air service must be established, capable of accompanying 
and operating with the fleet in all waters of the globe.'"" The president 
of the Naval War College, Admiral William S. Sims, gave Congressional 
friends studies which argued that a superior fleet of aircraft carriers, 
similar to those developed by the Royal Navy, "would sweep the enemy 
fleet clean of its airplanes, and proceed to bomb the battleships, and 
torpedo them with torpedo planes. It is all a question of whether the 
airplane carrier, equipped with eighty planes, is not the capital ship of 
the future.""* 

Naval aviation got another boost when the National Advisory Com- 
mittee on Aeronautics (NACA) recommended that the War, Navy, Post 
Office, and Commerce Departments have separate bureaus of aeronau- 
tics, to be coordinated by a top-level board of civilians. This NACA 
proposal, which smacked of retaining for NACA a post-war policy role 
in all aviation, was rejected by the Joint Army and Navy Board. The 
Secretaries of War and Navy successfully refused any connections with 
the NACA by creating an Aeronautical Board to consider policy ques- 
tions regarding the roles and missions of aviation in both services."" In 
February 1920, CNO Benson agreed to give bureau status to naval avia- 
tion. The new status was not to be public knowledge, however, until 10 
August 1921, after the sinking of Ostfriesland by Mitchell's bombers in 

Admiral William Moffett, chief of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics 
until he was killed in the crash of the dirigible Akron in 1933, was a 
different personality from Mitchell. Moffett, an Academy graduate, 
worked within the system to put aviation into the corpus of the Navy! 
With the help of airmen executives who were all Annapolis products after 
1922, the Navy learned to operate aircraft carriers, which evolved from 


surface auxiliaries into capital ships in a task force. With the commis- 
sioning of the first make-shift aircraft carrier, Langley, the Bureau of 
Aeronautics (BuAer) was underway. Moffett, who now bore the brunt 
of Billy Mitchell's attacks on the Navy, came to regard him, he said, as 
a man "of unsound mind and suffering delusions of grandeur." One 
wonders what Moffett and Major General Mason Patrick, again Chief 
of the Army Air Service, said to one another about Mitchell at meetings 
of theNACA.'" 

The Navy steadily advanced its sea-air capabilities after an NC-4, 
one of the three flying boats built during the war, completed in May 1919 
the first trans- Atlantic flight from Newfoundland to Plymouth , England, 
by way of the Azores and Lisbon."' The Naval Appropriation Act for 
FY 1920 had already funded conversion of a collier into the Langley, 
which used aircraft landing hooks and deck cables developed by the 
British and catapult launchings. Also authorized in 1920 was the pro- 
curement of two merchant ships as seaplane tenders, the construction of 
one rigid dirigible (later the Shenandoah), and the purchase abroad of 
another (the ill-fated British R-38). A third dirigible, the Los Angeles, 
was acquired from Germany as part of the reparations settlement. By 
1923, flights from the Langley had begun, and the fleet exercises in 
Panama used patrol squadrons. The next year, while he was flying mail 
to the Canal Zone, Army Lt. Moon, bombed the Langley with ripe 
tomatoes and delayed a fleet exercise for a day.'" 

"BuAer's" greatest achievement in the 1920s was the development 
of the aircraft carrier as a part of the Navy's capital ship construction 
program. Two battle cruiser hulls, permitted under the Washington Naval 
Treaties of 1922, became the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Lexington, 
commissioned in 1928. The completely new carrier Ranger appeared in 
1934, followed by Enterprise and Yorktown in 1936, and the promise of 
another carrier. Wasp. " 

All major Navy ships had catapult scout planes, and flying boats 
were not neglected. The "flying aircraft carriers," the Akron and Macon, 
however, were expensive disasters. C. G. Grey, editor of the English 
journal. The Aeroplane, once quipped: "The airships breed like elephants 
and aeroplanes like rabbits."" The Navy could afford no more of the 
airships, which most Army airmen always considered unworthy combat 

Since the Washington Naval Treaties forbade the United States to 
build a major naval installation in the Philippines, Pearl Harbor became 
the major port for the Pacific Sea Frontier. Fleet exercises after 1931 
included the Saratoga and Lexington, although the cost of fuel was a 
major constraint. In the 1932 exercises, aircraft from the "Sara" and the 
"Lex" successfully "bombed" Pearl Harbor. Supplemented by the three 


new carriers, the carrier force was generally divided by 1936 between the 
Atlantic and the Pacific Sea Frontiers. Only the Langley, converted to 
a seaplane tender, was ever on station in Asiatic waters. 

After the Japanese Army, supported by carrier aircraft, invaded 
China in 1937, the U. S. Navy's efforts to equip its sea-based air power 
with up-to-date aircraft, to lay keels for more aircraft carriers, and to 
train manpower became most urgent. In the fleet exercises of 1939 Naval 
Aviation was deemed to be "fast reaching a high state of readiness." 
Still, in 1940, the Japanese carrier force had grown to ten.'^ 

When the MacArthur-Pratt agreement of 1931 affirmed that the 
Army Air Corps was to be responsible for the land-based air defense of 
the United States and its possessions. Marine Corps aviators were re- 
quired to become qualified on aircraft carriers. By 1934 sixty of the 
hundred-odd regular Marine Corps aviators had served on aircraft car- 
riers and had gained experience on more up-to-date aircraft In 1933 
however, the creation of the Fleet Marine Force to seize shore bases for 
naval operations basically altered the mission of the Marine Corps avia- 
tion to one of close air support for amphibious operations. By 1939 the 
number of active Marine Corps aviators had grown to 245, plus reservists 
but those numbers would soon double again and again. ** 

Meanwhile, the Army Air Corps got its first veteran flyer and non- 
Academy-graduate as its chief in the person of Major General James E 
Fechet in 1927. In the post-Mitchell period, every Army airman was still 
a rebel, but he maintained a low profile. One of Fechet's aides later 
General Ira Eaker, has said that Fechet approved "more special projects 
to keep the air effort in the headlines than any of his predecessors " The 
Pan-Amencan Goodwill Flight and the in-flight refueling endurance flight 
of the Question Mark occurred during Fechet's regime.'' 

Fechet's successor, Benjamin Foulois, sounded a theme that rapidly 
would become more than a theory, telling an Army War College class 
that air power was "the strength of a nation in its ability to strike offen- 
sively in the air. ... The real effective air defense will consist of our 
ability to attack and destroy the hostile aviation on the ground before it 
takes to the air.'"* Four years before, when defending fighters had failed 
to intercept a bomber attack during maneuvers in Ohio, Major Walter 
Frank concluded that "a well planned air force attack is going to be 
successful most of the time." In the classrooms at the Air Corps Tactical 
School, Lt. Kenneth Walker was credited by his students with originating 
the theorem that: "A well organized, well planned, and well flown attack 
will constitute an offensive that cannot be stopped."" A similar emphasis 
on the power of the air offensive prevailed in Europe, and Douhet was 
not Its sole author. The most famous acknowledgment of the power of 
the air offensive came from Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin of England 


who, enroute to the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1932, 
stated: "The bomber will always get through."'* 

Without a doubt, President Roosevelt's assignment to the Army Air 
Corps of the task of flying the air mail proved a turning point in 1934. 
General Foulois took up the assignment with a "can do" attitude. Be- 
ginning in the depths of a severe winter across the nation in late February, 
nine Army airmen were killed within three weeks while flying the mail. 
The press deemed the Army Air Corps to be incompetent or ill-equipped. 
Roosevelt's Postmaster General eventually renegotiated air mail con- 
tracts with the same airlines, which had merely changed their names. But 
there were at least two important consequences for Army aviation. First, 
a War Department board under Newton Baker reviewed once again the 
status of aviation in the Army. It re-stated that the Air Corps should 
remain in the Army and recommended that the War Department buy 
aircraft directly from industry through bid contracts or design competi- 
tions. Secondly, the White House set up a Federal Aviation Commission 
under Clark Howell, a publisher, to consider once more the idea of a 
separate air force. 

Before the Howell Commission reported out, the Army chose a 
solution recommended earlier by two of its own boards and gave the Air 
Corps a mission not tethered to other Army forces by establishing a 
provisional General Headquarters Air Force (GHQAF). Brig. General 
Frank Andrews become head of the GHQAF on 1 March, 1935. The 
GHQAF was headquartered at Langiey Field, Virginia, with other wings 
at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and March Field, California, to support 
the "tactical mission" of coastal defense." In the meantime, Lt. Colonel 
Henry H. Arnold had led a flight of ten Martin B-10 bombers to Alaska, 
returning to Seattle non-stop over water on a 8,290-mile round trip. The 
B-10, the first prototype of the modern bomber, had closed cockpits, 
retractable landing gear, and a speed faster than that of contemporary 

Sustaining the continued struggle of the Army Air Corps to develop 
and procure heavy bomber forces was the dynamism of the revolution 
in flight technology in the early 1930s. It suffices to stress here the ap- 
pearance of the Boeing 229, designated the XB-17, which flew non-stop 
from Seattle to Wright Field in August 1935—2,100 miles at 232 mph 
with four modest-sized engines in flush wing-mounts. To Army airmen 
from Generals Oscar Westover and Andrews on down, the XB-17 "was 
a vision of the promised land." Earlier, in May 1934, Air Corps arguments 
with the Army General Staff had prevailed and had secured the mission 
of "the destruction by bombs of distant land and naval targets." The 
Boeing Aircraft Company had then begun "Project A," a more advanced 
bomber with a range of 5,000 miles, and a speed of 200 mph with a 2000- 


lb bomb load. The resultant X-15, contracted for in June 1935, flew in 
1937. It was underpowered but contributed to the ultimate B-17 and the 
B-29. In October 1935, the War Department contracted for the XB-19, 
a forerunner of the wartime B-29 and post-war B-36.*" 

In testimony before the Howell Commission, most of the senior Air 
Corps representatives had supported the idea of giving the GHQAF a 
fair trial before seeking a further reorganization. But some of the heady 
thoughts on the primacy of air power in modern war as taught by the 
majority of the instructors at the Air Corps Tactical School were freely 
expressed by Major Donald Wilson, Captains Harold George and Robert 
Olds, Lts. Kenneth Walker and Laurence Kuter, and others. To George 
air power was "the immediate ability of a nation to engage effectively 
m air warfare."" To Walker, "An Air Force is an arm which, without 
the necessity of defeating the armed forces of the enemy, can strike 
directly and destroy those industrial and communications facilities, with- 
out which no nation can wage modern war."" 

It is generally conceded that between 1933 and 1937 the Army and 
the Navy had not been ungenerous in funding their respective air arms 
within the fiscal constraints imposed by the state of the national economy 
and inevitably slim budgets. The Army Air Corps justified its infant 
heavy bombers in terms of coastal defense rather than by trying to sell 
a concept of a strategic air offensive against some specific enemy From 
a budget of $6 million for FY 1936, the Army Air Corps only received 
$3.5 million for aircraft procurement for FY 1938, the year the German 
Luftwaffe rose like a phoenix to dominate the diplomatic balance of 
power in Europe. A numbers game also may have come into vogue in 
the selection of aircraft in this period. In 1936, the Air Corps was directed 
to order more airplanes for the dollar, or more two-engined Douglas B- 
18s rather than fewer B-17s.« The interregnum came to an end for the 
Army Air Corps in September 1938, however, thanks to ex-Corporal 
Adolf Hitler. He remembered trench warfare. 

Take-Off: 1938-1941 

Erosion of the "long armistice" had been underway in Europe ever 
since Nazi Germany falsely claimed in 1935 that its new Luftwaffe already 
had "air parity" with the Royal Air Force. Nazi Germany's aggrandize- 
ment was transparent in 1936 with the reoccupation of the demilitarized 
Rhineland and the commitment of the Condor Legion to the Spanish 
Civil War. In the United States, the interregnum persisted despite Pres- 
ident Roosevelt's attempt to alert public opinion concerning the stark 
portents for the future of peace reported by his ambassadors and attaches 
in London, Pans, Berlin, and Tokyo. In September 1937, President Roo- 
sevelt tested the public's readiness for a policy change by calling for an 


active "quarantine of aggressors," a thought that was not well received 
nationwide. "FDR" was branded a "war monger" by the isolationists; 
Congress responded by extending the Neutrality Act. But a series of 
international crises were to prompt small changes in American military 
policy, if only to prepare adequate defenses for the continental United 

In December 1937, Japanese bombers intentionally sank the USS 
Panay and machinegunned its lifeboats in Chinese waters. The United 
States only protested, and the undeclared war by Japan continued. How- 
ever, American rearmament began when Roosevelt soon called for aug- 
menting American defenses because of the threats "to world peace and 
security." U. S. Navy aviation got the first boost with the passage of the 
Naval Expansion Act in May 1938, which marked a significant step toward 
a "two-ocean navy" and which provided for a 3,000-plane program to 
move carrier aircraft beyond the biplane era. From this legislation came 
the Navy's first modern production fighter, the Brewster Buffalo, the 
precursors of the Grumman F4F and TBF, and the Douglas SBD, the 
dive bomber which would win the battle of Midway four years later. '^ 

For the Army Air Corps, the thrust to expand its initial force of B- 
17s continued to fare poorly under a President who had once been As- 
sistant Secretary of the Navy. At Langley Field, the GHQAF under 
General Andrews was developing heavy bomber operations with thirteen 
B-17s. In May 1938, three of these bombers departed Langley Field and 
intercepted the Italian liner Rex, 115 miles out of the port of New York. 
It was a good navigation job by Lt. Curtis LeMay. '^ The next day, pictures 
of a B-17 at mast-height alongside the Rex appeared on the front pages 
of the New York Times and other eastern newspapers. The Navy blew 
a fuse. The primary mission of the B-17 in national strategy was scrubbed 
when the word was passed down from on high that Army Air Corps 
planes were limited to operational flights not to exceed 100 miles from 
shore. Secretary of War Harry Woodring laid it on the line when he 
directed that no production B-17s be procured in FY 1940. Deputy Chief 
of Army Staff General Stanley Embick stated simply: "Our national 
policy contemplates preparation for defense, not offense . . . Defense of 
sea areas other than within the Continental Zone, is a function of the 
Navy." It was little wonder that General Andrews told the National 
Aeronautical Association convention in St. Louis that the United States 
was no better than a fifth or sixth rate air power in the world.'* 

The so-called "Munich Crisis" of September 1938 was the turning 
point in American air power policy before World War II. England and 
France appeased Hitler because of their fantastic belief that, in the event 
of war, the German air force was more powerful than all of the Western 
air forces combined, plus that of the Soviet Union." Everyone forgot 


that air operations from German bases could barely reach England, but 
the collective action required of both England and France proved im- 
possible. It was a triple tragedy: Hitler's bloodless victory gave him the 
Czech "Little Maginot Line"; it put him in command of the German 
Army General Staff which had been prepared to depose him; and, it 
encouraged more adventures by Hitler, who believed that those "worms 
of Munich will not fight." 

It is difficult to recreate the climate of Munich. Douhet virtually 
became a household word in France and England. There had not been 
enough gas masks, air-raid shelters, or hospital beds in Paris or London 
during the crisis. "Peace in our time" was the scrap of paper which British 
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain brought back from the Munich con- 
ference, for which the mobilization of the English fleet and the activation 
of the Maginot Line had been to no avail. There were only four armed 
Spitfires, and the relative weakness of the Royal Air Force and the French 
Air Force presented grim alternatives. *« Hitler was correct. Neither Brit- 
ain nor France really fought until they were attacked, which was also true 
of the Soviet Union and the United States. But that is another subject. 

Two days before the Munich outcome, President Roosevelt dis- 
patched Harry Hopkins, the director of the Works Progress Administra- 
tion, on his first secret fact-finding mission to survey the capacity of the 
American aircraft industry. Hopkins, with the Deputy Chief of the Army 
Air Corps, General Arnold, reported that American production was 
almost 2,600 planes of all types per year.*' After Munich, Roosevelt 
confided to Hopkins that he was "sure then that we were going to get 
into the war and he believed that airpower [sic] would win it."™ 

On 14 November 1938, Roosevelt outlined the "Magna Carta" of 
American air power, as Arnold termed it, at a top level White House 
conference. The President wanted at least an Army air arm of 20,000 
planes and an annual production of 24,000 aircraft. Only this would 
mfluence Hitler. Congress, Roosevelt opined, might only approve 10,000 
aircraft, of which 3,370 would be combat effective types and 3,750 combat 
reserve. Seven aircraft factories should also be built, only two of which 
would be activated. And, he said, the United States had to defend the 
Western hemisphere "from the North Pole to the South Pole."" 

Support of the White House was now the pacing factor in the rise 
of American air power, although other events also proved fortuitous. 
With the death of General Westover in a crash, Brig. General H. H. 
Arnold became Chief of the Air Corps in September 1938. He recruited 
officers to staff the air portions of the President's budget and message 
for the Congress in January 1939 (Colonels Carl Spaatz and McNarney 
Majors Ira Eaker and Muir Fairchild, and Captains George Kenney and 
Lawrence Kuter). In November 1938, the Army's new Assistant Chief 


of Staff was Brig. General George C. Marshall, who proved to be the 
point man in getting Arnold into the Combined Chiefs of Staff. " By late 
1938, as Dr. Joseph Ames, Chairman of the NACA, wrote Charles A. 
Lindbergh in France, a new atmosphere pervaded Washington. It was 
a state of "peacetime war." Lindbergh had urged NACA to aim for the 
development of a 500mph airplane, and Ames, in reply, invited him to 
help NACA obtain additional laboratories for its aerodynamic and engine 
research and flight cleanup work on all new Navy and Army aircraft. 

The take-off of American air power began on 12 January 1939, in 
President Roosevelt's State of the Union Message to the Congress. Re- 
sponding to Munich, he declared that "our existing forces are so utterly 
inadequate that they must be immediately strengthened," and he sought 
$300 million (less than he had said he wanted) for Army Air Corps 
aircraft procurement." Within three months. Congress authorized up- 
wards of a three-fold expansion of the Air Corps to 5,500 planes, 3,203 
officers, and 45,000 enlisted men. This was a sharp contrast to the existing 
"utterly inadequate strength" of 1,700 tactical and training planes, 1,600 
officers, and 18,000 enlisted men. As events would show, this was only 
the first expanded blueprint for the Army Air Corps. Planners had first 
to program for twenty tactical combat groups in the spring of 1939, and 
then re-program for forty-one groups by May 1940, fifty-four groups by 
July 1940, and eighty-four groups by the fall of 1941. These goals could 
not be instantly attained, and many growing pains would be experi- 
enced. ''* 

A major early problem soon stemmed from the purchase of first-line 
aircraft by Britain and France at the cost of the build-up of the American 
forces. By the end of 1939, the two countries had ordered 2,500 aircraft 
of all kinds and by April 1940, 2,500 combat aircraft. Obsolete planes 
such as the P-36 and its water-cooled offspring, the P-40, had to be 
produced until the more advanced P-38s and P-39s could be built. B- 
25s and B-26s were ordered to replace B-18s and A-20s, and the P-47 
design was pushed. For FY 1940, seventy B-17s were ordered as well as 
sixteen four-engine Consolidated B-24s on a second production line. 
Contract civilian flying schools expanded pilot training to 7,000 per year 
in 1940. Bases for air defense and training had to be built "boom-style" 
in many places, including Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Panama. In March 
1939, the GHQAF became a responsibility of the Chief of Air Corps, 
not the General Staff of the Army." 

In May 1939, Colonel Lindbergh returned from Europe to attend 
meetings of the NACA. He met with General Arnold at West Point, 
briefing him on European aviation, particularly the German Air Force. 
Lindbergh agreed to serve on the Kilner Board, with Colonels Spaatz 
and Naiden, to determine the technical characteristics of all military 


aircraft. The Kilner Board also recommended that first-Hne aircraft sold 
to England and France carry with them a responsibility on the part of 
the purchasers to report on their combat effectiveness. With the help of 
Lindbergh, Arnold, and BuAer chief Admiral John Towers, the NACA 
put together its requirements for an additional laboratory. ''* In July 1939, 
production models of the B-17 arrived at GHQAF at Langley Field! 
Seven made a "goodwill flight" to Argentina, at an average speed of 260 

On 1 September 1939, the day the German Wehrmacht lunged into 
isolated Poland and World War II began, George C. Marshall became 
Acting Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army and Roosevelt declared the 
neutrality of the United States. U. S. Navy ships and FBY flying-boats 
began a Neutrality Patrol over the Carribbean and Atlantic sea ap- 
proaches. Roosevelt also promptly dispatched an appeal to Germany, 
Italy, France, Britain, and Poland to refrain from "ruthless bombing from 
the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population." Herr Hitler 
replied that FDR's request "corresponds completely with my own point 
of view."'^ American airmen noted that the German air force seized 
command of the air by destroying in one day the Polish air force on its 
airfields. The bombing of Warsaw to end the final resistance was the 
largest such bombardment of a city to date. The Polish campaign ended 
quickly and demonstrated a new word for the textbooks— Btozytneg. 
Screaming Stuka Ju-87 dive-bombers were shown in newsreels around 
the world and shocked Americans. The "phony war" began in Western 
Europe, but there was no air war yet. 

American airmen also noted that Polish opposition to the Luftwaffe 
in the air had been virtually nil, although the Sfuka, however stable a 
bombing platform, was indeed vulnerable without air superiority or 
greater defensive firepower. There was some soul searching. Major Har- 
old George, commanding the 94th Bombardment Squadron, advised the 
GHQAF commander that "today American bombardment groups could 
not truly defend themselves against American pursuit groups." Early 
outcomes of the continuing bomber versus fighter debate were an increase 
in the defensive armament of the war-improved B-17s and arguments for 
"pursuit escorts," even before the effectiveness of radar was fully ap- 

General Arnold dispatched hand-picked observers to the "phony 
war." Lt. Colonel George Kenney reported from Paris that observation 
balloons were worthless and most reconnaissance planes were slow and 
vulnerable. Just before the German attack in the west. General Delos 
Emmons and Colonel Spaatz were sent to Europe. From May to Sep- 
tember 1940, Spaatz observed the fall of Belgium, Holland, and France, 
and the Battle of Britain. Once the British Fighter Command's system 


of integrated radar-fighter sector control was appreciated, even General 
Arnold began to think that night operations might be essential for B-17 
forces. Spaatz's diary and his reports consistently maintained that Eng- 
land, fighting alone, would survive. The Luftwaffe, he argued, would not 
win daylight air superiority over England or otherwise achieve a decision 
during the ill-coordinated bombing campaign against the city of London . " 
The German bombers could not defend themselves from the Hurricanes 
and the Spitfires, and Spaatz clearly agreed with Winston Churchill, who 
most persuasively stated what has been quoted only partially ever since — 
that Bomber Command was a part of the Battle of Britain. On 20 August 
1940, Churchill said, lest anyone continue to ignore it: 

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. 
All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own 
eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, 
month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their 
targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often 
under the heaviest fire with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, 
and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making struc- 
ture of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the 
war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable 
part in the case of the invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary 
in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain.™ 

Bomber Command's first raid on Berlin, a modest one, caused Hitler to 
alter the outcome of the entire Battle of Britain, the first turning point 
for the Allies in World War IL 

While the German Blitzkrieg raced through Belgium and Holland 
and poured over France, President Roosevelt began his secret corre- 
spondence with the other former naval person, Winston Churchill, now 
just made Prime Minister. This tie led to the Atlantic Charter and coa- 
lition planning for the defeat of the Axis. On 16 May 1940, before Dun- 
kirk and the Battle of Britain, President Roosevelt called upon the 
Congress for a further expansion of annual American aircraft production 
to 50,000 airplanes. He emphasized the importance of the Army and 
Navy air arms in hemispheric defense, but also planned to make available 
to the Royal Air Force new bombers from among the 50,000.*" Months 
before Roosevelt's request. General Marshall had approved the "First 
Aviation Objective" of the Air Corps, a force of 12,835 planes by April 
1942. But by July 1941, the Army and the Navy had authorization for 
50,000 airplanes. Arnold and Marshall also agreed that the buildup of 
the Army air forces did not mean their complete independence; they still 
depended on the Army's supporting services. In the process, however, 
the Army Air Corps became the Army Air Forces (AAF)." 

The tragedy of France in May 1940 masked other decisions by Pres- 
ident Roosevelt which influenced the future history of air power, includ- 
ing his unpublicized decision to develop an atomic bomb before the 


Germans could. In June 1940 he created the National Defense Research 
Committee, later called the Office of Scientific Research and Develop- 
ment (SRD), in response to a proposal by Vannevar Bush of M.I.T., 
Chairman of the NACA and the first director of the SRD. The new office 
established working committees, similar to NACA's technical commit- 
tees, to develop high technology armaments such as the proximity fuse, 
computers, radars, and rockets, all without putting scientists into uniform. 
NACA retained responsibility for aerodynamic research, though most of 
its work in the war would focus on solving the problems of existing 

One of the remarkable documents in the history of American air 
power was the first product of the new War Plans Division of the Air 
Staff of the Army Air Forces. "AWPD-1" appeared just before Pearl 
Harbor in response to a White House request through the Secretaries of 
War and of Navy on 8 July 1941 for an estimate of the "overall production 
requirements required [sic] to defeat our potential enemies." Arnold 
placed Colonel Harold George in charge of an Air War Plans Division, 
to which was assigned a bevy of non-Ph.D.'s who were products of the 
Air Corps Tactical School. " The plan was drafted, approved by Marshall 
and the Secretary of War, and submitted to the President on 1 1 September 
1941 as the "Air Annex" to the estimate of overall production require- 

AWPD-1 became the blue print for the procurement and deploy- 
ment of the rapidly expanding Army Air Forces, particularly for the 
European theater. In concept, it was a "synthesis" of the doctrine of 
strategic air power as it had evolved at the Air Corps Tactical School 
and as it related to a global war outlined in the joint Rainbow 5 Plan 
modified by the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff. AWPD-1 
proposed "Possible Lines of Action" which called for the defeat of the 
Luftwaffe and the support of an invasion of Nazi-held Europe by targeting 
bombing on electric power, oil, and transportation systems, in that order 
of priority. These priorities were remarkable forecasts, confirmed by 
events and the post-war testimony of the members of the U. S. Strategic 
Bombing Survey, Albert Speer, and scholars.'" The only post-war com- 
plaint would come from the airmen authors who yet believe that AWPD- 
1 could have been carried out much sooner at less cost in blood and 
energy. But that document's projection that strategic air power could not 
be built up in England to conduct decisive operations until mid-1944 
proved right on the mark. 

The major contribution of the AAF, according to AWPD-1, was for 
simultaneous war against Germany and Japan by strategic bombing. The 
AAF would need 239 combat groups and 108 support squadrons, 63,467 
planes of all types, and 2,164,916 men. By April 1944, if the concerted 


effort was instituted immediately, the air offensive against Germany 
would reach effective strength. This forecast by anonymous staff officers 
ranks among the most valid in modern military history, since the Army 
Air Forces eventually had a peak strength of 2,400,000 men, 243 combat 
groups, and nearly 80,000 aircraft.** 

In the fall of 1941, the Navy air arm, like the Army Air Forces, was 
not yet prepared or deployed for a global war in Europe or Asia. The 
Navy could muster eight aircraft carriers, seven large and one small, five 
patrol wings and Marine aircraft wings, 5,900 pilots, and 21,678 enlisted 
men. The naval battles to come in the Pacific would be fought most often 
in the air where surface fleets never saw one another. ** For openers, 
Japanese naval air forces struck Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. 



1 . The author has previously discussed the historical evolution of air power: "The Impact 
of Air Power," Air University Quarterly Review, II (Winter 1948), pp. 1-13; "The Meaning 
of National Air Power," National Air Review (NAA) (January 1950), p. 13; "Some Fallacies 
Concerning Air Power," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social 
Science, 299 (May 1955), pp. 12-24; "The Evolution of Air Power," The Impact of Air 
Power (Princeton: 1959), pp. 5-18; "Technical Change and Western Military Thought 
mA-19\Sr Military Affairs, XXIV (Spring 1960), pp. 6-19; "The Contemporary Spectrum 
of War," Technology and Western Civilization (M. Kranzberg and C. Pursell, eds.), II (New 
York: 1967), pp. 576-90; and, "Introduction," Two Hundred Years of Flieht in America 
(San Diego: 1977), pp. 3-31. 

2. Most useful accounts of early U. S. military aviation are: I. B. Holley, Ideas and 
Weapons (New Haven: 1953), and Alfred Goldberg (ed.), A History of the U S Air Force 
(Princeton: 1957), pp. 2-11. 

3. Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, Aviation: An Historical Survey (London: 1970), pp. 129-34. 

4. Benjamin D. Foulois and C. V. Glines, From the Wright Brothers to the Astronauts- 
The Memoirs of B. D. Foulois (NY: 1968), p. 43; John F. Shiner, "The Army Air Arm in 
Transition: Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois and the Air Corps, 1931-1935," Ph.D. Dissertation 
Ohio State, 1975, p. 7. 

5. Interview of B. D. Foulois by the author, Andrews AFB, MD, August 23, 1960. 

6. Best concise history of lighter-than-air flight in the U. S. is Richard K. Smith, "The 
Airship in America," Two Hundred Years of Flight in America (San Diego: 1977), pp. 69- 


7. Francis T. Miller, The World in the Air, II (NY: 1930), p. 155. 

8. Peter Supf, Das Buch der deutschen Fluggeschichte (Berlin: 1935). 

9. H. G. Wells, The War in the Air (NY: Dover, 1950), p. 69; Edward Mead Earle, 
"H. G. Wells," Nationalism and Internationalism (New York: 1950), pp. 116-18. 

10. Walter T. Bonney, The Heritage of Kitty Hawk (New York: 1962), pp. 141-42. 

11. As quoted in E. L. Jones, "History of the U. S. Air Arm," a looseleaf chronology 
prepared over many years, microfilm in National Air and Space Museum Library M-186 
p. 294; cf. H. H. Arnold, Global Mission (NY: 1949), pp. 31-47. 

12. Interview of Milling by Thomas Greer, January 1952, Development of Air Doctrine 
in the Army Air Arm, 1917-1941 (USAF Historical Study No. 89, Air University 1955) 
p. 3. 

13. Cf. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World (NY: 1953), III, pp 
215f.; Theodore Ropp, War in the Modern World (Durham: 1959), pp. 222-24 248 317 

14. Holley, pp. 33-34. ' ' 

15. Cf. Stanton A. Coblentz, From Arrow to Atom Bomb: The Psychological History of 
War (New York: 1953), pp. 389-92. ^ s y j 

16. On early Navy aviation: A. N. Turnbull and C. L. Lord, U. S. Naval Aviation (New 
Haven: 1949); A. D. Van Wyen and L. M. Pearson, U. S. Naval Aviation 1910-1960 
(Washington: NAVWEPS 00-80P-1, 1960); William Armstrong, "Aircraft Go to Sea: A 
Brief History of Aviation in the U. S. Navy," Aerospace Historian, 25 (June 1978), pp. 79- 
91; T. Roscoe, On the Seas and in the Skies: A History of the U.S. Navy's Air Power (New 
York: 1970). 

17. Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War // (Washington: 
1952), pp. 1-18; E. C. Johnson, Marine Corps Aviation, 1912-1940 (Washington: 1977). 

18. Jerome C. Hunsaker, "Forty Years of Aeronautical Research," Smithsonian Report 
for 1955 (Washington: 1956), pp. 241-71; Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists (New York: 
1978), pp. 104-105; George Gray, Frontiers of Flight (New York: 1948), pp. 9-15- Arthur 
Levine, "U. S. Aeronautical Research Policy, 1917-1958," Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia 
University, 1963. 

19. Statement dated April 16, 1915, in E. L. Jones, "Chronology on American FUght" 
(no pagination), microfilm in NASM Libr^y (M-104), NACA secretariat shared offices 
with the Signal Corps Aviation Section its first year. 

20. Cf. Holley, pp. 106-112; Goldberg, p. 11. 

21 . Kevles, pp. 1 12f. , 133-34; Michael Keller, "History of the NACA Langley Laboratory, 
1917-1947," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1969. 

22. Alfred F. Hurley, Billy Mitchell: Crusader for Air Power (Bloomington: 1975), p. 20. 


23. W. F. Craven and J. L. Gate (eds.), TheArmv Air Forces in World War II. I(Chicago: 
1948), p. 4. 

24. Raymond H. Fredette, The Sky on Fire: The First Bailie of Britain, with Foreword 
by Hanson Baldwin and postscript by Sir John Slessor (New York; 1966), p. 256; E. M. 
Emme, "German Air Power, 1919-1939," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1949, 
p. 2. 

25. Fredette, p. 57. 

26. Fredette, pp. 196-99. 

27. Best dissection of U. S. aircraft program remains Holley, Ideas and Weapons, pp. 

28. Hurley, pp. 22-27; Gate, pp. 12-13. 

29. Andrew Boyle, Trenchard (New York; 1962). pp. 168, 18()-81, 185-88. 

30. Boyle, pp. 298-99. 

31. Gate, pp. 10-16; Goldberg, pp. 23-27. 

32. The L-12 on May 14, and L-14 on June 14, 1917. Douglas H. Robinson, Giants in 
the Sky: A History of the Rigid Airship (Seattle: 1973), pp. 132-33; Turnbull and Lord, p. 

33. Van Wyen and Pearson, p. 29; Armstrong, p. 83: Robert L. Perry, "Trends in Military 
Aeronautics, 1908-1976," in Two Hundred Years of Flight, pp. 138-140. 

34. Ropp, pp. 256-92. 

35. Gerald Wheeler, A Sailor's Life: Admiral William Veazie Pratt (Washington: 1974), 
pp. 354-56; Henry H. Arnold. Global Mission, p. 121. 

36. Graven and Gate. I. pp. 17-24; Goldberg, pp. 29-30. 

37. Hurley, pp. 64-66. 

38. Hurley, pp. 40-42, 56-109; Goldberg, pp. 30-31. 

39. William Mitchell, "Airplanes in National Defense," The Annals of the American 
Academy of Political and Social Science, GXXXI (May 1927), pp. 38-42. 

40. James L. Gate, "Development of U. S. Air Doctrine, 1917-1941," Air University 
Quarterly Review. I (Winter 1947), also in Impact of Air Power, pp. 186-91; Robert F. 
Futrell, Ideas, Concepts. Doctrine: A History of Basic Thinking in the United States Air 
Force, 1907-1964 (Maxwell AFB, AL: 1974), pp. 17-30. 

41. J. L. B. Atkinson, "Italian Influence on the Origins of the American Goncept of 
Strategic Bombardment," Air Power Historian, IV (July 1957), pp. 143-49; Golonel Edgar 
S. Gorrell (USAS), "An American Proposal for Strategic Bombing of Germany [report of 
November 28, 1917]," Air Power Historian, V (April 1958), pp. 102-17. 

42. Arnold, Global Mission, pp. 157-58. 

43. Glark G. Reynolds, The Fast Carriers (New York: 1968), pp. 14-15. 

44. Van Wyen and Pearson, p. 31. 

45. Elting E. Morison, Admiral Sims and the Modern American Navy (Boston: 1942), 
p. 506, as quoted by Reynolds, p. 14; Wheeler. Sailor's Life, pp. 192-93. 

46. U. S. Navy, Administrative Histories, World War II, 48, "Bureau of Aeronautics," 
vol. 1, p. 41. 

47. Van Wyen and Pearson, pp. 39-41, 

48. Gerald Wheeler. "Mitchell, Moffett, and Air Power." Air Power Historian. VIII 
(April 1961), pp. 79-87; Wheeler, Sailor's Life. pp. 199-201. 

49. Richard K. Smith, First Across (Annapolis: 1973). 

50. Van Wyen and Pearson, pp. 39-43; I. B. Holley, "An Enduring Ghallenge," Harmon 
Lecture No. 16 (USAFA:. 1974), pp. 1-2. 

51. Gf. Wheeler, Sailor's Life. pp. 170-79. 

52. R. K. Smith, "The Airship." Two Hundred Years of Flight, pp. 75-79. 

53. U. S. Navy, Administrative Histories, 36, "Aviation in Fleet Exercises, 1911-1939," 
vols. 15 and 16; Reynolds, pp. 4-6; cf. Samuel E. Morison, The Two Ocean War (Boston: 
1963), pp. 13-16. 

54. Wheeler, Sailor's Life. p. 356; Sherrod, pp. 29-33; E. Johnson, pp. 64-82. 

55. Ira G. Eaker, "Major General James E. Fechet. 1927-1931." Air Force (September 
1978), pp. 94-97; Goldberg, pp. 37-38. 

56. Futrell, p. 35. 

57. Futrell, pp. 31-33; Emme, "Emergence of Nazi Luftpolitik. 1933-35," Air Power 
Historian. VII (April 1960), pp. 92-102. 

58. New York Times, November 11. 1932. p. 4. 


59. Goldberg, pp. 37-38; I. B. Holley, Jr., Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the 
Army Air Forces (Washington: 1964), pp. 124-49. 

60. Goldberg, pp. 40-41; Arnold, p. 155. 

61. Futrell, pp. 36-37. 

62. Futrell, p. 37. 

63. Goldberg, pp. 41-43. 

64. Reynolds, pp. 19-20; Craven and Gate, pp. 101 f. 

65. Curtis E. LeMay, Mission with LeMay (Garden City, NY: 1965) pp 183-92 

66. Goldberg, pp. 42-43. 

67. Charles A. Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values (New York: 1978) pp 163-175- 
Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (New York: 1970), pp. 48-82; cf Leonard 
Mosley, Lindbergh: A Biography (Garden City, NY: 1976), pp. 214-245; J W Wheeler- 
Bennett, Munich (New York: 1948), pp. 99-100, 159, 416. 

68. Emme, "German Air Power," pp. 357-409, and Impact, pp. 10-12 58-68 

69. Henry H. Adams, Harry Hopkins (New York: 1977), p. 140; Arnold, p. 177 

70. Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins (New York- 1950) pp 99-100 

71. Craven and Gate, I, p. 105; Futrell, p. 50. 

72. Laurence S. Kuter, "George C. Marshall: Architect of Airpower," Air Force Magazine 
(August 1978), pp. 65-67. * 

73. Futrell, pp. 48-49; Arnold, pp. 168-171. 

74. Craven and Gate, I, p. 105; Futrell, pp. 50f. 

75. Holley, Buying Aircraft, pp. 169-171. 

76 Lindbergh, Wartime Journals, pp. 183-89, 194, 208, 214, 229, 233, 248; Arnold, 188- 

77. Text in Emme, Impact, p. 68. 

78. Carl Spaatz, "Evolution of Air Power," Military Affairs, 11 (Spring 1947) pp 1-16- 
"Leaves from my Battle-of-Britain Diary," Air Power Historian, IV (April 1957) pp 66^ 
75; Futrell, pp. 52-53. *^' 

79. Quotation in Impact, pp. 78-79. 

80. Holley, Buying Aircraft, pp. 229-246 
8L Futrell, p. 55. 

82 J. P. Baxter, Scientists Against Time (New York: 1947); Vannevar Bush, Pieces of 
the Action (New York: 1970). ' 

83. Original members were Lt. Colonels Orvil A. Anderson and Kenneth Walter and 
Major Haywood S. Hansell, but George acquired detail of Colonels M. R. Schneider and 
A. W. Vanaman, and Majors Samuel E. Anderson, Laurence S. Kuter and Hoyt S 
Vandenberg. Best coverage is in Futrell, pp. 50-62. 

84 U. S Strategic Bombing Survey, Overall Report, September 30, 1945, submitted to 
President Harry S. Truman, pp. 39-50; Haywood, S. Hansell, The Air Plan That Defeated 

^''^^^lT'^■ '^J^^' ^"^^" ^"'^ ^'''^' '' PP- 50-52, 146-50, 131-132; Emme, Impact, 
pp. 188-191; Futrel pp. 5^2; Holley, Buying Aircraft, pp. 237-238; D. Maclsaac,5/r<«eg/c 
Bombing m World War Two: The Story of the Strategic Bombing Survey (New York- 1976)- 
D. Maclsaac, ed.. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey. 10 Vols. (New York- 1976)' 
Arnold Krammer, "Fueling the Third Reich," Technology and Culture, 19 (July 1978) pp' 
394-422; Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, and Spandau: The Secret Diaries (New York- 
1977) pp. 48-49. 

85. Goldberg, p. 49. 

86. Van Wyen and Pearson, p. 85. 




Air power came into its own in World War II. The main facets of tlie Anglo-American 
side of the air war are known, but a comprehensive understanding of the entire air war is 
still not possible. To move toward that understanding, the symposium planners invited papers 
on the less well-known experiences of the other msyor parties to the conflict— Japan, Russia, 
and Germany — as well as an estimate of the work remaining to be done. 

Presiding over this investigation was Doctor Stanley Falk, the Chief Historian of the 
United States Air Force and a respected authority on World War II. A specialist on Japan, 
Professor Alvin Coox of San Diego State University, and a specialist on Russia, Doctor 
Kenneth Whiting of the Air University, presented excellent overviews of the prewar records 
and wartime employment of the air forces of these two countries. A third specialist. Doctor 
Horst Boog, came from West Germany for this session and took a different tack from the 
first speakers by offering a penetrating analysis of the nature, origins, and consequences of 
the "command thinking" of the leadership of the Luftwaffe. 

Together, these speakers reminded the audience of the complexity of air warfare and 
the consequence of neglecting factors less obvious than the proper employment of air forces 
in battle. To Boog's warning that "the fate of the Luftwaffe proved again that one cannot 
fight successsully a war for which one is not organizationally and doctrinally prepared," 
Coox added the consequences of becoming involved in a war of attrition not only with 
improper doctrine but also with insufTicient productive capabilities. And Whiting concluded 
that, in the case of the Soviet Union, doctrine and organization were not so important as the 
overriding fact that "it was the productive capability of the Soviet aviation industry that 
enabled the VVS [the Soviet Air Force] to gain air superiority in the second half of the war — 
it simply swamped the Luftwaffe under a flood of first-rate aircraft." 

Doctor Alfred Goldberg, the senior historian in the U.S. Department of Defense, followed 
the papers with an expert assessment of the work remaining to be done in the area to which 
he has devoted much of his professional life. Not enough has been done, he argued, on the 
role and influence of logistics, of technological developments and production, of interservice 
competition, and of intelligence in air operations. In closing, he reaffirmed the views of the 
planners of this symposium by admonishing his current and future audience that "we have 
much to do, and we ought to get on with it." 

The inclusion by Doctor Goldberg of the influence of intelligence on air operations as 
a field requiring more work prompted an authoritative comment on the significance of 
ULTRA by Doctor Harold Deutsch of the U.S. Army War College, who was in the audience. 
His insights merited, in the view of the editors, the publication of an expanded comment by 
him as the final paper in this session. Readers especially interested in this newly-revealed 
aspect of the war should also consult two articles by Doctor Deutsch: "The Historical Impact 
of Revealing the ULTRA Secret," Parameters, VII, No. 3 (1977), pp. 16-32; "The Infiuence 
of ULTRA in World War II," Parameters, VIII, No. 4 (1978), pp. 2-15. 




Unique Considerations' 

Twentieth-century Imperial Japan exhibited a number of character- 
istics which differentiated it from other Great Powers. Japan emerged 
from 250 years of self-imposed feudalistic isolation only in the 1850s, 
little more than 100 years ago, and then under considerable Western 
duress. The end of the Shogunate and the founding of a modern state 
occurred only with the ascension of the Emperor in 1868. No national 
military establishment appeared until 1873, when the first draft laws were 
introduced. From this date until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a 
mere sixty-eight years intervened. 

In addition to the relative brevity of Imperial Japan's modern ex- 
perience, mention must also be made of the country's geographic and 
intellectual isolation from Western currents, including scientific and tech- 
nological know-how, and from the ongoing Industrial Revolution. Vis-a- 
vis the industrialized world of Europe and the United States, Meiji Japan 
began its existence as an underdeveloped, have-not member of what 
today would be called the Third World. One could not have predicted 
with certainty, a century ago, that Japan would escape the colonial fate 
of other large and ancient Asian countries such as India and China. 

Prewar Allied Ignorance and Underestimation of Japanese 

Against this unique backdrop a formidable military establishment 
was created. Yet, so far as Japanese military and naval aviation was 
concerned, prewar Allied knowledge was dismal. Complacent, chauvin- 
istic, and arrogant. Western intelligence services generally regarded Jap- 
anese airmen as inferior to their European or American counterparts. 

Japanese pilots were thought to be myopic, night-blind, poor at dive 
bombing, and accident-prone. After all, wasn't it well known that Jap- 
anese babies were strapped papoose-style on their mother's back, and 
thus they suffered from twisted vision and a wobbly sense of balance? 
In addition, the Japanese diet of rice caused vitamin and protein defi- 
ciencies which in turn contributed to vision problems, particularly in thin 


air and in darkness. When Japanese pilots sanic the British capital ships 
Repulse and Prince of Wales off Malaya at the end of 1941, certain 
incredulous Western observers insisted that it was German pilots who 
had flown this special mission. 

Just as Western intelligence denigrated Japanese flying personnel, 
so were Japanese aircraft deemed to be fairly numerous but "mostly 
derivative and emphatically second rate." Japanese warplanes were 
shoddy, made of plywood and glued paper. An Australian combat pilot 
who survived the Malayan campaign (one of the very few) recalls that 
Allied intelligence "experts" constantly issued assurances that the best 
Japanese fighter aircraft "were old fabric-covered biplanes which couldn't 
stand a chance against the [Brewster] Buffaloes."^ 

That this ignorance of Japanese aviation was not entirely accidental, 
we know from the Japanese sources. The Japanese displayed only ob- 
solete or obsolescent weaponry and equipment to the public. They down- 
played their specifications and capabilities, and they kept the better 
materiel in the homeland. As one source said, thus were they "free from 
prying eyes, and we led the world seriously to underestimate the combat 
strength of our naval aviation."* Imperial Japan, of course, was also a 
tightly controlled totalitarian state by the 1930s, and its laws on military 
secrecy were taken very seriously and enforced very vigorously. 

Japanese Army Air Force: Early Developments 

Japanese military aviation history began with the construction of 
primitive ballons in 1877-1878 and the purchase of a French model. The 
first successful manned Japanese military balloon went aloft in 1901. 
During the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 a provisional army balloon unit 
operated against Port Arthur. ' 

As early as 1909, the Army General Staff (AGS) was showing interest 
in three-dimensional warfare. Within a year a joint Army-Navy-civil re- 
search committee sent a civilian engineer to Europe. During 1910, the 
Japanese Army tried to assemble domestic aircraft; neither of two models 
was successful. Thereupon, it was decided to dispatch two officers to 
Europe and America to investigate the possibilities of buying aircraft and 
to study flying techniques. By the end of 1910, Captain Hino had flown 
a German (Grade) plane over a training field in Tokyo for 1 minute 20 
seconds, a distance of 1000 meters at 20 meters altitude. Captain To- 
kugawa flew a French Farman for 3 minutes at 70 meters altitude for a 
distance of 3000 meters. This was the beginning of the Japanese military 
air force.* 

During World War I, the Japanese Army engaged in minor opera- 
tions to clear the Germans from the Far East in 1914. All operational 


Japanese aircraft (three Farmans, one Nieuport, and one balloon, with 
a total of eight pilots and three observers) went to attack Tsingtao in 
North China. The first Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) air- 
to-air combat experience occurred when the Nieuport engaged a pesky 
German plane without result. The first Japanese bombing operations also 
took place at Tsingtao, against the city and against shipping (fifteen 
sorties, forty-four bombs or mountain artillery shells). In December 1915 
an army air battalion was formed at Tokorozawa near Tokyo, built around 
one aviation and one balloon company, under the transportation corps 
belonging to the Imperial Guards Division.' 

After the Bolshevik Revolution, thirty-one Japanese Army planes 
took part in the Siberian Expedition of 1918-1922. Nothing much was 
learned from the campaigns at Tsingtao or in Siberia, except that much 
better aircraft were needed. Because of their continuing interest in the 
Manchurian theater, however, the Japanese forces in Siberia did devote 
considerable attention to weather and terrain conditions on the Asian 

Cut off from European and American aviation sources in World War 
I, the Japanese Army Air Force made little progress. In 1914, Japanese 
airplane production totalled six; in 1915, four. In 1918, donations to the 
Army by the president of a Japanese shipping line enabled that service 
to purchase twenty Sopwith bombers, six Spad scouts, and three Nieuport 
trainers. With the imminent arrival of numerous modern aircraft, the 
IJAAF set up the first flying school in March 1918 at Tokorozawa.' 

As the war wound down in Europe, the Allies began to release 
surplus materiel for sale. In 1918, the French sold the Japanese thirty 
Salmson bombers and three balloons; in 1919, forty Nieuport trainers 
and one hundred Spad fighters. From Britain the Japanese bought fifty 
Sopwith fighters. At this point the IJAAF ceased purchases. '" 

A French offer to send military aviation advisers to Japan, all ex- 
penses paid, was welcomed by the IJAAF (July 1918). Their specialties 
were in flying, gunnery, propulsion, photography, and communications. 
In January 1919, fifty-seven French advisers arrived under Colonel 
Faure. " Among the first consequences was the reorganization of the 
IJAAF flying schools, now located at Akeno and Shimoshizu. Several 
years later, during the progressive war ministership of General Ugaki, 
an independent IJAAF was established on 1 May 1925. The Air Battalion 
was upgraded to Air Regiment, and an Army Air Force Headquarters 
was created. " 

IJAAF Combat Experience 

The escalation of Japanese troubles with China led to the outbreak 
of the limited Manchurian Incident (1931) and the all-out China Incident, 


an undeclared war (1937). The IJAAF saw its first real combat during 
the latter protracted conflict. Since the Army Air Force achieved early 
air superiority over the Chinese, the IJAAF essentially used the China 
theater as a training zone, much more suitable than the constricted Jap- 
anese homeland. The IJAAF stressed ground support, although bombers 
did strike Chinese interior cities such as Chungking. " 

The most important IJAAF battle experience before the Pacific War 
took place over the frontier between western Manchukuo (Japanese- 
occupied Manchuria) and the Soviet Russian satellite state, the Mon- 
golian People's Republic (MPR), between May and September 1939 — 
the little-known but fiercely fought Nomonhan or Khalkhin-gol Incident. 
A greatly outnumbered Kwantung Army Air Force slaughtered the Soviet 
Far Eastern Air Force, largely novices at first, in swirling dogfights until 
later summer. '* Then the tide turned, especially after the Soviet ground 
offensive of 20 August and the attrition of Japanese planes and crews by 
Zhukov's aces, newly arrived from Spain. Zhukov mentions reinforce- 
ment by twenty-one Heroes of the Soviet Union." 

Whereas few Soviet pilots are known to have made kill-claims of any 
size, more than fifty IJAAF pilots became aces against the Russians. Of 
them, fourteen Japanese pilots claimed twenty kills or more. Before his 
death in August, Second Lieutenant Shinohara shot down fifty-eight So- 
viet planes. The conflicting data are irreconcilable: skeptics scoff at Jap- 
anese claims to have shot down or destroyed 1,389 Soviet planes, using 
a total available inventory of 574, and losses of 192. For their part the 
Russians said they brought down 660 Japanese planes, lost 207, and 
committed only 450. The Japanese are convinced that as many as 3,000 
Soviet planes saw action on the Nomonhan front at one time or another. '* 

To the lore of air warfare, a la japonaise, must be added the exploit 
of Second Lieutenant Kanbara (nine victories plus three probables). On 
7 August, Kanbara shot down a Soviet fighter plane, landed beside it on 
the grassy steppes, leaped from the cockpit, drew his samurai sword, and 
chopped down the hapless Russian pilot on the spot. " 

Rise of the Japanese Naval Air Force 

Like the Army, the Japanese Navy began its aviation history by 
building unsuccessful observation balloons circa 1877. After the creation 
of the Naval Aeronautical Research Committee in 1912, six Imperial 
Japanese Navy (UN) officers were dispatched to France and the United 
States. They were to recommend purchase of seaplanes and were to learn 
to fly and maintain them. Two of these UN officers flew Farman and 
Curtiss seaplanes from the new naval air station at Oppama in November 
1912. Domestic training of UN pilots proceeded on a small scale. '* 


In 1913 the first Japanese seaplane tender, Wakamiya Mam, entered 
service. The tender saw combat against the Germans at Tsingtao in 1914, 
when four UN seaplanes flew reconnaissance and bombing sorties. In 
1916, the first UN air corps was activated at Yokosuka; in March 1918, 
the second naval air corps was established at Sasebo. The first operational 
UN plane designed domestically was turned out in 1917 by the Yokosuka 
Naval Arsenal." 

During the period of diminished activity immediately following 
World War I, the tender Wakamiya Mam was the scene of an Imperial 
Japanese Naval Air Force (IJNAF) success. In June 1920 an officer took 
off m a British plane from a deck specially installed on the seaplane 
tender. Meanwhile, the world's first true aircraft carrier, Hosho, had 
been laid down in December 1919 and would be completed three vears 
later. ^* ^ 

The tempo of Japanese naval aviation activity accelerated with the 
arrival in Japan in 1921 of a team of ten British experts, including the 
head of Sopwith. To meet the requirements of carrier operations, a deck 
fighter along the lines of the Sopwith was developed in Japan. With the 
appearance of the aircraft carrier Hosho in 1922-1923, it was time to try 
deck takeoffs and landings. A former British naval lieutenant was hired 
as the first test pilot. After his success, takeoff and landing adventures 
by UN pilots soon followed.^' 

Like foreign counterparts, Japanese airmen after World War I sought 
to demonstrate the vulnerability of surface vessels to air power. The 
Japanese Navy decided to sacrifice tonnage already earmarked for the 
scrap heap by the terms of the naval limitation agreements reached at 
the Washington Conference (1921-1922). A captured Tsarist Russian 
battleship was picked for the successful bombing experiment by navy and 
army planes on 9 July 1924, in Sagami Bay. Several years later, in April 
1927, the Japanese Navy Air Force was split from the UN BuShips; the 
new chief reported directly to the navy minister. " 

British influence on the IJNAF continued. Three British inspectors 
came out in 1929 to conduct training in aircraft inspection. In 1931, two 
more British officers came to Yokosuka to provide instruction in tactics 
and strategy, flying, gunnery, and ordnance. Few will remember that the 
famous Genda Minoru (Capt., UN; later General, Japanese Self Defense 
Force) received advanced training from these British air officers. Genda 
later found the British lectures on offensive tactics for carrier aviation 
highly useful in his own planning assignments against Pearl Harbor." 

After the signing of the London naval accord in 1930, the IJNAF 
secretly pursued four build-up plans. In 1932 the Naval Air Establishment 
was created. Early development was disappointing. When Admiral Ya- 


mamoto became chief of engineering at IJNAF HQ in 1931, he already 
had discerned the weakness of Japanese naval fighters. The validity of 
his criticisms — "Fit the aircraft carrier to the fighter plane, not the plane 
to the carrier" — was demonstrated during the Shanghai Incident of 1932. 
One American-piloted Chinese Boeing demonstration biplane mauled 
formations of three and six IJNAF aircraft before being shot down. Al- 
though the IJNAF managed to achieve its first air-to-air kill in history 
during the six-to-one encounter, the Japanese Navy Air Force also lost 
its first pilot in combat. The poor technical performance of its fighters 
was particularly disturbing.^'' 

Meanwhile, new Japanese aircraft carriers were steadily joining the 
fleet. Hosho was followed by Akagi (converted from a battlecruiser) in 
1927 and the next year by Kaga (converted from a battleship). Both new 
carriers, of 29,600 tons, carried sixty planes. The small Ryujo, carrying 
forty-eight planes, was completed in 1933. Thus, with four carriers avail- 
able in the early 1930s, the IJNAF devoted intensified attention to aircraft 
design. The Japanese aviation industry began to produce excellent carrier 
fighter, attack bomber, and flying boat designs in the middle of the 
decade. These modern planes would stand the Japanese Navy in very 
good stead when enormous operational offensive needs arose in the later 
1930s and early 1940s. ^* 

When full-scale fighting commenced in China in July- August 1937, 
carrier- and shore-based planes went into action immediately. At first 
the Chinese Air Force chewed up the IJNAF's weak biplane fighters. In 
August, Kaga lost eleven of twelve unescorted attack bombers in one 
raid. Subsequently, the untried Claude monoplanes arrived to sweep the 
skies clear over China by early December. In one action, the Claudes 
downed ten new Russian I-16s." The IJNAF did not participate in the 
huge air battles at Nomonhan in 1939, but, to the Japanese Army's 
immense chagrin, the IJAAF was beginning to think of calling for naval 
air assistance toward the end of that costly warfare." 

The tactic of firing torpedoes from carrier planes was first attempted 
in 1930. Two years later a torpedo designed exclusively for aerial use was 
developed. In 1934 IJNAF planes began practicing the release of tor- 
pedoes in the period between night and dawn. Between 1932 and 1935, 
dive bombing came to be regarded as especially useful in surprise attacks 
on aircraft carriers. From about 1936, UN thinking veered toward the 
decisive air battle prior to decisive combat between the main surface 
fleet. '« 

Between 1937 and 1939 the carriers Soryu and Hiryu were com- 
pleted. Several months before the outbreak of the Pacific War Shokaku 
and Zuikaku were added. Shoho and Zuiho were being converted from 
high-speed oilers. Thus, drawing on the new carrier inventory, the UN 


was able to form the 1st Air Flotilla in April 1941. This flotilla, including 
six carriers, would implement Yamamoto's grand design by striking Pearl 
Harbor. From the heavy carriers' decks would fly 360 torpedo and dive 
bombers, horizontal and high level bombers, and fighters— about 25 per- 
cent of the front-line IJNAF strength in 1941.^' 

Levels of Experience and Training 

Japanese Army and Navy airmen gained much combat experience 
from the fighting over China and Manchuria/Mongolia after 1937. Their 
fighter pilots were among the best, if not the best, in the world by 1941. 
Around 50 percent of IJAAF pilots had had combat experience against 
the Chinese and the Russians. Ten percent of land-based navy pilots saw 
action in China. Eight UN pilots were in the ten to fourteen kill category; 
four IJA pilots in the seven to ten bracket.'* 

As long as they could, the Japanese stressed high levels of training. 
By the time of the Pacific War, IJAAF flying schools were turning out 
pilots at the rate of 750 per year, while Navy training units were grad- 
uating 2,000 per year. Army training emphasized pilots; the IJNAF 
focused on training aircrewmen. Until the Pacific War, two out of three 
IJAAF flying cadets were enlisted men, one out of three were regular 
officer candidates. Navy trainees were 90 percent enlisted personnel." 

Japanese pilots received about 300 flying hours in training units 
before assignment to a tactical unit. (The comparable figure for primary, 
basic, and advanced training given to a US Army Air Corps cadet was 
200 hours.) In 1941 the Japanese Navy gave special tactical training to 
the carrier airmen preparing for torpedo attacks in the shallow waters 
of Pearl Harbor and to the airmen based in the Marshall Islands who 
were to hit Wake Island at long range over water. '^ 

By 1941, 3,500 IJNAF pilots had been graduated from flying schools 
or trammg units. The figure for the Army was 2,500 pilots. About 600 
of the best Navy pilots, averaging 800 flying hours, were attached to the 
carriers. Army and Navy pilots operating in Malaya and the Philippines 
averaged 500-600 hours; squadron and flight commanders had much 
more experience. " 

Throughout the Pacific War, the Japanese remained convinced of 
the need for a large number of pilots even if quality had to be sacrificed. 
To the very end there were enough men to fly the planes produced The 
last figure for 1945 was 18,000 pilots to operate 10,700 effective planes 
(4,800 Army, 5,900 Navy). But while the Japanese turned out 5,400 new 
pilots m 1943, the Americans were producing 82,714 that year.** 

At the end of the war, the average flying time of regular IJNAF and 
IJAAF pilots entering combat had declined to around 100 hours. Few 


pilots were left with more than 600 flying hours, and they were usually 
assigned as instructors, staff officers, or escorts for suicide forces. Half 
of all remaining pilots had less than 100 hours; they were to be employed 
in the first suicide assaults against the expected Allied invasion. "The 
caliber of the pilots produced during the wartime years," said IJNAF ace 
Sakai, "was at best questionable."'' 

Japanese Aircraft Production 

The Big Three aviation firms in Japan were Mitsubishi (1918), Na- 
kajima (airframes, 1917; engines, 1924), and Kawasaki (1919). Smaller 
manufacturers included Aichi, Tachikawa, Kawanishi, Hitachi, and Nip- 
pon Hikoki (Japan Aircraft). The Japanese government encouraged, 
protected, controlled, guaranteed, and, to a certain extent, subsidized 
the domestic aviation industry, which went over to exclusive military- 
naval production about 1939. Cooperation between aircraft manufactur- 
ers was as nonexistent as that between the Army and the Navy. The 
armed forces developed their own separate aeronautical design and minor 
production facilities (four HN air depots, one HA air arsenal).^ 

Total annual military aircraft production rose from 445 in 1930, to 
1,181 in 1936, and to 4,768 in 1940. In 1941, a total of 5,088 military 
planes were produced. (The comparable figure for Germany that year 
of 1941 was 11,706; for the USA, 19,433.) Between 1942 and 1945, Japan 
produced 58,822 planes which tended to increase in weight and to be 
improved in performance. (The comparable figure for Germany was 
92,656; for the USA, 261,826.) The peak year for the Japanese was 1944 
(28,180 planes). German and American production peaked that year, 
too, at 39,807 and 100,752 respectively." 

If one Japanese wartime plane must be singled out, it would have 
to be the UN's beloved carrier-based, single seat Mitsubishi A6M Zero 
(Zeke). In all, the Japanese Navy took delivery of 10,938 Zeros. It was 
the feeling of UN pilots that the Zero fighter was "about equal" to the 
Curtiss P-40 and Grumman F4F Wildcat but no match for the Vought 
F4U Corsair and Grumman F6F Hellcat, which the Japanese naval pilots 
"particularly disliked."" No original Japanese jet fighter design attained 
the production stage by war's end." 

When the Pacific War broke out, the Japanese inventory was 7,500 
planes. Wartime production added 65,000, for a total of 72,500. At war's 
end the inventory was 18,500. Thus 54,000 planes must have been lost: 
combat losses, 20,000; training, 10,000; other noncombat losses, 20,000; 
ferrying, 4,000.'^ 

In the main campaigns, Japanese plane losses to all causes totaled 
40,000. The history of the air war in the Pacific can be traced through 
the following data:'*' 


Phase 1 (Dec. 1941-April 1942) 1,100 planes lost 

Dutch East Indies 1,200 

Midway-Aleutians 300 

China-Manchuria 2,000 

Solomons-Bismarcics-New Guinea 10,000 

Central Pacific 3,000 

Southeast Asia 2,200 

2nd Philippines campaign (1944-45) 9,000 

Ryukyus 7,000 

Defense of Japan 4,200 

During the air war, numerous Japanese pilots became aces. The ace 
of aces was a Navy pilot. Warrant Officer Nishizawa, with a confirmed 
score of eighty-seven before he was icilled in action. If unofficial kills are 
included, he downed at least 102 enemy aircraft. The highest IJAAF 
score (apart from Shinohara's fifty-eight at Nomonhan) was fifty-one 
achieved by M/Sgt Anabuki.''^ 

Kamikaze: The Divine Wind Expedient 

The Japanese kamikaze (divine wind) or tokko (special attack) op- 
erations of desperation deserve a separate paper. Not only did the ka- 
mikaze warriors (including one-man Baka guided missiles) attack ships, 
they also rammed B-29s and crashlanded on Allied airfields. For suicide 
missions, the Army decided that at least seventy flying hours were nec- 
essary for pilots. The Navy deemed thirty to fifty hours sufficient if 
training planes were used for the attacks. During winter 1944-1945 and 
spring 1945 all regular training was halted in favor of suicide pilot prep- 
aration. Expendable, low-powered trainers proved maneuverable, cheap 
to build, and fairly easy to fly. Since the planes carried bomb loads of 
only 50-250 kilograms, however, they were often loaded with extra gas- 
oline, and hand grenades were sometimes heaped around the pilot in the 

Suffice it to say that the kamikaze effort against warships was massive 
and occasionally spectacular. In the second Philippines campaign, there 
were 650 suicide missions, with 26.8 percent achieving hits or damaging 
near-misses and 2.9 percent sinkings. This experimental offensive cost 
the Japanese only 14 percent of the 4,000 planes they lost in combat. 
During the Okinawa campaign, the kamikaze lost 63 percent of the 3,000 
planes shot down, the IJNAF having flown 1,050 suicide sorties;' the 
IJAAF, 850. Twenty-five Allied ships were sunk; Allied vessels were hit 
182 times, suffering damaging near-misses 97 times. The damage rate 
was only 14.7 percent effective (1.3 percent sinkings).'" The war ended 


before the kamikaze could unleash their ultimate death-defying opera- 

Why the Japanese Lost the Air War 

The reasons for the destruction of the IJAAF and the IJNAF in 
World War II cannot, of course, be separated from the larger geostra- 
tegic, economic, scientific, technological, demographic, and psycholog- 
ical reasons for the defeat of Imperial Japan. Nevertheless, so far as the 
Japanese air forces were concerned, a number of specific explanations 
can be adduced. 

1. Early successes lulled the Japanese into a false sense of security. 
When they "woke up" toward the end of 1943, it was too late for them 
to recover. 

2. The Japanese doctrinal approach to air power was narrow and 
uncoordinated. The IJAAF was chronically subordinated to ground 
forces in a tactical role. Neither the IJAAF nor the IJNAF (which had 
a slightly broader conception) could ever mount sustained and heavy 
strategic attacks at long range against economic targets or rear zones.'" 

3. It was the belief of the IJNAF that its Army counterpart would 
cooperate only if operations were conducted over land. "The Army 
flyers," says Genda, "didn't Uke to fly over the ocean." The AGS "acted 
as though they didn't realize the importance of the control of the 
seas. '"*> 

4. The Japanese did not exploit the advantages of interior Unes of 
communication. They frittered away their best air units in piecemeal 
fashion around their far-flung defensive perimeter — the consequence of 
envisaging a relatively short and victorious war.^' 

5. With the isolation of Japan from the continent and Southeast Asia, 
the importation of oil and other natural resources dwindled seriously. By 
the end of the war, training time for IJNAF pilots engaged in other than 
suicide operations had to be reduced to fifteen hours per pilot per month. 
Substitute aviation fuels were introduced or tested. Some bordered on 
desperation and included alcohol, pineroot oil, camphor oil, isopropy, 
and ether. ■** 

6. Not only did the IJAAF and IJNAF fail to cooperate effectively, 
but the Army and Navy competed viciously for allocations of Japan's 
limited supplies of raw materials and production facilities. This "civil 
war" far transcended the usual connotation of rivalry, jealousy, or com- 
petition. Realistically speaking, unification of the separate military and 
naval air forces was an impossibility. ■" 

7. The Japanese lavishly expended the veteran, highly trained pilots 
with whom they started the war. When they escalated the replacement 
training program, they underestimated the difficulties and emphasized 
quantity. The new pilots were a poor match for the improved Allied air 


forces and, indeed, for their own seniors. The most advanced Japanese 
wartime planes proved too "hot" for the inexperienced new men to 
handle. It was the weakness of orthodox air operations which gave birth 
to the wasteful tactic of the kamikaze. The Japanese did not rotate sea- 
soned pilots from combat nor did they try to preserve them by developing 
air-sea rescue techniques. '" 

8. The qualitative edge of Japanese aircraft was lost as the war went 
on. Japanese planes suffered chronically from weak landing gear and 
poor brakes. This was attended by a general deterioration in mainte- 
nance, repair, supply, engine and flight testing, workmanship, compo- 
nents, and dispersal. Here, too, Army-Navy cooperation was almost 
nonexistent. Spare parts for their varied and complex aircraft types were 
in constant short supply. " 

9. Air-ground communications and the absence of good fighter- 
bombers hampered air support of ground operations. The Japanese never 
developed an air transport capability for troop carrying or supply drops. 
Indeed, the Japanese armed forces despised and neglected logistical con- 
siderations. Japanese combat officers called logistics "boring" and ne- 
glected it whenever they could." 

10. Although they produced some excellent aircraft, the Japanese 
eventually could not match the Allies in developing new kinds of aircraft 
and engines in quality or quantity, especially after the Japanese aviation 
industry began to suffer from enemy air attacks as well as from the 
consequences of hasty wartime attempts at expansion and dispersal. Du- 
phcation of effort and useless secretiveness were rife. New Japanese 
airplane output suffered from material deficiencies, compounded by in- 
effective substitute components and inferior workmanship, insufficient 
testing (many trainers received no test flights), clumsy flying, and costly 
ferrying losses caused by navigational mistakes, mechanical failures poor 
maintenance, and pilot error. The IJNAF found itself rejecting 30 to 50 
percent of the planes produced late in the war; corrections might take 
a precious month. Commander Nomura admitted after the war that 
IJNAF pilots became "convinced in their own mind that they were flying 
greatly inferior aircraft," and they "had a horror of American fighters."" 

1 1 . Japanese operations in defense of the homeland were essentially 
meffective. Their early warning radar was poor in quality and inadequate 
in quantity. Their collection and analysis of warning data were inefficient- 
their control of interceptor units was haphazard; and their night-fighter 
techniques were primitive. As usual, the Army and the Navy failed to 
cooperate; many of their radar installations were operated side by side 
When UN picket boats broadcast reports of visual observation of ap- 
proaching enemy planes, the IJA would have to monitor that particular 
channel to obtain intelligence for its own use. In addition, as a percentage 
of the total Japanese fighter force, no more than 26.5 percent (450planes) 
were ever assigned to defend the homeland. The figure was only 16 8 
percent as late as December 1944. At war's end, 535 fighters were as- 


signed, but this amounted merely to 16.5 percent of the 3,250 planes 
available. Interceptor attacks per B-29 sortie amounted only to 0.02 in 
July 1945, 0.04 in August. '^ 


It is difficult to believe that the combat life of the powerful Imperial 
Japanese air forces lasted little more than eight years, from 1937 to 1945. 
During that brief but momentous period, Japanese warplanes blackened 
the skies from China to Mongolia, from Hawaii to Alaska, from Malaya 
to Burma and India and Ceylon, from Australia to the PhiHppines. For 
the nation which bewailed its scanty natural resources, its limited land 
area, and its demographic inferiority. Imperial Japan certainly waged 
military operations on a grand and ferocious scale. Nor were the Japanese 
frugal with their manpower. According to incomplete data, in the worst 
months of the war IJNAF flight personnel were dying at the rate of 1 ,500 
to 1,800 per month. The Japanese Navy alone had lost 17,360 airmen by 
May 1945.*' 

Those of us who can remember the old red-ball (hi no maru) insignia 
certainly did not react as benignly or as calmly as we do today when we 
see very similar markings on Japan Air Lines passenger planes or Japan 
Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) military aircraft. Our survey of Japanese 
military and naval aviation has thus come full circle. 



nvino h°hi''^''''T"J"^' '^^ Coox "Chrysanthemum and Star," pp. 37-60. (See accompa- 
nymg bibhography for complete citations). '-'-wiupa 

2. Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on Tolischus, p. 144; Potter on 47-48- 
Edmonds, pp. 5-6; Woodburn Kirby, pp. 116-17,147, 166-67 240 

3. Caidin, p. 268. 

4. Okumiya and Horikoshi, p. 12 

5. BBSS, 87: 3-7. 

6. BBSS 87: 7-14. 

7. Shibuya, pp. 110-23; BBSS, 87: 14-19 

8. BBSS, 87: 23-26. 
9.Kuwabara, p. 144; BBSS, 87- 23 

10. BBSS, 87: 20-25. 

11. BBSS, 87: 35-36. 

12. Izawa, p. 256; BBSS, 87: 37-42. 

13. Naito, 1: 278-82; BBSS, 87: 87-90. 160, 168 172-220 
14.BBSS, 87: 168-72. 

15. Zhukov, p. 150. 

16. Naito, 1: 280. 

17. Izawa, p. 329. 

ColS: on93T s'^BBst rS."'"' °" '"' ^""" ^""°"' '° '"^ ^°"''°" ^^-' 

19. Kuwabara, pp. 77-94. 

20. Kuwabara, pp. 160, 154. 

21. Shibuya, pp. 169-72; Kuwabara, pp. 145, 184, 190-93 

22. Kuwabara, pp. 203-10. 

23. Genda, 1: 60-68. 

24. Section based on BBSS, 95: ch. 2; USSBS, Japanese Air, p 4 

25. Mayer, p. 76; Francillon, p. 39. 

26. Okumiya and Horikoshi, pp. 13-15. 

27. Author's interview with Capt. Ohmae Toshikazu UN 

28. Potter, p. 52; USSBS, Japanese Air, p 4 

FucLSit^o^jN^ ^ ^''''' ''''"''' ^"' P- '^ ^^^«^' ^--^-•-- ' 23 (Capt. 
30.Shores, p. 120; USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 35. 

31. USSBS, Interrogations, 2: 533 (CDR Terai Yoshimori). 

32. USSBS, Japanese Air, pp. 6, 35, 38. 

33. USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 5. 
'i^.VSSBS, Japanese Air, pp. 35-39. 

35. Coo^, Final Agony, pp. 95, 96; USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 40; Sakai, pp 2^27 

^^37^ USSBS, Japanese Air, pp. 28-29, 32; USSBS, Japanese Aircraft Industry, pp. 1-5, 

38. Shibuya, pp. 199-207; Yanagida, ;,aM,m; Okumiya and Horikoshi, pp 2-3- USSBS 
Interrogations, 2: 532 (CDR Nomura Ryosuke); Green, 3- 47-50 

39. Francillon, pp 404-7. 

kamizuT^^^' •'^P^""^ ^"' PP- 30' 33; USSBS, Interrogations, 2: 374-75 (CDR J. Fu- 

41. USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 34, Exhibit D 
p. f24^'and M^l^p^ ns."' ""'""°"' '"°'' of transcription and identification in Shores, 

^/r.^p^Te^eb.^^Sr'"""' ^'' ^°~^ ^^''"' '"°^""'' ^^^^'' "^^' ^^^^S' ^"/'"""^ 
MUsuo" uS5.' ^'""""''^'''' PP- 23-24. 6(^80; USSBS, Interrogations, 1: 24 (Capt. Fuchida 

45. VSSQS, Japanese Air, p. 1. 

46. USSBS, Interrogations, 2: 496-97 (Genda) 

47. USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 3. 


48. Coox, Final Agony, pp. 94-95; USSBS, Interrogations. 2: 533 (CDRTerai Yoshimori); 
USSBS, Japanese Air, pp. 24-25. 

49. USSBS, Interrogations, 2: 329 (Adm. Yonai Mitsumasa). 2: 496-97 (Genda). For 
historical background, see BBSS, 95: 74-75, 80. 

50. USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 2. 

51. Coox, Final Agony, p. 55; USSBS, Japanese Air, pp. 31, 36. 

52. Author's interview with Col. Imaoka Yutaka, IJA; USSBS, Japanese Air, p. 2; 
USSBS, Interrogations. 2: 531-32 (CDR Nomura Ryosuke). 

53. Coox, Final Agony, p. 95; USSBS, Japanese Aircraft Industry, Appendix V; USSBS, 
Interrogations, 2; 532 (CDR Nomura Ryosuke). 

54. USSBS, Japanese Air. pp. 2, 26-27, 45-.59; USSBS, Air Campaigns, pp. 52-53. 

55. BBSS, 95: Chart 3. 

Select Bibliography 
English-Language Sources 

Caidin, Martin. The Ragged, Rugged Warriors, New York, 1966. 

Coox, Alvin D. Japan: The Final Agony. New York, 1970. 

Francillon, R. J. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. New York, 1970. 

Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, vol. 3: Fighters. Garden City, 
NY, 1964. 

Gunston, Bill. The Encyclopedia of the World's Combat Aircraft. New York, 1976. 

Kirk, John, and Robert Young, Jr. Great Weapons of World War II. New York, 1961. 

Mayer, S. L., editor. The Japanese War Machine. Secaucus, NJ, 1976. 

Morris, Eric, et al. Weapons & Warfare of the 20th Century. Secaucus, NJ, 1976. 

Okumiya, Masatake, and Jiro Horikoshi with Martin Caidin. Zero! The Story of Japan's 
Air War in the Pacific: 1941-45. New York, 1957. 

Potter, John Deane. Yamaoto: The Man Who Menaced America. New York, 1967. 

Sakai, Saburo, with Martin Caidin and Fred Saito. Samurai! New York, 1958. 

Shores, Christopher. Fighter Aces. London, 1975. 

Tolischus, Otto D. Through Japanese Eves. New York, 1945. 

U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey [USSBS], Aircraft Division. The Japanese Aircraft In- 
dustry. Washington, DC, 1947. 

, Military Analysis Division. Air Campaigns of the Pacific War. Washington, DC, 


, (Pacific), Military Analysis Division. Japanese Air Power. Washington, DC, 1946. 

, (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division. Interrogations of Japanese Officials (OPNAV- 

P-03-100), 2 vols. Washington, DC, 1946. 

Japanese-Language Sources 

Boeicho Boeikenshusho Senshi Shitsu [BBSS] [Office of Military History, Institute for 
Defense Studies, Defense Agency[. v. 95: Kaigun Koku Gaishi [General History of Naval 
Aviation] (Tokyo, 1976). 

. V. 87: Rikugun Koku Reiki no Kaihatsu Seisan Hokyu [Army Air Ordnance: 

Development, Production, and Supply| (Tokyo, 1975). 

Genda, Minoru. Kaigun Kokulai Shimatsuki .{Record of the Particulars of Naval Air 
Units], 2 vols. (Tokyo, 1961). 

Naito, Ichiro. 

Izawa, Yasuho, with Hata Ikuhiko (editors). Koku Joho, Bessalsu [Air Intelligence, 
Special Edition]. Nihon Rikugun Sentokitai [Japanese Army Fighter Units[ (Tokyo, 1973). 

Kuwabara, Vice-Adm. Torao. Baigun Koku Kaisoroku [Recollections of Naval Aviation] 
(Tokyo, 1964). 

Naito, Ichiro. Nippon Hikoki Monogatari [Stories of Japanese Aviation[. 3 vols. (Tokyo, 

Shibuya, Atsushi. Hikoki 60-nen [Sixty Years of Aviation] (Tokyo, 1972). 

Yanagida, Kunio. Zeroshiki Sentoki ]The Type Zero Fighter Plane] (Tokyo, 1977). 




When the Germans attacked the USSR on 22 June 1941, the Soviets 
had more combat aircraft than did the Luftwaffe and its allies on the 
Soviet border. Within a few days, however, the Soviets had lost much 
of their air force, and the Luftwaffe roamed the skies over Russia with 
almost complete impunity. Four years later, the pitiful remnants of the 
once mighty German Air Force were unable to put up even a token 
opposition against the thousands of Soviet planes swarming over Berlin. 
Why were the Soviet airmen sitting ducks in June 1941, and what hap- 
pened to reverse the situation by 1944-1945? These are the questions 
bound to arise in the mind of anyone examining Soviet air power in 
World War IL 

Before describing the Russo-German air war, however, it would 
seem appropriate to assess what the Soviet Air Forces, or VVS,* brought 
into the war in the way of equipment, combat experience, and doctrine. 
In other words, we need to understand how the Soviet VVS had evolved 
slowly from a mixed bag of foreign aircraft inherited from the Tsarist 
regime into an organization quantitatively and qualitatively capable of 
first holding and then defeating the Luftwaffe. 

Early Military Aviation Developments 

Until Stalin's Five-Year Plans for the industrialization of the Soviet 
Union at a forced tempo began to produce results in the early 1930s, the 
Red Army was largely a mass of infantry militia. Aviation, armor, and 
technical personnel made up only 10 percent of the armed forces. The 
expansion of the Soviet aircraft industry called for in the First Five-Year 
Plan began from an extremely small base. In 1929 the air force of the 

♦In 1941 the Soviet Air Forces (Voenno-vozdushnye sily), or VVS, came in five varieties- 
(1) Long-range aviation (dal'nebombardirovochnaya aviatsiya), or DBA; (2) Frontal avia- 

l'°!3 l^^'^'^^!i°fc'f^' ^^^ '^™y ''''''"'°" (^^■^ "'•"'"); ('*) Corps aviation (korpusnye aviaes- 
^adri/ 0; and (5) Reserve aviation (aviatsionnie armii reserva). DBA was controlled by the 
High Command Frontal aviation by the front commander, VVS of the Army units were 
attached to each army, while both Corps and Reserve aviation were controlled directly by 
u wxfc *^°"""'""^ ^"'^ '^O"''^ ^^ shifted about as needed. Most writers refer to the lot as 
the VVS. In addition, Soviet air power included the interceptor component of PVO Strany 
(the national air defense force), Naval aviation, and the Civil Air Fleet. 


Red Army consisted of "a thousand combat aircraft of old construction," 
and there was little hope of any improvement until Soviet industry could 
provide the basis for a modern aircraft industry. ' During the rehabili- 
tation of the national economy in the NEP (New Economic Program) 
period (1921-1928), the aircraft industry could progress only at a snail's 
pace because of the lack of a machine-tool industry, the shortage of 
metals of any quality, and the scarcity of technically trained manpower. 
During that period the USSR was importing most of its aircraft and just 
about all of its engines. The 1929-1932 period, however, witnessed a real 
expansion of the aircraft industry; old plants were expanded and mod- 
ernized, and new ones were built. According to an official Soviet source, 
between 1928 and 1932 the labor force in the aviation industry increased 
by 750 percent and the number of engineers and technicians by 1,000 
percent. ^ 

Just how many aircraft plants there were in 1928 and how many were 
built in 1932 was the subject of confused guessing by Western observers. 
The estimates of the number of aircraft plants in 1932 vary from six 
airframe and twelve engine plants to a total of over forty (with 150,000 
personnel). In the Second Five- Year Plan (1933-1937), the output of 
aircraft quadrupled, going from 860 in 1930 to 3,578 in 1937.^ By 1938 
there were probably around seventy plants (twenty-eight airframe, four- 
teen engine, and thirty-two for other components).* Exact figures are 
difficult to find for, as the authors of The Soviet Aircraft Industry point 
out, the Soviet habit of referring to aircraft plants by numbers, or by the 
honorary designation imeni (in the name of), makes for a good deal of 
confusion. For example, the Fili plant built by Junkers to produce all- 
metal planes during the early part of the Red Army-Reichswehr honey- 
moon was redesignated Plant No. 22 imeni Gorbunov when the Russians 
took it over. ' Although the specifics are lacking, the evidence as a whole 
indicates a rapid expansion of the Soviet aircraft industry during the first 
two Five- Year Plans. 

During the 1930s, Soviet aircraft designers were under intense pres- 
sure to overcome the country's dependence on foreign aircraft. In 1929, 
Polikarpov got the jump on the next decade with his R-5 reconnaissance 
plane. By 1934, the R-5 was equipped with a new 680 hp engine and had 
a top speed of 135 mph. Produced in a number of versions, the R-5 is 
best known as a reconnaissance aircraft, but also served as a two-seat 
fighter (DI-2) and as a dive-bomber. It was produced in large numbers 
and was used in the Russo-German War up to 1944.* Tupolev produced 
a new bomber in late 1930, the TB-3 (tyazhelyy bombardirovshchik, or 
heavy bomber), a four-engine monoplane with a top speed of 110 mph. 
Over 800 were produced and were used as night bombers early in the 
struggle against the Germans.^ 


In 1933, Polikarpov came to the fore as the preeminent Soviet de- 
signer of fighter aircraft when he produced two outstanding fighters in 
the same year. The 1-15, a single-seat sesquiplane with a gull upper wine 
was powered by a 700 hp M-35 engine (Wright Cyclone built under 
license). Entermg service in late 1934, the 1-15 had a top speed of 230 
mph and a ceiling of 32,000 ft. The 1-16, developed in the same year, 
was a smgle-seat, smgle-engine, monoplane powered by a 480 hp M-22 
engme (a Bristol Jupiter under license) which gave it a top speed of 220 
mph. In 1934 it got a new engine, a 775 hp M-25B (Wright Cyclone 9) 
which increased its speed to 280 mph.' The best of the Soviet fighters 
in the late 1930s, the 1-16 remained in production until 1941 and was used 
during the early part of the Russo-German War. 

In 1934, Tupolev turned out the SB-2 (skorostnoy bombardirovsh- 
chik, or fast bomber), a monoplane powered by two 860 hp M-lOO engines 
(Hispano-Suiza under license) which gave it a top speed of 230 mph 
Carrying four machine guns and a bomb load of 2,000 lbs. , the SB-2 went 
into series production in late 1935, and over 6,000 were produced '« 
Vladimir M. Petlyakov's team, under Tupolev's management, designed 
the rB-7 bomber in 1936. First flown in December of that year the TB- 
7 did not go into serial production until 1939 and into service until 1941 
Production of the Pe-8, as it was called by then, was phased out in 1944 
It was a four-engine monoplane bomber powered, in its earliest produc- 
tion version, by four Mikulin-designed AM-35A (1,350 hp each) engines 
It had a top speed of 250 mph, a range of 3,000 miles, increased in 1941 

^AA^^u "ll'^' ^^^"^ ** S°* ^'^^^ ^"8'"^^' a"d it carried a bomb load of 
4,400 lbs. 

By the late 1930s, the VVS had a sizeable inventory of combat 
aircraft, about 2,500. The best machines were the 1-15 and 1-16 fighters 
the SB-2 and TB-3 bombers, and the R-5 reconnaissance plane. This was 
the stable of planes available for the subsequent Soviet adventures in 
Jjpain, China, and Mongolia in the late 1930s. 

One of the problems involved in the creation of a bigger and more 
potent VVS in the 1930s was that of training the pilots and the technicians 
"^loS u P ^^^ ^'"""■^^^ operational. Although a Soviet calculation 
in 1933 that it would take more than a hundred trained men to keep one 
airplane serviced and operational was certainly an exaggeration the de- 
mand for trained manpower was bound to increase exponentially as air- 
craft poured off the assembly lines and were sent into operational units 
Several developments, however, helped to solve the manpower problem' 
tor one thing, the on-going mechanization of agriculture resulting from 
collectivization was developing a reserve of potential mechanics among 
the peasants tinkering with and operating tractors and trucks. In addition 
the Society for the Promotion of Defense, Aviation and Chemical War- 


fare (called Osoaviakhim in its Russian acronym), a voluntary organi- 
zation dedicated to training young people in those skills needed by the 
armed forces, taught tens of thousands how to operate, maintain, and 
repair engines, radios, and motor vehicles. Osoaviakhim also saw to it 
that the young enthusiasts learned how to shoot straight and even had 
its own aircraft in which future pilots could learn the rudiments of flying. 
After studying theory for a year in the evenings and on weekends, the 
aspirant began a fifty-hour flight training program in a U-2, UT-1, UT- 
2, or 1-5.* "By the end of 1940 the clubs had almost achieved their target 
of 100,000 trained pilots.'"^ Thus, it was not too surprising that the 
Soviets were able to replace the pilots lost in the early part of the Russo- 
German War. But the help of Osoaviakhim notwithstanding, the VVS 
had to become one great technical training institution with academies 
and flying schools mushrooming up all over the country. 

