Command of the Air [Giulio Douhet, Charles a. Gabriel] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Reprint of the translation by staff of the. The Command of the Air is the greatest military treatise on air war ever written – a dogmatic manifesto promising victory through strategic. Credit to Nicholas Morrow Giulio Douhet, an Italian army officer who never learnt to fly, first published one of military theory’s most recognized.
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Douhet was a terrible prophet, but a false one. Some of what he wrote today seems almost timeless, “principles” perhaps of the employment of aircraft in war.
What could a navy do when it could no longer take refuge in its own ports, when its bases were burned or blown up, its arsenals and auxiliaries destroyed? This is the meaning of the “command of the air. Antiaircraft fire can certainly put out of action some planes in giuulio bombing unit —a limited loss; but no one can hope to fight a war without taking some risks, especially when those risks can be reduced to a mini- mum.
Such, he claimed, was the destructive power of aerial bombardment that air power would become dominant in war, and national air-forces dominant over the other two services.
Through the nineteenth century, other military establishments experimented with lighter-than-air ships, not only for ob- servation but for attack, including one effort by an Austrian lieutenant to bomb the city of Venice. I did not prophesy then, and I do not prophesy now. Reaching an objec- tive is an aerial operation which always involves a certain amount of risk and should be undertaken once only.
Now, 2 however, this idea has emerged again and seems to be impressing itself strongly on the national authorities most con- cerned with these matters. To break away from the past is disturbing; but so is man’s conquest of space disturbing. The heavy bombers involved in the Combined Bomber Offensive did not win the comand alone, as Harris had argued they would.
It commznd, in fact, the only logical answer to the imperative need of defense against these new weapons of war- fare. An aerial fleet capable of dumping hundreds of tons of such bombs can easily be organized; therefore, the striking force and magnitude of aerial offensives, considered from the standpoint of either material or moral significance, is far more effective than those of The Command of The Air 25 any other offensive yet known.
The radius of action was reduced to a minimum— an hour or a little more of flying time was all. A bombing unit leaves point A to bomb point B. Out of the necessity of protecting other types of plane from the pursuit plane, arose the need of another plane as fast or faster, a plane able, as it were, to give chase to the chaser.
Tactical aviation altered the nature of land and naval warfare and so contributed to the outcome of World War II that a few historians have suggested that its influence outweighed that of the strategic bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan. War today is fought by masses of men and machines.
All the rounds 12 The Command of The Air these men might have fired before attacking would have no bear- ing on the case if the lone defender is effectively covered by his own barbed-wire trench. In actual fact, during the World War the enormous increase in the power of small-caliber arms made it possible for the de- fensive to let waves of attacking infantry come close to its own prepared positions and then stop them dead in their tracks; or the defensive could force the offensive, if desperately bent on reaching its objective, to shift its infantry attacks on men in pre- pared positions and lay down costly artillery barrages of all cali- bers which literally churned up the very ground, burying its defenders along with it.
Targeting was central to this strategy and he believed that air commanders would prove themselves by their choice of targets.
Command of the Air – University of Alabama Press
There was even a legal distinction made between combatants and noncom- batants. In other words, in future wars it would be logical to rely upon the con- tinually increasing advantages of the defensive over the offensive, and concomitantly on the still greater difficulty in tipping the scale between the two sides, a necessity if a war is to be won.
Germany’s Plan of Operation pp. It is easy to see how the use of this method, even with limited supplies of explosive and incendiary bombs, could completely wreck large areas of population and their transit lines during crucial periods of time when such action might prove strategically invaluable.
This is an offensive power so far su- perior to any other offensive means known that the power of the latter is negligible in comparison. If a specified surface contains very vulner- able targets, the area can be extended beyond the meter diameter simply by increasing the number of planes taking part. Chemistry, which has already provided us with the most powerful of explosives, will now furnish us with poison gases even more potent, and bacteri- ology may give us even more formidable ones.
No enemy offensive could menace them beyond that predetermined distance, so civilian life could be carried on in safety and comparative tran- quillity. And how was this to be achieved?
The logic of this model is that exposing large portions of civilian populations to the terror of destruction or the shortage of consumer goods would damage civilian morale into submission. And all of this defensive gkulio amounted to nothing but a useless dispersion of enormous quanti- ties of douhft national resources, sometimes wasted on the notion of preventing, not an actual attack, but a possible one! Very few possibilities of this new instrument of war were recognized when it first appeared.
Douhet; from the newspaper La preparazione, Rome, sir Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in doueht character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur. Given, then, the amount of fuel and armament needed for normal opera- tions, the total useful load of a bombing plane should be such as to allow a bomb weight substantial enough to avoid cumbersome bombing units of too many planes.
In the descend- ing akr of its trajectory, artillery fire was metamorphosed into projectiles falling from above. What I have to say is this: For this reason clinging to the past will teach us nothing useful for the future, for that future will be radically Commanx Command of The Air 27 different from anything that has gone before. Views Read Edit View history. In contrast, a squadron of 10 planes carrying 2 tons of bombs each, can in a single flight drop 20 tons of bombs, or something more than the broadsides of 3 English battleships.
I was convinced with mathematical certainty that the facts would prove me right. We can see now that such a situation has something false in it, something that does not ring true; for war is no longer fought in 44 The Command of Ov Air a series of scattered individual encounters, no matter how brave or skillful the individuals may be.
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Project MUSE – The Command of the Air
Confronted as we are by this upheaval in the character of war, which encourages nations who lust for conquest and feel neither hesitation nor remorse, it is imperative that we stop and examine calmly, coolly, but searchingly into the question of cmmand is the right path for us to follow in providing for an effective national defense.
Though the destruction wrought by the World War was enor- mous, the nations were able to keep up the struggle for the very reason that the fighting was sporadic and drawn out over a long period of time, so that they could replace their successive material and moral losses and go on throwing all their resources giulik the struggle until they were exhausted.
Such an estimate is the primary object of this study. In my opinion, the extent of this surface should be exactly the area of a circle tne in diameter.
Conquering the command of the air implies positive action— that is, offensive and not defensive action, the very action best suited to air power.
When conclusions are reached by reasoning with strict adher- ence to logic from actual verifiable facts, those conclusions ought to be accepted as valid even if they seem dounet and radical, in direct contradiction to conventional thought patterns or fixed habits of mind based upon other facts, equally positive and verifi- able to be sure, but entirely different in nature.
They would have been worth next to nothing. The exact ratio, however, can well be left to experience.