Title:  The Command of the Air; (Ed. Joseph Patrick Harahan & Richard H. Kohn)

Author:  Giulio Douhet (1869-1930)

- Italian field artillery officer; wrote 1912 after action report on the use of aviation against Turks in Libya   

- Commanded Italy’s first aviation unit (1912-15)

- Fascist supporter & friend of Mussolini; ideology based on social Darwinism—survival of the fittest

- Realist—“wherever two men meet, conflict is inevitable” (3)

- Court Martialed for severe criticisms of WWI; exonerated based on a review of the battle of Caporetto

Publisher:  University of Alabama Press, 2009 (original publish date: 1921)


Summary:   Command of the Air is the sole purpose of aerial combat—only achievable with an Independent Air Force (IAF).  The IAF should be composed of combat and bomber units, and is an inherently offensive instrument.  A Ministry of Aeronautics Aviation should oversee civil and military aviation.  The IAF should be on equal footing with the Army and Navy, and a supreme authority should administer and coordinate the functions of all three Services.  National defense is dependent on the ability to attain Command of the Air, and therefore on a supremely strong IAF.  Offensive aviation employed in mass is unstoppable by forces in the air, on the ground or at sea.

Thesis:  A nation’s defense depends on attaining Command of the Air—only achievable with an independent Air Force.   A Ministry of Aviation should oversee the growth of civil and military aviation.  The Army, Navy and IAF should be equals and unified by a supreme authority.  (Preface)

Main Points:

- The airplane is an offensive weapon (15) and has no defensive value (55)

- Maximum effort should be used at the start of a war (108)

- To achieve victory, a nation must be willing to “submit to enemy attacks” to maximize offensive firepower (109)

- War is fought with “men and machines of average abilities and standards.” (44)

- Command of the Air “means to be in a position to win,” and “wield offensive power so great it defies human intelligence.” (23)

- It “provides whoever possesses it with the advantages of protecting all his own land and sea territory from enemy aerial offensives and at the same time of subjecting the enemy’s territory to his own offensives.” (96)

- Command of the Air is achieved by depriving the enemy of all means of flying—strike him in the air, at his bases, and in production (28)

- National defense cannot be maintained without Command of the Air (29)

- Enables decision by smashing “material and moral resources of a people”—results in the “final collapse of all social organization.” (61)

- Faster conclusion to war is more humane:  the air weapon enables a quick and decisive result—more humane regardless of the damage inflicted by the assault. (61)

- An independent Air Force (IAF) must be fit to achieve command of the air (95)

- The IAF consists of combat (combat in the air) and bomber (combat against the ground) forces only (114)

- Introduces the concept of the battleplane that will fulfill both roles and solely comprise the operating mass of the future IAF.  (119)

- The IAF must be capable of winning and exploiting command of the air (98)

- The IAF should always operate in accordance with the principle of mass (49)

- The IAF should inflict the greatest damage in the shortest possible time (51)

- Payload should not be sacrificed for speed.

- Superior speed is only important for the weaker Air Force (116)

- Three branches (Army, Navy, Air Force) coordinated by a supreme authority (70)

- Auxiliary aviation is “worth nothing if it does not succeed in conquering the command of the air.” (94)  It is “worthless, superfluous, harmful.” (101)

- Auxiliary aviation diverts resources from their more valuable use (99)

- IAF role should not be determined by Army or Navy (104)

- A Ministry of Aeronautics should be developed to promote aviation

- Civil aviation should be promoted by the state in the interests of national security (82)

- Civil Aviation is beneficial because it can be readily converted for military use in war (123)—describes the current CRAF program

- All organs of defense profit indirectly from civil scientific and industrial progress (85)

- The IAF should have a budget separate from the Army and Navy (87)

- Civil aviation should have its own budget (87)

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