Combat Experience in the 1930s 

While Stalin was pushing industrialization and building up a formi- 
dable military force in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was trying to 
follow a relatively non-belligerent foreign policy. The disaster that befell 
the Soviet intervention in Chinese affairs between 1924 and 1927, the 
absence of any chance of revolution in Western Europe in the early 1930s, 
plus the concentration upon the "building of socialism in one country," 
contributed to a semi-isolationist period in Soviet foreign policy. There 
was, however, some apprehension about Japanese objectives in the Far 
East, apprehensions that led to the formation of the semi-autonomous 
Special Far Eastern Army, with accompanying air forces, in August 1929. 

The only Soviet military action in the Far East in this period was a 
conflict with the Chinese over the Soviet rights to co-management of the 
Chinese Eastern Railway, which crossed Manchuria. Chang Hseuh-liang, 
warlord of Manchuria, had begun a campaign to drive the Russians out 
of the Chinese Eastern Railway administration. Blyukher, the com- 
mander of the new Special Far Eastern Army, a force of about 100,000 
men supported by tanks and aircraft, hit the Chinese along the Sungari 
River and also encircled a large force near Manchouli. It was all over in 
six weeks. The Soviets used thirty-two aircraft in the first blooding of the 

By 1934 it was obvious that Stalin was going to have to shelve his 
"semi-isolationist" policy and seek foreign allies, since, in addition to the 

*The U-2 {uchebnyy — trainer) was a 1928 Polikarpov product and over 40,000 were pro- 
duced. Tlie UT-1 and UT-2 (uchebno-trenirovochnyy — basic trainer) were designed by 
Yakovlev in 1938, and the 1-5 {istrebiteV — fighter) was another Polikarpov product, a stubby 
little monoplane of 1930 vintage. 


expansionism of the Japanese in the East, the Germans under Hitler 
were becommg a threat in the West. Thus, the Soviets faced potential 
enemies m both East and West, the perennial nightmare of Russia's 
policymakers, Tsarist or Communist. In September 1934 the Soviet Union 
joined the League of Nations, and the Seventh (and last) Comintern 
Congress in 1935 adopted a "united front" policy which called on all 
Communist parties to cooperate with any anti-fascist party, whatever its 
leanings otherwise. 

Hardly had Stalin moved toward collective security when his part- 
ners, England and France, began to be pushed around by Hitler and 
Mussolini. Then the Spanish Civil War put him in a dilemma: he had 
either to let down his leftist allies in the popular fronts or support the 
Loyalist government against Franco. He solved the dilemma by inter- 
vening in a very cautious manner through the device of the International 
Brigades. Beginning in October 1936, the Soviets provided aircraft tanks 
and artillery, as well as the skilled personnel needed to operate the 
weapon systems and to act as instructors. 

Just how many men Stalin sent to Spain is unknown. According to 
an official Soviet account, he sent "557 Soviet volunteers including 23 
military advisors, 49 instructors, 29 artillery experts, including anti-air- 
craft specialists, 141 aircraft pilots, 107 tank drivers, and 29 sailors; com- 
munications specialists, engineers, and doctors totalled 106 and there 
were 73 interpreters and other specialists."" Other sources, equally un- 
reliable, give much higher figures. 

In aircraft, the Soviets provided about 1,500 machines, although in 
any one month not more than a third of that number was operational 
Of the thousand or so fighter aircraft, around 500 to 600 were I-15s or 
M5Bs; the rest were I-16s* There were over 200 SB-2 bombers- the 
remainder were R-5 reconnaissance planes. Soviet aircraft made up over 
90 percent of the Republican air force by early 1937, and the Republicans 
had air superiority until late that year. At that point, the Nazis equipped 
the Condor Legion in Spain with Me-109 fighters and Ju-87 dive-bombers 
which were superior to the Soviet I-15s and I-16s. The obvious inability 
of the Soviet fighters to cope successfully with the Germans led Stalin 
to begin phasing out the Soviet air force in Spain in mid-1938 so that by 
the end of the year all Soviet aircraft were out of the country. 

Although Soviet fliers gained valuable combat experience in Spain 
the concepts derived were mostly negative. For example, the VVS came 

7am(R^,^t "?t%"'"'"T" '■'".'f " '°;' ''"""S the Spanish Civil War. It was called 

rU^f ^^ f /??^° ^?'"^ ^'"''' ("y) ^y 'he Loyalists, while the Soviet fliers 

n\Zt -H .f ''^f ^^°"^^^> ^'"^ ''' '^°''' ''^"^'-'"'^ configuration it was an easy 
plane to identify and everyone in Spain got to know it. ' 


to the conclusion that strategic bombing was an ineffective use of pilots 
and machines, a conclusion the Germans also drew from their Spanish 
experience. In retrospect, considering the modesty of the bombing effort 
in both cases plus the rather primitive equipment involved in that effort, 
it is not surprising that neither the Lufwaffe nor the VVS was impressed 
with the results obtained in the Spanish adventure. The Soviet pilots were 
also made painfully aware of the inferiority of their machines in combat 
with the German Me- 109s. All in all, the Soviet involvement in the 
Spanish Civil War, especially in the air war, was far from successful. 

The Soviets, while trying to consolidate a "united front" against 
Germany and Italy in Europe and to aid the Spanish Loyalists in their 
own peculiar way, did not neglect the threat posed to their Far East 
region by Japanese expansion into Manchuria, Northern China, and Inner 
Mongolia. Every effort was put forth to make the Special Far Eastern 
Army as self-sufficient as possible so that Soviet forces would be able to 
face Germany and Japan simultaneously if worst came to worst. The 
Japanese estimated that Blyukher's army east of Lake Baykal quadrupled 
its strength between 1931 and 1936 and in the latter year consisted of 
nearly 20 rifle and four cavalry divisions plus 1 ,200 aircraft and an equal 
number of tanks. When the Japanese began their all-out attempt to con- 
quer China in July 1937, the Soviets added still more men and equipment 
to their Far Eastern forces; and the number of aircraft rose to nearly 
2,000 by 1938. " 

Stalin believed that by helping the Chinese, he could keep the Jap- 
anese so busy in China that they would not be tempted to make any 
incursions into Soviet territory. The Soviets not only delivered aircraft 
to the beleaguered Chinese, but also set up and maintained depots and 
assembly plants, trained Chinese pilots, and sent "volunteer" Russian 
pilots. For example, on 29 April 1939, in the air battle over Wuhan, over 
half the sixty-five Soviet-built fighters were flown by Russians. The Jap- 
anese Ambassador in Moscow, Shigemitsu, protested the Soviet involve- 
ment, stating that some 500 Soviet aircraft and 200 pilots had entered 
China (up to May 1938). 

The Soviet aircraft used in China were 1-15 and 1-16 fighters and SB- 
2 and TB-3 bombers. The I-15s and I-16s, which had shown up badly 
against the Me- 109s in Spain, did much better against the less effective 
Japanese fighters of that period, and the Soviet pilots in China were able 
to evaluate the ability of the Japanese pilots, to study their air tactics, 
and to observe Japanese equipment. China was the ideal area for testing 
Soviet aircraft and trying out air tactics under actual combat conditions. 
It was in China that the Soviets realized that the 7.62mm machine gun 
was a very inadequate weapon for making bomber kills; as a result, they 
began to install the 12.7mm gun, the equivalent of the American 50- 


caliber. Japanese control of the air, easily acquired following the near 
annihilation of the Chinese Air Force (CAF) in 1937, was increasingly 
difficult to maintain in 1938 when Soviet aircraft and pilots entered the 

Although Soviet assistance to China was somewhat erratic because 
of trouble with the Japanese at Lake Khasan in 1938 and Khalkhin-Gol 
in 1939 as well as the war with Finland in the winter of 1939-1940 the 
Russians were the main external contributors to China's defense between 
1937 and late 1940. In September 1939 the American ambassador in 
Moscow claimed that the Soviets had sent at least 1,000 aircraft and 2 000 
pilots to China. '* 

While the Soviets were engaging the Japanese indirectly in China in 
the late 1930s, they found themselves in direct confrontation on two 
occasions: at Changkufeng, or Lake Khasan, in 1938, and at Khalkhin- 
Gol in 1939. On both occasions the Japanese seemed to be feeling out 
Soviet resolve and capability, and in both confrontations the Soviets 
demonstrated an ability to defend their borders. 

The Lake Khasan engagement, to use the Soviet terminology, began 
in early July 1938 when the Japanese protested the Soviet fortification 
of Changfukeng Hill, a point between Lake Khasan and the Tumen River 
on the disputed Korean-USSR border." This frontier skirmish, which 
began on 29 July, rapidly escalated into a "limited war," as both sides 
put in more forces until the Soviets had twenty-seven infantry battalions 
plus several artillery and tank regiments. At that point, the Japanese 
thought the engagement was getting out of hand, and hostilities ceased 
on 11 August with the Soviets in control of the disputed territory. 

The VVS component of the 1st Independent Red Banner Far Eastern 
Army which confronted the Japanese at Lake Khasan was commanded 
by P. Rychagov, who was executed in 1941 as one of the scapegoats for 
the massive Nazi destruction of Soviet aircraft. His airmen, facing light 
Japanese opposition, were able to penetrate the enemy positions in depth 
and demonstrated a considerable capability. But Soviet aviators found 
that aviation was not very effective against an enemy well entrenched 
with his artillery well dug in. '* 

The next clash with the Japanese was, according to Soviet termi- 
nology, the Khalkhin-Gol Incident, which took place on the border of 
Manchukuo and Mongolia between the little Khalkhin-Gol River and the 
village of Nomonhan." It began on 11 May 1939 and lasted until 16 
Septeniber; again both sides kept increasing their commitments. During 
June the main activity was in the air, some attacks involving over a 
hundred planes. In July Georgi K. Zhukov took command of Soviet 
forces and launched a decisive offensive in late August. He insisted on 
very close airground cooperation and had his pilots study the terrain 

jointly with their infantry and tank colleagues. His successful employment 
of some 500 Soviet aircraft went a long way towards insuring victory, 
especially by inhibiting enemy reinforcement of the battlefield. 

The Red Air Force on the Eve of the Great Patriotic War 

As a result of their experiences in Spain, in China, and against the 
Japanese, the Soviets acquired a great deal of expertise. Some of the Air 
Force leaders had become quite knowledgeable about strategy, tactics, 
and the like. But then Stalin unleashed the purge. Tukhachevsky, along 
with six other top commanders, was shot on 12 June 1937, to begin the 
senseless purge that wiped out about four-fifths of the top commanders 
of the Red Army. No military force could stand a blood-letting of that 
magnitude without suffering pernicious anemia in its command system.^ 

Soviet aviation was especially hard hit by the Purge. Ya. I. Alksnis, 
who had succeeded Baranov as commander of the VVS in 1931, was 
arrested in 1937 and probably died in 1940. His deputy, V. V. Khripin, 
also disappeared in 1937. Alksnis was succeeded by a nonentity named 
A. D. Loktionov, who in turn gave way in September 1939 to Ya. I. 
Smushkevich. The latter was a veteran of the Soviet air activities in Spain 
and had made quite a reputation as an air commander in the Far East. 
He was destined to be shot as a scapegoat during the debacle of June 
1941. About 75 percent of the senior officers in the VVS were eliminated 
by the end of 1939. The purge also extended to the aircraft industry, to 
the research organizations, and to some of the design bureaus. Even 
Tupolev was under arrest for a short period. To an undetermined extent, 
therefore, the wisdom that had been accumulated in the various cam- 
paigns between 1936 and 1939 was thrown away. It would seem fair to 
say that the poor showing of the VVS in the Winter War with Finland 
and in the early phase of the Great Patriotic War could be at least partially 
attributed to Stalin's blood lust in the late 1930s. ^' 

While Zhukov was thumping the Japanese in Mongolia, Stalin sur- 
prised the world with the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact on 23 
August 1939, an act tantamount to Soviet acquiescence to the German 
invasion of Poland. With 1,600 aircraft at its disposal in Poland, the 
Luftwaffe went after the enemy's airfields at the outset and destroyed 
the Polish Air Force within a week. " In short, the air war in Poland was 
a romp for the Luftwaffe and a dress rehearsal for the attack on Russia 
twenty-two months later. 

For the Soviet Union, any euphoria engendered by the victory at 
Khalkhin-Gol or the easy entry into Poland was chilled in the Winter 
War with Finland. When the Finns refused to rehnquish territory, Mol- 
otov stated that it would be up to the military to clarify the situation; 
and on 30 November the Red Army attacked. The Finnish campaign was 


not the VVS's finest hour. Since the Finnish Air Force had only about 
145 obsolete planes, the Soviet VVS had a 15 to 1 advantage. Neverthe- 
less, coordination with the ground forces was extremely poor, bombing 
accuracy was mediocre, and even the fighters in air-to-air combat were 
unimpressive. One set of figures gives the Soviet losses as 684 aircraft 
compared to Finnish losses of 62." 

The miserable performance of the Red Army and its VVS in the 
Wmter War, Zhukov's candid appraisal of Soviet shortcomings at Khal- 
khin-Gol, and close observation of German efficiency in Poland alerted 
Stalin to the need to reorganize the Red Army and to equip it with better 
weapons. Voroshilov was replaced as Commissar of Defense by Marshal 
Semyen K. Timoshenko, and Georgi Zhukov became Chief of the Gen- 
eral Staff. The new bosses immediately began re-equipping the VVS with 
new types of planes better able to stand up to the Luftwaffe. But as 
Zhukov says in his memoirs, when the Germans attacked, the VVS was 
in the midst of its reorganization, its pilots were not yet fully trained in 
the new aircraft in the inventory, and only 15 percent of them were 
trained for night flying.^' 

In January 1940, A. I. Shakurin replaced M. M. Kaganovich as head 
of the Aviation Industry Commissariat and went to work with a will 
According to Shakurin, his job was to accelerate the output of better 
^'™. ^* ''^^'"^"y breakneck speed, instructions he got from Stalin him- 
self His job was helped by the completion of the new TsAGI (research 
facility), replete with laboratories and wind tunnels, an expansion and 
modernization that had been under way since 1935. 2* 

While the VVS was demonstrating its strengths and weaknesses in 
action on the Khalkhin-Gol, over the plains of Poland, and in the cold 
and fog of Finland, Soviet aircraft designers proceeded to come up with 
new types of aircraft ranging from heavy bombers to dive-bombers to 

Vladimir M. Petlyakov's Pe-2 dive-bomber went into series produc- 
tion in 1940, and over the next five years 11,426 were turned out It 
carried five machine guns and a 3,300-lb bomb load and had a top speed 
of 335 mph at 16,000 ft." Sergei V. Il'hushin's DB-3F idal'nyy bom- 
bardu-ovshchik-long-vangc bomber; the F stood for forsirovannie-su- 
percharged), later redesignated 11-4, was in service by 1940 It had a too 
speed of 265 mph at 20,000 ft and a range of 2,000 miles. The 11-4 became 
the backbone of Soviet long-range aviation during the war; 5,256 were 
built between 1940 and 1944. ^» 

In 1940 three new fighters went into series production: the MiG-3 
the Yak-1, and the LaGG-3. And in 1941 the famous 11-2 Shturmovik 
began to come into the service. These four aircraft were to be produced 


in large numbers during World War II. The MiG-3, some 3,322 of which 
were built in the 1940-1941 period, was a product of the team of Artem 
Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich. This new fighter had a top speed of 
slightly over 400 mph at 22,000 ft. A match for the German Me-109 
above 16,000 ft, it was at a disadvantage below 13,000 ft.^' Aleksandr 
S. Yakovlev's Yak-1 was influenced by the British Spitfire and the Ger- 
man Me-109, both of which he had seen in visits to England and Germany. 
A low-wing monoplane, it had a top speed of 400 mph at 20,000 ft. The 
Soviets produced 8,721 of them during World War II. '^ The LaGG-3, 
produced by the team of Lavochkin, Gorbunov, and Budkov, went into 
series production in early 1941. A low-wing monoplane with the same 
short fuselage that characterized most of the fighters of that period, the 
plane had a top speed of 335 mph; total production was 6,529. '' 

Il'yushin's famous 11-2 Shturmovik dive-bomber completed its state 
acceptance trials in March 1941 and went into series production imme- 
diately. A few were being sent to VVS units by July. Its armament 
consisted of two 23mm cannons, two 12.7 mm machine guns, and eight 
rockets or 13,000 lbs of bombs. It was so heavily armored that it was 
called a "flying tank." The Il'yushin Shturmovik became one of the most 
celebrated planes of World War II, a tank-destroyer par excellence. The 
Soviets produced 36,163.'^ 

According to Shakurin, in the second half of 1940 production ended 
on all the old fighters. Since by that time there were twenty-eight aircraft, 
fourteen engine, and thirty-two aircraft component factories in operation, 
Shakurin had every right to anticipate a VVS adequately equipped with 
modern machines within the next few years. ^' Unfortunately for the VVS, 
the overwhelming bulk of the aircraft it received up to mid-1941 were 
obsolete since the newer types did not begin to flow into combat units 
until early 1941, just before the Nazis destroyed most of them on the 

The German Onslaught, 1941-1942 

As Soviet aircraft designers were coming up with better products in 
1940-1941, Hitler was even then readying his forces for war with Russia. 
Convinced that a blitzkrieg against Russia was feasible, on 18 December 
1940 he issued Directive No. 21, or "Case Barbarossa," which described 
in general terms the strategy for the attack on the Soviet Union set for 
mid-May 1941. The Soviet VVS got short shrift in "Barbarossa": 

The enemy will be energetically pursued and a line will be reached from which 
the Russian Air Force can no longer attack German Territory. The final objective 
of the operation is to erect a barrier against Asiatic Russia on the general line 
Volga-Archangel. The last surviving industrial area of Russia in the Urals can 
then, if necessary, be eliminated by the Air Force. 

The effective operation of the Russian Air Force is to be prevented from the 
beginning of the attack by powerful blows." 


Because of German involvement in the Yugoslavian-Greeic cam- 
paign, "Barbarossa" had to be delayed until 22 June. When the Luftwaffe 
did strike, however, the "powerful blows" Hitler had called for were 
powerful indeed. Caught parked on their airfields, the Soviet planes were 
sitting ducks for the German fliers, and as many as 2,000 Soviet aircraft 
may have been destroyed in the first 48 hours of the war— even the Soviet 
admitted to 1,500 lost in the first 24 hours." 

The Red Army and its VVS were caught flat-footed. Rather than 
use territory acquired in Poland, Romania, and elsewhere between 1939 
and 1941 as a buffer through which the Germans would have to penetrate, 
Stalin had moved his forces to forward areas in this new territory. The 
VVS had moved a number of airfields close to the new frontier created 
in September 1939, and most of the other airfields in the western military 
districts were being reconstructed by the NKVD in a leisurely fashion. 
The Soviet fighters, concentrated on a few fields, presented an ideal 
target for the Luftwaffe's surprise attack. Furthermore, the Aircraft Ob- 
servation, Warning, and Signal Service was poorly organized and pro- 
vided little, if any, early warning." 

The German pilots, having the advantages of complete surprise plus 
favorable weather, were able to fly continuous high-altitude and low- 
level attacks on Soviet airfields. Luftwaffe bombers flew up to six missions 
a day, while dive-bombers and fighters flew up to eight. Since the Soviet 
aircraft were lined up on the airfields in rows with no protection, the 
German pilots had perfect targets to aim at. The few Soviet planes' that 
did manage to get into the air were immediately shot down. 

The destruction was almost unbelievable. According to a German 
account, the first wave of 637 bombers and 231 fighters was directed at 
Soviet airfields,^ and even the official Soviet account of the war has 
1,000 German bombers attacking 66 Soviet airfields with a loss of 1 200 
Soviet aircraft, 800 of that number on the ground." The German High 
Command reported the destruction of just over 4,000 Soviet aircraft by 
29 June, i.e., a week after the start of the offensive."" The Soviet and 
German figures for kills and losses are unreliable at best, and the dis- 
crepancies sometimes border upon the ludicrous; but even the Soviets 
admit the almost unbelievable havoc wrought by the Luftwaffe in the 
opening days of the German offensive. 

Poorly organized anti-aircraft defense, inferior planes, inexperienced 
pilots, and utter confusion in the upper echelons of command combined 
to make Soviet efforts to counter the Luftwaffe onslaught futile. The 
Soviet I-lSBs and I-16s were not in the same league with the German 
Messerschmitt 109s. About all the Soviet fighters and dive-bombers could 
do in the summer of 1941 was to try to give some assistance to the Soviet 
ground forces. Furthermore, the Soviet DBA, or Long-Range Bom- 


bardment Aviation, equipped with Ii-4s and obsolete TB-3s, was unable 
to hamper the German offensive by striking deep behind the lines. Be- 
cause of the dreadful situation on the ground, Long-Range Aviation was 
used primarily for close-support operations, which was hardly the most 
efficient use of the DBA.*' 

According to Field Marshal Kesselring, commander of the Luf- 
twaffe's 2nd Air Fleet, German pilots achieved "air superiority" two days 
after the opening of hostilities. (In his book, he also describes the mas- 
sacre of Soviet medium bombers as they arrived over German targets at 
regular intervals and were shot down with ridiculous ease by the German 

Without air support, either tactical or strategic, the Red Army was 
at the mercy of the Luftwaffe, and the German Panzer Groups could 
operate deep behind the Russian fronts with little hindrance from the 
VVS, while calling upon their own air units when they got into a tight 
spot. The German Blitzkrieg proceeded as Hitler expected. In the first 
three months of the war, von Leeb's Army Group North pushed through 
the Baltic states and began the siege of Leningrad; von Bock's Army 
Group Center trapped three Soviet armies and four mechanized corps 
for a total of 287,000 prisoners; and von Rundstedt's Army Group South 
achieved one of the greatest "round-ups" of the war when it captured 
in the Ukraine some 665,000 prisoners, 3,178 guns, and 884 armored 
vehicles. *^ 

The Soviets had almost as many aircraft as the enemy's 1,150 planes 
for the Ukraine, but 75 percent of the Soviet aircraft were obsolete. The 
VVS, according to the Russian version, flew over 26,000 sorties during 
the August-September fighting in the Kiev and Black Sea area. ** Plocher, 
however, points out that the Luftwaffe had air superiority during the 
whole of the Ukrainian campaign and was able to prevent "any serious 
Soviet air interference with German ground forces" ; the Luftwaffe carried 
out "virtually undisturbed attacks against Russian troops and materiel 
in the pocket . " ** The magnitude of the German victory would seem either 
to support Plocher's version or demonstrate the ineffectiveness of 26,000 
Soviet sorties. 

By the end of September, Hitler became enthusiastic about a renewal 
of the drive on Moscow by Army Group Center. The campaign began 
well with a great double encirclement of the Soviet forces in the Vyazma- 
Bryansk pocket.** While the infantry mopped up the Russians trapped 
in the pocket, the Panzers pushed ahead. Then came the rains, and the 
German advance was stopped dead in its tracks — not so much by the 
Russians as by mud, as roads became bottomless bogs that could not be 
negotiated by wheeled vehicles or even tanks. There was nothing the 
invaders could do but wait until cold froze the ground. 


The figures given in the official Soviet account of the air war in 
Russian for the first four months— i.e., up to the October pause in the 
German drive on Moscow— are 250,000 sorties, mostly against German 
tank and motorized troops, and the destruction of 3,500 enemy aircraft. *' 
The Soviet estimate of German losses is undoubtedly on the high side; 
but even using the Soviet figures, the Luftwaffe comes out very well in 
comparison with the VVS losses in the summer and fall of 1941. 

The Luftwaffe, however, was down to 2,000 aircraft by early No- 
vember, since some units had been withdrawn for rest and repair after 
four months of intensive effort and other units had been transferred to 
the Mediterranean and West European fronts to cope with the growing 
U.S.-British threat.'* Furthermore, as the Luftwaffe's strength on the 
Russian front began to thin out in late 1941, the Soviets were getting new 
and better planes. The battle of Moscow in November-December was to 
demonstrate that the days of overwhelming Luftwaffe air superiority were 

Stalin, stunned at first by Hitler's surprise attack, recovered quickly 
and consolidated control of the war in his own hands. He had already, 
in May 1941, made himself Chairman of the Council of People's Com- 
missars, or SOVNARKOM {Soviet Narodnykh Komissarov), thus com- 
bining control of both Party and Government. A week after the Germans 
struck, he created, with himself at the head, the State Defense Com- 
mittee, or GKO {Gosudarstvennyy Komitet Oborony), which had abso- 
lute control of the Government and the Armed Forces. GKO administered 
military matters through Stavka of the Supreme High Command {Ver- 
khovnogo Glavnokomandovaniya) , or Stavka VGK. Stavka, in turn, 
worked through either the General Staff or through its own Stavka rep- 
resentatives at the various fronts.'" Eariy in July 1941, Stavka VGK 
coordinated the air forces of three fronts (Northwestern, Western, and 
Southwestern), including units of the 7th PVO (national air defense) 
interceptor force and some DBA units. In August a number of VVS units 
were coordinated with units from the Reserve and from DBA on the 
combined Bryansk and Central fronts. To carry out these coordinated 
operations, Stavka VGK dispatched its own representative to the head- 
quarters of the combined front to be responsible for air actions. The 
Stavka representative for aviation used the staff and communications of 
the front commander to control air operations and reported to both the 
front commander and to Stavka on the results. The system worked so 
well that the functions of the aviation representative of Stavka VGK were 
gradually increased." 

Having been immobilized by the rasputitsa, the "season of bad 
roads," from mid-October to mid-November, the Germans finally got 
moving again when the weather cleared and frost hardened the ground 


enough for aircraft, tanks, and wheeled vehicles to operate." But the 
Germans were in for an unpleasant surprise as they neared Moscow. 
During the late summer and early fall, Stalin had pulled in toward Moscow 
well-trained troops and aircraft from the Far East and Trans-Baykal 
commands as well as forces from Outer Mongolia and Central Asia. 
These reinforcements for the defense of Moscow included over a thousand 
planes. '^ 

The cold that ended the rasputitsa became much more intense in late 
November and early December, and freezing weather reduced the Luft- 
waffe to a semi-mobile force of frozen planes. The Soviet aviators, on 
the other hand, knew how to care for their aircraft in the cold and fared 
much better. According to the official account, they flew 51,300 sorties 
during the two-month battle for Moscow, 86 percent of them in close 
support missions, while "the enemy lost about 1 ,400 planes in the Moscow 
sector."" Leaving aside the validity of the statistics, the authors do go 
on to point out, and correctly, that the increased activity of the VVS was 
the result of the availability of good airfields with good technical services 
in the Moscow area plus the fact that cover was provided by the Moscow 
PVO Strany interceptors. Furthermore, for the first time, Frontal, Long- 
Range Bomber, and PVO fighter aviation were unified under the single 
control of the Commander in Chief of the VVS, thus facilitating an 
economy of effort and a higher degree of flexibility. '^ 

On 30 November Zhukov and the General Staff got Stalin's approval 
for a counterattack which involved all three Soviet fronts defending Mos- 
cow. The counterattack got under way on 5 December, and over the next 
three weeks the Soviet offensive rolled the Germans back from the cap- 

Soviet air was a vital element in the counterattack, as Frontal Avia- 
tion, the Moscow PVO, the Stavka Reserve, and Long-Range Aviation 
supported ground operations. (Incidentally, "Long-Range Aviation" 
would seem to be a misnomer for an outfit that, to quote Zhukov, 
"bombed and strafed his [German] infantry marching formations, tank 
and truck columns.")*' The Soviet counterattack in December 1941 was 
the first time the Luftwaffe had been on the defensive since September 
1939, and the VVS had even gained air superiority in some localities by 
December. Moreover, new aircraft were beginning to arrive on the fronts 
in respectable quantities from the new eastern factories by the end of 

When it had become obvious to the GKO shortly after the German 
onslaught began that the enemy would in all probability overrun much 
of the heavily industrialized region of Russia, the Soviets decided to 
transfer as many plants as possible from the Ukraine and Russia east of 
the Volga River. Many of them went to Central Asia, the Urals, and 


western Siberia— all regions out of bomber range for the short-legged 
German Luftwaffe. It was during this period that the absence of a German 
long-range bombing capability was so crucial. According to the official 
Soviet account, they had moved 1,360 large plants and ten million people 
by the end of December, a total of one and one half million tons of 
freight and humans.'* 

The evacuation of most of the aircraft industry to the east caused 
a severe drop in output in the second half of 1941 and the first three 
months of 1942 (1,039 aircraft in January, 915 in February, and 1,647 in 
March). After that, however, the production rate accelerated swiftly: 
over 25,000 for 1942, 35,000 for 1943, 40,000 in 1944, and 20,900 for the 
first half of 1945. Counting the 15,735 produced in 1941, the total Soviet 
output during the Great Patriotic War was about 137,000 planes of all 
types. Half of the total were single-engine Soviet fighters, and about 
40,000, or nearly one-third of the total, were 11-2 Shturmoviks. " 

Combat operations in 1941 had revealed serious shortcomings in the 
Soviet Air Force organizational structure, the main weakness being an 
inability to concentrate air in massive operations. Air power was being 
used in a piecemeal fashion, partly because of the way in which it was 
parcelled out io front commanders, to army commanders, and to Stavka. 
In April 1942, Novikov replaced Zhigarev as commander in chief and 
began to re-structure the VVS by creating "air armies." The 1st Air 
Army, formed on 5 May 1942, was made up of two fighter and two 
composite divisions, a U-2 night bomber regiment, a reconnaissance 
squadron, and a liaison squadron. Eventually there were seventeen air 
armies, formed from frontal and army aviation, and varying in size ac- 
cording to the importance of the theater and the availability of aircraft. 
In the 1942-1943 period they averaged 900 to 1,000 aircraft, in the 1944- 
1945 period around 1,500; for certain operations, some air armies had 
2,500 to 3,000 aircraft.'* Furthermore, the old composite divisions (com- 
bining fighter, attack, and sometimes tactical bomber aircraft) gave way 
to divisions made up of a single type of plane. The creation of the air 
armies was a giant step forward in mobility, concentration of forces, and 
central control of the Soviet air forces. In addition. General Novikov was 
devoted to the task of building up the Stavka Reserve, a force that could 
be shunted from one front or theater to another with some speed." 

Stalin, greedy for victories to offset the ignominious routs of 1941 
and buoyed up by the successful defense of Moscow, pushed his generals 
into a series of ill-advised offensives in early 1942. As a result, the Soviets 
suffered several setbacks in the Crimea and at Kharkov, forcing them 
once again back onto the defensive. 

Hitler, in a state of euphoria as a result of the Soviet fiasco at 
Kharkov, came up with an overly-ambitious schedule for 1942. The main 


emphasis was on drives through the Don Bend and along the Volga with 
a simultaneous drive through the Kuban to the oil fields at Grozny and 
Baku. By 23 August the German tanks reached the Volga just north of 
Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe then proceeded to reduce the city to rubble, 
and from mid-September to mid-November the men of the Red Army 
and the Wehrmacht fought tooth and toe-nail in the wreckage of the city 
strung out along the right bank of the Volga for thirty miles. The main 
brunt of the cellar-to-cellar fighting fell on General Chuikov's 62nd Army. 
The Germans referred to this war in the rubble as the Rattenkrieg (war 
of the rats).*" 

VVS's main tasks in the defense of Stalingrad were close air support, 
reconnaissance, and very short-range bombing. As the authors of the 
Soviet official history put it: 

Ground-attack-planes and fighters operating with infantry and artillery attacked 
the enemy right on the front line, and aircraft of the front and long-range bombers 
struck against reserves, artillery and troops located 2 to 5 kilometers from the 
front line." 

The Commander in Chief of the VVS, General A. A. Novikov, remained 
at Stalingrad to see to it that his troops did their job right, as did the 
ADD Commander, General A. Ye. Golovanov. Novikov, as the Stavka 
VGK representative to coordinate air at Stalingrad, was involved in the 
planning of the counteroffensive being prepared by Zhukov while the 
battle for the city raged. The importance of the VVS's role can be seen 
in the following account of how the counteroffensive was planned. When 
Novikov informed Zhukov that his aviation was not yet ready, the latter 
informed Stavka. On 12 November Zhukov received a reply informing 
him that it would be better to postpone operations until air support was 
ready. As Stavka put it: "The experience of the war shows that operations 
against the Germans can be successful only if carried out with superiority 
in the air." 

The Soviet Offensives, Stalingrad to Berlin 

The Stalingrad counteroffensive which began on 19 November 1942 
marked the end of the first period of the Great Patriotic War.* By then, 
the VVS had a superiority in numbers and, on occasion, even superiority 
in the air. At the end of the first period two new fighters came into the 
inventory, the La-5 and the LYak-9. The La-5 was an adaptation of the 
LaGG-3 and went into series production in July 1942, thus making it 
available for action at Stalingrad by September. The 287th Fighter Di- 
vision was equipped with La-5s, which, according to the Soviets, were 

•Soviet historians are addicted to "periodization," and World War II is no exception. They 
divide it into the "imperialist" period from 1 September 1939 to 22 June 1941 and then 
divide the Great Patriotic War into three periods: 22 June 1941 to 18 November 1942; 19 
November 1942 to 31 December 1943; and from 1 January 1944 to the end of the war! 


faster in level flight than the German fighters.*' The Yak-9, a modified 
Yak-7, entered combat over Stalingrad. It had a top speed of about 360 
mph and was armed with a 37mm cannon and two 12.7 mm guns." 
Furthermore, the strength of the fighter regiments was increased from 
twenty-two to thirty-two aircraft. Experience during 1941 and n^bst of 
1942 had proved the desirability of making the basic battle unit the zveno, 
or flight of four aircraft, subdivided into two pairs {para). A relative 
abundance of new aircraft, better organization (especially the creation 
of the air armies and bolstering of the Stavka reserves), and sharper 
tactics— partly derived through those of the opponent— all meant a large 
step forward in VVS's drive for air superiority. 

The counteroffensive launched on 19 November worked like a 
charm. By 23 November, General von Paulus' 6th Army, some 250,000 
men, had been encircled in the "cauldron," or as the German has it, the 
"Kessel," an area about the size of Connecticut. 

Once the trap was closed, it would have seemed logical for von 
Paulus to fight his way out while his troops still had some vigor. The 
Fuehrer had lost his grasp of reality, however, and began to clutch at 
straws. He accepted Goering's promise that the Luftwaffe could supply 
the 6th Army and decided to keep the 6th Army rolled up in a "hedgehog" 
before Stalingrad, to await the 1943 offensive that could rescue them. 

Colonel-General von Richthofen, Commander in Chief of the Luft- 
waffe 4th Air Fleet, although proclaiming the plan "stark staring mad- 
ness," proceeded to put it into effect." He had around 320 Ju-52 and Ju- 
86 transports at Tazinskaya, or "Tazi," and about 190 He-Ill bombers 
at Morosovskaya, or "Moro." The Ju-52, the lumbering "good old 
auntie," had long been the transport workhorse of the Luftwaffe. It was 
a three-engine monoplane with a cruising speed of 150 mph and a range 
of 250 to 800 miles, depending on the load-fuel ratio. The Ju-86 carried 
an even smaller load. Since it was 140 miles from "Tazi" to the Pitomik 
airfield in the "Kessel, " neither transport could trade off much fuel for 
freight. The He-Ill was a twin-engine bomber which cruised at 225 mph 
and could haul two tons of freight 760 miles. 

Right from the start, the resupply operation was the victim not only 
of the shortage of adequate transport but of the weather as well, and the 
planes had to stand down for days on end. Although Goering had prom- 
ised to deliver 600 tons a day, the high-point of the airlift came when 700 
tons were delivered between 19 and 21 December— that is, 700 tons for 
all three days together! Then the Russians took both "Tazi" and "Moro," 
and the German transports had to travel 200 miles between their new 
bases and Pitomik. During the whole operation the VVS made life mi- 
serable for the lumbering transports, forcing them to fly in formations 
of forty or fifty with fighter escort, which made loading and unloading 


on the tiny Pitomik field a real problem. ** The VVS even sent Shturmovik 
formations against the German airfields to destroy transports on the 
ground. One such raid, on 9 January 1943, hit the Sal'sk airfield and 
destroyed seventy-two aircraft." 

The Red Army overran Pitomik on 16 January, and the auxiliary 
airfield at Gumrak was seized on 21 January. The remnants of von Paulus' 
6th Army were taken prisoner by the end of January. Between 24 No- 
vember 1942 and 31 January 1943, in the space of a little over two months, 
the air lift had cost the Luftwaffe 266 Ju-52s, 165 He-Ills, 42 Ju-86s, 9 
Fw-200s, 7 He-177s, and one Ju-290 — a total of 490 planes, which includes 
only transport losses.** Even worse, the image of the Luftwaffe as an 
irresistible force was shattered irreparably. 

The Soviet claims are much higher. They have the Luftwaffe in the 
defense of Stalingrad up to 23 November 1942 losing 2,100 planes and 
between 19 November 1942 and February 1943 losing 3,000 more. 
Between 22 June 1941 and 30 June 1942, the German losses in aircraft 
came to 14,700, if one believes the Russians.*' Needless to say, German 
figures are quite different, some 2,951 planes lost and 1,997 damaged 
between 22 June 1941 and 8 April 1942.™ 

In spite of the enormous disparities in claims, there can be little 
doubt that by February 1943 the VVS was the mightier of the two air 
forces. The number of air armies had been increased; Stavka had ten air 
corps in its reserve; and the air effort was now synchronized — General 
Novikov, head of VVS, as a representative of Stavka coordinated the 
activities of Frontal Aviation, ADD, and the fighter element of PVO. 
During 1941-1942 the Soviet aircraft industry delivered 33,857 planes to 
the VVS, while the German aircraft industry, including plants in the 
satellite nations, came up with only 20,857." 

Stalingrad was not only a definite watershed in the relationship be- 
tween the Luftwaffe and the VVS, but the turning point in the Great 
Patriotic War as a whole. The German military machine in the east was 
on the defensive after the catastrophe on the Don and Volga. The German 
counterattacks later in the war were feeble things compared to the blitz- 
krieg encirclements of 1941 and 1942. Nevertheless, the Germans had by 
no means reached the end of their rope. Soviet offensives after Stalingrad 
outran their logistical support and resulted in Red Army units becoming 
dispersed as well as exhausted. Provided with this opportunity, the Ger- 
man commander, von Manstein — for once given a relatively free hand 
by Hitler — launched counteroffensives that stunned the Russians and 
regained Kharkov. Von Manstein's counterstroke, however, was the last 
demonstration of the German free-wheeling use of armor and air power 
in deep penetration and envelopment, for the battle of Kursk in the 
summer of 1943 would destroy the Wehrmacht's initiative and most of 

its aircraft and tanks. 


The Kursk salient, a protusion of the Soviet front north of Kharicov 
and south of Orel, was a tempting target for a German offensive in the 
summer of 1943. The Russians, aware through their intelligence of the 
German plans, filled the bulge with guns and tanks, and Stavka sent 
Zhukov and Vasilevsky to coordinate the defense of the area. The 2nd, 
5th, and 16th air armies, plus two PVO fighter divisions (about 3,()()() 
aircraft), were assigned to the Voronezh and Central /ra«f,v in the Kursk 
area. In addition those fronts could call upon the aircraft of the four 
adjacent fronts and upon Stavka reserves. Two-thirds of the Luftwaffe's 
aircraft on the Russian front were allocated to the Kursk offensive, which 
the Germans called Operation Zitadelle. some 2,()()() planes in all (1, 200 
bombers, 600 fighters, 100 dive-bombers, and 150 reconnaissance ma- 

As both sides built up their forces through May and June, the main 
activity was in the air. In early May Soviet aircraft attacked German 
airfields in an effort to destroy Luftwaffe planes on the ground, a strategy 
so well taught them by the Germans in 1941. While they were assaulting 
German airfields. German bombers were running almost nightly missions 
against the Soviet military-industrial plants at Gorki, Saratov, and Ya- 
roslavl. This "modest campaign was to remain the only German attempt 
at attacking Soviet industry."'' 

Kursk is best known as the greatest tank battle of World War II, but 
it was also an air battle of no small proportions. The two sides together 
fielded some 5,000 aircraft; and at one stage in the battle, the German 
offensive in the Belgorod area against the Voronezh front, over 2,000 
aircraft were operating in an area of 12 by 37 miles, and air battles often 
involved 100 to 150 planes.'* Soviet numerical superiority prevailed. As 
one German writer puts it: 

The German efforts to regain air superiority during the summer 1943 offensive 
had no continued or full successes. After the last German attacks in the Kursk 
salient had failed in the autumn of 1943, the Russians definitely ruled the air." 

The difficulty the historian faces in trying to deal with aircraft losses 
on either side can be illustrated by several examples of so-called "official" 
figures on the battle of Kursk. According to Novikov and Kozhevnikov, 
the Soviet airmen made 118,000 sorties and destroyed in the air and on 
the ground some 3,700 German aircraft." But General Plocher, citing 
"official" figures, has the Luftwaffe 1st Air Division alone at the battle 
of the Orel bulge flying "37,421 missions, achieving 1,733 aerial victories, 
of which 1,671 were accomplished by fighters alone, with the loss of only 
sixty-four German aircraft."" 

The Russian counteroffensive drove the Germans back over the 
Dnieper River, and in the late fall of 1943 von Manstein had a 450-mile 
front to protect, with some of his infantry and Panzer divisions down to 


regimental strength. To make things worse. Hitler was back to his old 
policy of "yield not an inch." With the VVS in control of the air and 
with the German ground forces frozen into an immobile defensive stance, 
the chief German asset, flexibility in strategy and tactics, was gone. 

During the last half of 1943, the German Army in the east was 
deteriorating as rapidly as the Soviet forces were building; they now 
outmanned and out-gunned the Germans by large ratios, had a superiority 
in tanks, and had gained control of the air.™ For example, in the three 
months immediately after the defeat at Kursk, von Manstein's forces 
received only 33,000 men to replace the 133,000 casualties in the 
Ukraine." An overwhelming superiority enabled the Red Army to push 
forward on all fronts, from the Baltic down to the Balkans. 

With regard to the air war, the VVS was not only getting more 
planes, but also better ones. The Yak-9, which made its first appearance 
over Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-1943, was being used in 1944 not 
only as an interceptor, but also as a ground attack plane and a fighter- 
bomber. In mid-1943 Yakovlev increased its fuel capacity, giving the 
Yak-9D {dal'niy, long-range) a range of 870 miles. Its range was extended 
even further in 1944 as the Yak-9DD {dal'iiyy deystviya, long-range op- 
erations) could fly from the Ukraine to Italy, a distance of 1,120 miles. 
This plane, with a top speed of 380 mph, was used as an escort for the 
American B-24 and B-17 bombers in their shuttle-bombing runs. *" The 
Petlyakov Pe-2 also underwent improvements throughout the war. When 
the new German Me-109G appeared on the Russian front in early 1943, 
the Pe-2 was souped up with an M-105PF engine which could develop 
over 1,200 hp." 

The Yak-3 (replacing the Yak-1 on the production lines in the sum- 
mer of 1943) poured into the VVS inventory in 1944. A 400-mph fighter, 
it was a match for the Me-109G and the Focke-Wulf Fw-190. The Lav- 
ochkin La-7, which went into series production in the summer of 1944, 
had a top speed of 420 mph and was especially designed to cope with the 
Fw-190. »' 

Even the German advantage of skilled and combat-hardened pilots 
had been dissipated by 1944. The murderous losses suffered by the Luft- 
waffe necessitated the use of newly fledged fliers. The VVS, however, 
was fairly wallowing in trained pilots by 1944. An even more important 
factor helped the Soviets gain control of the air in 1944, and that was the 
diversion of the best German interceptors to Western Europe to try to 
cope with the growing intensity of the Anglo-American air raids on the 
Reich and the invasions of Fortress Europe. Obviously, the Luftwaffe's 
resources were stretched too thin to be effective on any of the many 
fronts that had developed by 1944. The German bombers had to confine 
their activities to night operations since they had practically no fighter 


cover for daytime activities. Attempts to regain the initiative on the 
Eastern front, either on the ground or in the air, were bound to fail. 

By early 1945 the Russians were poised to administer the coup de 
grace to their Nazi foes. On the Soviet-German front they had 11 air 
armies with a total of over 15,000 aircraft against the Luftwaffe's 1,875 
planes." The VVS's overwhelming edge over the Luftwaffe was dra- 
matically illustrated when Rudenko's 16th Air Army grew to over 2,500 
aircraft in January 1945, giving him more than a 20-to-l superiority over 
his opponent, while Krasovsky's 2nd Air Army grew to 2,588 aircraft.** 
In Janaury 1945 the Red Army smashed into Poland and began its march 
on Berlin at the rate of twelve to fourteen miles a day. In the attack on 
Berhn in April 1945, the VVS was able to concentrate 7,500 of its 15,540 
aircraft against the pitiful remnants of the once proud Luftwaffe. The 
Soviet claim of 1,132 German planes shot down in the battle for Berlin 
may be dubious, but there can be no doubt about who controlled the air 
over that city. ** 

War Against Japan, 1945 

Once Germany had surrendered, the Soviets were free to enter the 
conflict against Japan. Until the Yalta Conference in February 1945, 
Stalin wanted no part of a two-front war, since the Russo-Japanese Neu- 
trality Pact of 13 April 1941 allowed him to concentrate his forces in the 
west and draw down on forces in the east. With Germany on the ropes, 
however, Stalin at Yalta agreed "that in two or three months after Ger- 
many has surrendered and the war in Europe has terminated the Soviet 
Union shall enter the war against Japan ...."** 

The build-up of Soviet forces in the Far East began soon after the 
Yalta meeting. According to Japanese intelligence, by June a daily av- 
erage often troop trains and five munitions trains arrived in the Far East. 
The Japanese estimated that between April and the end of July, the 
Soviets increased their strength in the Far East from 850,000 to 1,600 000 
troops, 1,300 to 4,500 tanks, and 3,500 to 6,500 aircraft." General John 
Deane, military attach^ to Moscow, gives slightly different figures: 1,- 
500,000 men, 3,000 tanks, and 5,000 aircraft;** while the Soviet figures 
for their forces in that area on 9 August 1945 were 1,577,725 troops, 
3,704 tanks, and 5,368 aircraft, of which 4,807 were combat planes.** 
These forces faced a total Japanese opposition in Manchuria, Inner Mon- 
goha, Korea, and the Kurile Islands of about a million men, 1,215 tanks 
1,800 aircraft, and 6,700 guns and mortars. '« The Japanese forces and 
their Mongolian and Manchukuoan allies were the residue left behind 
when the Japanese high command pulled out the best cadre to send to 
other fronts. 


The Soviet offensive, commanded by Marshall A. M. Vasilevsky, 
began on 9 August and called for all three fronts to push into Manchuria, 
with the main thrust plunging through the Greater Khingan Mountains 
toward Changchun and Mukden. Soviet tank forces penetrated some 250 
miles into Manchuria by 15 August, their greatest problem not Japanese 
resistance but fuel for their machines. By 19 August the Japanese Kwan- 
tung Army had arranged surrender terms with Vasilevsky. 

Air operations played a minor role in the August campaign in the 
Far East. The VVS flew only 14,030 combat sorites and 7,427 noncombat 
missions, partly because the weather was so awful between 11 and 20 
August. About a fourth of the sorties were reconnaissance, but the most 
important contribution of the air force to the campaign was the hauling 
of supplies and men. The transports carried 2,777 tons of POL, 16,497 
men, and 2,000 tons of munitions and other materiel." The Japanese 
planes opposing the VVS were obsolete, the best having been siphoned 
off to oppose the American drive across the Pacific. The Japanese fight- 
ers. Type 97 and Type 1 (Nakajima fighters "Nate" and "Oscar") were 
60 to 100 mph slower than the Soviet La-9s and La-7s, while the Mitsubishi 
bombers were 100 mph slower than the Pe-2s and Tu-2s. *^ 

Despite the fact that the Red Army was attacking a badly demor- 
alized Kwantung Army, the speed of the armored and motorized forces, 
the closely synchronized air support, and the business-like way in which 
the whole operation was carried out, all testify to lessons well-learned 
on the German front during four years of hard campaigning. The com- 
parison between the smoothly running military machine that plunged into 
Manchuria, Northern China, and Korea on 9 August 1945 and the be- 
wildered Red Army that had faced the Germans on 22 June 1941 was a 
vivid demonstration of how well Soviet commanders had been trained 
in the murderously effective school of combat in four years. 

An Analysis of Soviet Air Power in the Great Patriotic War 

If the statistics of the air war in Russia are debatable, evaluations 
of how well or how poorly the VVS and the Luftwaffe fought the air war 
are even more at variance. But for all that, the writer dealing with the 
Russo-German air war must try to show that all the trees he has described 
do total a forest. 

Although the VVS took a murderous licking in the summer and fall 
of 1941, probably losing around 10,000 planes, a high percentage of these 
were destroyed on the ground and thus did not entail the loss of pilots 
and navigators. This factor was to loom large in favor of the Soviets when 
aircraft did become available in respectable numbers in 1942 since it was 
easier to replace a plane than a trained pilot. By the spring of 1942 the 
Soviet aviation industry was rolling out enough aircraft to put the VVS 


back in business. In addition, by November 1942 the Allies had delivered 
3,000 planes to the Russians." 

During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet aircraft industry turned 
out 125,000 planes, while the Germans produced only 100,000 between 
1941 and the middle of 1945. The Soviets, moreover, had only one front 
to supply, while the Germans were using large numbers of their aircraft 
in the Mediterranean theater and in defending the Reich against British 
and American bombers. By 1943 the Luftwaffe was reducing the number 
of aircraft in Russia to supply the needs of the Mediterranean and home 
fronts. This left the Eastern front with a relative scarcity of planes, many 
of which were obsolete. 

Some German historians of the air war in Russia regard the decision 
not to build, or at least to give a low priority to the building of, a four- 
engine bomber as a fatal mistake. As early as the Battle of Britain in the 
summer and fall of 1940, the lack of a long-range bomber was one of the 
deciding factors in the outcome. If German aircraft had been able to 
range far and wide over all of the United Kingdom and also out to sea 
along the supply routes, the RAF would have had to disperse its inter- 
ceptors and radar so widely as to be almost ineffective. The limited range 
of the German aircraft restricted their attacks to a definite area, one that 
could be adequately covered by British radar and interceptors. 

The situation in Russia in 1941 and 1942 is grist to the mill of these 
ex post facto students of strategic air warfare. In 1941 the target, in their 
opinion, should have been the railroads crammed with eastbound trains 
loaded with dismantled aircraft plants and skilled workers. But Hitler's 
Barbarossa directive forbade the diversion of aircraft for the destruction 
of Soviet industry until the battle was won on the ground with close air 
support. In 1942 the ideal target was the Soviet aircraft industry, newly 
established in its eastern locale, but within range of the Luftwaffe planes 
since the Wehrmacht was still pushing forward. The best way to shut off 
the flow of aircraft to the VVS would have been to hit the source of 
supply, the aircraft plants. 

It was not until June 1943, however, that Luftwaffe bombers began 
any strategic bombing of Soviet industrial targets. Between 4 and 21 June 
the "strategic" bombing force of the Luftwaffe, Air Corps IV, flew 993 
sorties and released 1,538 tons of bombs on a tank factory in Gorki, a 
synthetic rubber plant in Yaroslavl, and an oil refinery in Saratov.'* 
Although the Germans came up with some grandiose plans in 1944 and 
1945 for hitting Soviet industry, especially the power plants in the Volga- 
Moscow region, the June 1943 raids constituted the only serious German 
"onslaught" against the Soviet defense industry. 

The main reason for the poor bombing performance of the Luftwaffe 
m Russia was the lack of a decent strategic bomber. The bombers used 

in Russia, the He-Ill and the Ju-88, had a combat radius of around 600 
miles with a one-ton bomb load. Both were too slow for other than night 
operations even in the Eastern theater.'^ Furthermore, German bomber 
strength in Russia never exceeded 600 planes, and by early 1943 many 
of those had been expended on close support of the ground forces, as 
well as being used as a transport force in the airlifts into the Demyansk 
"pocket" and the Stalingrad "Kessel." The great hope of German stra- 
tegic bombing enthusiasts was the He-177 four-engine bomber. But it 
never lived up to its advance billing, and the dozen or so used in the 
Stalingrad airlift marked its only appearance in the Russo-German War. " 

The Soviet ADD, although entitled "long-range aviation," did very 
little strategic bombing. Of the nearly four million sorties flown by all 
components of Soviet aviation, less than 7 percent could be termed "stra- 
tegic bombing," even after stretching that term outrageously." Because 
of the nature of the war in Russia — enormous forces engaged in ground 
operations — close support of those operations and very short-range 
bombing was the order of the day. "Strategic bombing" usually referred 
to attacks a few miles beyond the Forward Edge of the Battle Area 
(FEB A). 

Instead of the long-range bomber, the dive-bomber was the air 
weapon par excellence on the Eastern front. In the German case, as early 
as 1936 the emphasis was on the Ju-87 Stuka, and all German bombers 
were to be designed with a dive-bombing capability (even the thirty-ton 
He-177), a requirement that precluded any effective strategic-bomber 
design. As long as the Luftwaffe was carrying out blitzkrieg operations 
in restricted areas such as Poland and the Low Countries against feeble 
opposition, the slow and lumbering Stukas were effective, especially 
against armored forces, communications, and even streams of refugees. 
But when air superiority went to the enemy, as in Russia after the middle 
of 1943, the Ju-87 became a sitting duck for the faster Soviet aircraft, 
particularly when the Stuka was coming out of a dive. 

The Soviets were as enthusiastic about the dive-bomber as were the 
Germans. The 11-2 Shturmovik was a better assault plane than the Stuka. 
As Yakovlev put it, the fact that the best Soviet planes were designed 
in the late 1930s and early 1940s rather than in the early 1930s, as were 
the German planes, meant that they had more potential for improvement 
since the state of the art was developing rapidly. The addition of a rear 
gunner in the Shturmovik took care of its main weakness — attack from 
the rear when in a dive or coming out of one. The 11-2 was probably the 
best assault plane in World War II. 

The large role played by the Stuka and the Shturmovik is proof 
positive of the main emphasis in the Russo-German air war — close sup- 
port of the ground forces. As one German historian put it: ". . . strategic 


air warfare played no role in Germany's campaign against Soviet Rus- 
sia.'"* But he might well have added that the Soviet campaign was just 
as weak on the strategic air side as was the German. According to Soviet 
statistics, 47 percent of the sorties flown by VVS and ADD were for 
close air support. There was no urgent need, however, for the Russians 
to go in for strategic air warfare. The partisans were busy interdicting a 
good deal of the German rail and truck traffic in Russia , and the American 
and British bombers were working over the Reich home front itself by 
1943. This allowed the Russians to concentrate their air on supporting 
the ground forces. 

Another Luftwaffe deficiency helped the Russians enormously, 
namely, the shortage of transport planes. The main German transport, 
from the involvement in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 until the end of 
World War II, was the Ju-52, a three-engine relatively light and definitely 
slow monoplane. Even that was not produced in sufficient numbers to 
serve all the Luftwaffe air fleets. As it was also the main trainer in 
German flying schools, the output of pilots was constantly hampered 
when the air fleets requisitioned both Ju-52s and instructors to fly them 
during the frequent emergencies. " The fact that the Ju-52 was the trans- 
port workhorse for such a long period would seem to demonstrate an 
obtuseness on the part of the Luftwaffe high command about the value 
of air transport, especially in an area as vast as Russia. The disastrous 
attempt to air lift supplies into the Stalingrad "Kessel" seems to have had 
Httle influence on the thinking of the Luftwaffe high command during 
the last three years of the war. 

Without going all the way with the favorite gambit of Germans 
writing about the air war in Russia— namely piling most of the blame of 
Hitler from 1942 on— there is some fire amidst all that smoke. Hitler was 
a ground force oriented leader and, with some exceptions, left aviation 
to the Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, Reichsmarschall Herman 
Goering. Goering, in turn, because of his "supinity" and "frivolous in- 
souciance," left most of the direction to successive incumbents of the 
office of Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, especially Gener- 
aloberst Jeschonnek, who held the job between February 1939 and 19 
August 1943. '** Jeschonnek was incapable of questioning an order or an 
opinion expressed by Hitler, however potentially disastrous it might be. 
Moreover, as Goering's stock with the Fuehrer declined, the more the 
Reichsmarschall acquiesced in the latter's decisions and even tried to 
placate him by promising more than he could deliver, the Stalingrad 
airlift being a case in point. 

Stalin, however, was an aviation buff, taking an intense interest in 
design and production even before the war. His interest extended to the 
VVS's command structure and the procurement of its machines, and one 


of his outstanding designers, Yakovlev, gives him high marics as knowl- 
edgeable in things aeronautical. Like his top commanders, Stalin grew 
as a military figure during the war; and, although prone to botch things 
up in 1941 and early 1942, he eventually assembled a capable staff in the 
Stavka, whose advice he listened to before making decisions. Despite 
Khrushchev's claim that Stalin plotted strategical operations on a school- 
boy's globe, most of the testimony of those close to him on the Stavka 
portray him as keenly interested in, and knowledgeable about, the mil- 
itary situation at the front. It is hard to visualize Stalin as relying on his 
"intuition" or consulting an astrologer. 

Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic War was sustained by an ex- 
panding industrial infrastructure and transportation system able to op- 
erate without German interference."" It had the advantage of fighting 
on only one front, while the Luftwaffe was forced to siphon off its best 
aircraft to put a defensive roof over the Reich from 1943 forward and to 
furnish air support for a doomed effort in the Mediterranean area. Due 
to good prewar planning and the efforts of the civilian-party organization, 
the Osoaviakhim, the VVS never suffered from a shortage of pilots as 
did the Luftwaffe in the last two years of the war. Over and above all 
else, however, it was the productive capacity of the Soviet aviation in- 
dustry that enabled the VVS to gain air superiority in the second half of 
the war— it simply swamped the Luftwaffe under a flood of first-rate 



1. htoriya velikoy otechestvennoy voyna Sovelskogo Soyuza 1941-1945. (The History 
of the Great Fatherland War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945) Moscow, Veonnoelzdatel'stvo 
Ministerstva Oborony Soyuza SSR, 1960, Vol 1 , p. 90. This is the nearest thing to a definitive 
work that the Soviets have produced on the Second World War. It is a six volume cooperative 
effort published between 1960 and 1965. Referred to hereafter as 1st. Velik, Otech Vovn 

2. AviatstroiteV , No. 6 (June 1933), pp. 1-2 as cited in The Soviet Aircraft Industry 
(Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Institute for Research in Social Science, 1955) p 6 

3. 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-45. Vol. I, p. 65. 

4. Fortune, August 1937, pp. 70-77. 

5. The Soviet Aircraft Industry, pp. 13-14. 

6. Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, No. 10 (October 1973), p. 23. 

7. Ibid., No. 11 (November 1973), p. 22 and No. 12 (December 1973), p. 24. 

8. Soviet designations for engines are as confused as those for aircraft. The "M" stands 
for the Russian "motor," the same as in English; "AM" for Aleksandr Mikuhn, "Sh" or 
"ASH" for Arkadiy Shvetsov, and "VK" for Vladimir Klimov. In the early period only the 
"M" was used and it applied to foreign as well as indigenously produced engines. 

9. Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, No. 1 (January 1974), p. 23. 

10. Nowara, H. and G. Duval, Russian Civil and Military Aircraft, 1884-1969 (London: 
Fountain Press, 1971), pp. 107-110; Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, No. 2 (February 1974), pp. 

11. Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, No. 5 (May 1974), pp. 22-23. 

12. Schwabedissen, W. Generalleutnant, The Russian Air Force in the Eyes of German 
Commanders (Air University: USAF Historical Division, 1960), p. 26. 

13. A good brief account in John Erickson, The Soviet High Command (New York- St 
Martin's Press, 1962), pp. 241-44. 

14. 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-1945, Vol. I, p. 113. 

15. Japanese Special Studies on Manchuria (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military 
History, Department of the Army, 1956), Vol. XIII, p. 53. 

16. The best account of the Soviet involvement in the Sino-Japanese War is Gordon 
Pickler's unpublished doctoral dissertation, "United States and the Chinese Nationalist Air 
Force, 1931-49," Florida State University. 

17. Soviet historians refer to the engagement as "the Battle of Lake Khasan." A detailed 
account is given in 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-1945. Vol. I, pp. 231-37. The Japanese 
call it "the Chengkufeng Incident." 

18. Japanese Studies on Manchuria. Vol XI, Part 3, Book A. "Small Wars and Border 
Problems: The Changkufeng Incident," pp. 120-121. The Japanese claim that the Russians 
employed 27 infantry battalions, 100 pieces of artillery, 20 tanks, and a sizeable number 
of aircraft. Ibid., pp. 115-117. 

19. The Japanese refer to the conflict as the "Nomonhan Incident," while the Soviets 
call it the "Khalkhin-Gol Incident." The best account representing the Japanese point of 
view is in the two- volume work: Japanese Studies in Manchuria, Vol. XI, Part 3, Books A 
and B, "Small Wars and Border Problems: The Nomonhan Incident." This work also 
includes an English translation of a Soviet account: S. N. Shishkin, Khalkhin-Gol (Moscow: 
Military Publishing House, 1954). The most recent Soviet effort is in Isl. Velik. Otech. 
Voyn. 1941-1945. Vol I, pp. 236-245. Also see Erickson, op. cit., pp. 517-23 and 532-37. 

20. Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 505-506. 

21. Ibid., pp. 500-501. 

22. Asher Lee, The German Air Force (New York: Harpers, 1946), pp. 45-48- 1st Velik 
Otech. Voyn: 1941-1945, Vol I, pp. 201-203. 

23. Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen, The Winter War (New York: Scribners, 1973), p. 

24. r/ie A/emoiVi o/A/ari/ia/Z^M^ov (New York: Delacorte Press 1971) p 203 

25. Ibid. 

26. A. I. Shakurin, "Aviatsionnaya Promyshlennost' Nakanune Velikoy Otechestvennoy 
Voyny" (The Aviation Industry on the Eve of the Great Fatherland War), Voprosy Istorii 
No. 2, 1974, pp. 81-99. 

27. Jean Alexander, Russian Aircraft Since 1940 (London: Putnam, 1975), pp. 295-304; 
Aviatsiya i' Kosmonavtika, No. 10 (October 1974), p. 27. 


28. Alexander, op. cit., pp. 86-93. 

29. Alexander, op. cit., pp. 193-95; the figures giving the total production of Soviet 
aircraft during the Russo-German War found in Alexander coincide perfectly with those 
given by Yakovlev in a table on p. 55 of his Fifty Years of Soviet Aircraft Construction 
(translated for NASA by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations), Washington, D.C., 

30. Alexander, op. cit., pp. 421-24; Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, No. 11 (November 1974), 
pp. 24-25. 

31. Yakovlev, op cit., p. 55. 

32. Ibid., pp. 45-46. 

33. Shakurin, "Aviatsionnaya Promyshlennost' Nakanune Velikoy Otechestvennoy 
Voyny," Voprosy Istorii, No. 2 (February 1974), p. 83. 

34. Zhukov, in his memoirs, says the Red Army received 17,745 combat planes, including 
3,719 of the latest types, between January 1939 and 22 June 1941 , a little over 7,000 aircraft 
a year. Zhukov, Memoirs, p. 201. 

35. Text of "Case Barbarossa" in Blitzkrieg to Defeat: Hitler's War Directives, 1934-1945. 
Edited, with an Introduction and Commentary by H. R. Trevor-Roper (New York: Holt, 
Rinehart, and Winston, 1964), pp, 49-52. 

36. Erickson, The Soviet High Command, p. 593; in 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-45, 
Vol. II, p. 16, it is stated that in the first day the Luftwaffe attacked 66 airdromes along 
the frontier on which were parked the newest types of fighters and some 1 ,500 were de- 
stroyed either on the ground or in air combat. 

37. Aleksandr Yakovlev, The Aim of a Lifetime (translation of TseV Zhizni by Vladimir 
Vezey) (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), pp. 133-134. Yakovlev, as a leading aircraft 
designer and as Deputy Commissar of the Aircraft Industry, was in a good position to 
observe the VVS during the Great Patriotic War. 

38. Generalleutnant Herman Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1941 (Air 
University: USAF Historical Division, 1965), p. 41. 

39. The Soviet Air Force in World War 11, edited by Ray Wagner and translated by Leland 
Fetzer (New York: Doubleday, 1973), p. 35. 

40. Plocher, op. cit., p. 41. 

41. Up to March 1942, the Soviet long-range bombing force was called Dal'nyaya bom- 
bardirovochnaya aviatsiya (Long- Range Bombardment Aviation), or DBA; up to December 
1944 it was named Aviatsiya dal'nego deystviya (Aviation of Long-Range Operations), or 
ADD; from then until 1946 it was the 18th Air Army, and from 1946 on it has been 
designated simply Dal'nyy Aviatsiya (Long-Range Aviation), or DA. The "long-range" 
part of the designation, whether for DBA, ADD, or the 18th Air Army, was until 1945 a 
relative term since the inventory included more medium-and short-range bombers than 
long-range ones. See A. Tsykin, "Taktika Dal'ney Bombardirovochnoy Aviatsii v Letne- 
Osenney Kampanii (1941 goda)" (Tactics of Long-Range Bombardment Aviation in the 
Summer-Fall Campaign [1941]), Voenno-Istoricheskiy Zhurnal, No. 12 (Decmeber 1971) 
p. 65. 

42. Plocher, op. cit., p. 42. 

43. Paul Carell, Hitler Moves East, 1941-1943, translated by Ewald Osers (Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1964), p. 127; in 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-45, Vol. II, p. Ill, the Soviet authors 
claim that they had only 677,085 troops on the Southwestern Front, after the battle some 
150,541 remained, thus making the German figure absurd. 

44. Soviet Air Force in World War II, pp. 60-63. 

45. Plocher, op. cit., p. 127. 

46. The German figures are probably exaggerated; the various Soviet sources differ 
considerably on the extent of the losses in the Vyazma-Bryansk debacle— but all give much 
lower figures than do the Germans. See Alexander Werth, Russia At War, 1941-1945 (New 
York: Dutton, 1964), pp. 230-231 for Russian estimates. Erickson {The Road to Stalingrad 
New York: Harper & Row, 1975), Vol. I, p. 219 points out that since the Russians could 
only muster 90,000 men in the Mozhaisk defense sector, the main defense line after the 
debacle, the Soviet losses must have been desperate as they had 800,000 men when the 
battle began. 

47. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 67. 

48. Asher Lee, The German Air Force, p. 117. 


49. Mtkhaylovskiy, G. and I. Vyrodov, "Vysshie organy rukhovodstva voynoy," (Higher 
Organs of Wartime Command), Voenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal, No. 4 (April 1978); see Chart 
of command structure for World War II on p. 25. 

50. Kozhevnikov, M., "Koordinatsiya deystviy VVS predstavitelyami Stavki VGK po 
aviatsii," (Coordination of VVS operations by the representatives of Stavka VGK for 
aviation), Voenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal, No. 2 (February 1974), p. 32. 

51. Albert Seaton, The Battle for Moscow, 1941-1942 (New York: Stein and Day, 1971), 
chapter 4. 

52. J. T. Greenwood, "The Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945," in R. Higham and J. Kipp 
(eds), Soviet Aviation and Air Power: A Historical View (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 
Press, 1977), p. 21. Erich von Manstein Lost Victories (Chicago: Regenery, 1958), p. 632, 
puts the aircraft reinforcements from the East at 1,500. 

53. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 79. 

54. Ibid. 

55. Zhukov, Memoirs, pp. 337-338. 

56. 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn., 1941-45, Vol. VI, pp. 45-46. 

57. Alexander, op. cit., p. 4 and 7. 

58. See Kozhevnikov, M., "Rozhdenenie vozdushnykh armiy," (Birth of the Air Armies), 
Voenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal. No. 2 (September 1972), pp. 68-72 for details. A translation 
of this article by J. Waddell can be found in Aerospace Historian, June 1975, pp. 73-76. 

59. Greenwood. Loc. cit., p. 89. 

60. The best account of the fierce struggle within the city is in Marshal V. I. Chuikov, 
Nachaloputi (Moscow: 1959), English translation by Harold Silver, The Battle for Stalingrad 
(New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 1964, Marshal A. I. Yeremenko, Chuikov's 
superior, as commander of the Stalingrad Front, describes the battle as seen from head- 
quarters in his book, Stalingrad (Moscow: 1961). 

61. Soviet Air Force in World War II, pp. 103-4. 

62. Novikov and Kozhevnikov, loc. cit., p. 27. 

63. A Novikov and M. Kozhevnikov, "Bor'ba za strategicheskoe gospodstvo v vozdukhe," 
(The Struggle for Strategic Command of the air), Voenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal. No. 3 
(March 1972), p. 26; Alexander, op. cit., pp. 168-170. 

64. Alexander, op. cit., pp. 426-429. 

65. Cajus Bekker, The Luftwaffe War Diaries, translated by F. Ziegler (London- Mac- 
donald, 1964), p. 278. 

66. Ibid., pp. 283-85. 

67. Novikov and Kozhevnikov, loc. cit., p. 28. 

68. Bekker, op. cit., p. 294. 

69. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 110. 

70. Bekker, op. cit., Appendix 14, p. 377. 

71 . Soviet Air Force in World War II, pp. 114-117. 

72. Soviet Air Force in World War II, pp. 164-165; Novikov and Kozhevnikov, loc. cit., 
p. 29; Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia. 1943, pp. 75-83. Plocher gives 1,830 
operational aircraft as the total employment for Zitadelle. 

73. Oleg Hoeffding, German Air Attacks Against Industry and Railroads in Russia, 1941- 
1945 (Santa Monica, Cal: Rand, RM-6206-PR, 1970), p. v. 

74. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 174. 

75. Schwabedissen, The Russian Air Force in the Eyes of German Commanders p 168 

76. Loc. cit., p. 29. 

77. The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1943, p. 105. 

78. According to the Soviets, 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-45, Vol. V, p. 467, the Red 
Army only increased 1 1 percent in manpower during 1943, but increased 80 percent in guns, 
33 percent in tanks, and 100 percent in aircraft. 

79. Alan Clark, Barbarossa: The Russo-German Conflict 1941-45 (New York- Morrow 
1965), p. 370. 

80. Alexander, op. cit., pp. 426-29. 

81. Ibid., pp. 299-300. 

82. Ibid., pp. 430-33 and 172-73. 

83. From January 1944 to January 1945 Russia's inventory of aircraft went from 8,800 
to over 15,000. Greenwood, loc. cit., pp. 118-119. 

84. Ibid., p. 119. 

85. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 361. 


86. Text of the "Agreement Concerning the Entry of the Soviet Union into the War 
Against Japan, signed at Yalta February 11, 1945" in Max Beloff, Soviet Policy in the Far 
East, 1944-1951 (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), p. 25. 

87. Japanese Special Studies on Manchuria, Vol. XIII, "Study of Strategical and Tactical 
Peculiarities of Far Eastern Russia and the Soviet Far Eastern Forces," pp. 1 1 1-1 12. 

88. John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance (New York: Viking, 1947), p. 248. 

89. Raymond Garthoff, "Soviet Intervention in Manchuria, 1945-1946," Orbis, Vol. X, 
No. 2 (Summer 1966), p. 527. 

90. Ibid.; 1st. Velik. Otech. Voyn. 1941-45, Vol. V, p. 548. 

91. Garthoff, loc. cit., p. 531. 

92. Soviet Air Force in World War II, p. 368. 

93. Robert A. Kilmarx, A History of Soviet Air Power (New York: Praeger, 1962), p. 
184. Soviet historians tend to downgrade U.S. Lend-Lease in general and aircraft in par- 
ticular. During the Great Patriotic War, the U.S. delivered 14,018 aircraft to the USSR. 
Robert H. Jones, The Roads to Russia: United States Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union 
(Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), Appendix A, Table II. 

94. O. Hoeffding, German Air Attacks Against Industry and Railroads in Russia, 1941- 
1945, pp. 25-28. 

95. Ibid., p. 16. 

96. Ibid., pp. Hand 18-21. 

97. Oleg Hoeffding, Soviet Interdiction Operations, 194I-1945{Santa Monica, Cal: RAND 
R-556-PR, 1970), p. 5; Greenwood, loc. cit., pp. 130-131. 

98. Richard Suchenwirth, Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort 
Air University: USAF Historical Division. 1959), p. 77. 

99. Ibid., pp. 20-27; Suchenwirth says the two old fighter pilots, Goering and Jeschonnek, 
had a distaste for transport pilots, pp. 3-4. 

100. Hoeffding, German Attacks . . ., p. 8. 

101. Schabedissen, op. cit., p. 389. 




It is, I believe, a common experience that those who have lost a war 
are usually more critical of themselves than those who came out of it as 
victors. I shall, therefore, not concentrate on the well-known attributes 
of the Luftwaffe, among which must be included its able application of 
such general operational principles as that of the interior line, of the 
concentration of forces at decisive places, and of surprise and successful 
cooperation with the land forces. Neither shall I deal with acts of bravery 
nor with the generally high morale and fighting spirit of the Luftwaffe. 
Rather, I shall focus on a number of special facets of Luftwaffe command 
and leadership thinking* in the broadest sense which, in my opinion, 
proved to be decisive causes for the loss of the war in general and the 
air war in particular. (This does not mean that without this faulty com- 
mand thinking the Second World War would have been won by Hitler. 
But it would have been more difficult to defeat him and the Luftwaffe.) 
I shall first describe these patterns of command thinking, then analyze 
the consequences which they produced, and, finally, consider the origins 
of this method of thinking. Let me say at the outset that these traits can 
be discerned most clearly in the attitudes and pattern of thought of Luft- 
waffe general staff officers who were educated and trained at the Air 
War Academy (Luftkriegsakademie). They can also be found in Luftwaffe 
field manuals. 



Concentration on Purely Military Matters 

One of the most characteristic traits of Luftwaffe command thinking 
was its concentration on purely military matters. The humanistic model 
of the highly and universally educated individual able to reach decisions 
independently, as well as the principle of the universal assignability of 

♦Ed. note: The author uses this phrase to indicate general and specific Luftwaffe attitudes 
and patterns of thought. His emphasis is on a particular "mind-set" that developed amone 
senior Luftwaffe officers. ° 


the general staff officer continued to exist only in theory. About 70 to 
80 percent of the available time in the curricula of the Air War Academy 
was reserved for military subjects. For the most part, technical subjects, 
like armament, economics, and industrial operations, factory organiza- 
tion, and mechanics, among others, had already been deleted in peace- 
time. They were not resurrected during the war. Also eliminated were 
subjects of a general nature, such as foreign aviation developments, for- 
eign languages, and sciences. Military history was taught only to illustrate 
operational and tactical problems. It did not examine the interdependence 
among politics, economics, and warfare at the level of grand strategy — 
an interdependence which would have been obvious to officers studying 
the American Civil War. The Armed Forces Academy {Wehrmachtak- 
ademie), which was supposed to train a few select general staff officers 
in grand strategy, was closed completely three years after its establish- 
ment. Interestingly enough, the comprehensive subject of "air warfare" 
did not exist at the Air War Academy. Although in war such compre- 
hensive knowledge was needed to determine the timely change from air 
attack to air defense, or vice versa, and to arrive at a realistic relationship 
between aims and means, air attack and air defence were taught sepa- 

During the war, this truncated course of study suffered further re- 
duction. Instead of general or universal training and education, the Air 
War Academy concentrated on the elements of routine staff work, es- 
pecially the method of issuance of orders. The original aim, to train future 
chiefs of general staffs, was expressly renounced in the last years of the 
war. This overall reduction of topics reached its climax in 1943 when the 
Luftwaffe leadership decided that a thorough introduction of the prob- 
lems of higher command and higher operational thinking was no longer 
possible. ' The understanding of the outside world with its various prob- 
lems and of broad strategic issues became increasingly difficult for the 
Luftwaffe general staff officer. Consequently, he had unclear conceptions 
about overall conditions overseas and about the potential of foreign war 
industries, and did not have the background to deal with questions ex- 
ceeding the operational scope of the European theaters of war. For ex- 
ample, when Hitler asked his immediate entourage about the location 
of Pearl Harbor after it had been attacked by the Japanese, none of the 
officers, including the Luftwaffe representatives, knew exactly where it 
was situated. 

Suffering under the stress of a continuous load of staff work, general 
staff officers who later rose to important command and staff positions 
did not develop a broad, strategic view of the war situation. Field Marshal 
von Richthofen was a good example of this limited view. Von Richthofen 
had received the typical military technical and academic training and was 
a master in the field of close air support of the Army. Yet his personal 


diary contains hardly any indication that he attempted to understand the 
war situation as a whole. The dangers arising from this narrow-mind- 
edness were recognized toward the latter part of the war, and the courses 
at the Air War Academy were extended to broaden the outlook of the 
general staff officer candidates. These endeavors came too late to have 
any effect. 

There were shortcomings not only in the field of education, knowl- 
edge, and capabilities, but also with respect to the level of general ex- 
perience necessary to support the principle of universal assignability. A 
shortage of time and personnel as well as the growing demand for hard- 
to-obtain specialized knowledge and capabilities blocked transfers be- 
tween different occupational careers and prevented officers from becom- 
ing familiar with the other service branches and the problems of other 
theaters of the war. When the Luftwaffe curtailed the routine rotation 
between staff and troop assignments, it led first to an estrangement be- 
tween general staff officers and troop officers and finally to an open 
critique of Goering and his General Staff by highly decorated fighter 
commanders. Troop assignments of general staff officers proved to be 
too short, and transfers from the A2, or signal communications, to an- 
other activity were well nigh impossible. Transfers from the A3 (oper- 
ations) to the A4 (materiel) branch were greatly disliked for many 

Specialization was the natural consequence of these problems and, 
in view of the pressure of time, certainly the most effective way of getting 
results from general staff officers quickly. This reduction of the scope of 
experience is illustrated in an order whereby the general staff candidates, 
after having passed the Air War Academy, were to be sent back to their 
original units for a probationary period. (In practice, factors such as the 
urgent needs of other units sometimes determined these assignments.) 
Provided only limited opportunity for reassignment, staff officers re- 
mained largely unaware that conditions and Luftwaffe missions in the 
various theaters of the war were different. When the Luftwaffe eliminated 
the requirement that a portion of the General Staffs membership be 
combat pilots, it further reduced that staffs familiarization with the di- 
verse dimensions of aerial warfare. This caused Field Marshal Milch to 
complain that the Luftwaffe High Command was not able to think in 
appropriate dimensions. The more the ideal of universal assignability 
became a fiction, the more the general staff officer candidate of the 
Luftwaffe became a specialist in a very limited field determined largely 
by his branch of service. As a result, the comprehensive view which was 
in such high demand became progressively harder to attain. 

This development met the particular requirements of the individual 
service branches. Grand strategy being the exclusive domain of Hitler, 


they did not need the strategist, with whom they could do Httle; they 
needed the manager possessing special knowledge, even though he was 
no longer exchangeable. Under these circumstances, the training of gen- 
eral staff officers in the understanding of the overall interdependence 
among the economy, armament, enemy situation, technology, grand 
strategy, and warfare had to suffer. 

Finally, another type of specialization occurred increasingly during 
the war years due to the criteria used for selection and promotion of 
officers. Hitler and Luftwaffe General Staff Chief Jeschonnek demanded 
young higher commanders^ for whom the general staff officer's career 
was to be nothing more than a stepping stone to advancement. In their 
view, a Luftwaffe general staff officer should not so much distinguish 
himself by his education and knowledge, but rather prove his qualities 
by showing courage, bravery, and resolution. These attributes repre- 
sented pre-industrial values and were influenced by the Social Darwinism 
of the National-Socialist ideology. The growing importance of physical 
and psychological values corresponded to the general endeavour of the 
German armed forces, toward the end of the war, to mobilize the last 
mental and ideological energies in compensation for the lack of material 
and personnel strength. (It is astonishing that the general staff officer 
training at the Air War Academy could be kept free from ideological 
indoctrination almost until the end of the war. Even after the attempt 
on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944, the commander of the Academy refused 
to introduce what he called mass-psychological indoctrination into the 
curriculum for the training of general staff officers. ') 

Overemphasis on Tactics and Operations 

The Luftwaffe leadership's narrow view was encouraged by an ed- 
ucation system that overemphasized tactics and operations at the expense 
of other fields such as logistics, intelligence, technology and signal com- 
munications, training, and transportation. This second trait was some- 
times called "la-Denken," or A3-thinking, since the German la — or 
operations officer position — corresponds roughly to the American A3 
position. It was manifested in the distribution of available instructional 
time to the different subjects during the general staff training courses as 
well as in the assignments of general staff candidates during the proba- 
tionary year. The four basic tactical subjects of air attack, air defense, 
land and sea warfare were allocated 38 to 50 percent of the instructional 
time. Together with military history — which was primarily the history of 
tactics — and war games, these subjects received 44 to 66 percent of avail- 
able instruction hours. Only 12 to 21 percent of the hours were allocated 
to support functions, ranging from intelligence, quartermaster and signal 
communication services, to navigational, photo and mapping service. So, 
at the most, the support services were given merely two-fifths of the time 


of the basic tactical subjects. Intelligence, in fact, disappeared completely 
from the curriculum of the Air War Academy during the war. 

The preference given to the tactical and operational side becomes 
even more obvious on examining the assignments of the general staff 
candidates during their probationary year after leaving the Academy. 
Although from 1935 onward, the first Chief of the Luftwaffe General 
Staff, Wever, and his successors had repeatedly pointed out the necessity 
for an adequate knowledge of logistics by general staff officers and had 
warned against an underestimation of this field, assignments of general 
staff candidates to operations positions dominated until the end of the 
war. This was contrary to the practice in the Army. Usually more than 
one-half of the successful candidates at the Air War Academy, and above 
all the most qualified of them, were sent to assignments as operations 
officers. Assignments to the intelligence service were rare during the war 
and ranked far behind even those of the quartermaster service. General 
Staff candidates strove for an operations career as the most distinguished 
of all the general staff careers because it could lead to the position of 
Chief of General Staff. 

To a certain degree, the higher value given to the operations positions 
was justified. This was the place where all the results of the other com- 
mand activities were transformed into command decisions. As the former 
Chief of the German Army General Staff, Haider, put it, this was "the 
brain that maintained the connections within the command sphere and 
secured the presence of adequate forces in the right place."" The greater 
importance attributed to A3 work, therefore, cannot be wholly con- 
demned, but the excessive emphasis on it to the point that other command 
activities were neglected can be criticized. 

There was still another reason for the preferential treatment of the 
A3 service. The operations branches in troop staff organizations of the 
Luftwaffe contained more positions than the other branches for general 
staff officers. In fact, the operations branches had even more positions 
than those to be found in comparable Army staffs. The share of general 
staff officer positions in the operations sections ranged from 50 percent 
in air fleet staffs to 100 percent in air division staffs as compared with 
only 36 percent in army group staffs and 50 percent in army division 
staffs. While the large operations role in Luftwaffe troop staffs was jus- 
tified by the greater diversification of tasks to be solved in this part of 
an air force staff, the question must be asked whether the other fields 
of command activity did not also deserve a higher share of general staff 
officer positions based on the various tasks they had to accomplish. 

Lower Priority of Technology Compared to Tactics 

A third Luftwaffe characteristic was that of according technology a 
much lower priority than tactics. While Wever repeatedly underlined the 


equality of rank between tactics and technology, one of his successors, 
Jeschonnek, in 1939 rejected the opinion of his engineers that the tech- 
nical superiority of an air force would be decisive. Since all European 
nations found themselves on one and the same level technologically, he 
argued, it is hardly possible to reach technical superiority for any lengthy 
period of time. It would be better, therefore, to stress the development 
of tactics so as to give the Luftwaffe a unique advantage. Yet later, slight 
technical advantages decided the outcome of the war in the air. Tech- 
nology and tactics should have been developed concurrently. 

The first step toward the devaluation of technology in the Luftwaffe 
General Staff was the elimination of specialized training courses for future 
technical general staff officers in the spring of 1938. One of the reasons 
for this was the assumption that technology in the Luftwaffe could be 
mastered by normal versatile "tactical" general staff and troop officer^ 
who would have the assistance of Luftwaffe engineers. This assumption 
did not prove to be correct. A second step in this direction was the 
gradual reduction of technical subjects in the curriculum of the Air War 
Academy, until, during the war, they were no longer taught. This de- 
velopment took place despite the fact that the importance of technology 
continued to be stressed in Luftwaffe manuals and directives. 

Technology was never in high favour with most of the officers. The 
situation was symbolized at the top by Goering, who bragged about his 
technical ignorance. In this respect, he had something to brag about. In 
the Luftwaffe General Staff there was no engineer or technically and 
scientifically trained officer in a responsible position. As in the German 
Navy's earlier experience, technology and technicians were quite often 
treated with distain. However, it must be asked whether the original 
intention of the Luftwaffe to create officers of both high tactical and 
technical competence was sound, or, whether, from the beginning, such 
an objective was fallacious because of the impossibility of any individual 
mastering both areas. 

Overemphasis on the Offensive 

A fourth trait which narrowed command thinking arose from em- 
ployment doctrine. Offensive assumptions shaped the Luftwaffe doctrine 
of air war until nearly the end of the conflict. General Wever considered 
the bomber to be the decisive weapon in air warfare,' an idea which 
remained in the basic Luftwaffe manual on the conduct of air war, Nr. 
16, until 1945. Of course, conditioning this idea was a conviction nursed 
by the doctrine of land warfare and by Germany's unfavourable geos- 
trategic situation in the middle of the European continent. 

Luftwaffe officials believed that the protection of the country against 
air attack could only be safeguarded by the possession of a sufficiently 


large buffer zone. By itself, this idea of a buffer zone did not involve 
aggression and should not be confused with Hitler's policy of aggression, 
even though both had the same effect in the end. Nevertheless, this 
concept implicitly required the conquest of sufficient territory once a war 
had broken out. It was advocated by Hitler, who was influenced by the 
geopolitical ideas of Professor Haushofer as well as by responsible Luft- 
waffe commanders and general staff officers. The latter were not air- 
minded enough yet to imagine that the homeland could also be protected 
from hostile attack by building up a strong fighter defense force. As in 
other countries, a conviction that there was no effective means of defense 
against air raids also nourished the emphasis on offense. For example, 
at the Air War Academy, 16 to 21 percent of available instruction time 
was devoted to the subject of air attack while air defense was accorded 
only half that amount, a ratio which went unchanged until the last months 
of the war. 

