In fact, he may never have learnt to fly. He was an army officer, reaching the rank of general, but trench-war stalemate had turned his mind to alternatives. Giulio Douhet For going over the heads of his superiors, he was court-martialled and imprisoned for a year. The following year, he published his masterwork, The Command of the Air. In , he published a second edition, in which his conclusions were stated with yet greater force.

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Shelves: aviation , military-history , ww1 Its difficult to "review" a work like this. Thus, its an important work for understanding the history of airpower. His work was meant to convince Italian military planners to rely heavily on the airplane as their main military force.

Douhet is often quoted for hist support of both strategic bombing and "morale bombing" aka terror bombing of civilians. Its difficult to "review" a work like this. His main concept here is that by bombing the "vital centers" of the enemy, such as its production centers, communication, and transportation networks, a quick decisive victory can be obtained. The most important target, according to Douhet, is the morale of the enemy civilian population itself.

Douhet envisioned scenarios where bombers would directly attack civilians, destroying towns, killing innocents, women, and children. The goal of all this was to both halt enemy production but more importantly to spur an internal collapse or even rebellion of the nations people. His model for this seems to be what happened to the German population at the end of WW1, although most of his book does not rely on historical example at all, but instead is based solely on his predictions.

Although this sounds horrific and immoral, Douhet insists that this strategy will make war more humane. The idea is that by making war so terrible, so costly, and so horrific, war will be avoided in many cases, and when it is used, it will be short, thus saving many lives in the long run. This seems like crazy logic, but similar logic was later used in the Cold War to support the ideas of deterrence through mutually assured destruction.

Those are the most often quoted bits, but he actually spends more time discussing what we now call "air superiority," the role of fighter planes. He insists that before bombers can do their work, the sky must be cleared of enemy fighers or "pursuit" craft which then leaves the bombers free to do their work. This concept survived mostly intact although abandoned briefly in the early cold war until the present day.

In these ideas, Douhet borrows heavily from Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan, in the s, insisted that sea power was the key to victory, and that only combined actions of large concentrated fleets could be effective. He even uses the sea as a metaphor, referring to the skies as the new oceans, and the ground itself as the new coast. Surprisingly, he rarely mentions experiences of aircraft in WW1 to support his points.

The idea of limited wars does not even occur to him. Many of his predictions have proven false, especially his concept of strategic and terror bombing, both of which were tested and found ineffective in WW2. Some airpower defenders will say that his theories were never completely tested because airpower was never so fully concentrated as he advocates. Nonetheless, although most of his predictions, especially in the technical details, seem quaint when read today, he did accurately predict the various roles for aircraft.

These roles are currently formalized in missions of strategic bombing, air superiority, and interdiction. Douhet did not use these terms, but he did promote the concepts -- although he envisioned the same type of aircraft serving all three roles rather than building separate planes specially designed for each mission.

Overall, this is a quick and interesting read. Examining what theorists such as Douhet thought reveals much about the effect WW1 had on the minds of many participants and leaders of the time.

For those interested in airpower theory, this is practically required reading, as it set the stage for everything that came after. Airpower advocates and critics continue to reference Douhet to this day. Several recent articles in Foreign Policy magazine in and have made reference to Douhet both in support and in criticism of current airpower doctrine. While it is easy to criticize Douhet for his failure to accurately predict the future, he had a massive impact on the development and implementation of airpower, and continues to remain relevant to this day.

France and Belgium, decided in one day solely by air power, of course. The first work is of great interest to military historians because it was a great and famous inspiration for air power theorists around the world in the s and 30s, It drove the imagination of many early military aviators.

However, it did not convince large numbers of others. The fourth work, much less known, is of interest because it is a prediction of the progress of a war between Germany and France, written about ten years before such a war broke out. Pundits are always trying to predict how a future war will go, so it should be illuminating to see how a past pundit fared in his prediction. Other than correctly predicting that Germany would win, he was totally, laughably wrong.

The Germans bombers come in seven great waves, paying no attention to losses and pressing on to their targets. The first two waves are entirely destroyed, but after them the French defenses are too exhausted and disorganized to offer significant resistance. German bombers level couple of cities to convince the French of their helplessness, and they quickly surrender. Why did Douhet get it so wrong? I think he had a fixed idea about the unstopability of air power that lacked supporting evidence.

He greatly exaggerated the damage that could be done by one air strike he takes the ability of a squadron to destroy its assigned target as a near mathematical certainty. He makes no allowance for the friction of war except on the defending side. He dismisses the ability of air defenses to keep operating after initial engagements.

He does not explain who will be found to fly those first two sacrificial waves. He neglects the ability of a defensive counter-air patrol to defend a large area. He assumes bombing will destroy civilian will to resist WWII showed that on the contrary it tends to stiffen resistance, unless catastrophic defeat on the ground is imminent and inevitable.

Perhaps Douhet was correct in thinking that defenses could not absolutely prevent bombing, but he missed the fact that they could make bombing difficult and dangerous. Douhet assumes Germany goes all-in on his theories, which did not happen the Luftwaffe was exclusively a tactical force. Radar gave a big boost to the ability of defenders to see coming attacks and concentrate defenses on them. Douhet assumes all bombing will include poison gas.

And he does not anticipate the advent of armored warfare, which greatly speeds up the advance of invading armies. But still considering all this, he clearly wildly exaggerated the effect of the air arm on warfare. That effect was very great, but not as overwhelming as Douhet predicted. So what today is being over-hyped for its effect on future war?


Giulio Douhet

Born in Caserta , Campania , Italy , from a family of savoyard exiles who had migrated there after the cession of Savoy to France [1] he attended the Military Academy of Modena and was commissioned into the artillery of the Italian Army in Douhet saw the pitfalls of allowing air power to be fettered by ground commanders and began to advocate the creation of a separate air arm commanded by airmen. He teamed up with the young aircraft engineer Gianni Caproni to extol the virtues of air power in the years ahead. During that war aircraft operated for the first time in reconnaissance, transport, artillery spotting and even limited bombing roles.


The Command Of The Air






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