World War II witnessed the first full application of strategic air power in war. At this writing, in fact, World War II has provided the only such full-scale application. Because that great effort was unique, it should be worth analytical examination, not only in terms of actions and effects, but more particularly in terms of objectives, strategic plans, and results of operations designed to achieve these ends. A brief review of the development of U.S. strategic air doctrines and their nature at the outbreak of American participation in World War II should serve as a useful prelude to discussion of the strategic air war itself.1
Air Doctrines, and War Plans
Airplanes were used, of course, in World War I, although on a very limited scale. But even with the limited use and, for the most part, inconclusive results of air operations, proponents of air power began to appear. One of the most notable of these early proponents of the virtually untried air weapon was Lt. Gen. Jan C. Smuts, who headed a
commission established by the British Cabinet to investigate the dual problems of air organization and home defense. The commission came into being largely as a result of popular dissatisfaction with the ability of the air defenses to deal with German Zeppelin and Gotha bombing attacks against London. The report, submitted to the British Prime Minister on August 17, 1917, stated:It is important for the winning of the war that we should not only secure air predominance, but secure it on a very large scale; and having secured it in this war, we should make every effort and sacrifice to maintain it for the future. Air supremacy may in the long run become as important a factor in the defense of the Empire as sea supremacy.
Smuts himself said in submitting the report of his commission:The day may not be far off when aerial operations, with their devastation of enemy lands and destruction of industrial and populous centers on a vast scale, may become the principal operations of war, to which the older forms of military and naval operations may become secondary and subordinate.These were strong words regarding the potential of the new air weapon, coming as early as 1917. Smuts was a ground soldier speaking, not as one wedded to an historic art, but as a farsighted statesman. He was characterized by Air Marshal Sir John C. Slessor, Royal Air Force (RAF), in his memoir, The Central Blue, as "one of the greatest men of our time -- of all times." Significantly, the report of Smuts's committee led to the establishment of the Air Ministry in December 1917 and the Royal Air Force in April 1918. Then, of course, there was Maj. Gen. Hugh M. Trenchard (later Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Trenchard), who fended off attacks on the fledgling RAF by the other services and postulated advanced notions concerning the possibilities of the air arm.
Support for what we call today "strategic bombardment" came from other directions as well. For example, as early as 1916 the Italian aircraft manufacturer Count Giovanni B. Caproni proposed to destroy German and Austrian naval vessels by bomber attack against fleet
bases. In January 1917, he argued that his large triplane bombers, if built in sufficient numbers, could destroy Austria's factories, thus ending the war with Italy's main opponent. In October 1917, Caproni, in collaboration with his friend Lt. Col. Giulio Douhet of the Italian Army, prepared a "Memorandum on the `Air War' for the U.S. Air Service," in which he suggested that mass attacks made at night by long-range Allied bombers against industrial targets deep within Germany and Austria could definitely overwhelm the enemy by substantially reducing his war production at the same time that Allied production was increasing.
More must be said about Douhet. Actually, he had begun to write about military aviation as early as 1909. During World War I, he was imprisoned for a year (1916-1917) for criticizing Italy's wartime military policy. But Douhet, like Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell of the U.S. Army Air Service, whose career was parallel, became more influential in the post-World War I period. Douhet's wartime court-martial was expunged in 1920, and he was promoted to general officer rank in 1921. He completed his first serious treatise on military aviation -- Il Dominio dell' Aria, or The Command of the Air -- in October 1921. In this essay, he proved to be a strong proponent of strategic air warfare. In essence, he advocated creation of an independent air force made up of a fleet of bombers, to be accompanied by "battle planes" -- bombers equipped with many guns to fight off hostile pursuit planes en route to strategic targets. This bomber force would win command of the air by attacking enemy aircraft factories and flying facilities and would destroy the enemy's will to resist by bombing his population centers.
Soon after the end of World War I, airpower concepts were deeply influenced by two other military strategists. One was the great British military historian Capt. B. H. Liddell Hart. In his book Paris, Liddell Hart pointed out that Germany had surrendered when her armies were still powerful and her borders were still intact. The military power to wage war was still there but the civilian "will to resist" -- to continue the struggle -- had collapsed. Liddell Hart contended that prosecution of war is a product of two fundamental factors: military
capability and political will to resist or persist. Either or both can be undermined, with resultant national defeat.