Furthermore, this offensive emphasis was clear in the selection of 
candidates for the general staff officer training courses. Until the end of 
the war representatives of the attack weapons (bombers) dominated the 
selection list. In fact, officers from bomber, dive bomber, and attack 
units constituted between 40 and 70 percent of all candidates from the 
flying service arms, a percentage that was 100 percent above their pro- 
portional share. This over-representation was the logical result of the 
emphasis on the subject of air attack in the curriculum. In contrast, fighter 
pilots, whose function was largely defensive, were under-represented. 
Although they composed on the average about 40 percent of all Luftwaffe 
air crews, they generally received 17 percent of the staff officer training 
school assignments allocated to air-crew members. On many occasions 
their percentage was closer to zero. Although this detrimental situation 
was recognized late in the war, it could not be changed because of the 
heavy losses of the fighter arm. This unequal representation at the Air 
War Academy was a conscious policy of the General Staff and not a 
matter of pure chance. 

Narrow View of the Luftwaffe Mission 

A final trait of Luftwaffe command thinking was the narrow view 
of its "mission. " Although the idea of the necessity of strategic air warfare 
always existed in Luftwaffe doctrine — at least implicitly — the concept of 
a cooperative air force prevailed. This meant that offensive thought was 
not interpreted according to the theories of Douhet but was oriented 
toward land warfare. The experiences of the First World War were a 
primary cause for this emphasis: the successes of German flying units 
were predominantly in ground support operations, whereas attempts to 
carry on strategic air warfare with dirigibles and giant bombers had proved 
futile. Since there was neither an independent air force nor an air arm 


in Germany after 1919, the concept of an air force as an auxiliary weapon 
of the army persisted. Further, in the small army left to Germany after 
the Treaty of Versailles, officers with flight experience filled only the 
lower ranks, largely because of their youth, while army officers filled the 
more responsible and influential higher staff officer and general officer 
positions. Moreover, most of the higher ranking officers with air expe- 
rience in the later Luftwaffe had been commanders of fighter squadrons 
or reconnaissance units during the First World War; none of them had 
experience in commanding larger air forces or in conducting strategic air 

The knowledge that Germany's material resources were rather lim- 
ited and that far-reaching bomber attacks would bring results only after 
a long and indefinite time (as proven in the Spanish and Sino-Japanese 
Wars of the 1930s) strengthened the preference for the so-called "op- 
erative" and cooperative air war. This approach promised to bring about 
faster successes in conjunction with armored thrusts and other operations 
of the Army. Considerations of economy and inadequate aiming devices 
for horizontal bombing furthered the development of the dive bomber. 
The increase in that airplane's weight caused by its extra equipment and 
fittings shortened its range and encouraged preparation for aerial warfare 
over medium distances in support of army operations. 

Most interestingly and significantly, the concept of "strategic air 
warfare" did not exist in Luftwaffe doctrine. While a number of German 
journalists wrote as if the Luftwaffe were a Douhetan instrument, its 
leaders instead concentrated on the ground cooperation mission. Al- 
though they considered strategic bombing a legitimate air force task, they 
did nothing until 1943 to develop the concept. (During the 1930s, Luft- 
waffe planners emphasized interdiction, or indirect cooperation with 
ground forces. Because they initially thought close air support would be 
very difficult, they did not begin to refine the tactics for this mission until 
shortly before the war.) Only after having learned from Allied strategic 
air operations that it was better to destroy enemy tanks and planes at the 
places where they were produced, rather than at the front, did the Luft- 
waffe undertake a belated and unsuccessful strategic air campaign against 
industrial centers and electric power plants in the Soviet Union in 1944- 


Organization of the German Air Force High Command 

The restriction of Luftwaffe command thinking to purely military 
matters and the preponderance of the operational sphere of command 
over the supporting sectors directly affected the organization of the Ger- 
man Air Force High Command. None of the other branches of the Ger- 


man armed forces changed its high command organization as frequently 
as the Luftwaffe. The reasons for this were manifold. At first, there was 
the lack of operational experience within this young branch, which had 
come into existence only in 1935. Another factor was the difficulty of 
combining in the best possible way tactics with technology, which was 
far more important in the Air Force than in the Army. 

Other very important reasons for the frequent organizational changes 
include the personal, political, and functional rivalries at the top. Goer- 
ing, the domineering and selfish, vain and indolent Commander in Chief 
of the Air Force , followed the example of Hitler in his use of the principle 
of ''divide et impera" in order to secure his position. He remained at odds 
with Milch, his very capable and ambitious but "civilian" Secretary of 
State for Aviation (Staatssekretar der Luftfahrt). Furthermore, Milch 
struggled continuously with the Air Force General Staff, which declined 
to recognize this "political" superior. Milch's conflict with Ernst Udet, 
Director-General of Air Armament {Generalluftzeugmeister), was part 
of the larger struggle between the former and Goering because Goering 
played Udet off against Milch. Hitler also played his part in the game, 
helping to prevent the enforcement of necessary organizational and op- 
erational measures and a clear separation of the military from the min- 
isterial functions. In this way he was able to keep Goering, his old 
companion and designated successor, in his office as Reich Minister of 
Aviation and Commander in Chief of the Air Force in spite of the fact 
that his incompetence as a military leader soon became obvious. Hitler 
tolerated the on-going personal feuds in accordance with the ''divide et 
impera" principle as a constituent element of his regime. 

Above all, however, the top organization of the Luftwaffe had been 
streamlined to conform to the immediate requirements of a short war. 
Later, changes were required because this streamlined organization 
proved to be insufficient for the growing demands of the subsequent long 
war. The fact that the German Air Force had used up seven chiefs of its 
General Staff in ten years demonstrates these conditions in the German 
Air Force High Command. So, too, do the suicides of the Chief of the 
General Staff, Jeschonnek, and the Director-General of Air Armament 

The organization of the Luftwaffe High Command developed in four 
phases in peace and war. In the first one all branches of the Air Ministry 
were subordinated to Secretary of State Milch who correlated and con- 
trolled all the command functions necessary for the establishment of the 
Luftwaffe. This central control was necessary during the initial phase of 
the establishment of the Luftwaffe and was indeed very effective because 
Milch was an able and strong personality. Although he was not very easy 
to get along with, he took care of practically everything of importance 


in the Luftwaffe; and, unlike most Luftwaffe officers, he possessed a 
wide knowledge of economic, technological, and industrial matters. His 
abilities and the high esteem Hitler had for him aroused Goering's envy. 
Milch's less than satisfactory military knowledge, experience, and lead- 
ership (from the officers' point of view), and at times his rather high- 
handed manner of dealing with the Air Force General Staff, intensified 
Goering's opposition to him. 

As a result, in a second phase, lasting from the summer of 1937 to 
early 1939, Milch temporarily lost his overwhelming influence within the 
Air Force as well as his position as deputy to Goering. At the same time, 
the Air Force General Staff became more influential and narrower in its 
outlook. Thus, purely military concerns began to prevail in the top or- 
ganization even though the establishment of the Luftwaffe had not yet 
been completed. This was reflected in the reduction of the General Staff 
to something akin to Goering's personal military operations staff. While 
the reputation of the General Staff within the Luftwaffe command hi- 
erarchy was increased by its direct subordination under the Commander 
in Chief, the staff abandoned to the unreliable Goering its claim to com- 
prehensive command responsibility. Since he lacked the determination 
of Milch, Goering commanded only nominally, and the centralized con- 
trol of the Luftwaffe became increasingly weak. 

In order to arrive at a more effective short war operational command 
structure, the General Staff confined itself voluntarily to those command 
functions that were absolutely indispensable from a military point of view. 
The narrowness of the organization's perspective reached its zenith at 
the beginning of World War 11, when Jeschonnek, the Chief of the Luf- 
twaffe General Staff, jettisoned as "ballast" and unnecessary for the 
immediate purposes of air operations the training, signal communica- 
tions, and medical inspectorates as well as the civilian air defense staff. 
The other General Staff inspectorates had previously been abandoned 
to the Director of Training {Chef des Ausbildunswesens), who was re- 
sponsible to Secretary of State Milch. Jeschonnek also separated his 
headquarters from the office of the Luftwaffe Quartermaster General, 
a man whom he did not like. In addition to other problems, this meant 
a disruption between the Luftwaffe operations and logistics sections. The 
Chief of the General Staff now took over the office of the Chief of the 
Luftwaffe Operations Staff and concentrated wholly on the tactical and 
operational side of the air war. For the anticipated short war, and in the 
brief campaigns of the first year of the war, this organization proved quite 
effective. For the long war that soon took shape, however, it proved a 

Yet no major changes took place in the senior organization of the 
Air Force during the third phase, which lasted from 1939 to 1943-1944. 


Nor was there any change in the position of the General Staff asGoering's 
personal staff of operational assistants. On the other hand, by 1939 Milch 
had regained the function of deputy to Goering and had become In- 
spector-General of the Air Force. By the end of 1941 he had also become 
Director-General of Air Armament, thereby further consolidating his 
position. Only in operational matters did the Chief of the General Staff 
report directly to the Commander in Chief of the Air Force. In all other 
respects, he first had to inform the Secretary of State before seeing the 
Commander in Chief. These circumstances again stirred up the animosity 
between Milch and the Chief of the General Staff. In addition. Hitler's 
fundamental order of 11 January 1940, which forbade anybody from 
receiving more information than he needed for the execution of his or- 
ders, severed the vital collaboration between the Chief of the General 
Staff and the Secretary of State for Aviation/Director-General of Air 
Armament. The order affected other sectors of Luftwaffe command even 
more significantly. 

Meanwhile, the General Staff became increasingly aware that a long 
war called for a command organization that suited the various demands 
of such a war, including economic, technological, and industrial require- 
ments. Accordingly, the scope of responsibility of the Chief of the Gen- 
eral Staff widened to become the germ of a comprehensive command 
organization of the Luftwaffe. Yet this organization did not appear be- 
cause of Goering's ineffectiveness and lack of responsibility and because 
of the division of the top organization between the two rivals, the Chief 
of the General Staff and the Secretary of State. 

Under Korten, the Chief of the Air Force General Staff, and Koller, 
his chief of operations, the senior organization of the Luffwaffe finally 
adapted to the requirements of a long war of attrition in the fourth phase 
during 1944 and early 1945. Continual reorganizations characterized this 
period. Not before the last days of the war was an optimum scheme 
found, and then mostly on paper. 

On 5 February 1944, the Chief of the General Staff, who, unlike the 
Secretary of State, had been signing "by order of" the Commander in 
Chief until then and had not been "acting for" him, received the authority 
of a deputy of the Commander in Chief for all military and operational 
matters. He was thus placed on an equal footing with Goering's other 
two deputies: Lorzer, his friend and newly appointed personnel chief or 
as he was soon to be designated, Chief of Personnel and National Socialist 
Conduct of the Air Force (Chef der Personellen Rustung und National- 
sozialistischen Fuhrung der Luftwaffe), and Milch, the Secretary of State 
for Aviation and Inspector-General of the Air Force. The latter's official 
duties had not yet been confined to ministerial matters alone and still 
comprised aviation training and the entire field of technology and air 


armament. The old comprehensive designation of the Luftwaffe High 
Command — "The Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander-in-Chief 
of the Luftwaffe" — had derived from the ideological National Socialist 
"Leader Principle" (Fuhrerprinzip) and former Prussian administrative 
practice. This designation was now subdivided into "High Command of 
the Air Force" {Oberkommando der Luftwaffe), comprising the Chief 
of the General Staff and the Chief of Personnel, and "The Reich Minister 
of Aviation," under which title the Secretary of State had to sign. Goering 
still opposed the concentration of all command functions of military rel- 
evance in the hands of either a "Chief of Air Warfare" or the Chief of 
the Luftwaffe General Staff. Hitler had recommended such an organi- 
zational reshuffling, but did not press Goering on the issue. As a result, 
the latter continued the practice of having the inspectors of the various 
arms report directly to him. These individuals, who played an important 
part in the development of tactics and aviation technology, became Goer- 
ing's messengers and representatives with the troops. In effect, the Chief 
of the General Staff had no real authority over them. Goering, like the 
party itself during the last years of the war, also claimed the field of moral 
leadership and personnel management for himself as a high-ranking mem- 
ber of the National Socialist Party. He withheld these responsibilities 
from the Chief of the General Staff by organizing them into a separate 
realm for Lorzer, his friend and deputy. 

A clear separation of the military from the ministerial functions 
occurred only when Milch was deprived of the offices of Secretary of 
State and Director-General for Air Armament in June/July 1944, when 
his function as Inspector-General of the Air Force was reduced to insig- 
nificance, and after Lorzer's position had been abolished on 8 December 
1944. Only then was it possible to concentrate all of the mihtary functions 
in the hands of the Chief of the General Staff. The Chief of Staff soon 
took over supervision of the development and procurement of aircraft, 
weapons, and materials, while the Speer ministry supervised production. 

In March 1945 the Chief of the General Staff finally became the 
principal deputy to Goering and won comprehensive authority over the 
entire Luftwaffe, including the right to issue directives to Goering's other 
two deputies, the Commander of the Replacement Air Force {Befehls- 
haber der Ersatz- Luftwaffe), and the new Chief of Aviation. The Com- 
mander of the Replacement Air Force and the Chief of the General Staff 
constituted the "High Command of the Air Force" and were also re- 
sponsible for those aspects of training and personnel replacement not 
handled by the Air Force Personnel Office under the Commander in 
Chief himself. The new Chief of Aviation {Chef der Luftfahrt) was re- 
sponsible for the ministerial part of Goering's duties. Now the Chief of 
the General Staff under Goering was the responsible officer for the di- 
rection of the entire air war and of the reduced air armament sector. 


This seemingly optimum solution was achieved, however, within an 
air force whose striking power and reputation had already been broken. 
In addition, the new senior organization never had a chance to function 
properly, because Goering's continued penchant for creating ad hoc of- 
fices directly under him produced unending confusion. Eroded by the 
influence of these ad hoc offices and beset with battlefield disasters, the 
new organizational scheme was largely stillborn. By this time, Luftwaffe 
high command initiative had degenerated into mere reactions to enemy 
initiatives. The replacement of functional considerations by the "Leader 
Principle" and the overwhelming force of events played their parts in 
paralyzing the structure of the Luftwaffe High Command. Proper op- 
erational and organizational measures had been taken too late, after 
having originally been directed towards the "false" (short) war. 

Effect of Overemphasis on Operational Tliinlting 

Apart from this, note again how the upper level of the Luftwaffe 
reflected the organization traits of its command practice and operational 
thinking described above. This was especially apparent in the so-called 
"command orientation" or "A3 thinking," i.e., the overemphasis on 
operations and tactics at the expense of logistics, technology, training, 
and other infrastructural and supporting spheres of command. Training' 
torn apart and removed from General Staff responsibilities until near the 
end of the war, received little high-level attention. Furthermore, the air 
transport and the quartermaster services had been degraded organiza- 
tionally, and technology was not connected with the operative command 
from 1937 to 1944. 

While the Luftwaffe took a wider view of military operations than 
the other armed services, the fundamental trait of concentration on its 
own military business was evident in the lack of integration of the Luft- 
waffe into the organization of the Supreme Command of the Armed 
Forces. Indeed, the Luftwaffe was much less integrated into the Supreme 
Command than the Army and Navy. This deficiency resulted, of course, 
from Goering's opposition to an effective supreme command of the armed 
forces by someone other than himself. Goering accepted directives only 
from Hitler and refused to subordinate the Luftwaffe to the Chief of Staff 
of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces or to the Chief of the 
Armed Forces Operations Staff. There was no liaison officer of the Su- 
preme Command of the Armed Forces with the Air Force High Com- 
mand. The Luftwaffe representatives at the headquarters of the Supreme 
Command of the Armed Forces fell considerably behind those of the 
Army and Navy in terms of rank and number because Goering was not 
interested in strengthening the authority of this institution by dispatching 
generals to it or in having his direct contact to Hitler disturbed by high- 
ranking air officers there. He would do nothing that might reduce the 


Luftwaffe's and his own independence in his capacity of Commander in 
Chief Luftwaffe. Furthermore, in the command structure of the Air 
Ministry, there were no top level advisory and coordinating councils or 
agencies to tie together air operations with the other armed services, 
pertinent ministries, and the scientific and industrial establishment. Such 
high-level planning, advisory, and controlling bodies in England and the 
United States as the Air Staff, the Defense Committee, the Ministerial 
Committee on Military Co-ordination, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did 
not have places in the German Air Force command organization. Instead, 
the primary function of the Luftwaffe command structure was to execute 

The preponderance of the operating interests also diminished the 
chances of military success through its negative effects on the quarter- 
master service, on air transport, and on training, technology, and intel- 
ligence. Because it is impossible to describe these negative effects in 
detail here, several examples must suffice.' 

Since specialization in the quartermaster business, for instance, could 
harm an officer's career, that service was not popular, and the best officers 
were not assigned to it. In 1942 the last Chief of the Luftwaffe Operations 
Staff felt degraded when, as operations officer of the Fourth Air Fleet 
in Russia, he was appointed quartermaster of that fleet, a position which 
ranked higher than that of the operations officer. According to Marshal 
Kesselring, the quartermaster service also had a low reputation in the 
General Staff. The Luftwaffe commander with Guderian's tank army 
confided in his diary in 1941 how much he hated all the rear services and 
how foreign they were to him. Not surprisingly, awards to quartermaster 
personnel were much less numerous than to the fighting troops. Also, 
personnel replacements for the supply organization had lowest priority. ' 
General Henry H. Arnold, reflecting on his adversary's shortcomings, 
concluded that the Luftwaffe made a grave mistake by never providing 
for sufficient replacement of aircraft and crews.' The chapter on supply 
and replacement in Fundamental Field Manual Nr. 16 on the Conduct 
of Air War was never written, although this field manual went through 
several editions. 

The mentality described here had a profound impact on the air war, 
as well as on the war in general, which was conducted only in accordance 
with operational and strategic aims and not on the basis of logistical 
considerations. Good examples of this were: the failure to occupy Malta, 
an omission which greatly disturbed the Axis supply convoys to Africa; 
the Luftwaffe's promise to supply the Sixth Army in Stalingrad by air, 
although past experiences had already proven the impossibility of an 
undertaking of such dimensions; and the way in which Rommel stormed 
forward in Africa without sufficient numbers of tanks and troops to oc- 


cupy the British stronghold in the Nile Delta. Hitler fought and lost the 
Second World War with an inadequate understanding of logistical con- 

The treatment of air transportation is another significant example 
of the neglect of logistics. No mention is made of air transport as a means 
of supply in the Handbook for the Luftwaffe General Staff Service of 
1939. When air transportation was needed, the necessary aircraft and 
crews were formed ad hoc from the advanced flight training schools using 
Ju-52 planes. If air transportation had ranked sufficiently high organi- 
zationally, the promise of air supply for Stalingrad would not have been 
given so readily to Hitler by Goering and his Chief of the General Staff. 
Neither man understood the subject very well. An air transport command 
with a competent staff and sufficient authority appeared only after Sta- 
lingrad and Tunis, where the Luftwaffe had lost most of its transport 
planes. What is said here about air transport is also true of the signal 
communications service. Although the signal troops made up 20 percent 
of the Luftwaffe strength, their chief was only a three-star general, while 
the rest of the Luftwaffe included ten four-star and five five-star generals. 

As Field Marshal Kesselring and the Quartermaster General of the 
Luftwaffe confirmed after the war, training was the stepchild of the serv- 
ice which adhered to the principle that the surprise strike at the beginning 
of an operation had to be conducted with full strength to include the 
maximum number of troops drawn from schools and reserves. ' As already 
mentioned, training was taken from the General Staff and given to the 
Secretary of State in 1939. The Chief of the General Staff was more 
interested in maintaining large numbers in operational frontline units and 
less concerned with securing a sufficiently broad base of thoroughly 
trained crews. The training establishment was already too small at the 
beginning of the war. The last Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff wrote 
after the war: "The number of flying units was increased at the price of 
a low training level and a lack of reserves."" General Jeschonnek once 
said, "First we have to beat Russia, then we can continue training."" 
The advanced training schools were frequently deprived of their flight 
instructors, who, along with their planes, were assigned to air transport 
duties. The training time was steadily shortened to the extent that a 
German pilot at the end of the war received less than one-third the flight 
training time of an American pilot. Since the training schools had too 
few modern combat aircraft, young pilots had very little time to become 
accustomed to them in their operational units. When fuel had to be saved, 
that saving began in the training sector. When aluminum was in short 
supply, the production of training aircraft was curtailed. In 1944, the 
recently reestablished training branch of the General Staff stated that the 
quantity of trainees had had a higher priority than the quality of their 
training. " As a result, more than 50 percent of flight accidents in 1944 


were due to inadequate training. " Since non-combat aircraft losses very 
often were higher than those caused by enemy action, this figure takes 
on added significance. Actually there was a circulus vitiosus: the low 
quality training caused higher losses which increased the shortage of 
aircraft and diminished the allocation of combat aircraft to the schools. 

Technological Ignorance 

The rather low esteem among the military for technology led to the 
appointment of incompetent people to important positions. The best 
known case is that of the amiable and valiant Udet, a Bohemian, an artist 
and a clown in the air, but not the capable manager needed in the position 
of Director-General of Air Armament. '* He rose to that post because 
Goering wanted to please Hitler by appointing this well-known man who 
was so beloved by the people. Udet appointed as his chief engineer a 
young man who had no experience in the mass production of aircraft and 
who eventually was fired. Later in the war, an unqualified officer headed 
the technical sector, and his deputy freely confessed that he did not 
understand anything about technology. Goering usually appointed highly 
decorated young officers as his technical consultants because he felt that 
bravery in combat counted more than technical knowledge and experi- 
ence. Because he preferred officers instead of engineers in positions of 
technical importance, military persons who would not accept the word 
"impossible," rather than expert engineers, decided the technical ques- 
tions. '* The word of combat-experienced officers counted for more than 
that of the engineers, resulting in constant alterations of aircraft types 
and frequent delays in production. 

The ignorance of responsible Luftwaffe leaders about the problems 
associated with aircraft development explained their conviction that tech- 
nology could be directed in accordance with the military principle of 
order and obedience. Goering was always greatly astonished and furious 
when he could not quickly get the technical advances he wanted. " Von 
Richthofen reacted in like manner during his tenure as chief of the de- 
velopment branch in the technical office of the Luftwaffe. " Series pro- 
duction of an aircraft began before the completion of its testing phase, 
requiring alterations at the front and preventing many planes from be- 
coming combat-ready. The best-known cases of this wasteful policy were 
those of the He-177 bomber and the Me-210 destroyer projects. The He- 
162 jet fighter is another example. That fighter was a brilliant engineering 
achievement; but because it was in mass production only three months 
after its conception, it failed the test of combat. 

Since tactics and technology were organizationally separate, 
the General Staff paid very little attention to problems involving both 
areas and sent hardly any technical requirements to the technical office. 


Goering saw to it that his General Staff concerned itself with operational 
matters while the technical office devoted its energies exclusively to mat- 
ters in its own sphere. The lack of tactical requirements for the tech- 
nologists was also due in part to Hitler's reluctance to inform the general 
staffs about his plans, so that the latter simply were not always in a 
position to issue such requirements. Hitler's policy shows that he too 
believed that mere orders were enough to direct industry and to shift it 
quickly to new programs. 

Although increasing amounts of money were spent on research, the 
percentage expended in relation to the sums put into aircraft production 
steadily decreased. " Goering and Milch did not take much notice of this; 
their interest was in increasing production. They did not understand much 
about research and therefore could not secure the proper direction and 
coordination of this vital activity. The Department of Aviation Research 
was steadily downgraded within the Air Ministry until it was dissolved 
in 1942 to be replaced by an extremely inefficient Aviation Research 
Council. " 

Some of the biggest blunders in the technical field were Goering's 
and Hitler's directives of 1940 and 1941 which cancelled all development 
projects that did not promise to yield results within one year. As a result, 
development of the first jet plane, the He-162, and the first operational 
jet fighter, the Me-262, was delayed and the bulk of Luftwaffe combat 
aircraft at the end of the war were outdated. Although aircraft factories 
clandestinely carried on developmental work, their technical personnel 
were shifted to the production side. This halt to development stemmed 
from ignorance of the importance of technological continuity, the need 
to produce as many proven weapons as possible, and Milch's hesitation 
to embark on entirely new projects. In this way, the Luftwaffe lost its 
initial qualitative advantage over enemy air forces— its only real advan- 

In this connection, a word must be said about the preference line 
officers enjoyed over engineers in the Luftwaffe. As in the Navy, the 
technologist or engineer was not considered to be on an equal footing 
with the line officer. Because the conception of the military value of the 
scientist and engineer was inadequate, most of them were drafted into 
the Army as ordinary infantrymen. This mistake went uncorrected until 
far too late. Many Luftwaffe engineers developed a mixture of inferiority 
and superiority feelings towards the line officers because the latter gen- 
erally and socially counted more but at the same time were ignorant 
about technology. In contrast to the officers, the engineers had only 
limited opportunities for advancement despite their wide responsibilities. 
For example, the 18 highest-ranking engineers held ranks equivalent to 
a one-star general in 1945 when the Luftwaffe had 176 one-star, 101 two- 


star, 57 three-star, 7 four-star, 4 five-star generals, and one Reichs Mar- 
shal. Many young engineers left their corps to join the line officer corps 
at reduced rank in order to improve their careers. 

Low Priority Accorded Intelligence 

Some remarks must be made on the relationship between operations 
and inteUigence.^* The latter never enjoyed the same reputation in the 
Luftwaffe as the former, although it can be said that intelligence work 
was rated higher before than during the war. The easy initial successes 
in the various blitz campaigns fostered the neglect of intelligence work, 
as did the disappointments later in the war, when intelligence forecasts 
proved to be false and spies were discovered in the Intelligence Branch 
of the Luftwaffe Operations Staff. The best officers of the General Staff 
were not assigned to intelligence work or to the related attache posts. A 
number of other developments illustrate the disregard of the importance 
of intelligence. For example, radio intelligence remained a secret realm 
of the Chief of Signal Communications; technical intelligence fell under 
the control of the Director-General of Air Armament; and both had no 
organizational connection with the central Intelligence Branch of the 
Luftwaffe General Staff. Some seven offices in the Luftwaffe collected 
and/or evaluated intelligence. A comprehensive field manual for intelli- 
gence work did not even exist. 

The low priority attached to intelligence resulted in fundamental 
blunders in assessing the intentions and capabilities of Germany's three 
main opponents — England, the United States, and Russia. The potentials 
of all three were substantially underestimated before and during the 
decisive initial years of the Second World War. Hitler arrived at false 
decisions concerning Great Britain, Russia and the United States due in 
part to the false assessments of his Luftwaffe's intelligence service. The 
predominantly military training of the intelligence officers usually led to 
intelligence assessments which proved correct in the narrow military 
sense — i.e., in regard to the location of units, the types of weapons, 
strength of troops, etc. — but which were mostly wrong concerning the 
economic, political, and moral war potential of the opponents. InteUi- 
gence officers had not received the necessary broad and pertinent edu- 
cation. Moreover, they tried to conduct intelligence work by themselves 
as a purely military matter without coordinating their efforts with econ- 
omists, technicians, and scientists. The results of Luftwaffe inteUigence 
corresponded with the low priority assigned to this field of activity. 

Dominance of Offense Over Defense 

The belief that effective air defense was impossible shaped the doc- 
trine of the offensive as it evolved in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the 
world's air forces shared the conviction that, since the bombers would 


always get through, the best defense would be offensive operations 
against the centers of the enemy's war potential. This emphasis on the 
offensive, which had nothing to do with aggression as far as the military 
were concerned, appears in all pertinent manuals on air war. The decisive 
role of an independent fighter force as an effective means of defense and 
of gaining command of the air was not yet in the minds of Luftwaffe 
strategists. Thinking about military aviation conformed to the principles 
of land warfare. The unfavorable geostrategic situation of Germany en- 
couraged military thinkers to view the conquest of sufficient buffer zones 
as the best defense against air attacks. The two-dimensional thinking of 
land warfare prevailed over the three-dimensional thinking best suited 
to an air force. The easy victories in the early years of the war confirmed 
the belief in the superiority of the air offensive over the defensive and 
were a major reason for the delay in creating an effective, centralized 
air defense system. It was not until 1943-1944 that the various local 
defense systems were unified into one organization covering all of Ger- 
man air space. This centralized air defense was but a belated reaction to 
the Allied strategic air offensive. 

Nevertheless, the idea of the greater value of the offensive prevailed 
in the heads of many a Luftwaffe leader including Koller, the Chief of 
the Operations Staff. The land war-minded Hitler, who at that time 
exerted an overwhelming influence on the Luftwaffe, in contrast to his 
impact in the early stages of the war, was a staunch disciple of offensive 
air operations. He and Goering perverted the doctrine of the air offensive 
by repeatedly employing the fighter force in support of the land fronts 
(e.g., against the Allied invasion troops, the last time on 1 January 1945 
in what was called operation "Bodenplatte"), although the precondition 
for attack, the control of the air over one's own territory, no longer 
existed. This false employment of fighters weakened the air defense of 
Germany, which, in the opinion of Galland, the General of Fighters, had 
to be strengthened to allow undisturbed industrial production. This of- 
fensive mentality produced fruitless bomber attacks on England when 
the air defense of the home country was at stake and prevented a timely 
shift in priority from bomber to fighter production. Likewise, Hitler's 
land war-mindedness prevented a shift in priority from the production 
of more and more ineffective antiaircraft guns and ammunition to fight- 
ers. For example, the aluminum for the fuses of the heavy AAA shells 
produced during the war would have sufficed for the production of about 
40,000 additional fighters. ^' This does not mean that no AAA guns should 
have been constructed. They were, of course, necessary for local defense 
and anti-tank warfare. Yet, there were not enough of them to put up a 
curtain of fire, whereas perhaps 10,000 more air defense fighters would 
have greatly enhanced the deterrent capability of home defense. Al- 
though to a certain degree, land and sea operations required the pro- 


duction of offensive aircraft, these operations withdrew resources from 
air defense. 

The Role of the Luftwaffe: Strategic Bombing or Tactical 

The above observations lead to the question of whether the Luftwaffe 
was meant to be primarily an independent strategic air force or a force 
cooperating with the Army and Navy. Although it is generally known 
that it finally turned out to be a cooperation force, opinions differ as to 
whether this was the Luftwaffe's primary purpose as originally conceived. 

Communist historians tend to regard the Luftwaffe primarily as a 
strategic and terror instrument, as they do the "capitalist" air forces. 
Their intent is to demonstrate how "humane" the Soviet Air Force prac- 
tice of cooperation with the Army was in contrast to the "barbarian" 
method of the "imperialist" air forces. Those historians try to turn the 
deficiencies and ineffectiveness of the Soviet strategic bomber force into 
a virtue by saying that it was dedicated to the more "humane" mission 
of army cooperation. " This is, of course, just one facet of the ideological 
struggle against the "class enemy," also known as the policy of "peaceful 

According to the Fundamental Field Manual Nr. 16, the Luftwaffe 
had three tasks: first, to annihilate the enemy air force by attacks on its 
ground organization and industrial base rather than by fighting it in the 
air; second, to support the operations of the Army and Navy; and, third, 
to bomb the centers of the war potential in the rear of enemy territory. 
Obviously, the Luftwaffe doctrine of employment had a strategic and a 
cooperative component. Although this enumeration did not imply a prior- 
ity for the supporting role of the Luftwaffe over its strategic role, this 
was in fact the case since the strategic role was to be resorted to only 
when there was a standstill in the land war. In corroboration of this, it 
is worthwhile to remember what has been said previously about the 
concepts of "operative" and "strategic" air warfare. Although "operative 
air war" was a very unclear concept, it shows the tight linkage of air war 
thinking with land operations. The Luftwaffe Order of Battle was not 
structured in accordance with independent offensive or defensive func- 
tions, but was designed to cooperate with the Army in the ratio of one 
air fleet to each army group. The suffering caused by the Allied strategic 
air campaign finally made the Luftwaffe comprehend strategic air war 
and compelled certain of its operational thinkers belatedly to demand — 
or to deplore the non-existence of — a strategic air force. 

In contrast to this de facto, predominantly cooperative employment 
of the Luftwaffe, which corresponded with its doctrine, one could argue 
that as early as 1933 Hitler conceived the air force as a "Risiko- Luftwaffe 


(risk air force) whose function, from the beginning, was to deter potential 
attackers by the menace of an indiscriminate strategic air offensive against 
their industries and population, thus protecting the growth of German 
war potential. It is quite true that in subsequent years the Luftwaffe did 
have the strategic task of helping Hitler extort political advantages from 
other countries. The plans to expand the Luftwaffe strength five-fold in 
1938-1939 and to give it a considerable strategic component is taken as 
proof of its strategic role in Hitler's attempt to dominate the world. 
Fmally, the Battle of Britain is considered proof of the intrinsic purpose 
of the Luftwaffe. None of these arguments, however, proves that the 
Luftwaffe was actually designed as a strategic weapon. The politicians 
(mcludmg Goering) assumed the risk and blackmailing roles so as to use 
the Luftwaffe for bluffing; Milch, in 1936, thought of it more as a co- 
operative weapon. 

In reality, responsible Luftwaffe commanders considered their serv- 
ice, even in 1939, unfit for a strategic air war overseas and did not intend 
to build up an air force composed of a large number of strategic bombers. 
In their view, the proper doctrine of employment, which was greatly 
conditioned by Germany's geostrategic position, called for an independ- 
ent air force capable of assisting the advancing ground forces, which thus 
would remove the imminent air threat. The first Chief of the Luftwaffe 
General Staff, Wever, ordered priority given to the fast medium bomber 
in May 1936, before his fatal accident." The development of the heavy 
bomber had a very low priority although it was never cancelled The 
decision of Goering in April 1937 to scrap the existing prototypes of 
strategic bombers was just the belated execution of Wever's earlier de- 
cision and was in keeping with the general opinion within the Luftwaffe 
that the fast medium bomber was needed more urgently than the big 
bomber for its potential tasks. ^^ Of course, Wever had been aware of 
the possibilities of the long-range strategic bomber. Under the influence 
of the successful Allied strategic air campaign against Germany, Luft- 
waffe officers working for the US Historical Division glorified him after 
the war as the "father of the strategic thought in the Luftwaffe." But 
Wever was also a realist who knew what the Luftwaffe needed first in 
the near future. So, although Luftwaffe air doctrine was double-tracked, 
comprising a strategic and cooperative component, the accent lay on the 
latter component both in theory and, even more so, in practice. The 
impact of the experience of the Spanish War, combined with the doctrine 
of combined operations, convinced the Luftwaffe to develop a close air 
support corps and not a strategic bomber command. The latter was vainly 
envisaged only late in the war. 

In summing up, one arrives at the conclusion that it was the politi- 
cians, exploiting foreign propaganda, as in the case of Guernica, who 
imposed a strategic disguise upon the Luftwaffe in order to deter potential 


enemies. On the other hand, responsible Luftwaffe commanders shaped 
their weapon with a view to its prevaihng cooperative tasks, strategic 
employment being considered impossible and unnecessary in a future war 
against adjacent opponents whose territories were to be conquered and 
not destroyed. According to doctrine, the Luftwaffe was to fight the 
enemy's armed forces rather than its civihan population. It was not until 
the brilliant victories in Poland, Norway, and France that Luftwaffe lead- 
ers, in the wake of the enthusiasm and euphoria arising from these vic- 
tories against weaker opponents, forgot the negative results of previous 
war games and came to believe in their ability to fulfill the strategic task 
of bringing England to her knees independently. They bluffed themselves 
by their own propaganda. Of course, this explains, at least in part, their 
high hopes. The geostrategic situation had meanwhile changed much to 
Germany's advantage, and no one as yet had experienced the difficulties 
associated with strategic bombing operations. Had the Luftwaffe been 
designed as a strategic force, and had the situation of an immovable 
frontline with England not come so unexpectedly early, that service cer- 
tainly would have developed and employed the four-engine bomber. But 
all this is hypothetical and not historical. It suffices to repeat that the 
experiences of the Spanish War indicated to the Luftwaffe leadership the 
importance of ground cooperation operations and that Army leaders in 
the late 1930s continued to pressure the Luftwaffe to maintain a strong 
ground support force. 

German emphasis on the dive bomber also encouraged the Air Force 
to become a tactical rather than strategic force. The Luftwaffe developed 
the dive bomber because it lacked a suitable bomb-sight for horizontal 
attacks and because it needed an effective but cheap bombing aircraft. 
The dive bomber seemed to answer these needs, which led to the decision 
to make all bombardment aircraft dive bombers. As previously noted, 
the move to dive bombers increased aircraft weight and reduced range, 
thereby encouraging the Air Force to view its bombers principally as a 
ground cooperation force. 

After the disappointments of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe 
was employed mainly in the ground support role envisaged by its doctrine. 
The wide use of its medium bombers in close air support (especially in 
Russia) undermined the force. Only too late did the Luftwaffe High 
Command realize that the bomber force could achieve better results if 
used against strategic targets. But it was Hitler, the Supreme Commander 
of the Armed Forces as well as the Commander in Chief of the Army, 
who now prevented this insight from being put into practice by ordering 
increasing but very costly close air support. So, although the Luftwaffe 
doctrine for the conduct of air war provided for both a strategic and a 
cooperative function, the accent in doctrine and practice was on coop- 


eration. It was this mode of employment from which the Luftwaffe could 
never free itself and which became its Verdun. 


Having delineated the fundamental traits of Luftwaffe command 
thinking and some of their consequences in practice, a word should be 
said in explanation of the origins of this way of thinking. 

Most of the fatal consequences for the Luftwaffe can be understood 
m terms of its policy of extensive rather than intensive armament. Hitler 
pressed the armed services to reach his rearmament goals within the 
shortest possible time. It was the number of soldiers and aircraft in the 
combat units that counted, and not the thorough and time-consuming 
construction of a durable infrastructure or the formation of reserves. 
Preparations were designed for a short war against not more than one 
weak opponent at a time. This was the kind of war Hitler expected. The 
Luftwaffe's attitude toward the support and infrastructural spheres of 
command as well as toward technical research, training, and reserves was 
entirely consistent with Hitler's views on military preparation. The fiasco 
came when the war turned into a world war of attrition which Hitler had 
not expected. He had hoped to achieve his goals in Europe before the 
big powers in the East and West had time to rearm. 

Traditional German Military Attitudes 

Hitler's short war mentality was only partly to blame for the demise 
of Germany; traditional German military command thinking was an 
equally important cause of eventual disaster. In fact, the limitation of 
command thinking to purely military matters and the overemphasis on 
the operational and tactical aspects of military operations can be traced 
to the elder Moltke. He, unlike Clausewitz, separated politics from war 
and wanted no politician to interfere with the generals' responsibility for 
the conduct of war. « General Schlieffen, the Chief of the Imperial Ger- 
man General Staff, continued the trend toward further narrowing the 
theory of war to purely military aspects and developed an almost auton- 
omous, mechanistic war plan, which ignored diplomacy in 1914. ^ The 
famous Schlieffen Plan was not a comprehensive war plan and did not 
address the political and economic aspects of war. According to General 
Ludendorff, who epitomized these attitudes, policy had to serve war.^^ 
This meant the militarization of public and political thought, a common 
circumstance in Germany in the 1930s. Twice in the history of the German 
General Staff, in the 1860s and in the 1920s and early 1930s, attempts 
had been made to widen the horizon of the officers selected for general 
staff work beyond their ordinarily good broad education and to include 
a solid education in the natural sciences, technology, politics, and eco- 
nomics." But these attempts had failed, the last time because of Hitler's 


accelerated rearmament program. Within these Hmitations were trained 
the general staff officers of high military competence who were later to 
become the responsible Luftwaffe commanders and chiefs of staffs. It 
needs to be added that neither Goering nor Milch had ever seen a general 
staff from inside because their own military experience had not exceeded 
the rank of captain. 

Logistics was never prestigious in the German Army. As early as 
1848-1849, the man who would become Emperor William I considered 
it the weakest part in the organization of the Prussian Army.^' Even the 
famous Moktke'" and SchHeffen'' treated it with disdain since it was not 
directly operational, an attitude that would persist among later officers, 
especially Rommel.'^ On the other hand, because of Germany's unfa- 
vorable geostrategic situation, the priority of the offensive has always 
been a fundamental element in German military thinking from the era 
of Clausewitz^' via Moltke** and Schlieffen'* to Ludendorff* and 
Seeckt. " It was also a fundamental concept in the doctrine of Douhet, 
whose great influence on all air powers in the 1920s and 1930s already 
has been noted. ^ 

The problem of reserves, like that of logistics, has traditionally been 
neglected in German military thinking. Douhet, ^' Clausewitz, *• Moltke,*' 
and Schlieffen*^ did not think much of strategic reserves because they 
thought that the decisive battles took place at the beginning of a war. 
This was also the conviction of General Jeschonnek, *^ the Luftwaffe Chief 
of the General Staff, who had received his general staff training in the 
Army. This line of thought implied a further limitation on command 
thinking to military operational aspects and led it into a blind alley be- 
cause it neglected other possibilities of action and ended in helplessness 
and improvisation when the initial strike with all available forces failed. 

The doctrine of air-ground cooperation did not have such a long 
pedigree as the other concepts mentioned above, being the consequence 
of the World War I and Spanish experiences. Seeckt conceived of the 
Luftwaffe as an auxiliary instrument for land offensives to enhance the 
power of the attacking armies.'" Interdiction was to him more remuner- 
ative than strategic air bombing. It is significant that the Chief of the 
General Staff of the Army** and many a Luftwaffe general originally had 
come with similar experiences from the Army. 

The Socio-Educational Background of Luftwaffe Senior Officers 

The German military had a long history of unfamiliarity with things 
technological. The shabby treatment of technology and technicians in the 
German armed forces had deep causes which originated, as in other 
countries, from the social and political changes which took place during 
the age of industrialization. These brought about what can be called a 


socio-cultural overlap. In addition to being rich, the upper bourgeois 
class distinguished itself from other and lower classes by a broad education 
in the humanities. The ruling aristocracy was still the captive of a pre- 
industrial way of life in which the irrational virtues of man counted more 
than the rational approach of the technologist. It was a special phenom- 
enon of German social development in the decades before the First World 
War that the educated society endeavored to imitate the ways of thinking 
and behavior of the doomed ruling aristocratic class. This so-called feu- 
dalization of society and public life tied together politically the educated 
and wealthy bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. Both social elements stood 
for the continuation of the monarchical system and for aristocratic and 
bourgeois supremacy in society. Both were opposed to the egalitarian 
ideas advocated by the lower classes and feared being overthrown by the 

The upper class received its education predominantly at the Hu- 
manistische Gymnasium, the traditional type of high school stressing the 
humanities, whereas lower class children mostly attended a type of high 
school known as Realgymnasium or Oberrealschule, which placed em- 
phasis on modern languages and the sciences. Knowledge of these fields 
was essential for people who did not possess wealth and had to earn their 
living. The long controversy about these two types of education, which 
was so significant for nineteenth-century Germany, was intrinsically so- 
cio-political. Kindling these quarrels was not only the disdain of the 
broadly-educated member of the upper class toward the more specialized 
and technically trained member of the lower classes but also the unwill- 
ingness of the former to allow the lower classes an increasing influence 
in society. Although the Army would have preferred officer candidates 
with a "realistic" education as offered in the Realgymnasium or Ober- 
realschule, it expected the graduates of the humanistic high schools to 
become future officers because they were considered to come from fam- 
ihes that stood for throne, altar, and fatherland.'^ 

Therefore, in order to understand the Luftwaffe attitude towards 
technology, it is important to take a look at the social backgrounds and 
education of Luftwaffe generals. One-half of the 326 Luftwaffe generals 
whose personal files have evidence about their education (not all the files 
are so informative) went through the Humanistisches Gymnasium. Less 
than one-fourth were educated at a cadet school and and about one-sixth 
aX& Realgymnasium or Oberrealschule. The others either left high school 
without taking the final graduation examination or had only eight years 
of elementary school education (Volksschule). Thus, it can be said that 
the majority of these generals received primarily a humanistic education. 
Only a fraction had high school training in the sciences, and only a quarter 
had a mixture of scientific and military training. Most of the generals 
attended high school before the First World War, i.e., at a time when 


the philosophies of the irrational and an authoritarian spirit ruled in the 
schools. The emphasis of those schools was on receptivity and obedience 
rather than on inquisitiveness and initiative. 

As far as the social origin of the Luftwaffe generals is concerned, 
the Bertram Collection'" of short biographical sketches of the 570 Luft- 
waffe generals reveals some interesting data. Four hundred and ninety- 
two of the sketches contain information on the professions of the fathers 
of the generals and show that more than three-quarters of them came 
from the educated upper middle class or from officer families. Most came 
from famiUes of high ranking civil servants (136), followed by independ- 
ent landowners, factory owners, merchants, physicians, apothecaries, and 
lawyers (131). The professions of the remainder included: military officer 
(91); clergyman (20); and scientist or engineer (11). There was also a 
large group whose fathers were low ranking civil servants (69). More 
than half of the fathers were in academic professions, and seventy-five 
fathers belonged to the nobihty. In some cases, the mothers were of 
noble descent, and a considerable percentage of the generals were mar- 
ried to women of noble descent. It is well known that before World War 
I technological impulses rarely originated from the nobility, the army 
officer corps, the educated upper middle class, or the landowners. If it 
is assumed that the factory owners were also technicians or scientists, 
only a total of 83 among 492 generals' fathers had technical professions. 

These statistics imply that the relatively low development of the 
technical approach in the Luftwaffe was also due to the non-technical 
origins of its leaders. This is corroborated by their regional origin. Of 
547 generals whose places of birth could be identified, 200 came from 
east of the Elbe River, 64 from Bavaria (especially from northern Ba- 
varia), 64 from lower Saxony /eastern Westphalia/Schleswig-Holstein, and 
34 from Austria-Hungary or other regions. Thus, 362 came from regions 
which had little industrial development before the First World War. A 
minority of 185 generals came from more industrialized central and west 
Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, and Wurttemberg/Baden. It should be added 
that only 27 of the 570 Luftwaffe generals had obtained the academic 
degrees of a diploma engineer or of a doctor of engineering. Five more 
were civil engineers. Regarding the general staff officers, in March 1940 
only 11 of 238 had an academic degree in engineering. 

The Unique German Principle of Command 

Another cause for inadequate technological understanding was the 
principle of command called "Auftragstaktik, " which had been developed 
in the Army, where many Luftwaffe officers had first served. The "Auf- 
tragstaktik" allowed the independent execution of orders in accordance 
with the respective situation, i.e., the order did not prescribe how the 


task was to be carried out but left this to the individual soldier in com- 
mand. In land operations a quick adaptation to new situations by fresh 
decisions and orders was generally possible. This was not the case in air 
operations, however, where technology played a more important role. 
Decisions in the field of technical development and production of aircraft 
usually were binding on tactics and command for a longer period. Like- 
wise, air operations, once started, could not be very easily altered. Their 
conduct required more planning than that of land operations because 
tactics rested more on technology. 

Because of these technological considerations, many a Luftwaffe 
general, having been trained in the Army, was almost driven to despair. 
One of them,-" a former student of a humanistic high school who had 
been the chief of the general staff of an air fleet and a higher commander 
for many years, wrote after the war that operational thinking and ability 
could no longer be regarded as prerequisites for general staff service in 
themselves. This was true, he claimed, because operations and tactics 
now depended primarily on the intentions of the Army, conditions of 
traffic and logistics, or on political, economic, and technological consid- 
erations of the high command rather than on such traditional elements 
as enemy situation, one's own intention, assessment of the situation, and 
decision. Command decisions in the Luftwaffe, he continued, were the 
result of meticulous planning based on technological factors. This process 
no longer allowed room for imagination and intuitive understanding of 
one's own and the enemy's situation. The routine of the expert had 
sufficed; and when the first mission was on its way, there was nothing 
more to be ordered or led. Along with technology, logistics also enjoyed 
very little esteem in his eyes because to him it seemed to require "only" 
organizational abilities and some technical knowledge, but no tactical 
thought. Important tasks, he concluded, had been transferred from the 
sphere of "scientific" thinking and artistic planning to the level of plain 
common sense, which he obviously regarded as ranking below the general 
staff level. Nothing had been left to the General Staff but the pursuit of 
technology, which had dethroned the General Staff in the Luftwaffe. It 
was not the General Staff that placed requirements on technology; rather 
the General Staff had to adapt its requirements to technical reality. 
Higher command had shifted from operations and tactics to organization 
and technology, and tactics had neglected to anticipate the technological 
future. (Although younger Luftwaffe officers certainly thought more 
along the lines of tactics and technology, their lower rank denied them 
a role in determining Luftwaffe command thinking.) 

The foregoing evidence about the attitude toward technology makes 
it clear why, despite the great amount of technology in the young Luft- 
waffe, its officer corps did not immediately remold the traditional, au- 
thoritarian mode of command taken over from the Army. The evidence 


also shows why the officers did not adapt that mode to technology and 
shape it into a modern, cooperative style of command which would have 
paid due recognition to special knowledge and abilities as well as to 
functionally correct action and discipline. 

There are many other reasons for this failure. All technical functions 
requiring special technical knowledge were left to the Luftwaffe engineer 
corps, a non-military corps of civil servants in uniform who were only to 
serve and support the military but who had no independent command 
authority. On the other hand, the officers were trained for general com- 
mand functions and often had no technical training or knowledge, and 
this sometimes led to incorrect decisions with permanent consequences. 
Also, as a result of the depression in the early 1930s, there was a shortage 
of technically skilled personnel in the Luftwaffe. During the depression, 
many young men shied away from technological studies. By the time the 
Luftwaffe engineer corps was founded in 1935, employment opportunities 
for technically skilled people had improved remarkably, and many of 
them were already working in the armament industry. Also, the National 
Socialist ideology of irrationalism decried the rational approach to life 
as "Americanism" and glorified pre-industrial values like bravery, per- 
severance, and faithfulness (without which, of course, no society or army 
could exist). Such an atmosphere was certainly not favorable to the de- 
velopment of a functional discipline and a cooperative style of command 
within the Luftwaffe which could have complemented the formal disci- 
pline and the personal authority of leaders needed in combat. 

The Impact of the "Leader Principle" 

In the final analysis, the development of a cooperative style of higher 
command which could accommodate modern technology was impaired 
by the "Leader principle" (Fuhrerprinzip) . In the words of Hitler, this 
required absolute authority from above and unconditional obedience 
from below. This principle took to extremes the military maxim of order 
and obedience, which previously had not excluded a certain amount of 
sober argumentation in the decision-making process nor required the 
expediency of resignation or transfer in case of disagreement with de- 
cisions. Many Luftwaffe commanders, therefore, felt themselves help- 
lessly bound to orders which they considered wrong. This was particularly 
so with regard to Hitler's increasing influence on the Luftwaffe and his 
growing habit of bypassing the General Staff and giving orders directly 
to the smallest units. Yet Goering loved the leader principle and, as Field 
Marshal Kesselring wrote after the war,"' this principle was nursed par- 
ticularly in the Luftwaffe, where it should have been out of fashion more 
than elsewhere. 

Both Goering and Milch were in essence political leaders. Yet when 
Milch was in charge of air armament after Udet — at least in the field of 


technological management— he encouraged discussion and consultation 
instead of simply issuing orders. On the other hand, the complacent, 
ambitious, and selfish autocrat Goering imposed the autocratic style of 
command upon the Luftwaffe. Only his close friends could talk to him 
freely; he kept other senior commanders with important missions waiting 
for days, or had them travel after him, or did not receive them at all. 
Goering, like Hitler, did not think much of general staff work. Having 
been revolutionaries, both hated the general staff officers for being too 
aloof and too sober to believe blindly in them. They thought that vesting 
an officer with sweeping independent powers for a certain task would 
solve that problem. The many special plenipotentaries whom Goering 
subordinated to himself were one reason why the Luftwaffe High Com- 
mand gradually disintegrated. Significantly, while the command orga- 
nizations of the other two armed services always bore the impersonal 
designation of High Command {Oberkommando) , the Luftwaffe com- 
mand organization was known under the personal designation, "The 
Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe," 
until the last year of the war. 

Finally, Hitler's Fundamental Order Nr. 1 of 11 January 1940 ex- 
clusively stifled the development of an adequate mode of higher lead- 
ership. Every commander had to exercise the utmost secrecy, making 
discussion, consultation, and coordination of efforts nearly impossible. 
Not even so much as a handful of Luftwaffe officers were allowed to have 
a full picture of the overall situation and war effort. 


An inadequate and otherwise impaired higher command organiza- 
tion and mode of command thinking, as well as faulty leadership and 
personal rivalry at the top, caused the Luftwaffe's many problems, errors, 
and mistakes. It should be pointed out, of course, that other air forces! 
sometimes for similar, sometimes for other reasons, had these deficien- 
cies, but such shortcomings were not fatal because they had sufficient 
resources and time to recover. Many problems, especially those of fitting 
technology into modern command practice, still exist in almost every air 
force in various disguises. I hope that it is clear, also, that it takes time 
to become air-minded and thus to develop a mode of command and 
leadership adequate to war in the air. The German Air Force being only 
four or, if you prefer, six years old when the war broke out, was still too 
young. Unlike the three main opposing Allied air forces, it was never 
given the time and necessary authority to get settled, to break with the 
army style of command, and to find its own way. The fate of the Luftwaffe 
proved again that one cannot fight successfully a war for which one is 
not organizationally and doctrinally prepared. 



1. Luftkriegsakademie la: "Abschlussericht iiber den 3. Kriegslehrgang der Luftkrieg- 
sakademie Berlin-Gatow vom 1.9.1943," p. 12 ff., in: BA-MA (Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv) 
RL 5/1031. 

2. "Der Chef des Generalstabes der Luftwaffe Nr.740/42 vom 28.10.1942," in: BA-MA, 
Milch Collection, Vol. 53, p. 1075-1081. 

3. Luftkriegsakademie la Az.: 34 Nr. 12103/44 g vom 15.9.1944: "Richthnien fur den 
Unterricht im 6. Kriegslehrgang 1944/45," p. 10, in: BA-MA RL 5/1032; cf. O. Wien: Ein 
Leben und viermal Deutschland, Dusseldorf (1978), pp. 437-452, and H.J. Rieckhoff: 
Trumpfoder Bluff?, Geneva (1945), p. 98. 

4. Colonel General (ret.) Haider in P.Bor: Gesprdche mit Haider, Wiesbaden, 1950, p. 

5. "Vortrag des Generalmajors Wever bei Eroffnung der Luftkriegsakademie und Luft- 
technischen Akademie in Berlin-Gatow am 1. November 1935," in: Die Luftwaffe. Mil- 
itdrgeschichtliche Aufsatzsammlung., ed. by Der Reichsminister der Luftfahrt und 
Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe LA III, Vol. 1, 20. Febr, 1936, p.7. 

6. Cf. also R. Suchenwirth: Historische Wendepunkte im Kriegseinsatz der deutschen 
Luftwaffe. USAF Historical Studies. MGFA Lw 35, pp. 26-39. 

7. Field Marshal A. Kesselring: Soldat bis zum letzten Tag. Bonn 1953, S.126; cf. 
Rieckhoff, p. 90 ff., and "War Diary LtCol von Barsewisch," 25. Sept. 1941; see also Air 
Division. Control Commission for Germany, British Element: A Study of the Supply Or- 
ganization of the German Air Force 1935-1945, June 1946, pp. 71 ff., 78 ff., 84 f. 

8. General H.H. Arnold: Global Mission, New York (1949), p. 370. 

9. Field Marshal A. Kesselring: "Die deutsche Luftwaffe," in: Bilanz des Zweiten Welt- 
krieges. Oldenburg/Hamburg (1953), p. 153 ff., and General von Seidel in his speech of 
1949, in: BA-MA Lw 101/3 Part 2, p. 51 f. 

10. MGFA (Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt) A-83, p. 24. 

11. General von Seidel, op. cit., p. 52. 

12. la/Ausb (II A) vom 30.9.1944: Vorentwurf fiir eine Studie "Herabsetzung derFlug- 
zeugverluste ohne Feindeinwirkung," in: BA-MA RL 2 11/181. Cf. USSBS {United States 
Strategic Bombing Survey), ed. by David Maclssac, Vol. 3, New York and London, 1976, 
p. 6. 

13. Oberkommando der Luftwaffe — Fuhrungsstab la/Ausb Nr. 999/44 g vom 11.4.1944: 
"Herabsetzung von Flugzeugunf alien"; Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, General der Flie- 
gerbodenorganisation und des Flugbetriebes Gr. IV Az.52bl0/gK 1010/44 vom 13.7.1944: 
"Die Zahl der Storungen im Flugbetrieb ohne Feindeinwirkung im Monat Mai 1944," in: 
BA-MA RL 2 11/181. 

14. R. Suchenwirth: "Ernst Udet, Chief of the Luftwaffe Supply and Procurement," in: 
Suchenwirth: Command and Leadership in the German Air Force, USAF Historical Divi- 
sion, July 1969, pp. 53-111. 

15. Engineer General (ret.) G. Huebner: "Wehrmacht und Technik," p. 15, in: BA-MA 
Lw 103/21. 

16. "Besprechung des Reichsmarschalls Goering mit Vertretern der Luftfahrtindustrie 
uber Entwicklungsfragen vom 13.9.1942," in: BA-MA Milch Collection Vol. 62, pp. 5279- 

17. K.H. Volker: Die deutsche Luftwaffe 1933-1939, Stuttgart 1967, p. 58 f . ; E.L. Homze: 
Arming the Luftwaffe: The Reich Air Ministry and the German Aircraft Industry 1919-1939. 
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London (1976), p. 86 f. 

18. Homze, op. cit., pp. 28 f., 210 ff., 228, 267. 

19. Letter of Ministerialdirigent Baeumker, chief of the research department in the Reich 
Air Ministry, to Field Marshal Milch, dated 10 January 1942, in: BA-MA Milch Collection 
Vol. 56, pp. 2430 f. 

20. GenLt (ret.) A. Nielsen: "Die Nachrichtenbeschaffung und -auswertung fiir die 
deutsche Luftwaffenfiihrung." MGFA Lw 17. 

21 . Letter Der Staatssekretar der Luftfahrt und Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe — St. 713/ 
41 gK vom 24.10.1941 to Goering, in: BA-MA Milch Collection, Vol. 51, pp. 455 ff.; cf. 
W.A. Boelcke: Deutschlands Riistung im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Frankfurt am Main (1969), p. 
23, and R. Wagenfuehr: Die deutsche Industrie im Kriege 1939-1945, Berlin (1954), p. 33. 

22. O. Groehler: Geschichte des Luftkrieges 1910 bis 1970. Militarverlag der Deutschen 
Demokratischen Republik, Berlin (East) 1975, pp. 135, 148 f., 150, 202. 


23. Letter LC II Nr. 3201/36 vom 6.5.1936 (Copy), in: BA-MA Lw 103/50 

24. Homze, op. cit., pp. 122 f., 125, 127 f. 

25. H. von Moltke: Militdrische Werke. Hrsg. vom Grossen Generalstab Berlin 1892- 
1912, Vol. II, p. 42. 

26. J.L. Wallach: Kriegstheorien. Ihre Entwicklung im 19. mdlO.Jahrhundert, Frankfurt 
am Main 1972, p.93, 95 f., 133. 

27. E. Ludendorff: Kriegfuhrung und Politik, Berlin 1922, p. 23. 

28. Cf. D. Bald: Der deutsche Generalstab 1859-1939, Reform und Restauration in Aus- 
Mdung und Bildung. Schriftenreihe Innere Fuhrung, Reihe Ausbildung und Bildung, Heft 
28. Hrsg. vom Bundesministerium der Verteidigung, Fuhrungsstab der Streitkrafte I 15 
1977, p. 37 ff., 87 ff., and General (ret.) H. Speidel: "Generalstab und Bildung," in' 
Militargeschichte, Militdrwissenschaft und Konfliktforschung. Eine Festschrift fur Werner 
Hahlweg. . ., hrsg. von Dermot Bradley und Ulrich Marwedel. Osnabrueck 1977, pp. 383- 

29. M. van Creveld: Supplying War. Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton. Cambridge 
University Press, Cambridge, London, New York, Melbourne (1977) d 78 

30. Ibid., pp. 96, 105, 107 f. /> k- • 

31. Ibid., pp. 117 f., 138. 

32. Ibid., pp. 181-201; cf. D. Irving: Rommel, London 1978. 

33. C. von Clausewitz: Hinterlassene Werke, Vol. 5, Beriin 1858, p. 176 (cited after J L 
Wallach, op. cit., p. 57 and 58). 

34. H. von Moltke, op. cit. Vol. IV, S. 227 f. 

35. Cf. J.L. Wallach, op. cit., p. 114. 

36. E. Ludendorff: Der totale Krieg, Munchen 1935, p 79 

37. Cf. D. Bald, op. cit., pp. 69, 84. 

38. G. Douhet: Luftherrschaft. Deutsch von Rittmeister a.D. Roland E. Strunk Beriin 
(1935), pp. 22 f., 69, 82; cf. J.L. Wallach, op. cit., p. 339 f, 

39. G. Douhet, op. cit., pp. 43, 80, 82. 

40. C. von Clausewitz: Vom Kriege. Hrsg. von W. Hahlweg, Bonn (1973) p 399 

41. H. von Moltke, op. cit.. Vol. Ill, 2, p. 211. 

42. A. von Schlieffen: Cannae, Beriin 1925, pp. 280, 315. 

43. Generalstab 1. Abteilung Nr. 1643/37 gk (la) vom 25.10.1937: "Stellungnahme zum 
Orgamsationsvorschlag Oberstleutnant Kammhuber," gez.: Jeschonnek, in: BA-MA RL 
2 III/4. 

44. Cf. H. von Seeckt: Gedanken eines Soldaten, Beriin 1929, pp. 93-100. 

45. Nachlass General Schlemm, file I, p. 3. MGFA. 

46. Cf. M. Messerschmidt. "Militar und Schule in der wilhelminischen Zeit " in Militar- 
geschichtliche Mitteilungen, 1/1978, pp. 51-76. 

47. K. Bertram: Kurbiografien der Generale der deutschen Luftwaffe (not yet published) 

48. General (ret.) Wilh. Speidel: "Gedanken uber den deutschen Generalstab." Lands- 
berg/Lech 1949 (unpublished), MGFA MS Nr. P-031a 26 Part I, pp. 53 f., 72, 73, 79; "Der 
Weg zum Generalstab. Auswahl, Erziehung und Ausbildung des deutschenGeneralstab- 
soffiziers." Landsberg/Lech 1950 (unpublished), MGFA MS Nr. P-031a 26 Part II, pp. 34, 

49. Field Marshal A. Kesselring: "Der Generalstab des deutschen Heeres. Mit einem 
Anhang: Beruhrungspunkte des Heeres-Generalstabes mit dem Luftwaffen-Generalstab " 
BA-MA Lw 101/11, p. 182. 




The history of the air war from 1939 to 1945 is important because 
it is the vital link between the past and future of air warfare. It was the 
culmination of all past experience, a climactic event, and a decisive test 
of the role of air power. It foreshadowed much of the future, particularly 
through the great technological advances, and it still has much bearing 
on the problems and issues confronting air forces and governments today. 

A major purpose of this session is to provide a basis and a perspective 
for a comparative historical analysis of the World War II air forces and 
the air war. My primary purpose, while commenting on the papers we 
have heard and drawing some comparisons with the Anglo-American air 
forces and their experience, is to indicate important subjects for further 
exploration by scholars. The organizers of this conference have spoken 
of the scant scholarly attention paid to the history of military aviation 
and of the poor state of substantive scholarship in military aviation. 1 
have examined some of the literature on the history of the air war and 
World War II and agree that there is much important work still to be 

Fortunately, all of the papers presented here today served my pur- 
pose well. In touching on many of the most important issues of the air 
war, they have revealed some of the most important deficiencies in cov- 
erage and interpretation that remain to be remedied by historians. 

First and foremost among the subjects I propose for further historical 
research, and one that has been mentioned by all of the papers here 
today, is logistics in its many and varied aspects. The most striking dif- 
ferences between the winners and the losers in the war was their attitude 
toward, and their execution of, logistical functions. The difference in 
attitude was fundamental and decisive. Mr. Boog's paper on the Luftwaffe 
properly stressed the far-reaching effects of the "short war" syndrome 
on the fate of the Luftwaffe. Mr. Coox might have done the same thing 
with the Japanese, although, to be sure, with the latter a short war was 
a hope rather than an expectation. By contrast, the victors — the British, 
the Americans, the Russians — all recognized from the beginning the prob- 
ability of a long war of attrition and the enormous logistical requirements 
that would ensue. It is true that the British and the Russians, defeated 


in the early stages of the war, had httle choice but to prepare for the 
long haul. The Americans profited from their experience. The Germans 
waited until 1942 and later, and the Japanese until 1943, to begin a 
genuine mobilization of their resources. By then, it was too late for both 
of them. Their early victories had lulled them into a false sense of security 
and optimism. 

It is remarkable that the Germans and Japanese fought as long and 
as well as they did during the last three years of the war, for they were 
utterly overmatched. The margin of difference in the air war was greater 
than generally realized. Anglo-American and Russian output of combat 
crews and aircraft dwarfed German production in the period 1943-1945. 
In 1944, the United States produced two and one-half times as many 
planes as Germany. But this is not the true measure of the difference, 
because the ratio in airframe weight— a far truer measure of production- 
was more than six to one. The Ford Willow Run plant alone produced 
more than one-half as much airframe weight as the whole German aircraft 
industry in 1944 and about as much as the whole Japanese aircraft in- 
dustry. The story is the same in engines and in combat crews. The Ger- 
man and Japanese air forces were done in by a crushing weight of men 
and materiel that they could not hope to match. Moreover, any qualitative 
edge they may have enjoyed in the early days also disappeared, and they 
found themselves doubly disadvantaged in the last years. 

Mr. Whiting concludes his paper as follows: "Over and above all 
else, however, it was the productive capacity of the Soviet aviation in- 
dustry that enabled the VVS [Soviet Air Force] to gain air superiority 
in the second half of the war— it simply swamped the Luftwaffe under 
a flood of first-rate aircraft." The superiority and eventually the suprem- 
acy of the Anglo-American and the Soviet air forces were made possible 
by the industrial victory on the home front, and, I might add, the achieve- 
ment of the training establishments was as impressive in scale as was the 
production triumph. Under conditions of modern war on the scale of 
World War II, it is production that makes all possible and, more espe- 
cially, production in time to count. The Germans and Japanese were 
front runners at the beginning because they had the production when it 
counted. But they could not stay the course because they were outclassed 
in resources of men, materiel, and productive capacity. 

In applying the fundamental military principle of mass, logistics is 
the bedrock. The rhythm of the war everywhere was dependent on lo- 
gistical factors that determined the timing and the mass that could be 
applied. The war in the east between Germany and the Soviet Union is 
a prime example of the operation of the logistical factor. The periods of 
intense combat and movement were followed by prolonged lulls to permit 
the logistical replenishment of forces and equipment. Liddell Hart went 


to the heart of the matter when he stated in 1943 that "the large ground 
organization of a modern air force is its Achilles heel." 

Part of logistics is the whole question of mobility, or lack of it, by 
the air forces and its effect on the ground and naval wars. Rapid move- 
ments back and forth, as in Russia and in western Europe, placed a great 
strain on the logistics and mobility of air forces. The problem of airfield 
construction and rehabilitation, especially in the west, was enormous. 
What effect, for example, did weather have on mobility and construction? 
What effect did the requirement for mobility have on aircraft and equip- 
ment design? 

There is much that remains to be done before the full importance 
of logistics as the heart of the strategy and even of much of the tactics 
of the air war in World War II is fully recognized. It is a more difficult 
and complicated subject than strategy and operations, but its effects were 
far-reaching and eventually decisive. The U.S. Army volumes on global 
logistics by Leighton and Coakley and the logistical volumes on the Eu- 
ropean theatre of operation by Ruppenthal are excellent treatments, 
deserving of much attention and emulation by historians of the air war. 
The Army has also published many other volumes on the technical ser- 
vices and on logistics and technology. They have done the best job, I 
think, in this field. We need more such histories of the air war from all 
the combatants; but sadly, and apparently except for the Army, it is 
almost as difficult to get historians to write about logistics as it was in 
World War II to get outstanding military officers to go into logistics. 

At the beginning of the logistical process, the primary impulse is 
technology — research, development, and testing of new weapons and 
munitions. Its effect on the conduct of the war has not been adequately 
treated, especially from a comparative standpoint. The technological 
competition during the war needs to be studied and presented in its full 
dimension. The interaction between qualitative advances and quantitative 
needs, or lack of it, went far toward determining the quality of the air 
forces. What happened to technological innovations during the war? We 
have heard what happened in the Japanese and German air forces. Why 
were some of the most promising developments neglected or subordi- 
nated? Could air forces and higher commands have done better in ad- 
justing the shifting balance between qualitative advances and quantitative 
needs? A great deal remains to be done on research and development 
during the war and its effect on the performance of the air forces and the 
outcome of the air war. The technological successes and failures, partic- 
ularly in Germany, are striking and directly related to the ultimate defeat. 

The question of quality has to be extended to the human element 
also, particularly the leaders and the officer corps. Both Messrs. Boog 
and Coox have emphasized the organizational deficiencies stemming from 


human failure within and between the miHtary services in Germany and 
Japan, and their poisonous effect on logistics, on air operations, and on 
the conduct of war. In his excellent paper, Mr. Boog has told us enough 
about the sociology of the Luftwaffe officer corps for us to want more, 
a great deal more. It would be genuinely illuminating to have similar 
analyses of the officer corps of the other air forces. Since many of the 
wounds sustained by the German and Japanese air forces, and the Rus- 
sians as well, were self-inflicted, Messrs. Boog and Coox have shown a 
remarkable coincidence of focus on the traits of the officer corps of these 
air forces. 

The disdain of the Luftwaffe officers for logistics and technology 
mirrored like attitudes in the Army, and in the end, indeed well before 
the end, the German armed forces were subordinated to civilian authority 
(the Speer ministry) for procurement and production. The story was the 
same in Japan. The military, including the air forces, must share the 
blame for failing to understand and represent their own best interests in 
the delayed mobilization of the war economy. So, too, must they accept 
much of the blame for technological deficiencies and little credit for 
technological initiatives and advances. In short, the fascination of the 
officer corps with the wild blue yonder resulted in neglect or underesti- 
mation of most of the important and indispensable functions that had to 
be performed on the ground. In a sense, the German and Japanese air 
forces cut the ground out from under themselves. As we have already 
seen, the Anglo-Americans fared better; even before hostilities began, 
the American and British air leaders geared themselves to fighting a 
prolonged global war. In contrast, the German and Japanese air leaders 
did not grasp the full dimensions of the war until too late. 

Another and related history that remains to be told is that of inter- 
service relationships and how they affected the strategy, tactics, pro- 
grams, deployment, and operations of the air forces of all of the major 
belligerents. The losers suffered and paid a heavy price for their failure 
to achieve more effective integration of the military services and oper- 
ations. The shocking and ridiculous lack of cooperation between the 
Japanese Army and Navy air forces, indeed, the competition, duplication, 
and mutual suspicion mentioned several times by Mr. Coox, played no 
small part in their defeat. There was no effective higher authority to 
settle disputes between the Army and the Navy. The German record is 
not as bad; but here, too, political factors and factions within as well as 
outside the Luftwaffe made for lack of cooperation. Goering's efforts to 
maintain an independent role for the Luftwaffe, and especially for himself 
as commander, proved self-defeating and detrimental to the Luftwaffe. 
Hitler, the ultimate authority, was erratic and capricious and further 
complicated matters. 


The Russian military had Httle choice. Stalin was watching over them, 
and he disposed of problems by executing his officers, both before and 
during the war. Inter-service rivalry and jealousy were not absent from 
the Anglo-American air forces, but the direction provided by higher 
authorities worked more effectively than it did in Germany and Japan 
to resolve issues before they did too much damage. Moreover, the po- 
litical and military leaders were more successful in subordinating per- 
sonal, service, and political interest to the larger aims of the war. Still, 
a fair study of the relationships between the U.S. Army Air Forces and 
the U.S. Navy would surely reveal an intense competition and rivalry 
between the two in many areas. 

Another and great deficiency in writing about the war, and not only 
the air war, has been the absence until recently of scholarly volumes on 
the roles of intelligence in its many forms. The forthcoming volumes on 
intelligence by the British cabinet office historians will help greatly, as 
will the recent volume on German intelligence by David Kahn, but they 
are not focused specifically on the air war. What contributions did in- 
telligence make to the waging of the air war? We know something about 
economic intelligence, target intelligence, and tactical and photographic 
reconnaissance; but we have few analyses and interpretations of these 
phases. Still other phases — estimates of enemy orders of battle, inten- 
tions, technical intelligence — are even less well known. 

Why were there such great deficiencies in air intelligence during the 
war? Why didn't the Germans do better? Why were the Russians so 
poor? What was the real effect of ULTRA and other systems on air 
operations? How does one measure the effect of information and esti- 
mates, which were almost always tentative and uncertain, at high levels 
of aggregation or even at lower tactical levels? It is a difficult subject to 
tackle; but it cannot be ignored if we are to fully understand what hap- 
pened and why in the larger context of the air war — indeed, in the still 
larger context of the war as a whole. Now that a great deal more material 
is becoming available, I believe that a great many scholars will begin to 
write on the subject. 

Let me conclude this wish-list with one more promising area of 
research unremarked upon by any of the papers. One of the greatest 
deficiencies in histories of the air war is the neglect of the air role in anti- 
submarine warfare — not a minor consideration at the present time. Both 
land-based and sea-based air were paramount in anti-submarine warfare 
in World War II and have been since. It seems fair to say that earUer 
concentration on the use of air and anti-submarine warfare could have 
aborted the submarine menace in the Atlantic earlier, perhaps much 
earlier. Who is to say that the admirals were wrong — I suspect most of 
the Air Forces would, and did — when they urged that the big bombers 


of the RAF and the AAF be used against the submarines in 1942? The 
attrition rate would have been small, and the bombers could have been 
converted for bombing operations in 1943. What would have been the 
effect of containing the German U-boats a year earlier, in May and June 
of 1942 instead of 1943? Here is a subject worthy of a great deal more 
investigation and analysis. 

There are many other subjects awaiting further research. Where, for 
instance, are the biographies of the great air leaders of the war? What 
effect did doctrine really have? Mr. Boog's final conclusion is that the 
fate of the Luftwaffe proved again that one cannot fight a war for which 
one is not prepared theoretically. I should like very much to see this 
proposition tested and expanded on by research. Because a large liter- 
ature does exist on the subject of strategic bombing, I have chosen to 
bring to your attention other subjects deserving of scholarly efforts. Still, 
I cannot resist pointing out that the last word has not been said on the 
subject of strategic bombing, believe it or not. 

The eventual outcome of the historical work that I have been sug- 
gesting ought to be a much better integration of the major institutional 
elements we have been discussing — logistics, training, operations orga- 
nization, intelligence— into larger syntheses of the individual air forces, 
into comparative studies of all the combatant air forces, and into a re- 
lationship with the overall theme of World War II. We now have chiefly 
fragments, one dimensional histories, that cannot present the air war in 
broader and more interactive dimensions. We have much to do, and we 
ought to get on with it. 






Estimates of ULTRA'S effectiveness in influencing the course and 
outcome of World War II in Europe furnish topics for continuing debate. 
In the half decade since Gustave Bertrand and F. W. Winterbotham 
cleared the way to new approaches to many basic problems of the conflict, 
these assessments have fluctuated considerably. This is least true of the 
air war, whose encounters, easily defined in time and space, facilitate a 
close association of the course of events with the role of intelligence 
media. Each massive release to date of British official documents has 
lent greater emphasis to the closeness of this association. A major factor 
which goes far to explain the constancy of this relationship is that the 
newly hatched Luftwaffe, little mindful of tradition and time-honored 
ways, was less bound than its sister services by good habits of security 
observance. Sloppiness in radio communication that was closely moni- 
tored by the British often furnished insights on aspects of land and sea 
warfare at times when army and navy messages could not be read. 

In the face of some claims that ULTRA's part in the Battle of Britain 
was negligible, newest insights indicate that, in fact, it may have provided 
the margin between victory and defeat. It was, of course, only one of the 
three scientific media that helped to determine the battle, the others 
being radar and the mastery of Knickebein, the German system of pin- 
pointing targets by the use of intersecting radio beams. The latter, how- 
ever, was itself one of ULTRA's many children in that the key to its 
existence was provided by ULTRA signals. As against radar, which could 
only discern the pattern of German air approach after Goering's planes 
were actually in the air, ULTRA might delineate that pattern a day or 
two earlier. Thus the very first massive Luftwaffe attack ("Eagle Day," 
15 August 1940), was countered effectively because Air Chief Marshal 
Dowding could allocate his slender fighter resources to defend the seven 
airfields that ULTRA had established as targets. 

The Battle of the Atlantic, in which victory was vital if there were 
ever to be a return to the Western continent, is, with the possible ex- 
ception of the Normandy landing itself, probably that string of encounters 
in which ULTRA was most decisive. There is no need to detail here the 
essential role of air power in the later stages of that battle and how much 
it meant to guide its operations insightfully rather than blindly. 

For a glance at ULTRA's part in the great bomber offensive against 
Germany, one need only cite the day-to-day knowledge of the order of 


battle and operational doctrines of the German air defense system. When 
later, during the invasion, the German airdromes in France became the 
chief targets, their location, defenses, and fighter strength, and detailed 
information on the rate and degree of recovery from assault were aspects 
vital to Allied success. 

The Mediterranean story, if anything, demonstrates even more em- 
phatically ULTRA'S central role in the effective use of air power. It had 
most to do with the wrecking of Rommel's maritime communications, 
where the airplane performed the most essential function once the routing 
of supply ships, notably tankers, had been clearly established. The last 
hope for the Wehrmacht's resistance in Tunisia died when the huge Gigant 
transports, thrown in in final desperation, were located and destroyed 
through ULTRA'S discernments. 

All in all, the wedding between Allied air power and this intelligence 
medium may be called the firmest and most fruitful union of this type 
known to World War II in Europe. 




A large addition to the oral history of air power came out of this session on air leadership, 
a topic of unending interest at an air force academy. The most famous American bomber 
leader of all, General Curtis E. LeMay; an outstanding Tighter leader. General O. P. Weyland; 
and a pioneering leader of carrier aviation, Vice-Admiral William Martin, are now retired 
from military service; but, as these pages will attest, they still are larger than life. The 
chairman for so potent a session had to be an historian of the first rank, and, fortunately. 
Doctor Forrest C. Pogue, the Director of the Eisenhower Institute for Historical Research, 
was available for the assignment. 

To provide a common departure point for this session, the Chief of Air Force History, 
Major General John W. Huston, himself a professionally trained historian, presented his 
estimate of the leadership qualities of General H. H. Arnold, the senior American airman 
of World War H. Incredibly, no satisfactory biography of Arnold is yet available; so. General 
Huston's paper is very timely. 

Anticipating the repeated remarks by speakers throughout the symposium about the 
need for biographies of most of the developers of American air power, and of the Air Force 
in particular, the symposium committee asked Doctor Pogue to do double duty as commen- 
tator as well as chairman. As commentator, he was to offer the distilled wisdom of his vast 
experience as historian and biographer to those who, hopefully, would take on the work of 
researching and writing the biographies. His remarks were so helpful that the editors invHed 
him to expand them for this volume. 




My task is to assess the wartime leadership of General H. H. Arnold, 
one of the few major American World War II leaders for whom there 
is no biography in print, and the officer conceded by most Americans to 
have been the immediate father of today's United States Air Force. 

My only experience with General Arnold dates from 1944 when, 
returning from a combat mission in a B-17, I was surprised to find the 
General visiting the base where our aircraft had been assigned to permit 
consolidated maintenance of some new navigation equipment. We were 
unaccustomed to speaking with general officers, whom we considered 
minor deities, but his friendly manner quickly put us at relative ease. His 
questions were the routine ones generals ask: our ages, hometowns, and 
number of missions flown. He then quickly zeroed in on the new bombing/ 
navigation equipment, asking rather detailed questions about range, re- 
liability, and maintenance problems. The meeting was not unlike his visit 
a year earlier to crews in North Africa as described in the Brereton 
diaries. ' 

Not much more from that brief meeting can be recalled or included 
in today's analysis about General Arnold by this then nineteen-year-old 
navigator. My remarks are based instead on an assessment of his papers, 
those of his closest associates, and Arnold's letters to his wife, which 
recently have been acquired by my office. 

Arnold, the son of a stern, humorless physician, was born in 1886 
in a suburb of mainline Philadelphia. The elder Arnold, after a brief stint 
with a National Guard regiment in the Spanish-American War, hoped 
to realize a vicarious military involvement when Henry entered West 
Point in 1903. Henry was a better-than-average student academically and 
graduated in the upper third of the class of 1907. However, his tendency 
to accumulate demerits put him in the bottom quarter of the class in 

This analysis of Arnold's career would be simpler if he could be said 
to have had an early undying interest in aviation, but the record does 
not reflect this. The first recorded comment by Arnold on the new aerial 


phenomenon is a letter to his mother written in 1906 from West Point: 

The fellow [Bleriot] that sailed around the Eifel Tower in an airship went up in 
a balloon here today and there was a pretty big crowd to see him off. I don't know 
why he selected this place for his ascension but he did. The balloon was about Z."! 
feet in diameter almost a sphere. He inflated it with illuminating gas. After going 
up he went due north and was still going north last I saw of him.^ 

Given Arnold's casual comment on the balloon ascension, it is not sur- 
prising that aviation was his fourth choice of careers in the military. Upon 
graduation from West Point he requested assignment to the cavalry but, 
instead, was ordered to the Philippines as an infantry officer where he 
mapped portions of the difficult Luzon terrain. Three years later, at- 
tracted by the prospects of promotion to first lieutenant, he took the 
qualifying examination for the Ordnance Department. Before the results 
of the test reached Arnold, he had volunteered for flight training with 
the Wright Brothers at Dayton, Ohio. 

Not long after, having accumulated three hours and forty-eight min- 
utes in the air, Arnold won his wings, and he became, along with Lt 
Tommy Milling, one of two military pilots in the United States Army.' 
During the next year of flying from his base at College Park, Maryland, 
Arnold doubled for the leading man as a stunt flyer in two motion pictures 
and established an altitude record of 6,540 feet in a Model B Wright 
biplane, a feat which earned him the first Mackay Trophy, awarded 
annually thereafter for the most meritorious accomplishment in military 
aviation. A series of crashes by friends in late 1912, along with a near 
disaster of his own over Fort Riley, Kansas, led to a request from Arnold 
for a month's leave to reconsider his future in this new endeavor. He did 
not fly again until four years later, a facet of his life which needs as- 
sessment beyond the scope of this paper. 

Accompanied by his new bride, the former Eleanor Pool of Phila- 
delphia, he was reassigned to the Philippines in the winter of 1913-1914 
and served for two years with the 13th Infantry. There he worked with 
another Army lieutenant, George C. Marshall, whom Arnold described 
as the "main guy" who told "colonels where to take their regiments and 
what to do with them" but since everyone agreed "that he had the ability 
to handle the situation . . . there is no hard feeling."" In the winter of 
1915-1916, en route home from his second Philippine tour, Arnold ac- 
cepted a War Department offer to return to duty in the Aviation Section, 
again attracted by the promise of promotion, this time to rank of captain. 
Brief service in New York and California preceded assignment to the 
Panama Canal Zone in early 1917, where he organized the Seventh Aero 
Squadron; but two months later he was recalled to Washington, where 
he headed the Information Office of the Aviation Section of the Signal 
Corps. His meteoric six-week rise from the rank of captain to the dis- 
tinction of being the youngest colonel in the United States Army did not 


dampen his enthusiasm for overseas combat duty. His persistent request 
for relief from procurement and training responsibilities was finally re- 
warded, but illness and hospitalization en route to France prevented his 
service in combat prior to the war's end. 

In the postwar years, Arnold, now reduced to his permanent rank 
of major, commanded Rockwell Field, San Diego. In 1924-1925, he 
attended the Army Industrial College in Washington and afterwards was 
the Information Officer for the Air Service. In the aftermath of the Billy 
Mitchell affair, Arnold was relieved of his Washington duties and was, 
in the words of the press, "exiled" to Fort Riley, Kansas, in early 1926.' 
Attendance at the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leaven- 
worth in 1928-1929 probably marked the end of his exile and was followed 
by duty in Dayton, Ohio. In early 1931, after having been promoted to 
lieutenant colonel, he commanded March Field, California, for the next 
four years. Capitalizing on his proximity to the growing and powerful 
entertainment industry centered in Hollywood, Arnold availed himself 
of every opportunity to develop rapport with motion picture stars and 
producers, soliciting the support of their relatively new medium in pro- 
moting an understanding of the Air Corps. His friendship with Dr. Theo- 
dore von Karman of California Institute of Technology, which would 
have a significant later impact on Arnold and the United States Air Force, 
dated from this period. The responsibility for establishing and operating 
a Civilian Conservation Camp at March Field in May 1933 became Ar- 
nold's and one which he later recalled as extremely beneficial since of- 
ficers, possibly including himself, "who had never before thought about 
anything very seriously, except flying an airplane, suddenly found them- 
selves faced with administrative and human relations problems.'" 

Although the short-lived Air Mail experiment was dubbed a fiasco 
by most of the press, Arnold was convinced that it had been beneficial 
since it provided experience for "combat flying, bad weather flying, night 
flying . . . made it possible to get the latest navigation and night-flying 
instruments in our planes."' 

Summoned from a well-earned vacation with his wife after the Air 
Mail experiment, Arnold reported to Wright Field to plan and lead the 
flight of B-10 bombers from Washington to Alaska and return. Although 
its successful completion brought Arnold an invitation to the White 
House, earned him his second Mackay Trophy, and certainly influenced 
his promotion to brigadier general and his assignment as commander of 
the first wing of the newly constituted General Headquarters Air Force, 
to Arnold it was "only another job."* 

Early in 1936, Arnold was transferred to Washington as Assistant 
Chief of the Air Corps. The untimely death of his chief. Major General 
Oscar Westover, in a plane crash in September 1938, saw Arnold elevated 


to the position of Chief, the same day the Munich Pact was signed by 
Neville Chamberlain. It is in this role that his leadership will be examined 

Professor James MacGregor Burns, in a volume recently published, 
defines leadership as "inducing followers to act for certain goals that 
represent the values and the motivations — the wants and the needs, the 
aspirations and expectations — of both leaders and followers."' Doctor 
Pogue will agree, I trust, that the leadership qualities of the desk-bound 
may differ markedly from those exhibited by the combat leaders here 
today, such as Generals LeMay and Weyland and Admiral Martin. One 
author, writing in the official Army history, opines: "Some of the greatest 
generals in World War II, far from striking the classic posture of the man 
on horseback, issued their military orders from the quiet of their desks 
and fought their decisive battles at conference tables.'"" Arnold was of 
this genre. 

