Books , Military Classics. Posted by Military History Matters. January 10, 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.
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Books , Military Classics. Posted by Military History Matters. January 10, 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. 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. Navies were restricted to the sea and slowed by the heavy medium of water. Aircraft could go anywhere within their radius of action, flying over enemy lines to bomb industry, infrastructure, and workforces. On the contrary, the battlefield will be limited only by the boundaries of the nations at war, and all of their citizens will become combatants, since all of them will be exposed to the aerial offensives of the enemy.
Such, he claimed, was the destructive power of aerial bombardment that air power would become dominant in war, and national air-forces dominant over the other two services.
First would come explosions, then fires, then deadly gases floating on the surface and preventing any approach to the stricken area. As the hours passed and night advanced, the fires would spread while the poison gas paralysed all life. What defence was possible against the destruction of cities by aerial bombing? And how was this to be achieved?
Neither anti-aircraft guns nor fighter aircraft could provide effective defence, and resources devoted to them drained strength from the decisive arm: the bomber force.
The three-dimensional vastness of the sky and the speed with which aircraft moved through it precluded effective anti-aircraft gunnery. Additionally, the numbers of guns needed to cover every potential target made this form of defence enormously expensive.
Fighters had the problem of getting aloft and finding their enemy before damage could be done. Douhet was a terrible prophet, but a false one. His whole conception of air war rests on the assumption that the bomber will always get through, and that the damage it can then do will crush the resistance. He was wrong on both counts, as British experience in was to demonstrate.
The British developed an early warning system linked with a command-and-control network that allowed their fighters to intercept bomber squadrons. Heavy losses forced the Germans to switch to night bombing. Then, indeed, the bomber got through. But neither the infrastructure nor the morale of London was broken by the Blitz. Instead, a million ordinary Londoners, mobilised in a plethora of volunteer roles, kept the city alive and breathing. Britain survived. Douhet was wrong.
Nonetheless, even a false prophet often preaches partial truth. The Command of the Air remains a visionary conceptualisation of the potential power of massed strategic bombing.
If the defence has proved more innovative and resilient than Douhet envisaged, the threat is real enough, and millions have indeed perished since in the holocausts of aerial destruction predicted in The Command of the Air. Giulio Douhet. Related Posts:. Leave a Reply Cancel reply.
Douhet, Command of the Air
He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare. Born in Caserta , Campania , Italy , from a family of savoyard exiles who had migrated there after the cession of Savoy to France  he attended the Military Academy of Modena and was commissioned into the artillery of the Italian Army in Assigned to the General Staff shortly after the beginning of the new century, Douhet published lectures on military mechanization. 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. In , Italy went to war against the Ottoman Empire for control of Libya.
The Command of the Air
Context : Italian aviation pioneer, Commissioned into artillery and then excelled in engineering studies at graduate school. Took interest in aviation when Italy built its first dirigible in In , Italy went to war against Turkey for control of Libya — the first wartime use of aircraft. In , assumed command of the Italian aviation battalion at Turin.