The other military strategist was Billy Mitchell. In the post-World War I period he was the most outspoken proponent of air power in our own country. The story of his advocacy of an independent air force and his insight into the potential of the air weapon has been told and retold and does not need repeating here. During the war, Mitchell had been exposed to ideas of other air pioneers, notably Trenchard, Douhet, and Caproni. He came out of the war convinced that an air force had a mission independent from the other services and, to be effective, air power should be concentrated in the hands of airmen. The extent to which Smuts, Trenchard, Caproni, and Douhet influenced Mitchell is speculative, but in the post-World War I period his espousal of a principal role -- a war-winning role -- for air power is indisputable.
Mitchell's ideas concerning air power came cascading in a stream of publications and public statements. So wide-ranging were his views, it is difficult to pin them down in one brief quotation. Perhaps, however, the principal thrust of his arguments was summed up in his statement before the House Committee on Military Affairs in 1926, when he declared:There has never been anything that ... has changed war the way the advent of air power has. The method of prosecuting a war in the old days was to get at the vital centers of the country in order to paralyze the resistance. This meant the centers of production, the centers of population, the agricultural districts, the animal industry, communications -- anything that tended to keep up war. Now in order to keep the enemy out of that, armies were spread in front of those places and protected them by their flesh and blood. You had men killing there, sometimes for years before these vital centers were reached. It led to the theory that the hostile army in the field was the main objective, which it was. Once having been conquered, the vital centers could be gotten at ... In the future, we will strike, in case of armed conflict, when all other means of settling disputes have failed, to go straight to the vital centers, the industrial centers, through the use of an air force and hit them. That is the modern theory of making war.
War Department Doctrine While Mitchell advanced ideas on the potential of air power far in excess of the capabilities of the air weapon of his day, the Army General Staff continued to be nourished on the time-honored concepts of warfare, which proclaimed the infantry was the "Queen of Battle." Within the War Department, the two decades after World War I were a period of conflict between the traditionally minded Army members of the General Staff and a new breed within the Army, the upstart airmen of the Army Air Corps. The conflict concerned both the place within the Army for the new air arm and, more specifically, the role of air power. Gen. John J. Pershing, recently returned from Europe as head of the victorious American Expeditionary Force and Chief of Staff of the Army in the early 1920s, threw the weight of his considerable personal prestige against air power. In fact, airmen might have been squelched into oblivion if the American public had not shown an interest in aviation. Public clamor was at least partially responsible for forcing the government to convene a series of military and presidential boards and commissions to inquire into the role and organization of aviation. The reports of these various investigative agencies played no small role in keeping the question of military aviation alive.
With one exception, the report of the Lampert Committee, which in many respects endorsed Mitchell's ideas, the reports reflected a general consensus that the air arm could serve a useful purpose as an adjunct to the Army and Navy. However, there was no place for a separate air force in the military establishment, and certainly there was no separate air mission. The prevailing view was summed up in the July 1934 report of the Baker Board, perhaps the best known of the various boards. It contended: "Our national defense policy contemplates aggression against no nation; it is based entirely upon the defense of our homeland and our overseas possessions, including protection of our sea and airborne commerce." The purpose of the Army was "to hold an invader while the citizen forces are being mobilized. . . . The idea that aviation can replace any of the other elements of our armed forces is found, on analysis, to be erroneous.
Since ground forces alone are capable of occupying territory, the Army with its own air forces remains the ultimate decisive factor in war."
Jimmy Doolittle, a member of the Baker Board and an experienced Army aviator, filed a minority dissent. He said, "I believe that the future security of our Nation is dependent upon an adequate air force. This is true at the present time and will become increasingly important as the science of aviation advances and the airplane lends itself more and more to the art of warfare." He maintained that a separate air arm was needed for the proper development and employment of military aviation.
The issues between the advocates of air power and older services were clearly drawn. The Army and Navy would only acknowledge the airplane as a useful auxiliary to the surface forces in the battle to defeat the enemy. Smuts, Caproni, Douhet, and Mitchell advanced ideas and concepts that embraced a war-winning potential for air power and advocated air attacks against "the vital centers, the industrial centers, the centers of population of the enemy nation," in order to destroy the capability and the will of the enemy to continue the war.
But these visionary concepts of the air pioneers lacked specifics. How does one go about destroying or paralyzing these vital centers? Are cities really the best targets? Are there other targets? How should air power be controlled and employed? What effect is intended and expected? In short, what strategic and tactical doctrines were needed to accomplish the ends?
