American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, Civilians and Oil.

Author:Agoratus, Steve
Position::Book review

American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, Civilians and Oil. By Conrad C. Crane. Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas, 2016. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 272. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-7006-2209-2

The precision strategic bombardment thesis, as originated by Douhet and Mitchell, refined at the Air Corps Tactical School, and implemented in World War II, spawned intense debate about its goals, methods, and outcomes. Did the U.S. remain true to its thesis of achieving surrender through precise bombing of carefully selected targets to bring about a collapse of enemy military power and morale? Did it succumb to the lure of total war and conduct mass bombing of urban areas? Did the threat of total war in the end find its way into U.S. airpower strategy? Conrad Crane explores these questions in this update of his foundational 1993 work on strategic bombardment. As Chief of Historical Services at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center and author of American Airpower Strategy in Korea, 1950-1953, his conclusion on the outcome of the World War II bombing campaigns on which the USAF was built marks a bold new step in this endlessly debated topic.

Expertly interweaving theses of such groundbreaking pillars of the field as Ronald Schaffer (Wings of Judgement), Michael Sherry (The Rise of American Airpower), and Tami Biddle-Davis (Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare), this synthesis examines the impact of inter-war bomber and bombsight technology development on pre-war bombing theory. Crane scrutinizes the effects that USAAF experience with first-generation radar and precision guided munitions in the heat of World War II air combat had on the precision strategic bombardment thesis. The ancient concept of the death blow--the single overwhelming strike to shock the enemy into submission--is meticulously dissected to determine if and to what extent military and civilian leaders...

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