The Effectiveness of Airpower in the 20th Century. Part One (1914-1939). By John F. O'Connell, USN (Ret.). New York: iUniverse, 2007. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 237. $19.95 paperback ISBN: 0-595-43082-1 and The Effectiveness of Airpower in the 20th Century: Part Two (1939-1945). By John F. O'Connell, USN (Ret.). New York: iUniverse, 2007. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xv, 333. $23.95 paperback. ISBN: 0-595-45724-3
In the Fall 2007 issue of Air Power History, I reviewed Part Three (the first part published) of Captain O'Connell's trilogy. At the time, I felt he had written an exceptional piece of history. Parts One and Two have done nothing to diminish that evaluation.
These two volumes continue in the same style as the first. They provide an overall history of whatever conflict is under discussion so that the reader understands the context in which airpower was employed. O'Connell well lays out the types and numbers of craft used by the various air power forces and--perhaps even more importantly--overlays them on the doctrines and policies under which they had to operate. One of the recurrent doctrinal themes running throughout Part Two, in particular, is employment of strategic versus tactical air power. This will get the juices flowing in many readers who may not like what O'Connell says, but that's the purpose of books such as these, in my opinion.
Part One begins the story of air power. It is divided into three parts: World War I, the development of air power theories and air forces between the wars, and applications of air power between the wars. Coverage of the First World War is short--but so was the overall contribution of air power to the outcome of that war. The second part is considerably longer since it was during the post-World War I years that Trenchard, Mitchell, Douhet, and others formulated much of the theory that was put into use early in mankind's greatest struggle. Here O'Connell examines air power theory developed by each of the major contestants of the next big war. The third part looks at the use of air power in many of the smaller conflicts that took place up to 1939. Some readers may not even be familiar with some of the events (e.g., Polish-Soviet War, Rif War, some of the UK's small air-control wars in west Asia, and the Gran Chaco War), fewer know that air power played any role.
The second volume deals exclusively with World War II. Following on the first volume...