To my knowledge, the Army Air Corps had no official body of doctrine in the early 1930s. It was a part of the Army. What little guidance the Air Corps received for the conduct of its operations was contained in training regulations issued by the War Department. But these instructions could scarcely be called doctrines for the employment of air power. While other branches of the Army had boards -- the Infantry Board, the Cavalry Board, the Artillery Board -- the Air Corps had none at the time. In the absence of similar Air Corps agencies, the Chief of the Air Corps relied upon the Air Corps Tactical School as a center for producing concepts of airpower employment. So
in reality, the teachings of Air Corps Tactical School, as far as airmen were concerned, were the accepted doctrines of the Air Corps and served as guidance for forming strategic air plans. These American air doctrines and concepts of air strategy were evolved at the Tactical School in the 1930s.
The Air Corps Tactical School was established at Langley Field, Virginia, in 1920. Beginning as a Field Officers' School, it did not expand its scope of instruction and stress airpower employment until the end of the decade. Then, the school was blessed with a group of gifted leaders and independent thinkers -- Robert Olds, Kenneth Walker, Harold Lee George, Donald Wilson, Muir "Santy" Fairchild -- names honored by the Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Air Force Academy, and throughout the modern Air Force. But there was another stalwart leader who has received less recognition, though he should be listed among the best. This was John F. Curry, Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School from 1931 to 1935, a period when the principal texts were prepared for Air Warfare and Principles of Air Force Employment. Much of the basic strategy of American air power was developed under his regime. At a time when the War Department was threatening dire punishment from above, Curry protected the freedom of his faculty. He made possible the development of doctrines of air power which formed the basis for the creation of the Army Air Forces (AAF) and its employment in World War II. Under his leadership the school bridged the transition from broad generalities of pioneering air prophets to more pragmatic application of air power in attainment of specific objectives.
Air Doctrine and Strategic Principles
The early visionaries and proponents had made great claims for air power. Their strategic concepts all depended upon one basic tactical concept accepted by the Tactical School as a fundamental doctrine: bombers could reach their targets and destroy them. The strategic airpower doctrine fashioned at the school rested on five fundamental aphorisms:
1. Modern great powers rely on major industrial and economic
MEMBERS OF THE TACTICAL SCHOOL FACULTY
ROBERT OLDS, instructor
department director 1936-1940
department director, 1940
HAROLD L. GEORGE,
department director 1934-1936
systems for production of weapons and supplies for their armed forces, and for manufacture of products and provision of services to sustain life in a highly industrialized society. Disruption or paralysis of these systems undermines both the enemy's capability and will to fight.
2. Such major systems contain critical points whose destruction will break down these systems, and bombs can be delivered with adequate accuracy to do this.
3. Massed air strike forces can penetrate air defenses without unacceptable losses and destroy selected targets.
4. Proper selection of vital targets in the industrial/economic/social structure of a modern industrialized nation, and their subsequent destruction by air attack, can lead to fatal weakening of an industrialized enemy nation and to victory through air power.
5. If enemy resistance still persists after successful paralysis of selected target systems, it may be necessary as a last resort to apply direct force upon the sources of enemy national will by attacking cities. In this event, it is preferable to render the cities untenable rather than indiscriminately to destroy structures and people.
Since this philosophy had not been demonstrated in war, it was not universally accepted even in the Air Corps. There was little argument that nations needed industrial systems or that bombs could paralyze such systems. But the third premise ("the bombers will always get through") was vigorously protested by the pursuit people. However in 1932, when these concepts were first advanced, bombers rode the crest of technological achievement. They were just about as fast as the current fighters. Having the enormous advantage of the initiative, they could pick the time, place, altitude, and route of attack. Moreover, they could capitalize on the principle of mass, concentrating at the critical point. Defending pursuit planes possessed no such advantage. This was before the day of radar or even an observer corps. This still left one variable: Could the bombs be properly placed and, if so, how large a force was necessary to reasonably assure getting the requisite number of hits on the target? We worked up tables of probability based on peacetime, daylight, visual bombing practice. These served as a guide in selecting the size force that would assure the desired bomb hits and destruction.