In assessing Arnold's leadership, his institutional relations with the 
Army, and his personal and professional dealings with his superior and 
friend, George Marshall, as well as with President Roosevelt, deserve 

In all of his writings, both official and personal, there is never a hint 
that Arnold considered himself anything but an Army officer. This is not 
surprising since, by the time of Pearl Harbor, he had worn the khaki for 
more than thirty-four years following his graduation from West Point. 
His covert as well as his overt efforts in behalf of Billy Mitchell in the 
1920s were aimed at the creation of a separate air arm within the Army 
structure. By the mid-1930s, however, in his testimony before the Howell 
and McSwain Committees of 1935, he recommended against a separate 
air arm. " His efforts during the bulk of World War II aimed towards the 
eventual future sovereignty of an air arm, but he realized as early as 1940 
that a combination of a lack of White House support, Navy and Army 
opposition, and leadership and staff inexperience within the Air Corps, 
to say nothing of the size of the task which might face Americans if they 
were drawn into the war, precluded effective separation. For the most 
part, he worked within the system, although he was not averse, like most 
successful leaders, to moulding, agitating, or reinterpreting the system 
when it best suited his purposes. 

Not all within the Air Corps shared Arnold's caution, and no doubt 
many disagreed with his February 1939 testimony before the Senate Com- 
mittee on Military Affairs in which he recommended against any signif- 
icant organizational change. '^ In June 1940, Arnold could write that "at 
this minute it looks to me as if it might be a serious mistake to change 
the existing set-up."" The compromise changes of October 1940 ap- 
peared satisfactory to Arnold, who asked critics, many of them inside 


the air arm, to support the view "that the present organization be given 
an opportunity to prove itself before any more readjustments are 
made.'"'* The various structural changes which followed until the March 
1942 reorganization all exemplified Arnold's willingness to continue 
within the organization of the Army. 

A major reason for Arnold's relative contentment within the Army 
was the mutual respect, rapport, and confidence which he enjoyed with 
George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff since 1 September 1939. 
Arnold described Marshall as "one of the most potent forces behind the 
development of American Air Power" ;'^ and even though Arnold felt 
that Marshall "needed plenty of indoctrination about the air facts of 
life,"'* their friendship and professional respect dating back to service 
together in 1914 in the Philippines deepened throughout the war. Mar- 
shall ceded increasing authority to the airman, giving the Army Air Forces 
what one historian has termed "dominion status" in the Army common- 
wealth." Arnold's diary, maintained during his many overseas trips and 
hitherto unexploited by historians, cites numerous occasions when he and 
friend George Marshall, declining the ubiquitous staff cars made available 
to generals in wartime, chose instead to walk and talk out the problems 
of the day's deliberations, occasionally walking four or more miles. " 
Only when Arnold appeared to disregard professional medical advice 
was Marshall known to use harsh words with the airman, such as his 
comment in the spring of 1945 that the Chief of Staff of the Army had 
"little hope that [you] can continue your wasteful expenditure of physical 
strength and nervous energy."" 

The relationship was one in which Arnold was always certain to 
defer to the statutory lines of authority but did not shrink from a candid 
exchange of views before the final decision was reached. After 1943, the 
authorization for the Army Air Forces to take directly to the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff (JCS) any matter "which the Commanding General, Army Air 
Forces desires to transmit directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his 
capacity as a member of that committee" had Marshall's assent. ^* "It was 
clear enough," Craven and Cate have written, "that Arnold himself could 
act on his own, and that coordination with OPD and other War De- 
partment agencies was ever becoming more of a question of mere cour- 

Arnold's respect for Marshall was reciprocated, and the Chief of 
Staff accorded Arnold the highest accolade in Marshall's lexicon — "al- 
ways loyal."" Their relationship was the source of some disagreements 
between Arnold and his staff. Although the Air Staff might well be right 
on a given issue, Arnold knew that, if he followed his staff's advice, he 
would "lose Marshall," a difficult position for any effective leader." 


Arnold's relations with his Commander in Chief, President Franklin 
D. Roosevelt, did not begin auspiciously. General Arnold laments in his 
memoirs about the eight days' lag between Westover's tragic death and 
his being named Chief of the Air Corps. Part of the delay, Arnold felt, 
was due to the slanderous gossip concerning his alleged intemperate use 
of liquor.^'* 

The publicity surrounding the January 1939 crash involving a member 
of a French aircraft purchasing commission in California brought to light 
the fact that procurement of aircraft was being handled not by the War 
Department, either civilian or military, but by the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, Henry Morgenthau, who seldom declined an opportunity to expand 
his influence and that of his Cabinet Department. Ensuing Congressional 
hearings resulted in a White House meeting at which Arnold, and almost 
all present, clearly understood that the President was directing the Chief 
of the Army Air Corps to accept Treasury control over aircraft procure- 
ment for France and Great Britain or face assignment to Guam, an 
unlikely residence for a major general in 1939." 

Arnold's tenuous relations with Morgenthau continued throughout 
the bulk of the war, but the air force leader adroitly counterbalanced this 
antagonism with extremely amicable relations with Harry Hopkins, an- 
other major influence on FDR. Hopkins is credited with suggesting to 
FDR that both Arnold and Marshall be invited to accompany the Pres- 
ident to the Argentia Conference in September 1939. From that time on, 
by Arnold's attendance at Combined Chiefs of Staff meetings, Roosevelt 
at least tacitly recognized the relative autonomy of the air arm.^* Yalta 
was the only major conference not attended by Arnold, who was then 
recuperating from his second heart attack. 

Rarely did FDR consider air power issues without soliciting com- 
ments from Arnold, whose relations with the President improved to the 
point where bantering took place between them. In this case, Arnold's 
friendly, outgoing personality contrasted sharply with Marshall's innate 
reserve. Marshall's bristling at being called "George" by the President 
(only once, according to Marshall, did this happen) is particularly re- 
vealing, while Arnold appeared to be extremely pleased to be addressed 
as "Hap" after emerging from the White House doghouse in September 
1941." FDR's dabbling in military matters did not cause difficult prob- 
lems for Arnold or the staff, although on one occasion Arnold felt com- 
pelled to refuse FDR's request that he take Elliott Roosevelt on the 
mission to China immediately after the Casablanca Conference.^' Most 
of Arnold's frequent correspondence with the President tended to indulge 
the Commander in Chief's penchant for details ranging from aircraft 
performance to trivia." 


In dealing with the United States Navy during World War II, Arnold 
did not have smooth relations, as Navy leaders charged that his preoc- 
cupation with proving the value of strategic bombing by allocating the 
bulk of four-engine bomber aircraft and other resources for action against 
Germany relegated the Navy's needs to an impossibly low priority. The 
charges by the Navy that Arnold was choosing easy targets in Europe 
and failing to bomb the heavily-defended submarine pens and support 
facilities have little basis in fact, but resulted from the bitter division in 
1942 between Arnold and Admiral Ernest J. King over the allocation of 
resources for the antisubmarine effort, as well as its command and con- 
trol.'" Arnold's success in getting himself named as the executive agent 
for the Twentieth Air Force, which reported directly to the JCS, was a 
coup for the aviator which stemmed from his frustrations at being drawn 
into the MacArthur-Nimitz quarrel in the Pacific. Admiral McCain's 
recommendation in 1943 that "General Arnold be given four stars and 
placed in command of all our forces in Hell" may be an accurate de- 
scription of some naval officers' feelings. •" 

General Arnold did not enjoy a reputation within the Air Staff as 
a superior administrator. Yet the Air Staff probably did not merit inclu- 
sion in Sir John Dill's December 1941 comment after his arrival in Wash- 
ington that the "whole organization [JCS and Presidential staff] belongs 
to the days of George Washington.'"^ In spite of General Kuter's two 
articles" to the contrary, the records of the National Archives and the 
Library of Congress show generally effective utilization of his staff by 
Arnold. Adherence to established lines of authority prevailed, particu- 
larly when staff agencies met his standards for timely and adequate re- 
sponses. Arnold is neither the first general (nor the last, I suspect) to 
lament that "my staff never tells me anything." General Kuter's recol- 
lection of Arnold accosting startled air officers in the corridors of the 
Munitions Building or Pentagon and assigning them tasks regardless of 
their knowledge of the subject makes for good "war stories" and probably 
did happen, but this habit may well have masked what James MacGregor 
Burns termed Arnold's "flair for organization and management.'"* 

Although Burns' statement may be overly generous concerning or- 
ganization, it is not wide of the mark on management. Arnold valued a 
quick response, and staff officers as well as field commanders who con- 
tented themselves with the explanation that the appointed task could not 
be accomplished found themselves quickly suspect, if not reassigned. 
Arnold rotated promising officers between combat and Washington as- 
signments, not only to enhance their wartime effectiveness in either role 
but to provide a nucleus of postwar leadership for what he hoped would 
be a separate air force. He appreciated, however, the important distinc- 
tion that "it does not follow that a man who is an excellent commander 
in the field will be an equally excellent office man.'"' Particularly illu- 


minating in regards to Arnold's leadership of his staff is this December 
1945 excerpt from his valedictory to his close friend Tooey Spaatz, who 
had been named to succeed him. Arnold wrote: 

The success of the Army Air Forces during the World War II period was due to 
its aggressiveness. At this writing many things have occurred which indicate that 
we are losing our aggressiveness. We are asking permission to do things which 
formerly we never did. Perhaps we are building up historical alibis rather than 
taking action which would enable us to get things done. Historical alibis are fine 
and may prevent us from making mistakes but in the meantime, time is passing 
without getting results. * 

In his relations with his staff, Arnold's comment in Global Mission 
that he "frequently overruled my experts'"' is probably accurate. He 
took pride in the establishment (over the reluctance of his staff) of the 
civilian flying school program which permitted expansion from the pro- 
duction of 750 pilots per year to more than 100,000. Other projects which 
had less than lukewarm support from the staff were creation of the Air 
Transport Command and establishment of an Officer Candidate School 
at Miami Beach in the luxury hotels emptied by the war. Incidentally, 
by directly commissioning civilians to help with the wartime buildup, 
Arnold showed his willingness to use any asset to accomplish his task. 
His comment that a smart civilian could be transformed into a successful 
staff officer whereas a dumb career officer could contribute little was 
reflected in his efforts to procure personnel from a wide range of back- 
grounds. ^ 

Responsiveness as well as effectiveness were probably the key at- 
tributes demanded by Arnold of his subordinates in both staff and line 
positions. General LeMay did not know Arnold well as late as early 1945, 
but he appreciated along with Norstad and others that "if you don't get 
results, you'll be fired."" Generals "Possum" Hansell, K. B. Wolfe, and 
others produced too little, too late, and were relieved from command. 

Arnold rarely reflected for very long on a problem, whether it be 
in personnel, logistics, or administration. Impetuosity was one of his 
significant shortcomings, and he knew it. Of "Hubey" Harmon, Arnold 
could write in 1935: "He is just systematic enough to control my impet- 
uousness." Even his only daughter, on announcing her impending mar- 
riage, wrote to her mother in 1937: "Please break the news gently to the 
Papa and don't let him get mad and raise hell.'"" Previous personal 
rapport and lifelong friendships did not justify lack of progress or ade- 
quate accomplishment, and Arnold's correspondence in the autumn and 
winter of 1943 with Eaker and also with Spaatz is ample evidence of his 
impatience with even his closest associates. At least one student of Ar- 
nold's leadership feels that at times he used his volatility as an "act," to 
goad his staff and commanders into greater accomplishments. ■" Donald 
Douglas has recalled that aircraft manufacturers got similar treatment.*^ 


Although Arnold was constantly aware of his impetuous nature and short 
temper, he never was able to control his impulses fully, and some loyal, 
effective officers undoubtedly were summarily removed, retired, or stag- 
nated by their Chief. 

General Kuter may be indulging in hyperbole in commenting, from 
his very close vantage point as Arnold's Chief of the Air Staff, that 

Arnold's antagonism to the functioning of a large military staff was equaled only 
by his indifference to its organizational structure and procedures. His allergy to 
methodical and careful staff study and action was acute and chronic." 

In any event, the official record clearly does not support Kuter's analysis 
that Arnold regarded "the Air Staff not as his own personal staff, not 
as an extension of his personal staff, not as an extension of his own mind 
and will, but as an obstacle to be hurdled, to be dodged or evaded."** 
Finally, the serious historian would be on dangerous ground if he accepts 
General Kuter's explanations of Colonel Steve Person's death while brief- 
ing Arnold at a Sunday staff meeting as a reaction to Arnold's leadership 
or operating methods. '** 

In dealing with his commanders in the field, Arnold was almost 
always candid and direct. Fully using his right of direct communications, 
Arnold's correspondence with Spaatz, Eaker, Doolittle, Brett, Brereton, 
Stratemeyer, and Kenney covered every minute detail of the war, from 
special assignments for relatively junior officers to the broadest strategic 
concepts. Arnold's relationship with George Kenney in these matters is 
but one of many examples which could be cited. 

Kenney, a combat pilot in World War I, had been Arnold's observer 
of events in Europe in 1939. Later, Arnold made him MacArthur's air 
commander, not an enviable task. Kenney, bright and articulate, con- 
stantly bombarded Arnold with detailed letters which questioned the 
basic "Europe first" strategy."* The Southwest Pacific Air Forces com- 
mander emphasized repeatedly to Arnold the difficulty of dislodging 
Japanese troops if they were permitted to consolidate their quick gains 
of 1941 and 1942 and tried to dissuade him from concentrating strategic 
bombing forces in Europe. Arnold dealt with Kenney in a straightforward 
manner and in letter after letter patiently explained the global strategy, 
emphasizing that "the overall strategic picture does not permit that every 
theatre be considered from an offensive viewpoint." Just one year after 
Pearl Harbor, Arnold explained to Kenney that his aim was "to keep 
your forces at sufficient strength to enable you to support yourself de- 
fensively and to carry out a limited offensive against the Japanese.'"*' 

Strategic considerations were often discussed, and Arnold urged 
abandonment of the "old 'island to island' theory.'"** He furnished on 
a regular basis a detailed accounting of the aircraft recently dispatched, 


enroute, and planned for transfer to the Pacific, and candidly told Kenney 
that given the success of the North African campaign: 

Every hour and every airplane counts now, and any diversion from our European 
forces cannot appear to be justifiable. I cannot help but believe that a German 
collapse will permit a very rapid solution of the Japanese problem— if that collapse 
is not delayed too long.* 

The historian should not delude himself that Arnold wrote each of 
these letters or that he did not employ his staff in their preparation and 
coordination. Just the same the flavor of Arnold's comments on the 
margins of draft correspondence and the redrafting he required clearly 
indicate that he normally was fully aware of the implications as well as 
the details of the letters he signed to his field commanders. He did not 
hesitate to make decisions as quickly on paper as he was reputed to make 
them in person, and more than one reader was informed, "Now I propose 
to settle this matter once and for all.'"* He was aware of the impact of 
his wide-ranging letters on the recipient and oftentimes spoke to his 
commanders of his "heckling" them, but he also consistently asked them 
to "give me your ideas on the situation."" 

This candor generally sparked equal candor, and Kenney, for ex- 
ample, was willing to concede that "a lot of my fears expressed in previous 
correspondence were found to be groundless."" Kenney may not have 
been the only commander who could encourage Arnold to stay in good 
health "because I still need somebody to run to whenever I get into 
trouble."" Arnold's reply that "I am still operating on the basis that 
hard work may make some of us tired but is very seldom fatal"'" was 
consistent with his leadership ethic. 

The available documents do not permit an accurate assessment of 
the impact of ill health on Arnold's leadership. General Giles has indi- 
cated that during the last year of the war Arnold was not always in the 
decision-making process, but the correspondence does not support that 
view.'' Incidentally, whatever impact his personal drive may have had 
on his heart attacks, they should not be surprising, given the general 
vulnerability to such attacks among male members of the Arnold family. '* 

As a strategic thinker, Arnold has not left us any significant body 
of writing other than his rather straightforward account in Global Mission. 
Portal, his British counterpart, insisted that "Arnold had trouble follow- 
ing the strategic arguments,"" but Henry L. Stimson, an almost day-to- 
day observer, felt that Arnold possessed 

vision combined with loyalty, force combined with tact, and a comprehension of 
the large issues of strategy which gave his word great weight in the councils of the 
War Department and in the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff. " 

Among his colleagues. Admiral Leahy, cognizant of the difficulties which 
Arnold (and many others) endured with King and the U. S. Navy, wrote 


that Arnold "had a splendid appreciation of what the Air Force could 
do and was rarely in disagreement with the other chiefs. He knew the 
limitations of that arm of service."^' Even discounting the penchant of 
old soldiers to remember their colleagues more favorably in their memoirs 
than they might have been in real life, the verdict is in Arnold's favor. 
Harry Hopkins very often passed on to the President the results of his 
discussions with Arnold, many of which dealt with strategy.*" 

Arnold's belief in air power was forged from his faith in the power 
of strategic bombardment doctrine developed before the war at the Air 
Corps Tactical School. Arnold made no claim to originality and confessed 
that "as regards strategic bombardment, the doctrines were still Douhet's 
ideas modified by our own thinking in regard to pure defense."*' Certain 
shortcomings in implementation developed from the failure to appreciate 
the need for long-range fighters to accompany the bombers and from a 
lack of foresight as to the technological ingenuity which could produce 
that fighter. Yet, if Arnold must bear a share of that blame (and part of 
it legitimately belongs to him, his predecessors and their staffs, as well 
as to Congress and the American public), the United States was not 
alone. England's Royal Air Force, for example, predicated its entire 
night bombing strategy on its lack of accompanying long-range fighters. 

A realistic appreciation for the fact of life that overall strategy was 
planned and coordinated at least several organizational layers above him 
may partially explain Arnold's lack of fame as a strategic thinker. Yet, 
as Lt Colonel David Maclsaac has so well-documented, the Strategic 
Bombing Survey was undertaken to assess the results of strategic bomb- 
ing.*^ Whether or not Arnold's unbounding faith in the efficacy of stra- 
tegic bombing prompted him, he offered at Potsdam the most optimistic 
(and the most correct) forecast of the collapse of the Japanese, predicting 
their surrender in the month of October 1945." 

Arnold was, in the vernacular of the postwar period, a "hard-liner" 
toward the Soviet Union. Disillusioned by the Army Air Forces' frus- 
trating experience with shuttle bombing, annoyed by the diversion — un- 
der pressure from Harriman and Hopkins — of badly needed aircraft to 
the Soviet Union, and vividly impressed by the outrageous behavior of 
the Russian troops he saw at firsthand in the Berlin area while he was 
at Potsdam, Arnold had serious reservations about the peaceful intentions 
of the Soviet Union. *^ 

In dealing with the British, he worked hard to overcome difficulties 
with them soon after his appointment as Chief. He, like most American 
military leaders, was pleased that British and French orders for American 
aircraft in the period 1938-1940 permitted expansion of research, de- 
velopment and production facilities beyond what his own country's pro- 
curement plans would support. But after the fall of France, Arnold found 


himself faced with the dilemma between how to permit the delivery to 
England of previously-ordered aircraft and, at the same time, to provide 
sufficient training and operational aircraft for an American air arm should 
the war involve the United States. He generally worked well with his 
British counterparts, but he never conceded any superiority to the RAF 
after 1942. After Pearl Harbor, Arnold fought strenuously for a separate 
American air arm to validate the theory of daylight strategic bombard- 
ment and resisted British efforts to incorporate American aircraft into 
the RAF night operations. Dilution of the bombing effort in Western 
Europe by the diversion of resources to North Africa and Italy further 
exacerbated but never seriously affected relations. *' Generally removed 
from direct relations with the French, he was a Francophile in his esti- 
mates of the Gallic people.** 

In assessing his leadership, Arnold's personal characteristics as set 
forth by Air Marshal Slessor are fairly close to being accurate: 

He was transparently honest, terrifically energetic, given to unorthodox methods 
and, though shrewd and without many illusions, always with something of a school- 
boy naivete about him. In spite of his white hair and benignly patriarchal ap- 
pearance, he was a bit of a Peter Pan ... He had lived through years of frustration 
which had done nothing to impair his effervescent enthusiasm or his burning faith 
in the future of airpower. No one could accuse him of being brilliantly clever but 
he was wise and had the big man's flair for putting his finger on the really important 
point. He would never allow anything to stand in his way once he had made up 
his mind. " 

If generals are supposed to exude self-confidence. General Arnold along 
with General LeMay have confessed to us in writing that, as human 
beings, all men possess doubts. Arnold's comment to his wife, to whom 
he confided everything, that "I hope I am big enough to handle it"*" is 
not different from Curtis LeMay 's confession that "not once, during any 
switch of command, during any advancement in responsibility, have I 
ever considered that I was completely equipped for the new job at hand. 
Always I felt not fully qualified: needed more training, needed more 
information than I owned, more experience, more wisdom."*' Neither 
Arnold nor General LeMay, however, ever publicized those doubts to 
their followers. 

Arnold's sense of humor served him well, and many observers have 
commented on his ebullience, generally happy countenance, and ability 
to laugh, both at life and at himself. No authoritative account exists about 
the origin of his nickname "Hap," and his letters to his wife until the 
year 1934 were signed "Sonny," deriving from the eternally optimistic 
cartoon character. Sonny Jim.™ On board the USS Iowa headed for 
Casablanca, he could record in a diary which he never thought would be 
read by others: "Looked for a place where sailors were not washing the 
deck or saluting. Found neither."" On the same trip he wrote, "I took 
the President out to see the Sphinx today — the world's 3 most silent 


people."" While in Brazil, he could comment, "Dropped my watch on 
the concrete floor and it bounced. It also stopped."" While in the Pacific, 
he recorded an incident when Americans captured Japanese troops on 
Iwo Jima. As Arnold recounts the story: 

The (Americans] searched the Japs again and again— found nothing but their 
pistols — took them. Then, not linowing what to do, took the Japs to the [Amer- 
icans] tent to feed them. There was nothing but canned goods. The [Americans] 
tried to open the cans with a pocket knife, but with no luck. After many failures 
one Jap went deep inside his trousers and pulled out a knife a foot long and handed 
it to a group of 3 badly scared [Americans].'* 

While in the South Pacific during 1942, he recounted the incident 
of a ball turret which had been improvised in a B-26. In the heat of 
combat, the improvised mount failed, and the gun dropped, as Arnold 
tells it, 

and hit Zero on ring cowl. Cowl went through tail and [the Zero] disintegrated. 
Kenney gave gunner Purple Heart and bill for gun. Gunner asked if he could 
return Purple Heart and get credit on cost of gun." 

As important in understanding the man is the ability which Arnold 
possessed to laugh at himself. Once he reached the rank of general, he 
spoofed self-important generals and their penchant for the perquisites of 
office.'* He was honest with himself and with his family and colleagues. 
He was a warm man with intense love and affection for his wife and 
family which he never failed to express in his letters to them. His human 
qualities, extremely important in assessing leadership, have not been 
captured by a biographer, but are portrayed in many examples. He com- 
mented to his wife just after being promoted to brigadier general of "how 
one gets tired of saying pleasant things and shaking hands,"" and illus- 
trated a common dilemma as he prepared to testify before the McSwain 
Committee in 1935 pondering: 

... is it any wonder that my heart beat [sic] has jumped up and I look forward 
with some considerable dread as to what it is all about and what 1 can say and still 
maintain my self respect and not offend anyone.™ 

Lindbergh's account of a June 1939 meeting with Arnold described Ar- 
nold asking the then more-famous aviator, "What are you shooting at? 
Have you set a goal for yourself or do you just take life as it comes?" 
Lindbergh replied that he was not 

shooting at anything and that life was sufficiently complex in the modern times 
without trying to foresee its future too clearly. I [Lindbergh] said I liked to feel 
my way along as I lived and let life have a hand in guiding its own direction. 
Arnold told me he has always followed somewhat the same policy and that he, 
too, had never set a definite objective as his life's work." 

How many of us who have flown extensively have pondered Arnold's 
question to himself: "What makes flying so tiring? Is it the unrecognized 


wear and tear on the nerves? Is there a physical strain that we don't 
recognize? Is it the long hours — the curtailed sleep?"*" 

No simple item or event escaped his attention, and he tells us a good 
deal about himself as well as a meeting of the East with the West in his 
comment while in India in 1943: 

Have a man Friday. He draws my bath, puts out my clothes, tells me by so doing 
when I put on clean ones. Lays out my uniforms, and does everything he can to 
keep me from thinking. I don't like it. I want to decide something and not have 
everything decided for me. His name is Sam. 1 would like nothing better than to 
tell him to go sell his papers and come back after I am gone, but I haven't the 
nerve or heart, I don't know which." 

Robert Lovett and others have commented on Arnold's unbounded 
optimism and faith in the future." Although he would be the first to 
deny that he was a scientist, one of Arnold's major concerns and legacies 
to the USAF was his concern for the role of technology, research, and 
development in air power. As Arnold expressed it, 

I had yet another job. That was to project myself into the future; to get the best 
brains available, ... and determine what steps the US should take to have the 
best Air Force in the world twenty years hence. What kind of Air Force must we 
have? What kind of equipment ought we plan for twenty years, or thirty years 

He asked the noted scientist Theodore von Karman in September 
1944 to "gather a group of scientists who will work out a blueprint for 
air research for the next twenty, thirty perhaps fifty years." In a chapter 
he entitled "The Vision of Hap Arnold," von Karman tells of his work 
and the resulting reports. Toward New Horizons and Science: The Key 
to Air Supremacy, which were submitted immediately after the war. ** In 
many ways, Arnold's vision and concern for the future were as important 
a contribution as his build-up and development of the Army air arm 
during World War II. 

Arnold's concern for and use of the public affairs media need further 
assessment. Steve Early, a fairly successful purveyor of news for Franklin 
Roosevelt, insisted that Arnold ran a propaganda machine on government 
time during the Billy Mitchell controversy, although as Chief of Infor- 
mation, Arnold may well have been only doing his assigned job. ^ During 
World War II, Arnold was keenly aware of the attractiveness of the air 
aspects of the war to the news media, and there are many examples of 
his use of the printed page and films to win understanding and supporters 
for strategic bombing. Hollywood friends from his days at March Field 
were helpful, and Arnold appreciated the gains to be made in favorable 
publicity in the news media. He made himself available where possible 
to the news media; and his overseas visits, in particular, led to frequent 
meetings with Lowell Thomas or other famous newspeople. Still, Arnold 
could not help being candid with himself when he recorded in his diary: 


"News conference apparently went off OK. Dodged all of the embar- 
rassing questions."** Although critics of the Army Air Forces might not 
agree, Arnold's correspondence shows disdain for the circus-like aspect 
of publicizing the return of aerial aces, and he was insistent that in their 
homecoming the Army Air Forces not lose sight of the transfer of knowl- 
edge to future aviators which could be accomplished by assigning returned 
heroes to training rather than public relations functions." 

Within the constraints of this meeting, it is difficult to summarize 
the leadership of H. H. Arnold. He contributed more than any other 
military man to the building of the greatest air army ever assembled. He 
did it in spite of physical disabilities and the character limitations which 
plague all mortals. He was impetuous and single-minded in many aspects 
of his thinking, but his diary reveals a tremendously wide range of con- 
cerns for all aspects of civilization. The bottom line, however, is that he 
was an effective leader. As Walter Lippman has written, "The final test 
of a leader is that he leaves behind him the conviction and the will to 
carry on."** Certainly the fact that many of us here are members of the 
United States Air Force and that we are meeting at the United States 
Air Force Academy is ample testimony that Arnold has passed Lippman's 
final test of leadership. 



1. Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries: The War in the Air, in the Pacific, Middle 
East and Europe (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1946), January 30, 1943, 178. 

2. Letter, H. H. Arnold to his mother, c. Feb. 1906, Bruce Arnold Collection, Office 
of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., cited hereinafter as BAC. 

3. H. H. Arnold, Global Mission (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949), 29. 

4. Letter, H. H. Arnold to his wife, Jan. 31, 1914, BAC. 

5. Global Mission, 122. 

6. Ibid., 141. 

7. Ibid., 144. 

8. Arnold to his wife, July 29, 1934, BAC. 

9. James MacGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper and Row, 1978). 

10. Ray S. Cline, United States Army in World War II: The War Department; Washington 
Command Post: The Operations Division (Washington, D.C. ; Office of the Chief of Military 
History, 1941), 1. 

11. Arnold to his wife, Nov. 8, 1934, Apr. 5, 1935, BAC. 

12. Mark Skinner Watson, United States Army in World War II: The War Department; 
Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, (Washington, D.C; Historical Division, 
Department of the Army, 19S0), 286. 

13. Cited in ibid. 

14. Cited in ibid., 290. 

15. Global Mission, 163-64. 

16. Ibid., 163. 

17. Cline, 117. 

18. Diary of H. H. Arnold, Office of Air Force History, Jun. 22, Nov. 26, 1943; Sep. 
14, 1944, cited hereinafter as Diary. 

19. Cited in Forrest C. Pogue, George C. ManhaU, Vol III: Organizer of Victory, 1943- 
1945 (New York: The Viking Press. 1973), 72. 

20. Cited in Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds.. The Army Air Forces in 
World War II, Volume VI; Men and Planes (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 
1955), 56. 

21. Ibid. 

22. Cited in Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall, Vol. II: Ordeal and Hope, 1939-1942 
(New York: The Viking Press, 1966), 86. 

23. Diary, Sep. 18, 1942. 

24. Global Mission, 170. 

25. John Morton Blum, ed., From the Morgenthau Diaries, Vol. II: Years of Urgency, 
1938-1941 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 117 in which Morgenthau is 
quoted as saying: "Did Arnold get it." Arnold's more restrained account is in GM, 184-86. 

26. Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, An Intimate History (New York: Har- 
per and Brothers, 1948), 317. 

27. Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall, Vol. I: Education of a General, 1890-1939 
(New York: The Viking Press, 1963), p. 323. Arnold's account is in GM, 194. 

28. Letter, FDR to Ruth Goggins Roosevelt, Elliott Roosevelt, ed., FDR, His Personal 
Letters, 1928-1945 (4 vols.; New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce. 1950), Vol. Ill, part 2, 

29. See for example: FDR to Arnold, Jan. 13, 1942, Arnold to FDR, Jan. 15, 1942, May 
3, 1942, PSF Army Air Forces file; Arnold to FDR, Mar. 25, 1944, PSF Aviation file: 
Arnold to FDR, Dec. 21, 1944, PPF 8559, all in Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, 

30. Sherwood, 682. 

31. Quoted in Waiter Johnson, ed.. The Papers of Adiai E. Stevenson (4 vols.; Boston: 
Little Brown and Company, 1973), Vol II, p. 104. Arnold has some interesting comments 
on the Navy in Diary, Sept. 27, 1942, Jan. 19, 1943. 

32. Quoted in James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (New York: 
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1970), 182. 

33. General Laurence S. Kuter, USAF (Ret.), "How Hap Arnold Built the AAF," i4«> 
Force Magazine, (September, 1973), 88-93; "The General vs. The Establishment: General 


H. H. Arnold and the Air Staff," Aerospace Historian, XXI (Winter/December 19741 
185-89. ' '' 

34. Burns, Roosevelt, 183. For a different view from Kuter's, see USAF, Oral History 
Interview with Lt Gen Fred M. Dean, Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C. 

35. Memorandum, Arnold to Spaatz, Dec. 6, 1945, Office of Air Force History, Wash- 
ington, D.C. Cited hereinafter as Arnold Letters. 

36. Ibid. 

37. Global Mission, 180. 

38. Ibid., 292. 

39. Cited in Curtis E. LeMay and McKinlay Kantor, Mission with LeMay My Storv 
(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965), 347. 

40. Letter, Arnold to his wife, Nov. 10, 1935, Lois Arnold to her mother Nov 22 1937 

41. Interview with Mr. Dewitt S. Copp, Manchester, New Hampshire, August 22, 1978. 

42. Donald Douglas, Oral History Interview, Reminiscences of Associates of H. H. 
Arnold, Columbia University, New York. 

43. Kuter, op. cit., Air Force Magazine, 89. 

44. Kuter, op. cit.. Aerospace Historian, 185. 

45. Ibid., 188. 

46. Lieutenant General George C. Kenney to Arnold, Oct. 24, 1942; Feb. 11, Apr. 21 
Sept. 26, 1944; Feb. 10, 1945; Arnold to Kenney, Dec. 6, 1942; Feb. 11, Feb 26* Mar 21* 
May 14, Oct. 31, 1944; Mar. 3, 1945. Copies in Office of Air Force History, Washington' 
D.C, Arnold Letters. ^ ' 

47. Arnold to Kenney, Dec. 6, 1942, Arnold Letters 

48. Ibid. 

49. Ibid. 

50. Arnold to Kenney, Feb. 26, 1944, Arnold Letters 

51. Ibid., Mar. 21, 1944. 

52. Kenney to Arnold, Feb. 10, 1945, Arnold Letters 

53. Ibid. 

54. Arnold to Kenney, Mar. 3, 1945, Arnold Letters. 

55. Lt. General Barney Giles, Oral History Interview, Reminiscences of Associates of 
H. H. Arnold, Columbia University; see Arnold's marginalia on letter, Kenney to Arnold 
Feb. 10, 1945, Arnold Letters. 

56. Interview with Col. Wm. Bruce Arnold, USAF (Ret.), Washington, DC, Aug. 16, 

57. Quoted in Pogue, III, 7. 

58. Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New 
York: Harper and Brothers, 1947), 661. 

59. William D. Leahy, / Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to President 
Roosevelt and Truman Based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time (New York- 
McGraw Hill Book Company, 1950), 104. 

60. See for example, Sherwood, 681-82. 

61. Global Mission, 149. 

62. David Maclsaac, Strategic Bombing in World War Two: The Story of the United States 
Strategic Bombing Survey (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1976) 

63. Ibid. 

64. Diary, Sept. 11, 1944, July 16, 18, 19, 23, 1945. 

65. Diary, June 13, 14, 1944. 

66. Diary, June 12, 19. 1944, July 12, 1945. 

67. Sir John Slessor, The Central Blue: The Autobiography of Sir John Slessor, Marshall 
of the RAF (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1957), 326-27 

68. Arnold to his wife, Feb. 13, 1917, BAC. 

69. LeMay, op. cit., 433. 

70. Interview with Mrs. Carl Spaatz, Aug. 30, 1978. 

71. Diary, May 15, 1943. 

72. Diary, Nov. 24, 1943. 

73. Diary, Feb. 17, 1943. 

74. Diary, Jun. 15, 1945. 

75. Ibid. 

76. Arnold to his wife, Sept. 18, 27, 1935, BAC. 


77. Arnold to his wife, Sept. 18, 1935, BAC. 

78. Arnold to his wife, Apr. 4, 1935, BAC. 

79. Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journal of Charles A. Lindbergh (New York: 
Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1970), June 7, 1939, 209. 

80. Diary, Feb. 15, 1943. 

81. Diary, July 21, 1943. 

82. Robert Lovett, Oral History Interview, Reminiscences of Associates of H. H. Arnold. 
Columbia University. 

83. Global Mission. 532. 

84. Theodore von Karman with Lee Edson, The Wind and Beyond: Theodore von Kar- 
man. Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Space (Boston: Little Brown and Company 
1967), 267-307. 

85. Blum, op. cit.. 118-19. 

86. Diary, April 5, 1945; Sept. 4, 1945. 

87. Arnold to Kenney, Mar. 21, 1944, May 14, 1944, Arnold Letters. 

88. Walter Lippman, New York Herald Tribune, April 14. 1945. 






General LeMay: 

Initially, I thought I might try to define leadership in the short time 
I had, and I was particularly interested in the quote that General Huston 
had in his very fine paper on General Arnold quoting Professor Burns, 
whom I do not know. Burns suggests that leadership is inducing followers 
to act for certain goals that represent the values and motivations, wants 
and needs, and aspirations and expectations of both leaders and followers; 
and the genius of leadership lies in the manner in which the leaders act 
on their own and their followers' values and motivations. Leadership, 
unlike naked power wielding, is thus inseparable from the followers' 
needs and goals. Now, that's a nice, scholarly definition. It's got a lot of 
three and four syllable words in it, and I can't get it off with one breath; 
but it seems, on the face of it, to be adequate. 

I would suggest, however, that Professor Burns wasn't in the Eighth 
Air Force in the early days over in England. If he were, he'd probably 
want to change the wording somewhat. Looking back to those days, I'm 
sure we all had goals and aspirations— one of them was to win the war. 
But we didn't think any of us would be around to see that day. It was 
a long time in the future before we'd get the airplanes built and the 
people trained and the necessary forces over there to do the job. 

This definition sounds a little bit like all of us leaders were geniuses, 
and we had gotten the idea over to our troops, and everybody was eager 
and happy to go do the job. Well, I know at least one leader, and I'm 
sure there were several more around, who were something less than 
enthusiastic about taking 50 bombers and going to Germany against 700 
German fighters. I'm sure that if a lot of the crews thought about winning 
the war, it wasn't very often; their basic goal and aspiration was to try 
to stay alive, which is a little different definition than the one I just read. 
In spite of the unsatisfactory situation that existed, however, no bomber 
mission was ever turned back by enemy action, which indicates to me 
that leadership in Eighth Air Force was alive and healthy, but probably 
operating under a simplified definition. 


So I'm not going to try to define leadership. I think that if I can point 
out a couple of good examples of what I considered outstanding lead- 
ership, it might stir your minds to some questions that we might answer 
during the question period. 

First, a couple of examples on General Arnold that I don't think 
General Huston stressed enough in his very fine paper. I think one of 
General Arnold's great accomplishments in leadership was to build an 
air force that consisted of about 1,200 officers, active and reserves on 
active duty, and 10,000 men to a force of two and a half million and put 
them in the field. The battles that he had to wage in the Pentagon to get 
the resources allocated to equip a force of this size were tremendous. 
The most important one was getting adopted the command system that 
we had in the Pacific, where strategic air power was taken out from under 
the theater commanders and operated directly under the Joint Chiefs of 

All these things made a real impression on me, and I knew then 
what a great accomplishment it was, but I really didn't know how great 
until I went through the mill in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and fought battles 
of lesser magnitude down there. At any rate, these accomplishments 
served a real purpose in leadership. They motivated me to try to accom- 
plish something with what he provided me to fight in the field. 

Another example of General Arnold's ability to motivate: when he 
visited us over in Guam late in the spring of 1945, one of the questions 
after we'd given him a briefing on what we were doing was, "When's the 
war going to end?" He told us he asked that same question every place 
he visited. Well, we'd already made up our minds that we ought to try 
to end the war before the invasion of Japan, which we knew was No- 
vember 1st, but I told him we'd been too busy to come up with an exact 
date. If he'd give me thirty minutes, I'd get one. So I sent the Plans, 
Intelligence, and Operations officers off and said, "Get the target list 
and tell me when we're going to run out of major targets." As I remember, 
the date was the first of September. (I see in General Huston's paper, 
he cheated on us a little bit and made it the first of October when he got 
back to Washington.) That also motivated us to get busy and see that we 
did what we said we were going to do. 

I think that it's perfectly obvious that if you're going to try to define 
leadership, you'd better have a lot of definitions. I think there's probably 
one for every level of leadership. The type that General Arnold provided 
is one; and the type of field commander and a commander of lesser units 
in combat is something else again, and it would probably require slightly 
different modifications. 

If I had to come up with one word to define leadership, I would say 
"responsibility." If a leader hasn't a highly developed sense of respon- 


sibility, he can't really be a top leader. That means that you really feel 
that you have a responsibility for carrying out the job that you're supposed 
to do and, not only that, to go beyond that and come up with otherthings 
that should be done to accomplish the overall goal besides those that 
you've just been ordered to do. 

I came from a generation of people in the Air Force who didn't go 
to the schools that you now have scattered around the countryside. Before 
the war broke out, I was too young to go to any of the schools we then 
had in existence, the main one of which was the Air Corps Tactical School 
and the next one of which was the Army Command and Staff College. 
After the war I was too old and too high ranking to go. So I finished my 
thirty-six years in the Army and the Air Force uneducated in my profes- 
sion. I did pick up a few things along the way, however, mostly by trial 
and error. As I met and worked with people, a great number of them 
had an influence on what I did when I got into command positions: 
General Andrews, General Spaatz, General Eaker, and a lot of other 
people. I think the most outstanding one was the first bomb group com- 
mander I had when I transferred from fighters to bombers at Langley 
Field— Colonel Robert Olds. He taught me more in thirty days than I 
had learned in the previous seven years that I had been in the service. 

This education came about a little bit by accident. My assignment 
then was operations officer of one of the squadrons in the group, and the 
group operations officer had fallen ill from some malady and he was out 
for about a month; and I was called over to the group to fill in as group 
operations officer. The operations office was out in front of the hangars 
on the ground floor, and Colonel Old's office was right upstairs above 
it. Well, the first thing I learned was that the day would probably be 
more peaceful if I were in my chair down there when he came to work 
in the morning — and that wasn't at 8 o'clock when everybody else came 
to work. Colonel Olds always stopped by the desk on his way upstairs, 
and he always had a few questions for me, like, "What's the weather in 
San Antonio this morning?" "I don't know. Sir." "Well, you ought to 
know; your airplanes will fly that far." Or, "How many airplanes are in 
commission this morning?" Well, I didn't know that until along about 
9 o'clock when the engineering officer came in with a note, having gotten 
the report from the squadrons that such and such airplanes were in com- 
mission. I found out I better have that before 9 o'clock. Then, such things 
as, "How many practice bombs are in the dump?" "How much gasoline 
you got and how many hours can you fly on your supplies?" And a 
thousand and one other questions every morning, just like clockwork, 
as he came to work. Then after he'd asked these few questions, he'd 
proceed to give me ten days' work to do that day and go on upstairs. At 
the end of thirty days, I was pretty far behind. But it dawned on me for 


the first time what I was in uniform for and what I should have been 
doing that I hadn't been doing for the last seven years. 

Now I'm firmly convinced that leaders are not born, they're edu- 
cated, trained, and made, as in every other profession. Certainly, you 
have to have the normal attributes that a normal human being has. If a 
man is born with only one leg, he certainly is not going to win the 100 
yard dash in the Olympic Games. But if he has two legs and a normal 
physique and build and he works at it hard enough, he can at least make 
a reasonable showing. This is true of leaders. 

All of you cadets are now starting out here and will have opportun- 
ities to get yourself educated to be a leader, and the road should be a 
lot easier than for some of the rest of us who had to learn our lessons, 
sometimes, at the cost of the lives of some of our people. 

General Weyland: 

As you know, my combat experience was predominantly in the area 
of tactical air operations. Tactical air, as you all know, is the air element 
of joint and combined operations, which consist from time to time of air, 
ground, and, occasionally, sea forces. These are normally set up under 
a joint or a combined commander, depending upon whether foreign forces 
are involved or not. Now, as was mentioned by earlier speakers, World 
War I saw the emergence of air power. In this period, air power involved 
mainly reconnaissance as the best utilization of the airplane and was 
predominantly tactical, and the bombing and fighting that were done in 
World War I were primarily tactical in nature. Air power achieved its 
stature in World War II, where we had very large forces indeed and had 
AlHed forces as well as American forces involved. 

The surface forces had long years of service and history prior to the 
emergence of air power. Also, when in combat, they normally had the 
largest aggregate manpower involved. Consequently, with these joint and 
combined forces, the senior services, with their larger manpower in- 
volved, generally inherited the joint or combined leadership in the field. 
Emerging air power generally took a second place. We eventually got 
along, however. 

Some of these ground commanders were not always enamoured of 
the emerging, dynamic, and increasingly dominant young upstart service. 
Nevertheless, there were a number of surface commanders — ground com- 
manders predominantly, and generally the most successful — who were 
pretty far-seeing and who appreciated the rapidly increasing potential of 
air power as a war-winning member of the armed forces. The most pro- 
vincial looked upon air power merely as a useful adjunct to their own 
individual services. 


I'd like to mention a few of those surface, predominantly Army, 
commanders whose understanding leadership had a lot to do with the 
successful emergence and the ultimate dominance of air-space power in 
war. General Marshall was very broadminded and got along very well 
with General Arnold, as you have been told. There was General Eisen- 
hower, who became the Supreme Commander in Europe; there was 
General Bradley, who was the senior American ground commander in 
Europe. And I must mention General Patton because I loved the old 
guy. I considered him the best field army commander that the world has 
ever seen. Then, of course, there are people like John Hull and General 
MacArthur out in the Far East, with whom I later became associated 
during the Korean War, and who was a character unto himself. 

Now to mention a few from the UK [United Kingdom]. The out- 
standing one was the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill. He considered him- 
self a naval person, I've heard. And there was Mountbatten; Alexander, 
whom I did not know; and Field Marshal Montgomery. Whether you like 
him or not, he was a brilliant soldier and had quite an impact, I think, 
on the emergence and proper employment of air power. All of these 
commanders, American and British, had considerable influence on the 
evolution and emergence of air power and consequently its leaders. 

Having mentioned some early ground leaders and their influence in 
the development of air power, I'd like to mention a few early air leaders. 
There was Frank Lahm, Oscar Westover and Benny Foulois, with whom 
everybody is familiar, who had a tremendous influence on the develop- 
ment of air power. We had a fellow named Horace Hickham, who would 
have been a dandy. He was really a wonderful officer, but he came to 
an untimely death in an aircraft accident. (I know he was good, because 
he gave me the best chewing out I've ever had in my life.) Then there 
was Frank Andrews, another one who would have been one of the top 
air force people, and he was at the time he was killed. I served under 
him in Panama when World War II started, and he was a dandy. He 
loved to fly airplanes, and he didn't always fly them very cautiously. 
Consequently, he bumped into an ice mountain up in Iceland. Otherwise, 
he would have been undoubtedly one of our greatest leaders in World 
War II and subsequently. Then we had many others of whom you have 
heard and know and who had a profound influence on our development. 
George Kenney and Ennis Whitehead were great tactical airmen. Ira 
Eaker, who is sitting back here, contributed mightily, especially to think- 
ing, as he still does. 

Apropos the thinking in the Air Force, I'd like to mention the old 
Air Corps Tactical School. Unlike Curt LeMay, I was privileged to go 
to the Air Corps Tactical School, the think tank of the emerging air force. 
There was a guy there named Hoyt Vandenberg, now gone. "Poss" 


Hansell was there, and Larry Kuter, and many others. They were thinking 
way ahead and certainly had a tremendous influence on the evolution of 
air power, whether strategic, tactical, or otherwise. And those of us who 
did attend that school owe a great debt of gratitude to the people down 
at Maxwell Field back in the 1930s who were postulating what air power 
could and should be in the future. 

Among the British airmen of note, there was the father of the Royal 
Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force, Air Marshal Lord Trenchard, 
who was a wonderful guy and who had a tremendous influence on the 
development of the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] and concomi- 
tantly on the development of the American air forces. On the tactical 
side, there was Portal, who was the head of the British Air Force. There 
was Air Marshal Tedder, who was associated with Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery in Africa; they jointly developed much of the tactical air doctrine 
which we adopted later on and, I like to think, improved. Finally, one 
of the great British tactical air commanders was a fellow named "Mary" 

I'd like to close by quoting some of the great commanders on the 
importance of air power. General Eisenhower stated, "Battle experience 
proved that control of the air, the prerequisite to the conduct of ground 
operations in any given area, was gained most economically by the em- 
ployment of air forces operating under a single commander." 

Field Marshal Montgomery, whether you like him or not, is a great 
guy to quote insofar as air matters are concerned. "Air power," he 

is becoming the decisive factor in warfare. We must, therefore, get organized 
accordingly. What we must do now is organize the command and control of our 
air forces so as to retain the greatest degree of flexibility, centralizing command 
in the highest commander who can effectively exercise that command so he can 
wield the available air forces in a theater of war as one mighty weapon. 

Our chairman. Doctor Pogue, said that he certainly expected me to 
quote General Patton, so I close with a story about Patton. While he was 
in North Africa, General Patton's association with the air apparently 
wasn't too happy, and he came up to England with a rather low opinion, 
I suspect, of air power. Nobody particularly envied me my position of 
working with General Patton in the forthcoming combat on the Conti- 
nent. My fighters and recce had become old pros by that time, however, 
and they were pretty doggoned good. So while his troops were being 
assembled in Great Britain, 1 took General Patton around and visited all 
of our units. To make a long story short, he learned what military pre- 
cision is all about, and he began to appreciate at that time what air power 
really was. He would attend briefings and debriefings, and he discovered 
that we had a real professional air force in England that could support 


him and anything else that had to be done in the invasion and the sub- 
sequent operations on the Continent. 

When the invasion was made by the American First Army and the 
British armies, General Patton and I were supposed to be secret- we had 
led the Germans, hopefully, to believe that we were going to make a 
main invasion someplace else. Well, finally we moved across and were 
all set for the breakout that did occur. His tanks still had bulldozers on 
them, and my fighter bombers were primarily still operating from Eng- 
land; but he started an armoured column south on a road. One afternoon 
he went down to visit them, and he came back very, very jubilant In his 
high, rather squeaky voice that he had when he was rather excited he 
said, "Opie, come on over." So I went on over. "How about a drink'>" 
he said. Well, I did'nt say no. Then he described what had happened 
down on this highway. He said the only thing that was holding up his 
troops was a whole bunch of dead Germans and enemy artillery horses 
trucks-materiel that fighter bombers had beat up on the roads. His tanks 
had to pause and bulldoze them off the roads so they could advance He 
was pretty jubilant about that, and he envisioned our very early arrival 
in Berlin and things of that nature. To make a long story short again it 
wasn't very long before that quart of bourbon had disappeared and this 
mutual respect which we had achieved back in England ripened into a 
very warm and undying friendship. And he became a very devout ad- 
vocate of air power. If he'd been about ten or twenty years younger I'm 
sure he would have been an airman. ' 

Admiral Martin: 

We are nearing the end of our second day, but it has only become 
fully clear to me how exactly outnumbered this sailor is. To bolster my 
courage, I've been trying to project myself in a reverse sort of way into 
the frame of mind of a Marine Corps ditty which used to taunt us very 
junior naval officers in the 1930s. It went something like this- "Ten 
thousand gobs laid down their swabs to lick one sick Marine." 

It seems that almost everyone in naval aviation, past and present 
agrees that the most important elements of leadership in World War 11 
were those exhibited by a comparatively youthful group, the air group 
commanders and squadron commanders and a few others even younger 
There are reasons for this which I will deal with later. At this point it 
would be appropriate to mention two factors that were important to the 
wartime successes of these young leaders. One factor influenced the 
quality of leadership found in flyers engaged in combat. The other greatly 
affected the results of exercising good leadership in war. The active Navv 
flyers of World War II had a distinguished heritage to live up to a 
heritage established by the founding fathers of naval aviation. William 


Moffett and Joseph Reeves, for example, were tough, resolute, inspiring, 
outspoken, ever eager to experiment. John Towers, naval aviator number 
3, and James Forrestal, naval aviator number 154, were brilliant admin- 
istrative reformers who were intensely dedicated to naval aviation, re- 
ceptive to new ideas. 

In the high command was Ernest J. King, hard as nails, profane, and 
uncompromising. Soon after the United States entered World War II, 
he was designated Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Chief 
of Naval Operations. Upon assuming this highest naval command, he 
was heard to remark, "When the shooting started, they wanted an SOB, 
so they sent for me" — or words to that effect! 

In the fleet commands we had William F. Halsey, Marc Mitscher, 
and John S. McCain. "Bull" Halsey — gruff, exuberant, aggressive, all 
fighter; consequently, not overly meticulous in planning. "Slew" Mc- 
Cain — fearless, aggressive, personally pleasant, but also profane, occa- 
sionally hotheaded, as evidenced by his comments about General "Hap" 
Arnold. Pete Mitscher, quiet, soft-spoken, slight of build, but tough and 
wiry, a leader's leader commanding the respect of all naval aviators. 
Among the air task group commanders we had Arthur W. Radford, 
Forrest C. Sherman, Alfred E. Montgomery, J. J. Clark, John W. 
Reeves, Gerald Bogan, Ralph E. Davison. 

I believe a thumbnail description of these admirals serves to make 
the point that no two leaders come from the same mold. "Raddie" Rad- 
ford — tough minded leader under stress, quiet, calm, decisive, serious, 
highly respected. "Fightin' Freddie" Sherman — explosive, zealous, de- 
manding, irritable, a superb tactician who loved a good fight, liked to 
take risks. "Monty" Montgomery — impatient, sarcastic, irascible except 
in battle, when he was calm and thoughtful, not popular, but respected. 
"Jocko" Clark — loud, boisterous, hard-hitting taskmaster, inspiring con- 
fidence up and down; Cherokee Indian blood contributed to a fighting 
spirit; tough, unrelenting advocate of do-it-yourself. "Black Jack" 
Reeves — tough, fiery, impatient, feared by many, but those who knew 
him well knew of his deep compassion. Jerry Bogan — outspoken, smart, 
tenacious in combat, loved a scrap, a thorough teacher. Dave Davison — 
highly intelligent, articulate, well-read, friendly manner, fun loving, and 
a smooth tactician. 

Those were the superiors of our young leaders. Note the wide variety 
of characteristics, qualities, traits, and personalities. No two were alike, 
yet all of them were effective in combat situations, some more than 
others. Many were emulated by our young leaders. Each admiral left his 
imprint on the air group and squadron commanders who carried out his 
orders and brought him the results of their actions in combat, bringing 
also lessons learned, and in effect, formulating new doctrine, discarding 


the ineffective procedures, and initiating imaginative tactics to be tested 
in subsequent combat missions. 

A vital factor in the success of naval aviation has been a partnership 
between the Navy and private industry— the aircraft and ordnance man- 
ufacturers, the weapons system developers, the ship builders who were 
willing to go along with the bizarre idea of installing an airfield on a 
ship's hull with a hangar in its bowels. Even the greatest of air leaders 
cannot be successful in combat unless he is provided adequate aircraft 
and weapons systems. Therefore, let us not overlook our leaders in aer- 
onautical design and the leaders in aviation industry who produced quaUty 
products in prodigious quantities. 

At the beginning of World War II, the Navy's inventory of aircraft 
included slightly more than 1,700 fixed wing, plus a handful of lighter- 
than-air, vehicles. At the end of 1945, only five years later, the Navy's 
inventory recorded more than 40,000 aircraft on hand, a staggering 
achievement in industrial development, especially when viewed in light 
of other wartime production simultaneously in progress. The task for 
naval aeronautical engineers was to develop aircraft uniquely configured 
to serve the Navy's at-sea mission. Navy personnel worked in a day-to- 
day liaison with private industry to develop a variety of aircraft which 
enhanced naval capabilities, aircraft which embodied totally new flight 
and weapons system technologies to serve fleet warfare requirements 
throughout the oceans of the world. 

We have looked at two important factors which undergirded our 
young flyers: seniors who set inspiring examples, and the strong support 
of a Navy and aircraft industry partnership which provided superior tools 
of war. But why was the leadership position of these young flyers con- 
sidered to be more important than others in World War II aviation? Here 
are some of the reasons. They were the principal protectors of the fleet 
from enemy air, surface, and subsurface threats. They were the fleet's 
principal offensive means to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever 
he could be found. Remember, too, the commencement of Worid War 
II found naval aviation with untried doctrine and untested tactics. The 
naval air war of Worid War II was a new experience. It could not be pre- 
planned and pre-programmed as professional football teams plan for next 
Sunday's rival. Throughout the war, air group and squadron commanders, 
men in their late 20s and eariy 30s, continually were rewriting doctrine, 
redesigning tactics, and injecting imaginative new ideas for improving 
combat results or to meet new, unpredictable situations. As senior staff 
positions and many senior aircraft carrier billets were filled by graduates 
of the air groups after the first year of the war, the momentum of every 
aspect of fleet carrier operations picked up. 


Let us now take a little closer look at these young leaders. What are 
the desirable qualities of leadership? Do the leadership qualities desired 
of a young officer in time of war differ from the qualities we expect of 
them in times of peace? Let us consider what one fleet commander wrote 
as guidance to young officers who asked him what was expected of them 
if they were to attain outstanding fitness reports, something that you 
worry about primarily in peacetime. He gave them this list: 

1. Achievements: The outstanding officer produces results. Many are 
industrious; the true measure is effectiveness of the work. 

2. Ability to make decisions, closely allied with achievement: The 
officer must learn to evaluate information, analyze the problem, and 
integrate the two into a sound and incisive decision. 

3. Breadth of vision: An effective officer must bring to his profession 
a knowledge of all the political, social, scientific, economic and military 
factors which impinge upon his service. 

4. Imagination: Imagination and its companion virtue — initiative — 
are vital. 

5. Knowledge of one's own job: This is easily described and difficult 
to achieve. It means a complete mastery of a job and a detailed knowledge 
of all its responsibilities, including those of one's subordinates. 

6. Manner of performance: There are four general approaches to 
getting a job done. The officer can do it himself, drive others to do it, 
inspire others to do it, or combine those three in the optimum manner. 
The outstanding leader knows himself, his job, his men, and the im- 
mediate situation, and he knows how to combine those approaches to 
solve best the problems at hand. 

7. Teamwork: Individual accomplishment is important, but team- 
work — cooperation and a willingness to contribute more than one's 
share — ^is vital. 

8. Personal behavior: The spectrum of this quality is so wide that it 
cannot be easily condensed. Suffice it to say that no military officershould. 
be in a position of responsibility if his entire behavior pattern does not 
reflect absolute integrity and honor. 

9. Physical endurance: Outstanding achievement is physically ar- 
duous. An officer must have the physical capability to remain mentally 
alert through long hours of hard work. 

10. Sense of humor: Really a matter of keeping everything in the 
proper perspective, of being able to distinguish between the important 
and the trivial. 

11. Being a good shipmate: In achieving the growth described in this 
check off list, an officer must not lose sight of his relationships with 
others. One can only be effective through others. You can't go it alone. 

In adapting the above list to a wartime situation, it is necessary to 
say something about courage. Since courage flows from devotion and 


consecration, let me close with the words of, to me, the greatest naval 
leader of our time, Arleigh Burke: 

Experience has brought me a full appreciation of the prize cargo a man can hoist 
aboard. To this beloved Navy I do commend: love of country, overshadowing all 
other loves, including service, family, and the sea; individual desire to excel, not 
for aggrandizement of self, but to increase the excellence of the Navy; devotion, 
perhaps consecration, to personal integrity in oneself, in one's service, in one's 
country; courage to stand for principle, regardless of efforts to dilute this courage 
through compromise or evasion. 

Perhaps you would agree with me that these quaUties are as valid 
today as they were when they were written over twenty-five years ago. 



David Schoenbaum (University of Iowa) asked the panelists what kinds of problems face 
cadets of this institution that are significantly different from their own experiences and what 
they have done that they would not want to repeat. 

General LeMay: As I understand your question, you are asking what 
were some of my experiences and were there any of them I wouldn't 
want to repeat. The answer is, yes, a lot of them. I think the main 
experience that I wouldn't want to repeat is the war experience that I 
had. That experience was, I think, responsible for my actions and the 
actions of the people I gathered around me in building up the Strategic 
Air Command after the war. 

There is nothing worse that I've found in life than going into battle 
ill-prepared or not prepared at all, and that was our case. We suspected 
some four or five months before it came that we would be in war shortly. 
This was a horrible experience to go through, because I was operations 
officer at the group at that time, and the questions in my mind were what 
am I going to do and what should I be doing now to get ready for war? 
I had a newly formed group which didn't have all the people in it. We 
only had a few airplanes, not much in the way of equipment and supplies, 
no place to bomb, and no bombs. It was a pretty horrifying experience 
to go through, trying to get ready to fight without anything to get ready 

Even a few months later on, when we were actually at war and I 
was given command of a bomb group, it consisted almost 100 percent of 
inexperienced people. I had one major, who had been commissioned 
from the rank of master sergeant, an administrative clerk, and he was 
my group adjutant. I had two pilots, besides myself, who had flown B- 
17s before, and we three had to check off the other pilots, who came 
directly from single engine school. The armament officer was an ex- 
Marine corporal who had been in the trouble down in Nicaragua with 
the Marines and who had been a captain in the Nicaragua National Guard 
for awhile. He knew something about machine guns, so he was my ord- 
nance officer. My prize was a first lieutenant who had been a line chief 
in B-17s as a tech sergeant. 

The navigators I got two weeks before we went overseas. They had 
had one ride in a B-17 before they navigated across the Atlantic; the 
first time half of them had seen the Atlantic was when they navigated 
across it. The bombardiers had never dropped a live bomb. They'd 
dropped some practice bombs over a desert on a nice white circle you 
could see for fifty miles, something entirely different from trying to find 
a factory in the midst of a built-up area in the industrial haze of Europe. 
The gunners had been to gunnery school, supposedly, but they had never 


ISred a gun from an airplane. I got them one ride in a B-17 to shoot the 
machine guns out the rear waist gun position at the desert as we went 

We never got to fly formation until we got to England. The first day 
we could fly I got up in formation, and it was a complete debacle. The 
next flight, I got up in the top turret on the radio and positioned each 
one of them, and the gaggle that I had around me approached the for- 
mation I wanted to fly. The third time we flew, we went across the 
Channel. That was our start into combat. 

Things got better as the training program got organized and pro- 
ceeded, but we never did catch up. Every theater had to have a combat 
crew replacement center to bring new people up to date on the latest 
things we were doing because the war was moving too fast for them to 
keep up in the training program back home. 

I hope no American has to go through the exercise again, and that 
was my hope when I took over command of Strategic Air Command in 
1948 — that we could build a force that would be so strong, so professional, 
so well equipped, that no one would dare attack us. That's what kept us 
working seventy to ninety hours a week for the ten years that I was in 
the Command, and I think most of them are still doing it now. 

Brigadier General Tom Gregory (Mobilization Augmentee to the Deputy Chief of 
Staf£/Lx>gistics at Headquarters Military Airlift Command) asked if leadership, once learned, 
became ingrained, or if leadership skills could be lost either temporarily or permanently? 

General LeMay: If leadership's once obtained, can it be lost? Well, I 
suppose it can become rusty. I never had a chance to get rusty on it 
because I was in the operational and command end of the game most of 
the time except for the unpleasant tours I had in the Pentagon. I think 
it probably can get rusty, but it is probably like riding a bicycle; once 
you learn the procedures, I don't think you forget them. You may forget 
some of the technical points and things of that sort that would enhance 
your leadership, but the basic principles I think stick with you pretty well. 

Admiral Martin: I completely agree with you. General. I believe that 
leadership is something that improves with age, and this has been true 
of the great leaders I've known. They have grown greater, even the ones 
in retirement are still leading in their areas as civilians. I think that it's 
possible for you to lose it temporarily through illness or emotional distress 
and that sort of thing. But I believe it's something, as the General says, 
like riding a bicycle; if you have it, and if you have the proper exposure, 
which the young men at this establishment would have, I think it will 
grow; and the normal thing is for it to grow and grow and grow. 

Chet B. Snow (Military Airlift Wing at Travis Air Force Base) asked General Huston 
what lessons we can learn from General Arnold's career on dealing with the problem of 


dual leadership in the military and civilian spheres. 

General Huston: First of all, there is an appreciation that it does exist 
and that in the American system the final decision is made by civilians. 
The military leader must say, "This is what we think, and up to a point 
we'll argue as forcibly and as logically as we can for that; but once that 
decision is made, we'll salute smartly and carry it out to the best of our 
abilities." It's a rather simplistic answer, and a very obvious one; but I 
think if you look at General Arnold's career, you'll see he believed in 
this idea, and, more importantly, he practiced it. 

Cadet Anthony Taijeron inquired of General LeMay: "What do you believe is the 
primary problem that my generation faces in the military today, and how do you propose 
we go about attacking it?" 

General LeMay: Well, your generation has quite a few problems. I 
guess like all old men throughout the ages, we think the world's gone to 
hell in a hand basket. Sticking to the military problem, I think that we 
haven't provided an adequate national defense for the country, and I 
believe that we haven't yet evolved to the point where we can do without 
an adequate defense. To me the only sure way of keeping out of war is 
being so stong that no one dares to attack you. I thiftk we have the 
capability and resources to do this. We seem to lack the will. So, from 
that standpoint, to me your primary problem is to provide an adequate 
defense of the country to keep us out of war. The only way to do that 
that I know of is to get the true story of the situation to the people. I 
have great faith in the American electorate. If they get the facts, they 
usually come up with the right answer at the ballot box. It is very difficult 
to get the facts and the true story out to the American people at the 
present time, but it can be done. 

An example that I always give on the subject occurred right after 
I came back from Europe and took over SAC, which we started to build 
back up again because we got a good scare from the Russians. One of 
my chores was to convince the then-majority leader of the Senate, Lyndon 
Johnson, that we needed a pay raise in order to attract people into the 
service and to keep people in the service after we had trained them. I 
had trouble cornering him so that I could tell him my story, but finally 
ran him down on the ranch in Texas over a weekend. First thing I had 
to do was go out and do a little electioneering with a couple of "kits," 
as he called them, in a station wagon. Each kit contained a bottle of 
bourbon and some ice, and so forth. But 1 finally got him around the 
swimming pool on Sunday morning, and I gave him the story. 

He said, "LeMay, I agree with you. You've got a good case and you 
do need a pay raise, but you haven't got a prayer of getting it now. You 
couldn't get it through the Military Affairs Committee; and even if you 
did, you couldn't get through the Appropriations Committee; and even 


if you got It through there, you couldn't get it on the floor because you 
couldn't get it through the Rules Committee. Even if we passed it, the 
President would probably veto it, so you haven't got a prayer." 

So I went home, and about two weeks later Arthur Godfrey was 
throwing a tea party on Sunday morning. I just happened to be there 
and got Godfrey on the job. He gave Senator Johnson the story and got 
the same answer. So he said, "Well, Senator, you say we've got a good 
story. If you were in our position, what would you do?" And Johnson 
replied, "Well, if you can get grass roots support, we might be able to 
get somethmg done." And Godfrey said, "What do you mean— letters 
to the Congress?" "Yes, that's one way." And Godfrey said, "Get 
braced, you are going to get some letters." At the time he was operating 
a radio program at 10 o'clock every morning. All the gals, while they 
were domg the morning chores, ironing and washing the dishes, and so 
forth , listened to Godfrey. And he gave them the story. Three months 
later we had a pay bill, which the leader of the Senate had said was 

One man did it with a radio program. Of course, he couldn't do that 
in this day and age because then he was putting out a live radio program; 
by the time his show went off the air, he had five vice presidents in CBS 
whose sole duty was to audit his tapes before they went on the air. So 
the job can be done, but not by one man now. A lot of people have to 
get onto it. You've got to get the story to the voters, and I think the 
people in this country want an adequate defense; and that is not a No 
2 defense. 

Cadet Vance Skarstedt asked General LeMay how well we understood the Japanese 
^he bomWn" oTja" a*" ^"'' ^°'^ "'"'''' '"°"' ''°"'''*"^''°"' ^««'«'' his decisions regarding 

General LeMay: Well, first of all, I certainly wasn't an expert on the 
Japanese. Prior to the war we had practically a non-existent intelligence 
system. So I personally consider that I knew nothing about the Japanese 
except that they were pretty tough fighters and they did consider a de- 
feated enemy even worse than a dog and treated them as such. I had 
respect for them as an enemy, but not much respect for them as a people. 
Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time. It was getting 
the war over that bothered me. So I wasn't worried particularly about 
how many people we killed in getting the job done. I suppose if I had 
lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we 
were on the winning side. Incidentally, everybody bemoans the fact that 
we dropped the atomic bomb and killed a lot of people at Hiroshima and 
Nagosaki. That I guess is immoral; but nobody says anything about the 
incendiary attacks on every industrial city in Japan, and the first attack 
on Tokyo killed more people than the atomic bomb did. Apparently 
that was all right. 


Anyway, at the time we were fighting, we considered we were fight- 
ing for our existence, our Hfe, and more or less ethical problems weren't 
of primary concern to me, although I didn't discard them completely. 
For instance, we had to drop leaflets on Japan along with the bombs. 
This was not a very popular pasttime with my troops. They would rather 
drop bombs than leaflets. Well, as long as we had to drop them, we 
decided to drop some of our own. So I found out what the lead time was 
in getting some leaflets printed up back in Hawaii and then in canisters 
out to Guam; and I looked at the target list and the progress we were 
making, and I picked out ten cities we were going to hit down the road 
a little bit. Then, we printed up leaflets that, in effect, said, "Look, Mr. 
Japanese Citizen, we are at war with your country. We are not particularly 
at war with the Japanese people, per se, but your leadership has got you 
into this mess, and you are going to be in danger. We are going to destroy 
the industrial areas of your city. We advise you to seek safety and leave." 
So, after we hit the first four cities, the rest of them evacuated to a large 
extent. I expected them to put antiaircraft around the cities in large 
numbers, but they didn't. I talked to one of the officers who went in with 
the strategic bomb survey after the war, and he said that in those par- 
ticular towns they had an over-abundance of fire engines. One about 
every 100 yards in the street, burned up along with everything else. 

I guess the direct answer to your question is, yes, every soldier thinks 
something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral, 
and if you let it bother you, you're not a good soldier. 



I have a three-fold mission this afternoon: to comment on General 
Huston's paper, to comment on points raised by the panel, and then to 
talk for awhile about the writing of biography. 

I believe that Jack Huston in the allotted time has managed to sum- 
marize for us the great contributions of General Arnold to the devel- 
opment of U. S. air power and has called attention to some very important 
parts of his work as Commanding General of the U. S. Army Air Forces. 
As General Marshall's biographer, I was pleased to see Huston's views 
on the importance of the close relationship between Marshall and Arnold. 
A friendship which began in the Philippines before World War I was 
strengthened during the war years. General Marshall stressed to me the 
loyalty that he found in his dealings with the airman. When faced by 
public demands early in the war for a separate air force. General Marshall 
pointed out to General Arnold that the air force at that time lacked the 
requisite number of trained staff officers to man a separate headquarters. 
Instead he gave great autonomy to Arnold and allowed him to develop 
his own guidelines for promotions, decorations, and the like. He contin- 
ually urged Arnold to watch his health and chided him after the first 
heart attack on the necessity of taking his duties more easily. Arnold 
pushed the development of air forces, but worked within the Army. He 
made full use of his special relationship with Marshall. 

At the great conferences, Arnold usually followed the Marshall line. 
He spoke up firmly for air operations, but fitted his plans into the overall 
U. S. strategic picture. Air Chief Marshal Portal, in speaking of Arnold, 
said that he was less effective in Combined Chiefs of Staff meetings than 
the other American members. But he rioted that Arnold vigorously de- 
fended the American air forces' view. Although he preferred to keep his 
main effort in the European Theater in accordance with the Europe First 
commitment, Arnold managed to strengthen air activities in the Pacific. 
It was not necessary for him to take the lead in great conferences because, 
as General Huston has noted, Marshall often strongly made his case for 
him. It is not always clear whether his tendency to remain relatively quiet 
in some of the conferences was due to his desire to follow Marshall's lead 
or to a feeling of some inadequacy in debating with the British repre- 


sentatives. This point is one of several that the biographer of Arnold 
must deal with in a definitive work. A most important point is the fact 
that Arnold managed to differ with the British on points of strategy 
without antagonizing them, as Admiral King sometimes did. 

Incidentally, General LeMay's comment on Arnold's request for an 
estimate on the end of the war recalls an incident concerning that date. 
I am not certain whether he accepted this as absolutely accurate because 
he made a bet with General Hastings Ismay, Churchill's chief of staff in 
the Ministry of Defence, in which he was not as optimistic as Ismay. 
When I interviewed Ismay in 1946, he called to my attention a plastic 
case which Arnold had sent him containing coins or a bill (Note to his- 
torians: you should always make notes on matters like this and not trust 
to memory as I can't recall which this was after more than thirty years) 
and words somewhat like the following: "Dear Pug, Thank God I can 
pay this now." 

General Huston has made a strong case for Arnold's handling of 
public relations in the development of public support for the air forces 
and in the building of service morale and esprit. His earlier experience 
after World War I in this field was expanded into a very vital element 
of his command. 

Arnold early recognized the very crucial role that research and de- 
velopment had in the growth of air power. To a greater extent than his 
contemporaries, he called into the service of the air force outside research 
agencies and laid the groundwork for extremely important work in this 
sector in the independent Department of the Air Force. 

General Huston has made crystal clear that we should not wait any 
longer to get started on a truly definitive biography of one who contrib- 
uted so much to the winning of victory in World War II. General Arnold's 
Global Mission, while valuable for light shed on his early career and on 
some of his thinking, is clearly subject to errors in fact and interpretation. 
General Huston's paper has drawn on material that has not been used 
before. Arnold's definitive biography is high on any list of needed vol- 
umes on World War II. 

It is always stimulating to have a panel on a topic of this type which 
includes public figures who have had a share in the events of which 
historians write. The three speakers played crucial roles in air fighting 
in World War II and after. All of us, I am sure, have been interested to 
hear their views on the making of combat leaders. The three have called 
the roll of great air leaders of our time and have noted qualities of 
leadership they possessed and strengths and weaknesses that they noted 
in the educational process. I was interested to hear General LeMay stress 
that leaders were made and not born and realize how much harder it is 


to find the answer for the development of each leader when one cannot 
hide behind the easy answer, "He was a born genius." That saves so 
much bother. I hear continually from readers of my Marshall volumes, 
"but how was this man developed, what special training did he have! 
what person or events or series of events molded him?" The difficulty 
of finding this from staff papers or memoranda underlines the importance 
of talking as soon as possible to those who served with these men and 
who may have an inkling of why they were willing to serve under such 
a leader and how that leader inspired them to greater effort and per- 

Al Hurley asked particularly that I talk about the process and prob- 
lems of writing the biographies of great military leaders. 

Last year a friend of mine who had completed some months before 
a project of interviewing in depth an aged woman who was one of the 
leaders of the woman suffrage movement came to see me and said that 
she had been asked to write a biography of this lady, who had just died. 
She added, "Tell me the problems of writing a biography." I laughed 
and said "Perhaps the best advice is not to start it." 

To those in the audience I would add, "If you decide to write, I 
promise you tears and fatigue and a degree of boredom for you and your 
friends and particularly your spouse if you have one." You will enhance 
your popularity with friends and especially with your wife if you do not 
bring up the subject of your book until asked. My wife has a game with 
me about how long I can speak or carry on a conversation without men- 
tioning General Marshall. 

Once that good resolution is made, you must ask, if you don't know, 
"Where are the papers?" Even if, as in the case of General Marshall! 
more than 250,000 items have been indexed and carefully filed, much 
must be done. There are letters which were handwritten which have to 
be found in other collections. There are official files that must be con- 
sulted. There are the collections of papers by acquaintances and associates 
and random letters in trunks in old attics. Then there are diaries by the 
subject of the biography or by someone who saw him often. Marshall 
dechned to keep a diary; but he saw Secretary of War Stimson nearly 
every day, and Stimson kept a diary. There was seldom a day in which 
he failed to mention a talk with Marshall and what Marshall said. Mor- 
genthau's diary and Forrestal's diary helped to provide additional infor- 
mation about Marshall's activities. I discovered by chance in an interview 
with an officer who studied at Fort Leavenworth with Marshall in 1906 
that he had kept a rather full diary on that period and there were nu- 
merous allusions to Marshall's activities and his ability. If your subject 
operated on the international scene, there are archives abroad which 
should be examined. This task was made somewhat easier for me because 


many key British papers were found in War Department or State De- 
partment or Supreme Headquarter's (Eisenhower's command) files. But 
there are many important materials still to be looked for. Someone wrote 
me the other day that he had seen recently in newly opened records in 
the British Public Records Office a memo in which Churchill, exasperated 
by the insistence of the U. S. Chiefs of Staff on the invasion of southern 
France, wrote Ismay to say that the U.S. Chiefs were nice fellows but 
were very stupid strategically. Of course, he added, we mustn't tell them 
that. I have found in recent months in Foreign Office records internal 
memoranda which throw additional light on what the British were think- 
ing about American actions. I was able to show one British official a 
letter he had written to London from Washington about a talk he had 
with Marshall, which threw more light on Marshall's views at the time 
than I had found in the American files. (Of course, here one must be 
sure whether the British official was reporting accurately or whether 
Marshall was making the statement for effect. Such are the beauties of 
writing history and biography.) 

Once a start has been made on finding the materials, the writer of 
contemporary biography or history should ask, "Who can I interview 
who could throw light on my subject's thinking or decisions or methods 
or work or personality?" The contemporaries of Marshall are thinned 
out considerably; but twenty-three years ago when I started interviewing 
for the biography, I was able to find boyhood playmates and a number 
of VMI classmates. I even was able to draw on one hundred interviews 
which I conducted in the 1946-1952 period for my book on Eisenhower. 
Many of the questions I asked the various members of the British Chiefs 
of Staff and the U. S. Chiefs of Staff and French leaders such as General 
de Gaulle and Marshal Juin and Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny were very 
pertinent to my later writing on Marshall. Even though many of the men 
of his own age are gone, it is still possible to talk with younger officers 
who worked at a junior level in the office of the Chief of Staff or in the 
Department of State or Department of Defense. The young orderlies or 
cooks or junior aides may not have been present when great decisions 
were made, but they can shed light on his activities. Two summers ago, 
I located a middle-aged man who as a young warrant officer had been 
Marshall's chief stenographer during the General's mission to China. He 
supplied considerable detail on the places where Marshall lived, what his 
working habits were like, how he handled correspondence, and the like. 
A year ago in November, I went to Taipei and interviewed several of 
Chiang Kai-shek's important political and military advisers. Two had 
served him as foreign ministers, one was his last defense minister, another 
was the surviving member of the C-C clique which had played a dominant 
role in the Kuomintang and had strongly opposed Marshall's policy. 


At first, there is the period of acquiring and storing and indexing 
information. Then follows the probing period in which we try to find 
what made the man tick. Where did the inspiration for his career come 
from? How did he prepare himself (was the process deliberate or acci- 
dental)? What were the key influences in his career? What were the 
lessons learned from his youthful experiences or the early years of his 
career? What were the roads not taken, and why did he take the roads 
that led to the right track? 

Here we also must probe the sources. Stimson's diary says constantly, 
"Marshall came in; he was much worried." After a time you wonder 
whether the entry reflects Marshall's state of mind or Stimson's. You 
read letters from Patton giving lavish praise and then you see in Blu- 
menson's volumes on Patton a letter to a friend or an entry in the diary 
which shows a totally different point of view. 

What was the man like— his strengths and weaknesses, his self-dis- 
cipline, his qualities of command, his influence on people, his ability to 
think and to decide, his reaction to pressure? Did vanity or other weak- 
nesses affect his thinking? Did he buckle under stress? What was his 
lasting effect, and of what damage or errors was he guilty? What was his 
role in history, or how did he create a climate favorable to new ideas 
and growth? 

With our contemporaries, I think it is well to start as soon as possible. 
Many people argue to the contrary: they say that where there have been 
controversies, feelings of opponents will be too bitter to be valuable; if 
the man is still alive, many will fear to speak the whole truth. And I 
admit that all these problems exist. But sometimes bitter spewings of 
hatred may furnish excellent bases for judging the nature of the oppo- 
nents. Perhaps a later biographer can get a better perspective, but there 
is no substitute for the careful biography that is written when memories 
of the events are still fresh and before many of the witnesses have evolved 
agreed-on conclusions to be handed out as if they were news releases. 
Often, when one comes upon a very sweeping or damning statement, 
there is time to check it out against a number of witnesses who often can 
furnish plausible evidence to strengthen or contradict these judgments. 
I have been able on occasion to say to a man, "What you are saying has 
been contradicted by several witnesses." Some say, "Well that is the way 
I remember it." Some are adamant; but enough people will say, "I must 
be wrong" or "I was misinformed; I was relying on hearsay." Sometimes, 
after my first book appeared, I would find a contemporary who would 
say, "I have one favorite story about Marshall" and then would proceed 
to ask, "Did you ever hear that." And I have sometimes replied, "The 
story is in my first volume. Is that where you heard it?" More often than 
not, they will say "I suppose it is," or, "I suppose that is where the man 


who told me the story got it." It gets particularly bad when they mis- 
understand the point of the information and insist that they are relying 
on a solid source. (Of course, readers get accustomed to authors who 
quote several books for a paragraph without making any distinction about 
what each contributed to the conclusions of the paragraph. I am contin- 
ually amazed to find one of my books quoted as a source for a paragraph 
in which the only statement I can agree with is the spelling of a name or 
the date of an event. In one such case, I found that the only thing the 
individual could have taken from my book was the fact that Marshall and 
another general had a meeting on a certain date. Everything else there 
was contrary to facts as I knew them.) 

You have to try to get into a man's thinking, to try to understand 
what he had to work with at a given time, to find the forces that drove 
him and the qualities he had which attracted others or made them willing 
to follow. There are so many myths and misconceptions that need to be 
corrected. It is particularly important to seek this information when we 
still have among us men who made a new fighting force and helped forge 
its doctrines. 

I think the thrust of all three of the panelists here today is the 
importance of great personalities in the development of the Air Force, 
of people who rose to high place from very different platforms and who 
managed to make things happen even though they didn't have the courses 
they might have liked to have had, even though they didn't have the 
training they might have liked to have had, even though they didn't have 
special techniques and a great many other things. I think that of all the 
services the Air Force should be most interested in telling that story 
because it is the newest and because a number of the key individuals in 
the development are still alive. 

Being able to talk with those who made history is a great asset to 
the historian because he can save himself years of uncertainty, years of 
research, if it is possible to question the individuals themselves rather 
than having to interpret the written record. You can settle a lot of ques- 
tions very easily. Where did you get your first inspiration? Who influenced 
you? When did you first learn certain principles of leadership that you 
brought to perfection? What did you think? In retrospect, would you do 
this again? Why do you think this particular thing worked? From whom 
did you get the suggestion? 

Let me give one simple illustration. I read in the first book published 
about Eisenhower that he had met Marshall in 1924 when the latter 
stopped in the Canal Zone on the way to China. The story said that is 
where they met because the Marshalls spent the night with General "Fox" 
Conner, and Ike was Conner's aide. It turned out that they didn't meet 
then, and the only way I ever got it straight was to ask Eisenhower and 


to ask Marshall. They both agreed that they hadn't met there. Eisenhower 
gave the reason. He wasn't there; he had gone home on leave. Well, I 
don't know how many years it would have taken, even with computers, 
to find that answer, but I was able to find it easily one day in Gettysburg 
when I asked General Eisenhower. 

The problems of researching the lives of individuals are enormous 
because you have to deal with so many questions for which no one wrote 
down the answers. Often, diaries were kept and you can find them. But 
the diaries do not always give the information that you most want to 
know because the individual doesn't always want to put down the facts 
that you most want to know. Marshall once said that the reason he didn't 
keep a diary was that if it were kept right he couldn't get anything done, 
and that if he wanted people to think well of him he'd spend a lot of time 
taking out of the diary things that might not help his reputation. So he 
preferred to leave it up to history. 

If you wait until history catches up with the legends and the myths 
and the misrepresentations, you are going to wait a very long time. The 
time lag even after you get the thing told truthfully is astonishing. I will 
give you three illustrations about that. 

One is the myth that persists that Marshall was jumped over thirty- 
five or thirty-nine people when he became chief of staff. Marshall, it was 
true, was promoted ahead of more than thirty people, but there was a 
rule at that time that one had to be young enough to serve four years in 
that job. Once you applied that rule, there were four people ahead of 
him. So it wasn't all that big a jump. But when five or six people reviewed 
my book, they said that I had repeated this story and they thought it was 
a wonderful thing. Yet I had done everything I could to disprove it! 

Another example was in an article by Johnson Hagood that came 
•out when Marshall became chief of staff. Hagood reported that when 
Marshall completed the now-famous 1914 maneuver in the Philippines, 
General J. Franklin Bell, his boss, called on him at lunch and said, 
"Gentlemen, I want to present to you the greatest American soldier since 
Stonewall Jackson." There is no evidence that he ever said it. Marshall 
himself put the kibosh on it when he wrote Johnson Hagood, "I'm afraid 
my own mother wouldn't believe all this nonsense." And yet I still see 
it repeated. 

Since we have neglected the Navy, I will tell you one more story. 
One day I was speaking at the Naval War College; and at the coffee 
break I was called to the telephone, and Admiral Rickover began a 
conversation in this way: "Why don't the people at your library know 
the answers to anything?" And I said, "What is it you wanted to know?" 
He said, "I have heard that General Marshall once told the President of 


the United States that if he took a certain action, he, Marshall, would 
resign, and I want to use that in a book I am writing. Will you confirm 
it?" I said, "No, Sir." "Well, don't you know the things that happened 
with General Marshall?" I said, "I probably know a lot of things that 
didn't happen, and as far as I know, that didn't happen." "But it proves 
my point so beautifully," he said. And I said, "Well, if what you want 
is something that I can confirm, that will carry the same point, that 
Marshall felt that he had a right, even a duty to present to the President 
the Army's point of view, I can furnish you a dozen examples." And he 
said, "You mean you wouldn't use the story in your book?" And I said, 
"No, Sir." 

It's bad enough to try to get rid of the myths without adding to them. 
And this is one of the things I want to pass on to you about the value 
and importance of getting on with the business of writing about the true 
leaders and builders of the Air Force. 





ORGANIZATION, 1945-1953 

As the focus of the symposium shifted to the years after World War II, the nature of 
the papers had to change. The broad scholarly surveys of the previous sessions were no 
longer possible; most of the primary source materials are usually inaccessible, and the events 
being examined are too contemporary. The historians on the program (except for those 
willing to be speculative) now tended to narrow their coverage. At this point, makers of air 
power history used their first-hand experience to provide the necessary breadth of view. This 
shift in the nature of historical knowledge prompted introductory remarks by the chairman 
of this session on postwar strategic air doctrine, Professor Ernest May of Harvard, that were 
so pertinent as to deserve inclusion in this volume. 

In any case, the two miuor papers in this session are at the forefront of the initial 
scholarly study of the post-World War II era. These works offer fresh information and 
insights, but also provide valuable guides to much recently-opened material. Both papers 
make clear the need to rethink previous assumptions about the years 1945-1953 by dem- 
onstrating the evolutionary nature of the searches by the new United States Air Force and 
its often bitter rival at this time, the United States Navy, for the proper relationship among 
technology, doctrine, and policy. Equally important, the papers also afford some provocative 
insights into how military institutions adapt to technological change. 

