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The Influence of Airpower upon History

The Influence of Airpower upon History: Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy since 1903

Robin Higham
Mark Parillo
Foreword by Richard B. Myers
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Influence of Airpower upon History
    Book Description:

    From early zeppelins, to the Luftwaffe and the Enola Gay, to the unmanned aerial vehicles of today, air power has long been regarded as an invaluable instrument of war. However, nations have employed aircraft for many other purposes as well; they provide security and surveillance, and they are vital to myriad diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. Air power has become a means for statesmen to advance a variety of goals, opening up new possibilities and problems in times of peace as well as war.

    The Influence of Air Power upon History examines the many ways in which aviation technology has impacted policymaking since 1903. It analyzes air strategy in nations around the world and explores how a country's presumed technological capability, or lack thereof, has become a crucial aspect of diplomacy. Together, the essays in this insightful volume offer a greater understanding of the history of military force and diplomatic relations in the global community.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3675-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Richard B. Myers

    The rapid rise of airpower—just a little over one hundred years old—has had a profound effect on world events. As this work points out, the use of airpower frequently resulted in controversy at the highest levels of government, as national leaders and statesmen debated how airpower might contribute to their particular vital national interests and to shaping world events.

    Specifically, this work gives an important historical context to how various nations have viewed the development of airpower. As Higham and Parillo point out, from the earliest days of airpower, geography, national interests, diplomacy, and economics all have shaped...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)
    Robin Higham

    Even as early man gazed up at the winged creatures soaring above him and first contemplated the wonders of flight, he began to grapple with the concept of airpower. The primal warrior could imagine the advantages of towering above his enemy, not only to observe his every plan and artifice but also perhaps to humble him with thunderbolts striking down.

    Flight entered ancient Greek mythology as the domain of Daedalus’s genius and the fatal allure that triggered Icarus’s demise. In 328 or 327 B.C. Alexander the Great cowed into surrender the defenders of the Rock of Sogdiana, a mountain stronghold,...

  5. 1 States and Strategic Airpower: Continuity and Change, 1906–1939
    (pp. 37-60)
    John H. Morrow Jr.

    Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s dire prediction of the future inevitability of the bomber’s ability to penetrate aerial defenses epitomized the fears of enemy aerial attacks on capital cities and civilian populations during the years between the world wars. Yet this quote merits contextualization, and not merely within the interwar years, but one that encompasses the history of strategic bombing and political attitudes toward aerial bombardment since the origins of aviation.

    Such examination reveals a much more complex and nuanced reception of, as well as certain recurring themes toward, the threat of strategic bombing on the part of European statesmen and...

  6. 2 Politics and French Aviators: A Prism on the International European Crises of the 1930s
    (pp. 61-84)
    Patrick Facon

    The international crises of the 1930s are an interesting and pertinent lens through which to understand and analyze the role of airpower in the creation of policy. The crises allow close observation of the complex dialogue between military aviators and the political leadership in the early stages of airpower’s rise to prominence in decision making. In contrast to the pre–World War I period, by the 1930s aviation had in effect become a problematic factor in the highest-level government discussions of the international crises of the decade.

    Airpower had become truly important for the armed forces, a very profound element...

  7. 3 Hitler, Airpower, and Statecraft
    (pp. 85-114)
    Richard R. Muller

    As war clouds gathered over Europe in the summer of 1939, Nazi leaders and propagandists pointed to the German air force, the Luftwaffe (barely four years old at the time), as the embodiment of German power and technological superiority. They argued that the air arm was almost entirely a creation of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, that it was the most powerful in the world, and that it stood, in the words of the Luftwaffe commander in chief Hermann Göring, “ready to carry out every command of the Führer with lightning speed and undreamed-of might.”¹

    Subsequent events would reveal the hollowness...

  8. 4 The Emperor and the Despot: Statesmen, Patronage, and the Strategic Bomber in Imperial and Soviet Russia, 1909–1959
    (pp. 115-144)
    David R. Jones

    The vastness of Russia and its remoteness made it immune to grand-strategic attacks against its few targets while making its enemies’ vulnerabilities equally distant. These conditions were gradually changed by technology and in the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) by the advances of the Soviet armies.

    The development of Russian airpower was controlled by the small coteries of politicians at the top and supported by the enthusiasm of the masses. Russian and Soviet statesmen dealt with issues of defense, including aviation, within very similar institutional frameworks because the Soviets modeled their bodies charged with strategic decision making and military administration...

  9. 5 Statesmen and Airpower in Latin America, 1945–2010
    (pp. 145-176)
    René De La Pedraja

    Aviation history changed when the United States began production of the F-80 in 1945. The F-80 was the first U.S. mass-produced jet fighter and not just an experimental or pilot model. This subsonic jet fighter immediately made obsolete the world’s vast fleets of propeller planes. The F-80 lifted the bar for aviation performance and forced European manufacturers to surpass or at least to match the characteristics of the F-80 in their competing aircraft. Though other countries tried to duplicate the success of the F-80, the United States itself has never ceased to design and produce newer and better jet warplanes...

  10. 6 Presidential Statesmen and U.S. Airpower: Personalities and Perceptions
    (pp. 177-208)
    Jeffery S. Underwood

    The first duty the Constitution requires of a president is to swear an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Next it names the president as the “Commander in Chief ” of U.S. military and naval forces, but the thirty-four words in Article II, Section 2, granting that power provide no guidance on how to use those forces. Before the Spanish-American War, American presidents had to concern themselves only with land and naval warfare largely restricted to the North American continent or the Western Hemisphere. Throughout the twentieth century, however, presidents increasingly ventured into the...

  11. 7 Gunboat Diplomacy: Presidential Use of Aircraft Carriers and Their Embarked Air Wings
    (pp. 209-236)
    Douglas V. Smith and Kent S. Coleman

    So starts the majority of articles on U.S. carrier airpower since World War II. Yet others would disagree, citing the huge cost of the carrier, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines to screen and protect it; the men and women who crew these ships; and the expensive infrastructure and logistical apparatus necessary to support, sustain, and provide petroleum for a Carrier Strike Group at sea. The naysayers claim that sending a Carrier Strike Group in a crisis situation is usually done by a weak president wanting to demonstrate his resolve to the American people but without any intention of actually engaging the...

  12. 8 Chinese Statesmen and the Use of Airpower
    (pp. 237-272)
    Andrew S. Erickson

    The development of airpower and its influence on history has been primarily a Western narrative, with American, European, and even Russian centers. Aside from Japan’s operationally brilliant but strategically unsustainable military employment in the Pacific War, no Asian power has been a significant airpower beyond its immediate region.¹ China, though it has regained much of its pre-nineteenth-century economic significance and plays an increasingly important geopolitical role, still has not fully proven itself in the realm of airpower.² That may finally be changing, and if so, the ramifications could be considerable.

    Today Beijing’s military air components are finally on the verge...

  13. 9 A Century of Airpower
    (pp. 273-288)
    Mark Parillo

    It was only a century ago that airpower became a factor of any consequence in warfare and, by extension, to statesmen. Its arrival, and its rapid rise to military utility in World War I, spawned both theories and controversy about its ultimate value. The debates have continued to the present day; they show no sign of abating. Diplomatic and military practitioners, on the other hand, have had to go beyond theory to create the strategies and policies by which peace is kept or war is waged. As our contributors have outlined, the results have been a mixed bag.

    Many of...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 289-294)
  15. Index
    (pp. 295-318)