Accepting these basic tactical precepts and doctrine, the Air Corps Tactical School turned to the problem of formulating strategic doctrines for the support of national policy with air power. National policy could vary within wide limits, and it was not feasible to cover all purposes and situations. The school concentrated its efforts on describing principles and doctrines involved in war with one or more modern, major powers. It accepted as the national strategic purpose the crushing of enemy opposition to the extent necessary for support or attainment of the nation's goals and aims. The school claimed that air power could break down the enemy's "will to resist" and "capability to fight" by:
1. Destroying organic industrial systems in the enemy interior that provided for the enemy's armed forces in the field.
2. Paralyzing the organic industrial, economic, and civic systems that maintained the life of the enemy nation itself. (Some of these systems supported both the capability to fight and to sustain a modern social and political structure.)
3. Attacking the people themselves, especially those concentrated in the cities. (The school considered this method an undesirable stratagem, one to be adopted only as a last resort.) The school recognized a fourth obligation of air power: the defense of one's own sources of power.
This was not, of course, the sole employment of air power. The flexibility of the air force enabled it to operate in parallel with or in support of the surface forces, and there would be occasions when this was the best employment. Still, the school believed the methods listed above constituted the unique contribution of strategic air power to the winning of wars. This line of reasoning ran directly counter to official War Department doctrine, which asserted the Air Corps had no mission beyond that of the army. The army alone could conquer and hold territory, the only way to win wars. To do this, the army would first have to defeat the enemy army, and the function of the Army Air Corps should be to support the army in this endeavor. The Tactical School did not deny the need of the army for air support. But it insisted there was another and vital function of air power-the waging of strategic air warfare beyond the scope of the battlefield.
Development of principles of strategic air warfare simply had to embrace offense and to consider basing of offensive air forces within range of foreign nations. But the War Department, reflecting national policy, strictly forbade any teaching other than defense of our borders. The school sought to overcome these limitations in two ways. If we were embroiled in a war involving major European nations, we could anticipate having allies who could furnish bases for our air forces. And official policy notwithstanding, strict adherence to defense would not win wars. The school therefore undertook to formulate doctrine for the air offensive against modern industrialized nations. In this regard, it introduced a subtle but very significant variation from the doctrines of Douhet and Mitchell. The latter advocated destruction of factories and industrial centers and population centers. The school favored destruction or paralysis of national organic systems on which many factories and numerous people depended, but also accepted the need for destroying a few highly important factories.
What were those critical organic systems whose destruction would paralyze a modern state? Being strictly forbidden to examine foreign countries, the Tactical School proposed to analyze the industrial might of America. An analysis of our own industrial, economic, and social complex and its vulnerability to air attack would serve for the development of doctrines and principles of air employment anywhere. Furthermore, the analysis would accord with national military policy, inasmuch as air defense was first priority and we needed to know what was most vulnerable to enemy air attack in order to plan defenses.
It soon became apparent that the very heart of our industrial system was the electric power system. Practically all our industrial and economic functions were totally dependent upon it. Then in order of importance were these systems: transportation, chiefly our railroads; fuel, including fuel-refining and distribution; food distribution and preservation; and steel manufacturing, the manufacturing process being vital to both the war-making capacity of the state, and to the operation of the economic and industrial functions of the state itself. In addition, there were a number of highly concentrated manufacturing factories whose destruction would add a crippling blow. Among these plants were electric generator, transformer, switch gear, and
motor manufacturing; locomotive manufacturing; shipbuilding; aluminum and magnesium.
Viewing this concept, as applied to our own nation, the Tactical School concluded:Loss of any of these systems would be a crippling blow. Loss of several or all of them would bring national paralysis. As to repair of this devastation, it would seem obvious that any air force worthy of the name should be able to destroy faster than replacement could be effected.... The airplane gives us a weapon which can immediately reach the internal organization of an enemy nation, within range, and therefore bring about the defeat of that nation. The fundamental innovation lies in the fact that whole nations now lie within the combat zone.As to strategic air intelligence, the school deemed it vital to planning and operations of strategic air warfare. It should be collected in time of peace and cover the economic, industrial, and social structure of potential enemies. On the question of counter-air force operations the school was moot. It was agreed that the "bombers could get through," but penetration of strong enemy defenses might prove intolerably costly. Defeat of the enemy air defense force might be necessary to assure the air offensive's success against the interior targets, and in any case would greatly increase the air attack's effectiveness. If so, the best method would entail air attack of enemy bases, enemy aircraft and engine factories, enemy sources of aviation fuel, and attrition through air combat attendant upon these missions.