Doctor John Greenwood, a former ofTicial historian for the Air Force, graphically 
presents the story of that service's effort to achieve a strategic nuclear capability and a 
leading place in national war plans. Mr. David Rosenberg, another young scholar and 
consultant to the Navy on the evolution of strategic doctrine, focuses on that service's effort 
to find the proper role for its aviation in the nuclear age. He concludes that the Navy's refusal 
to accept a simple functional distribution of strategic forces benefited the service and the 
nation by bringing the Navy "to focus by degrees on a problem much in the nation's future: 
that of limited war." Because of the seminal nature of Greenwood's and Rosenberg's papers, 
Chairman May gave the time originally planned for audience participation to the two his- 
torians for critiques of each other's work. Their exchange drove home the intensity of the 
interservice competition in the critical years under discussion. 

The commentator on these papers. Lieutenant Colonel David Maclsaac, is uniquely 
qualified through his own ongoing research in the same rarely-studied sources. He elucidated 
the stumbling blocks to the enunciation of national air policy in this period and then went 
on to warn of the pitfalls to historians who rely too heavily on the newly available documents. 
In doing so, he returned to the recurring idea in the symposium that "the human element 
in this business is absolutely of its essence. . . ." 

Time considerations farced the planners of the symposium to exclude consideration of 
the very significant views of air power doctrine advocated by the U.S. Army and the U.S. 
Marine Corps in the 1945-1953 period. The editors tried to remedy this deficiency in part 
by later soliciting comments on the papers in this session or on the role of air power in those 
years. Colonel J. E. Greenwood, USMC, Deputy Director for Marine Corps History, offered 
a Marine's perspective; while a pioneer Army aviator, Lieutenant General Robert Williams, 
USA, replied with an essay on the evolution of Army Aviation since 1945. Brigadier General 


James L. Collins, USA, Chief, OfTice of Military History, U.S. Army, provided a short 
bibliography on Army Aviation. 




I want to suggest three ideas that I think ought to be presented at 
this point in the conference, and particularly in connection with this 
session. Two of them I can point out with the left hand, at the lighter 
end of the scale, departing from some points that were made by Mr. 
Gibbs-Smith yesterday. 

First of all, you remember he talked about the Wrights and their 
experiments, and I was reminded irresistably of one of the early routines 
of Bob Newhart, which many of you may have heard. The routine in- 
volved his pretending that he was a business agent for the Wrights, and 
he was on the other end of the phone receiving the reports on their 
success at Kitty Hawk; and he said, "Well, that's great, that's just great. 
How far? 200 yards? Well, that's very good, but that's going to mean a 
lot of stops on the way to the coast." 

The second note also comes from Mr. Gibbs-Smith's comments yes- 
terday. He was talking about the importance of what might have hap- 
pened if the Wrights had made their demonstration where it would have 
been seen by a larger number of people. That reminded me of a comment 
made by a doctoral student of mine, who also happens to be a very high 
official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry. She was arguing to me one day 
that, in her view, we should as historians pay a great deal more attention 
to the consequences of events that have not occurred. And her favorite 
illustration stems from the fact that for a period of time in Vienna, Freud 
lived on the same street with Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement 
and in some ways the initiator of the state of Israel, but they never met. 
My student's comment was, "Imagine what would have happened if one 
day Herzl had called on his neighbor and said, 'Doctor, I have a dream." 

The third observation I have to point out with the right hand because 
it is more somber. One of the genuine insights of Karl Marx was that 
history can be seen as manifesting a dialectic in which the group or groups 
dominant in a particular era have for short term reasons brought into 
being forces that were in the longer run their undoing. To protect and 
extend their comfort, Roman patricians created the plebian and alien 
legions that eventually became their masters. The knights of feudal Eu- 
rope, who were the heirs of these legionnaires, fostered the armorers, 


provisioners, and clerks who formed the middle class that destroyed the 
feudal order. Marx thought that through capitalism the middle class would 
create an industrial proletariat that would in turn be its nemesis. This 
has come to seem less and less likely; but the dialectic may be working 
just the same, and for all the developed states, socialist as well as capi- 
talist. The phenomena we are examining here under a microscope may, 
when viewed through a telescope some centuries or maybe light years 
hence, look like those in Rome or feudal Europe, for what could be a 
more deadly enemy of civilization's concentrated and complex cities than 
air power as it has evolved in this nuclear era. 

The three points that I want to make, then, are: first, people living 
in a given moment may have great difficulty in conceptualizing the im- 
plications of a new technology. The people we are talking about this 
morning — General Vandenberg and Admiral Nimitz, for example — may 
have had as much trouble imagining the emergence of the MX or the 
Trident or the SSX or SSNX as the Wrights would have had imagining 
the SUPERS AVER DC-8. Second, events that do not occur may be as 
important as the ones that do and may be as consequential. And third, 
short-run interests and long-run interests may be quite different. One of 
the functions of history is to put short-run judgments into the longer 
perspective, and that I think is what we are about this morning. 




When Colonel Hurley first asked me to present a paper, he empha- 
sized that it should convey the results of my recent research in postwar 
Air Force records. Little did I expect that he would ask me to speak on 
"The Search for Maturity in American Postwar Air Doctrine and Or- 
ganization—The Air Force Experience." The development of the U. S. 
Air Force after World War II was of such vast scope and complexity that 
it has yet to be dealt with in a meaningful manner. Nor will I presume 
to do so, but I hope to leave you with a few new details and ideas. 

It is obviously impossible to discuss the entire postwar Air Force. 
Thus, I will limit my remarks to several facets of my work on strategic 
air power during the Presidency of Harry S. Truman (April 1945-January 
1953). His administration marked the transition from World War II to 
full-blown Cold War. It also encompassed most of the "Air- Atomic Era," 
a period when the nation's vast superiority in atomic weapons and stra- 
tegic air power's ability to deliver them apparently dominated American 
foreign and military policy. I said apparently because, as we shall see, 
the Air Force's monopoly of the means of delivery in the immediate 
postwar years did not translate into real military capability or the power 
to influence the formulation of strategic policy or plans at the national 
or Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) levels. Only after the events of 1948-1950 
indicated the extent of the threat and opened the Federal purse did the 
Air Force's strategic capability become more real than illusory. 

The Origins of the Postwar Strategic Air Force 

The leaders of the U. S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) believed that 
the air campaigns against Germany and Japan conclusively proved the 
effectiveness of strategic bombing as a decisive weapon of modern war- 
fare. They feared, however, that vested interests in the War and Navy 
Departments would not welcome an independent postwar Air Force as 
a competitor for limited defense dollars. On 19 August 1945, General 
Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces (CG/ 
AAF), wrote to General Carl A. "Tooey" Spaatz, then commanding the 
U. S. Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific (USASTAF): 


While I am naturally feeling good about peace being effected with Japan, as far 
as the Army Air Forces are concerned it is, I shall say, unfortunate that we were 
never able to launch the full power of our bombing attack with the B-29s. The 
power of those attacks would certainly have convinced any doubting Thomases as 
to the capabilities of a modern Air Force. I am afraid that from now on there will 
be certain people who will forget the part we have played. As a matter of fact, 
I see evidence of it right now in the writings of the columnists — probably inspired 
by interested parties. ' 

Certainly, the U. S. Navy was one of the most interested parties 
because it saw the Air Force as its only serious challenger for the strategic 
mission of being the nation's 'first line of defense,' a role the Navy 
considered its own, then and forever. Arnold and other air leaders be- 
lieved that the Navy's position was sadly outdated in an era of modern 
air weapons. On 28 May 1945, Arnold wrote to General George C. 
Marshall, Army Chief of Staff , about the potential developments in war- 

Our Navy, now the strongest in the world, today can protect our shores against 
attack from any ambitious enemy who might challenge through the sea approaches. 
However, any Navy, regardless of its strength, would find itself powerless to oppose 
stratospheric envelopment. . . ,' 

Approaching over the desolate arctic wastes, bombers and, in the future, 
guided missiles could strike directly at American urban and industrial 
centers without interference from even the strongest naval forces. Such 
ideas and similar public statements only exacerbated the increasingly 
fractious relations between the two services that would mar Truman's 
Presidency and jeopardize national security on more than one occasion. ' 

The wartime advances in air power and the sudden, awesome ap- 
pearance of the atomic bomb in August 1945 made a great impression 
on Air Force leaders. They feared the possible consequences of not 
maintaining an effective air force in constant readiness to defend the 
United States and to conduct a smashing retaliatory attack against any 
aggressor. The war had shown that such an operational air force could 
not be built swiftly, and in the future no time would be available to 
develop one once a war began. Because of its wartime experiences and 
basic concepts, the Air Force was the most persistent and vocal advocate 
of constant readiness, standing most clearly against the old mobilization 
ideas that permeated the War and Navy Departments.'' Writing about 
the postwar Air Force early in September 1945, Major General Lauris 
Norstad, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (AC/AS), Plans, concluded: 

The day of forming, equipping and training an Army and in particular an Air 
Force almost overnight is passed. Due to training specialization required and 
increased production problems of technical equipment, we must have sufficient 
strength in trained personnel and modern equipment to engage an enemy without 
being allowed time to build up an Air Force. In the last two wars we have for- 
tunately been afforded up to two years to gear for war. With the character of 
modern warfare changed so radically in this last war, particularly by new weapons, 
in the next war we will be in the midst of an all-out war from the start. Our only 


salvation will be in immediately available modern weapons with sufficient person- 
nel adequately trained in their use.' 

Neither the aviation industry's production Hnes nor combat air 
groups could be readied quickly. Thus, in concert with industry groups 
and air power advocates in Congress, air leaders pushed strenuously but 
unsuccessfully for a minimum active Air Force of seventy combat groups 
to assure national security. General Arnold strongly supported this 
strength in the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussions on the size of the per- 
manent military establishment in the fall of 1945: 


I am convinced that any careful analysis of future world conditions will clearly 
show that the contributions which the Army Air Forces must make to the future 
security of the nation require a peacetime force of approximately 70 groups. 
. . .In the face of foreseeable world conditions, any greater reduction [below 
400,000 men] would be at the expense of national security. The tragic possibilities 
inherent in long range attacks with weapons as effective as the atomic bomb require 
us to make plain to the Congress and the President the need for an Air Force 
mobilized in strength.' 

Possibly the airmen pushed too hard, boasted too much about air 
power, threatened too many vested interests, and cried "wolf!" too often 
to a wary President and war-weary Congress and public to do their cause 
much good. Being generally younger than their Navy and ground Army 
colleagues, air leaders were frequently seen as overly pampered, pro- 
moted, and pushy plane drivers in need of some basic military discipline 
and humility. Actually, the braggadocio concealed a marked inferiority 
complex and deep-seated fear that their long-sought goal of independence 
would not be gained now that the war was over. Major General Frederick 
L. Anderson, AC/AS, Personnel, fully expressed these fears to Carl 
Spaatz in a letter of 17 August 1945: 

I wish to congratulate you upon proving to the world that a nation can be defeated 
by air power alone. . . .Regardless of our demonstrated powers, it is now evident 
that domination of the War Department over the Air Forces is increasing; since 
V-J Day the vise of control has been closing. If we do not obtain a Department 
of the Armed Forces, with equal representation by the Air Forces, or a separate 
Air Force, in the next six months, we will never have it. ... I also feel it essential 
that if at all possible you should return to the United States to help us fight this 
battle. Ninety per cent of the work of Headquarters, Army Air Forces, in the way 
of planning and implementation of post-war air forces comes to naught in the War 

The importance of the Seventy-Group Program and Perry McCoy 
Smith's distortion of it in his The Air Force Plans for Peace, 1943-1945 
requires a brief digression. The plan originally emerged from War De- 
partment postwar planning in late August 1945, with the size determined 
by the War Department's troop basis and the exact composition by the 
Air Force. The 70 groups remained the centerpiece of all Air Force 
programs and aspirations until the Korean War expansion to 95 and then 


137 wings ended all talk of the Seventy-Group Air Force, except among 

A wide variety of postwar plans had bounced back and forth between 
the War Department and Air Force planners until 27 August 1945. Then, 
in a meeting with the AAF, the War Department General Staff (WDGS), 
the Operations Division (OPD), and G-3 directed a peacetime strength 
of 574,000 men (subsequently reduced to 400,000) and 70 air groups. 
Although they disagreed, the Air Force representatives could do nothing 
but accept this verbal directive. Accordingly, after meeting with the head- 
quarters staff, the AC/AS, Plans, decided that with a total of only seventy 
groups, the retention of the previously planned forty very heavy bomb 
(VHB) groups of B-29s would produce an "unbalanced" postwar pro- 
gram. Hence, a balanced air force of twenty-five VHB and twenty-five 
fighter groups was selected to provide the wide range of air power needed 
to meet post-war requirements. The VHB element was still rather large, 
twenty-one groups of four B-29 squadrons (eight aircraft each) and four 
composite bomb groups each with one squadron of twelve SILVER- 
PLATE B-29s modified to carry atomic bombs.' 

On 10 September, Major General Lauris Norstad, AC/AS, Plans, 
spelled out the rationale for the seventy groups and the large bomber 
force. The relatively heavy emphasis on very heavy bombers (720 aircraft) 
was due to the inability to expand or replace them quickly and the need 
to have a strong force for the first blow. Readying stored aircraft, opening 
production lines, training flight and ground crews, would all take much 
longer for bombers than fighters if a war began. Deployments specified 
in the plan were mandatory, Norstad said, because "only by physically 
locating VHB's and ancillary air units in the proposed areas will we have 
operating bases available for immediate operations at all times."" 

Their plans and worries led Air Force leaders to place heavy em- 
phasis on the strategic force, not an unusual decision given the Air Force's 
marked preference for bombardment aviation. While tying its quest for 
independence to strategic air power, the Air Force did not neglect other 
air missions. The war proved that air superiority was needed for the most 
effective strategic air operations. This meant fighters for air superiority 
and bomber escort as well as air defense and support of ground forces. 
Whatever resources were allocated for tactical aviation, air transport, 
and other functions, however, the Air Force still saw strategic air op- 
erations — both offensive and defensive — as its principal mission and claim 
to autonomy. Everything else revolved around the strategic mission: doc- 
trine, funds, aircraft, organization, bases, personnel, strategic planning, 
and technology. Speaking in October 1945, Carl Spaatz, later Com- 


manding General, AAF, succinctly stated the Air Force's basic philos- 
ophy: "We have one real defense: A planned and ready air offensive." " 

The Air Force and the Atomic Bomb 

The postwar period showed the crucial impact of technology on the 
development of the strategic air force. Arnold and other airmen warned 
endlessly that modern science and technology made the United States 
vulnerable to devastating air attacks. In his 28 May 1945 memo to General 
Marshall on future warfare, Arnold outlined the reasons for the Air 
Force's great concern with technology and also its basic strategic concept 
for the future: 

It is clear that the only defense against such warfare is the ability to attack. We 
must, therefore, secure our nation by developing and maintaining those weapons, 
forces, and techniques required to pose a warning to aggressors in order to deter 
them from launching a modern devastating war. " 

To the Air Force, the national security demanded that it have the 
most modern aerial weapons to deter an attack or else to repel it and 
then launch a retaliatory counterstrike. Thus, even before the dropping 
of the atomic bombs and the end of the war, the Air Force had linked 
national security, technological development, and deterrence of attack. 

The atomic bomb presented the Air Force with great prospects but 
equally great problems. Its ominous implications led to the appointment 
of the officers' board of Carl Spaatz, Lieutenant General Hoyt S. Van- 
denberg (AC/AS, Operations, Commitments, and Requirements), and 
Major General Lauris Norstad (AC/AS, Plans) to evaluate the bomb's 
impact on the future of the Air Force. After meeting in September and 
October 1945, the Spaatz Board, as it was known, reported to Arnold 
on 23 October that the atomic bomb did not then call for changing plans 
for the size, composition, organization, or deployment of the AAF. The 
report reaffirmed the concept of the strategic air offensive and concluded 
the atomic bomb provided another, albeit tremendously powerful, 
weapon for use. The Board recommended a strong research and devel- 
opment program, maintenance of an effective intelligence agency, and 
the establishment of a special Deputy Chief of the Air Staff for Research 
and Development (DCAS/R&D) under Major General Curtis E. LeMay. 
While at work, the Board received little support from the Manhattan 
Project, which zealously guarded the technical details of the bomb and 
its production. Even the fact that the AAF was the only organization 
capable of delivering atomic bombs made little difference. One of 
LeMay's major functions— possibly his primary one— was to open chan- 
nels to the Air Force for this badly needed atomic information. " 

Air leaders believed the atomic bomb confirmed their concept of 
strategic bombardment. The bomb's great destructiveness— roughly four 


square miles at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — made air power decisive. A 
concerted air-atomic attack offered the real possibility of knocking out 
or at least badly crippling an enemy at the start of a war. But the bomb 
also presented a great many problems. Two of the most critical were the 
dearth of reliable technical data for planning and the assimilation of the 
weapon within existing air doctrine and organization without disrupting 
the basic structure. The Air Force at first embraced the atomic bomb 
cautiously, even uncertainly, because it lacked sufficient knowledge of 
the weapon and its production rates to gauge its strategic value or logis- 
tical requirements. Due to its current and projected tactical and technical 
limitations, Air Force leaders did not view the atomic bomb as a panacea 
for all wartime contingencies and were reticent to scuttle their combat- 
tested organization and doctrine. '■• 

In his third and final report to the Secretary of War in November 
1945, Arnold concluded with a short discourse on air power and the 
future. The influence of atomic energy on air power was obvious, he 
wrote; "It had made Air Power all-important." Foreshadowing later and 
more elaborate strategic thinking, the AAF commander went on to say: 

... it must be recognized that real security against atomic weapons in the visible 
future will rest on our ability to take immediate offensive action with overwhelming 
force. It must be apparent to a potential aggressor that an attack on the United 
States would be immediately followed by an immensely devastating air-atomic 
attack on him. . . . The atomic weapon thus makes offensive and defensive Air 
Power in a state of immediate readiness the primary requisite of national survival. " 

Arnold's remarks contain the different threads of what eventually became 
strategic nuclear deterrence: strategic air power, the atomic bomb, con- 
stant readiness, an air force in-being, and swift, devastating retaliation 
for aggression. 

Despite their uncertainties, air leaders reahzed that the atomic bomb 
had to be integrated within the postwar Air Force before their claim was 
challenged. Following up the Spaatz Board's findings, Hoyt Vandenberg, 
and especially Brigadier General Alfred R. Maxwell and Colonel William 
P. Fisher of his Requirements Division, began pushing early in November 
for the establishment of an atomic bomb striking force based on the 509th 
Composite Bomb Group, the only operational atomic unit.'* Early in 
December, Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Deputy Commanding Gen- 
eral, AAF, cautioned the Air Staff about designating any special unit for 
atomic bombing and recommended that the entire strategic force should 
be atomic: 

It seems to me we are very likely to find the attitude of the War Department and 
of Congress to be that the atomic bombing force is the only strategic air force we 
will require. If one wing will do the job then one wing will be the size of the 
strategic air force. " 


Eaker's advice was adopted. Early in January 1946, the Air Force 
designated the 58th Bomb Wing and its three bomb groups, including the 
509th, as its strategic atomic force, but not in name. The 58th and 509th 
were to form the nucleus for the conversion of the entire bomber force 
into the future atomic striking force. The AAF planned to convert its B- 
29s to carry atomic bombs as well as conventional munitions, thus en- 
hancing their flexibility of employment. " Actual modification of aircraft 
beyond the original forty-six SILVERPLATE B-29s was slow due to 
security procedures and lack of funding priority. For the next several 
years, the 509th remained the only unit capable of atomic strikes, and 
even it was in sad shape. Nevertheless, the bare nucleus of the future 
strategic atomic air force was in existence by the time the Strategic Air 
Command (SAC) was established in the functional restructuring of the 
Air Force in March 1946. 

In April 1946, a meeting was held in Headquarters Army Air Forces 
to determine the future structure and training of the 58th Bomb Wing 
and 509th Bomb Group, then readying for their roles in the atomic test 
series in the Pacific that summer, Operation CROSSROADS. In a memo 
attached to his report. Major General Earle E. Partridge, now AC/AS, 
Operations, summarized the basic Air Force and American policy on the 
employment of atomic weapons: 

Consistent with our national policy it is unlilcely that we will attack any nation 
until we have first been attacked. In such an event, we must have available a unit 
trained and capable of immediate retaliation against the aggressor nation with our 
most destructive weapon to effect as much or more destruction than we experi- 
enced. " 

This Statement could just as well have been written yesterday at the JCS 
or SAC, so little has basic United States national strategic policy on the 
use of atomic weapons changed in the intervening years. The only real 
difference was that then no force existed capable of using atomic weapons 
if so ordered. 

The lack of data on the atomic bomb represented a major obstacle 
to the combat development of the postwar strategic air force. Clearance 
and access restrictions limited training of bomb commanders, weapo- 
neers, assembly teams, flight crews, and staffs. Few air officers had more 
than a rudimentary knowledge of atomic energy and the peculiar re- 
quirements and characteristics of the bomb. The lack of technical infor- 
mation and knowledgeable personnel hampered research and development, 
prevented realistic strategic air war planning, and stifled the healthy 
evolution of tactics. ^° On 24 September 1946, Colonel William H. 
"Butch" Blanchard, commanding the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell 
Army Airfield, New Mexico, wrote to Curt LeMay about the practical 
problems obstructing his progress to combat-ready status. "We have a 
lot of eager lads here who are chaffing at the bit to progress in the atomic 


bomb business," he noted,"and I certainly believe we will make a mistake 
if we have to wait a year or so while someone designs and produces a big 
bomb for us to practice with." Although he was not overly concerned 
with his bombardiers' proficiency, Blanchard realized that 

. . . there are more people connected with the deUvery of an atomic bomb than 
a bombardier. It can be said that heavy equipment handlers can be trained in a 
week or two, armament people can be trained in a week or two, and that hoist 
operators etc can be trained in a week or two. I will say to you that in two weeks 
to a month, we can also train pilots to be bombardiers, but we don't do it. . . . 
While your big thinking is in terms of a year from today, I personally see no more 
reason for my group to be ready a year from today, than tomorrow, in which case 
the two weeks necessary to train our ordnance and armament people would not 
be available.^' 

Three days later, Blanchard again wrote to LeMay about his prob- 
lems and worries: 

Please excuse us for appearing to be a little "pushy" down here, but we are getting 
more and more afraid that the Air Force is losing their little toe-hold in the atomic 
bombing business, and our convictions force us to keep pushing." 

A small but major breakthrough for Air Force atomic operational 
readiness and planning came in the training and operations of the 509th 
Bomb Group during the CROSSROADS atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in 
June-July 1946. The group's assignment to drop the ABLE Day test bomb 
on 1 July provided a wealth of detailed information. Combined with the 
extensive United States Strategic Bombing Survey reports on the Hiro- 
shima and Nagasaki explosions and the underwater test late in the month, 
the ABLE Day test gave clearer indications of the vast combat potential 
of the atomic bomb as well as of its considerable logistical requirements. 
The JCS Evaluation Board that met to report on the tests provided 
another opportunity for the AAF to learn more about the weapon that 
it alone could use. The Air Force hoped that the resulting official CROSS- 
ROADS reports would provide the required knowledge of the bomb and 
thus permit quantitative planning for atomic warfare." 

On 5 February 1947, Curt LeMay forwarded to Lieutenant General 
Lewis Brereton, Chairman of the Military Liaison Committee to the 
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), a report prepared by Colonel Turner 
C. Rogers. The full strategic implications of the atomic bomb on warfare, 
Rogers stressed, could not be estimated without data on the probable 
supply of bombs. An unlimited stockpile would entirely change the plan- 
ning, but in the absence of better information Rogers could only assume 
a limited supply for the next ten to twenty years. Such uncertainties 
among top Air Force planners accurately reflected the situation in joint 
and air war planning." 

Although organizationally the Air Force opted to integrate the 
atomic bomb within its existing unit and staff structure, doctrine was a 


different matter altogether. The wartime concept of strategic bombard- 
ment, built on the disruption and destruction of the enemy's war-making 
capacity and will to fight, relied on precision bombing attacks on carefully 
selected economic-industrial targets. Before the end of the war in Europe, 
however, tactical requirements such as massed formations for defense 
and bomb concentration and technological improvements such as all- 
weather radar bombing had driven the Air Force from precision bombing 
to a modified area concept. 

Against Japan, precision bombardment gave way almost entirely to 
urban attacks due to the unusual structure of Japan's industrial economy 
and the vulnerability of its cities to incendiary raids. Twentieth Air Force 
struck directly at the enemy's urban population and will to fight and 
indirectly at its war-sustaining industrial structure. The atomic bomb's 
tremendous destructive power completed the metamorphosis of strategic 
bombing from a precision instrument to a bludgeon of mass destruction. 
The Spaatz Board in October 1945 saw that the atomic bomb was, and 
would remain, primarily an offensive weapon for use against large urban- 
industrial targets. Technological and tactical imperatives forced Air Force 
leaders unwillingly but inevitably toward a doctrine of strategic bombing 
that emphasized attacking the enemy's most vital and populous urban- 
industrial centers to gain the maximum effect from the few atomic bombs 
expected to be available.^' 

Early in 1947, Turner C. Rogers accurately summarized the extent 
of this doctrinal evolution: 

Success in a war of the future will depend more than ever before on the industrial 
capacity and efficiency of the protagonists, therefore destruction of the enemy's 
industrial capability will contribute most toward reduction of his ability to wage 
war. This fact coupled with the character of the atomic explosion leads to the 
conclusion that the most profitable target for the atomic bomb will be large in- 
dustrial centers." 

He then summed up the Air Force's view of American atomic strategy: 

But more important than defensive measures is the prevention of the initial attack. 
Fear of retaliation has always been the greatest deterrent to any nation contem- 
plating all-out war. Twice in this century our unpreparedness has led a would be 
world conqueror to believe he could achieve such success. Japan was well aware 
of our weakness when she struck at Pearl Harbor. The ability to strike back 
effectively will be our best guard against attack. . . . The possession of a substantial 
number of atomic weapons and the means of delivering them to any part of the 
world provides the most potent threat of retaliation known to man. " 

The theory of strategic deterrence that formed the heart of subsequent 
Air Force strategic doctrine coalesced in 1945-1946 and was well devel- 


oped by early 1947, far in advance of the war plans, aircraft, or supply 
of atomic weapons to implement such a concept. 

Planning for Strategic Air War, 1945-1948 

War planning received little serious attention in the Air Force's initial 
plans except for vague references to readiness and potential aggressors. 
Some airmen, however, considered possible future enemies even before 
the war ended. In a January 1945 report to the Theodore von Karman 
Committee, Air Plans and Intelligence officers singled out the Soviet 
Union as the only possible enemy in the future and developed a detailed 
target list of Soviet industrial facilities." Throughout 1945, special air 
intelligence teams collected information on Germany's secret weapons 
and all available German intelligence on the Soviet Union and its air 

In planning their postwar composition, basing, and deployment, Air 
Force leaders wanted air units sited to fulfill occupation duties in Ger- 
many and Japan and to respond quickly to potential aggression. The 
Pacific and Far East were well covered at first, but leaders were concerned 
about the Peripheral Basing Program devised for Europe. ^ In September 
1945, diplomatic considerations and demobilization pressures forced 
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the U. S. Forces, Euro- 
pean Theater (USFET), to request a reduction in bomber groups from 
five to two. Vandenberg informed Eaker that this was unacceptable be- 
cause it would unbalance the strategic and tactical air elements. "Fur- 
ther," he wrote, "retention of five (5) VHB groups in the European 
theater is necessary to combat any possible threat from the East."^' There 
could be little doubt that he meant the Soviet Union. Thus, as early as 
the fall of 1945, the Air Force perceived the stationing of B-29s in Europe 
as a countermove to Soviet forces and intentions. 

The Air Force's plans and perceptions, however, were to remain 
just that. On 27 October 1945, Arnold warned Marshall that rapid de- 
mobilization was incapacitating the Army Air Forces: 

We amazed the world with the great speed with which we built up our Air Force 
superiority. Today we are tearing it down even more swiftly— possibly to the even 
greater amazement of the world and undoubtedly to the comfort and gratification 
of our potential enemies. . . . Both our Occupational Air Forces and our Strategic 
Reserve are already weakened to a point where I consider them far below our war 
standards. Further reductions and further losses of highly skilled personnel will 
accelerate this loss of effectiveness." 

By the following spring, hasty demobilization had undercut the Air 
Force's ability to act in Europe and elsewhere; its combat-ready units 
evaporated as trained flight crews and maintenance men returned to 
civilian life. After an extensive examination, the Peripheral Basing Pro- 
gram was scrapped in May 1946 due to the lack of personnel and suitable 


VHB bases and to the growing realization that B-29s positioned in oc- 
cupied Germany would be vulnerable to any Soviet offensive." 

Out of necessity and inclination, the Air Force now decided to base 
strategic units in the United States under SAC's control and rotate them 
to various theaters for training and orientation. This new policy saved 
money, guaranteed a strategic air presence in Europe, enhanced readi- 
ness while reducing vulnerability, increased morale, promoted training, 
and acquainted crews and support personnel with all regions, especially 
Europe and the Arctic, where they might have to operate.** Moreover, 
this change revealed the intimate and delicate interaction of budgets, 
doctrine, technology, basing, and strategic planning. 

This policy was a temporary expedient. The Air Force counted on 
the development of advanced air weapons not only to facilitate the ac- 
complishment of its missions but also to reduce its overseas commitments. 
With its range of 10,000 miles, the Consolidated B-36 that was then 
under development would provide the necessary intercontinental striking 
capability until long range, jet-powered bombers and guided missiles 
were ready; it would also remove the need for additional overseas bases. 
The desire to base all strategic forces in the United States to reduce their 
vulnerability and to have them constantly ready dominated Air Force 
strategic thinking and planning in the years to come. 

While awaiting the B-36 and the B-52 that would replace it, the Air 
Force sought other solutions to the problem of range extension of its 
medium range B-29s, B-50s, and the future all-jet B-47. Although one- 
way missions were proposed as an emergency measure, aerial refueling 
was tested and adopted in 1948 as the best practical method of increasing 
the medium bombers' striking range. ^' The development of some rela- 
tively simple technology and flying techniques significantly altered the 
capabilities and flexibility of the entire strategic force while reducing its 
vulnerability.'* Thus, long before Albert Wohlstetter and the RAND 
Corporation ever thought about the vulnerability of the numerous oversea 
air bases, the Air Force realized the threat and knew the solution — new 
technology." It was but a short step from this idea to one of the most 
basic tenets of strategic deterrence thinking — that the credibility of a 
deterrent was directly proportional to its invulnerability. 

In June-July 1946, Carl Spaatz travelled to England and Europe to 
discuss possible revised basing arrangements with Air Chief Marshal Lord 
Tedder, Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Air Force (RAF), and with Amer- 
ican theater commanders. As a result of his talks with Tedder, Spaatz 
received RAF agreement to provide former American bomber bases for 
B-29s in case of a war emergency in Europe. He also obtained RAF 
cooperation in the modification of certain bases for the support of atomic 


operations.'' In August 1946, Colonel E. E. Kirkpatrick of the Manhattan 
District went to England to supervise the construction of the assembly 
buildings, aprons, and loading pits, and the installation of the required 
equipment. '' By early 1947, atomic bomb assembly and loading facilities 
were in existence in the United Kingdom and the Marianas to support 
possible atomic bombing operations in Europe or the Far East. These 
actions set the pattern for future Air Force and Strategic Air Command 
war planning because the bases in the United Kingdom would remain 
the core of all strategic air offensive operational plans through the late 
1950s. All that was needed now was an emergency war plan to specify 
the Air Force's exact role in any future conflict, and the first postwar 
joint and air war plans were already in preparation in mid-1946. 

In February and March 1946, the services and the JCS began serious 
planning for industrial mobilization and strategic warfare. Joint war plan- 
ning started with the PINCHER series of studies on various strategic 
problems and geographic areas. Early emergency war plan studies 
adopted the strategic defensive and relied heavily on a strategic air of- 
fensive to destroy the enemy's war-making capacity through atomic and 
conventional bombing attacks."^ Air planners, however, thought that 
these studies reflected typical World War II thinking that subordinated 
air power to ground and sea power. Colonel Alvin R. Luedecke, one of 
the key Air Force planners, questioned the evolving PINCHER studies 
on 6 September 1946, when he wrote to Brigadier General Frank F. 
Everest, the Air Force member of the Joint War Plans Committee 
(JWPC): "Now it seems that the same old thinking of World War II is 
coming up again with the result that Air Power is treated as an adjunct 
to Ground and Sea Power.'"" 

Possibly one of the things that disturbed Everest and other airmen 
was the early joint planning for the atomic bomb. In June 1946, Admiral 
Chester Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), questioned the pres- 
ent thinking that called for early atomic strikes to offset Soviet offensives. 
He thought reference to atomic bombs and planning for their use should 
be avoided because the bomb might be outlawed or not employed."^ 
Spaatz disagreed; he saw the atomic bomb as the decisive weapon. To 
him, planning to use the greatest American advantage was imperative 
due to the funds already invested and to Soviet numerical superiority.'" 
Nevertheless, studies in December 1946 scratched plans for atomic bomb- 
ing, assuming the bomb would not be used "for political reasons.'"" 
These early joint plans still stressed initiation of an early strategic air 
offensive against Soviet petroleum-oil-lubricants (POL) facilities and ur- 
ban-industrial targets but without the atomic bomb. "' Joint planning stag- 
gered through the following year without producing an acceptable joint 
outline emergency war plan or even an agreed concept for one. This 


failure was at least partly a result of the festering roles and missions 

In joint strategic planning, the Navy worked tirelessly to keep JCS 
plans focused on Middle East oil and the Mediterranean lines of com- 
munication so it could tie its carriers to missions in these areas. The Air 
Force argued that American carriers could no more operate in the Middle 
Sea against Soviet land-based air power than the Royal Navy had in 
1940-1942 against the Luftwaffe. In October 1946, Major General 
George C. McDonald, AC/AS, Intelligence, warned Spaatz of an im- 
pending Navy push on the Mediterranean to drum up support for a "Big 
Navy" to keep the Soviets in check. The only problem was that the Navy, 
even with carrier aircraft, could not reach any significant portion of the 
Soviet heartland. McDonald surmised that "the real military worth of 
the carriers may come in trading carriers sunk for time, measured in 
weeks, while land based air power can arrive on station." Allocation of 
the land-based air units necessary to allow the carriers to operate with 
any chance of survival would only reduce the ability to strike the Soviet 

Not content with its Mediterranean ploy, the Navy also frustrated 
Air Force attempts to plan a strategic air offensive against the Soviet 
Union. Air Force files on strategic planning and roles and missions leave 
the distinct impression that at every turn the Navy tried to prevent im- 
plementation of Air Force concepts of strategic air warfare. Air leaders 
had struggled in the 1930s to develop their doctrine of strategic bombing 
and then had used it with devastating consequences against Germany and 
Japan. Now, admirals with no such experience tried to dictate the bases, 
phasing, targets, weapons, and strength of the air offensive. These in- 
trusions deeply disturbed the airmen, particularly because they had the 
primary service responsibility for strategic air warfare. The roles and 
missions infighting slopped over into strategic plans because functions 
assigned in them could be used to justify forces and each service's share 
of the defense budget."' Apparently, the Navy sought to buy time until 
it developed the large carriers and atomic bomb-carrying aircraft to give 
it a firm claim to a strategic air-atomic mission. The fear of losing this 
claim became a reality in the spring of 1949 when Secretary of Defense 
Louis Johnson cancelled the U. S. S. United States (CVA-58), leading 
to the Navy's attack on the B-36 program. The Air Force-Navy conflict 
of the late 1940s culminated but did not end in the B-36-Supercarrier 
controversy and the "Unification and Strategy" hearings of 1949."' 

Paralleling joint efforts at planning, the Air Force and War De- 
partment prepared their own plans for the early months of hostilities. In 
the spring of 1946, Air Force war planning began in earnest with a rough 
outline plan that specified exactly how the available air units would be 


employed in an emergency. Air Force headquarters soon realized that 
a basic war plan was required to govern mobilization, deployment, and 
operations should war break out with the Soviet Union. It is unclear 
whether these actions resulted from War Department moves to prepare 
industrial mobilization plans, which had to be based on some realistic 
estimates of wartime requirements and thus plans, or from the initiation 
of the PINCHER studies. What is clear is that the AAF decided a de- 
tailed, carefully prepared emergency plan showing the commitment of 
all air units during the first months of hostilities was needed at all times. 
The Strategy Branch of Plans was to develop this plan, named MAKE- 

The real impetus for the formulation of the first detailed post-war 
strategic air war plan came on 10 September 1946 when Brigadier General 
George A. Lincoln, Plans and Policy Group, Directorate of Plans and 
Operations, War Department General Staff, directed the AAF to draw 
up plans for the immediate initiation of strategic air operations against 
the Soviet Union. The planning assumptions, based heavily on early 
PINCHER studies (especially JWPC 432/7), included the early deploy- 
ment and use of the 58th Bomb Wing, as yet the Air Force's lone atomic 
unit.'" Air Force planners, however, still lacked adequate technical in- 
formation on stockpiles and production rates upon which to base any 
accurate estimate of atomic operations. Consequently, Plan MAKE- 
FAST, submitted in October 1946, was an entirely conventional bombing 
campaign concentrating on the Soviet petroleum industry. MAKEFAST 
was essentially the strategic bomber offensive of World War II with much 
smaller forces, refined by wartime experiences, and directed against the 
Soviet Union. When MAKEFAST was presented to Carl Spaatz and 
other Air Force leaders during the December 1946 commanders' con- 
ference, he directed that an atomic (special weapons) annex be developed 
and the plan revised quarterly using the latest information." 

Even if an atomic plan had existed in late 1946, the nascent strategic 
force would have found its execution difficult, if not impossible. The 
509th Bomb Group had ten of twenty-three modified aircraft in com- 
mission, twenty trained crews, and few atomic bomb shapes — known as 
Fat Man "pumpkins"— for loading and bombing practice. Only sixteen 
of forty-six SILVERPLATE B-29s modified during the war were avail- 
able to operational units, while another eighteen were stripped of equip- 
ment and in storage. Six of sixteen VHB groups were activated with 
aircraft; three had no aircraft; and the other seven were not activated." 
The Air Force was far short of its goal of an all-atomic strategic air arm 
to carry out its doctrines of atomic warfare and would have had serious 
trouble conducting even conventional operations. 

Plan EARSHOT, the initial revision of MAKEFAST, appeared in 
March 1947. It was the first true atomic air war plan but lacked the 


detailed logistical considerations to support its own execution. While 
more refined than MAKEFAST, EARSHOT was really little different. 
It still stressed conventional operations against the Soviet urban-industrial 
and oil target systems from bases in the United Kingdom and Middle 
East, plus supporting strikes from Japan, the Ryukyus, and Alaska. Be- 
cause of the uncertainty about the condition or usability of the Middle 
East airfields in the Cairo-Suez and Palestine areas, the B-29 units and 
personnel would primarily deploy to the United Kingdom for strategic 
air operations in conjunction with the RAF Bomber Command. Although 
more closely attuned to ongoing JCS studies, EARSHOT was still just 
a War Department and AAF plan that specified the Air Force's require- 
ments rather than detailed its capabilities. " 

In forwarding this short-range emergency plan to his major com- 
manders, Spaatz emphasized that EARSHOT left much to be desired. 
He hoped that their detailed comments would permit a more rehable 
revision. While specific deployments, operations, and deficiencies in per- 
sonnel and logistical support were not considered, Spaatz pointed out 
that EARSHOT nonetheless was: 

. . . world wide and of necessity portrays, either directly or by implication, a large 
portion of the accepted strategic thinking of the Army Air Forces, the War De- 
partment and the JCS; however, it is not unlikely that the general scheme of 
action, and the strategic thought implied in the plan, may be adhered to in whole 
or in part for many years. " 

Based on it and its summertime revision, EARSHOT JUNIOR, Head- 
quarters SAC initiated its first detailed planning for the actual conduct 
of strategic air operations, including the target analyses, mobility plans, 
combat mission folders, and operations plans and orders that formed the 
nitty-gritty of the deterrence business. SAC Operation Plan (OPLAN) 
14—47 that appeared later that year was SAC's first for a post-war air 

MAKEFAST and EARSHOT covered only the opening months of 
a war with the Soviet Union, but they showed that planners envisaged 
a long struggle fought like the recent war. The strategic air offensive was 
seen as the only weapon with which to strike back at the Soviets, whose 
offensive powers were considered almost supernatural. Why planners 
assumed the Soviet Union could launch simultaneous offensive thrusts 
in Scandanavia, Western Europe, South and Southeastern Europe, the 
Middle East, India, and the Far East is hard to fathom given the tre- 
mendous wartime damage and losses sustained by the Soviets. Whatever 
the reasoning, the basic war plans were formulated using a mobilization 
base concept and a classical land strategy similar to that of the 1942-1945 
European campaign." 

Air power was still seen, as Frank Everest had noted, as an adjunct 
to land and sea power. As in the last war, air power would weaken the 


enemy, prepare the way for invasion and reconquest of lost territory, and 
support the ground forces in the seizure and occupation of the Soviet 
Union. Such planning frustrated and disheartened many airmen. The 
lessons of air power had not been learned and were not being applied 
even in War Department planning. In its purest form, a properly planned 
and executed air power strategy sought to neutralize and disarm an enemy 
and to destroy his ability and will to wage war and thus harm the United 
States. By striking at the Soviet heartland with atomic and conventional 
weapons, a true air strategy aimed to cut casualties and costs to the nation 
and its allies who would be outnumbered in any contest with the Soviet 
Union. Matched against the traditional land and sea power strategies and 
their powerful supporters, this concept had few advocates outside a small 
coterie of air power enthusiasts. 

During 1946-1947, the continuing lack of knowledge of the atomic 
bomb and the grave deficiencies in training, equipment, and priorities 
both in atomic and conventional bomb groups severely restricted the Air 
Force's ability not only to plan for strategic air war but also to conduct 
it if necessary. The inability to get accurate information from the Man- 
hattan Project and then the Atomic Energy Commission made it impos- 
sible to plan atomic operations on anything but sheer guesswork. The 
Atomic Energy Act of 1946 that established the AEC on 1 January 1947 
imposed even stricter limits on the dissemination of information on the 
bomb and its related equipment. Under the new "Restricted Data" cat- 
egory of classification, equipment associated with the handling, loading, 
and dropping of the bomb was classified, and the crews who were to fly 
the missions were not yet cleared to see or use the equipment. This 
situation continued throughout 1947, but by the year's end the Air Force 
was seeking some relief from the sillier clauses of the Act." Otherwise, 
training and thus operational capability of the atomic units would continue 
to be handicapped. For instance, because of the "Restricted Data" equip- 
ment in its B-29s, the 509th Bomb Group had not been outside the 
continental United States for training missions to bases it would have to 
use if war came.« Even without these shortcomings, SAC units would 
have found it almost impossible to execute current war plans because 
adequate operational maps and target charts did not exist as of November 
1947 to support strategic air operations on a global scale." 

During the closing months of 1947, the absence of a viable Air Force 
atomic program and of an agreed joint war plan still incapacitated Air 
Force planners. SAC's Eighth Air Force, formerly the 58th Bomb Wing, 
was maintained in constant readiness as the atomic striking force, but the 
509th was still the only operational atomic unit. Faced with numerous 
problems and obstructions, the Air Force was slow to develop a program 
equal to the significance of atomic warfare. New priorities in adminis- 
tration, personnel, funding, training, and materiel were urgently needed. 


Although sensitive to these requirements, top Air Force leaders were 
hard pressed now that independence was finally a reality. Awareness of 
the problems was one thing, the money for the remedies was another. 

The situation in joint war planning was little better. In his September 
briefing to the President's Air Policy Commission, chaired by Thomas 
K. Finletter, O. P. Weyland, AC/AS, Plans, had stated: 

Any realistic estimate of the peacetime requirements of the Armed Forces must 
be based on joint war plans which, in turn [Weyland's emphasis), must be based 
on an estimate of the capabilities of our potential enemies. Until we know what 
kind of wartime structure is needed to fight a particular enemy, we cannot accu- 
rately estimate our peacetime military establishment. . . . Although we have an 
agreed joint strategic concept of how a future war must be fought, we do not have 
an agreed joint mobilization plan to establish a phased expansion of air, ground 
and naval forces to the sizes and in the priorities necessary to win a war." 

After summing up the status of joint war and mobilization planning two 
months later, Hoyt Vandenberg, Vice Chief of Staff, told Secretary of 
the Air Force W. Stuart Symington that "it is believed obvious . . . that 
we do not have a joint war plan.. . ."*' The basic problem remained that 
roles and missions and budgets were so closely tied to joint war and 
mobilization plans that no service was willing to agree to anything that 
might give another additional functions or force requirements and thus 
budget claims." 

On 16 December 1947, Secretary Symington wrote to Secretary of 
Defense James Forrestal and Director of the Bureau of the Budget James 
E. Webb protesting the cut in the Air Force's Fiscal Year 1949 (FY 1949) 
budget request. The JCS had confirmed the Seventy-Group Air Force 
as necessary for national defense and approved $5.2 billion for FY 1949 
for the Air Force. Although the Air Force asked for only $4,421 billion 
of this, the Bureau of the Budget slashed the request to $2.9 billion. 
Symington protested that, with the Air Force already pared to fifty-five 
groups, this reduction would permit maintenance of only forty fully op- 
erational groups and a mobilization structure while severely restricting 
development and procurement." He told Forrestal that in view of the 
increasingly tense situation in Europe, 

. . . and any common sense strategic concept as how to get at Russia, we are more 
shocked at this decision than at anything that has happened since we came into 
Government, especially as the Bureau of the Budget further limits the relative 
small percentage of what is considered necessary through specifying in detail how 
a great deal of our administration and organization should be handled." 

Symington's vigorous objections availed him little against an economy- 
minded President and Congress. 

1948: The Year of Change 

Budget cuts were but one example of the problems faced by the Air 
Force during these years. Unfortunately for the service, national leaders 


remained unconvinced of the central importance of strategic air power. 
Despite his ostensibly tough foreign policy toward the Soviet Union, 
Truman had not given the Air Force or SAC any special priorities and 
had done little to resolve the interservice strife that hobbled planning. 
The Air Force worked hard to develop and maintain the atomic striking 
force, but lacked the resources and urgency to make it the number one 
priority. The strategic force barely held its own in 1946-1947 due to 
demobilization and budgetary limitations. In 1947 further defense cuts 
reduced the Air Force to an interim fifty-five groups (thirteen VHB and 
three other very long range groups for reconnaissance, mapping, and 
weather) for FY 1948, and additional reductions threatened to cut that 
to forty operational groups.*' In this situation, the Air Force strove to 
retain a strong strategic element without upsetting its balance. While the 
airmen struggled to keep some strategic capability, joint planning was 
so disjointed that two different emergency war plans, BROILER and 
FROLIC, were considered for implementation on 1 July 1948.** 

Several events early in 1948 then helped to change the course of 
American foreign policy and to break the logjam in joint planning. The 
Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February was the first of the mul- 
tiple crises of that year that hardened American policy and attitudes 
toward the Soviet Union and its satellites. In this atmosphere, Forrestal 
met with the Joint Chiefs and Service Secretaries at Key West, Florida, 
in March to resolve the basic differences over roles and missions. 

Although the origins of the interservice squabbling are veiled in the 
mists of antiquity, the immediate origins of the Key West Conference 
were in the original Functions paper (Executive Order 9877), hastily 
signed by President Truman on 26 July 1947, which gave the Air Force 
the primary mission of prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air 
operations.*' The question left unresolved was the nature and the extent 
of the Navy's secondary responsibilities in this area. The Air Force clearly 
believed that the Navy's plans for carrier operations, especially as elu- 
cidated in Nimitz's January 1948 retirement statement, infringed upon 
the responsibilities assigned by the President to the Air Force, the only 
service with battle-proven experience in all phases of strategic air op- 
erations.*' This and other vagaries in EO 9877 resulted in the establish- 
ment of an Ad Hoc Committee of Lieutenant Generals Alfred C. 
Wedemeyer (Army) and Lauris Norstad (Air Force), and Vice Admiral 
William Styer to iron out the differences. Although it cleared up some 
problems, the Committee deadlocked over the question of primary and 
collateral responsibilities in roles and missions, especially between the 
Air Force and Navy over strategic air war and between the Army and 
Navy over the role of the Marine Corps. A split paper (SM-9735) was 
submitted on 4 March, and Forrestal called for the Joint Chiefs to meet 
with him at Key West on 11-14 March to settle the issues." 


Carl Spaatz submitted the Air Force's view of roles and missions on 
8 March, stating, as the Air Force and Army always had, that the service 
charged with primary responsibility for a mission should determine the 
nature and extent of collateral participation to insure effectiveness and 
economy. Spaatz vigorously opposed as "unnecessary, wasteful, and con- 
fusing the unilateral establishment by any service of requirements for 
forces and equipment which are designed to accomplish this or any other 
primary function of another service."™ 

The net result of the Key West Conference was an apparent settle- 
ment of these major irritants. The Air Force retained primary respon- 
sibility for strategic air warfare, air defense, and other basic air missions, 
with collateral functions in sea interdiction, anti-submarine warfare 
(ASW), and aerial minelaying. The Navy received collateral functions 
in land interdiction, close air support, and direct participation in the 
overall air effort as directed by the JCS. At Spaatz's urging, Forrestal 
added the stipulation that the Navy would not use the collateral strategic 
air war function to justify additional forces and to develop its carriers 
into a strategic air force. The Navy agreed to this qualification." 

On 21 April, Forrestal circulated a proposed new Functions state- 
ment outlining the agreements reached at Key West. The very next day. 
Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, CNO, sent Forrestal a memo seeking to 
"clarify" the proposed memo and annex of functions. He contended that 
the Air Force might be responsible for strategic air warfare but that did 
not include target selection, which should be a joint responsibility. Den- 
feld acknowledged that strategic air war was an Air Force function, but 
said "the Navy shall attack any targets, inland or otherwise, necessary 
to the accomplishment of its mission." The Navy would participate in the 
overall air effort as directed by the JCS and, Denfeld continued, "in- 
tended that the capabilities of naval aviation will be utilized to the max- 
imum in the air offensive against vital strategic targets." He then stated 
that joint war plans would soon recognize and exploit the ability of carrier 
aircraft "in the near future" to deliver atomic bombing attacks. " Clearly, 
then, the Navy had little intention of abiding by the Key West Agreements 
which in reality had provided the wedge it desired. 

Denfeld's memo elicited immediate hostile comment from Admiral 
Leahy, Truman's Chief of Staff, General Omar N. Bradley, Army Chief 
of Staff, and Spaatz. In separate memos to Forrestal, they contradicted 
Denfeld's interpretation of Key West and castigated his memo as an 
attempt to negate the agreements reached there, which Spaatz felt to be 
his primary purpose. All three agreed that Key West limited the Navy 
to air units necessary to support its missions — carrier aviation — and that 
the CNO had accepted the agreement that no separate strategic air force 
would be developed using requirements for carriers as a basis for its 


development. Targets for naval aviation were to be for prosecution of 
the naval campaign and only as directed by the JCS for the overall air 
effort." Forrestal approved the majority opinion in a new Functions 
memo on 1 July, but the situation was clearly not yet resolved. 

However tentative they proved to be, the Key West Agreements 
cleared the way for strategic planning. Neither BROILER nor FROLIC 
were accepted, but a hybrid, HALFMOON, was approved for planning 
purposes in May 1948. At long last an agreed concept guided service and 
JCS theater staffs in their war planning. The Air Force now had to redraft 
its 1948 air war plan, HARROW, which was keyed to the unapproved 

The Berlin Blockade soon overshadowed the continuing dispute 
among the services and made strategic war planning much more critical. 
The prospect of war with the Soviet Union brought the sense of urgency 
needed to strengthen the strategic air force. Fortunately, programs ini- 
tiated earlier were producing results. Operation SANDSTONE in the 
spring promised a plentiful supply of atomic weapons." More atomic B- 
29s were emerging from modification centers; B-50s and air refueling 
squadrons of KB-29s appeared that summer; and the B-36 was ap- 
proaching service.'* The Air Force's move to gain control of the Armed 
Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP) to smooth the transfer of 
atomic weapons from the AEC to SAC in case of an emergency, and the 
unceasing interservice feuding, led Forrestal to call another special meet- 
ing, this time at Newport, Rhode Island. At Newport, Hoyt Vandenberg, 
now the Air Force Chief of Staff, compromised on most issues to reach 
accord with the Navy. The Air Force emerged as a limited JCS executive 
agent for AFSWP until the Navy developed an atomic capability, while 
the Navy gained a strategic air-atomic role for its carrier aircraft. In the 
long run, Newport settled some issues, but soon the fighting over the FY 
1950 defense budget reopened old wounds and inflicted new ones. " 

President Truman limited the FY 1950 budget to $14.4 billion, not 
enough to support all the forces that the three services required to conduct 
their strategic responsibilities under the recently approved joint war plan 
HALFMOON. Forrestal established a special Budget Advisory Com- 
mittee under. General Joseph McNarney, then Commanding General, 
Air Materiel Command and formerly Deputy Chief of Staff under Mar- 
shall (1942-1944) and theater commander in Europe (1945-1947). In a 
meeting of the Service secretaries and Joint Chiefs with Forrestal, 
McNarney's committee outlined its findings based on a tentative concept 
of minimum operations required in case of war, relying heavily on Air 
Force atomic operations. 

From the start of the meeting, the Navy leaders, primarily Admiral 
Louis Denfeld, CNO, and Vice Admiral Robert Carney, Deputy CNO, 


were bitter and hostile. In his opening statement, Denfeld attacked the 
Air Force and questioned current plans for atomic operations from the 
United Kingdom and Iceland: 

Even if we dismiss the foregoing considerations as unlikely, the unpleasant fact 
remains that the Navy has honest and sincere misgivings as to the ability of the 
Air Force successfully to deliver the weapon by means of unescorted missions 
flovvn by present-day bombers, deep into enemy territory in the face of strong 
Soviet air defenses, and to drop it on targets whose locations are not accurately 
known. For this reason alone, it appears rash to fail to provide some measure of 
insurance against the chance that the effort may not be effective.™ 

He then criticized the Army and Air Force plans in McNarney's pres- 
entation as lacking comprehension of Navy tasks and abilities: "This is 
not surprising, since no Service can be expected to be expert in any 
other's business."" 

Vandenberg and Symington reacted strongly to Denfeld's statement, 
which reflected the bad feelings between the services on their respective 
roles in the strategic air war. The Air Force Chief of Staff said: 

I have one comment, as one Service Chief, that I'd like to make at this time. I 
regret the lack of confidence on the part of the Navy, but Id like to call attention 
to the fact that in your own paper you stated, '. . . no Service can be expected to 
be an expert in any other's business.'" 

Symington was just as straightforward but carried his displeasure one 
step farther. "It seems to me," he said, "and this remark I perhaps should 
not make, but being very frank, I will— the idea is to substitute a large 
Navy for the atomic bomb."*' 

The briefings continued throughout the morning, but feelings im- 
proved very little. Finally, McNarney objected to Carney's repeated state- 
ment that the Budget Advisory Committee's plan was the Army-Air 
Force plan for the Navy. Then General Omar N. Bradley, Army Chief 
of Staff, could stand no more: 

Mr. Secretary, I'd like to make the remark that that is the fourth time this morning 
that there's been side-remarks about the Air Force's and the Army's ideas of what 
the Navy should be. Of course, they know more about it than we do, but I haven't 
seen any hesitancy on the part of the Navy to question even how the Air Force 
is going to carry out their mission. They've been questioning and criticizing. I 
don't see why we can't express our ideas as well. " 

From this point on the fight degenerated into the sad spectacle of the B- 
36— Super Carrier and Unification Hearings of 1949 and the subsequent 
dismissal of Denfeld and his replacement by Forrest P. Sherman. 

Because of the steady deterioration in Soviet-American relations 
during 1948, Vandenberg, as Chief of Staff, put greater emphasis on the 
strategic forces. SAC's readiness and operational capabilities were im- 


proved, and its mobility and operations plans tested in the deployments 
of conventional B-29 groups to Germany and the United Kingdom in 
July and August. What was needed was aggressive and knowledgeable 
leadership, that General George C. Kenney, the present SAC com- 
mander, could not provide. Vandenberg considered many possible re- 
placements before finally deciding on the man he would place in charge 
of SAC if war broke out — Curt LeMay.*^ 

When Curt LeMay assumed command of SAC in October 1948, the 
haphazard development of SAC ended. With LeMay came his new 
team — Tommy Power, Walter "Cam" Sweeney, Emmett "Rosie" 
O'Donnell, August "Auggie" Kissner, and others already with SAC, 
Roger Ramey, William "Butch" Blanchard, John D. "Jack" Ryan, Jack 
Catton, and Clarence "Bill" Irvine, rejoined their old boss. With a firm 
background in atomic energy from his research and development tour, 
an unrivaled command of strategic air operations, and his proven staff, 
LeMay quickly shook the bugs out of SAC and began its transformation 
into a honed weapon of strategic warfare. SAC's primary mission was 
the strategic air offensive, and LeMay fought any and all deviations from 
that assignment. His objective was to train SAC crews and ground per- 
sonnel into a team that was always ready to execute its primary mission 
so that it would never have to. This has remained SAC's basic philosophy 
since 1948. Although SAC and the strategic mission were granted the Air 
Force's first priority at the 1948 commanders' conference, not until the 
Korean War expansion provided the men, money, and materiel for all 
Air Force missions was the claim honored.** 

The Korean War was the real turning point for SAC. In December 
1949, SAC had 72,000 men, 14 bomb groups and 610 strategic aircraft, 
2 strategic fighter groups, and 6 air refueling squadrons. Four years later, 
LeMay had 171,000 men, 37 bomb wings and over 1,000 strategic aircraft 
(mostly B-36s and all-jet B-47s), 6 fighter wings, and 28 air refueling 
squadrons.*' This remarkable growth in size, composition, and capabil- 
ities was just the beginning. In the 1950s, LeMay built SAC into an air 
force within the Air Force. He fought to get the best for his command 
and usually did, but not without making a good many enemies along the 
way. When he left SAC in Tommy Power's hands in 1957, Curt LeMay 
had created for the United States a strategic air force vastly superior to 
any in the world — a deterrent to nuclear war and a guarantor of the 
nation's security. 

The End of an Era 

Many authors have concluded that American strategic air power 
offset the vast Soviet ground superiority in Europe in this period. How- 
ever, few of them realize the enormous chasm that separated the apparent 


atomic monopoly of the United States from the actual situation through 
at least 1949. Truman's foreign policy and his primary strategic trump 
cards, the atomic bomb and strategic air power, were not in harmony 
before 1949-1950. Many writers, for instance, mention Truman's unspo- 
ken message to Stalin in the summer of 1948 when he sent atomic B-29s 
to England, posed to strike should the Soviet leader make a misstep 
during the Berlin Blockade.** In fact, not a single aircraft capable of 
carrying the atomic bomb was deployed to the United Kingdom during 
the Berlin crisis.*' The possession of strategic bombers, bases, and a 
stockpile of weapons did not mean that those planes could place those 
bombs on assigned targets, or for that matter, even carry them. Many 
people apparently believed it did, but they were not in the Air Force. 

The question I must ask, but cannot answer, is how much Truman 
knew of the actual condition of the strategic force that supposedly backed 
his policy toward the Soviet Union. If he knew and did nothing, he played 
a dangerous game of bluff, even for the most audacious poker player. 
If he did not know, it was not because the Air Force did not tell him or 
his Secretaries of Defense. In the early 1950s, this disparity disappeared 
forever. The Soviet atomic explosion of August 1949, the Communist 
seizure of power in China in October, NSC-68 in April 1950, and then 
the invasion of South Korea the following June made national leaders 
acutely aware of the danger of conflict with the Communist powers. This 
led to the development of military forces and capabilities commensurate 
with American defense responsibilities.*' 

Between 1952 and 1954, a number of factors combined to signal the 
end of the "Air-Atomic Era": Dwight D. Eisenhower's election, his 
supposedly "New Look" defense policy, the end of the Korean War, and 
others. Primarily, the strategic situation was altered by the MIKE Shot 
of Operation IVY on 31 October 1952 that proved the feasibility of 
thermonuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs).*' The Soviet hydrogen bomb 
test the next August merely confirmed this momentous change. For an 
idea of the revolutionary impact of this new weapon on strategic planning, 
just compare these yields in equivalent tons of TNT: Hiroshima and 
Nagasaki, under 20,000 (20 kilotons, 20 KT); the YOKE Test in Oper- 
ation SANDSTONE, 49,000 (49 KT); and the MIKE Shot, 10,400,000 
(10,400 KT or 10.4 megatons, 10.4 MT)."' The increase in destructiveness 
was absolutely staggering, and its implications were easily understood. 
This "thermonuclear breakthrough" promised production line weapons 
with yields of one-to-two million tons that weighed under 3,000 pounds, 
small enough for tactical aircraft and ballistic missile warheads. 

This breakthrough supplied the critical technological advance that 
allowed the Air Force in March 1954 to step up the intercontinental 
ballistic missile (ICBM) development program for Atlas and later to add 


Titan and Minuteman and the intermediate range ballistic missile 
(IRBM), Thor. Once operational, ICBMs could hit Soviet or Chinese 
targets with excellent accuracy within thirty minutes of launching from 
hardened U.S. bases." The development of similar Soviet capabilities 
completed the awesome cycle. The instantaneous retaliation of ICBMs, 
when teamed with the intercontinental reach and operational flexibility 
of the B-52/KC-135 force, completely recast the strategic air force and 
the nature of strategic planning and warfare. The "Era of the Unthink- 
able" replaced the tentative, oftentimes chaotic, and much less deadly 
"Air-Atomic Era." 

If we speak of maturity as the achievement of full or natural devel- 
opment, then the period from 1945 through 1953 was indeed a search for 
maturity, more accurately described as adolescence. For the whole Air 
Force and its strategic force, this trying adolescence produced the great 
strength and maturity attained during the later 1950s and maintained ever 



1. Ltr, Gen H. H. Arnold. CG/AAF. to Gen C. A. Spaatz, CG/USASTAF. 19 Aug 45. 
in Library of Congress. Manuscript Division. Carl A. Spaatz Collection (hereafter cited as 
LC/Spaatz), Diary Personal August 1945. Box 21. 

2. Memo for Chief of Staff. Gen H. H. Arnold. CG/AAF, "Potentialities of New 
Developments in Warfare." 28 May 45. in National Archives. Record Group 18. Records 
of Headquarters U. S. Army Air Forces. 1945 Air Adjutant General Central Decimal File 
(hereafter cited as NA RG 18. 1945 AAG). .W5 Manners and Methods of Conducting 
Warfare, Box 191. 

3. U. S. Congress. Senate. Committee of Military Affairs. Hearings on Department of 
Armed Forces, Department of Military Security. 79th Congress. 1st Sess. See especially 
testimony of Generals Arnold and Jimmy Doolittle. 

4. Perry McCoy Smith. The Air Force Plans for Peace. I94JI-I945 (Baltimore. MD: The 
Johns Hopkins Press. 1970): Michael Sherry. Preparing for the Next War: American Plans 
for Postwar Defense. 1941^5 (New Haven. CN; Yale University Press. 1977). 

5. Memo for Gen George. Maj Gen L. Norstad. AC/AS. Plans. "Arguments for Jus- 
tification of 70 Group Post-War Air Force." 10 Sep 45. in NA RG 341. Records of Head- 
quarters U. S. Air Force. Deputy Chief of Staff. Operations. Top Secret Plans and 
Operations File (hereafter cited as NA RG 341. DCS/O. TS P&O). OPD 320.2 (4 Apr 44) 
Top Secret Supplement. Box 129A. 

6. JCS 1478/4. CG/AAF. "Interim Plan for the Permanent Military Establishment of the 
Army of the United States." 2 Oct 45. in NA RG 218. Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
JCS Central Decimal File. CCS 370 (8-19-45). Sec 1. 

7. Ltr. Maj Gen F, L. Anderson. AC/AS. Personnel, to Gen C. A. Spaatz. CG/USAS- 
TAF. 17 Aug 45. in LC/Spaatz. Diary Personal August 1945. Box 21. 

8. Smith. Air Force Plans. Chap 5. "The Evolution of Force Structures," 54-74. es- 
pecially 71-74; Sherry. Preparing. Chap 7. "Preventing World War III." 191-232; R. Frank 
Futrell, "Preplanning the USAF. Dogmatic or Pragmatic?" Air University Review. XXII, 
No 2 (Jan-Feb 1971). 63-68; R. Frank Futrell. Ideas. Concepts. Doctrine: A History of 
Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force, 1907-1964 (Maxwell AFB. AL: Air University. 
1974). Chap 5, "The Air Force in National Defense: Organization and Strategy. 1944- 
1949," 95-134, Chap 6. "Responses to Soviet Nuclear Weapons and Limited War: 1949- 
1953," 135-81. 

9. Smith, Air Force Plans, 54-74; Memo for Gen H. S. Vandenberg, AC/AS, OC&R, 
Col J. J. Ladd. "Period II Troop Basis." 27 Aug 45. in NA RG 18. 1945 AAG 32().3Troop 
Basis, Vol 3, Box 96; Memo for Air Staff, Brig Gen W. E. Todd, Ch, Opnl Plans Div, AC/ 
AS, Plans, "Deployment of Strategic Air Force." 18 Aug 45. w/incl. Memo for Gen Arnold. 
Maj Gen L. Norstad. AC/AS. Plans. "Deployment of Strategic Air Force." 17 Aug 45. in 
NA RG 341. DCS/O, Top Secret Air Adjutant General Files (hereafter cited as TS AAG), 
File 21, Box 7; see especially JCS 1478 and 1530 series documents. CCS 370 (8-19-45). 
"Postwar Requirements for Military Forces." in NA RG 218. 

10. Memo for Vandenberg. Ladd. 27 Aug 45; Memo for Gen George. Norstad. 10 Sep 

11. Futrell. Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine, Chap 4, "Air Force Thinking and World War II," 
63-94; LC/Spaatz, "Trans- Arctic Air Offensive," October 1945, in Subject File, Misc Folder 
No 8: A. R. Maxwell. Box 329, 

12. Memo for Chief of Staff. Arnold. 28 May 45, 

13. Rpt to Gen Arnold, Gen C, A, Spaatz. Lt Gen H. S. Vandenberg. Maj Gen L. 
Norstad. 23 Oct 45, 1st ind to Memo, Lt Gen I, C, Eaker, Dep CG/AAF, to Spaatz, 
Vandenberg, and Norstad, "Orders," 14 Sep 45, in NA RG 341, DCS/O. TS P&O. OPD 
384.3 Atomic (17 Aug 45), Sec 1, Box 448, 

14. Ibid. 

15. Gen H, H, Arnold, CG/AAF, Third Report of the Commanding General of the Army 
Air Forces to Secretary of War (Washington: 12 Nov 45), 67, 68, 

16. Routing & Record Sheet (R&RS), Col W. P, Fisher, AC/AS, OC&R, to Ch, Air 
Staff, "The Establishment of Atomic Bomb Striking Force." 30 Oct 45. w/incls. in Alfred 
F. Simpson Historical Research Center (AFSHRC). Maxwell AFB. AL. Microfilm Roll 
K1167. in Off of Air Force History, Washington: Memo for AC/AS-5(Plans). Lt Gen H, 
S, Vandenberg, AC/AS-3 (OC&R), "Revisions of the Seventy (70) Group Program." 6 
Nov 45; Memo for AC/AS-5. Lt Gen H. S, Vandenberg. AC/AS-3. "Atomic Bomb Striking 


Force," 16 Nov 45; and Memo for Ch of Air Staff. Maj Gen L. Norstad, AC/AS, Plans, 
"Atomic Bomb Striking Force," in NA RG 18, 1945 AAG 370.22 Campaigns and Expe- 
ditions, Box 178. 

17. R&RS Cmt 1, Lt Gen I. C. Eaker. Dep CG/AAF, to Air Staff, "Atomic Bomb 
Striking Force," 3 Dec 45, in NA RG 18, 1945 AAG 370.22 Campaigns and Expeditions 
Box 178. 

18. R&RS Cmt 2, Lt Gen H. S. Vandenberg, AC/AS, OC&R. to Dep CG/AAF, "Atomic 
Bomb Striking Force," 17 Dec 45, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, Files of Assistant for Atomic 
Energy (hereafter cited as A/AE), 1945 Top Secret 322 Atomic Bomb Striking Force, Box 
1; R&RS Cmt 4, AC/AS, OC&R, to Maj Gen C. E. LeMay, DCAS/R&D, "Atomic Bomb 
Striking Force," 4 Jan 45, and Memo for Gen Vandenberg, Brig Gen A. R. Maxwell, Ch, 
Rqmts Div, AC/AS, OC&R, "The Establishment of an Atomic Bomb Striking Force," 5 
Dec 45, in NA RG 18, 1945 AAG 370.22 Campaign and Expeditions. Box 178; Memo for 
Gen Eaker, Lt Gen H. S. Vandenberg, AC/AS, OC&R, "The Establishment of a Strategic 
Striking Force," 2 Jan 46, approved by Maj Gen C. C. Chaunccy, 7 Jan 46, AFSHRC, 
Maxwell AFB, AL, Document No 179.06I-34A, Off of Air Force History. Washington. 

19. Memo for Ch of Air Staff, Maj Gen E. E. Partridge, AC/AS, Opns, "Conference on 
Reorganization of the 58th Bomb Wing," 26 Apr 46, w/incl, "Organization and Deployment 
of the 58th Bombardment Wing," in NA RG 341, DCS/O, A/AE. 1946 Secret 008 Policy 
Box 2. 

20. R&RS, Eaker to Maj Gen F. L. Anderson, AC/AS-1, "Personnel for Manhattan 
Project," 14 Mar 46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS AAG, File 22, Box 7; 1st ind to Itr. Hq 
Air Materiel Command to CG/AAF, "Air Forces Relationship to Manhattan District," Brig 
Gen A. R. Crawford, Ch, Res & Engr Div, AC/AS-4. to CG/Manhattan District (Maj Gen 
L. R. Groves), 8 Nov 46, w/incl, Itr, Maj Gen L. C. Craigie, Ch, Engr Div, AMC, toCG/ 
AAF, "Air Forces Relationship to Manhattan District," n. d, in NA RG 18. 1946-47 AAG 
321 AAF, Vol 1, Box 603; Memo for AC/AS-3, Maj Gen C. E. LeMay, DCAS/R&D, 
"Inter-Branch Responsibility for Atomic Bomb Program," w/incl, 14 Jun 46, in NA RG 
341 , DCS/O, A/AE, 1946 Secret 312. 1 Manhattan District, Box 2; Ltr, Col W. H. Blanchard, 
CO, Roswell AAF & 509BG, to Maj Gen C. E. LeMay, DCAS/R&D, 24 Sep 46, w/incl! 
Blanchard to Ryan, et al, 23 Sep 46, and Itr, Blanchard to LeMay, 27 Sep 46, in NA RG 
341, DCS/O, A/AE, 1946 Secret 353 Bomb Commanders and Weaponeers Training, Box 

21. Ltr, Blanchard to LeMay, 24 Sep 46, and Blanchard to Ryan, et al, 23 Sep 46. 

22. Ltr, Blanchard to LeMay, 27 Sep 46. 

23. Memo for Ch of Air Staff, Partridge. 26 Apr 46; Ltr. Brig Gen R. M. Ramey. CO. 
TG 1.5 (Prov). 58BW. to Maj Gen C. E. LeMay. DCAS/R&D. 29 Mar 46. and Ltr. Le 
May to Ramey, 4 Apr 46, in NA RG 341 , DCS/O, A/AE, 1946 Secret 471 .6 Atomic Bombs; 
Ltrs, Blanchard to LeMay, 24 and 27 Sep 46; Memo for AC/AS-3, LeMay, 14 Jun 46 

24. Memo for Lt Gen Lewis Brereton, Chairman, MLC to AEC, Maj Gen C. E. LeMay, 
DCAS/R&D, AAF, 8 Feb 47, w/incl, Rpt, Col T. C. Rogers, "Strategic Implications of the 
Atomic Bomb on Warfare," 3 Feb 47, in NA RG .341, DCS/O, A/AE, 1947 Top Secret 
360.2 Outline of Planning Factors for Atomic Bomb, Box 4. 

25. Ibid.; Rpt to Gen Arnold, Spaatz, Vandenberg. and Norstad. 23 Oct 45; Memo for 
Gen Eaker, Brig Gen T. S. Power, Dep AC/AS-3, "Army Air Forces Presentation for Joint 
CROSSROADS Scientific Symposium," 1 Feb 47, w/incl, "Presentation of Gen Power: 
Effect of the Atomic Bomb on AAF Tactical and Strategic Doctrine," n. d., in NA RG 
341, DCS/O, TS AAG, File 26, Box 9; Memo for AC/AS-3, Brig Gen A. R. Maxwell, Ch, 
Rqmts Div, "Army Air Forces" Concept of Strategic Bombing," 1 May 46, and R&Rs' 
Maj Gen E. E. Partridge, AC/AS-3, to DCAS/R&D, "Army Air Forces' Concept of Stra- 
tegic Bombing." 7 Jun 46 in NA RG 18. 1946-47 AAG 3.53.41 Bombing. Box 629; R&RS. 
Brig Gen A. R. Maxwell. Ch. Rqmts Div. AC/AS-3. to Air Def and Guided Missile Div 
and Opns Div, AC/AS-3. and AC/AS-2. "Strategic Warfare at Extended Radii of Action " 
15 Apr 47, w/incis, in NA RG 18, 1946-47 AAG .385 Warfare Misc. Box 644; Ltr, Brig Gen 
T. S. Power, Dep AC/AS-3 to CG/AU, "Preparation of AAF Concept and Outline Strategy 
for War," 11 Apr 47, in NA RG 18, 1946-47 AAG ,381 War Plans Misc National Defense. 
Vol 3, Box 642; Wesley F. Craven and James L. Gate (cds), "Strategic Bombardment from 
Pacific Bases," in The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol 5, The Pacific: Munerhorn 
to Nagasaki, June 1944 to August 1945 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1953), .507- 


26. Rpt, Rogers, "Strategic Implications," 3 Feb 47, attached to Memo for Brereton, 
LeMay, 5 Feb 47. 

27. Ibid. 

28. Memo for Brig Gen J. L. Loutzenheiser, Maj Gen L. S. Kuter, AC/AS, Plans, 13 
Dec 44; R&RS Cmt 1, Loutzenheiser. Ch, Opnl Plans Div, AC/AS, Plans, for Kuter, 
"Character of Possible War in 1965," 28 Dec 44; R&RS Cmt 2, Col W. M. Burgess, Dep 
AC/AS-2, to AC/AS-5, "Character of Possible War in 1965," 20 Jan 45; R&RS Cmt 1, Col 
L. M. Guyser to Maj Gen L. S. Kuter, AC/AS-5 "Character of Possible War in 1965," n. 
d. , w/tabs, in N A RG 18, Records of Operational Plans Division, Strategic Planning Records. 

29. Ltr, Spaatz, CG/USSTAF, to Arnold, CG/AAF, 19 Mar 45; Ltr, Lt Gen B. M. Giles, 
Dep CG/AAF, to Spaatz, n. d.; Ltr, Spaatz to CG/AAF, "Exploitation of Air Technical 
Intelligence Objectives," 8 Apr 45; Ltr, Maj Gen L. S. Kuter, AC/AS-5, to CG/USSTAF, 
"Exploitation of Air Intelligence Objectives," 23 Apr 45, in NA RG 341 , DCS/O, TS AAG, 
File 51 Europe, Sec 6. Box 13; Ltr, Brig Gen G. C. McDonald, ACS-2, Intell, USSTAF, 
to Maj Gen J. P. Hodges, AC/AS-2, 4 Jun 45; Ltr, Maj Gen E. R. Ouesada, AC/AS-2, 
to McDonald, 15 Jun 45; Ltr, McDonald to Quesada, 26 Jun 45; Ltr, Ouesada to McDonald, 
2 Jul 45, in NA RG 18, 1945 AAG 386.3 Captured Property, Box 191. 

30. Memo for Gen Arnold, Norstad, 17 Aug 45. attached to Memo for Air Staff, Todd, 
18 Aug 45; Memo for Ch of Air Staff. Maj Gen L. Norstad, "Proposed Organization and 
Deployment of Post-War Air Force (70 Gp Program)," 31 Aug 45, w/incl. Memo for Col 
Hinton, "Post-War Air Force Organization and Deployment in Areas other than where 
major Ground Force Units are Located," 31 Aug 45, in NA RG 18, 1945 AAG Interim, 
Postwar and Peacetime Air Forces, Vol 2, Box 99. 

31. Memo for Dep CG/AAF. Lt Gen H. S. Vandenberg. AC/AS-3, "Occupational Air 
Force Troop Basis," n. d. (approximately 10-13 Sep 45). in NA RG 341 . DCS/O. TS AAG. 
File 21, Box 7. 

32. Memo for the Chief of Staff, Gen H. H. Arnold, CG/AAF, "Determination of 
Permanent Army and Army Air Forces Establishment," 27 Oct 45. in LC, General Henry 
H. Arnold Collection, Folder 114: Letters to General Marshall, Box 44. 

33. Rpt, USAFE, "Location of VHB Units in ETO," n. d., and Brief, "USAFE Study 
on Location of VHB Units in ETO." n. d., in LC/Spaatz. Chief of Staff Papers, "Briefing 
Materials for European Trip." 21 Jun 46, Box 264; Memo for CG/AAF, Maj Gen L. 
Norstad, AC/AS, Plans "Plans for Overseas Deployment of A. A. F. Units," 10 Apr 46, 
in NA RG 18, 1946-47 AAG 370 Deployment, etc, Misc, Vol 1, Box 632. 

34. See note above; Memo for Spaatz. Brig Gen F. F. Everest, Actg AC/AS, Plans, 
"VHB Air Base Construction in the United Kingdom." n. d.. in LC/Spaatz. Chief of Staff 
Papers, "Briefing Materials for European Trip." 21 Jun 46, Box 264; Ltr, Maj Gen St. 
Clair Streett, Dep CG/SAC, to CG/AAF, "Operational Training and Strategic Employment 
of Units of Strategic Air Command," 25 Jul 46, w/incl. "Operational Training and Strategic 
Employment of Units of Strategic Air Command. 18 Jul 46, w/tabs, attached to 1st ind. 
Brig Gen T. S. Power, Dep AC/AS-3, to CG/SAC, 9 Oct 45; R&RS. Col A. O. Mustoe, 
Actg Dep AC/AS-3, to AC/AS-3 and Air Staff, "Operational Training and Strategic Em- 
ployment of Units of Strategic Air Command," 29 Aug 45. w/cmts attached, in NA RG 18, 
1946-67 AAG 322 Organization and Training of Units, Vol 1. Box 605; Memo for CG/ 

AAF, Maj Gen O. P. Weyland, AC/AS, Plans, "Rotation of VHB Groups to ETO," 6 
Aug 46, and R&RS Cmt 4, Brig Gen W. A. Matheny. Asst Dep AC/AS-3, to AC/AS-4 
and DCAS, 20 Aug 46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O. TS AAG, File 23, Box 7. 

35. R&RS, Maxwell to Air Def & Guided Missile Div and Opns Div, AC/AS-3, and AC/ 
AS-2, "Strategic Warfare at Extended Radii of Action," 15 Apr 47. 

36. The Development of the Strategic Air Command. 1946-1976 (Offutt AFB, NE; Off 
of the Command Historian, Hq SAC, 21 Mar 76). 

37. Albert Wohlstetter, F. S. Hoffman, R. J. Lutz, and H. S. Rowen, Selection and Use 
of Strategic Air Bases (RAND Report R-266) (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 
1954); for a fuller, RAND-ish account, see Bruce L. R. Smith. The RAND Corporation 
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 195-240. 

38. R&RS, Lt Gen I. C. Eaker. Dep CG/AAF, to Air Staff. "Decisions Reached in 
London Between Gen Spaatz and Air Ministry — June 1946," w/incls. Memoes, Maj Gen 
Clayton Bissell, Mil Attache, London. 28 Jun and 6 Jul 46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS 

AAG, File 23, Box 7; LC/Spaatz, Chief of Staff Papers, "Briefing Materials for European 
Trip," 21 Jun 46, Box 264. 


39. Ltr, Gen C. A. Spaatz, CG/AAF, to Maj Gen C. L. Bissell, Mil Att, London 8 Aug 
46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS A AG, File 23, Box 7. 

40. JCS 1630 series in CCS 381 (2-19-46), RG 218: JPS 789, JSP, "Concepts of Operations 
for 'PINCHER'," 2 Mar 46; JPS 789/l,PC 432/6, 10 June 46, in NA RG 341 DCS/O TS 
P&O, PD 381 Russia (PINCHER) (2 Mar 46), Box 949, and CCS 381 (3-2-46) Sec"l-3 
in NA RG 218, JCS Geographic File, 1948-50, Box 37; Dr. Kenneth Condit, History of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol 2- 1947-49 in 
NA RG 218. 

41. Memo for Brig Gen F. F. Everest, Col J. J. Caldara, n. d.; Memo for Everest, 6 Sep 
46; and Memo for Col A. R. Luedecke, Brig Gen F. F. Everest. 6 Sep 46, in NA RG 341 
DCS/O, TS P&O, PD 381 Russia (PINCHER) (2 Mar 46). Box 949. 

42. JCS 1630/3, Adm C. Nimitz, CNO, 13 Jun 46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O 
OPD 381 Strategic Guidance (19 Feb 46), Sec 1, Box 382; Memo, Adm C. Nimitz CNo' 
to Gen D. D. Eisenhower, CSA, 13 Jun 46, in NA RG 165, Records of War Department 
General and Special Staffs, OPD Files, ABC 471.6 Atom (17 Aug 45), Sec 7. 

43. JCS 1630/4, Gen C. A. Spaatz, CG/AAF. to JCS, 1 Jul 46, in NA RG 341 DCS/O 
TS P&O, OPD 381 Strategic Guidance (19 Feb 46), Sec 1, Box 382. 

44. JWPC 4861/1, JSPG, "Strategic Guidance for Mobilization Planning," 18 Dec 46 in 
NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O, OPD 381 Strategic Guidance (19 Feb 46), Sec 1 Box 382- 
JCS 1630 series, in CCS 381 (2-19-46), RG 218. 

45. See note above. 

46. Memoes. Maj Gen G. C. McDonald, AC/AS, Intell, to Gen C. A. Spaatz 17 and 
18 Oct 46, in LC/Spaatz, Chief of Staff Papers, Folder: Navy 1 Box 262 

47. Condit, History of JCS. RG 218. 

48. Futrell, Ideas. Concepts. Doctrine, 121-34; Paul Y. Hammond, "Super-Carriers and 
B-36 Bombers: Appropriations, Strategy, and Politics," in Harold Stein (ed), American 
Civil-Military Decisions (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1963), 465-567; U. S. 
Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, 81st Congress 1st 
Sess, Investigation of the B-36 Program (Washington: GPO, 1949) and The National Defense 
Program— Unification and Strategy (Washington: GPO, 1950). 

49. Memo for Secretary of the Air Force, Gen H. S. Vandenberg, Vice Chief of Staff, 
USAF, "Status of Current Joint War and Mobilization Planning," 5 Nov 47 in NA RG 
341, DCS/O, TS P&O, PO 381 (5 Nov 47), Box 355; R&RS, Maj Gen O. P. Weyland AC/ 
AS, Plans, to Brig Gen Rueben C. Hood, Jr., Ch, Air Staff, "Formation of Air War Plans 
Committee," 1 Jul 46, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS AAG, File 25, Box 8. 

50. Memo for CG/AAF (Attn: F. F. Everest), Brig Gen G. A. Lincoln, Ch, Plans & 
Policy Gp, Plans and Opns Div, WDGS, "Plan for the Immediate Initiation of Strategic 
Air Operations," 10 Sep 46, attached to Air Plan for "MAKEFAST," in NA RG 341 DCS/ 
O, TS P&O, PO 381 (10 Sep 46), Box 380. 

51. Memo for SECAF, Vandenberg, 5 Nov 47; Air Plan MAKEFAST, Oct 46 in NA 
RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O, PO 381 (10 Sep 46), Box 380. 

52. Status Rpt (As of 31/2359Z Dec 46), Off of Comptroller, Statistical Control Div 8 
Jan 47, in NA RG 18, 1946-47 AAG 322 Organization and Training of Units, Vol 2, Box 
605; Ltr, Blanchard to LeMay, 24 Sep 46; Ltr, Brig Gen T. S. Power, Dep AC/AS-3, to 
CG/SAC, "Range Bombing Program, Bomb Practice M-107," 15 Oct 46, w/incl In NA 
RG 18, 1946-47 AAG 353.41 Bombing, Box 629; Development of SAC. 

53. Short Range Emergency War Plan (SREP), Strategy Br, War Plans Div, AC/AS 
Plans, "Outline Air Plan 'EARSHOT," 15 Mar 47, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O PO 
381 (10 Sep 46), Box 380; Memo for SECAF, Vandenberg, 5 Nov 47; Memo for Spaatz 
Brig Gen W. L. Ritchie, Actg AC/AS-5, "Cable from General Bissell, London, Dated 27 
April 1947," in LC/Spaatz, Diary Jan-Sep 1947, Box 28. 

54. Ltr, Gen C. A. Spaatz, CG/AAF, to Gen G.C. Kenney, CG/SAC, n. d, w/incl SREP 
EARSHOT, 15 Mar 47, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O, PO 381 (10 Sep 46) Box 380 

55. File, PO 381 (10 Sep 46), Box 380. 

56. Air Plans MAKEFAST and EARSHOT, in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS P&O PO 381 
(10 Sep 46), Box 380. 

57. Ltr, Gen C. A. Spaatz, CSAF, to Lt Gen E. C. Whitehead, CG/FEAF, 6 Oct 47 in 
NA RG 18, 1946-47 AAG 312.1 Operations Letters, Vol 2, Box 58; Richard G. Hewlett 
and Francis Duncan, Atomic Shield (Washington: AEC. 1972), passim. 


58. Ltr, Maj Gen C. E. LeMay, DCAS/R&D, to CG/SAC, 22 Sep 47, in NA RG 341, 
DCS/O, A/AE, 1947 Secret, Box S. 

59. R&RS, Maj Gen G. C. McDonald, Dir/Intell, USAF, to DCS/O, "Plan for the 
Production of Air Objective Folders for Global Air Operations," 25 Nov 47, in NA RG 
18, 194fr-47 AAG 381 War Plans Misc National Defense, Vol I, Box 642. 