The Tactical School took a look at one of our most troublesome problems -- direct attack against enemy centers of population (the cities). Others, including Douhet, had advocated direct attack on cities. The school opposed the concept which was generally described as an attack on enemy morale. The idea of killing thousands of men, women, and children was basically repugnant to American mores. And from a more pragmatic point of view, people did not make good targets for the high-explosive bomb, the principal weapon of the air offensive. People can scatter, be evacuated, or be protected in shelters. On the other hand, the cities were control points in the complex fabric
of the industrial structure -- the management centers and focal points of management communications. If their evacuation could be forced, the industrial structure would suffer a serious blow. Dropping high-explosive bombs on selected focal points might destroy vital civic systems, render the cities untenable, and force their evacuation. A study of New York revealed that a very small number of hits on a few sensitive spots could cause collapse of the life-sustaining vital systems. These points included such sensitive elements as water supply conduits and pumping stations; railroads that literally carried the daily requirements of food; highway bridges and tunnels; and terminal facilities of the river and harbor barge system that served as a vast distribution switchyard for distribution of goods and food. This seemed a far better application of air power than scattering bombs in urban areas.
The school sought to sponsor another doctrine, one dealing with the tactical need for and provision of escort fighters to protect the bombers. Here it was unsuccessful, running into the adamant opposition of the Pursuit Section and the Pursuit Board. With plausible reasoning, the fighter experts asserted that a fighter with the range to accompany bombers would be so large and heavy that short-range interceptors could easily outfly and outfight them. Progress toward developing a long-range fighter was the two-place PB-2 produced by the Consolidated Aircraft Company. But the rear gunner was merely an unnecessary burden with little firepower. Very fast and maneuverable for its day and with relatively long range, the aircraft might have been developed into an effective escort fighter. However, the idea for its tactical employment was fuzzy, and there was no charismatic leader to support its doctrine. It is tragic that this was so, for the lack of long-range fighters nearly halted the air offensive in 1943. Seeking the only avenue open to them, the bombers increased armament and massed defensive firepower from tight formations.
In putting forth the preceding arguments, airmen at the school contended that, in seeking the ends of strategic air warfare in pursuit of national goals, offensive air forces could be used in several ways. They could be used as the primary war-winning force, supported or followed by land and sea forces, as suggested by Air Marshal Smuts.
Or they could function as a collateral force, coequal with land or sea forces, operating against separate but related objectives. In either event, the strategic air forces would have to have strategic intelligence peculiar to their own needs. To be effective in the pursuit of these two air strategies, air power demanded concentration of effort and unified command and control by an airman at the highest echelon of command. The very flexibility of air forces made possible diversion of the strategic element to a third role -- support of land or sea force objectives. This could occur when there was a dearth of vital enemy industrial targets, the existence of an immediate national emergency, or the overriding authority of superior command. Hence strategic forces could be shifted to a support role. Still, if air forces were designed and structured solely for the role of supporting land or sea forces, they would be incapable of fighting effectively in a strategic war.
Besides the specific doctrines of air employment, the Air Corps Tactical School accepted and adapted the War Department Principles of War to air power. The most important were:The Tactical School devised a form, the Air Estimate of the
The Objective Determine clearly what you want to accomplish and stick to it. The Offensive Only offensive action against the enemy will produce victory. Mass Concentrate the maximum possible effort toward attainment of the main objective. Do not permit the effort to be diverted from the principal purpose. Economy of Force The converse of the principle of mass. In all other operations use as little force as possible in order to concentrate mass on the principal effort. Security Unless the base of power is defended and secure, it will be very difficult to sustain the strategic offensive and to continue to prosecute the war.
Situation for Strategic Air Warfare, to assist in determining the optimum application of offensive strategic air power. The form's rationale was fairly simple, the most significant considerations being: define clearly the purpose, the goal -- what you want to accomplish; consider the obstacles and opportunities in the broad situation; list the actions (tasks) which, if successfully accomplished, would attain the purpose, in order of desired priority; consider the force needed to carry out each task; consider the capability of your own forces and determine which of the tasks come within your capability; consider the risks and possible losses of each task; select the tasks that will achieve your purpose most effectively without unacceptable risk and loss, and which come within your capability; prepare a plan to fulfill the selected tasks. We used this form in preparing all the strategic war plans. "Purpose" was the keynote: select targets that contribute most to the purpose. The rationale also underscored the principle of "Capacity of the Force." That is, do not attempt tasks beyond your capability. Keep your operations within the capability of the forces available. It is far better to destroy a few vital targets completely than to attack many targets inconclusively.
Though airmen at the Tactical School were slowly evolving a concrete body of doctrine for the employment of strategic air forces, the Army Air Corps had neither the organization nor the forces required to implement it. The closest the Air Corps came to achieve either in the 1930s was the establishment of General Headquarters Air Force (GHQ Air Force) and the appearance of the B-17 bomber.
In 1934 the Baker Board, while rejecting the concept of independent strategic air warfare, did recommend the creation of a consolidated, centrally controlled air strike force, the GHQ Air Force. GHQ would be the General Headquarters of the Army command in the field, and during wartime the Commander of the GHQ Air Force would be directly subject to the GHQ Commander. When the United States was not engaged in war, the GHQ Air Force Commander was responsible to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff. In keeping with the Baker
The GHQ Air Force
Board recommendations, the GHQ Air Force was activated in March 1935.
There were three views as to the purpose of the GHQ Air Force. One view saw it as GHQ Aviation Reserve. This was a role advocated for Army aviation after World War I. Parts of the GHQ Air Force would be apportioned out and attached to field armies and corps as the situation demanded. A second view saw the GHQ Air Force as a cohesive air-striking force to be employed as a unit in furtherance of the Army mission. Still a third view -- one held by airmen -- was that it was a unified striking force available for use beyond the sphere of activity of the Army as well as in support of the Army. In other words, airmen viewed the GHQ Air Force as an air force with missions of its own. The first Commanding General of the GHQ Air Force, Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, felt no doubt about the issue and left no doubt in the minds of his associates. To General Andrews, the GHQ Air Force was an instrument of air power.
Actually, however, as the War Department underwent a series of reorganizations after 1939 in the face of the growing possibilities of U.S. involvement in World War II, the concept of a GHQ went out the window and with it the GHQ Air Force. The GHQ Air Force was too short lived to leave any outstanding legacy of air doctrine. But it had demonstrated in several dramatic flights that the bomber had superb flexibility and could quickly be deployed to remote bases. Significantly, despite the fight of airmen for acceptance of airpower theories, as late as 1939 the War Department was still saying: "The mission of the air component of the Army is to perform effectively the air operations devolving upon the Army in its assigned functions in the national defense.... Air operations beyond the sphere of action of the surface forces are undertaken in furtherance of the strategic plan of the commander of the field force."
The Army Air Corps had no official basis on which to promulgate air doctrine. It was a part of the U.S. Army and doctrine was issued by the War Department for all branches of the Army. Nevertheless, by
American Strategic Air Doctrine
the 1930s the teachings and texts of the Air Corps Tactical School were accepted as doctrine within the Air Corps. The Army Air Corps considered that strategic air warfare embraced five optional categories:
- Direct attack on enemy armed forces, including air forces on the ground and in the air; on concentration of troops; on naval and maritime elements; and on logistics in the combat zone.
- Local air defense of friendly military forces and bases.
- Indirect air attack of enemy armed forces by destroying the industrial elements which supplied and supported the enemy armed forces. Target objectives included industrial systems that made war production possible, such as:
- Electric power systems (generating stations, transformer and switching stations, dams and penstocks).
- Natural fuel, refining, and transfer systems; synthetic fuel production systems; transportation systems (rail, highway, canal, sea).
- Special factories and arsenals (aircraft and aircraft engine, tank, weapons, and ammunition factories; major interior depots; rubber production facilities).
- Basic war-supporting materials (steel plants, aluminum and magnesium plants).
- Local interior air defense of friendly forces and installations vital to munitions manufacture.
- Direct air attack on the economic and social systems and structure of the enemy state, including destruction or neutralization of major supporting systems (electric power, communication, basic economic industrial production, water supply, industrial and economic transportation, food-handling, food-production, food preservation and distribution, and management control).
- Many of the national industrial systems and economic systems supported the enemy capability to sustain the armed forces and the ability to continue to fight. These were also vital to the continued operation of the state itself as a modern industrialized society-systems bolstering the political will to resist of the enemy nation.