60. Maj Gen O. P. Weyland, Dir/Plans, DCS/O, "Presentation by General Weyland to 
the President's Air Policy Commission, 16 September 1947, " in NA RG 341, DCS/O, TS 
AAG, File 31, Box 10. 

61 . Memo for Symington , Gen H . S. Vandenberg, VCSAF, "Status of Current Joint War 
and Mobilization Planning," 6 Nov 47, in NA RG 340, Records of Office of Secretary of 
the Air Force, Off of Admin Asst, Subj File, 1946-50, Ij (2), Box 3. 

62. Condit, History ofJCS. 

63. Memo for Secretary of Defense Forrestal, W. Stuart Symington, SECAF, 16 Dec 47, 
w/inci, Ltr, Symington to J. E. Webb, Dir/Bureau of Budget, 16 Dec 47, in LC/Spaatz, Chief 
of Staff Papers, Folder: Secretary of Air Force 1 , Box 263. 

64. Ibid. 

65. Ibid.; Memo for Record, Col D. O. Darrow, Strat Br, AC/AS, Plans, "Deployment 
of a 55 Group Air Force," 15 Sep 47, in LC/Spaatz, Chief of Staff Papers, Folder: Orga- 
nization 1, Box 262; Futrell, Ideas. Concepts, Doctrine, 113. 

66. Condit, History ofJCS, 284. 

67. EO 9877, 29 Jul 47. 

68. Condit, History ofJCS, 168. 

69. Ibid., 173-79; SM-9735, Rpt of Ad Hoc Cmte on Roles and Missions, 4 Mar 48, in 
NA RG 341, TS P&O, PD 660.2 (18 Jul 45), Sec 6, Box 650. 

71. Condit, History ofJCS. 179. 

72. Condit, History ofJCS; Memo for SECDEF, Adm L. E. Denfeld, CNO, 22 Apr 48, 
in NA RG 341, TS P&O, PD 660.2 (18 Jul 45), Sec 8, Box 651. 

73. Memo for Forrestal, Gen C. A. Spaatz, CSAF, n. d.; Memoes, Leahy, Bradley, and 
Spaatz, 29 Apr 48, in NA RG 341, TS P&O, PD 660.2 (18 Jul 45), Sec 8, Box 651; Condit, 
History ofJCS. 

74. Condit, History ofJCS, 283-88; for complete details, see CCS 381 USSR (3-2-46), 
JCS Geographic File 1948-50, Boxes 37, 37A, 37B, 37C, 38; R&RS, Brig Gen W. L. 
Ritchie, Ch, Plans Div, to Air Staff, "First Draft, Plan HARROW," 12 May 48, in NA 
RG 341, TS P&O, PO 385 HARROW, Box 472C. 

75. Hewlett and Duncan, Atomic Shield, 163-64, 175-76. 

76. Development of SAC. 

77. Agreed Final Version of Newport Meetings, 20-22 Aug 48, in NA RG 341, TS P&O, 
PD 660.2 (18 Jul 45), Sec 8, Box 651; cited in Hewlett and Duncan, Atomic Shield. 170- 

78. For a detailed account of the FY 1950 budget battle, see Warner R. Schilling, "The 
Politics of National Defense: Fiscal 1950," in Warner R. Schilling, et al. Strategy, Politics, 
and Defense Budgets (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), 29-266; Condit, History 
of JCS; Minutes, Secretary of Defense Budget Meeting with the Three Secretaries and the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, 4 Oct 48, Vol 1, in RG 218, CCS 370 (8-19-45), Bulky Package, Part 
II, Box 129. 

79. Minutes, 4 Oct 48 Meeting. 

80. Ibid. 

81. Ibid. 

82. Ibid. 

83. Interview, Dr. Murray Green with Gen John B. Montgomery, USAF (Ret), Los 
Angeles, CA, 7 Aug 71. 

84. Interview, John T. Bohn, Command Historian, SAC, with Gen C. E. LeMay, USAF 
(Ret), 9 Mar 71, in Off of Air Force History, Washington; C. E. LeMay with MacKinlay 
Kantor, Mission with LeMay (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1965), 
429-500; Futrell, Ideas, Concepts. Doctrine, 145-71; NA RG 341, TS P&O, OPD 337 (6 
Aug 45); Lt Gen C. E. LeMay, "Notes for Discussion with General Vandenberg," 4 Nov 
48, in LC/General Curtis E. LeMay Papers, Gen LeMay's Diary, Folder 1, Box B64. 

85. Development of SAC, 15, 38, 

86. For example, Louis J. Halle, The Cold War As History (New York: Harper and Row, 
Harper Torchbooks, 1975), 166; Joyce and Gabriel Koiko, The Limits of Power: The World 
and United Slates Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 493. 


87. Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harrv S. Truman, 1945- 
1948 (New York: W, W. Norton and Company, 1977). 368. ' 

88. Futrell, Ideas. Concepts. Doctrine. 135-81; Paul Y. Hammond, •■NSC-68: Prologue 
to Rearmament," in Warner Schilling, Strategy. Politics, and Defense Budgets. 271-378: 
Samuel P. Huntington, The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics (New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1961), 25-64. 

89. Hewlett and Duncan, Atomic Shield. 590-93. 

90. Hewlett and Duncan, Atomic Shield. Appendix 4: Announced Nuclear Tests. 672- 

91. John T. Greenwood. "The Air Force Ballistic Missile and Space Program. 1954-74." 
Aerospace Historian. XXII. No 4 (December 1974). 191-93. 




The title of this session is "The Search for Maturity in American 
Postwar Air Doctrine and Organization." This title intriguingly suggests 
that it may be possible for a large military establishment such as the 
United States Air Force or Navy to find "maturity" through a careful, 
systematic search of available options. Maturity, however, is generally 
not discovered as the result of a concerted effort, but is grown into so 
gradually that it is difficult to identify the precise moment at which it is 
achieved. A military organization may be said to have reached maturity 
when its high command has thoroughly analyzed the challenges posed by 
existing conditions — including the threat of potential enemies, the nature 
of the domestic political situation, and the state of military technology — 
and has determined how to manipulate technology and organization so 
as to operate effectively in pursuit of its chosen objectives. 

With respect to naval air doctrine — by which is meant, in this paper, 
basic tenets of strategic rather than tactical doctrine — the Navy had 
reached maturity by the end of World War II. The service had achieved 
its wartime goals by skillfully adapting tactics and weaponry, including 
the most advanced air technology available, to meet the challenges posed 
by global war. Changing circumstances, however, require continued 
growth. The development of the atomic bomb, the emergence of the 
Soviet Union as a major military power, and the postwar struggles at 
home over budgets and reorganization of the armed services posed a new 
set of challenges which demanded major adjustments in naval air doc- 

Between 1945 and 1949, confidence and pride in wartime accom- 
plishments were overshadowed by conflict and confusion as the Navy 
struggled to redefine its role to meet the needs of a vastly changed national 
security environment. By 1949, the broad outlines of postwar naval air 
doctrine were evident, but further refinement and adjustments were re- 
quired in response to continuing changes in technology, domestic politics, 
and definitions of national policy goals. By the mid-1950s, the Navy had 
developed most of the technological and organizational tools necessary 
to implement the doctrine it had evolved. In this sense, it had once again 
achieved maturity, at a new level, appropriate for the postwar world. 


The process by which this level of maturity was reached is the subject of 
this paper. ' 

The Interwar and Early Postwar Years 

A study of the emergence of postwar naval air doctrine must begin 
with a review of the interwar era. During the 192()s and -19305, the Navy 
developed a flexible and generally effective procedure for adapting to 
strategic and technological innovation. Specialized training was intro- 
duced, but special branches were not created. Every officer entering a 
specialty like aviation or submarines was reminded that his first duty was 
to the Navy as a whole and that eventually he would be required to 
assume the traditional responsibilities of command at sea. As a result, 
new technology and tactics were tested not within the protective walls 
of a separate branch but within the body as a whole during annual fleet 
problems in which virtually the entire Navy participated. Innovations 
introduced in this way initially faced greater resistance, but, if successful, 
could be more fully accepted.' 

Sea-based aviation was developed partly in response to the naval 
limitation treaties of the 1920s and 1930s, which forced the Navy to seek 
alternatives to the large battle fleets in planning for the defense of U.S. 
Pacific possessions. The aircraft carrier was from its inception an integral, 
although initially minor, part of naval operations and strategic planning. 
A generation of naval officers trained during this period witnessed the 
testing of sea-based aviation, observed its implementation in World War 
II, and came to accept — sometimes begrudgingly — its proven effective- 
ness. It was this generation, experienced in the application of naval avia- 
tion even if they were not aviators, which assumed control of Navy 
strategic planning after the war.^ 

The Navy's approach to innovation in the interwar era may thus be 
described as both conservative and highly flexible. Its approach to doc- 
trine shared the same characteristics. The Navy relied very little on writ- 
ten doctrine as a training tool, preferring that naval officers absorb the 
fundamentals of naval theory through the practice of their craft. The 
result was that the Navy's officer corps shared a cohesive, almost mystical, 
understanding of the principles of sea power based on common experi- 
ences and carefully preserved traditions. Although this type of unwritten 
dogma served the Navy very well before and during the war, it was 
difficult to define and even more difficult to communicate.'* 

In addition, it tended to hinder rapid adjustment to fundamental 
change. As Bernard Brodie noted in January 1946, the Navy's "indub- 
itably superb accomplishment in the greatest of all naval wars . . . [will] 
not faciliate it taking the lead in reevaluating its own place in the national 
security."* The early postwar studies of naval air power focused almost 


exclusively on past accomplishments. These included an abortive and 
controversial study for the United States Strategic Bombing Survey called 
"The Carrier Air Effort Against Japan" and a similar study called "U.S. 
Naval Aviation in the Pacific, A Critical Review.'" 

The Navy's orientation in the immediate postwar era is probably 
best reflected by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King's triumphant third report 
to the Secretary of the Navy summarizing the Navy's contribution in 
World War II. In this report. King extolled the virtues of the "balanced 
fleet" and pointed out how the aircraft carrier had become an "integral 
and primary component of the fleet," capable of carrying out a muhi- 
plicity of missions, including destruction of hostile air and naval forces, 
support of amphibious operations, reconnaissance over the sea, and the 
defeat of "hostile land-based planes over positions held in force by the 
enemy.'" Although the theme of flexibility and the emphasis on tactical 
missions were to constantly reemerge in postwar naval planning. King's 
presentation gave little indication of how naval air doctrine would be 
adapted to postwar challenges. 

In a pattern that would become all too familiar, at least in the early 
postwar years, the Navy appears to have first turned its attention to the 
question of postwar naval doctrine not as a result of its own initiative but 
in response to outside stimuli. In February 1946 a Joint Strategic Survey 
Committee report outlined the future missions of the United States' land, 
sea, and air forces. For the next four months the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
(JCS) debated the fundamental differences in service philosophy raised 
in this report. The Army and Army Air Forces, led by General Dwight 
Eisenhower, Army Chief of Staff, and Army Air Forces Commanding 
General Carl Spaatz, argued that service missions should be defined in 
terms of the medium in which each service operated, i.e., land, sea, and 
air, and that duplication in weapons systems should be eliminated. The 
immediate question at issue was not the combat role of the aircraft 
carrier — this would come later — but whether the Navy should be allowed 
to maintain and operate land-based aircraft for such purposes as recon- 
naissance, anti-submarine warfare, and air transport in support of am- 
phibious landings.' 

The Navy responded that function, not weapon systems, should de- 
termine the role and composition of each service, and that each service 
should have forces large, varied, and flexible enough to accomplish its 
mission in the face of any contingency. With inter-service tension over 
anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic still fresh in the Navy's memory. 
Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and Deputy 
CNO for Air Vice Admiral Arthur Radford angrily resisted the suggestion 
that they turn over control of vital support operations to the Army Air 
Forces. Not only would this impair the efficiency and effectiveness of 


naval operations, but, they feared, it might seriously hamper naval air 
research and development activity, as had happened to the British Royal 
Navy when its fleet air arm was controlled by the Royal Air Force during 
the interwar period. 

Radford was careful to point out that in demanding the right to 
control its own land-based air operations, the Navy had no intention of 
encroaching on the legitimate functions of the Army Air Forces. "The 
Navy does not contemplate," he stated, 

the creation of a land-based strategic bombing command; developing a land-based 
fighter force for the defense of the United States or of major outlying bases; 
building a tactical air force for land campaigns, or maintaining a competitive 
transport service. These are not nor have they ever been the intentions of the 
Navy. As is well-known, however, a most important part of the Navy is its air 
arm, complete and adequate, to fulfill naval missions. It includes aircraft based 
on ships, tenders, seadromes, or fields, with any type of landing gear — floats, 
wheels, or skis; powered by any type of engine — reciprocating, turbine, or jet; 
carrying any type of useful weapon — gun, rocket, torpedo, bomb, mine, or atomic 
explosive. We intend to take full advantage of scientific research and development 
applicable to air warfare including guided missiles and pilotless aircraft. We will 
continue to coordinate our enterprises with those of the Army in anticipation that 
each service will benefit by the progress of the other; unwarranted duplication will 
be avoided but no promising field of aeronautical science or tactics will remain 
unexplored. Our aircraft will continue to be manned by pilots, aircrewmen and 
technicians who will be unexcelled by any others in the world.' 

This and similar statements provided the first general definition of what 
the Navy believed its future to be in the field of aviation. Such a definition, 
however, was by no means complete. Although Radford described Air 
Force missions with some care, he failed to describe in a comparable 
manner precisely what the Navy's missions might be. This led the Air 
Force to charge that the Navy, despite its protestations, actually hoped 
to compete for control of strategic air operations. 

The dispute was apparently settled in the Navy's favor by the Na- 
tional Security Act of 1947, which created a Department of the Air Force, 
but also guaranteed to the Department of the Navy control over naval 
aviation, including any land-based aviation "organic thereto."'" 

This provision, however, proved to be a much more temporary safe- 
guard than the naval officers who had aggressively lobbied for it on 
Capitol Hill had hoped it would be. The question of the Navy's role in 
aviation, particularly with regard to the strategic air offensive, was to be 
a repeated source of conflict over the next several years. 

The Atomic Bomb and Naval Aviation 

Central to this controversy was the question of the atomic bomb. In 
the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, atomic technology 
was a matter of critical importance to the Navy because of the threat it 


appeared to pose to surface fleet operations. If an entire carrier task 
force could be destroyed by a single atomic bomb, the Navy's future 
would be in serious jeopardy. In response to public charges that this was 
indeed the case, the Navy prepared a test fleet to be sacrificed on the 
nuclear altar at Bikini Atoll in July 1946. The tests carried out during 
Operation CROSSROADS on 1 and 25 July 1946, however, largely re- 
lieved the Navy's fears. The results demonstrated, at least to the Navy, 
that a surface task force could survive an atomic attack if minor modi- 
fications in fleet routine were instituted — in particular, a more widely 
dispersed steaming formation and washdown techniques for radiological 

The question of how the Navy might make use of the atomic weapon 
received much less immediate attention than the question of whether the 
Navy could survive any such use by an enemy power. Although Secretary 
of the Navy James Forrestal and Assistant Secretary Artemus Gates both 
stated in 1945 that U.S. aircraft carriers would someday be capable of 
launching an atomic attack, there is no evidence that the Navy was or- 
ganizing to achieve a carrier-based strategic bombing capability in the 
immediate postwar years. " The position and office of Deputy CNO for 
Special Weapons (OP-06) had been created in November 1945 when the 
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations was formally established. The 
chief function of this position was to organize and implement Operation 
CROSSROADS. Once this assignment was nearly completed, however, 
officers within that organization apparently turned their attention to the 
question of how the Navy could employ atomic weapons. On 24 July 
1946, for example, a letter originated by Commander Doyen Klein of 
OP-06 was sent to President Truman under the signature of Acting Sec- 
retary of the Navy John L. Sullivan proposing the modification of a 
number of aircraft carriers so that they could handle atomic bombs. " 

In November 1946, however, OP-06 was disestablished, and its func- 
tions were reassigned. The DCNO (Operations), who had control of 
strategic plans, was now charged with overseeing atomic energy devel- 
opment; the DCNO (Logistics) was placed in charge of modification of 
carriers to handle atomic weapons; and the DCNO (Air), who admin- 
istered the development of aircraft, aviation ships, and tactical concepts 
of aerial warfare, was also given responsibility over guided missile de- 
velopment. ''• As a result, dedicated younger officers, such as John Hay- 
ward, Frederick Ash worth, and Joseph Murphy, were forced to attempt 
to develop a nuclear strike capability for the Navy outside its formal 
structure. They received aid from Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, the 
DCNO (Operations), and Vice Admiral Arthur Radford, the DCNO 
(Air), but no central office directed their efforts. '* 

One explanation for this lack of attention to the possibilities of atomic 
technology lies in the fact that in 1946 the Navy was focusing on an 


apparently more urgent problem. The German development of advanced 
conventional type XXI and XXVI U-boats toward the end of World War 
II, and the fact that the Soviet Union had captured a number of these 
submarines, had led to fears that the Russians could have as many as 
twenty of these fast submarines by 1948 and several hundred by 1951, 
thus seriously jeopardizing allied control of the seas in war. '* In June 
1946, Chief of Naval Operations Chester Nimitz initiated Project GIR- 
DER, a major research and development initiative in anti-submarine 
warfare. From this time until at least the spring of 1950, submarine 
technology and anti-submarine warfare development were the Navy's top 
research and development priorities. " This is reflected in the Fiscal Year 
1948 shipbuilding program developed between May and July of 1946. 
Although the need for a new aircraft carrier capable of handling heavier 
airplanes was recognized, the majority of ships proposed were submarines 
and anti-submarine types. '* 

The Navy was further discouraged from attempting to develop an 
atomic weapons capability by the confusion that then existed in planning 
circles as to whether atomic weapons would be available for use in war. 
During the spring of 1946, initial war plans for conflict with the Soviet 
Union, codenamed PINCHER, were prepared by the Joint War Plans 
Committee and the Joint Staff Planners of the JCS. These plans called 
for taking maximum advantage of the atomic bomb. " Concurrently, how- 
ever. President Truman was preparing and presenting a national policy 
calling for international control of atomic energy and the banning of all 
nuclear weapons. In response to this policy. Admiral Nimitz urged the 
Joint Chiefs "to avoid any specific affirmation at this time of any intention 
to use the atomic bomb."^* In addition, it was unclear through thesummer 
of 1947 what the limits and capabilities of the atomic bomb might be and 
how many might be available for use even if international control were 
not achieved. In the face of such practical and philosophical uncertainties, 
the Navy was inclined to confine its attention to the kind of analysis that 
had been carried out in Operation CROSSROADS. Instead of planning 
for offensive operations, assessments were made of what damage might 
result if American ports and the Panama Canal were subjected to atomic 

Strategic Air and the Navy 

No general statement of postwar naval doctrine was promulgated 
until early 1947, when U.S. Fleet Publication Number One, Principles 
and Applications of Naval Warfare, was released. In that paper, the Navy 
identified the "destruction of the opposing will to resist" as "the fun- 
damental objective of the armed forces in war." It noted that this ob- 
jective could be achieved by attacking the enemy's means of resistance- 
including industrial potential, naval and air forces, and transportation 


networks — until the enemy was forced to consider further prosecution 
of the war to be "unprofitable." It pointed out that air attacks would not 
achieve an early, easy victory, and that "the outcome of the war is de- 
pendent finally on ability to isolate, to occupy, or otherwise to control 
the territory of the enemy."" 

Because of its mention of industrial targets, this statement suggested 
to the Air Force and subsequent analysts that the Navy was interested 
in competing for a role in the strategic air offensive. This interpretation, 
however, does not do justice to the complexity of the Navy's position. 
In May 1947, Bernard Brodie prepared a statement for the Library of 
Congress Legislative Reference Service describing the naval high com- 
mand's view on atomic warfare that, although unofficial, was described 
as having been approved by Admiral Nimitz. That statement argued that 
bombing raids could be performed more effectively by carrier-based jet 
aircraft and guided missiles than by heavy long range bombers. Not only 
were the Navy's planes faster and more maneuverable, but they would 
be operating from mobile bases over relatively short range. 

Although the Navy's leadership did not specify the type of targets 
which would be destroyed in such attacks, it is clear that they were 
intended to be relatively limited. They believed that the kind of blanket 
strategic bombing that had been carried out over Germany and Japan by 
subsonic propeller-driven bombers would no longer be possible in the 
postwar world. The technology of aerial defense had so outstripped of- 
fensive developments that unacceptably large numbers of aircraft would 
have to be sacrificed to achieve the kind of massive impact which had 
been sought by the Army Air Forces during World War 11.^' This view 
was reinforced by the Navy's belief that relatively few atomic weapons 
would be available to the United States over the coming decade. If only 
a small number of bombs could be deployed, it would be necessary to 
ensure that a high percentage of them would reach their intended targets 
and that destruction of those targets would have maximum impact. 

The Army Air Forces disagreed with this analysis at two critical 
points. They argued that adequate atomic weapons would soon be avail- 
able to carry out the type of strategic bombing used during World War 
II, and, that, despite improvements in aerial defense the long range heavy 
bomber was a proven weapon fully capable of carrying out the missions 
for which it had been designed.^'' 

Bernard Brodie's report is interesting because it provides the first 
statement of a general Navy position on atomic air strategy in the postwar 
period. It did not, however, accurately reflect official Navy planning. In 
January 1947, Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, the flag officer charged 
with directing naval strategic planning, gave a presentation to President 
Truman in which he did not mention naval use of atomic weapons, but 


stressed instead the conventional tactical role of carrier forces. This ap- 
parent internal conflict reflects a persistent split between long-term tech- 
nologically oriented projection and near-term war planning which 
plagued the Navy as well as the other services after World War II." 
Whereas actual war planning necessarily focused on currently available 
weaponry, the kind of forecasting which Brodie was describing was freed 
from such constraints. 

It was not until after the final report of the JCS Bikini Evaluation 
Committee in July 1947 that the Navy initiated any serious consideration 
of how it could most effectively make use of the atomic bomb. The Bikini 
Evaluation Report, presented in detail to the assembled leadership of 
the nation's armed services on 29 July 1947, argued for a significantly 
upgraded evaluation of the weapon's potential power. It stressed the 
need for an effective atomic bomb striking force in being at all times as 
a deterrent to attack. It also stressed the scarcity of fissionable material 
and concluded that the bomb would have to be used primarily against 
urban targets rather than against troops or naval vessels.^* Concerned 
about the nation's low level of conventional readiness, and impressed by 
the results of the Bikini tests, many naval officers — especially naval avia- 
tors — concluded that the Navy should attempt in earnest to develop a 
nuclear weapons capability. 

The Navy's shift in attitude toward the atomic bomb in 1947 was 
indicated by a change in its justification of the construction of its new 
aircraft carrier, the CVA-58. Design work on this ship had begun in 
April 1945 in response to recommendations for future carriers developed 
from World War II combat experience. The new ship was the logical 
extension of existing carrier technology: it was bigger, had more powerful 
catapults and arresting gear, and, because it had no "island" superstruc- 
ture, had a significantly greater flight deck area for parking and operating 
the heavy jet fighters and multi-engine attack planes which represented 
the next generation of naval aircraft. The CVA-58 was designed as a 
multi-purpose ship that could handle a wide variety of weapons, con- 
ventional and atomic. By the fall of 1947, however, when the new ship 
was included in the Fiscal Year 1949 shipbuilding program, the Navy was 
referring to it as an "atomic carrier" both to the public and to Congress. 
This emphasis reflected not only the Navy's desire to develop its nuclear 
capability in the wake of the Bikini tests, but also its apparent belief that 
the carrier would stand a better chance of getting funded if it were defined 
in terms of the new technology." 

Further indications of a growing interest in atomic weapons is to be 
found in the force projections the Navy developed in November 1947 in 
support of the first Joint Outline of the Long Range War Plan, CHAR- 
IOTEER, being prepared by the Joint Strategic Plans Group. CHARI- 


OTHER was intended to define what forces, particularly air forces, the 
United States would need in the event of war with the Soviet Union in 
1955. These projections were not solely for JCS use, but were also in- 
tended for submission to the President's Air Policy Commission, which 
was then preparing its public report on the nation's future aviation re- 
quirements. " The Navy report on its needs projected that it would require 
four four-carrier task groups by 1955. Each task group would contain one 
CVA-58 class carrier; all the carriers in each group were to be equipped 
with long-range multi-engine bombers.^ The Aviation Plans Division of 
the Office of the DCNO (Air) provided its own forecasts of the types 
and capabilities of naval aircraft and guided missiles which would pre- 
sumably be developed by 1955. At the top of the list were the North 
American AJ-1 multi-engine prop-jet attack plane, which was to be the 
Navy's first nuclear capable aircraft, and a multi-engine jet design, the 
ADR-42, which, it was believed, could only operate from one of the 
CVA-58 type ships.'" 

These studies were complemented by a series of additional papers 
which went beyond technology and force levels to discuss the Navy's 
philosophy of its future role in warfare. The two most significant public 
papers were Admiral Chester Nimitz's valedictory statement upon retir- 
ing as Chief of Naval Operations, "The Future Employment of Naval 
Forces," issued on 6 January 1948, and Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery's 
famous memo of 17 December 1947, which was leaked to the public by 
Drew Pearson in March 1948. Nimitz argued that the Navy had developed 
carrier technology and tactics to such a point that it could create offshore 
bases of superior capability and relatively low vulnerability virtually any- 
where in the world. He pointed out that since a feasible intercontinental 
bombing force was not likely to be achieved for several years to come, 
the Navy was the service best prepared to project power against the 
enemy in the initial phases of a war. The Navy, therefore, should be 
assigned continuing responsibility for supplementing Air Force bombing 
operations. '' 

Gallery, the Assistant CNO for Guided Missiles, went even further. 
His memo suggested that the Navy would be quite capable of handling 
most offensive air operations. In fact, he proposed, the entire Navy should 
be restructured to pursue this objective. "For the past two years," he 

our defense of the Navy has been based mainly on old famihar arguments about 
exercising control of the seas. Much has been said about anti-submarine warfare, 
naval reconnaissance, protection of shipping and amphibious operations. It has 
been assumed, at least implicitly, that the next war will not be much different from 
the last one. This assumption is basically wrong, and if we stick to it, the Navy 
will soon be obsolete. The next war will be a lot different from any previous one. 
It seems obvious that the next time our Sunday Punch will be an Atom Bomb 
aimed at the enemy capitols and industrial centers and that the outcome of the 
war will be determined by strategic bombing. The war will be won by whichever 


side IS able to deliver the Atom Bomb to the enemy, and at the same time protect 
Its own territory against similar delivery. I think the time is right now for the Navy 
to start an aggressive campaign aimed at proving that the Navy can deliver the 
Atom Bomb more effectively than the Air Force can. " 

If this campaign proved successful, he went on, the Navy's primary 
mission could be the delivery of atomic attacks, while the Air Force 
would have the air defense of the United States as its prime responsibility. 
Gallery recommended as an interim measure the immediate development 
of a special carrier bomber based on the P2V Neptune until the devel- 
opment of a so-called "atomic" carrier capable of quickly launching a 
jet-propelled multiple plane strike force. This extreme position met with 
general skepticism on the part of senior officers of DCNO (Air) and the 
outright disapproval of the new Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral 
Louis Denfeld, and the Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan." 

A more moderate position which received wider acceptance was 
circulated by a veteran naval aviator. Rear Admiral Ralph Ofstie, a Navy 
member of the joint Military Liaison Committee to the Atomic Energy 
Commission and a former member of the JCS Bikini Evaluation Board. 
In a paper entitled "The Composition of the U.S. Military Establish- 
ment," Ofstie followed the line taken by Admiral Nimitz, noting that the 
carrier striking force was peculiarly well suited for offensive air operations 
against the USSR. Ofstie, however, went beyond previous Navy state- 
ments in tentatively identifying the targets for this striking force. In his 
view, the first wave of attacks should focus on political control centers 
and urban and industrial concentrations in order to disrupt national or- 
ganization and command structures. Other tactical targets could then be 
attacked, using conventional as well as atomic weapons. Ofstie believed 
"that the day of the great strategic bombing force suited only to aerial 
bombing is finished." He proposed that emphasis should be placed on 
developing high performance, high mobility aircraft with improved ac- 
curacy, rather than on trying to produce large numbers of "super bomb- 


The Nimitz, Gallery, and Ofstie memoranda demonstrate the lack 
of consensus that existed within the Navy with regard to the basic func- 
tions and missions of naval air power. Nimitz had raised the possibility 
that the Navy might participate in the air offensive; Gallery had taken 
the extreme position that strategic bombing should be the primary mission 
of the Navy. Ofstie, probably best representing the views of a majority 
of naval aviators, proposed a kind of middle course: the Navy should 
undertake atomic missions, but it should reject strategic bombing as 
practiced by the Air Force and develop an alternative model based on 
flexibility and selectivity. 

Central to Ofstie's statement, and to the Navy's way of thinking at 
this time, was the desire to keep as many options open as possible. A 


series of operations analysis studies, completed in February and March 
1948, indicated, as Nimitz had predicted, that sea-based aviation would 
be equally or even more effective than land-based aviation in delivering 
long range air attacks against the Soviet Union. ^' The Navy remained 
unconvinced, however, that strategic bombing would win a war, despite 
Gallery's arguments, and certainly was not committed to trying to gain 
control of the air offensive. Unfortunately, the Navy's insistence on keep- 
ing its nuclear options open was interpreted by the general public, and 
more importantly by the Air Force, as indicating just such a desire. The 
CVA-58, which was included in the Navy's Fiscal Year 1949 budget, 
became the public symbol of a presumed Navy campaign to undermine 
Air Force prerogatives.** 

The Roles and Missions Debate 

Concerned for its new existence as an independent organization, the 
Air Force was undoubtedly inclined to exaggerate the threat posed by 
the Navy. In the winter of 1948, the Air Force, with about thirty-five 
nuclear-capable B-29 bombers, was the only service capable of delivering 
an atomic attack of any kind. The Navy had modified its three Midway- 
class carriers to handle atomic weapons, but the first dedicated nuclear- 
capable naval aircraft, the AJ-1 Savage, was at least twenty-one months 
from delivery, and an interim aircraft, the P2V-3C Neptune, had not yet 
been carrier-tested prior to being modified to carry atomic bombs.'' In 
addition, it became increasingly clear that the full resources of both the 
Air Force and the Navy would have to be used to counter the threat 
posed by Soviet conventional forces in the event of war. The war plans 
drawn up in 1948 projected that the situation in Western Europe in case 
of a Soviet invasion would be so desperate that maximum use of all 
available forces would be required to meet the emergency.'* Neverthe- 
less, projections did little to ease growing interservice tension over al- 
location of responsibility for atomic weapons and bombing operations. 

It was against the backdrop of the Nimitz and Gallery statements 
and the proposed construction of the CVA-58 that the roles and missions 
disputes of 1948 were carried out. For the most part, these arguments 
appeared to deal with relatively minor points, such as the question of 
which service would set schedules for the development of nuclear capable 
aircraft," and who would serve as the executive agent for the JCS to the 
Armed Forces Special Weapons Project.'^ However, the issue of whether 
the Navy would be allowed to determine what air operations were nec- 
essary to accomplish its wartime missions would receive a great deal of 
attention and provoke extensive controversy. The JCS position paper on 
Armed Forces functions was reviewed and revised at the Key West Con- 
ference in March 1948 in hopes of resolving the Navy-Air Force split 
over this issue. The statement issued as a result of that conference, how- 


ever, as well as a subsequent clarification by Secretary of Defense James 
Forrestal and a second conference held at Newport in August 1948 failed 
to satisfy either service. Misunderstanding and conflict between the serv- 
ices was worse by the fall of 1948 than it had been before passage of the 
National Security Act a year before."*' 

The General Board Sets the Navy's Course 

During the winter of 1948, in the absence of any consensus within 
the national military establishment regarding service roles and missions, 
and without clear guidance on national security policy from the President 
or the National Security Council, the Navy initiated a broad survey of 
its role in postwar national defense. The need for such a study was 
abundantly clear by this time. The uses and limitations of nuclear weapons 
were better understood, and the possibility of conflict with the Soviet 
Union seemed increasingly imminent. The General Board was the logical 
office within the Navy Department to undertake such a study. The Board 
had been established in March 1900 for the purpose of advising the 
Secretary of the Navy on questions of high policy. It did not represent 
any special interest group within the Navy; rather, it was composed of 
some of the brightest senior line officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. 
Because of this broad representation, the Board was in a better position 
than the naval aviation community to evaluate the role of air power 
within the context of the Navy's overall contribution to national defense. 

The driving force behind the General Board study of "National 
Security and Navy Contributions Thereto for the Next Ten Years" was 
Captain Arleigh Burke, a surface officer with special training in ordnance 
explosives who had served as Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral Marc 
Mitscher, Commander of Fast Carrier Task Force 58 in World War II. 
It was Burke who recommended that an overall review of national security 
requirements should be undertaken before attempting to identify the 
Navy's place in national defense.''^ His 200-page final report, which was 
released on 25 June 1948, was based on written statements collected from 
several hundred senior naval officers and distinguished civilians. 

The report's conclusions regarding strategic air warfare were in dis- 
tinct contrast with the views developed in the naval aviation community 
during the previous two years. The General Board did not offer carrier- 
based aviation as a major alternative to land-based forces in carrying out 
the strategic air offensive, and it expressed reservations about the offen- 
sive itself as currently envisioned. The report conceded that the air of- 
fensive would be vital to the United States in the event of a war with the 
Soviet Union and that atomic weapons would have to be used to achieve 
the desired results within a reasonable time. It argued, however, that 
control of the seas, selective initiation of ground offensives, and other 


conventional operations must also be considered necessary elements in 
U.S. strategy and that "sole reliance on the complete success of violent 
and irretrievable departures from established concepts and techniques of 
war" — apparently meaning strategic nuclear bombing— would be highly 
inadvisable."" The General Board further expressed the view that the 
most vulnerable targets in the Soviet Union were not its industrial cities, 
as attacks on most of these would require too great an expenditure of 
scarce resources, but the large southern oil fields and the principle naval 
and submarine bases. 

Taking a page from the concerns of Project GIRDER, the report 
identified anti-submarine warfare as the first mission of the carrier task 
forces. In an effort that was expected to absorb the greater part of their 
energy, those forces would destroy and blockade "enemy submarine bases 
by atomic, radiological, conventional bombing or mining attacks." Ad- 
ditional carrier missions, in order of importance, were support for am- 
phibious assaults to seize advanced bases, air cover for surface forces and 
convoys in sea lines of communications, and, finally, contributing to the 
air offensive by attacking targets which could not easily be reached by 
any other means. In an accurate appraisal of the Navy's current capa- 
bilities, which had unfortunately been lacking in earlier studies, the Gen- 
eral Board concluded rather pessimistically that 

the Navy's initial tasks of control of the seas, occupation or seizure of advanced 
bases, attacks on Russian bases and denial of advanced bases to Russia, combined 
with the enormous logistic supporting effort for the other services and our allies, 
will place so many demands upon the Navy for immediate operations in widely 
separated parts of the world that fulfillment of all demands may well be beyond 
the capacity of the Navy in being." 

The General Board study, which was circulated as widely within the 
Navy as its top secret classification would allow, was a turning point in 
the Navy's efforts to chart its course in the postwar environment. It 
provided for the first time a realistic assessment of the demands which 
would be placed on the Navy in war and the Navy's ability (or inability) 
to meet those demands. Unlike the Gallery memorandum, it did not 
endorse the concept that strategic bombing could win the war, and it 
emphasized the continuing importance of traditional naval tasks. Using 
the best estimates of the enemy threat then available, the General Board 
pointed out how impossible it would be for the Navy to attempt to assume 
a major role in the strategic air offensive while carrying out its own vital 

More on the Roles and Missions Debate 

From the fall of 1947 on, American joint war plans had called for 
both an atomic air offensive against the Soviet Union and conventional 
operations, including naval operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and 


the maintenance of a substantial foothold in Western Europe. A major 
reassessment of such war plans became necessary, however, as a result 
of the $14.4 billion ceiling which President Truman imposed on the Fiscal 
Year 1950 defense budget and refused to negotiate. A series of heated 
debates within the JCS in October 1948 produced a plan in line with this 
austerity budget which called for abandonment of Western Europe and 
a reduction of the Navy's missions to defense of the sea lines of com- 
munication. An atomic air offensive launched from Great Britain, the 
Suez area, and Okinawa would be the primary U.S. war effort."" 

This proposed reduction in conventional operations and increased 
reliance on strategic bombing produced a two-fold reaction within Navy 
planning circles. First, it led to a concerted Navy campaign to defend the 
aircraft carrier as a multi-purpose weapon which could provide much 
needed operational flexibility. In presenting this argument, the Navy was 
not only fighting for its own organizational survival, but was concerned 
that the strategy being proposed was rigid, one-dimensional, and inher- 
ently unsound. Second, the Navy began to voice serious doubts about 
the proposed strategic air offensive. This concern had been slowly de- 
veloping during the previous year and a half, beginning with the argument 
that strategic bombing as it had been practiced during World War II 
would no longer be possible in an era of sophisticated air defense. By 
the fall of 1948, as we shall see, the Navy was questioning not only 
whether such attacks were feasible, but whether they would promote 
U.S. war aims even if they could be successfully delivered. 

The effort to defend the Navy's existing carrier forces in the face of 
the budget ceiling was only successful in the sense that it averted complete 
disaster. In the October 1948 JCS debates over the Fiscal Year 1950 
budget, the Navy argued that a nine-carrier force level, a cut of two from 
Fiscal Year 1949, was the absolute minimum that it could accept. The 
Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, recom- 
mended that the Navy should have only four carriers, while the Chief of 
Staff of the Army, General Omar Bradley, recommended six. Secretary 
of Defense Forrestal on 9 November approved an eight-carrier force 
level, provided that it could be maintained out of the $4.6 billion allocated 
to the Navy.''* 

Six months later, on 23 April 1949 after consultation with President 
Truman, Louis Johnson, who had replaced Forrestal as Secretary of 
Defense, cancelled the construction of CVA-58, only recently named 
USS United States. Johnson's decision was primarily an economy move, 
but he justified it on the grounds that the carrier would be an unwarranted 
duplication of effort since its primary mission was apparently atomic 
warfare.*' The eighteen months of Navy propaganda focusing on the 
nuclear capability of the ship thus proved to be its undoing. While the 


cancellation of the CVA-58 did not affect the eight carrier force level 
established for Fiscal Year 1950, it was an ominous indication of what 
was to come. On 5 July 1949, Secretary Johnson set a tentative carrier 
force level for Fiscal Year 1951 of only four ships. Although this was 
raised two months later to six, the continuing decline of carrier air power 
appeared inevitable.'** 

The Navy's opposition to continued reliance on the strategic air 
offensive fared little better than its effort to retain an adequate conven- 
tional carrier force. A number of naval officers prepared statements 
questioning the efficacy and appropriateness of the planned atomic attack 
on industrial concentrations in the enemy's cities during the winter and 
spring of 1949. Those developed by the Strategic Plans Division for Ad- 
miral Denfeld's use in the JCS defined the Navy's position in interservice 
debates. Others, including papers by Ralph Ofstie, Arleigh Burke, and, 
surprisingly, Dan Gallery, were circulated only within the Navy De- 
partment. Gallery argued eloquently that the planned atomic air offensive 
would be unlikely to win a war: 

. . . this kind of war is not as simple as the prophets of the ten day atomic bhtz 
seem to think. Some authorities estimate that the damage done by strategic bomb- 
ing of Germany was equivalent to 500 Atomic Bombs. But Germany did not 
surrender until her armies were defeated. This damage is costing the U.S. huge 
sums of money now. In addition, levelling large cities has a tendency to alienate 
the affections of the inhabitants and does not create an atmosphere of international 
good will after the war. 

In a total reversal of the position he had developed a year before, he 
proposed that "we should abandon the idea of destroying enemy cities 
one after another until he gives up and find some better way of gaining 
our objective.'"" 

In May 1949, a joint ad-hoc committee headed by Air Force Lieu- 
tenant General Hubert R. Harmon completed a study requested by Sec- 
retary of Defense Forrestal in October 1948. The purpose of the study 
was to analyze the probable impact of the planned air offensive under 
the most favorable conditions. It concluded that, even if all the bombs 
reached their assigned targets, the air offensive alone would not destroy 
the Soviet Union's will or capability to make war or prevent a Soviet 
takeover of Western Europe. Although Air Force Chief of Staff Van- 
denberg objected to these conclusions and attempted to have them de- 
leted from the final report, an impassioned defense of the study by 
Admiral Denfeld was effective in preventing major modifications. Since 
the report was never circulated, however, its impact on strategic planning 
was limited.'* 

The fear that the Navy would be reduced to little more than a convoy 
and escort force while the atomic air offensive continued to dominate 
U.S. strategy finally brought forth within the Navy a clear statement 


regarding its philosophy of naval aviation. In a postmortem on the can- 
cellation of the USS United States, Ralph Ofstie concluded that the Navy 
itself was to blame for the defeat, because it had "simply remained on 
the defensive and failed to make its position clear."'' Ofstie attempted 
to remedy this failing. On 29 April 1949 he presented what was to be the 
simplest and yet the most comprehensive statement to date of naval air 

. . . Strategic air warfare (SAW) may be defined as the sustained mass attack 
(when using conventional bombs) or attack with weapons of mass destruction 
(atomic bombs) against the war making capacity of an enemy. It is essentially 
based on the wholesale destruction of urban and industrial areas and the civil 
populace of the enemy rather than direct attack on his active military machine. 

. . . The Navy does not concur in any view that readiness to conduct SAW should 
be a major factor in the peacetime air power of the United States. However, the 
Navy would naturally be ready, within its capabilities to assist in SAW, as a purely 
secondary function, if directed by appropriate authority. 

. . . Naval air, representing the mobile air power of the United States, is primarily 
directed to the delivery of the maximum air strength wherever that mobile air 
force can be employed against targets of direct and immediate military importance. 
It considers these targets to be military forces (land, sea. and air), military in- 
stallations (land, sea, and air bases), and lines of communication (ocean and inland 
shipping, rail and road transport, and the fuel, therefore — oil)." 

This statement succinctly spelled out the basic elements of an emerging 
consensus within the Navy regarding the place of naval air power in 
national strategy; as such, it provided a basis for future refinements of 
air doctrine. 

These principles also provided a framework for the Navy's continuing 
efforts to defend its prerogatives within the national military establish- 
ment. A renewed movement for additional unification of the armed serv- 
ices in the fall of 1948 had produced a series of proposals for further 
reducing naval autonomy, including the proposal that the Secretary of 
the Navy be demoted from cabinet status. The ensuing debate over re- 
vision of the National Security Act, which continued until the approved 
amendments became law in June 1949, served to keep alive the Navy's 
fear that it would be forced to accept an increasingly subordinate place 
in national defense. This round of interservice competition came to a 
head in the fall of 1949 in the Congressional hearings over the B-36, 
unification, and national strategy. 

The Navy's reaction to attack on its position was to strike back 
publicly through the press and appeals to Congress. The situation ap- 
peared desperate, and desperation tactics were employed, including the 
use of innuendo and falsehoods, which only weakened the Navy's posi- 
tion. The House Armed Services Committee's B-36 Investigation of 
August 1949 proved especially embarrassing to the Navy because of the 
use of such tactics by certain zealous individuals." The shadow cast by 
these proceedings, in turn, made it difficult for the Navy to present its 


position convincingly during the much more substantive Unification and 
Strategy Hearings before the same Committee in October. During those 
hearings, a pantheon of high ranking naval officers, led by Admiral Rad- 
ford, but including Admirals King, Nimitz, Denfeld, Blandy, Ofstie, and 
Captain Burke, made a massive, technically oriented presentation that 
attempted simultaneously to prove the need for a Navy, extol the virtues 
of the aircraft carrier, criticize the weakening of the Navy's place in the 
defense organization, attack the technical capabilities of the B-36 
bomber, and question the effectiveness of the atomic air offensive in 
achieving the goals of American air strategy.^'' The emphasis placed by 
the Navy on the virtues of aircraft carriers while attacking the B-36, the 
general inarticulateness of most Navy spokesmen, and their inability to 
document their critique of the air offensive because of the sensitive nature 
of supporting documents, all combined to leave the cumulative impression 
on the public that the Navy was condemning the direction of current U.S. 
strategy primarily because it had not been allowed to dominate the air 
offensive with carrier-based aircraft.^' 

The new consensus regarding naval air power, which had provided 
the basis for the Navy's presentation during the Unification and Strategy 
Hearings, in some ways marked a return to prewar and postwar concepts. 
Ralph Ofstie's April 1949 memo is oddly reminiscent of Admiral King's 
1945 expression of his views on the World War II role of naval aviation. 
Aircraft carriers were to serve as the United States' mobile striking force, 
capable of performing a spectrum of missions, from providing naval pres- 
ence in time of peace (as carriers had been doing in the Mediterranean 
since 1946) to delivering the atomic bomb in war. The central concept 
was flexibility, and the focus was on allowing the Navy to define its own 
strategy in pursuit of its stated missions. 

The OP-55 Study 

In August 1949, the Air Warfare Division of the Office of the DCNO 
(Air), OP-55, which was charged with formulating "long range and short 
range programs for the most effective employment of naval aviation in 
air warfare," spelled out the specific applications of this new strategy in 
a study on "The Future Development of Carrier Aviation." This study 
used as its starting point the JCS 1948 Key West Conference statement 
on the functions of the armed forces, which identified the Navy's prime 
mission to be "control of vital sea areas and protection of vital sea lines 
of communication." The Navy's wilHngness to accept this definition did 
not indicate that it had capitulated to external pressures, but rather that 
the identification of naval air missions suitable to the postwar environ- 
ment had given the service the confidence to pursue its own path without 
fear of restriction and encroachment.^' 


The OP-55 study was the most significant single statement of naval 
air doctrine yet produced. Its most significant immediate conclusion was 
that enemy air power, rather than enemy submarines, was the most 
serious threat confronting the Navy. The paper argued that the Soviet 
submarine fleet was neither as large nor as sophisticated as had been 
projected since 1946 and that it could be "effectively throttled early in 
the war and kept under control by a timely and aggressive anti-submarine 
campaign employing carrier air strikes, aerial minelaying, and antisub- 
marine subs as the spearheads, backed by the more conventional meas- 
ures such as barrier patrols, convoy escorts, and ASW hunter-killer 
carrier groups."" 

Soviet tactical air forces, which were judged to be experienced, tech- 
nologically advanced, and potentially extremely dangerous, posed a much 
more serious threat over the next ten years to U.S. control of the sea 
lanes in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The problem of 
Soviet air power had earlier been identified in a January 1949 report by 
the staff of Admiral Richard Conolly, Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval 
Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. The report had proposed 
using aircraft carriers as mobile air bases for fighters engaged in inter- 
cepting enemy air attacks on sea lines of communications and advanced 
bases in the Eastern Mediterranean.'* OP-55 rejected this strategy, ar- 
guing that the Navy should take aggressive, offensive action to destroy 
the air threat by attacks on enemy air installations: 

Carrier aviation must retain the bulk of its strength in offensive power if it is to 
support a truly offensive Navy rather than a defensive one. Our Navy must carry 
out numerous functions other than defensive antisubmarine warfare and must 
possess the self-contained ability to move at will and wage offensive war against 
the enemy in the air, on the surface and below the surface. 

The report pointed out that the Navy would expect to make use of long- 
range heavy attack aircraft and atomic bombs, but that these planes and 
weapons would be used for tactical missions rather than in strategic air 
attacks. "It is not military practice to limit the employment of any one 
weapon to the fulfillment of any one function," the report concluded, 
arguing that the Navy should be allowed to use all available weapons in 
pursuit of its assigned objectives. 

The OP-55 report made clear that heavy attack aircraft and nuclear 
weapons would play only a minor role in naval aviation. It recommended 
that heavy attack planes be kept to a minimum in designing carrier air 
groups and that emphasis be placed instead on general purpose fighter 
aircraft with both offensive and defensive capabilities and on day attack 
and close air support attack airplanes. It emphatically recommended 
construction of a flush deck aircraft carrier along the lines of the cancelled 
USS United States as a ''necessary and logical development" in naval 
technology, but stated that a somewhat smaller new carrier, the size of 


the Midway class, might be substituted if necessary. Failing both of these, 
it urged modification of one of the existing Midway or even Essex class 
carriers to the configuration of the CVA-58 in order to meet the urgent 
need for a carrier able to accommodate the increasing size and capability 
of carrier-based aircraft. 

The Air Warfare Division's study initiated a process of refinement 
and implementation of naval air doctrine that proceeded through the mid 
1950s along the lines established in the summer of 1949. Its recommen- 
dations regarding ship and aircraft construction and deployment were 
largely implemented, and its analysis of the threats confronting the U.S. 
Navy and its basic missions underwent only minor adjustment during this 

Decisive Developments 

The problem of gaining support and adequate funding for its proj- 
ected building programs had been a major stumbling block for the Navy 
in trying to define its future in the postwar period. Without the constant 
distraction of interservice competition for limited budget funds, naval air 
doctrine might have evolved more smoothly and rapidly. In the year after 
the release of the OP-55 study, however, three developments occurred 
which were largely to alleviate this source of frustration: a new Chief of 
Naval Operations with outstanding leadership abilities took office; the 
fall of China and the Soviet nuclear explosion triggered a movement 
aimed at upgrading the U.S. military posture; and the Navy's perform- 
ance during the early months of the Korean conflict proved its particular 
value in national defense. Each of these developments deserves at least 
a brief discussion* 

Admiral Louis Denfeld was fired as CNO shortly after the Unifi- 
cation and Strategy Hearings. His replacement was Admiral Forrest Sher- 
man, a brilliant, controversial officer who had been one of the architects 
of unification. Sherman was the first career naval aviator to serve as 
CNO. He brought to the JCS considerable experience in strategic plan- 
ning, a clear grasp of naval strategy, and unusual skill at interservice 
infighting and bargaining. His impact was felt almost immediately. During 
his first six months as CNO he successfully blocked reduction of the active 
carrier force below seven despite the tightness of operating funds and 
helped to heal the interservice rifts that had developed during the previous 
three years. Until his untimely death in July 1951, Sherman was a leading 
advocate of conventional preparedness against emergencies short of 
global war and of keeping as many options open as possible for facing 
a world-wide conflict.*' 

The willingness of national decision makers to fund the kind of 
military establishment that could implement such a strategy increased 


rapidly following the fall of China in September 1949 and the discovery 
of the Soviet atomic explosion that same month. NSC-68 of April 1950 
crystallized and symbolized the decision makers' mood. It recognized 
that a one-dimensional nuclear-oriented defense posture would be in- 
adequate to handle the demands of national security and recommended — 
after rejection of such other options as isolation, preventive war, and 
continuation of current policies — that the United States build up its over- 
all military, economic, and political power to avoid defeat in the Cold 
War and to defend against a possible Soviet attack in 1954.** 

The North Korean invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950 was the 
final impetus to rapid expansion of the U.S. military and of the Navy in 
particular. Seventh Fleet aircraft carriers were among the first U.S. com- 
bat units to respond in a sustained manner to the emergency, vindicating 
the Navy's claims about the value of mobile, flexible carrier striking 
forces. On 11 July, the JCS agreed to postpone a scheduled reduction 
in carrier force levels, and one day later Defense Secretary Louis Johnson, 
who had cancelled the USS United States only fifteen months before, told 
Forrest Sherman, "I will give you another carrier when you want it."" 

By 8 August, Johnson was discussing a defense budget of $50 billion, 
as compared to the $13 billion budget for Fiscal Year 1951. In December 
1950, the National Security Council (NSC) decided that the force levels 
the JCS had recently set as goals for 1954 should be treated as interim 
levels to be achieved no later than 30 June 1952. Revised final estimates 
were prepared by the JCS later that month. These called for a ninety- 
five group Air Force, an eighteen division Army, and a Navy of twelve 
large aircraft carriers, fourteen carrier air groups, fifteen light and escort 
carriers, plus large numbers of additional ships. The buildup and reno- 
vation of U.S. nuclear and conventional forces continued through the 
remainder of the Truman administration and for several years beyond. 
During this period, a new "super-carrier" was included in each fiscal year 
defense budget, beginning with USS Forrestal in Fiscal Year 1952." 

The expansion of naval forces was complemented by the achievement 
in February 1951 of a rudimentary nuclear attack capability for American 
aircraft carriers. Since the spring of 1949, the Navy had been training for 
atomic missions using modified P2V-3C Neptune patrol planes, which 
could be launched from a carrier but could not land on one. That fall the 
first deliveries of carrier-based AJ-1 Savages were made to the Navy's 
sole nuclear attack squadron, VC-5. Until late 1950, however, VC-5 had 
no bombs available nor any assigned missions in which they would be 

On 14 June 1950, President Truman, in response to a JCS request 
via the Atomic Energy Commission, permanently released ninety non- 
nuclear mechanical assemblies from the Atomic Energy Commission to 


the military. By September, both the JCS and the NSC had apparently 
approved storage of some of those components on Midway class aircraft 
carriers.** Although nuclear capsules for those components were not 
released by the President to the military until April 1951, nor put on 
aircraft carriers until at least 1953, a clumsy but workable system of flying 
those capsules from the United States to carriers at sea, codenamed 
"Daisy Chain," was developed during 1951-1952.*' 

The Navy's ability to make use of the weapons once they were 
received was still strictly limited. In February 1951, six AJ-ls and three 
P2V-3Cs flew to Port Lyautey, Morocco, in the first operational de- 
ployment of Navy nuclear capable aircraft. Malfunctions in the planes 
forced their grounding for four months, however, and through October 
the AJ-ls operated at sea for only nineteen days. Dan Gallery, who 
commanded the Sixth Fleet's carrier division at that time, was asked 
years later whether he had ever considered using the planes in the event 
of war. "We just didn't even think about it," he said.'* 

The mission developed in October and November 1950 for the Navy's 
nuclear capable aircraft was specifically a naval one: to destroy the ca- 
pabilities of the Soviet surface and submarine fleets in areas within a 600- 
mile radius of the Mediterranean, Norwegian, and Bering Seas.*' By 
September 1951 that mission had been expanded somewhat, as indicated 
by a statement on carrier forces prepared for the JCS in connection with 
continuing NSC studies of mobilization: 

These forces represent the major striking power of the Navy and are primarily 
responsible for neutralizing at the source the enemy's offensive capabilities to 
threaten control of the seas. These forces will destroy enemy naval forces and 
shipping, attack naval bases, attack airfields threatening control of the seas, support 
amphibious forces and support the mining offensive. As additional tasks, the carrier 
striking forces will defend bases and vital areas against attack through the seas, 
as required. In addition to the above, these forces will provide naval support 
essential to the conduct of operations by Supreme Allied Commander, Europe 
(SACEUR), Commander in Chief, Far East (CINCFE) and other area com- 
manders. For example, the 6th Fleet, now in the Mediterranean, will provide naval 
supporj to SACEUR in the accomplishment of his missions." 

The assignment of carrier forces to support SACEUR's missions was the 
result of events that had transpired since January 1951. In that month 
General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, the newly appointed Supreme 
Allied Commander, Europe, had briefed President Truman and the cab- 
inet on his vision of NATO's future. Eisenhower's strategic concept for 
the defense of Europe was to use a "great combination of sea and air 
strength" in the Mediterranean and the North Sea in addition to building 
up ground forces on the central front. Then, he noted, "if the Russians 
tried to move ahead in the center, I'd hit them awfully hard from both 


Tactical support for ground forces has been a mission of the Sixth 
Fleet since 1948, and the Navy had argued persistently that atomic weap- 
ons as well as conventional ordnance should be used for this purpose. In 

1949, after the Harmon Report had demonstrated that strikes on indus- 
trial concentrations alone would not prevent the Soviet Union from taking 
Western Europe, and the NATO treaty had been signed committing the 
United States to the defense of Western Europe, the Strategic Air Com- 
mand was tasked with holding back a Soviet advance with nuclear weap- 
ons. '• Because of the difficulty of hitting troop concentrations and the 
scarcity of nuclear weapons, however, plans for carrying out this mission 
were three years in the making. Before 1952, the JCS did not feel they 
could allocate atomic weapons or units specifically for tactical use. 

Not only was the actual number of bombs small, but the so-called 
"doctrine of scarcity" held that "there is a definite, positive, and known 
limit to the number of atomic bombs which can be produced."" In early 

1950, however, the prospects offered by the experimental breeder reactor 
and the discovery of new deposits of low grade uranium ore put an end 
to such thinking. Significant increases in nuclear weapons production 
were approved in 1950 and 1952." In addition, advances in bomb tech- 
nology had led to the development of relatively small atomic bombs which 
could be delivered by general purpose fighters and day attack planes like 
the Navy's F2H-2B Banshee and AD-4B Skyraider. In February 1952, 
the JCS informed Eisenhower that, for planning purposes, a number of 
atomic weapons had tentatively been allocated for tactical use in the 
defense of Western Eurasia and that Navy as well as Air Force aircraft 
could be considered as prospective delivery vehicles. " 

The increased availability of nuclear weapons led to new clashes 
between the services over control and coordination of offensive atomic 
operations, particularly the retardation mission. In early 1952, channels 
for coordination of nuclear strikes and review of unified commanders' 
nuclear target annexes were established through a jointly staffed war 
room in the Pentagon.'* The Navy, however, continued to insist on its 
right to maintain flexibility in planning for the use of nuclear weapons. 
Naval leadership repeatedly argued that they could not predict "exactly 
what targets the Navy will attack on any particular day. It will depend 
entirely on the situation existing and the requirement for the delivery of 
the attack."" In addition, the Navy and the Air Force strongly disagreed 
over whether carrier task forces would be able to survive in high threat 
areas and launch atomic strikes against their targets. A Weapons Systems 
Evaluation Group (WSEG) study completed in February 1952 indicated 
to the Navy that atomic missions against tactical targets in Europe as well 
as targets of naval interest in the Soviet Union would be well within its 
capability once it received the new Forrestal class carriers. The Air Force, 
however, questioned the premises, execution, and objectivity of the 


WSEG study and argued that it had not adequately demonstrated that 
carriers could operate effectively in any capacity in a war.'* The Navy 
and the Air Force also disagreed over what kind of nuclear weapons 
should be stockpiled for naval missions. The Navy preferred to have 
available some quantity of gun-type weapons which used more fissionable 
material than the standard implosion bombs, but had greater penetration 
capability for striking submarine pens. The Air Force held that scarce 
fissionable material resources should be used to produce a larger number 
of implosion bombs for less specialized missions. " These three areas of 
conflict continued for the remainder of the decade to limit Navy-Air 
Force cooperation with regard to atomic operations. 

Despite changes in organization, force levels, and technology, naval 
air doctrine underwent no major revision between 1949 and 1953. The 
basic concept that the Navy's carriers would serve as flexible mobile 
striking forces fulfilling tactical missions remained constant. Although 
some minor adjustments were necessary, they are difficult to pinpoint 
since no statement of doctrine for this period comparable to the OP-55 
study has been uncovered in classified or unclassified sources." In the 
fall of 1953, however, a subtle shift in the direction of national defense 
policy reopened old debates and posed a serious challenge to established 
naval air strategy. 

The New Look 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who for a number of years had 
been growing increasingly concerned over rapidly rising government 
spending, decided in the spring of 1953 to take a "new look" at defense 
policy and defense spending. A series of studies were undertaken which 
climaxed on 30 October 1953 with the approval of NSC 162/2 as the 
administration's statement of Basic National Security Policy. That state- 
ment concluded that "the risk of Soviet aggression will be minimized by 
maintaining a strong security posture, with emphasis on adequate offen- 
sive retaliatory strength and defensive strength" based on "massive 
atomic capability" as well as conventional readiness. It argues, however, 
that such a military posture would have to be achieved and maintained 
"at the lowest feasible cost," so as not to "seriously impair the basic 
soundness of the U.S. economy by undermining incentives or by infla- 

This doctrine of "massive retaliation," as it became known following 
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' address on the subject in January 
1954, was hotly debated in the JCS. To the Navy, it seemed to threaten 
the kind of over-reliance on the atomic air offensive which had charac- 
terized defense planning under the Truman budget ceilings. For reasons 
of economy, conventional forces were to be frozen or even cut back, 


while emphasis was placed on the terrible deterrent and striking power 
of strategic nuclear attacks.** This posed a dilemma for the Navy not 
unlike the one it had faced in 1948. Although naval planners objected 
to the strategy itself, they were determined to be in the forefront of the 
nation's defense in line with whatever policy was adopted. On 7 Decem- 
ber 1953, CNO Admiral Robert B. Carney presented to the JCS the 
Navy's analysis of massive retaliation. Development of such a capability, 
he argued, was valuable as a deterrent for the time being, but could result 
in an atomic stalemate once the Soviet Union had acquired a substantial 
stockpile of its own. Thus, the United States could not afford to be 
without highly mobile, combat-ready strategic reserves, "if we are to 
continue over the long term to be able to cope with limited aggression 
and at the same time be prepared for general war." 

In a passage that laid out the future of naval aviation, Carney stated: 

There is no question but what we must maintain a strong U.S. air capability, 
including a capability for inflicting massive damage, but not neglecting our ca- 
pabilities for tactical air support, control of sea communications and vital sea areas, 
and defense against air attack. U.S. military air power comprises Air Force, Navy, 
and Marine Corps air power; all three play vital roles in our military posture and 
none must be neglected if that posture is to be truly effective. Naval air forces, 
including carrier aircraft, and Marine aviation, all trained to a high state of combat 
readiness, have repeatedly proved their effectiveness and value. Our entire poli- 
tico-military philosophy today is based on the concept of collective security, which 
comprises overseas alliances, overseas bases, and U.S. military forces deployed 
overseas. The keystone of this entire structure is the confidence felt by our Allies 
that we can and will maintain control of sea communications in the face of any 
threat. U.S. Naval air forces as now constituted are essential to maintain this vital 
sea control in the face of the well-recognized Soviet surface, submarine, air and 
mining threat to our world-wide sea communications. From both the military and 
economic viewpoint then, it is unsound drastically to cut back these forces, already 
bought and paid for, for the sole purpose of making funds available to enlarge 
other types of U.S. air power." 

After the doctrine of massive retaliation was approved, however, the 
Navy turned from criticizing it to seeking ways of taking advantage of it. 
In January 1954, Admiral Carney prepared another memo which argued 
that the offensive striking power emphasized in the stated policy should 
be interpreted to include aircraft carriers as well as other weapons in the 
national arsenal. This interpretation was endorsed by the JCS on 5 Feb- 
ruary 1954." 

The dual position taken by the U.S. Navy with respect to national 
strategy and the atomic bomb in the winter of 1954 marked a culmination 
of the maturation process which naval air doctrine had been undergoing 
since 1945. By 1949, the Navy had developed a clear vision of what the 
wartime and peacetime missions of naval aviation should be. In 1954, it 
demonstrated an ability to adapt to a changing environment without 
losing sight of its own goals and identity. Its response to the doctrinal 
challenge posed by NSC 162/2 was to present a mature statement of its 


own doctrine, and, when its position was overridden, to attempt to move 
ahead toward achieving its goals within the context of the poHcy it had 

For the next several years, the Navy made every effort to conform 
to the national security policy adopted in October 1953. Nuclear delivery 
capabilities for all attack aircraft carriers were upgraded as new planes 
such as the Douglas A3D Skyraider and A4D Skyhawk entered fleet 
service. In addition, the Navy publicly advertised its aircraft carriers as 
being thermonuclear capable weapons systems that were contributing to 
the national strategic deterrence mission." At the same time, however, 
the Navy's basic strategic concepts governing the use of all this hardware 
were much the same as they had been in 1949. The main planned mission 
of naval aviation at the start of any war was still to be "offensive action 
(including atomic), against enemy resources that threaten control of the 
seas, and in support of the land battle."*'' 

A Changing Role for the Carrier 

Under the leadership of Admiral Arleigh Burke, the author of the 
seminal General Board study of 1948, and, as director of the Navy's 
Strategic Plans Division, the original author of Admiral Carney's memo 
of 7 December 1953, the Navy continued to move away from emphasis 
on massive atomic retaliatory striking power and toward emphasis on the 
greater flexibility required to face limited aggression in remote areas of 
the globe.*' By January 1958, when the Navy issued a statement of its 
general long-range objectives for the era of the 1970s, it was proposing 
that carrier forces be specifically tailored "for limited war, to be the 
nation's primary cutting tool for that purpose." Although carriers would 
be equipped with long-range aircraft and nuclear missiles and could serve 
an auxiliary function in more global conflicts, the Navy's major contri- 
bution to nuclear deterrence and nuclear exchange would be in the form 
of ballistic missile submarines, not naval air power. ** Despite some mod- 
ifications, the basic task of attack carriers into the 1970s closely followed 
the course laid out in this 1958 statement. 


It is very difficult to draw precise conclusions from the records thus 
far available on the development of naval air doctrine from 1945 through 
1958. When one has sorted out the protagonists, identified and analyzed 
their positions, and traced the course of their arguments, the most striking 
finding is a negative one: the Navy produced little in the way of doctrinal 
innovation with regard to air power in this period. Despite the techno- 
logical revolutions which transformed air warfare during and immediately 
following World War II, the Navy's vision of the role of the aircraft 
carrier remained strikingly static. Naval aviators did flirt in 1947 and 1948 


with the idea that the Navy might play a leading, or at least significant, 
role in the kind of nuclear strategic air offensive which seemed to be the 
doctrine of the future. But the Navy never formally endorsed the concept 
that strategic bombing could win a war and never seriously sought a role 
in the air offensive, except to keep its options for the use of air power 

The doctrine the Navy adopted and maintained grew out of a careful 
analysis of its technological capabilities and its own combat experience 
and reflected the service's general philosophy and orientation. Just as 
naval aviators had been trained in the interwar period to see themselves 
as naval officers first and aviators second, so naval aviation was viewed 
in the postwar era as an integral part of the Navy as a whole, to be used 
in support of the Navy's primary mission — control of the seas. Further- 
more, the Navy's conservative approach to acceptance of technological 
innovation caused it to respond more slowly and cautiously than the Air 
Force to the challenge of nuclear technology. Whereas the Air Force 
seized on the new technology and attempted to channel and control it, 
naval officers, perhaps manifesting a basic fatalism born of long expe- 
rience at the mercy of the sea, merely attempted to learn to live with 
it.*' Although they considered the nuclear weapon to be more than "just 
another bomb," they did not believe it was an "absolute weapon" which 
could be used to decide the course of conflicts through its unlimited 
destructive power. Throughout this period the Navy's leadership contin- 
ued to focus on traditional objectives, while insisting that they have access 
to any weapons or technology that might be of use to them. 

Naval determination to keep all options open and to maintain the 
flexibility and mobility of sea-based aviation in the postwar period led 
to constant conflict with the other services as well as the Department of 
Defense. At a time when greater precision was being sought in statements 
of national strategy, and when increasing coordination was necessary in 
operational matters, naval air doctrine remained fluid and imprecise; and 
the Navy stubbornly resisted efforts to integrate its carrier forces into 
rigid and comprehensive war plans. 

Independent, intransigent, and inarticulate, the Navy's major con- 
tribution to the development of postwar defense was its resistance to 
change — its insistence that traditional approaches to strategy should not 
be lightly abandoned, that strategic bombing could never replace actual 
control of territory or the seas, and that conventional and tactical alter- 
natives to the strategic air offensive must be maintained. Its one truly 
innovative contribution to the development of postwar defense policy 
occurred on the level of technology rather than theory: the Polaris missile 
was to have a profound impact on the national strategy of deterrence. 
On the conceptual level, it was the Navy's refusal to abandon its priorities 


under pressure which had the most lasting influence. Its conceptutal 
conservatism and attachment to its own traditions brought the Navy to 
focus by degrees on a problem much in the nation's future: that of limited 




1 . The principal sources for this study are recently declassified papers from the following 
repositories: Record Group 218, Papers of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (hereafter 
cited as JCS); Record Group 341, Papers of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (hereafter 
cited as CSAF); Record Group 319, Records of the Plans and Operations Division, Papers 
of the Army Staff (hereafter cited as OPD) ; and Record Group 428, Papers of the Secretaries 
of the Navy (hereafter cited as SECNAV), all in the U.S. National Archives; the papers 
of Op-30, Strategic Plans Division; OP-23, Organizational Research and Policy Division; 
the post-1946 Command File; and the personal papers of the following U.S. naval officers: 
Arleigh A. Burke, Ralph A. Ofstie, and Forrest P. Sherman, all in the Operational Archives, 
Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as NHA). Additional valuable 
official and semiofficial sources were Kenneth W. Condit, The History of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. II. 1947-1949 (Washington, 
D.C: Historical Division, JCS, 1976, declassified 1978) (hereafter cited as JCS History): 
George F. Lemmer, The Air Force and the Concept of Deterrence, 1945-1950 (Washington, 
D.C: USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, 1963; Sanitized and declassified 1975); and 
Robert D. Little, Organizing for Strategic Planning, 1945-1950: The National System and 
the Air Force (Washington, D.C: USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, 1964; Sanitized 
and Declassified 1975). For an earlier interpretation of much of the material covered in this 
paper, see David A. Rosenberg and Floyd D. Kennedy, History of the Strategic Arms 
Competition, 1945-1972 Supporting Study: U.S. Aircraft Carriers in the Strategic Role, Part 
I— Naval Strategy in a Period of Change: Interservice Rivalry, Strategic Interaction, and the 
Development of a Nuclear Attack Capability, 1945-1951 (Falls Church, Virginia: Lulejian 
and Associates, Inc., Contract N00014-75-C-0237 for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations 
(Plans and Policy), 1975. 

2. For a fuller discussion of this process, see David A. Rosenberg, "Officer Development 
in the Interwar Navy: Arleigh Burke— The Making of a Naval Professional," Pacific His- 
torical Review, XLIV (November 1975), pp. 503-526. 

3. The best published studies of the aircraft carrier in naval strategy are Charles M. 
Melhorn, Two-Block Fox, The Rise of the Aircraft Carrier, 1911-1929 (Annapolis, Md • 
Naval Institute Press, 1974); Archibald D. Turnbull and Clifford L. Lord, History of United 
States Naval Aviation (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1947); Vice Admiral 
Sir Arthur Hezlet, Aircraft and Sea Power (New York: Stein and Day, 1970); Norman 
Polmar, Aircraft Carriers, A Graphic History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World 
Events (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1969); and Clark G. Reynolds, The Fast 
Carriers, The Forging of an Air Navy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968). 

4. Statements of naval doctrine, other than tactical doctrine, are rare. Classical studies 
such as those of Alfred Thayer Mahan, Sir Julian Corbett, and Bradley Fiske exist; none 
are the equivalent of such writings as those of Giulio Douhet or General William Mitchell 
however as basic influences on doctrine. The best examples of basic naval doctrine for the 
interwar and World War II periods are the U.S. Naval War College pamphlet, The Estimate 
of the Situation and the Order Form published from 1911 through the 1930s in various 
editions, and Sound Military Decision (Newport, R.I.: U.S. Naval War College, 1943), All 
of these papers may be found in the Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College. 

5. Bernard Brodie, "New Tactics in Naval Warfare," Foreign Affairs, XXIV (Januarv 
1946), pp. 210-233. v j 

6. David Maclsaac, Strategic Bombing in World War II, The Story of the United States 
Strategic Bombing Survey (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1976) 127-129 describes 
the controversy over the "Carrier Air Effort Against Japan." The final disposition of this 
manuscript is unclear; it may have finally been published, possibly in much abbreviated 
form, as U.S. Naval Aviation in the Pacific, A Critical Review (Washington, D.C: Office 
of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1947). 

7. Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Third Official Report to the Secretary of the Navy, 
in The War Reports of General of the Army George C. Marshall, General of the Army Henry 
H. Arnold, and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1947), p. 656 

8. JCS 1478/8, 20 February 1946, through JCS 1478/18, 17 May 1946, CCS 370 (8-19^ 
45), Sec. 3., JCS. 

9. JCS 1478/12, 29 March 1946, ibid. 

10. U.S. Congress, 80th Congress, 1st Session, Public Law 253, Chapter 343, Section 206 
(b).: See also Rosenberg and Kennedy. Naval Strategy in a Period of Change, pp. 64-69. 


11. For a complete discussion of the impact of the atomic bomb on naval design and 
construction, see JCS 1691/10, 29 December 1947. CCS 471,6 (10-16-45) sec. 9, Part 2, 
JCS, the text of the Bikini Evaluation Report of "The Atomic Bomb as a Military Weapon"! 
especially Section Three, "Effects on Ships"; See also Vice Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, 
"Bikini: Guidepost to the Future". Sea Power. VI. (December 1946). pp. 7-9. 

12. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Naval Affairs, Hearing on 
House Concurrent Resolution 80, Composition of the Postwar Navy (Washington, D.C.: 
Government Printing Office, 1945), p. 1165. 

13. John L. Sullivan to the President, Serial 0014P602, 24 July 1946, Folder 98C, Arleigh 
Burke Papers. NHA; See also copy in "Secretary of the Navy" Folder. Subject File. Pres- 
ident's Secretary's File. Harry S. Truman Library (hereafter cited as PSF-HSTL). 

14. A full discussion of these changes may be found in Appendix 1, OPNAV General 
Organization for Strategic Warfare, 1945-1972, in Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval Strategy 
in a Period of Change. 

15. See Vincent Davis, The Politics of Innovation: Patterns in Navy Cases (Denver, 
Colorado: University of Denver Monograph Series in World Affairs, 1966). pp. 7-22. 

16. Fleet Admiral C.W. Nimitz to President Truman, 4 June 1946. Memos to and from 
the President Folder. 1946, William D. Leahy Papers. JCS; See also Nimitz to the Secretary 
of the Navy. Serial 0008P03, 23 July 1946, in A8, Intelligence, Folder I, 1946, Op-30 Papers 
NHA. K F . 

17. "Presentation of Undersea Warfare for the Secretary of the Navy" by Rear Admiral 
C.B. Momsen, appended to Memo, Captain Richard W. Ruble to the Secretary of the 
Navy, AS Intelligence Folder, John L. Sullivan Papers, SECNAV Papers. 

18. See the memoranda regarding the Recommended Building Program, Fiscal 1948 
Budget in personal folders on the General Board. Arleigh Burke Papers, NHA. 

19. On the development of the PINCHER plans, see the material in the CCS 381. USSR 
(3-2-46), Sees. 1 through 7, JCS; and in the ABC 381 USSR, 2 March 1946, Sees. lA 
through IG. OPD. See also Rear Admiral CD. Glover to Chief of Naval Operations. 
Serial 0005P30, 21 January 1947, AI6-3(5) War Plans, 1947. Folder, Op-30 Files, NHA; 
and David A. Rosenberg, "Planning for a PINCHER War: Policy Objectives and Military 
Strategy in American Planning for War with the Soviet Union. 1945-1948,"unpublished 
paper presented at the Fourth National Meeting of the Society for Historians of American 
Foreign Relations. August 4. 1978. 

20. Admiral Nimitz to General Dwight Eisenhower, 13 June 1946. ABC 471 6 Atom 17 
August 1945. Sec. 7, OPD. 

21. See for example. Rear Admiral William S. Parsons, Director of Atomic Defense (Op- 
36) to the Chief of Naval Operations, Serial 0050P36, 14 July 1947, A16-1 Folder Od-30 
Papers, NHA. 

22. U.S. Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Principles and Applications of 
Naval Warfare, United States Fleet Publication No. 1, 1947, quoted in Desmond P. Wilson, 
Jr., "Evolution of the Attack Aircraft Carrier: A Case Study in Technology and Strategy,'' 
published in U.S. Congress, 91st Congress. 2nd Session, Joint Senate-House Armed Services 
Subcommittee of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. CVAN~70 Aircraft 
Carrier (Washington. Government Printing Office, 1970). 

23. "U.S. Navy Thinking on the Atomic Bomb," in Bernard Brodie and Eilene Galloway, 
The Atomic Bomb and the Armed Services (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress Leg- 
islative Reference Service Public Affairs Bulletin No. 55, May 1947), pp. 24-41. 

24. "The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on National Security (An Expression of War 
Department Thinking)" in Ibid., pp. 62-85; see also Robert Hotz. "Army-Navy Split on 
Role of Air Power in Atomic Warefare," Aviation News, VII, April 21, 1947, pp. 7-8. 

25. Sherman. Presentation to the President. 14 January 1947, CNO Chronological File, 
Post 1946 Command File, NHA; As an example of this split, compare PINCHER plans 
cited in fn. 19 and JCS 1630. 19 February 1946. CCS 381 (2-18-46), Sec. I, JCS on early 
postwar planning guidance for joint agencies about a possible future war. 

26. JCS 1961/10. 29 December 1947; Commander H. Rivero to Captain W.G. Lalor. 28 
July 1947, CCS 471.6, Sec. 15, JCS describes the 29 July 1947 presentation. For a concise 
discussion of the evolution of U.S. atomic strategy as it related to the Bikini report, see 
David A. Rosenberg, "American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision,"yoMr«a/ 
of American History (forthcoming, 1979). 

27. For an example of the way the CVA-58 (or rather Project 6A) was discussed prior 
to the Bikini report, see the Memoranda regarding Recommended Shipbuilding and Con- 


version Program— Fiscal 1949. in personal folders on the General Board, Arleigh Burke 
papers, NHA. For the way that discussion changed, see Rear Admiral Thomas Combs, 
Acting Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Secretary of the Navy, 7 November, 1947, 
Al, Plans, Projects, Policies, 1948-49 Folder, John L. Sullivan Papers, SECNAV; a full 
history of the ship is in Captain Arleigh Burke to the Judge Advocate General Serial 
067P23, 11 May 1949, A21/1-1/1 Carrier Folder, Section II, Op-23 Papers, NHA 

28. JSPG 499, 20 November 1947, and JSPG 499/2, 3 December 1947, are the various 
versions of CHARIOTEER, both in CCS 452, U.S.. (8-1^17) Sees. 1 and 2, JCS See 
also JCS History, 284. 

29. Rear Admiral W.F. Boone to Captain R.J. English, 27 January 1948, with four 
enclosures, A16-12, War Plans, 1952, Op-39 Papers, NHA; See also Admiral John H. 
Towers, Chairman, General Board to the Chief of Naval Operations, 21 November 1947 
(General Board No. 420) in personal folders on the General Board, Arleigh Burke papers 

30. Vice Admiral D.B. Duncan, Deputy CNO (Air) to Op-30, Serial 0004P504, 10 
December 1947, A16-3, Warfare Operations, 1947, Op-30 Papers, NHA. 

31. "The Future Employment of Naval Forces," Navy Department Pamphlet P-514,p.7. 

32. There were in fact three Gallery memos. The most important one, from which this 
quote is taken, is Gallery to DCNO (Air), Serial 00124P57, 17 December 1947. The only 
copy of this paper in official form is in a special folder in the miscellaneous papers of Arleigh 
Burke, NHA. The full memo is readily available in The Army-Navy-Air Force Register, 
December 11, 1954. The two earlier memos that were later combined to form the 17 
December paper are Gallery to Rear Admiral J.J. Clark, Assistant Deputy CNO (Air), 14 
and 17 November 1947, both in AI6-11 Folder, Section 3, Op-23 files. 

33. Interview with Rear Admiral Gallery, Oakton, Virginia, 9 April 1975. 

34. Rear Admiral Ofstie to DCNO (Air), 7 January 1948, with paper, "Composition of 
the National Military Establishment," appended. Box 8, Ralph Ofstie Papers, NHA. At- 
tached to this paper is a memo by Dan Gallery to the DCNO (Air), Serial 0013P57, 14 
January 1948, that notes that "this is an excellent summary of the situation during the 
interval when we have the A bomb and the Russians do not," but that when both sides 
have the bomb his 17 December 1947 memo should apply. Notes on the Ofstie 7 January 
memo indicate that Rear Admirals J.F. Bolger, E.W. Litch, and W. Tomlinson had seen 
and concurred with the views expressed in it. 

35. Operations Evaluation Group Study No. 327, Serial LO, 467-48. 26 February 1948, 
A2. 1-1/1 File, Section II, Op-23 Papers, NHA; Interview with Mr. John P. Coyle (author 
of O.E.G. 327), Washington, D.C., 27 January 1975; Rear Admiral Jerauld Wright to 
Distribution List, with studies attached. Serial LO, 317-48, 12 March 1948, Files of the 
Aviation History Unit, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare) (Op-05d5) (here- 
after cited as AHU Files). 

36. The Air Force engaged in a number of studies that were designed to attack the military 
value of the CVA-58. See "Aircraft Carrier Operations in the Pacific, World War II," 
Folder 168-7017-15, 1947-1948, Aerospace Studies Institute, Archives Branch, Alfred F. 
Simpson Historical Research Center, Alabama (hereafter cited as AFSHRC). This docu- 
ment is labelled "basic study which was the foundation of Air Force position on the CVA- 
58, 1947-1948." See foundation of Air Force position on the CVA-58, 1947-1948." See 
also Air War College, "Employment of Carrier Forces for Strategic Atomic Attacks" 
prepared for the Air Staff, March 1948, RB4-72306, Folder 168-7017-16, AFSHRC; an- 
other copy of this paper may be found in Box 10, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, 
Executive Office, House Investigation, August-October 1949, CSAF. 

.37. Information on the U.S. nuclear capability in the winter of 1948 is taken largely from 
JCS 1745/5, 8 December 1947, CCS 471.6 (8-15-45), Sec. 8, JCS, and Rosenberg and 
Kennedy, Naval Strategy in a Period of Change, pp. 159-162. 

38. JCS History, pp. 283-293. See also JSPG 496/1, 8 November 1947 to JSPG 496/4, 11 
February 1948, and JCS 1844/4 to 1844/13, 9 March 1948 to 21 July 1948, all in CCS 381 
USSR (3-2-46) Sees. 8 to 18, JCS. 

19. JCS 1745/5, 8 December 1947 to JCS 1745/12, 19 January 1948, CCS 471.6(8-15-45) 
Sec. 8, JCS. See also Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan to the Secretary of the Air 
Force, 9 August 1948, A16, War, Preparation for. Conduct of, 1948-1949 Folder, John L. 
Sullivan Papers, SECNAV. 

40. JCS 1854, 23 March 1948, to JCS 1854/8, 24 August 1948, CCS 471.6, (8-15-45) Sees. 
9 to 12, JCS, and Sullivan to the Secretary of the Air Force, 9 August 1948. 


41. Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval Strategy in a Period of Change, pp. 79-89. 

42. Captain Arleigh Burke, Memorandum for Members of the General Board, "Very 
Rough, Very Tentative Outhne for Serial 315," 4 March 1948, General Board Folders, 
Arleigh Burke Papers, NHA. 

43. General Board, "National Security and Navy Contributions Thereto, A Study by the 
General Board," 25 June 1948, G.B. 425, Serial 315, Enclosure (D), 28. Arleigh Burke 
Papers, NHA. 

44. Ibid. Enclosure (D), pp. 6-7: Covering Letter, p. 4. 

45. JCS History, Chapter VII, pp. 213-255. See also Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval 
Strategy in a Period of Change, Chapter V, I . 

46. Memo for Files by Op-003, Subject: Increase in Naval Forces, July 13, 1951, "Naval 
and Marine Forces" Folder, Box 1, Forrest Sherman Papers, NHA. 

47. Louis Johnson to President Truman, 23 April 1949, "Defense, Secretary of. Miscel- 
laneous" Folder 1, Subject File, PSF-HSTL; Memorandum by the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air 
Force to the Secretary of Defense on the CVA-58 Project, n.d., but about 22 April 1949, 
in Folder "U", General File PSF-HSTL. Johnson's memo notes that the underscoring in 
pencil on the JCS memos on the CVA-58 are his. The underscoring on the Air Force Chief 
of Staffs memo stressed such phrases as "this carrier is designed for bombardment pur- 

48. Memo by Op-003, July 13, 1951; See also Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval Strategy 
in a Period of Change, pp. 122-125. 

49. Gallery to DCNO (Air). 17 January 1949. MLC-AEC Folder, Box 8, Ralph Ofstie 
Papers, NHA. 

50. The only declassified version of the Harmon Report is "Report by the Ad-Hoc 
Committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Evaluation of Effect on Soviet War Effort 
Resulting from Strategic Air Offensive", 1 1 May 1949, in AI/EM-3/7. JCS Folder, Sec. Ill 
Op-23 Papers, NHA. See also JCS 1953/4, 8 July 1949, JSC 1953/5, 19 July 1949, and Memo, 
General Vandenburg to the JCS, 23 July 1949, all in CCS 373 (10-23-48) Sees. 2, 3, and 
Bulky Package, JCS, respectively; For the subsequent fascinating fate of the Harmon Re- 
port, see Rosenberg, "American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision." 

51. Ofstie to Op-05 (DCNO (Air)), 26 April 1949, A21/1-1/I Carrier, Section 11, Op-23 
Papers, NHA. 

52. Ofstie to Op-05, 29 April 1949, MLC-AEC Folder, Box 8, Ofstie Papers, NHA. 

53. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, Investi- 
gation of the B-36 Bomber Program, 81st Congress, 1st Session, (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1949), contains the full story. 

54. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, 81st Con- 
gress, 1st Session, The National Defense Program— Unification and Strategy (Washington: 
Government Printing Office, 1950); The full raw data behind the Navy presentation may 
be found in B-9, Agenda Manual, Section III, Op-23 Papers, NHA. 

55. Although his analysis tends to qualify this assessment somewhat, this is the primary 
impression one gets from reading Paul Y. Hammond's otherwise excellent study, "Super- 
Carriers and B-36 Bombers: Appropriations, Strategy, and Politics, " in Harold Stein (ed.), 
American Civil-Military Decisions (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press for the Twen- 
tieth Century Fund, 1963), pp. 465-567. 

56. Air Warfare Division (Op-55) "Study on Future Development of Carrier Aviation 
with Respect to Both Aircraft and Aircraft Carriers," 22 August 1949, AHU Files. OP- 
55's mission is described in Organization Manual for the Office of the Chief of Naval 
Operatons, OPNAV P 02-100 (Rev. 8-48) August 1948, NHA. 

57. Ibid., p. 4; This conclusion was subsequently confirmed in a special Study of Undersea 
Warfare, Serial 001P003, 22 April 1950, by Vice Admiral F.S. Low. This study was requested 
by Admiral Forrest Sherman in November 1949, possibly to serve as a check on the con- 
clusions of the Op-55 study. The Low paper may be found in completely declassified form 
under call number N-210-0651 at the Naval War College Classified Library. 