- Industrial and economic systems of the national state body
were likened to the vital organic systems that give life and activity to the human body. Electric power was the heart, without whose continued function all directed activity is paralyzed. Transportation was the system of arteries carrying energy to the vital organs. Fuel systems were the metabolic functions that translate sources of energy to muscular action. Communications were the nervous system. All served the brain, the source of political decision. All were vital to the civil as well as to the military capabilities of the enemy state. Their paralysis undermine both the military capability of the enemy state and the social and political "will to resist." They were pertinent to both 2 and 3 above.
- Direct air attack on enemy social centers, including cities and factory worker dwelling areas.
- Strategic air defense of one's own urban, industrial, economic, and base areas.
Within the constraints imposed on them, the airmen were thinking more and more about sustained, high-altitude bombing of selected industrial targets and supporting systems in order to attain national goals in war. Yet that was just the beginning, the expression of an abstract concept. To think and plan in practical terms, it was necessary to consider: What were our national goals and purposes, and what were the threats to those goals? Who were our potential enemies, and where in their industrial and social structure lay the weak links? How vulnerable were these targets? What measures would the enemy probably take to protect them? How far were they from our air bases? What new air bases would have to be acquired?
The problem was vastly complicated for it presumed knowledge about a nation which that nation naturally tried to hide. Much of the value of the bombing offensive, should there be one, would of necessity rest on intelligence data and the conclusions planners gleaned from it. In truth these specific questions were beyond the competence of the Tactical School. Strategic air intelligence on major world powers would demand an intelligence organization and analytical competence of considerable scope and complexity.
In 1940 the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps had an Information Division dealing chiefly with public relations, but the Air Corps had no Strategic Intelligence Division. Military intelligence was the province of G-2 of the U.S. Army General Staff and its prerogatives were jealously guarded.
Strategic Air Intelligence
A simple example is illustrative. As a new member of the Information Division in 1940, I undertook to promote inquiries I thought might be useful. Japan was not yet at war with the West but she was aligned with Germany and Italy, and Nazi Germany was actively engaged in war on her Western Front. It seemed likely the war would spread and Japan would extend her operations in China and the China Sea. If we should be drawn in, we might find the coast of China blockaded by Japanese naval power and inaccessible to us. In that case, if we wanted to support China and establish air bases there for attack of Japan, we would have to approach from India and Burma. I prepared a draft paper proposing that U.S. Army engineers be sent to survey the Burma Road and report upon the possibilities of maintaining military logistic communications.
I took the draft paper to my friend and classmate Capt. Andral Bratton, Far East desk, G-2. He enthusiastically endorsed the proposal and asked to keep the draft memorandum for discussion with his associates. In due course it came back to me through portentous channels. Brig. Gen. Sherman Miles, G-2 of the War Department, had sent it to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. William Bryden, with a complaint that the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps had no business intruding in such matters. The Deputy Chief had passed the complaint to the Chief of the Air Corps with the comment that if the officers of the Information Division had no more useful occupation for their energies than this, he was prepared to disband the Information Division and transfer its personnel to G-2 where their talents could be directed to some useful purpose. Even General Arnold was miffed -- and when he was miffed people soon found out about it. Doubtless he was embarrassed to be called down about an incident of which he had no knowledge. In sending the correspondence down to the Information
Division, he penned the comment, "I am inclined to agree with General Bryden." The incident passed, but it served to slam shut the door connecting the Air Corps Information Division and G-2.
Not long thereafter the relationship -- or lack of it -- surfaced again. General Arnold had an informal conversation with Lt. Col. Truman Smith, recently returned from Berlin as the Assistant Military Attache. Smith furnished General Arnold many details of the Luftwaffe and German aircraft production of which Arnold was ignorant. The general demanded to know why such information had not been passed to him previously. Obviously it was of vital importance to the Air Corps. He was informed that these and numerous other facts were reported to G-2. General Arnold went to General Miles, G-2, and posed the same question. He was advised that intelligence of this nature was restricted to members of the War Department General Staff (WDGS), and Arnold as Chief of the Air Corps was not a member of the General Staff and hence was not on the distribution list.
Arnold went directly to Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and requested authority to set up an air intelligence system with Assistant Military Attaches for Air at U.S. embassies abroad. General Marshall approved the request. Next, Col. Ira Eaker, Arnold's Executive Officer, sent for Maj. Thomas D. White and me. He described General Marshall's authorization, and said General Arnold directed us to get on with it. Tommy White was a gifted intellectual and a highly qualified Air Corps officer. Having extensive experience abroad, he was fluent in Chinese and French. He was also a recent graduate of the Air Corps Tactical School and the Army Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth.