58. "Carrier Task Group Operations in the Mediterranean, a CINCNELM Staff Study," 
Part I, Conclusions and Recommendations, Tab A, appended to Admiral R.L. Conolly to 
the Chief of Naval Operations, Serial 0001, 3 January 1949, Folder 79, Miscellaneous, 1949, 
Op-30 Papers, NHA. Much of the rest of this study remained classified in 1975, but the 
conclusions were declassified. 

59. On Sherman's leadership, see JCS 1800/68, 14 February 1950, CCS 370 (8-19-45) 
Sec. 21; JCS 1844/49, 7 December 1949, CCS 381, U.S.S.R., (3-2-46), Sec. 42; JCS 1888/ 


3, 11 April 1950, CCS 370 (5-25-48), Sec. 2, all JCS, which discuss the proposed reduction 
in carrier forces, the status of U.S. war plans, and overall U.S. military posture, respectively. 
See also Ernest K. Lindley, "The New Navy Line," Newsweek, XXXIV, December 12, 
1949, p. 27; Undated Memorandum for the Record, prepared ca. April or May 1951, with 
no author but obviously by Forrest Sherman, in first unlabelled folder. Box 1, Forrest 
Sherman papers, NHA, and Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval Strategy in a Period of Change, 
Chap. VII, especially pp. 166-169, and the sources cited in fn. 3, 7, and 8, on pp. 178-179. 

60. NSC-68 is most readily available in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of 
the United States, 1950, Vol. I: National Security Policy: Foreign Economic Policy (Wash- 
ington: Government Printing Office, 1977) 234-292. The events leading up to that paper 
are documented in p. 1 ff. 

61 . Undated Memorandum for the Record, Box 1 , Forrest Sherman Papers. 

62. Ibid.: JCS 1800/115, 13 September 1950 and Decision on, 18 September 1950- JSC 
1800/116, 18 September 1950; JCS 1800/133, 7 December 1950; and JSPC 851/37 11 De- 
cember 1950, all in CCS 370 (8-19-^5) Sees. 27 to 29, JCS. See also NSC 68/3 and NSC 
684 of December 1950, with supporting documents, in Foreign Relations 1950, Vol. I, 425- 
477. Information on authorization dates for Forrestal class carriers is in Polmar, Aircraft 
Carriers, 587-588. One carrier was authorized each year from Fiscal 1952 throueh Fiscal 
1958. ^ 

63. Composite Squadron Five (VC-5) Historical Reports, 31 December 1948, 1 April 
1949, 30 January 1950, NHA. Note that on 6 January 1950 a second nuclear capable 
squadron VC-6 was commissioned. See VC-6 historical report, 22 February 1951, NHA, 
for details. See also Rosenberg and Kennedy, Naval Strategy in a Period of Change dd' 
159-162. J s • WW- 

64. JCS 2019/4, 29 March 1950 and Decision, 6 April 1950, CCS 471.6 (8-15-45), Sec. 
18A; Memorandum, James S. Lay, Executive Secretary, National Security Council to Acting 
Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, 14 June 1950, NSC Atomic File-PSF-HSTL; Cap- 
tain WiUiam G. Lalor to JCS, SM-1632-50, 22 July 1950, citing title of JCS 2019/8 as 
"Storage of Non-nuclear components of atomic bombs on CVB Class Aircraft Carriers" 
by Admiral Sherman, CCS 471.6 (8-15-45) Sec. 18A; and Rear Admiral F.S. Withington 
to CNO, September 1950, in A16-3, Warfare Operations, War Games, 1950 Od-30 Papers 
NHA. ^ ' 

65. The "Daisy Chain" system is described, with codename, in Richard K. Smith, Cold 
War Navy (Falls Church, Virginia: The Churchill Press and Lulejian and Associates, 1975), 
Chapter VI; On nuclear production, see Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, A History 
of the United Stales Atomic Emergy Commission, Vol. II, 1947-1953, Atomic Shield (Uni- 
versity Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1972), pp. 525-529, 547- 
554, 556-568, 576-578; on release of nuclear weapons to the armed forces see ibid., pp. 
538-539; SM-^84-53, 31 March 1953, Memo, W.G. Lalor to the JCS, notes that JCS 2019/ 
58 discusses storage of nuclear components of atomic weapons on aircraft carriers CCS 
471.6(8-18-45), Sec. 37. 

66. Interview with Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN (ret.), Oakton, Virginia, 9 
April 1975; VC-5 Historical Reports, 26 July 1951 and 14 February 1952, NHA. 

67. Director, Strategic Plans Division to Director of Naval Intelligence, two memoranda. 
Serials 000966P30 of 8 November 1950, and 0001000P30, 24 November 1950, about "Target 
Data", both in A16-3, Warfare Operations, War Games, 1950, Op-30 Papers, NHA 

68. JCS 1800/166, 7 September 1951, CCS 370 (8-19-45), Sec. 34, JCS. 

69. "Meeting of General Eisenhower with the President and the Cabinet, January 31 
1951," in George Elsey Papers, HSTL. 

70. JCS 1844/46, 8 November 1949 (War Plan OFFTACKLE), CCS 381, U.S.S.R., (3- 
2-46) Sec. 41; See also JCS 2056/7, 12 August 1950, CCS 373.11 (12-14-48) Sec. 2, JCS. 

71 . The "Doctrine of Scarcity" and the anticipated changes in it are described in Mem- 
orandum, Colonel Thomas to Major General David Schlatter, 13 January 1950 on Air Force 
Capability for Atomic Warfare, 13 January 1950, Tab 3, in OPD A/AE 381 (Atomic 
Warfare), B, CSAF: The Navy view of this doctrine was described in an interview with 
Vice Admiral John T. Hayward USN (Ret.), Tyson's Corner, Virginia, 15 July, 1975. 

72. Hewlett and Duncan, Atomic Shield, pp. 525-578: Memo, Thomas to Schlatter, 13 
January 1950. 


73. JCS 2220/4 31 January 1952, CCS 471,6 (4-lg-49) Sec. 7, JCS; For a later statement 
of the same thing, with upwardly revised forces and weapons figures, see JCS 2220/19 6 
May 1953, in Sec. 10 of the same file. 

74. JCS 2056/24, 29 February 1952, as promulgated in SM-597-52, 3 March 1952, CCS 
373.11 (12-14-48) Sec. 7; See also the various debates that appear in the following JCS 
papers: JCS 2056/27, 5 May 1952; JCS 2056/31 , 20 June 1952; JCS 2056/34, 13 August 1952- 
JCS 2056/35, 9 September 1952; JCS 2056/38, 10 February 1953; and JCS 2056/42, 25 Feb- 
ruary 1953, all in the same file. Sees. 7 through 10, JCS. 

75. JCS 1854.16, 7 September 1951, CCS 471.6 (8-15-45), Sec. 23, JCS. Later statements 
of the same nature appear in the papers just cited above. 

76. JCS 2131/1, 28 February 1952, contains the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group Study 
of the Evaluation of the Offensive and Defensive Capabilities of Fast Carrier Task Forces 
m 1951, including Appendices B and C which contain Air Force criticisms and the Navy's 
rejoinders. See also the decision on JCS 2131/1, 2 July 1952, in which the JCS agreed to 
only "note" the conclusions of the study, rather than approve them: all in CCS 045 92 (2- 
28-50) Sec. 2, and Bulky Package, JCS. 

77. Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force on 
Military Requirements for Atomic Weapons, CCS 471.6 (11-3-51) Sec. 1, JCS; Interview 
with Vice Admiral John T. Hayward, USN (Ret), Newport, Rhode Island, June 4, 1976. 

78. The only comprehensive statement of naval air doctrine uncovered between 1949 and 
1954 is the now declassified presentation by Rear Admiral James S. Russell on "The Carrier 
Task Force" to the National War College, 29 January 1954, AHU Files. That presentation 
must be seen as the logical fulfillment of the 1949 Op-55 study; its discussion of carrier 
mobility, flexibility, and self-sufficiency; its description of air group composition (3 fighter 
squadrons, 1 light attack squadron, with a detachment of heavy attack aircraft) and its list 
of possible carrier air targets (352 Russian or Satellite air fields, 54 shipyards, 44 naval 
bases, 66 areas suitable for mining) are all in keeping with the broad outlines laid out in 

79. The best published discussions of the "New Look" may be found in Glenn H. Snyder, 
"The New Look of 1953" in Warner R. Schilling el. al. Strategy, Politics, and Defense 
Budgets (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), pp. 379-524; Samuel P. Huntington, 
The Common Defense; Strategic Programs and National Politics (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1961) pp.64-88; and Douglas Kinnard, President Eisenhower and Strategy 
Management: A Study in Defense Politics (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky 
Press, 1977), pp. 1-36. For the background of Eisenhower's concerns on defense spending, 
see the recently released Eisenhower Diaries from 1948-1952, especially his comments oil 
defense spending following President Truman's release of the Fiscal 1953 budget in January 
1952, at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. NSC 162/2, October 30, 1953, from which the 
quotes were taken, is most readily available in The Pentagon Papers, (The Senator Gravel 
Edition; Boston: The Beacon Press, 1971) Vol. I, pp. 412-429. 

80. On the continuing battles over the place of strategic air power in war and defense 
planning, see SM-298-53, 26 March 1953, Memorandum for the Joint Strategic Plans Com- 
mittee by name, with enclosed revision of "Format B" to the Joint Strategic Capabilities 
Plan, CCS 381 (11-29-49) Sec. 5; JCS 1844/152, 19 October 1953 discussing splits in the 
same plan, m Sec. 10 of the same file; and JCS 2101/107, 23 October 1953, and Decision 
27 October 1953, which discuss NSC 162/1. in CCS 381 U.S. (1-31-50) Sec 30 JCS 

81. JCS 2101/112, 7 December 1953, CCS 381 U.S. (1-31-50) Sec. 32, JCS. ' 

82. Memo, Carney to JCS, Serial 0005P35, 18 January 1954, and JCS Info Memo 922 
10 February 1954, in CCS 381 U.S. (1-31-50) Sees. 32 and 35, respectively. 

83. For examples of such conformance, see JSPC 851/134, 18 January 1955, in CCS 370 
(8-19-45) Sec. 49; See also Polmar, Aircraft Carriers, pp. 587 ff; and Philip A. Dur, "The 
Sixth Fleet: A Case Study of Institutionalized Naval Presence," (Unpublished Ph.D. dis- 
sertation. Harvard University, December 1975), pp. 66-68. 

84. JSPC 851/134, 18 January 1955; see also such unofficial but highly representative 
statements of approved doctrine as Commander Malcolm W. Cagle USN, "A Philosophy 
for Naval Atomic Warfare," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings LXXXIII (March 1957) nn 
249-258. '^^^' 

85. On Burke's leadership and views on carrier air power, see United States Senate, 
Committee on Armed Services. Eighty-Fourth Congress, Second Session, Subcommittee 
on the Air Force, Study of Airpower (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 
1956) Part XVIII, June 18, 1956, pp. 1339-1386; Memorandum, Chief of Naval Operations 


to the Secretary of Defense, Serial 012P00, 6 November 1956, in Originator's File, 1 October 
thru 30 November 1956, and Letter, Burke to Rear Admiral Walter Schindler, 14 May 
1958, Personal File, 1 April-30 June 1958, both Burke Papers, NHA; See also David A. 
Rosenberg, "Admiral Arleigh A. Burke" in Robert William Love, Jr., (ed.) The U.S. 
Chiefs of Naval Operations (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, forthcoming, 1979). 

86. Chief of Naval Operations to Distribution List, Serial 04P93, 13 January 1958, with 
enclosure of "Statement of U.S. Navy Long Range Objectives, 1967-72 (LRO-57)" (also 
known as the "Navy of the 1970 Era"), in Naval War College Classified Library, Call No. 
NA 50.062. 

87. For an early example of such Air Force attempts, see U.S. Air Force Field Office 
for Atomic Energy, Draft "Doctrine of Atomic Air Warfare." 30 December 1948, OPD 
A/AE 381 (Doctrine of Atomic Warfare) CSAF. 




Doctor Greenwood: I have a tendency to disagree with David in many 
respects, especially on the carrier in strategic air warfare. He frequently 
mentions the Navy's thinking about the carrier and carrier-based air in 
the strategic role. The Air Force was particularly disturbed about this, 
and I don't think it has changed in many respects. They did not believe 
that the Navy could and would be able to launch strategic air operations 
against key targets in the Soviet Union. 

General Spaatz asked General McDonald, whom I mentioned, in 
1946 to study carrier operations against Japan to derive some information 
on how many times the Navy requested 20th Air Force, one of his two 
bomber commands, to suppress Japanese land-based air power so that 
tactical naval air power could operate off the Japanese coast. The number 
of incidents was staggering. In one particular case, which Frank Futrell 
brings out, Halsey asked 20th Air Force to destroy air fields in the Tokyo 
area so that tactical naval air could deliver 500 tons of weapons on target; 
the Navy requested 6,400 tons of B-29 bombs to suppress Japanese land- 
based aviation so that the carrier task force could operate within range 
of the coast. Now this is the kind of thing that disturbed the Air Force 
about Navy planning to use carriers in strategic war against the Soviet 

Moreover, if you start looking at the range of carrier aircraft in 1946 
and 1947, they not only could not carry the weapon, they couldn't reach 
the target. So the Air Force view was very solid, I think. The Air Force 
was concerned because funds were being diverted from their B-29s, of 
which they had very few. They felt it was a distortion of the strategic air 
war mission to have the carriers involved to the extent that it drained off 
funds. The only thing that could carry out strategic air operations was 
the B-29 with the atomic bomb. Airmen believed, correctly, that the 
strategic air mission was the primary point of confrontation with the 

The issue of the Navy's supposedly corollary role in strategic air war 
and the Air Force's supposedly primary responsibility for this type of war 
remained the primary point of confrontation. It started in 1944, if you 
want to go back to the 20th Air Force, developed in 1945, and continued 
in the postwar period. In the immediate postwar years, during the fight 


between the strategic airmen and tiie carrier admirals, the latter at one 
point suggested to the airmen that they do the same thing to the Army 
that the Navy airmen had done to the Navy — take it over. The airmen 
did not want to do that; they had already opted for independence. But 
the fight between the airmen and the naval aviators continued. One sees 
it developed totally in 1948 at both Key West and Newport. 

It was a very bad situation, and it crippled planning in 1949 when 
the services had to devise the first true atomic plans so that Strategic Air 
Command could make up its operations plans and combat mission folders. 
From the documents I have read, especially Air Force planning docu- 
ments, it was a case of total obstruction of the Air Force's attempts to 
plan a realistic strategic air war against the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, 
it got worse rather than better in the early 1950s because additional roles 
became involved. The whole problem is not solved until 1959-1960, with 
the establishment of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff which used 
computers to lay out all targets and to determine the force. 

As I read the documentation, I was absolutely astonished at the 
actions of both services in their fight on this matter. That's why I pointed 
out in my paper at one point that this rivalry marred Truman's Presidency. 
Worse, it jeopardized national security on more than one occasion be- 
cause operation plans could not be made by SAC because there were no 
war plans for guidance. If it had come to the crunch in 1948, I doubt 
whether we could have done much of anything. It was just that simple. 
That is what disturbed LeMay when he took over. 

The point I was trying to make is this: the strategic air mission 
controversy merits a great deal of investigation. We need the combined 
efforts of persons like myself and David to look at both sides of the 
picture to find where the points of confrontation were. Why did the Navy 
perceive the Air Force as a threat? Clearly, the Air Force perceived as 
a threat the Navy's attempt to push the Air Force out of its strategic air 
war mission. The Air Force had planes; it had the weapons; it had the 
crews; and here the Navy comes along and says, we can do it much better 
than they can do it. 

To a great extent, the study of this issue is a matter of perceptions. 
One becomes tainted by the sources one works with. One loses a little 
bit of objectivity, becomes an advocate of one's "own" planners. I have 
seen so many frustrated buck slips, so many frustrated papers for the 
chief of staff, for the air war planners, that it is inevitable I would begin 
to wonder if these are perceptions, if they are firmly held beliefs, or if 
they are facts. I do believe, for example, that this is the way the air 
leaders in the late 1940s felt, and they must have had reasons for feeling 
that way. The solution to this problem of perception is not simply that 
you shouldn't believe the planners' documents. It is not that way; the 


problem is more pervasive. And this is why we need to approach these 
interservice rivalries from several perspectives — to get a balance. 

Mr. Rosenberg: John and I have talked about this issue, and I don't 
feel we are that far apart. There are a couple of things I want to em- 
phasize, though. 

First of all, during the first two years after World War II the United 
States Navy and the position of United States Naval Aviation was terribly 
confused. The United States Navy did not know where it was going with 
aircraft carriers. A number of people expressed viewpoints on a number 
of ideas, but there was no approved doctrine. The only man who may 
have had a clear vision and who was the greatest naval leader of this time 
in the development of naval aviation was Arthur W. Radford. Yet, al- 
though he has a large number of papers, his autobiography has not been 
opened, and his opinions and views remain a mystery. I don't think, 
however, that the release of Radford's papers or his autobiography will 
change the view that during the first few years after World War II the 
Navy was not quite certain what it was going to do with naval air power. 
What the Navy was most concerned about was that in the unification 
process it would first lose-land based air and then carrier-based air. Then 
all the prerogatives, all the strategic views, that the Navy held would be 
reduced to nothing. Naval officers were well-aware that many people 
agreed with General Spaatz's position, which he stated in 1946: "What 
do we need a Navy for? The Russians haven't got a Navy!" That con- 
cern — that the Navy would lose its raison d'etre — was a driving motive 
in the Navy's obstruction. Although I won't deny there was an attempt 
at obstruction, I would prefer to call it an attempt to preserve, to prevent 
the limiting of naval options until the Navy knew where it was going and 
what it was going to face. 

In addition to the strategic air mission controversy, there was during 
this period a great philosophical debate underlying the development of 
war planning and of strategic argument. It had to do with strategic bomb- 
ing, but it went beyond that. Essentially, it revolved around the question, 
are we going to have a long war with the Soviet Union, or is it going to 
be a short war? The Navy was convinced it was not going to be a short 
war. "The Need for Maintaining Control of the Middle Eastern Oil," 
about which I wrote a couple of years ago for the Naval War College 
Reivew, was a major concern of the United States Navy, because they 
figured it was going to be a long war. I might add, this is something we 
still haven't figured out. Is it going to be a long war? Is it going to be a 
short war? What do we spend our money on? And that is what it comes 
down to in the end— to the budget. It does, for the period under consid- 
eration, come down to Harry Truman. Had there been an adequate 
budget, the Navy probably would not have gone off the deep end, with 


things like the Gallery memorandum, to maintain that the Navy should 
take over strategic bombing. 

Thanks to the work of people like Forrest Sherman in 1949 and 1950, 
the Navy figured out where it was going. It got back on course and 
through the mid 1950s and afterwards developed doctrine for naval air 
power. Naval air power was developed, and has remained, primarily as 
an instrument for limited conflicts, not limited war precisely — although 
it was developed in that direction. 




My comments have been somewhat hastily derived and tend to reflect 
more of my own thoughts on this topic than those expressed in our two 
papers. They shall also reflect some new modes of questioning— new to 
me at any rate — that derive from discussing our topic with several of my 
colleagues this year at the Wilson Center. So perhaps I should also say, 
with General Eaker, that "my thoughts are those of a private person and 
have not received the prior approval of any officer or other official pres- 
ently serving in an official capacity here or elsewhere!" 

Like Gaul, my remarks are divided into three parts. First, one or 
two general observations on our topic for this session; second a few brief 
comments on the papers we have just heard; and, finally, some concluding 
observations on both the significance of our topic and the difficulties that 
must be overcome by its would-be Thucydides. 

The search after maturity in air power doctrine and organization in 
the years following World War II is surely not, as I once naively thought, 
a topic that has a closing date anywhere in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s; 
rather, it is an on-going topic or problem that bids fair to remain with 
us throughout the present century. As will undoubtedly be seen in the 
presentations this afternoon, nothing that / would label maturity was 
achieved either prior to or during our late experiences in Indochina, 
where the air experience turned out to be an improvised air war to an 
even greater extent than during World War II. For that war, there was 
a plan, brilliantly conceived in the early fall of 1941. The plan underwent 
some changes over time— some necessary, some not, perhaps— but in its 
basic outline it was followed in Europe and served the Army Air Forces 
and the cause of victory well. But once enter the postwar era and examine 
actual air operations from Korea through Vietnam — even on to the rescue 
of the Mayaguez, if you will— and improvization (sometimes we like to 
call that "flexibility") in the face of unforeseen difficuUies is far more 
obvious to the eye than any working out of an all encompassing concept 
of operations. 

The reasons for this being true are not hard to find, and several of 
them are touched upon in the papers we have just heard. The principal 
one, of course, is that air leaders and air planners didn't see either Korea 


or Vietnam coming. Their attentions throughout the postwar period have 
been directed elsewhere— to put it bluntly, at Russia and at Western 
Europe — and that has not changed in the slightest in the years since we 
left Indochina. Although I am not yet prepared to say just what it is, 
there's something very definitely wrong with this tunnel vision; and its 
continued existence I would offer as the first point of proof that air power 
doctrine and organization have a way to go before we can speak of 

During the Truman years, on which both of our speakers have con- 
centrated, the principal stumbling blocks preventing the elucidation of 
a rational air policy — by which I mean to imply one capable of reacting 
to the full spectrum of warfare possibilities — were what we might look 
on as the three Bs— the bomb, the budget, and the bastards in the other 
departments (whether Air Force, Navy, State, NSC, AEC, or the Bureau 
of the Budget). Actually there were more than three stumbling blocks, 
but both of our papers this morning tend to emphasize these three. 

As John Greenwood points out, the first major conceptual problem 
was how to assimilate atomic weapons within existing doctrine and or 
ganization without disrupting existing structures. I emphasize that last pan 
if for no other reason than to throw out the question of whether it might 
not appear in retrospect to have been a false and unnecessary premise, 
however human or understandable. In any event, the basic problem was 
exacerbated by the continuing refusal of the people in the Manhattan 
Project and later the Atomic Energy Commission (and its successor or- 
ganizations!) to tell the planners or the historians what they needed to 
know. In any event, assimilating the Bomb, though difficult, was a fairly 
straightforward task for the new Air Force. The Navy, however, as David 
Rosenberg demonstrates so well, had the very devil of a time trying to 
figure out what its own mind was on this subject; his recounting of the 
history of the Nimitz, Gallery, and Ofstie memoranda— and later the 
General Board study ramrodded by Arleigh Burke— is a genuine con- 
tribution to our understanding of a service to whose nuances outsiders 
are rarely privy. 

The budget was a more immediate stumbling block. Without being 
doctrinaire about it, Harry Truman had an old-fashioned predilection for 
a balanced budget and the practice of accumulating a surplus in pros- 
perous years to reduce the national debt. Making matters worse, he had 
had enough experience with the military to be severely sceptical about 
the amounts of money they requested; and he refused to be taken in by 
their scare stories. When James Webb, his budget director, warned him 
in October 1946 that the Army and Navy would be coming over to the 
White House next day to point out what dire actions would have to be 
taken in view of Truman's forced reductions in their Fiscal Year 1948 


allocations, he remained unmoved. Webb said they were serious — that 
the Navy would insist they would have to withdraw the fleet from the 
Mediterranean. "Baloney," the President responded. "They don't have 
to bring the damn fleet home — all they have to do is close down a few 
Navy Yards!" (Presumably easier then than now!) Truman's continuing 
budget concerns — fully as hardnosed if less well known than his succes- 
sor's — powerfully affected all early planning in the postwar years. Indeed, 
as David Rosenberg illustrates in an article soon to appear in the Journal 
of American History, the President's rigid budget ceiling for FY 50 had 
at least as much to do with the go-ahead decision for the hydrogen bomb 
as did the Soviet A-bomb explosion or the kind of thinking that led to 
NSC-68. Rosenberg may be guilty of slighting the roles of certain pow- 
erful members of Congress, but certainly for the service planners the FY 
50 budget ceiling had the effect of putting adequate conventional warfare 
alternatives out of reach. 

I'll say little about my third 'B' — the bad guys in the other depart- 
ments or services. The controversies surrounding what we erroneously 
call 'unification' are too well known and far too dreary in the telling. The 
bickering and squabbling exasperated Truman, demoralized George 
Marshall, and became a consistent theme in Eisenhower's diaries from 
1946 through the early fifties. Although it is little known out here in these 
quarters, his initial reaction to the idea of another academy for the new 
Air Force was wholly negative. Indeed, by December of 1948 he was 
writing to James Forrestal suggesting that a study be undertaken to find 
some way of marrying West Point and Annapolis into some form of 
United Services Academy, perhaps keeping the same two locations but 
rotating the various classes from one to another. 

I said earlier that there were more stumbling blocks than my three 
"Bs." Two in particular I'll mention briefly. The first and perhaps most 
difficult for the planners, and operative until at least the presentation of 
the Gaither Report in 1957, was that no two persons considered an actual 
war with the Soviet Union less likely than did our first two postwar 
presidents. That we should have forces adequate to an emergency, yes. 
That we should take care not to be outdistanced in technology, yes. But 
that there was any serious likelihood of an attack on the United States — 
or even Western Europe — by the Soviet Union in the foreseeable future, 
no. And as I suspect Forrest Pogue's fourth volume will show, this view 
was shared as well by George Marshall. The world of the Dulles brothers, 
the Achesons, Rusks, Cliffords, McCloys, and Nitzes was not the world 
of Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower. I cannot yet prove this point 
to the degree that would satisfy a dissertation director, but I offer it 
anyway as a further reminder of the difficulties facing the planners. 

My final stumbling block is referred to by David Rosenberg when 
he writes of the persistent tug of war between long term technologically 


oriented projection and near term war planning. This is as much a prob- 
lem today as it ever was; and a man formally detailed to a special study 
group — as, for example, the one presently underway on the unenviable 
task of figuring out the likely strategic environment in the year 2000— is 
liable at any moment to be hastily recalled to his regular job in the 
command post in the bowels of the Pentagon to help plan or coordinate 
the evacuation of American citizens from the latest hot spot. I hear there 
are 30,000 people assigned to the Pentagon these days; among them, the 
number who have any significant time to devote to thinking, as opposed 
to doing, can probably be counted on the fingers of both hands. So much 
for stumbling blocks faced by the postwar planners, men who sometimes 
appear to have fared less well than some academics might seem to have 

John Greenwood opened by reminding us that the development of 
the postwar Air Force was of such vast scope and complexity that no 
historian has yet dealt with it in a meaningful manner. I'd like to close 
with some comments on the prospects for advance in this respect and 
with a few questions that beg for attention. 

Before I do so, let me remind those innocent Christians present — 
to borrow a term from our Harmon lecturer — of a point or two raised 
by General Parrish on Wednesday evening. The human element in all 
this business is absolutely of its essence. . .and is surely the weakest link 
in all our published work for the period in question. Biographies are few 
and memoirs fewer. The restrictions imposed on our leading military 
thinkers after the canning of General MacArthur in 1951 have been 
nothing less than tragic — both for historians and for presidents. The gen- 
eral was rightly fired, to be sure, as was General Orvil Anderson only 
a few months earlier, but the over-reaction that set in thereafter robbed 
this nation and its leaders of an entire level of expertise that can barely 
any longer wedge its foot in the door of so-called higher strategy, a topic 
now, as General Parrish put it, so well "democratized" as to allow vir- 
tually anyone except a serving officer to be taken seriously. Thus cut off 
in so many ways from the spark of human feeling that is the essence of 
history, scholars run the risk of getting trapped in documents that, since 
they usually represent consensus rather than viewpoint, are far more 
apparent than real. In short, the story of postwar planning is far less the 
story of PINCHER, FROLIC, EARSHOT, HALFMOON, etc., etc., 
than it is the story of Harry Truman, Jim Forrestal, "Hap" Arnold, Carl 
Spaatz, Chester Nimitz, "Stu" Symington, "Larry" Norstad, Hoyt Van- 
denberg, and Dwight Eisenhower — or any number of less renowned peo- 
ple. Air power, as Colonel Ron Fogleman used to tell classes full of 
cadets perplexed at this very idea, air power in the last analysis is People 
power. Machines can be made to do work, but they never have nor ever 


can build an air force that will work. And I thank our Harmon lecturer 
for reminding us — and we do need to be reminded — of this crucial fact. 

So much for special pleading. I promised to close with some com- 
ments on the prospects for advance in getting the postwar story told and 
with a few questions that beg our attention. First, some good spadework 
is underway, and certainly our two speakers this morning are in the 
forefront of the effort. In Dr. Greenwood's case, we can only hope that 
his new responsibilities with the Corps of Engineers do not prevent him 
from continuing what he so well began. In Professor Rosenberg's case 
we already have a considerable corpus, starting with his "Naval Strategy 
in a Period of Change," done in support of the Strategic Arms Com- 
petition study. We also have his paper for the recent SHAFR meeting, 
his paper today, and the forthcoming article in the Journal of American 
History. While most of this work has a naval slant to it, it nonetheless 
is not produced below decks and is gratifyingly free of the contentiousness 
that marks the work of many of his predecessors in this field. Larry 
O'Brien, a student of Allan Millett's, is hard at work now on yet another 
study of postwar planning. I would be less than generous if I failed to 
point out that the work of these three gentlemen in breaking down the 
barriers blocking access to classified materials has been a godsend to 
Johnnies-come-lately like myself. Then, there's even the hope that our 
chairman's long-awaited History of the U.S. -Soviet Strategic Arms Com- 
petition, 1945-1972 will before long see the light of day. But I touch only 
the surface. In addition, we already have Harry Borowski's history of the 
Strategic Air Command in its early years and Donald Baucom's work on 
Air Force R&D in the years immediately following the war, and we may 
look forward to Elliot Converse's forthcoming treatise on the Air Force 
and overseas basing — to mention, in the last three examples, important 
new work emanating right here from Colonel Hurley's department. In 
addition, the work of Tom Etzold and John Lewis Gaddis is at long last 
making available to a wide audience the basic JCS and NSC papers so 
long locked away in cold and forbidding storage. Taken together, the 
wealth of newly available materials, while not yet complete, to be sure, 
is such that significant interpretation and analysis based on the relevant 
documents is at length becoming possible. 

Perhaps the story of the search after maturity in postwar air doctrine 
and organization will not find its Thucydides for many years yet to come. 
And we can probably get by without some new Polybius hell-bent to 
instruct us on the didactic values inherent in the tale — or even a new 
Tacitus hung up on moral preoccupations with the corruptions of power. 
But after all these years and innumerable lost opportunities, our service 
has at last found, in General Momyer's Air Power in Three Wars, its 
equivalent to Caesar's Commentaries on the War in Gaul. This may give 


us reason to hope that Titus Livius — dear old Livy — may be out there 
somewhere banging away on Ab Air Force Condita. 

If he is, let me conclude with a few questions he might ask and a 
few cautionary warnings culled from my conversations on this topic with 
my colleagues at the Wilson Center. These are presented in no particular 
order and are passed on as no more than food for thought, or perhaps 

1. Be wary of taking the documents too seriously. Recall Arnold 
Toynbee's warning that "the information that is to be found in an official 
document will have been put there— if we may assume that the document 
has been drafted competently— in order to serve some official purpose 
which, whatever it may have been, will certainly not have been the ir- 
relevant purpose of informing a future historian." (Vol. 10, 1954, p. 227). 
Also, in this same respect, be especially wary of staff planning documents, 
lest you come to take their content as seriously as staff planners tend to 
take themselves and their work, ninety plus percent of which is invariably 
in vain or ignored by the real decision makers. 

2. Find those real decision makers. Lunch time at the Army-Navy 
Club in Washington is as good a place as any to start. 

3. Bear always in mind that "most civilians fail to appreciate the 
glories of nuclear deterrence and massive retaliation." When they see 
outside the gates of SAC bases a signboard reading "Peace is our Profes- 
sion," they tend to think that the local college pranksters erected it 
overnight and the troops haven't had time yet to dismantle it. 

4. Re the planners: Why did they never seem to realize that SAC 
would not deter limited, salami-slicing wars? Also, why did they appar- 
ently spend so little of their time, prior to 1950, anticipating what Russian 
development of nuclear weapons would mean for U.S. strategy? 

5. "Why do you Air Force people inevitably confuse destruction with 

6. Finally, dear Livy, don't get caught up in sideshows like the squab- 
bling over so-called unification or over roles and missions. These were 
present and not without some importance — they were insidious perhaps, 
but not really dangerous: rather like smog in Denver,. . .hardly likely 
to cause a revolution! 

Those questions, some of them bearing the marks of presumably 
friendly needles, I pass on for what they might be worth. In closing, I 
would like to quote from a paragraph that Major Fred Shiner forced out 
of me way back in February of 1977 as he first began planning for this 



The story of the postwar Air Force must be approached analytically and with 
reference to recognizable time frames such as; 1945-48 (through Key West & 
Newport): 1949-53 (from NSC-68 through Korea); 1953-60 (The Age of SAC); 
1961-72 (The Age of Turmoil: From Cuba to the Bridge at Thanh Hoa): 1973-78 
(Years of as-yet-undefined Transition). Central themes would have to include: the 
unending turbulence in both doctrine and organization that characterizes the period 
taken as a whole; the tendency to look to the past, especially World War II, for 
organizational justification while constantly readjusting doctrine to cope with 
events and requirements both unforeseen and unexpected; and the problems at- 
tendant to coping with rapidly shifting capabilities and requirements. The period 
as a whole might well be characterized as "an age of intuitive improvization." 





Dr. Rosenberg narrows "naval air doctrine" by a stipulated defi- 
nition to "basic tenets of strategy rather than tactical doctrine." He fur- 
ther Hmits the scope of his paper to the role of the aircraft carrier as an 
atomic weapons delivery system. In so doing, he slights the Navy's con- 
ventional aviation capabilities and virtually eliminates any consideration 
of Marine Corps aviation, which forms a substantial part of naval aviation. 

A much broader, if less detailed, consideration of naval air doctrine 
seems to be needed. Further, doctrinal ideas do not evolve in a vacuum 
but are shaped by the impact of such things as international rivalries,' 
national policies, interservice competition, changing technology, and 
budgetary constraints. The decade following World War II brought 
change and instability sufficient to unhinge any established doctrine 
Nevertheless, throughout this difficult period of transition, the Navy and 
Marine Corps maintained balanced aviation capabilities which proved 
appropriate for the coming conflicts— an accomplishment which suggests 
an existing, not emerging, maturity. 




The missions of Army Aviation and its organization are so closely 
related that they must be considered together. Therefore, before focusing 
directly on Army Aviation, one must understand some of the forces and 
conflicts that have influenced the evolution of organization in the military 

Centralization vs. Decentralization 

Primary among the conflicts is the question of centralization versus 
decentralization. In any group engaged in organizing a unit two factions 
can be identified: one favors centralization, the other decentralization. 
Those who favor centralization talk of vertical organization based on 
functions. Those who favor decentralization talk of horizontal organi- 
zation based on missions. Let me explain this by some examples. 

On the broadest level the proponents of centralization (vertical struc- 
ture) would put all aircraft in the Air Force, all ships and boats in the 
Navy, and all ground vehicles in the Army, and then let each of the 
services support the others as necessary. This would give vertical organ- 
ization based upon the functions of air power, ground power, and sea 

Within the Army, there are artillerymen who would propose that all 
weapons except small arms be organized vertically in an artillery orga- 
nization under the direct command and control of the Army artillery 
officer. Some signal officers have contended that all communications 
down to the last radio operator should be organized within the Signal 
Corps, and Transportation officers would have all vehicles operated by 
the transportation Corps. Such arrangements would give vertical orga- 
nization based on the functions of firepower, communications, and trans- 

The general arguments used in favor of centralization are: better 
logistical support, closer technical supervision, more flexibility in shifting 
the assets, and improved technical training. 


Counter to the functional group is the faction that beHeves in de- 
centralization (horizontal organization) and favors placing within each 
organization everything that it requires to do its mission. 

On the interservice level, the proponents of decentralization would 
leave the Air Force with SAC (Strategic Air Command), a few tankers, 
and a few fighters to protect the bombers (for the mission of the air war)! 
transfer TAC (Tactical Air Command) to the Army in support of the 
ground war, and divide MAC (Military Airlift Command) among the Air 
Force, Army, and the Navy. From the Army the Air Force would gain 
a slice of the Corps of Engineers and bits of pieces of other organizations. 
Air Defense could go to either service. The Navy is already self-con- 
tained, and the only addition that comes to mind is part of MAC. 

At a lower level, within the Army the proponents of decentralization 
would slice up the units that now support divisions and place them under 
the command of the division commander. This could result in an enor- 
mous division organization, with each division having organic heavy main- 
tenance units, long range communications, all sizes of helicopters, and 
a few fighter aircraft for close air support and air defense. 

The arguments in favor of decentralization are: closer integration of 
effort, unity of command, all elements more responsive to the commander 
who has responsibility for the mission, and improved tactical training. 

The conflict of organizational concepts is not restricted to the Army. 
For example, in the Air Force there has been continual debate as to 
whether tankers should be organized centrally or on a decentralized basis. 
TAC long contended that it required tankers organic to TAC to refuel 
their own aircraft. SAC, on the other hand, argued that they were the 
primary users of tankers and that it would be more efficient and eco- 
nomical to have all of the tankers in SAC, with SAC providing support 
to TAC. SAC won. 

In a general sense, the Air Force is organized primarily on a highly 
centralized vertical basis, with each major command having world wide 
responsibility. The Army is organized primarily on a horizontal basis that 
IS highly decentralized; the major commands each contain most of the 
capabilities required to carry out land warfare in its area of responsibility. 
Actually, in the organization of the Department of Defense, the services, 
and units within services, present a desirable mix of centralization and 
decentralization. In each case, whether it be the total Department of 
Defense or a small unit, a balance has been reached. I think you will see 
this balance illustrated in later discussion on the organization of Army 
Aviation vis-a-vis the Air Force. 

We should bear in mind that the issue of centralization and decen- 
tralization has been influenced significantly by advanced technology. 


Advanced technology has provided us with equipment of greater capa- 
bility — usually larger, more complex, more expensive, and more difficult 
to maintain. This type of new equipment gives more weight to centrali- 
zation. Advanced technology has also provided some equipment with 
new capabilities that is smaller, lighter, more dependable, and easier to 
maintain. Such equipment has made decentralization more practical. 
Keeping these basic conflicts of interest in mind, along with the arguments 
in favor of each and the influence of advanced technology, will make it 
easier to understand aviation in the military services. 

The Evolution of Army Aviation 

The first airplane was introduced into the Army in 1909. From 1909 
to 1911 there was little cause to be concerned about centralization versus 
decentralization since the Army only had one aircraft. The primary pur- 
pose of aircraft in these early days was for surveillance and observation, 
and they fell logically under the control of the Signal Corps. The beginning 
of World War I witnessed the impact of technology as new aircraft dem- 
onstrated additional capabilities. The vehicles that were originally pro- 
cured for observation proved capable of delivering firepower and bombs 
and of fighting each other in the air. This is, of course, an example of 
a situation that recurs throughout military history: where an item of 
equipment, once obtained, demonstrates additional capabilities that gen- 
erate new requirements and applications. 

By the end of World War I, there was a proposal that the air service 
be composed of two distinct forces. One was to consist of squadrons 
attached to ground armies, corps, and divisions under the control of 
ground commanders. The other force was to consist of large aeronautical 
groups for strategic operations against enemy aircraft and enemy materiel 
at a distance behind the actual lines. In the postwar years, however, the 
strategic force was disapproved.* 

It was in the period between the world wars that the Air Corps, led 
by Billy Mitchell, declared its hand in favor of centralization — at least 
for those missions that are related to the air war as opposed to the ground 
war. Between World War I and World War II there was a steady increase 
in the capability of aircraft, particularly for the strategic mission. The far- 
sighted airmen, visualizing the great potential of aircraft, concentrated 
their major efforts on obtaining the type of aircraft that would permit 
them to accomplish the mission of strategic bombardment. Most believed 
this would be the primary mission of the air arm. The airmen fought for 
independence from the ground commander. At the same time the ground 

*Ed. note: This was true until the formation of the GHQAF, or General Headquarters Air 
Force, in 1935. 


commanders concentrated on keeping aircraft under the control of the 
ground commander for immediate support. Here was the first confron- 
tation in the aviation field between the centralization and decentralization 
concepts. The airmen believed that their primary mission was the air war 
and wanted all air power centralized under an air commander. The ground 
commanders believed that the ground war was predominant and that 
they could get adequate air support only if the aircraft were decentralized 
and under their command and control. The Air Corps won its point at 
the beginning of World War II and became the Army Air Forces, co- 
equal with the Ground Forces. Air power was truly centralized. 

Of special importance to ground operations and hence Army com- 
manders was the observation or surveillance mission. In 1941 that mission 
belonged to the Army Air Forces. This mission started prior to World 
War I using the most elementary of aircraft, but by 1941 observation 
aircraft technology had advanced to the 0-47 and the 0-52. These were 
comparatively fast aircraft for the period; they were large, quite sophis- 
ticated, and required what was considered in those days to be considerable 
facility support. They had to operate from well-established air bases, and 
they had to be maintained by a large crew of technically qualified per- 
sonnel. Thus, as technology applied force toward centralization, the air- 
craft was removed from the influence or control of the artillerymen it 
was to support. By this time, however, technology had also provided 
another aircraft — the Piper Cub; this was technology applied in the second 
area. The Piper Cub was an aircraft of sufficient simplicity that it could 
be operated and maintained in the field. It was also an aircraft with flight 
characteristics permitting it to operate in and out of rudimentary fields 
and, hence, able to live in the field with an artillery battalion. The artillery 
seized on this as a means of elevating the ground observer in an aerial 
platform to accomplish better the same job he had accomplished on the 

The introduction of the "Cub" (designated the L-4) as an organic 
part of the field artillery at battalion level is the true beginning to what 
we now call Army Aviation. It demonstrates the two precepts which have 
been the foundation of Army Aviation organization and mission. The 
first of these is that the Army introduces aircraft into the Army system 
to accomplish missions that traditionally have been accomplished by the 
Army but in the past have been accomplished by ground means. For 
example, the Cub in the artillery battalion did not add a new mission; 
it lifted the forward observer to where he could see. The second precept 
of organization is that aircraft should be made organic to the lowest using 
unit that has a full time requirement for the aircraft and the capability 
of operating and maintaining the aircraft in its area of operations. It was 
on this basis that the L-4 became part of the battalion. 


An important milestone in Army Aviation occurred in the late 1940s 
when the Army picked up the helicopter from a commercial development 
and tested it for Army missions. Technology had provided a major break- 
through in a vehicle with flight characteristics that permitted operation 
with the units in the field on a decentralized basis. The helicopter could 
be integrated into the Army organization at all levels. This development 
has permitted the expansion of Army Aviation into the fields of airlift, 
medical evacuation, expanded reconnaissance, and direct fire support. 

While technology brought the helicopter into the Army, it is inter- 
esting to note that the application of advanced technology in the Air 
Force has very nicely accommodated this expansion of Army Aviation. 
For example, each improved, more modern version of the Air Force fleet 
of aircraft is larger, more complex, and requires far more facilities. Thus 
the application of advanced technology to aircraft being procured by the 
Air Force demands more centralization and reduces the ability to operate 
beside, or as a part of, ground forces. 

The Future of Army Aviation 

The potential for application and growth of Army Aviation has in 
the past and will in the future be found in two areas. The first is in 
replacing or supplementing ground vehicles in traditional Army missions. 
In this area Army Aviation grows and prospers as newer and more ca- 
pable aircraft are employed more and more for reconnaissance, command 
and control, medical evacuation, artillery support, tactical troop trans- 
port, and fire support. Since the field is competitive, voids in needed 
capability are not likely to occur. The second area in which Army Aviation 
has and should continue to expand is in filling voids created by the natural 
proclivity of the Air Force to move to larger, faster, more sophisticated 

This Air Force trend created the first void in air observation and 
permitted the birth of Army Aviation. A new void is now appearing in 
transport aircraft capability. In World War II the primary transport air- 
craft were the C-46, C-47, and C-54. After World War II the Air Force 
developed the C-123, C-124,and C-133 to replace the older aircraft. The 
Army introduced the helicopter. The next generation of Air Force trans- 
ports were the even larger C-130, C-141, and C-5A. To meet its re- 
quirements, the Army procured larger helicopters and the Caribou, which 
eventually went to the Air Force. The Air Force has now phased out the 
C-123 and Caribou from its active forces, and the AMST is planned to 
replace the C-130. This raises the floor on the Air Force capability to 


aircraft in a high gross weight category.* The Army will probably expand 
its organic aviation to fill the void being created since troops in the field 
will still require air support. 

This paper has focused, albeit briefly, on observation and air trans- 
port as related to Army Aviation. A similar analysis of how the increasing 
sophistication and centralization of the Air Force's aircraft and systems 
have created void^ now filled by Army Aviation on a decentralized basis 
can be made in the functional areas of firepower, reconnaissance, com- 
munications, and medical evacuation. 

*A similar situation has evolved in civil transportation. The major airlines, like the Air 
Force, have moved to larger and larger aircraft. The void thus created has rapidly and 
effectively been filled by new second and third level carriers operating the smaller aircraft. 




General Collins pointed out tliat while much remains to be done in the history of the 
"development of tactical and/or organic air capabilities after World War II," Army historians 
have at least broken ground in several areas. He suggests the following as beginning sources 
for those interested in close air support operations from the ground forces' perspective: 

Appleman, Roy E. South to the NAKTONG, North to the Yalu. {The 
U.S. Army in the Korean War). Washington: Department of the Army. 

"Effectiveness of Tactical Air Support in WWII and Korea." DOD Study 
under the auspices of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Col- 
lege. June 1961. 

Fisher, Ernest F., Jr., and Richard P. Weinert. "Combat Data Con- 
cerning the Effectiveness of Close Air Support." Washington: Office of 
the Chief of Military History. 1974. 

"History of Close Air Support." Prepared by Continental Army Com- 
mand. 1961. 

"History of Close Air Support Operations." Prepared by the U.S. Army 
Task Force Component of the DoD Close Air Support Study Group. 
February 1972. 

Kugler, Richard C. "Air Force Statistical Data on Missions Flown in 
Support of the Army (U)." Washington: Office of the Chief of Military 
History. 1964. 

Mossman, Billy. Ebb and Flow, November 1950-July 1951. {The U.S. 
Army in the Korean War.) Washington: Department of the Army. To be 

Tolson, Jack. "Air Mobility, 1961-1971." OCMH Vietnam Studies Se- 
ries. Washington: Department of the Army. 1973. 

Weinert, Richard P. "History of Army Aviation, 1950-1962." Fort Mon- 
roe, VA: Historical Office, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. 
2 Vols. 1976. 



One of the leading military historians in the world, Professor Theodore Repp of Duke 
University, chaired this session on the employment of United States air power in the years 
since 1945. 

The session opened with an overview by General T. R. Milton, USAF (Ret) whose 
biography (in the rear of this volume) shows that he served, for the purposes of the symposium 
committee, in the right place at the right time throughout his career. General Milton por- 
trayed the difficulty of trying to predict trends in air power and argued for future flexibility 
in outlook and technological development. As Theodore Ropp commented, "General Milton 
claims not to have learned much history at West Point, but his history is deeply informed, 
with special attention to psychological pressures and the peacetime military learning process." 

The dominant topic in this session was expected to be Vietnam, and the planners called 
on a knowledgeable former colleague. Colonel Ray L. Bowers, USAF (Ret), who had served 
in the war as a squadron navigator in tactical airlift and, afterwards, as Chief of the Southeast 
Asia branch of the Office of Air Force History. Commenting later about Colonel Bowers' 
paper. Professor Ropp accurately observed, "His opening sentence shows how far air power 
historians have moved from 'Look, Ma! I'm flying!'" Bowers reviewed the strategic and 
tactical employment of air power in the war and concluded his "tentative appraisal" with 
the judgment that, despite many problems, "airpower was successfully employed in countless 
battles and campaigns." For political reasons, however, the proposition of "whether or not 
air power could have ended the war on satisfactory terms was not tested." 

Another retired Air Force veteran, Major General Edward Lansdale, whose military 
career followed a pattern very different from that of most of his contemporaries, spoki next. 
The famous practitioner of the psycho-political aspects of warfare raised the disturbing 
question of whether or not his fellow countrymen had understood the kind of war in which 
they found themselves. 

The foregoing perspectives did not include the insights an airman might have gained at 
the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Aware that a former Vice-Director of the Joint Staff 
at an important point in the war. Lieutenant General John B. McPherson, USAF (Ret), 
would be in the audience, the symposium committee asked him to write a comment for this 
volume on the air war against North Vietnam. His reply reflects his first-hand experience; 
its scholarly nature is a reminder that General McPherson is also President of the Air Force 
Historical Foundation. 

Amidst the sea of Air Force blue in this session, one well-known civilian scholar. Professor 
Dennis Showalter of Colorado College, surfaced a challenge during the discussion period to 
the positive tone of Colonel Bowers' paper. The replies of both Bowers and General Milton 
agreed with Showalter's call for a critical examination of air operations, but General Milton 
went on to stress the influence of Secretary McNamara and his civilian staff on those op- 
erations as a topic deserving an especially careful examination. 




Even after four decades it seems best to draw a veil over my scholastic 
record at West Point. From those years— I have always hoped they were 
not formative — certain bits of knowledge have stuck. Predictably enough, 
all the wrong bits. 

I remember, for instance, learning that the Polish cavalry would deal 
some very hard, perhaps even decisive, blows to an invading force of 
Germans if Hitler ever made that unwise move. With equal clarity, I 
recall the knowledge I gained about the relative strengths of the German 
and French armies. Given the superior leadership, training, and mar- 
velously constructed defenses of the French, it was clear where the ad- 
vantage lay. It was during that same period that I grasped other solid 
bits of higher education: the diesel engine, for instance, while admirably 
suited to heavy machinery, could never be adapted to the passenger car: 
the laws of aerodynamics seemed to argue against crossing the sonic 

Curiously enough, in this pre-World War II education of mine, I 
don't recall being taught, one way or another, about the future role of 
air power in war. When we studied the situation in Europe, then on the 
brink of World War II, it was through the eyes of traditionalism. What 
was good enough for Napoleon was good enough for us. 

It is probably just as well, for I was spared having to learn the 
immutable theories of Giulio Douhet, who was to be proved, later on 
in that same World War II, less than infallible. And yet, in some ways, 
he was a pretty good prophet. No one can dispute that air power played 
a decisive— perhaps the decisive— role in World War II, first in the Battle 
of Britain, then in the long air campaign preceding D-Day, and finally 
in bringing about the capitulation of Japan. It was not as Douhet visu- 
alized things— it turned out the bombers did need protection, a lot of 
protection, before daylight bombing became affordable— but air power 
nevertheless played a decisive role in that war. 


It was such a major role, in fact, that air power enthusiasts came 
out of that war prepared to go it alone in any future conflict. I remember 
a movie produced by the Strategic Air Command, in those halcyon days 
when we had a monopoly on the atomic bomb and the bomber ruled as 
the supreme military instrument, which showed how a few bombers made 
superfluous all the other expensive paraphernalia of war. In this movie, 
troops, warships, fighter planes were all neatly crossed out, as a strategic 
bomber, majestic and invincible, cruised across the screen, prepared to 
take care of things. The film was produced for the education of Rotary 
Clubs and other public forums. Happily, it was suppressed at birth by a 
wise Air Force Chief of Staff, General Thomas D. White. 

Nevertheless, the feeling was strong in the early fifties that the air 
power which had done so much to win World War II could do still more 
if employed with imagination. It was during this period that the Air Force 
undertook an ambitious study called Project Control. The theme of Pro- 
ject Control was, essentially, the use of air power, rather than ground 
forces, as a basic means of controlhng hostile territory. The idea for this 
study came from the remarkable success the RAF had enjoyed, during 
the twenties and early thirties, in controlling dissident tribes in the Middle 

At any rate. Project Control occupied the time and energies of a 
sizeable group at the Air University for the better part of a year. The 
believers in that project were ardent. Had Vietnam come along about 
then the theory would undoubtedly have been given a test. There was, 
of course, no such laboratory available in 1954, and so Project Control, 
after some exhaustive and exhausting briefings, went quietly into the 
archives, never to be heard of again. Well, perhaps that is not quite true. 
Eisenhower's Open Skies proposal does owe something to a study which 
set out to show how Japan and Germany could have been controlled by 
the pressure of air power in the thirties, or failing that, by air power in 
the war itself — air power not tied to a surface strategy. 

Like most — maybe all — attempts at constructing a philosophy of war, 
whether Mahan, Douhet, or the Pentagon theologians who grind out 
those dreary papers on the doctrinal precepts of the true faith, be it that 
of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, Project Control went a little 
overboard. Nevertheless, there was a considerable amount of soUd think- 
ing done in the course of that year's study. Considering our present and 
apparently aimless strategy in the Pacific, it might be a good idea to 
resurrect Project Control for another look. Our forces, with the exception 
of the soon to be withdrawn Second Infantry Division in Korea, are air 
and naval. They are highly trained and ready forces. The question is, 
ready for what? The answer is not as easy as it once was when any right 


thinking American could promptly answer, when asked a similar ques- 
tion, "To stop the spread of Communism." 

Air Power in the Cold War 

But to get back to the early years after World War II, years which 
saw the triumphs quickly supplanted by the new Soviet challenge. 

In the disorderly demobilization which came on the heels of V-J 
Day, we lost all vestiges of the great American wartime military machine. 
The troops left in Europe and Japan were occupation troops, neither 
trained nor motivated as fighting men— a fact that would be brought 
sadly home to us in the first days of the Korean War. And so when the 
first challenge came from the Soviets over the matter of access to Berlin, 
we were in a pickle. We could do everything, which is to say we could 
hit the USSR with nuclear bombs with no fear of retaliation, having first 
confirmed their warlike intentions by trying an armed convoy to Berlin, 
or we could do nothing— simply withdraw from that island in the Soviet 
Zone as being too much trouble. We chose a middle ground, that of 
supplying Berlin by airlift, meanwhile deploying some B-29s to England 
as a quiet reminder of another option at our disposal. In a curious sort 
of way, the Berlin Airlift was a means of controlling a hostile environment 
by air alone. The peaceful transports lumbered unmolested over enemy 
airspace because of the threat of the bombers in England. The fact that 
the Airlift was, by seeming to legitimize the ground blockade, an ex- 
tremely elaborate and expensive scheme to evade the issue is not really 
material. It was a demonstration of the use of air as a means of controlling 
a situation which might otherwise have ended in war. 

In all honesty, however, the Berlin Airlift was notable more for its 
organizational aspects than for any military lessons we might have 
learned. Air traffic procedures, approach lighting, and weather minimum 
thresholds were tinkered with in what was essentially a giant laboratory 
operated under tightly controlled conditions. We learned that 200 foot 
ceilings and one half mile visibilities were about the limit for the equip- 
ment of the time, although we did operate lower (100 foot ceilings and 
one quarter mile visibility) at two airports with flat approaches. Thirty 
years later, despite all aviation's advances, these are still the practical 
landing minimums so long as a pilot, and not an electronic robot, is at 
the controls. 

Thus, the Airlift made some significant contributions to aviation as 
it carried out that endless round of coal and food deliveries to Berlin. 
Charles J. V. Murphy, a distinguished journalist with Fortune Magazine, 


described the Airlift as "a Rolls-Royce delivery to the world's biggest 

From the military standpoint we did not benefit as much, although 
we thought we had at the time. In fact, soon after the airlift ended, a 
large maneuver was laid on in North Carolina. It was given the name 
"Swarmer," and it involved two Army airborne divisions, tactical air 
forces, and a large contingent of air transport from both tactical troop 
carrier and Military Air Transport forces. Fresh from the Airlift, I was 
made commander of the air transport forces to the evident dismay of 
some fairly grizzled troop carrier types. Our mission was to supply an 
isolated airhead held by friendly troops who had parachuted in and seized 
the airfield. The members of the troop carrier persuasion were appalled 
to learn that our resupply plan was patterned after the Berlin Airlift. No 
formation flying, just a steady stream of individual transports. The enemy 
fighters were in ecstasy. They visualized the world's biggest and easiest 
turkey shoot. Happily for us, the former commander of the Airlift was 
also the man making the rules for the exercise. The transports were 
essentially put off limits, protected by some invisible but nonetheless 
impenetrable defense. 

Lt General Lauris Norstad was the Exercise Commander for 
Swarmer, and he was evidently pleased with a briefing I gave him on our 
operation plan. At any rate, he dispatched me up to Mitchel Field on 
Long Island to give the briefing to the fearsome General Ennis White- 
head, who might have been a little out of sorts. His Continental Air 
Command forces were in the exercise, but he was not. Whatever the 
reason. General Whitehead cut me off in the middle of my act, almost 
as if I had been given the hook on a vaudeville amateur hour. "Never 
show that briefing," he said, "to anyone who has ever experienced com- 
bat." He then walked out. Well, I had experienced combat, maybe more 
than he had, and thus was a little hurt, but there I was, stuck with my 
charts like Lucky Pierre with his piccolo. 

As things turned out, General Whitehead was wrong in his denun- 
ciation of our operation. The Korean War came along soon after, and 
after the initial confusion, air transport began to play an important role 
in our military resurgence there. The operation plan developed for this 
air transport was modeled closely after the Swarmer Exercise plan. We 
had air superiority — indeed, air supremacy— over Korea, and it made 
good sense to use airlift in the most efficient way. But airlift, in a situation 
where enemy air is present, has always been a perilous affair. The Ger- 
mans learned this in their failed air resupply of Stalingrad. We, luckily 

'Fortune, Nov. 1948. "The Berlin Airlift", Charles J. V. Murphy 


enough, have never been faced with a situation where any major airUft 
of ours has had much enemy air opposition to contend with. 

But then, that is the whole history of our air power in the conflicts 
since World War II. Such aerial combat as we have had in those years, 
and specifically in Vietnam and Korea, has come only at our insistence. 
In Korea, our F-86s had to go to Mig Alley for an engagement. The air 
south of the Yalu was ours alone to use as we wished— for B-29s, trans- 
ports, or close support. We have raised two generations of soldiers who, 
while acquiring chests full of combat decorations, have never seen, let 
alone been attacked by, an enemy airplane. Those rare enemy sightings 
have been reserved for our fighter pilots who have sought them out. 

Air Power's Albatross 

Korea taught us some things about interdiction, about close support, 
and, for that matter, about jet air combat, but it fell short of being an 
air war in which the question of air superiority had to be decided. Instead, 
after the early days of pandemonium and retreat, Korea became a war 
of attrition and, finally, stalemate. 

It was a war in which air was never really given a chance to function 
in a decisive way. Had we been allowed to cross the Yalu and attack 
airfields, transportation choke points, and other targets critical to the 
Chinese support of the war, instead of viewing the Yalu as the border 
of a sanctuary, it is at least arguable that Korea would today be unified. 
As it was, the air campaign in the Korean War was doomed to incon- 
clusiveness, as was the war itself, a fact marked by the never-ending 
confrontation at Panmunjon. Of course, it can also be argued, as it was 
then— and persuasively— that attacking across the Yalu would simply 
have led to all-out war. 

That has been the albatross around the neck of air power since World 
War II: the fear that attack from the air is too provocative. Where, in 
World War II, we were, if anything, too uninhibited in our use of air 
power— I have in mind such targets as Dresden, Hamburg, and Nagasaki, 
as well as the no holds barred rules of engagement on strafing and targets 
of opportunity that existed after 1943— we became in the years after that 
war excessively cautious. The thing we knew best how to do became the 
thing we were afraid to do. 

It was this attitude that governed our initial foray into Vietnam. As 
it happened, I was a member of the Taylor-Rostow mission sent out in 


November 1961 by President Kennedy to survey the deteriorating situ- 
ation in South Vietnam. At the time I was commanding the 13th Air 
Force in the PhiHppines, a job which provided my credentials for inclusion 
on the mission. The report we prepared for President Kennedy — or 
rather, the report General Taylor and Walt Rostow submitted after con- 
sidering the inputs of various people like myself — was an exercise in 
cautious adventurism. The U. S. Mission in Vietnam would be reorga- 
nized to give the senior U.S. military man more authority. So far as the 
air side of things went, we would sponsor a Tactical Air Control System 
to give the Vietnamese Air Force more responsiveness, and we would 
beef up the advisory role. There would be nothing beyond that: no use 
of U. S. air power, no crossing of borders to get at the enemy who was 
using Laos freely, and certainly no attacking North Vietnam itself. 

Well, the original Taylor-Rostow recommendations looked pretty 
modest in a few years as thousands of U. S. troops poured into South 
Vietnam on their mission of search and destroy. But as the war heated 
up and American casualties rose, our air power remained shackled, much 
as it had been in Korea. 

From the beginning of our overt entanglement in Vietnam, which 
is to say about 1963, there was never any doubt as to the military value 
in hitting some targets in North Vietnam and Laos — targets such as the 
harbor dredge in Haiphong which was continuously occupied in keeping 
the fast-silting channel open. It would have been a simple matter to sink 
that clumsy vessel at some point in its shuttle, and, as it happened, 
CINCPAC had a plan to do just that. It was, of course, too provocative. 

Everything was too provocative, even after the Rolling Thunder 
bombing campaign of the North began in earnest. Targets were selected 
"at the highest level," as the euphemism for the White House goes, for 
their psychological rather than for their military value. We lost pilots and 
airplanes, and condemned those who survived being shot down to years 
of imprisonment, all in the name of giving signals to an enemy. It was 
only during the Chrsitmas bombing of 1972 that we began to show Hanoi 
what we could do. Yet, that brief foray into a sensible use of our air 
power became a victim of an impossible political climate. 

And so once again we found ourselves concluding an unsatisfactory 
war. Once again we, who had dropped the atomic bomb on Japan on the 
reasonable grounds that it would end a bloody war and would, in the 
long run, save lives, refused to use our conventional, let alone our atomic, 
air power to end, or even shorten, another bloody war. 

Vietnam thus became, in the judgment of the casual or biased ob- 
server, a failed test of air power. We had this immense superiority in the 


air, and we couldn't even put down an insurgency, let alone defeat a 
third-rate power like North Vietnam. 

Some Lessons From Vietnam 

There were, of course, a few occasions in that war where people 
could have gotten an inkling, at least, of what conventional air power 
could do given the chance. The Battle for Khe Sanh in early 1968 was 
such an occasion. All the ingredients, including massive and careful prep- 
arations by General Giap, the hero of Dien Bien Phu, were there, save 
one. At Dien Bien Phu the French Air Force was too weak to be effective, 
whereas at Khe Sanh air power was available in abundance. Even more 
important, the command and control mechanism was in place, and the 
air crews were highly trained and battle-tested. The results were spec- 
tacular. The JCS Chairman, General Earle Wheeler, reported enemy 
casualties at more than 10,000. Our own losses, by comparison, were 

One of the more significant operational achievements of that un- 
happy war has received far less than its share of recognition. That is the 
routine use of air tankers to extend the range and the bomb load of 
fighter aircraft. It is a technique that made fighter sorties of three and 
a half hours possible, even routine, from the bases in Thailand. The 
tankers cruised out every day over the jungles of Thailand and Laos for 
their rendezvous with the fighter-bombers. It was one of the great military 
sights of modern times to see the fleet of tankers followed by the fighters 
edging up to the refueling boom like so many humming birds. It was no 
stunt, no sometime maneuver performed in an emergency, but a part of 
the daily air war routine. If Vietnam did nothing else, it established air 
refueling as an integral part of tactical air warfare. Refueling has long 
since become a standard adjunct to tactical deployments. Crossing the 
Atlantic is no longer a week-long business of island hopping and sweating 
out weather. Fighter wings now cross non-stop, just like the airlines. 

There are a lot of implications for the future in this tanker-fighter 
partnership. A fighter wing which can move from Idaho to Korea in less 
than a day is pretty mobile by anyone's standards. An F-111 wing did 
just that in the tense period following the tree-cutting murders at Pan- 
munjon. When a fighter outfit can fly ten hours or more non-stop, it can 
deploy quickly to very distant places. And when that same wing can 
operate against targets located well beyond their airplanes' unrefueled 
radius of action, new vistas open up for the military planner. 

The Mediterranean, for instance, could be covered by F-4soperating 
out of, say, Spain, with tanker support. Or they could operate out of 
Germany, or Italy, or Greece, or Turkey, for that matter. They could 
even, for some purposes, be based in England. I am not proposing, mind 


you, that the tanker-fighter combination replace the carrier, but it does 
seem to offer some interesting options in a place like the Mediterranean. 

The Airborne Warning and Control System, or E-3A AW ACS, is 
another bright spot in the tactical forces' future and one more basis for 
comparison between land-based and carrier aviation. The E-3A releases 
tactical air forces from their dependence on fixed ground radar systems. 
Like the carrier task force, the tactical air task force can now take its 
control with it. All of which would seem to add up to an important future 
for land-based tactical air. 

Unhappily, we seem determined not to exploit that future. Our 
present NATO strategy requires tying down a considerable portion of 
our tactical forces to a European base complex, in fixed numbers and 
precisely located by the Soviets. Base hardening, to include aircraft shel- 
ters, does help, but the fact remains that these forces are extremely 
vulnerable to a surprise attack. 

The present NATO radar defenses are wholly inadequate for low- 
level detection. The E-3A, when it is available to NATO in sufficient 
numbers, will help in extending the warning time. Nonetheless, putting 
such a sizeable share of our tactical air forces on the front lines, so to 
speak, is not very prudent. These forces are, after all, irreplaceable. 
There is no World War II production line turning out aircraft on a mass 
production basis to replace battle losses, nor will there ever be again. 
There is not, nor will there be again, a training base for large numbers 
of replacement pilots. Deploying aircraft in Spain, Portugal, the U.K., 
or even the U.S. would seem to be a better way of exploiting this modern 
tactical mobility in the interest of conserving forces. 

The next time around is going to be a different experience, even a 
unique one, to a nation that has generally been able to operate its air 
forces, land or sea, from safe havens. In World War II it was a hard day's 
ride from England to Schweinfurt and back. The same distance nowadays 
is no trip at all. The warning time the radars could give the Germans of 
our coming in World War II was enough to get the defenses alerted, the 
fighters airborne, and even the smoke generators working. Those Eu- 
ropean distances haven't changed, and radar, while improved, still op- 
erates on line of sight. What was for the Luftwaffe of World War II an 
hour or two of warning and time to get ready has now been reduced to 
a scant few minutes for the Allied air forces in Germany. AWACS will 
give us a little more edge. Moving back, and exploiting tankers, would 
give us even more. 

The Return of Rationality 

The past three decades began with the Berlin Airlift, the opening 
shot, so to speak, of the Cold War. It was closely followed by the Korean 


War and the almost simultaneous creation of NATO, an organization 
that really came to life as Korea made clear the threat to Western Europe. 

Then there came the years of our strategic supremacy and, finally 
the great expectations, followed by the even greater disillusionment of 

We are beginning to put that disillusionment behind us and along 
with It the absurd self-flagellation that accompanied any mention of the 
failed Vietnam experiment— and it was really an experiment as much as 
It was a war. The subject of national defense is once more being debated 
rationally instead of emotionally as the enemy reemerges in clear focus 
Well, fairly rationally. 

There are a few amateur strategists loose in the land who see little 
future for land-based tactical air forces, but it is not a widely held view 
especially by the non-amateur strategists. Air power remains very high 
on the priority list of those nations most likely to be involved in a war 
notably the Arabs, the Israelis, the Nationalist Chinese, and the Com- 
munist Chinese. Our own adversary, the Soviet Union, is going all-out 
to modernize its tactical air forces. 

We are doing pretty well ourselves. The F-15, F-16, the new 
tanker— although one could wish for greater numbers and some of the 
Congressional enthusiasm so far reserved for the nuclear carrier— are 
great additions to the tactical capability. The imaginative readiness train- 
ing which employs aggressor squadrons and realistic combat conditions 
has almost certainly given the United States the most highly trained 
tactical forces in aviation history. 

The next thirty years are as hard to predict as the last thirty were 
No one, in 1948, foresaw the things that lay ahead of us any more than 
anyone can now. Almost certainly our great demobilization and general 
state of unreadiness contributed to our problems of the past era. It is 
something to think about as we look ahead. 

In summary, none of us knows where we are headed. It is some 
small comfort that we didn't know thirty years ago— did not, in fact, have 
even an inkling— and we muddled through one way or another. There 
IS, however, one significant change that thirty years has brought. The 
world is now a smaller and more dangerous place. If we are going to get 
through the next three decades with anything like a whole skin, we are 
going to have to face them far better prepared than we have ever been 





The conflict in Southeast Asia was ultimately one of wills, a test of 
determination among the peoples of the two Vietnams and the United 
States. The Americans conceived that they could bend the will of the 
enemy by a cumulative strategy — one combining political, psychological, 
and military pressures. Military actions were intended to punish the en- 
emy, to raise the costs of his war effort, and to deny him victory. Air 
power did exactly these things in every campaign, with considerable ef- 
fectiveness. But the cumulative strategy had little apparent effect on 
Communist determination until late 1972, when the North Vietnamese 
saw their army defeated in the South, their homeland defenseless before 
the B-52s, their ports closed, and the rail lines from China under daily 
guided-bomb attack. Meanwhile, the well-armed South Vietnamese pop- 
ulation stood at least passively behind its regime, while improved Amer- 
ican ties to Peking and Moscow worked against Hanoi's diplomatic base. 
By 1972, however, American determination had been worn away, and 
the American leadership used the situation to exit from Vietnam with 
merely an appearance of success. 

The heavy use of air power throughout the long conflict came nat- 
urally to the United States. Air power reflected this nation's technical 
strengths and its historic approach to war since 1940. Air operations did 
not directly challenge the major Communist powers, and they could be 
easily increased or decreased to fit diplomatic purposes. Finally, air power 
complemented the manpower strengths of Asian allies and promised to 
be economical in American lives. 

For the airmen, there were not one but many air wars — in South and 
in North Vietnam, in southern and in northern Laos, in Cambodia — each 
changing in character from year to year, from wet season to dry, indeed 
from daylight to darkness. Challenges of weather, mission, and enemy 
reaction were infinite in variety. Effectiveness varied between wide ex- 
tremes. However, several general propositions can be stated as preface 
to this paper. 

1. The air weapon could deliver potent nonnuclear ordnance any- 
where in Southeast Asia on short notice, especially after improvements 


were made in the ability to find targets, to hit them with precision, and 
to strike in darkness and in bad weather. 

2. The Communists severely reduced the effects of air power by their 
camouflaged and dispersed system of tactics and logistics, by moving and 
fighting at night, and by exploiting the heavily forested terrain. 

3. Extended ground-versus-air battles were fought to determine 
whether air could operate freely at the altitudes and in the locales nec- 
essary for effective attack. 

4. The Americans were resourceful in adapting aircraft to uses un- 
foreseen in prewar doctrine. 

5. The most effective tactical air strikes were generally those against 
enemy forces engaged or concentrating for battle; air interdiction pro- 
grams and strike operations against remote base areas, although often 
worthwhile, were far less efficient. 

6. Air was always important in the Allied strategy of cumulative 
pressures, but it became the primary instrument only in December 1972. 

Rolling Thunder: the Bombing of North Vietnam, 1965-1968 

In the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a determined but controlled 
American response apparently faced down the Soviets. The concept thus 
gained acceptance among American theorists that in conflict the object 
was not to destroy the opponent but rather to convey that the alternative 
to a settlement was certain escalation and defeat. ' 

The "tit-for-tat" air strikes against North Vietnam in early 1965 and 
the first Rolling Thunder missions of late March were intended to warn 
of heavier punishment. Then, in crucial decisions in early April 1965, 
President Lyndon Johnson — deeming that the early strikes had hardened 
Hanoi's attitude — shifted the air attacks almost exclusively to LOC (lines 
of communication) targets in the southern part of North Vietnam. Such 
strikes seemed useful for hindering movements of materiel south, but 
were unlikely to put serious coercive pressure on Hanoi. The decision 
to deploy American ground units into South Vietnam brought the related 
ruling that, although Rolling Thunder would continue, first priority for 
the employment of air forces would be for tasks inside South Vietnam. ^ 
Although hopes remained that Rolling Thunder might "contribute mar- 
ginally, and perhaps significantly to the timing of a decision (in Hanoi) 
to end the war,"-* the bombing became just one element in a four-part 
American strategy of graduated pressures intended to bend the will of 
the Communists by (1) stepped-up operations on the ground in South 
Vietnam, (2) civil, political, and economic programs in the South, (3) a 
slowly escalating Rolling Thunder, and (4) offers of negotiations and aid 
in postwar economic development. 

Several factors lay behind the 1965 decision against fast escalation 
of the air campaign. There was concern that South Vietnam was so weak 


that it might collapse early, especially if heavier bombing caused Hanoi 
to raise its effort in the South. There was fear of provoking Chinese 
intervention or Soviet retaliation, possibly in Berlin. History seemed to 
show that populations stiffened under all but the most devastating air 
offensives. President Johnson, Secretary Robert McNamara, and advisor 
McGeorge Bundy all later described their awareness that agricultural 
North Vietnam was a poor target for persuasive air operations. Finally, 
the Americans did not have the stomach to punish North Vietnamese 
civilians the way they had once punished civilians in Germany, Japan, 
and North Korea.'' 

The United States gradually escalated the air campaign after 1965 
and, by diplomatic contacts and intermittent bombing pauses, tried to 
convince Hanoi to negotiate. Sorties from bases in Thailand and carriers 
in the Gulf of Tonkin reached 12,000 a month in late 1966, double the 
rate of a year earlier. The POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants) strikes of 
mid-1966 penetrated the Hanoi-Haiphong area. By 1967, attacks on elec- 
tric power, airfields, certain industries, and the rail lines leading from 
China added up to a campaign of measured but undeniably strategic air 
pressure. Still, even in 1967, a majority of the strikes continued to hit 
interdiction targets, few of which were economically suited for attack by 
expensive high-performance aircraft. Throughout the campaign Hanoi 
remained intransigent, doubtless stiffened by growing anti-war dissent 
in the United States. 

North Vietnamese counteractions may provide valuable guidance for 
future populations under air attack. Hanoi exploited the bombing as the 
basis for a worldwide propaganda campaign and as a rallying point to 
cement the nation behind its Politburo's leadership. The North Vietnam- 
ese dispersed part of their industry, population, and materiel, and mo- 
bilized wholesale their labor force. Tens of thousands of workers served 
in the transportation system and repaired damaged route segments. Like 
the North Koreans fifteen years before, the North Vietnamese learned 
to move by night and to hide vehicles and supplies by day. Soviet equip- 
ment made possible a modern air defense system, and the regime armed 
its citizenry with light weapons for throwing up barrages against low- 
flying planes. The all-out resistance innoculated the nation psychologi- 
cally and physically to resist every American escalation.^ 

Rolling Thunder became a classic campaign of measures and coun- 
termeasures, as each day airmen and defenders fought ground-air battles 
of great intensity. Conventional antiaircraft gunfire accounted for a ma- 
jority of the U. S. planes downed in the North; the guns were most 
dangerous during the pilot's dive bombing run, which began at about 
13,000 feet over target. The effectiveness of Soviet-built SA-2 surface- 
to-air missiles (SAMs) at the higher altitudes obliged the American air- 


men to penetrate to the target area at low levels, where they were exposed 
to ground fire. One reply to the SAM was the Wild Weasel (or Iron 
Hand) fighter, equipped with radar-detecting gear and radar-homing 
Shrike rockets for low-level attacks on SAM sites. Even more effective 
were the radar-jamming pods later installed on the strike aircraft them- 
selves. The pods ended the need for low-level penetration. The Com- 
munist MIG force was a lesser threat; the air-to-air score during Rolling 
Thunder favored the Americans, 116 to 55 (most kills were by F-4 two- 
seaters firing radar-guided or heat-seeking missiles). In reply to the well- 
controlled Communist triad of guns, missiles, and fighters, the Americans 
developed an array of special-purpose support equipment: fighters for 
MIG cover, Wild Weasels, electronic countermeasure aircraft, radar 
picket ships and aircraft, tankers, and reconnaissance craft. Losses over 
North Vietnam were about 2 planes per 1,000 sorties; but the rate was 
much higher for missions near Hanoi, and the need to hold down losses 
became a consideration in scheduling targets.' 

Authorization to hit particular targets required White House ap- 
proval; proximity to civilian areas was often an overriding consideration. 
Rules of engagement were tight. (Pilots could attack a SAM site located 
near a dike, for example, only if the site was actually firing.) Nevertheless, 
visitors to North Vietnam reported considerable nonmilitary damage. 
Most such destruction reflected (1) the difficulty of bombing accurately 
while maneuvering under gun and missile fire and (2) the proximity of 
many SAM and gun sites to civilian structures. Bombing accuracy im- 
proved to an average circular error of about 400 feet when Air Force 
pilots (better practiced in techniques for lobbing nuclear weapons) im- 
proved their skills in the older dive-bombing methods and used improved 
bombsights. In 1967, the era of "smart bombs" opened as Walleye TV- 
guided bombs improved the effectiveness of naval aircraft.^ 

American airmen were scarcely happy with the drawn-out campaign. 
One spokesman was Colonel Jack Broughton, veteran of over a hundred 
F-105 missions over North Vietnam, who retired after a court-martial 
stemming from the strafing of a Russian vessel in Haiphong harbor. In 
his angry book. Thud Ridge, Broughton criticized the policies that pro- 
hibited attacks on enemy fighters on the ground, that allowed the Com- 
munists to build SAM launch sites without interference, and that forfeited 
tactical surprise by inflexibility in route and target assignments. Brough- 
ton voiced the feelings of many still on active service whose comrades 
languished in the Hanoi Hilton. Few airmen had patience for the theory 
that power worked best if the truly sensitive targets were left undamaged. 
Throughout the Rolling years, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and its Air Force 
member. Chief of Staff General John McConnell, consistently urged that 
force be applied faster and in greater intensity. Most postwar analysts 


seem to agree that gradualism "robbed air power of its effectiveness by 
violating the principles of concentration and surprise.'" 

Rolling Thunder admittedly achieved some gains. The bombing stiff- 
ened resolve in Saigon and in other Asian capitals; it inflicted pain and 
heavy labor costs on the enemy and limited his ability to fight a much 
larger war in the South; and it showed the World the willingness of the 
United States to act with restraint under provocation. Relief from the 
bombing in 1968 apparently induced Hanoi to start what proved to be 
meaningless negotiations in Paris. 

These gains, however, scarcely balanced the failure of Rolling Thun- 
der to achieve more important results. The four-part American strategy, 
of which Rolling Thunder was one part, wholly failed to persuade Hanoi 
to cease its actions in the South. The dose of strategic air pressure in 1967 
was too half-hearted or came too late to coerce a totally committed foe. 
Meanwhile, the effects of the air interdiction campaign were minimized 
by the enemy's countermeasures, his speed-up of supply and reinforce- 
ment during the bombing pauses, and his ability to control the tempo of 
fighting in the South. Measured by its unsatisfactory outcome and by the 
more than 900 American planes lost in North Vietnam, the controlled 
application of air power that was Rolling Thunder stands as a sad failure. 

Would earlier, faster, and greater escalation of the air war have 
succeeded in bending the will of Hanoi? Or, before reaching the necessary 
critical level of pain, would such escalation have triggered retaliation by 
the Soviet Union or Communist China? This was a risk American leaders 
were unwilling to take. 

The In-Country War, 1961-1972 

The war in South Vietnam began as a struggle for the loyalty and 
control of the population. The Communist-controlled National Liberation 
Front (NLF) spread its strength countrywide by propaganda and selective 
intimidation to the extent that the regime of President Diem ruled only 
the ground on which its forces stood. Saigon organized programs designed 
to win loyalty and assert governmental authority in the countryside. But 
nation-building required general security against the armed Viet Cong, 
ideally including forces for (1) local defense of hamlets, (2) supporting 
outposts under attack, and (3) finding and hitting the enemy in his remote 
base areas. The air weapon seemed especially suited for the second and 
third roles. 

Pressed by President John F. Kennedy, the American military serv- 
ices in 1961 addressed problems of low-grade conflict and counterinsur- 
gency. The Air Force's response, Project Jungle Jim, had the personal 
attention of Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay. When Kennedy 


dispatched to Vietnam a diverse force of American-manned helicopters 
and transports in late 1961, a detachment of propeller-driven strike planes 
from Jungle Jim deployed to Bien Hoa. The mission (under the cover 
of a training role) was to assist the South Vietnamese in their counter- 
insurgency and to develop tactics and equipment suitable for situations 

In the years of low-intensity conflict before 1965, the most effective 
expression of air power in Vietnam was the transport airplane, repre- 
sented by several squadrons of USAF C-123s and a variety of other Air 
Force, Army, Marine, and Vietnamese fixed-wing and helicopter trans- 
port units. President Diem understood the importance of linking his 
nation by air and had developed a network of airstrips capable of handling 
twin-engine transports. The air transports carried civilian passengers, 
government development teams, troops and their equipment, and cargo 
ranging from livestock to large munitions. The Allied Special Forces 
camps, for example, which were positioned to challenge the Communists 
in remote regions, depended almost entirely on air transport for resupply. 
The C-123s joined ancient C-47s as flareships to illuminate outposts 
under night attack. The success of the flareships led to further devel- 
opment of transports as side-firing gunships; the AC-47, the first in a 
series of successful gunships, reached Vietnam in 1964. Converted trans- 
ports also dispensed chemicals to clear vegetation alongside roads to 
reduce the danger of ambush. A crash during a leaflet mission in 1962 
temporarily ended C-47 psychological warfare (psyops) missions, but 
later in the war leaflets delivered from the air became the principal way 
Viet Cong defectors learned of the government's amnesty program. The 
C-47 and C-123 units carried out several traditional paratroop assaults, 
none of which brought tactical success. Meanwhile, U.S. Army crews 
demonstrated the feasibility and worked out the tactics of helicopter 
assault. '" 

Although aircrews at Bien Hoa, flying T-28s, B-26s, and A-ls, were 
often effective in supporting the defense of outposts, they had few clearcut 
successes in seeking out and hitting the enemy. The air and ground 
crewmen were resourceful and highly motivated, but accidents and 
ground fire caused depressing losses to their elderly low-performance 
planes. One constructive early development was the revival of the air- 
borne forward air controller (FAC). Discarded after the Korean War in 
the beUef that slow-flying observation planes could not survive over a 
modern battlefield, the FAC in Vietnam eventually was a key in applying 
our tactical air against the elusive foe. " 

Less praiseworthy was American staff work in Vietnam and the 
Pacific, marred by severe rivalry between the U. S. Air Force and Army 
over the latter's expanding aviation role. The interservice conflict at times 


overshadowed the war against the Viet Cong, since officers of both serv- 
ices knew that practices in Vietnam could become permanent doctrine 
and could affect future campaigns in other theaters. 

The poHtical instability in Saigon after the death of Diem in late 
1963 seriously weakened efforts against the Communists. It gradually 
became clear that the NLF, now strengthened by increasing support from 
the North, was capable of victory. With the landmark decision in early 
1965 to introduce American troop units into Vietnam came simultaneous 
decisions to expand supporting air forces. There were no challenges to 
the increases in air units, for the need for air support in proportion to 
deploying troop units was accepted as axiomatic. 

After 1965, air power was used in South Vietnam essentially as a 
complement to or a substitute for ground artillery. Although Army and 
Marine artillery eventually blanketed most of the country with guns up 
to 175mm, tactical air offered several advantages: it could deliver much 
heavier blows (with 500-pound bombs and napalm, for example) and 
could concentrate a full effort in whatever province or region was in 
immediate need. Air power and artillery became complementary, and 
arrangements for coordinating fire requests and for sharing airspace were 
worked out. Allied infantry tactics were often designed primarily to find 
and to hold enemy units for destruction by air and artillery firepower. '^ 

The sustained and regular use of heavy bombers against tactical 
targets had been unforeseen in prewar doctrine. The B-52s bombed in 
all the main battles in the South, in interdiction work in Laos, and in the 
secret strikes along the Cambodian border in 1969-1970. A single B-52 
could haul 30 tons of 500-pound and 750-pound bombs — five or more 
times the load of a tactical fighter-bomber. B-52 strikes were from high 
altitude, guided day or night by precision radar on the ground. Targets 
could be changed after the crews were already airborne. Although the 
Communists could have early warning by monitoring radio frequencies, 
their best countermeasure was dispersion. " 

Month after month, fighter-bombers, B-52s, gunships, and armed 
helicopters took their toll in what became a war of attrition. Allied troops 
in contact with the enemy could expect fast response to strike requests 
via the overhead FAC. Many hundreds of strikes attended the Army's 
major search-and-destroy operations and the 1967 battles at Dak To, 
Con Thien, Khe Sanh, and Loc Ninh. In the Khe Sanh campaign of 1968, 
in a situation resembling Dien Bien Phu fourteen years before, air power 
(in conjunction with air-supplied troops on the tactical defensive) won 
a clear victory. 

To minimize the effects of Allied air power, the Communists moved 
and fought primarily at night, used camouflage and dispersion, and 


learned how to dig in. They were patient in their preparations for local 
attacks and were skilled in breaking away from difficult situations. Allied 
intelligence, which used information from ground patrols, prisoner in- 
terrogations, and airborne reconnaissance, was seldom able to pinpoint 
enemy units. As a result, air strikes away from regions of immediate 
fighting were not often effective; probably a majority of B-52 strikes in 
remote areas hit nothing of significance. ''' 

The Americans were innovative. The turboprop C-130, for example, 
was used to drop 15,000-pound bombs to clear vegetation just before 
helicopter assaults. Helicopters proved valuable in numerous roles— in 
short-haul resupply, casualty evacuation, aircrew rescue, relocation of 
artillery, and patrol work. Helicopters gave the infantry mobility for local 
search-and-destroy operations where ground fire was light, but helicopter 
losses in the Laos incursion of 1971 underlined the vulnerability of low- 
and slow-flying craft over hostile terrain. Not all innovations worked; 
when the Allies seeded roadways with detergents in the rainy season to 
create impassable mud, the Communists bypassed the affected road seg- 
ments or surfaced them with logs. An elaborate, computerized airlift 
scheduling and control system, attractive on paper, proved a costly 
waste. " 

The Americans tried to limit hardships to the civilian population. 
Early in the war, Secretary McNamara directed the air commander in 
Saigon not to "take a chance on killing innocent people in order to kill 
a few Viet Cong." Although the rules of engagement varied from time 
to time, strikes generally had to be approved by Vietnamese authority. 
American pilots routinely refused to bomb in seemingly compelling cir- 
cumstances if the necessary clearance was unavailable. Infantry requests 
for preparatory strikes on villages targeted for ground operations were 
denied, with the stipulation that strikes would be approved if the troops 
were fired upon. Although the hamlets hit in reply to such fire often 
contained some innocent people, the use of firepower was far from in- 

How great were the counterproductive aspects of applying large 
quantities of firepower in an ally's own country? A significant minority 
of U. S. Army generals (29 percent of those polled) responded that, 
considering the nature of the war, air power and artillery had been over- 
used. Especially, unfortunate was the refugee situation, in part a concom- 
itant of our aggressive ground tactics and heavy use of firepower. Many 
of those living in refugee camps had been deliberately induced to leave 
their homes by Allied warnings, bombings, or crop destruction. The 
Allied concept had been to deny the Communists the support of the 
populace and to create free-fire zones, but the plight of the refugees 
benefitted the Communist propaganda effort and mocked the idea of 
nation-building in the depopulated areas. •* 


Even given the wasteful nature of much of the air effort and the 
counterproductiveness in bombing supposedly friendly territory, by 1967 
the tide of the war in South Vietnam clearly favored the Allies. The 
crescendo of offensive operations on the ground and the sustained pound- 
ing from th6 air created a bleak outlook for the Communists and con- 
tributed to their decision to launch the costly 1968 Tet offensive. 
Communist losses in Tet and the vigorous Allied pacification efforts 
thereafter led to a steady improvement in security throughout the South. 
Although American air and ground units were progressively withdrawn, 
well-armed local defense forces now protected the populated areas. By 
1972 the Communists seemed plainly to have lost in the countryside and 
were again ready to try a change of strategy. 

In their 1972 Spring offensive, the North Vietnamese battered across 
the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separating North and South Vietnam in 
an overt, direct invasion spearheaded by heavy artillery and armor. Other 
North Vietnamese forces simultaneously opened multi-divisional oper- 
ations in the Central Highlands and in the rubber-plantation region 
around An Loc, fifty miles north of Saigon. The attackers employed 
hundreds of tanks, 130mm artillery, and antiaircraft weapons in quantities 
unprecedented in the South, including portable heat-seeking SA-7 
SAMs. Forced to stay above 10,000 feet in the battle areas, the nonjet 
A-ls, gunships, FAC planes, and helicopters of the South Vietnamese 
Air Force (VNAF) had little effect. To support the South Vietnamese, 
the United States returned tactical air units to South Vietnam, reinforced 
those still in Thailand, and expanded the carrier strength of Task Force 
77 offshore. 

There were now few problems in finding targets. Pilots in the DMZ 
area were amazed to spot through the clouds convoys of 100 or more 
vehicles moving openly by daylight. The senior American advisor in the 
Highlands, John Paul Vann, called the air strikes of early April near Dak 
To "the most lucrative I've seen in the past six years." B-52s bombed 
from high altitude with effects at least as deadly as at Khe Sanh in 1968. 
Jet fighters pressed attacks through the enemy defenses. Some of the 
AC-130S now carried a 105mm gun, effective from the higher altitudes 
and capable of destroying tanks; Vietnamese troops fighting in the streets 
of An Loc and Kontum repeatedly radioed for help from the "big gun." 
To resupply isolated An Loc and Kontum in the Central Highlands, 
USAF C-130s used new techniques for high-altitude paradrops. Although 
VNAF helicopters were seldom able to get through, U.S. Army heli- 
copter gunships destroyed enemy tanks inside An Loc. " 

The 1972 campaign was the high point for air power in the in-country 
war. In all regions, air forces battered and broke the otherwise victorious 
North Vietnamese. A parlor war-gamer can easily show that the outcome 


without American air power was fast and complete victory for the North. 
The testimony of the U. S. Army advisors on the ground at An Loc 
makes it clear that air power saved that campaign. In the words of one 
senior artilleryman, the 1972 victories were "monuments to air power." '* 

Air Interdiction in Southern Laos 

Systematic air interdiction operations against Communist move- 
ments in the Laotian Panhandle began in 1965 and became an important 
complement to Rolling Thunder interdiction in North Vietnam. The same 
Air Force and Navy jets used in Rolling Thunder also flew against enemy 
trails in Laos, usually when weather was unsuitable for missions east of 
the mountains. Targets were often preplanned and included suspected 
storage sites or chokepoints, the destruction of which would back up 
traffic and provide lucrative targets. B-52s delivered saturation strikes 
against similar objectives. 

The air-ground battle picked up each evening when the Communist 
trucks began moving under the heavy forest. Air Force and Army FACs 
flew around the clock using sensors such as the starlight-scope light am- 
plifier to seek out targets and direct strikes. Where antiaircraft opposition 
was light, nonjet aircraft were especially effective because of their ma- 
neuverability and endurance. Converted transports worked as flareships 
in coordination with B-57s, Korean war-vintage A-26s, and other air- 
craft. A unit of C-123s carried sensors and dropped cluster bomblet 
munitions. Command-and-control C-130s orbited overhead carrying one 
or two Laotian officers to speed the process of getting strike approvals. 
Spray planes flew defoliation missions against known routes; helicopters 
inserted and withdrew ground patrols whose mission was to gather in- 
telligence and call in air strikes. " 

A special study group proposed a more sophisticated effort in 1966— 
an electronic anti-infiltration barrier across southern Laos, which would 
employ acoustic and seismic sensors capable of detecting enemy move- 
ments and transmitting them to relay aircraft overhead. By late 1967, 
sensors and various kinds of mines had been planted by air along enemy 
routes in Laos, and orbiting EC-121s were relaying data from the sensors 
to the computers of an Infiltration Surveillance Center in Thailand. The 
venture, known as Igloo White, applied advanced technology to one basic 
dilemma of earlier interdiction in Southeast Asia — the scarcity of worth- 
while fixed LOC targets and the difficulty of finding fleeting ones.^' 

The end of Rolling Thunder in 1968 permitted a larger air effort in 
Laos. The trails were always busiest in the winter months when the 
regions west of the mountains were dry; and during the winter interdiction 
campaign of 1968-1969 (Commando Hunt 1), the Americans employed 
the Igloo White system along with most of the resources used before. 


Also used were jet-augmented AC-119s (with 20mm side-firing Catlings) 
and the new AC-130 gunships (some with 40mm guns). The AC-130s 
carried a wide variety of sensors and laser equipment for marking targets; 
they were acknowledged the war's most effective truck-killers. Gunship, 
B-52, and fighter sorties averaged over 400 per day. But the Igloo White 
electronic system was only partially successful: although it gave useful 
information for planning each night's strike effort, it failed to provide 
the kind of instantaneous and dependable data needed for hitting specific 

The North Vietnamese employed about 50,000 men in operating, 
maintaining, and defending the trails system. They moved heavy con- 
struction equipment into Laos to improve the dirt roads and to build 
alternate routes. Each driver travelled back and forth his particular road 
segment, thus becoming familiar with every feature. Before dawn each 
morning, all trucks were unloaded and parked in dispersed sites. By 1970, 
the North Vietnamese had more than 2,500 trucks in Laos, with even 
larger numbers stockpiled in North Vietnam. Antiaircraft capabilities 
steadily increased, and the Americans were forced to withdraw some of 
the slow-moving aircraft and to raise operating altitudes for AC-130s 
and other aircraft. The Communists also built a POL pipeline, used 
waterways where available, and made covert transport flights to strips 
in Laos and Cambodia. Their strong reaction to the South Vietnamese 
1971 incursion (Lam Son 719) confirmed the importance to them of the 
Laotian lines of communication." 

Although American fighter sorties gradually decreased as units left 
Southeast Asia, increases in B-52 and gunship activity and steady im- 
provements in technique kept up the pressure on the trails. During Com- 
mando Hunt 3 (winter 1969-1970), the Americans judged that about one- 
third of the 54,000 tons that entered Laos reached South Vietnam; the 
other two-thirds were destroyed, consumed, or stockpiled in Laos. In 
Commando Hunt 5— a crucial campaign because of the closure of the 
Communist sea route to Cambodia, which had supported enemy forces 
in southern Vietnam— the Americans estimated that only one-ninth of 
some 61,000 input tons actually reached South Vietnam. The number of 
attack sorties sharply declined in Commando Hunt 7 (winter 1971-1972), 
and calculations were that the North Vietnamese were getting one-sixth 
of their supplies through. The Americans further estimated that they had 
damaged or destroyed about 10,000 enemy trucks in Commando Hunt 
3; 20,000 in Commando Hunt 5; and 10,000 in Commando Hunt 7." 

Flaws in the official picture became evident later. American intel- 
ligence officers came to realize, for example, that the Communists sal- 
vaged and rebuilt many supposedly burned-out trucks. Seismic indications 
originally interpreted as evidence of bulldozers were actually caused by 


tanks moving down the trails. Meanwhile, the nebulous basis of some 
raw data tended to be overlooked in numerical reports to higher au- 
thority. Finally, if the official data were even roughly correct, how could 
the enemy have succeeded in building up for his 1972 push?^" 

One analyst. Colonel Herman Gilster, noted that intelligence officers 
accepted the possibility of error in their data by a factor of two Glister's 
own conclusions, however, indicated that the data was not that inaccurate 
He determined that the enemy's consumption of equipment, ammunition' 
and weapons in South Vietnam and Cambodia prior to 1972 was onlv 
about thirty-five tons per day (excluding food, which was mostly obtained 
ocally). The official estimates thus appear at least sufficient to allow for 
the enemy's buildup for 1972. " 

If the interdiction was less complete than was believed at the time 
It nevertheless achieved much. It imposed heavy costs upon the North 
Vietnamese, made difficult their buildup in the South and limited its 

xJ^"1na^" f "^'^ *™^ *° P'^P^'^ ^^^ ^""^•i Vietnamese for self-defense 
The 1972 offensive had only a few weeks' stamina and wholly lacked a 
capacity for reinforcing success. The Commando Hunt campaigns were 
conducted while harming relatively few civilians, without risk of great 
power retaliation, with relatively little outcry from the world community 
and with far fewer losses in men and planes than during Rolling Thunder' 
Ihe elaborate and imaginative Laos Interdiction after 1968 deserves to 
be regarded as a relatively inefficient but worthwhile complement to U S 
extrication strategy in that period. 

The Linebacker Campaigns 

Aware of an enemy buildup in the southern parts of North Vietnam 
the Americans intensified "protective reaction" air strikes in that region 
during winter 1971-1972. On 6 April 1972, in response to the Spring 
Offensive, fighter-bombers began daily strikes against Norih Vietnam 
mostly against the southern panhandle. B-52s made four raids north 
during April, among them a major strike against rail and POL tragets 
in Haiphong Although thirty-five SAMs were fired that night, the B- 
52s were undamaged, and the ability of the heavy bombers to penetrate 
to well-defended targets seemed proven. ^* 

A North Vietnamese remark in Paris, that "wars aren't fought to 
have a ceasefire but a victory," foreclosed any hopes for an immediate 
settlement. On 8 May, President Richard Nixon announced his decision 
to mine major North Vietnamese poris and to expand the bombing of- 
fensive henceforth known as "Linebacker." Administration spokesmen 
pointed out that measures against the civilian population were being ruled 
out although a few days eariier the President had termed the dikes of 
North Vietnam "a strategic target and indirectly a military target " In 


a memo to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nixon chafed at the 
"timidity" of the Pentagon's planners in calling for a bombing effort little 
beyond that of 1967." 

Greatly enhancing the effectiveness of Linebacker strikes were 
guided bombs — 2,000-pound and 3,000-pound conventional weapons fit- 
ted with television- or laser-guidance systems. (The television system 
homed on a point designated by the aircrew just before release; the laser 
system required continuous laser illumination of the target by a designator 
aircrew during the time of fall.) Both systems required visual conditions, 
but both gave outstanding precision, thereby cutting down on the number 
of sorties needed to destroy a particular target. Using guided bombs, the 
8th Tactical Fighter Wing, based in Thailand, dropped more than 100 
bridges during the spring. The Paul Doumer rail and highway bridge at 
Hanoi fell on 11 May; the Thanh Hoa rail bridge, which had been hit 
repeatedly during Rolling Thunder but never downed, fell two days later. 
Guided bombs dropped and re-dropped dozens of bridges on the rail 
lines from China and made it possible to attack electric generators and 
other valuable targets prohibited earlier because of nearness to dikes or 
heavily populated sites. ^* 

During the summer, the Americans made known their willingness 
to accept a ceasefire without prior removal of North Vietnamese troops 
from the South. Hanoi, in late September, dropped their insistence on 
removing President Thieu; at that point Kissinger believed "we've got 
a deal." Linebacker strikes continued, however: Nixon was unwilling to 
remove the pressure without definite diplomatic results. But final agree- 
ment faltered in October, essentially because Thieu will unwilling to 
allow North Vietnamese forces to remain in the South. The Americans 
began Project Enhance Plus, a crash effort to bolster Saigon with war 
materiel and to bring Thieu to accept the in-place ceasefire. When in 
December Hanoi harshened its October position, Nixon ordered around- 
the-clock bombing of the Hanoi-Haiphong area. During this operation, 
called Linebacker U, tactical fighters hit by day, often with guided bombs; 
the B-52s struck at night. Simultaneously, Nixon informed Thieu that 
the Americans would make a separate peace if Saigon remained intran- 
sigent. '' 

The ten nights of B-52 strikes against Hanoi and Haiphong repre- 
sented for air power the climactic moment of the war. Crews approached 
their targets generally from the northwest at about 30,000 feet; aiming 
was by the self-contained radar bombing systems. The giant bombers 
attacked each night in three waves several hours apart. Targets for the 
740 B-52 sorties included rail yards, dock areas, power plants, munitions 
stores, and POL storage areas. Other units gave support: EB-66s trans- 
mitted ECM, F-4s dispensed chaff (to confuse enemy radar operators), 


and escort fighters guarded against MIGs; at lower altitudes, Wild Wea- 
sels hit SAM sites and fast-moving solo F-llls attacked airfields and 
SAM sites. The SAMS nevertheless brought down eleven B-52s during 
the first four nights. A change to less rigid tactics (according to Nixon, 
prompted by the President's own intervention in the matter) helped to 
hold down losses thereafter. Also, the enemy apparently ran short of 
missiles; he fired 200 SAMs the first night and 180 the second, but an 
average of only about 20 nightly after the fifth night. On the final two 
nights, 28 and 29 December, no B-52s were damaged. The enemy's 
defense had apparently been broken. 

With Congress scheduled to reconvene in five days and with Hanoi 
apparently now ready for agreement, Nixon called off the campaign. 
Despite widespread damage on the ground, civilian casualties had been 
light. Hanoi reported about 1,500 dead, roughly the number killed in a 
single night at Coventry in 1940. The low figure reflected the partial 
evacuation of Hanoi as well as the conduct of the B-52 crews, who 
achieved precision often while they were under heavy SAM attack.'" 

Why was such strong medicine needed to coerce Hanoi to terms only 
a little different from those apparently acceptable the previous October? 

Several factors acted to stiffen Hanoi after October: the Enhance 
Plus buildup, the knowledge that Congress would soon end the war by 
mandate, and the end of the illusion that Nixon needed a negotiated 
settlement to assure reelection. The decision in Hanoi to swallow En- 
hance Plus and new references to the DMZ in the ceasefire text was 
probably narrow. The Linebacker II heavy bombing produced this de- 
cision, brought the prisoners of war home, gave the Americans an illusion 
of success, and lent credibility to future American warnings against break- 
ing the ceasefire. '' 

The British analyst Sir Robert Thompson believes that the United 
States "had the war won" — that continuation of Linebacker II would 
have soon forced Hanoi to bring its army home. Unsubstantiated hints 
by Communist diplomats give some support to his argument.'^ But 
Nixon's lack of congressional support ruled out this option. The Paris 
ceasefire correctly reflected the wishes of the American people; and it 
only thinly disguised the reality that Hanoi's determination ultimately to 
prevail was unchanged. 

The Final Debacle— What Happened to Air Power? 

The ceasefire of 1973 left the North Vietnamese free to rebuild their 
forces in the South without interference from the air. In the process, the 
Communists moved large numbers of SAMs and antiaircraft guns into 
their areas of South Vietnam. The hazards to Allied aircraft thus far 


exceeded anything known earlier in the South. Meanwhile, all U. S. air 
units left South Vietnam, and most departed from Thailand." 

The South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) remained the world's 
fourth largest air force. VNAF pilots were competent, and maintenance 
benefitted from substantial contract assistance. The VNAF was, however, 
far inferior to the American air forces that had once operated in Southeast 
Asia; VNAF had nothing comparable to the B-52, no advanced interd- 
iction capability, and no high-performance fighter capable of a sizeable 
bomb load. The loss of several dozen ships to Communist missiles in 
1973 and 1974 made clear to VNAF pilots their vulnerability in SAM 
areas. Forward air controllers were simply unable to fly in most regions 
where troops were in contact with the enemy. A-ls and A-37s bombed 
only from above 10,000 feet to avoid the SA-7 missiles. The fixed-wing 
gunships and helicopters were almost worthless. To make matters worse, 
control of the strike aircraft was divided among the four regional corps 
commanders, making fast reaction difficult in case of a crisis in one 
region. Reductions in American funds to South Vietnam in late 1974 
were a heavy psychological blow and forced cuts in the number of active 
squadrons and in flying time.''* 

The North Vietnamese assault on Ban Me Thuot in March 1975 
happened too quickly for the VNAF to have much effect (although one 
unlucky VNAF strike knocked out the defenders' main communications). 
In the ensuing hasty withdrawal from the Highlands, the VNAF failed 
even to destroy its own materiel being abandoned at Pleiku. Chaos was 
even worse in the closing days at the DaNang air base, amid shellings, 
uncontrolled troops, and crowds of frightened refugees. The VNAF itself 
became infected with the "family syndrome," whereby officers and men 
put safety of family ahead of performance of duty. In several battles 
further south, the VNAF won praise for air strikes against battlefield 
targets, and pilots pitched in to load their own bombs. But the weight 
of effort was far too thin. Interdiction strikes against the North Vietnam- 
ese columns driving south were either nonexistent or were defeated by 
Communist weapons, which now included SA-2 missiles accompanying 
the truck convoys. '' 

A serious VNAF weakness lay in tactical airlift. In past Allied cam- 
paigns in the Highlands, for example, streams of American C-130s had 
hauled brigades and large quantities of supplies into the region; but in 
1975 the VNAF had only about ten operable C-130s. Unable adequately 
to reinforce and resupply the Highlands, President Thieu had no good 
alternative to his apparently crucial decision to withdraw. Some of the 
VNAF C-130s served as bombers in the final days, substituting for the 
absent B-52s; the converted transports dropped 15,000-pound bombs, 
strings of 500-pounders, and, in one instance, a special weapon that killed 
over 200 enemy troops by exploding an incendiary cloud." 


Convinced that the United States would not intervene, the North 
Vietnamese moved their units openly and rapidly across the South Suc- 
cess was reinforced from the homeland; indeed, the small North Viet- 
namese air transport force made landings at captured southern fields with 
maps and other supplies. Just before the end, North Vietnamese pilots 
flying captured A-37s bombed Tan Son Nhut airfield. President Gerald 
Ford, meanwhile, tried to secure funds from Congress for extra last- 
minute aid for Saigon, and U. S. transports continued landing with ma- 
teriel almost to the final hours. To Thieu's direct request for the return 
of American air power, however. Ford's personal emissary gave the sad 
reply that such measures were out of the question. Having neutralized 
American air power politically, the North Vietnamese were free to neu- 
tralize the VNAF with weapons and the velocity of their offensive Only 
massive U. S. air intervention, at least on the scale of 1972, could have 
once again saved South Vietnam.'^ 


The conflict in Southeast Asia included many other aspects of air 
power deserving further study. The operations in northern Laos for 
example, exemplified the United States' hope of supporting an Asian 
ally with materiel and air power but no American troop units. Air power 
took the place of artillery in most of Laos and supplied sizable friendly 
forces in rugged terrain, often well inside Communist-controlled territory 
Other important studies will be those on Vietnamization, the air war in 
Cambodia, and the airlift bridge across the Pacific. 

During the war years, historians of Project CHECO (Contemporary 
Historical Evaluation of Current Operations) and the Air Force's com- 
mand history program produced contemporary accounts of operations 
Late in the war, the Air Force undertook a serious internal examination 
of Its Southeast Asia experience: Project Corona Harvest analyzed the 
technical and managerial conduct of the war. For a broader understanding 
of where air power succeeded and where it failed, we await the results 
of the work of my former colleagues at the Office of Air Force History 
I salute the current work of Jacob Van Staaveren on Rolling Thunder 
of Bernard Nalty on the Commando Hunts, John Schlight on the in- 
country war, Dick Sexton and Vic Anthony on Laos, and the projects 
past and present of Elizabeth Hartsook, Earl Tilford, William Buck- 
ingham, Ralph Rowley, Jack Ballard, Roger Fox, and Riley Sunderland 
All of us owe a special debt to the early work of Frank Futrell. 

As the final American helicopter departed from Saigon, our humil- 
iation and loss of honor seemed complete. Yet the nation has accepted 
defeat easily-to have been President when Southeast Asia fell became 
tor Gerald Ford an asset, not a liability. Professional airmen can at least 


take satisfaction that in no previous conflict were their loyahy, resource- 
fulness, and flying skills greater. The sacrifices and conduct of the airmen 
prisoners-of-war reminded our people of their past moral strengths. That 
the air weapon was successfully employed in countless battles and cam- 
paigns is beyond question. Whether or not air power could have ended 
the war on satisfactory terms was not tested. 

Let us hope that we as a nation will come to know ourselves better 
from the whole Vietnam experience; for in the last analysis, it was our 
ignorance of ourselves that was at the root of the tragedy. 



1. Robert F. Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: A History of Basic Thinking in the 
United States Air Force, 1907-1964, Aerospace Studies Institute, Air University 1971 dd 
645-646, 676-677. ' ^^' 

2. Lt Col William E. Simons, "Coercion in Vietnam," Rand RM-6016-PR, May 1969- 
Pentagon Papers. GPO Edition, Vol. IV, iv.c.3, pp. 99-102; Pentagon Papers' J^tw York 
Times Edition, Bantam Books, 1971, p. 407. 

3. Memo, W. W. Rostow to Sec State, Dep Sec Def el al., 6 May 1967. 

4. Donald S. Zagoria, Vietnam Triangle: Moscow, Peking, Hanoi, Pegasus, New York, 
1967, see especially p. 29; Eric Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, Dell, New 
York, 1968, p. 477; Marvin Kalb and Elie Abel, Roots of Involvement: The U.S in Asia 
1784-1971, W.W. Norton, New York, 1971, p.l98; Henry F. Graff, The Tuesday Cabinet 
Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1970, pp. 70-71; Pentagon Papers, GPO Edition, 
Vol IV; Pentagon Papers, New York Times Edition, pp. 330-331. 

5. Harrison E. Salisbury, Behind the Lines— Hanoi, Bantam Books, New York, 1967, 
p. 61, 183, 188; Oleg Hoeffding, "Bombing North Vietnam: An Appraisal of Economic 
and Political Effects," Rand RM-5213-ISA, Dec 1966; Brig Gen J. M. Philpott, DCS/ 
Intellig, Hq 7th AF, "An Assessment of the Impact of Air Power on Enemy Strategy " in 
EOT Report, 30 June 1966-6 December 1967; Pentagon Papers, GPO Edition Vol IV 
iv.3.3, pp. 136-140, Vol VI, iv.c.7(a), pp. 9-12. 

6. Hist, 355th Tact Ftr Wg, Jan-Jun 1966, July-Dec 1966; R. F. Futrell et al Aces and 
Aerial Victories, Air Univ. and Off/AF History, 1976, pp. 3-12; Rprt, Col Robin Olds Cdr 
8th Tact Ftr Wg, EOT Rprt, 15 August 1967; Major Norman Wells, "Air Superiority Comes 
First," in Air University Review, Nov-Dec 1972; Maj Paul Burbage etat.. The Battle for the 
Skies over North Vietnam, 1964-1972, in USAF Southeast Asia Monograph Series Vol I 
Maj A.J.C. Lavelle, ed., GPO. 1976, pp. 112-146; Gen William W. Momyer, ret "Ob- 
servations of the Vietnam War, July 1966-July 1968, for Proj Corona Harvest, pp. 2; Gen 
William W. Momyer, "The Evolution of Fighter Tactics in Southeast Asia," in Air Force 
Magazine, July 1973, pp. 58-62; Dr. Larry Addington, "Duel over Vietnam: Antiaircraft 
Artillery Versus the Fighter-Bomber," in Army, Dec 1973, pp. 18-19; General William W 
Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 89-99, 1 11-159; Raphael Littauer and 
Norman Uphoff, eds.. The Air War in Indochina, Beacon Press, Boston, 1972, pp. 21-22. 

7. General William W. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 16-17 133- 
135; Raphael Littauer and Norman Uphoff, eds.. The Air War in Indochina, Beacon Press 
Boston, 1972, pp. 24-26, 37; Vice Adm. W. Cagle, "Task Force 77 in Action off Vietnam '' 
m Naval Review, 1969, pp. 66-108; Maj John P. O'Gorman, "Battles are Bloody Maneuvers: 
a View from the Cockpit," in Air University Review, Sept-Oct 1967, pp. 21-28; Lt Col 
Bernard Appel, "Bombing Accuracy in a Combat Environment," in Air University Review 
Jul-Aug 1975, pp. 39-52. 

8. Col Jack Broughton, ret.. Thud Ridge, J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia and iNew YorK 
1969; Col William Holt, Cdr 355th Tact Ftr Wg, EOT Rprt, August 1966; Air Force 
Magazine, April 1966, pp. 42-54, September 1971, pp. 82-83; Adm T. H. Moorer CJCS 
speech at Las Vegas, Nev., 8 Sept 1971; Maj Gen Dale O. Smith, ret., "Flexible Response 
vs. Determined Retaliation," in Air University Review, Jan-Feb 1965 pp 69-71- Gen W 
W. Momyer, "Observations of the Vietnam War, July 1966-July 1968," for Proj Corona 
Harvest, Pentagon Papers, GPO Edition, Vol. IV. see especially iv.c.3, pp. 90-93- Gen 
Curtis LeMay, speeches of March 26, 1967 and October 3, 1968, in Clyde E Petitt' The 
Experts, Secaucus, N.J., 1975; quotation from W. Scott Thompson and D. D. Frizzell', The 
Lessons of Vietnam. Crane, Russell, 1977, p. 152; General William W. Momyer, Air Power 
in Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 338-339. 

9. R. F. Futrell, "Air Operations in South Vietnam, 1962-1964," in The United States 
Air Force in Southeast Asia. 1961-1973. Carl Berger, ed.. Off. AF Hist, 1977, pp 15-35- 
Col Robert L. Gleason, "Quo Vadis— The Nixon Doctrine and Air Power," in Air University 
Review; Maj Victor B. Anthony, USAF in SE Asia: Tactics and Techniques of Night Op- 
erations, Off/AF Hist, March 1973. * '^ 
,J2- w°' f-^^ ^ Bowers, USAF in SEAsia: Tactical Airlift. Off/AF Hist, in final review 
1978; Maj Victor B. Anthony, USAF in SEAsia: Tactics and Techniques of Night Operations 
Off/AF Hist, March 1973; Lt Col Ross E. Hamlin, "Side-Firing Weapon Systems " in/l/r 
University Review. Jan-Feb 1970, pp. 77-88; Lt Col Jack S. Ballard, USAF in 'sEAsia- 
Development and Employment of Fixed-Wing Gunships. Off/AF Hist, Jan 1974; Kenneth 


Sams, First Test and Combat Use of the AC-47, Proj CHECO, PACAF, 30 Sept 1966; Col 
Robert L. Gleason, "Psychological Operations and Air Power: Its Hits and Misses," in Air 
University Review, March- April 1971 , pp. 34-46; Lt Gen John J. Tolson, Airmobility, 1%1- 
1971, D/Army Vietnam Series, pp. 25-40, 1973. 

11. Maj Ralph A. Rowley, USAF in SEAsia: FAC Operations, 1961-1965, Off/ AF Hist, 
Jan 1972; Maj John P. O'Gorman, "Battles are Bloody Maneuvers: A View from the 
Cockpit," in Air University Review, Sept-Oct 1967, pp. 22-24; R. F. Futrell, "Air Operations 
in South Vietnam, 1962-1964," in USAF in SEAsia, 1961-1973, Carl Berger, ed., Off/AF 
Hist, 1977, pp. 15-35; Lawrence J. Hickey, "Night Close Air Support in RVN, 1961-1966," 
Proj CHECO, PACAF, 15 March 1967. 

12. Maj Gen David E. Ott, Field Artillery, 1954-1973, D/Army Vietnam Studies, 1975, 
pp. 42-179; Gen William B. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 265-280; 
Col John R. Stoner, "The Closer the Better," in Air University Review, Sept-Oct 1967, pp. 
29-41; Raphael Littauer and Norman Uphoff, eds.. The Air War in Indochina, Beacon 
Press, Boston, 1972, pp. 4, 12-13, 80. 

13. Robert R. Kritt, "B-52 Arc Light Operations," in USAF in SEAsia. 1961-1973. Carl 
Berger, ed., Off/AF Hist, 1977, pp. 149-160; Robert M. Kipp, "Counterinsurgency from 
30,000 Feet," in Air University Review, Jan-Feb 1968, pp. 10-18; Gen William W, West- 
moreland, A Soldier Reports, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1976, p. 157, 204, 283. For 
a contrary view from Hanoi, see Lt Gen Nguyen Van Vinh, "The Vietnamese People on 
the Road to Victory," published in Hop Tac (Hanoi) printed in doc. 7 of Donald S. Zagoria, 
Vietnam Triangle: Moscow, Peking, Hanoi, Pegasus, New York, 1967, p. 257. 

14. C. William Thorndale, "Battle for Dak To," CHECO, PACAF, 21 June 1968; Bernard 
Nalty, Air Power and the Fight for Khe Sanh, Off/AF Hist 1973. pp. 68-88; Maj Gen Robert 
N. Ginsburgh, "Strategy and Air Power: The Lessons of Southeast Asia," in Strategic 
Review, summer 1973; Dr. Harold Brown, "Air Power in Limited War," in Air University 
Review, May-June 1969, pp. 4-5; Gen William W. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports, 
Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1976, pp. 203-204, 336-347; Moyers S. Shore II, The Battle 
for Khe Sanh, Hist Br, USMC, 1969. 

15. Col Ray L. Bowers, USAF in SEAsia: Tactical Airlift. Off/AF Hist, in final review, 
1978; Jac Weller, "Helicopters — The American Experience," in Army Quarterly, July 1973; 
Lt Gen John J. Tolson, Airmobility, 1961-1971, D/Army Vietnam Series. 1973; General 
William W. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 321-326. 

16. Raphael Littauer and Norman Uphoff, eds. The Air War in Indochina Beacon Press, 
Boston, 1972, pp. 5, 57-64; Douglas Kinnard, The War Managers, University Press of New 
England, Hanover, N.H., 1977, pp. 47-52; Raphael Littauer et al.. The Air War in Indo- 
china: Preliminary Report, Cornell Univ. Center for Intl. Studies. Oct 1971, pp 4-10 to 4- 
21; Guenter Lewy, "Vietnam: New Light on the Question of War Guilt," in Commentary, 
Feb 1978, pp. 30-33; L. E. Paterson, Evolution of the Rules of Engagement for Southeast 
Asia, 1960-1965, CHECO, PACAF, 30 Sept 1966. pp. 9-72; Major Richard E. Porter. 
"Making Sense of Vietnam," in Air University Review. Nov-Dec 1976, p. 95; Frances 
Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Americans and the Vietnamese in Vietnam. Little, Brown, 
Boston, 1972, pp. 166-167, 455-456; Edward Lansdale, "The Opposite Number." in Air 
University Review. July-Aug 1972, pp. 22-33; Lt Col Roy K. Flint, "Campaigning with the 
Infantry in Vietnam," in Air Force Magazine. August 1970. pp. 47-51; Gen W. W. West- 
moreland, A Soldier Reports. Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1976, pp. 285-288, 330; 
Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, Random House, Vintage Books edition, 1978, p. 74; Jonathan 
Schell, The Village of Ben Sue, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967, pp. 11-17. 

17. J. A. Doglione et al., Airpower and the 1972 Spring Invasion. USAF Southeast Asia 
Monograph Series, Monograph 3, A.J.C. Lavalle, D. D. Frizzell. and R. Bowers, eds.. in 
full; Gen William W. Momyer, ret., The Vietnamese Air Force, 1951-1975, An Analysis of 
its Rote in Combat, USAF Southeast Asia Monograph Series, Monograph 4, Lt Col Charles 
McDonald and A.J.C. Lavalle, eds., GPO, 1975, pp. 45-52. Maj Jerome R. Daley, "The 
AHIG versus Enemy Tanks at An Loc," in Armor, July-Aug 1972, pp. 42-43; Edgar 
Ulsamer, "Air Power Halts an Invasion," in Air Force Magazine. Sept 1972. pp. 60-72; 
Edgar Ulsamer, "The SA-7 — a Nasty Technological Surprise," in Air Force Magazine, Oct 
1972, p. 37. 

13. Maj John D. Howard, "They were Good Ol' Boys: An Infantryman Remembers An 
Loc and the Air Force," in Air University Review. Jan-Feb 1975, pp. 26-39; Maj Gen David 
E. Ott, Field Artillery, 1954-1973, D/Army Vietnam Studies, 1975, pp. 222-224; Adm T. 
H. Moorer, CJCS, at Las Vegas, 8 Sept 1973, in "Supplement to AF Policy Ltr forCdrs." 


?ork!7974^pp'^?S-n?°"''"°"' ^"''' " """^ "' "''"'^' ^''"''^ ^''^^y C°-. Inc.. New 

^FlwiTo^/foT^ ^^Tl"' "•"'"5"'^'!°" *" 'he Laotian Panhandle," in The USAF in 
SEAsia. 1961-1973, Carl Berger, ed., Off/AF Hist, 197 pp. 101-109- Cam Michael J C 

uf '«r^?/°''~'^'"^ °^ "'^ '^™''" '" "^'^ ^'"'^^ Magazine, October 'l971, pp. 30-32- Gen 
Wm. W. Momyer, ret., Air Power in Three Wars. GPO, 1978 pp 192-207- Ranhael 

\Tz^.:!6^t^i:^7 '"'-''""■■ "^"—y --"■ c° "■■ ".v'^ceS?:; 

^"h ^f^'l^- ^^^arnara. Sec Def, Draft Memo for Pres Johnson, "Action Recom- 

^n"fit«. 1,1"/"^^ ■ u °''°''" '^^^' '" ^'^"'''8°" P^P<="- GPO Vol V, sect, iv c 6^ 
pp 65-85,114; John Frisbee, "Igloo White," in Air Force Magazine, June 1971, pp 4&-53-' 
Col Jesse C. Gatlin, Igloo While {Initial Phase), CHECO, PACAF 31 July 1968 

21. Remarks of Gen George Keegan, in W, Scott Thompson and D.D. Frizzell The 
Lessons of Vietnam Came, Russell, 1977, pp. 137-142; Col Herman L. Glister '"The 
Commando Hunt V Interdiction Campaign," in Air University Review, Jan-Feb 1978- Jacob 
,07, r,T"' ! J^li"" '" ""^ ^''°''''" Panhandle," in The USAF in SEAsia, 1961- 
973 Carl Berger ed., Off/AF Hist, 1977, pp. 109-1 18; Gen Wm Momyer, ret. , Ai Power 
tn Three Wars, GPO, 1978, pp. 21 1-215. George Weiss, "AC-130 Gunships Destroy Truck 

,W r&a.^ Gto'Xp 211 21?''' ''''' °^""^' ^""^"^ ^- ^°-'"- '''"^-- 
Fv^l',=,Hnn ""' "/-"^r- ^- °'^T' "^" •"•«^'^i'^"°" i" Protracted War: An Economic 

f/vJ/r 9irr-^';^'"T.:'^,^/';^^' ^'y-'""'= '^^^' PP- 7-"- Col Ray L. Bowers, The 
VSAFin SEAsia: Tactical Airlift, Off/AF History, in final review 1978 

23. Data from 7th AF Commando Hunt reports, presented in Col Herman L Glister 

MayJuTSrpM Ws'"''' "^"^ ^" ''""°"'" Evaluation," Air University Review. 

SP^l;-i"H^'"' from personal discussions with former intelligence officers who served in 
SEAsia during the Commando Hunt years. 

.Hon •^°' ^^T" ^- -^''o "' "^''' '"'erdiction in Protracted War: An Economic Evalu- 
ation, in Air University Review, May-June 1977, pp. 13-18. 

26. Robert R Kritt "B-52 Arc Light Operations," in The USAF in SEAsia, 1961-1973 
Car Berger, ed., Off/AF Hist, 1977, pp. 165-166; Marvin and Bernard Kalb, K/ 4"/ 
Little-Brown, Boston and Toronto, 1974, pp. 287-292 

70^^n^^D-'"i,'*"^K^-^'"'"''L'^^"'' '^''''"Ser. Little-Brown, Boston and Toronto, 1974, pp 
V u ,,;.^' '*„^"'°"' '^^- '^'" ^^'"^'" off^lchard Nixon, Grosset and Dunlap New 
York, 1978, pp. 60^607; William Safire, Before the Fall, Tower, New York, 1975 pp'. 417- 

Jl ?,'lpf "J'^amer, "The Flyable Smart Bomb-Adding Another Dimension to Air- 
power, ,n Air Force Magazine. Aug 1972, pp. 3(^32; Edgar Ulsamer, "Airpower Halts 
an Invasion," in ^,r Force /Wflg«zm., Sept 1972, pp. 67-68; Col Delbert Corum etal. The 
l^A^^^°^, r'.^^^I ^^^''' Monograph Series, Monograph 1, Col D. Waddell 
and Maj N. Wood, eds. 1976 pp. 7^-92; L. Edgar Prima, "Smart Bombs and Menacing 

M K.; ro ^" r'^'v "r IV,}' ^" '^°''"' Thompson, Peace is Not at Hand, David 
McKay Co, Inc., New York, 1974, pp. 113-115. 

29.Tad Szulc The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon Years, Viking Press 

^nTn °'^ ^^M^' PPv ^^^?' ^^^^'"^ N'"""' ''^•- T^^' ^^'"«'" of Richard Nixon. Grol^l 
and Dunlap, New York, 1978, pp. 697-737; Marvin and Bernard Kalb, KissingJr, Little- 
Brown, Boston and Toronto, 1973, pp. 34^357; Frank Snepp, Decen Interval Random 
House, Vintage Books edition, 1978, pp. 24-29 'mervai, Kanaom 

30. Maj Paul Burbage, et al. , The Battle for the Skies over North Vietnam. Lt. Col Gordon 

mrnn"l7S ?L w^c""' "^u- ^^^^ ^^^^'^ Monograph Series, Monograph 2, GPO, 
1976, pp. 75-188; W. Scott Thompson and D.D. Frizzell, The Lessons of Vietnam. Crane 
Russen, New York, 1977, pp. 155-195; Wayne Thomas, "Whispering Death: The F-lTl' 
in SEAsia, in Air Force Magazine, June 1973, pp. 22-27; Robert R. Kritt "B-52 Arc 
Light Operations," in The USAF in SEAsia 1961-1973, Carl Berger, ed., Off/AF Hist 1977 
pp. 16^167; Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, Grosset and Dunlap; 

R.nre f M !.''^- ?'' ^i""?' T!'°'"^^ ^- ^^^^'"="- "^•'^' "^PP^"^'l '" 'he Air Defense 
Battle of North Vietnam, Air Defense Magazine, Apr-Jun 1976; Sir Robert Thompson 

PeacemA'oraf //and, David McKay Co., Inc., New York 1974 pp 134-136 ' 

31. Tad Szulc, The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon Years. Viking Press 
New York, 1978, pp. 642-658; Marvin and Bernard Kalb, Kissinger. Little-Brown, Boston 


and Toronto, 1973, pp. 349-408; Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, 
Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1978, pp. 697-741; Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, Random 
House, Vintage Books edition, 1978, pp. xi, 55, 93-94, 135. 

32. Remarks of Sir Robert Thompson, in W. Scott Thompson and D.D. Frizzell, The 
Lessons of Vietnam, Crane, Russell, New York, 1977, pp. 104, 144; Sir Robert Thomijson 
"Military Victory— Political Defeat— The Failure of U.S. Strategy in Vietnam," in Inter- 
national Defense Review, June 1974; Alan Dawson, 55 Days: The Fait of South Vietnam 
Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1977, p. 123. 

33. John L. Frisbee, "The Communist Buildup in Vietnam," in Air Force Magazine, 
April 1974, pp. 32-35; Gen Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, John Spragens, tr.. 
Monthly Review Press, New York and London, pp. 13-15, 38-41. 

34. William W. Momyer, The Vietnamese Air Force, 1951-1975: An Analyses of its Role 
in Combat, USAF SEAsia Monograph Series, Monograph 4, 1975, pp. 53-72; Lt Cols T. 
G. Tobin, A.E. Laehr, and J. F. Hilgenberg, Last Flight from Saigon, USAF SEAsia 
Monograph Series, Monograph 6, Lt Col D. R. Mets, ed., 1978, pp. 1-7. 

35. R. L. Bowers, "The Final Collapse," in The War in Vietnam, Salamander, London, 
in press, 1978; Alan Dawson, 55Days: The Fall of South Vietnam, Prentice-Hall, Englewood 
Cliffs, N.J., pp. 49-54; Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, Random House, Vintage Books 
edition, pp. 136, 181-182, 206, 210, 272-273, 335; William W. Momyer, The Vietnamese 
Air Force, 1951-1975:An Analysis of Its Role in Combat, USAF SEAsia Monograph Series, 
Monograph 4, 1975, pp. 73-80; Gen VanTien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, John Spra- 
gens, tr., Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1977, pp. 139-142. 

36. Col Ray L. Bowers, The USAF in SEAsia: Tactical Airlift, Off/AF Hist in final review, 
1978; Alan Dawson, 55 Days: The Fall of South Vietnam Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs 
N.J., 1977, pp. 47, 114-115, 300-304; Frank Snepp, Decent Interval. Random House! 
Vintage Books edition, pp. 179-180, 193, 416-417. 

37. Alan Dawson, 55 Days: The Fall of South Vietnam, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 
N.J., 1977, pp. 65, 176, 320-321; Gen Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory, Johri 
Spragens, tr.. Monthly Review Press, New York and London, pp. 136, 212-222; Frank 
Snepp, Decent Interval, Random House, Vintage Books edition, pp. 93, 137, 177, 284, 462. 




For all of us, let me express our warm gratitude to General Ross 
Milton and Colonel Ray Bowers for their remarks about our recent mil- 
itary past. It isn't easy to go into the jungle of records and remembrances 
of our "limited war" era and find some guideposts that make sense to 
us today. These speakers did so, though, with considerable skill and 
clarity. I trust that their remarks will stimulate further seeking out of the 
truth along the paths they have explored for us. Thank you both! 

They opened up one topic, however, that deserves much more at- 
tention than they had time to give it. As the "Tail-End Charlie" in this 
session, perhaps I can be most useful by devoting my own brief time to 
it. That topic is the strategy the U.S. employed in waging "limited wars" 
in Korea and Vietnam — or, more accurately, the lack of successful U. 
S. strategy. 

Ross Milton commented that U. S. air power remained shackled in 
Vietnam much as it had been in Korea. Ray Bowers cited some details 
of this shackling in the Vietnam War. The corollary, of course, is the 
proposition that the U. S. should have devised and followed a strategy 
that would have made fuller and more conclusive use of our military 
capabilities, particularly those of our air power. 

It is worth remembering that we Americans fought our last two "big 
wars," World Wars I and II, with firm aims of toppling the enemy's 
despotic leadership, especially Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler. The 
wars ended with their own people turned against these leaders. The 
people sought peace with us, and we made it with them, not with their 
former leaders. 

This is in stark contrast to what we did in the subsequent "limited 
wars" we fought. We seemed to ignore the enemy's leadership as targets 
in these later struggles. We allowed them to continue their self-imagery 
as the spokesmen and the chosen leaders of their people, without any 
real challenge by us to the obvious flaws in these claims. We even accepted 
Ho Chi Minh's portrait of himself as a kindly and beloved old "uncle" 
with a wispy goatee, often pictured with little children. Skilled use of 
misinformation and psychological campaigns that entered our own news 


communications helped cover up the true nature of the members of the 
enemy's Politburo and the heartless savagery of their decisions. Ignoring 
the people, eventually we made our truces with this very leadership. 

Let us suppose that we had recognized the political nature of the 
Vietnam War and had used a political strategy, supported by armed 
forces, when we waged it. In such a strategy we could have striven to 
block Communist military force with our military force, while also singling 
out the enemy leadership, the Politburo in Hanoi, as our most crucial 
target. We could have undertaken a major effort to discredit the Polit- 
buro. We could, for example, have exposed its responsibility for specific 
acts of aggression and justly used these aggressions as a rationale for our 
acts of retribution against North Vietnam's war-making capabilities until 
the Politburo ceased its aggressions. If discredited strongly and convinc- 
ingly, the Politburo could well have lost its control of the people and 
been overthrown, and we could have made our peace with the North 
Vietnamese citizenry. 

We could have borrowed from the ethics of the War Crimes trials 
at Nuremberg and Manila and could have established a tribunal in Saigon 
made up of jurists from the U. S. and our allies in the war. Each act of 
Communist aggression and terror could have been verified by the tri- 
bunal, which could then have brought specific charges against the Pol- 
itburo as the responsible party for crimes committed by units under its 
authority. The findings could have been arrived at in open sessions at- 
tended by journalists and foreign observers, for the attention of the world. 

The bombing of targets in North Vietnam then could have been in 
response to specific acts of aggression and terror in South Vietnam as 
substantiated by the international tribunal in Saigon. The people of North 
Vietnam could have been informed by leaflet and radio of these specific 
acts and of the guilt of the Politburo in ordering them committed, and 
advised that there would be counteractions to destroy the Politburo's 
ability to make war. The people could have been warned to stay clear 
of potential targets, since we wouldn't want them hurt while we were 
forcing the Politburo to stop its aggression. We could have urged the 
people to convince the Politburo to stop making such fratricidal war in 
the people's name. When the Politburo's aggression would have stopped, 
the war would have stopped. 

A strategy along these lines could have greatly increased the effec- 
tiveness of our air power, even making it the decisive element in the war. 
Further, such a strategy would have expressed American morality and 
would have won wide support not only from the American public but 
from much of the rest of the world. All of us would have understood 
what we were doing in Vietnam. We would have been the guys in the 
white hats. 


Now, the point of my remarks about strategy is not to Monday 
morning quarterbacic a past war. Rather, my point is that we failed to 
identify a potentially fatal flaw in the enemy camp and failed to devise 
a strategy to defeat him through that flaw. The point remains pertinent 
today. In Korea and Vietnam, we fought against enemies who were 
totalitarian states, whose purpose and will and actions were directed by 
committees — their politburos. Today, we strive to ready ourselves for 
possible future conflict. Our greatest potential enemy again is a totali- 
tarian state, whose purpose and will and actions are directed by a com- 
mittee — a politburo. If we failed to succeed in our struggles with like 
systems in the minor leagues, what is going to happen to us in the major 

My remarks are intended only to stimulate further thought. Some- 
where between a strategy of wearing an enemy down by attrition and a 
strategy of destroying him with cataclysmic blows, there must be a strategy 
more suited to the American genius. Surely the time is upon us when 
our wisest and most talented thinkers should be devising strategies to 
bring conclusions in a truer American mode for whenever we must deploy 
our armed strength again. I feel that this is urgent business for Americans! 



Prof Dennis Showalter (Colorado College): This is perhaps as much an 
editorial comment as a question, and as such is addressed to General 
Lansdale or Colonel Bowers. Both of their comments reminded me very 
strongly of the kind of memoirs that German generals published after 
World War II, the kind that devote the first 400 pages from June 1941 
through 1942 and then cover from Stalingrad to the Battle of Berlin in 
the last twenty. Both commentators suggested that the operation in Viet- 
nam was a success — although the patient died — ascribing that, primarily, 
to strategic failure, strategic weaknesses. 

The American military experience has always drawn a sharp line 
between strategy and tactics. The Germans, on the other hand, have a 
grey area in between called "Operations" — involving grand tactics or 
battlefield strategy; and I think that if historians, whether military or 
civilian, are going to be of any use in identifying the lessons of Vietnam, 
it's going to be in digesting some of the operational problems of the 
Vietnam war. In the case of air power, this approach would focus on the 
problems we had in using air power effectively under the conditions 
imposed by the American government and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One 
might ask, for example, at the risk of relying on hindsight, how was it 
possible to mistake tanks for bulldozers; and, if one can do that, doesn't 
the mere fact that bulldozers can appear outside of Saigon indicate some- 
thing about an interdiction campaign? Similarly, how can an interdiction 
campaign that is as successful as this one is described allow an aggressor 
to build up resources for at least two major offensives? 

If official history, or semi-official history, is to be useful, we are 
going to have to spend a lot more time discussing what went wrong than 
what went right. What went right, I think, most of us in an audience like 
this can tell ourselves. What we need to know is what went wrong. This 
is where the military and civilian historians have to cooperate closely, as 
opposed to the development of general lines of strategic doctrine, which 
no American government is likely to turn over to its military anyway. 

Coi Bowers: I would say the historians are working on what went wrong 
technically and on what was wrong in terms of specific operations. It 
seemed to me in a paper of this length that it was probably not suitable 
to get into great detail. The business of the tanks and bulldozers resulted 
from the nature of the seismic and acoustical sensors. The misinterpre- 


tations were not visual mistakes; tiiey stemmed from the technology that 
was used. 

I did try to address the question of our behef in the success of our 
nine-to-one through-put ratio and how one squares that with the apparent 
Communist success in building up to the 1972 offensives in the two south- 
ern main regions. Moreover, in an essay in^;> University Review, Colonel 
Gilster analyzed and tried to determine how much materiel was used by 
the Communist forces in the South during the three or four years after 
the TET offensive and before 1972. He determined how much they 
needed, how much they consumed, and then how much the logistic flow 
allowed them to build up further stocks. By his numbers he does show 
that, by a narrow margin, even using these official statistics of through- 
put, the Communists could have built up sufficiently to have done what 
they did in 1972. 

There is no question that intelligence was not perfect. Incidentally, 
one thing that I did omit was an evaluation of the Igloo White system 
as a whole. A somewhat controversial figure. General George Keegan, 
recently Air Force Chief of Intelligence , has a viewpoint which is certainly 
well informed and I would certainly accept. He feels that Igloo White 
did a great deal. It gave the intelligence people a reasonably accurate 
idea of what was going on. But the hope that somehow the Igloo White 
all-electronic system could allow immediate real-time knowledge, was, 
he says, illusory and never expected by those who understood the system. 
This seems a fairly reasonable assessment. A great deal of effort was put 
into Igloo White. We were trying to apply the newest technology to war, 
and it didn't do all that was hoped. 

General Milton: I agree that serious analysis of the operational aspects 
of the Vietnam war is of crucial importance to understanding this conflict. 
Without harping too much on the issue, I would suggest that one of the 
most important things which historians will have to keep in mind as they 
study the Vietnam war is the degree to which military professionals were 
not in charge of that aspect of national defense that is their field of 
expertise and their very purpose for existence. I am referring, of course, 
to the planning and execution of combat operations. 

This was particularly true of the air war in Vietnam. In his recent 
book, Strategy for Defeat, Admiral U.S.G. Sharp, Commander in Chief, 
Pacific, during the years of Rolling Thunder, discusses, with documen- 
tation and without hyperbole, the degree to which Secretary McNamara 
and his civilian "experts" in the Department of Defense and elsewhere 
in the administration intruded not only into strategy but even into tac- 
tics — determining not only targets but also flight patterns and sizes, attack 
approaches, times, and types and numbers of bombs. 


I am aware that such an argument is often dismissed as the "sour 
grapes" justification of military men unable to accept defeat; but I am 
firmly convinced that as more and more of the evidence becomes avail- 
able, this will prove to be a well-founded argument. While it is certainly 
true that Washington has often imposed restrictions as well as demands 
upon its military field commanders, the extent to which uninformed ci- 
vilians overcontrolled the air war against North Vietnam makes this ex- 
perience unique in American history and must be weighed in any 
consideration of the operational aspects of the Vietnam war. 

John C. Currey (Colorado Springs) responded to General Lansdale's 
comments on psychological operations. He noted that in 1956 President 
Eisenhower had become very concerned that our government was not 
considering the psychological and political effects of actions that could 
result in war. Attempts to establish an organization to focus on this 
problem were unsuccessful, however, because those assigned to study 
the problem were unable to overcome two obstacles. First, Secretary of 
State John Foster Dulles thought such a group would impinge on the 
State Department's prerogatives. More importantly, in Mr. Currey's 
words, "it floundered on a semantics problem. President Eisenhower 
himself referred to it as the psychological office of warfare, but he said, 
'I don't want the word "warfare," and I don't like the word "psycholog- 
ical".' And we never did come up with what to call this type of thing." 

General Lansdale: I, too, have tried to come up with different names, 
but they have been just as unacceptable to top leadership as anything in 
the past; and I am sorry to say that we aren't much further today. We 
have changed some names; we did use the term "psychological opera- 
tions," for example. But our main psychological operations agency has 
dropped that term and has taken up another, and it is now staffed by 
people who are very happy, as they put it, to get out of the cold war era. 

What concerns me, and what should concern everyone in this room, 
is that we were subjected during Vietnam to a political, psychological 
campaign by the enemy that was filled with disinformation to make us 
believe something that wasn't true; and we actually came to believe it. 
Ho Chi Minh, for example — who had been a classmate of Stalin's at the 
Lenin Academy in Moscow, who had helped to form the Communist 
party in France, and who was certainly one of the most skilled and 
effective Communist leaders in the world — was a very tough propagand- 
ist. He was very successfully portrayed to Americans as a kindly old 
gentleman with a wispy goatee who often played with little children. 
Now, who is going to make war against such a kindly image as that? 

Let me give you another example of our failure to deal adequately 
with psychological aspects of the struggle in Vietnam. We based our 


policy in that war on the idea that we could punish the enemy leaders 
until they gave in to our demands. Yet most of the Politburo members 
were almost completely unknown in the United States. We knew little 
about their past and even less about their personalities or how they would 
react to our actions. The result was sheer folly. Not only did the Com- 
munist leadership in North Vietnam not succumb to our military strength, 
they turned it against us in propaganda campaigns throughout Europe 
and even in the United States. 

I regret that we did not do more during the Vietnam conflict in terms 
of psychological operations. We had agencies to do that. We had military 
groups to do that. Unfortunately, we had commanders who felt that 
psychological operations consisted entirely of dropping leaflets when the 
enemy was penned in to give them the option to surrender. We had many 
people in Vietnam who saw their main duty as explaining the war to the 
American people rather than waging a war against the enemy. Perhaps 
the American people did need more understanding, but the explaining 
was often done to reporters whose views were sunk in concrete and which 
weren't about to be changed either by words or by visible proof in the 
war itself. 

I feel very strongly about the subject of psychological aspects of war, 
as you can tell. I think the opponents we are likely to face in the future 
are far more skilled at such things than are we and are subjecting us to 
things that we had jolly well better become aware of and take into con- 
sideration in the planning and execution of our national policy and stra- 
tegic planning. 






At a National Security Council meeting on 6 February 1965, called 
because of major communist attacks on the U. S. Army barracks at 
Pleiku, South Vietnam, President Johnson said: 

We have kept our gun over the mantle and our shells in the cupboard for a 
long time now, and what was the result? They are killing our men while they sleep 
in the night. I can't ask our American soldiers out there to continue to fight with 
one hand tied behind their backs. ' 

The attack at Pleiku, which killed nine Americans and wounded 
more than one hundred, was the third since those in the Gulf of Tonkin 
in August 1964. The two previous attacks were a mortar bombardment 
against the Bien Hoa airbase followed by the destruction of five U. S. 
airplanes, and the bombing of a U. S. officers' billet in Saigon. 

On 7 February, McGeorge Bundy, who had just headed a team of 
State, Defense and Security Council personnel to Vietnam, reported to 
the President. Essentially, Mr. Bundy said, the situation in Vietnam was 
bad and getting worse; the United States had responsibilities that it had 
to face up to; the burden could not be unloaded on the Vietnamese; and 
we could not negotiate ourselves out of Vietnam. 

Bundy believed that a policy of "graduated and continuing reprisal" 
was "the most promising course available." Underlying the policy was 
his belief that: 

The best available way of increasing our chance of success in Vietnam is the 
development and execution of a policy of sustained reprisal against North Viet- 
nam — a policy in which air and naval action against the North is justified by and 
related to the whole Viet Cong campaign of violence and terror in the South.' 

On the very same day, the National Security Council (NSC) unan- 
imously supported the program of sustained reprisal against the North; 
however, there was no agreement within the NSC on how to conduct the 
program. The Joint Chiefs recommended a program of strong attacks 
from the outset, while other officials favored a gradual response. Several 
times during the fall and winter of 1964-1965, the Joint Chiefs repeated 
their recommendation in response to various reviews of the situation in 
Vietnam and requests for proposed courses of action. 


The approval by the NSC of the Bundy team's recommendations 
meant that the die had already been cast when the Viet Cong continued 
their provocations on 10 February 1965 by blowing up an enlisted mens' 
barracks in Qui Nhon, killing twenty-three Americans and seven Viet- 
namese and wounding twenty-one American soldiers. 

In March 1965 the program of sustained attacks against North Viet- 
nam got underway. As the President said: "The policy of gradual but 
steady reprisal against North Vietnam for its continuing aggression in the 
South had been put into action."' 

Although strong words had been spoken and the U. S. Government 
seemed determined to take firm action against North Vietnam, those 
who were directly involved in the planning of the air strikes and the 
operational conduct of the missions soon realized that this was not to be 
the case. The Secretary of Defense refused to allow air power to assume 
a decisive role. The excellent papers of General Milton and Colonel 
Bowers cover many of the considerations and influences that brought 
about such a misuse of air power, a critical national capability. 

It might have been expected that the Korean experience of the not 
too distant past would have left an everlasting impression of the dangers 
and frustrations of pursuing a policy of indecisiveness. As General Milton 
points out, "Korea became a war of attrition and, finally, stalemate"; 
yet no open debate transpired that would have highlighted the application 
of lessons learned in Korea in formulating policy for the U. S. air effort 
in Vietnam. 

Throughout the fall of 1964 and into 1965, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
were well aware of the dangers of demonstrated indecisiveness and con- 
tinuously stressed the need for a campaign of heavy air strikes followed 
by sustained pressure. They submitted almost weekly (or so it seemed 
to those of us who were staffing the papers) unsuccessful recommenda- 
tions for the conduct of decisive air operations against North Vietnam. 
In any case, and as discouraging as the gradual reprisal program was to 
the commanders in the field and to the JCS, they believed that they had 
no choice but to go to work and make the most of the air action that the 
political authorities permitted. 

There was a clue in these first strikes as to how the air campaign 
against North Vietnam would be pursued, and it seemed that most of us 
in the Joint Staff of the JCS who did the staff work either failed to 
recognize it or simply could not believe it. Instead of getting on with the 
first Rolling Thunder missions in a positive and determined manner, the 
overriding concern of the administration was to insure the participation 
of the South Vietnamese Air Force. This concern predominated despite 
the declared policy of gradual but sustained reprisal, the fact that Amer- 


icans and South Vietnamese were continuing to be killed by sneak attacks, 
and the fact that the North Vietnamese obviously were not impressed by 
any actions taken against them thus far. 

Rolling Thunder mission number one, then two, three, and four, 
were successively canceled because the South Vietnamese Air Force 
(VNAF) couldn't participate with the U. S. forces. Instead, the South 
Vietnamese Air Force was totally occupied in keeping its aircraft (a few 
at a time) airborne around the clock at strategic locations, such as Saigon, 
to help suppress the possibility of a coup. In our efforts to get the Rolling 
Thunder campaign launched, we pleaded with our counterparts in Hawaii 
and in Saigon to do something to get a few Vietnamese planes and crews 
in condition to fly. This finally happened on the fifth Rolling Thunder 
mission when 19 VNAF aircraft accompanied 104 U.S. Air Force aircraft. 

In these early stages of the Rolling Thunder campaign, we thought 
that the importance of timely and decisive offensive action against mean- 
ingful targets would soon be recognized as the sine qua non for the air 
campaign. Actually, just the opposite was to be the case. A never-ending 
ritual of submitting for approval a recommended target list that had been 
laboriously developed within 7th Air Force and the Pacific Fleet and sent 
up through CINCPAC and thence to the JCS, was required in the hopes 
of getting approval to attack targets of some recognizable significance. 
Approval often was denied for various reasons, and the process would 
begin over again. 

An example of this process was the attempt to obtain authority to 
strike the Thai Nguyen steel plant, a target of significant value to North 
Vietnam's war effort. The steel plant had been recommended many times 
for attack, and finally, in November 1966 approval was given; before the 
strikes could be launched, however, authority was withdrawn. A senior 
official of the U. K. was departing London for Moscow, and he had sent 
a message to the State Department indicating that he hoped nothing 
untoward would happen in Vietnam while he was in Moscow. We as- 
sumed that part of his mission to Moscow was to discuss the situation in 
Vietnam with the Soviets, possibly to explore possibilities for an accom- 
modation of some sort in South Vietnam. We never learned whether 
anything was accomplished in Moscow, but we were able to monitor the 
official's return to London, whereupon we asked for reinstatement of the 
authority to strike the steel plant. Needless to say, it seemed as though 
the authority had never existed and the approval process for this particular 
target started all over again. Authority was not received until four months 

The increasing concern of American authorities in South Vietnam 
and Washington over the South Vietnamese government's ability to con- 
tain likely Viet Cong actions prompted a presidential policy review in 


April 1965. Additional American ground forces were accordingly de- 
ployed to South Vietnam, an action which laid the basis for offensive 
ground operations. However, there was no change in the policy con- 
cernmg the conduct of the air war. 

Commenting on the need to make the reprisal program a forceful 
one, Admiral U.S.G. Sharp, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Com- 
mand and the field commander responsible for the conduct of the air 
campaign, advised the JCS: 

While it may be politically desirable to speak publicly in terms of a 'graduated 
reprisal program,' I would hope that we are thinking in terms of a 'graduated 
pressure philosophy which has more of a connotation of steady, relentless move- 
ment toward the objective of convincing Hanoi and Peiping of the prohibitive cost 
to them of their program of subversion, insurgency, and aggression in Southeast 

Despite such expressions of concern from military leaders, the early 
Rollmg Thunder strikes were inconsequential and against minor targets 
Ambassador Maxwell C. Taylor called the strikes meaningless and urged 
that the tempo and intensity be stepped up "in order to convince Hanoi 
authorities they face the prospect of progressively severe punishment.'" 

The new mission for U. S. ground forces stirred support from the 
Director of the CIA, John McCone, for the JCS position of heavy and 
damaging strikes against North Vietnam. McCone warned of the inef- 
fectiveness of the policy of a slowly ascending tempo while opposition 
from the American public, the press, the United Nations, and world 
opinion was certain to grow over time. In McCone's view, if the rules for 
the conduct of air strikes against North Vietnam were not changed to 
allow for more decisive action, the mission of the ground forces should 
not be changed. * No change in policy occurred, and the air strikes against 
North Vietnam— beset by postponements, standdowns, and limited and 
belated efforts against targets of value— continued through to the ces- 
sation of the bombing in March 1968. 

The many attempts by the JCS in Washington and the commanders 
in the field to obtain authorization for a more meaningful program even- 
tually resulted in a series of strikes in the spring of 1967 that extensively 
damaged high value targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong sanctuary and severed 
main LOCs. The North Vietnamese were hurt by these attacks and were 
unable to move supplies and equipment out of the Hanoi-Haiphong area. 
Photo reconnaissance flights showed supplies, equipment, and other 
material stacked up throughout the area. 

Much to the chagrin and consternation of the JCS and the operational 
commanders and their forces, the authority to strike these important 
targets was soon withdrawn. North Vietnam's clever propaganda cam- 


paign against the bombing througli the worldwide press significantly in- 
fluenced the U. S. decision to cut back on its bombing program. 

The commanders in the field and the JCS continuously debated the 
need for an expanded air campaign against North Vietnam with those 
who wanted to stop the bombing and to begin negotiations. Admiral 
Sharp summed up the argument of military men in his recently published 
book, Strategy for Defeat: 

In any kind of endeavor, avoiding the difficult decision, treading the mushy 
ground of the middle road, is guaranteed to produce something less than notable 
success. In war it is guaranteed to produce a true strategy for defeat.' 

The Tet offensive of January 1968, while a military defeat for the 
North Vietnamese, was a major political victory for them. Since Amer- 
ican public opinion opposed continuation of the war, the President was 
determined to bring the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table and, 
in March 1968, stopped the bombing above the 20th Parallel. By October, 
the continued unravelling of support for the war among the American 
public and the President's advisers led to a halt of all bombing of North 

The North Vietnamese gave no indication of negotiating seriously 
or substantively and, as during previous halts, took advantage of these 
bombing halts. Describing enemy logistical operations following the 
March bombing halt. General William W. Momyer, commander of U. 
S. Air Forces in Vietnam, wrote: 

These frantic efforts by the North Vietnamese to move as much material to 
South Vietnam as the system could take were indicative of their intention to settle 
the future of South Vietnam on the battlefield, not at the negotiating table.' 

Continued intransigence by the North Vietnamese at the peace ne- 
gotiations in Paris led the new administration under President Nixon in 
May 1972 to authorize resumption of bombing north of the 20th Parallel. 
The objectives were clearcut: 

(1) Restrict resupply of North Vietnam from external sources; (2) destroy 
internal stockpiles of mihtary supplies and equipment; (3) restrict flow of forces 
and supplies to the battlefield.' 

When Nixon halted the campaign in October 1972, that bombing cam- 
paign, Linebacker I, seemed to have accomplished its objectives. 

Again, the North Vietnamese procrastinated and showed no interest 
in a negotiated settlement of the war. To force a settlement. President 
Nixon directed an all-out air campaign against North Vietnam in Decem- 
ber 1972. Air power, both strategic (B-52s) and tactical (USAF & USN), 
was concentrated against critical North Vietnamese targets and caused 


maximum disruption. This eleven-day campaign, called Linebacker II, 
forced North Vietnam to seek a cease-fire. 

In summary, I defer to General Momyer, citing his recently published 
book, Airpower in Three Wars. From a background of experience in 
World War II, Korea, and Vietnam as a pilot, operations officer, and 
staff planner at all levels, and as the senior air commander in Southeast 
Asia from July 1966 to August 1968, General Momyer arrived at the 
following conclusion about strategy: 

The development of air strategy in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was 
a repetitious process. In each case, planners first perceived air power as a sub- 
ordinate part of a joint strategy that would employ an extensive ground campaign 
to end the war on favorable terms. On the other hand, airmen came increasingly 
to believe that air power, in its own right, could produce decisive results. The 
validity of such a view was suggested by results of the Allies' combined bomber 
offensive in Europe and by the surrender of Japan in the 1940s. Additional evidence 
came from the skies over Hanoi in December 1972. In a concentrated 11-day test, 
our air strategy persuaded a determined adversary with a remarkably elaborate 
air defense system that overt aggression could not be sustained in the presence of 
unrestricted U. S. air power. '" 

It took almost eight years, to December 1972, before a decisive air 
campaign was launched that forced a recalcitrant Hanoi to conclude a 
peace treaty. The conduct of a decisive campaign from the outset would 
have required less force than that used in 1972. More importantly, it 
would have convinced the North Vietnamese Politburo that the United 
States was serious in its intent to prevent subjugation of South Vietnam 
and would take the necessary steps to do so. 

It should be a challenge to historians to attempt to understand and 
explain why the United States chose such an indecisive, irresolute policy 
in the conduct of the air campaign against North Vietnam. The choice 
was made despite the early and oft repeated advice against it by the 
miHtary, from the commanders in the field to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 



1. Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Win- 
ston), p. 125. 

2. Ibid., pp. 126-127. 

3. Ibid., p. 132. 

4. Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, USN, (Ret.), Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect, 
(San Rafael, Cal.: Presidio Press), p. 61. 

5. Ibid., p. 64. 

6. Ibid., pp. 72-74. 

7. Ibid., p. 131. 

8. General William W. Momyer, USAF, (Ret.), Airpower in Three Wars. (Washington: 
Government Printing Office), pp. 27-28. 

9. Ibid., p. 33. 
10. Ibid., p. 34. 



The senior air power pioneer on tlie program, Lieutenant General Ira Ealier, USAF 
(Ret), presented an address at tlie symposium banquet wliicli combined previously unrecorded 
reminiscences with an uncompromising reminder of the challenges facing the United States. 
In introducing General Eaker to the 330 people at the banquet, the Superintendent of the 
Academy, Lieutenant General K. L. Tallman pointed out that the speaker's contributions 
to air power and national security — both in uniform and in a very active retirement— extended 
across the entire period of America's search for the best role for air power in its national 
defense scheme. 




Distinguished guests — all of you, distinguished guests— members of 
the Academy community. It's a real pleasure for me to welcome all of 
you to the Eighth Military History Symposium banquet. There are nu- 
merous events that draw us together throughout the year as an Air Force 
community, but it is a rare privilege tonight to come together in the 
company of those who helped make Air Force history. 

This evening can be termed an historical moment in itself. We have 
men and women here tonight who represent the past, present, and the 
future of the Air Force — past leaders, current policy makers and imple- 
menters, and, in our cadets, the leaders of tomorrow. And it is most 
appropriate to recognize the historians among us — those who are eval- 
uating the past and recording the present so that the future, hopefully, 
won't be quite as much of a surprise. 

For this audience we are particularly fortunate to have an individual 
with us who not only lived through early Air Force history, but who 
helped to make it and now is sharing his wisdom and his insight with Air 
Force and government leaders. I am speaking of Lt General Ira C. Eaker. 
There are few men who have accumulated the wealth of experience and 
are as equipped to speak from an historical perspective as General Eaker. 

Born in 1896, educated at Oklahoma Southeastern State Teachers 
College, commissioned in the infantry in 1917, Ira C. Eaker soon trans- 
ferred to the infant air service. His flying career in the United States and 
the Philippines between the wars was closely linked to the maturing of 
the air arm as a decisive instrument of war. He was second in command 
of the epic Pan-American Friendship Flights of 1926-27. In 1929 he 
helped to demonstrate the concept of air-to-air refueling as a crew mem- 
ber of the Question Mark, flying six days, six hours, and forty minutes 
without landing. He flew the air mail; he served with the Navy on the 
old carrier USS Lexington; and he made the first blind trans-continental 
flight to demonstrate improved instrument flying. He served in important 
executive positions with such pioneers as Generals James Fechet, Mason 
Patrick, and "Hap" Arnold. 

Earning a degree in journalism from the University of Southern 
California, he wrote three books on air power with General Arnold. 


When war came, Ira Eaker was one of the first Air Corps officers pro- 
moted to the general officer ranics. He flew the first American bom- 
bardment mission against Hitler's Europe and commanded the bombers 
of the Eighth Air Force. He flew the first shuttle mission from Italy to 
Russia, and he commanded the four Allied air armadas which made up 
the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces. 

After serving as Deputy Commanding General of the Army Air 
Forces and Chief of the Air Staff, where he directed the planning for the 
strategic deterrent forces we know today, he retired from the Air Force 
in 1947 with the rank of heutenant general. 

Since then, he has continued to provide the nation with the benefit 
of his experience as an officer of Hughes Tool Company and Douglas 
Aircraft for many years, and as a syndicated columnist on military affairs. 
In his role as an opinion maker, commentators, readers, and critics alike 
respect him as forthright, persuasive, and dedicated totally to our nation's 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my very great pleasure to introduce 
General Ira C. Eaker. 




Since 1917, 1 have been an interested and concerned observer of the 
development and application of air power. Thirty years of that period 
were spent on active duty, mainly in the Army Air Corps, and now thirty- 
one years in retired status, but I still maintain an undiminished interest 
in air power development, weapons, and tactical and strategic employ- 
ment. My remarks this evening will be in three parts: Part I, the devel- 
opment of U.S. air power prior to 1942; Part II, air power application 
and development from Pearl Harbor to the present; and Part III, a brief 
look at air power in the future. Obviously, to cover sixty years of aviation 
history in less than thirty minutes requires great selectivity. 

Air Power Developments to 1918 

Since this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers' 
first powered flight— 17 December 1903— it is appropriate that we should 
review that time span, assess the results of those flights, and catalogue 
some of the major events which those flights initiated. 

Prior to World War I, the principal item in U.S. air power devel- 
opment was the employment of the 1st Aero Squadron, Aviation Section, 
Signal Corps, U.S. Army, in support of General Pershing's Punitive 
Expedition against Pancho Villa, the Mexican bandit. That squadron 
(incidentally the only squadron the Army had), commanded by Captain 
Benjamin D. Foulois, had limited success in its observation missions due 
to the difficulty of maintaining its primitive planes and engines in the 
sand and wind of the Western desert. This poor showing was due to lack 
of popular interest and Congressional support in the fourteen years fol- 
lowing 1903. When the First World War came in 1914, the U.S. was 
thirteenth among nations in military aviation. Even Mexico had more 
military planes than the U.S. 

Then came American involvement in World War I. The most sig- 
nificant legacies of World War I to air power developments in the U.S. 

a. Public interest in aviation as a result of the daily news releases 
on air operations. The lurid stories of the battles in the skies caught the 


popular fancy; the names of the leading British, French, Canadian, and 
American aces became household words. 

b. The 200,000 pilots and technicians the U.S. trained for that conflict 
became the nucleus for postwar development, civil and military. They 
were the gypsy pilots who bought war surplus aircraft and carried aviation 
to every village in the country. They provided the pilots and maintenance 
crews for the early air mail and the small but enthusiastic air components 
of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. 

c. From the opportunity given our air leaders to meet their European 
counterparts, exchange ideas, and compare lessons learned came the 
early evolution of the theories of air power, its organization, tactics, and 

d. The war demonstrated the need for the best planes, engines, 
machine guns, bombs, and communications, and provided the essential 
aviation laboratories and airplane and engine factories for postwar de- 

All things considered. World War I was the greatest stimulus to the 
air world up to that time. 

Aviation Developments from 1918 to 1941 

Many events and individuals were responsible for the growth of U.S. 
air power during this period. Some of the most significant events, cer- 
tainly, must include the First Flight Around the World, the Pan American 
Goodwill Flight, the Question Mark FHght, the experiments with re- 
fueling in air, the first non-stop FHght to Hawaii, and the many successive 
records set for speed, altitude, and endurance. The Army Air Corps also 
engaged in semi-annual maneuvers designed to test developing theories 
of the proper organization, technical improvements, and application of 
air power. 

In May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh's non-stop flight from New York 
to Paris caught the popular fancy as no other aviation event had done. 
The fantastic response to this feat, here and abroad, gave an unprece- 
dented stimulus to civil and military aviation development. It immediately 
inspired civil transcontinental airlines and plane and engine factories. 
The 1931 depression hindered but by no means stopped this development. 

The campaign of General Billy Mitchell attracted much publicity 
and, as controversy always does, made leading headlines and won political 
partisans pro and con. His court-martial in 1925 stimulated popular, news 
media, and Congressional interest in military aviation. Historical studies 


of the Mitchell episode, concluding with his trial, demotion, and retire- 
ment from the Army, do not always report this event accurately. 

Some report, for example, that General Mason M. Patrick, then 
Chief of Air Corps, was antagonistic to Mitchell and his efforts to obtain 
an independent Air Force. I occupied an office, as Assistant Executive, 
between General Patrick's and General Mitchell's offices from June 1924 
until long after the trial, and I can testify that our Chief and Assistant 
Chief conferred frequently, that each admired the other, and that they 
were jointly supportive of much the Army Air Corps was doing in those 
dramatic times. 

When the trial began. General Patrick gave me a directive which 
was to make me, in effect, an assistant counsel in Mitchell's defense. He 
said, "I want General Mitchell to have any records in our files needed 
for his defense, but I also want to assure that we get them back. I have 
told Colonel White, Mitchell's chief military counsel, that you will be 
responsible for furnishing him any official files he wants." This gave me 
an opportunity to observe much of this dramatic event. 

General Mitchell has also been represented as having been unfairly 
crucified by a hostile War Department and a prejudiced court-martial. 
As a matter of fact, Billy Mitchell deliberately goaded President Coolidge 
and the War Department into bringing him to trial. He was determined 
to use the trial as a public relations forum to convince the people and 
Congress that the Army and Navy were deliberately neglecting their air 
arms to such an extent that national security was dangerously compro- 

General Patrick has not received the credit he deserves for the part 
he played in the development of U.S. air power at a critical time. He 
was a West Point classmate of John J. Pershing. He stood at the top of 
the class; Pershing was having trouble scholastically, and Patrick was 
assigned as his tutor. Pershing never forgot his helpful classmate, took 
him to France, made him Chief of Air Service when Mitchell and Foulois 
fell out, and also made him the first Chief of the postwar Air Service, 
later Air Corps. Patrick was the leading advocate for many of our cher- 
ished Army air ambitions and plans at this time. He was a gifted public 
speaker and testified before Congress in our favor on many occasions, 
as well as making many appearances before important groups ably ad- 
vocating our cause. 

During this period, many boards and commissions, beginning with 
the Lassiter Board and followed by the Baker Board and the Morrow 
Board, examined the claims of the "young Turks" (some called us Bol- 
sheviks) in the Air Corps and usually approved some part of our demands. 


Another aspect, seldom mentioned and never given sufficient credit, 
was our relationship with the chairmen of the principal committees of 
Congress — the Military Affairs and Appropriation Committees of the 
House and Senate. Our successive Chiefs of Air Corps provided these 
Congressional leaders air transportation back to their home states or 
districts, enabling them to make more speaking engagements and public 
appearances. This gave their especially selected pilots an opportunity to 
insure that their political passengers became knowledgeable and inter- 
ested in air matters. Most of them became powerful air power advocates. 

In July 1926, Congress passed the Aviation Act authorizing Assistant 
Secretaries for Air for the War, Navy, and Commerce Departments. The 
first appointees to this new task were F. Trubee Davison (War), David 
Ingalls (Navy), and William McCracken (Commerce). Each became able 
advocates of aviation in their departments. Secretary Davison brought 
with him a professional newspaperman whose salary he paid. (In those 
days public relations men were not authorized in Civil Service ranks.) 
He taught us many "tricks of the trade" in this important area. 

In 1935, as a result of constant publicity and Congressional pressure, 
the War Department authorized the GHQ (General Headquarters) Air 
Force. This was the first recognition that there might be a mission for 
military aviation other than tactical air support for armies and navies. 
General Frank M. Andrews, designated as the Commander of GHQ Air 
Force, was an ideal selection for this critical new assignment. 

A skillful and experienced pilot since 1919, with service on the War 
Department General Staff and a recent graduate of the Army War Col- 
lege, General Andrews immediately established the organization and set 
about proving that there was a task for air power far beyond the arena 
of contending armies and navies. Andrews pushed the development and 
testing of the B-17 Flying Fortress and sent the first of these planes on 
spectacular missions, such as the six-plane flight to Argentina and the 
mission to photograph the new Italian liner. Rex, four hundred miles at 
sea. The Air Corps officers who commanded groups and wings in the 
GHQ Air Force became the commanders and staffs of the sixteen world- 
wide Air Forces of the Army Air Forces in World War II. 

We must not overlook the major contribution of the Air Corps 
Tactical School to the development of Air Force doctrine in the years 
between the wars. Its able, specially selected, instructors became the 
nucleus of General Arnold's planning staff in 1941 . The war plans they 
prepared provided for the 2.3 million airmen, the 150,000 planes they 
manned and supported, plus the great industrial base we established, all 
of which played a prime role in the conquest of Hitler's Third Reich and 
the Japanese War Lords. 


General Arnold recognized that the Spanish Civil War— where Ger- 
many and Russia tried out their latest planes, weapons, and tactics-was 
but a prelude to World War II. He and his staff eagerly reviewed all data 
reported from the air battles of that conflict. When Hitler's Blitzkrieg 
bypassed the Maginot Line and conquered France, Arnold sent observers 
to cover and report every phase of that conflict. When France fell our 
observers witnessed Dunkirk, then went to England where they observed 
the Battle of Britain. 

Another great contribution to U.S. preparedness for our entry into 
World War II was a series of maneuvers the U.S. Army and its Air Corps 
held in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and the Carolinas in 1940 and 1941 
General Arnold told me that General Marshall had said one of the prime 
purposes of these maneuvers was to observe, select, and train the ground 
and air commanders for World War II. 

Arnold had a full appreciation of the value of public relations. For 
example, he invited Hanson Baldwin, military editor of the New York 
Times, Deke Lyman of the New York Tribune, Ernie Pyle, and many 
others to witness the air element of these maneuvers. It was not accidental 
that Army Air Force operations in World War II were adequately re- 
ported. ^ 

Another evidence of Arnold's genius was the relationship he estab- 
lished with Harry Hopkins, the closest adviser to President Roosevelt 
This resulted in Roosevelt's dramatic radio speech announcing that the 
U.S. would build 50,000 planes in 1940-1941. Arnold used this decla- 
ration to start a vast program of pilot and technical schools even before 
Congress had appropriated the money. Arnold also encouraged the Brit- 
ish and French to buy U.S. planes for their hard-pressed air forces The 
money from these purchases started that great expansion of the aero- 
nautical industry which produced 100,000 planes and 250,000 engines in 
a single year, 1944. 

These were some of the principal events prior to Pearl Harbor which 
affected the development of U.S. air power. These dynamic events also 
suggest the names of the political, military, and industrial leaders who 
played the leading roles in them. 

Air Power in World War II 

World War II provided the stage for the greatest test of air power 
thus far. In that war. Allied air leaders were, for the first time given the 
resources to validate the theories of earlier air advocates, such as Tren- 
chard, Douhet, and Mitchell. 

Allied air power in Europe between 1941 and 1945 accomplished 
three essential missions: 


a. It destroyed the German Air Force. 

b. It supported the Alhed armies and navies, enabhng them to ac- 
complish their indispensable missions. 

c. It successfully demonstrated its strategic capability by destroying 
much of the weapons-making and war-waging capability of Hitler's Third 
Reich. These air operations were often interrelated and mutually sup- 
portive; combined, they were absolutely essential to victory in Europe. 

In April 1942, General George Marshall came to the 8th Bomber 
Command's temporary headquarters during a visit to the British Chiefs 
of Staff. After hearing my report on our plans at that early date, he said 
to me, "Eaker, I do not believe a cross-Channel invasion of Europe will 
ever be possible until the Luftwaffe is destroyed. Do your plans provide 
for that?" I answered in the affirmative, assuring him that destruction 
of the German Air Force was our prime intermediate objective. As our 
bombers began their attacks on fighter factories, oil production, ball 
bearing plants, and other key elements of weapons production. Hitler 
would demand that Goering's Luftwaffe intervene. The ensuing air battles 
would result in virtual destruction of the Luftwaffe, I explained. 

Again, at the Casablanca Conference in February 1943, General 
Marshall asked, "Do you still believe that the German Air Force will 
not seriously interfere with our cross-Channel invasion next year?" I 
replied, "If the heads of state and their chiefs of staff approve the Com- 
bined Bomber plan just presented, and give us the air resources it calls 
for, I am certain the Luftwaffe will not be a serious factor in that op- 

I was in Russia on the Joint Shuttle Bombing Mission, 6 June 1944, 
when Eisenhower's forces crossed the Channel. I asked General Dean, 
Ambassador Averell Harriman's senior military aide, about the air re- 
sistance. He said that early dispatches did not mention it, but he would 
send a signal to find out. Back came the cryptic reply, "The Luftwaffe 
did not show today." That moment represented my greatest personal 
satisfaction in World War II. 

The German Air Force did not interfere with our landing, as General 
Marshall had feared. Neither did it seriously challenge the subsequent 
land battles as our armies advanced into Germany. Instead, our Allied 
air forces won and held air superiority throughout, inflicted many thou- 
sands of casualties upon the enemy, stopped all road movement by day, 
and eventually denied the German Army required fuel and weapons, 
resulting in their unconditional surrender. 

I have always assumed that Albert Speer, Hitler's Armament Min- 
ister, was the best authority on the effect of Allied air power on Germany 


and her war effort. In that beHef, Dr. Arthur Metcalf, founder of the 
U.S. Strategic Institute, and I spent the afternoon of 21 October 1976 
with Speer in his ancestral home on a mountain top above Heidelberg. 
He was fully responsive to our questions. 

For example, at one point I said, "Aside from the bombing of Ger- 
man industry, a very high priority with the AHies was the destruction of 
the Luftwaffe. Since the Luftwaffe did not show on 6 June 1944, when 
that great invasion armada appeared off the three invasion beaches, we 
thought we had positive evidence that our AlHed air offensive had largely 
destroyed the German Air Force." Speer answered, "I think your surmise 
is essentially correct. I was still turning out the required number of fighter 
planes, but by that time we were out of experienced pilots. We were so 
short of fuel that the incoming pilots in our flying schools only received 
three and a half hours of flying training per week. These poorly trained 
and inexperienced pilots were suffering heavy losses. A pilot only sur- 
vived for an average of seven missions against your bombers and their 
accompanying long-range fighter escort." 

I recently received a copy of an article Speer wrote on 9 August 
1978, soon to be published, which gives further information on the effect 
of our bombing. From this 1 quote a few paragraphs. 


Your bomber offensive against Germany actually opened a second front long 
before your invasion of the Continent. Because of the unpredictability of your 
daily target selection, we had to keep a million men at home to defend against 
them. These defenses also required 20 thousand anti-tank guns as flak. Other 
thousands of people were required as fire fighters and to repair damaged factories. 
Those men and munitions could have provided another 60 divisions for use against 
Russia or to oppose your invasion in France. 

Another significant Speer observation: 

In January 1943 our losses from your bombing of our war-making industry I 
estimated at 5.4%. In December 1943 it had climbed to 28%. The short fall in 
critical weapons, according to a memorandum I made at the time, amounted to 
36% for tanks, 30% for military aircraft and 42% for trucks. 

Thus the losses inflicted by the American and British air fleets constituted for 
Germany the greatest lost battle of the war, far exceeding our losses at Stalingrad, 
in the Winter campaign in Russia or during the retreat from France. 

The truly decisive factors were the weakening of the German defensive strength 
and the immobilizing of German planes and tanks caused by the American and 
British Air Forces. Even before the encirclement of the Ruhr, the collapse was 
already final. 

Can there any longer be doubt about the conclusion of the Strategic 
Bombing Survey: 

Allied air power was decisive in the war in Western Europ