After discussing the scope of the problem facing us, we divided the program into two broad parts: foreign collection, and strategic analyses. As Chief of the Air Intelligence Section, Tommy organized a system of Assistant Military Attaches for Air and the collection of information through them. He selected the attaches, brought them to Washington for orientation and instruction, and sent them abroad. He also arranged the channels for communication, which provided that
G-2 of the War Department General Staff should have copies of all pertinent reports.
I undertook the area of strategic air intelligence and analysis. I set up three subsections, or branches: one devoted to foreign air forces, including size, composition, equipment, disposition, tactical doctrine, and proficiency; another dealing with airports and air bases throughout the world, together with maps and weather data; and a third engaging in economic-industrial-social analysis of major foreign powers, culminating in analysis and description of vital and vulnerable systems and, finally, target selection and preparation of target folders.
This latter activity involved a completely new venture. The Army's G-2 gave us no help whatsoever. On the contrary, we ran into vigorous opposition to the collection and analysis of such information on the grounds that it did not relate to the proper role of military intelligence. We had to proceed on our own, pioneering in one of the most difficult, critical, and challenging areas in the field of intelligence. We knew correct collection and analysis was vital to the success of the strategic air effort. Moreover, miscalculations of any significant magnitude could completely discredit the concept. I believed foreign industrial analysis and targeting was the sine qua non of strategic air warfare. Without such intelligence and analysis there could be no rational planning for the application of air power. Douhet's statement to the effect that the selection of objectives and targets was the essence of air strategy was patently true.
Our approach to industrial analysis as a basis for targeting was not started from scratch. At the Tactical School we had laid out the methodology and, since we had no foreign intelligence, we used the industrial structure of the United States as a working model. It was an abstract exercise lacking in practical results, but it did help to focus attention on the importance of certain systems and factories: electric power; rail transportation; fuel; basic materials such as steel; food supplies and processing; water supplies; and armaments and aircraft factories.
In view of the world situation, the Strategic Air Intelligence Section naturally concentrated on the Axis powers. It was slow and tedious work, but ultimately we made a lot of headway with Germany
and Italy. Japan, however, was a different story. The Japanese had established and maintained a curtain of secrecy that we found absolutely impenetrable. There were not even any recent maps available.
The rising concern in the United States about Hitler's Germany was of great value to us in our work. It led a number of gifted men to enter the service and contribute their special talents. Also, it made available modest sums of money for hiring civilian experts. We were fortunate to hire Dr. James T. Lowe, a specialist in diplomatic history and international relations. Another civilian-turned-military was Maj. Malcolm Moss, a man of broad experience in international business who had traveled extensively. We were also fortunate in enlisting the services of a man with a doctorate in industrial economics and one who was an expert in oil.
Our initial inquiries into the industrial-economic structure of Hitler's Germany focused attention on: electric power, as well as electric switching, transmission, and distribution systems, and sources of fuel; steel production, including sources and movement of raw material; petroleum production, distribution, and products, and synthetic processes; the aircraft industry, taking in engine and aircraft manufacturing plants and aluminum production; and transportation, the most prominent components being the railway, canal, and highway networks. Our analyses also encompassed Germany's nonferrous metal supply, machine tool production, and food processing and distribution.
Malcolm Moss made a particularly valuable suggestion with regard to the electric power system in Germany. He knew the electric power generating and distribution system of Germany was relatively new and had been built with capital borrowed largely from the United States. He also knew American banks did not lend large sums of money for capital equipment without carefully investigating the proposed structures. He suggested we inquire of the great international banks, particularly in New York, if they had drawings and specifica- tions of German electric plants and systems. The results were fruitful and rewarding. Using these sources, together with scientific journals and trade magazines, we put together a comprehensive target study on
the German electric power system and electric distribution system. It was even possible to prepare target folders, aiming points, and bomb sizes.
We also made substantial progress on information about petroleum and synthetic oil plants, partially through the same sources, in part from the oil industries, and to a degree through individuals. Fortunately, our civilian oil expert had worked in Germany, in the Rumanian fields at Ploesti, and in the Middle East. It was through his knowledge and analysis that we recognized the extreme importance and vulnerability of the German synthetic oil plants, and the related importance of the Ploesti refineries. Thus we were able to prepare target folders, aiming points, and bomb sizes for these target systems. In addition, we made an analysis of the German steel industry and its sources of raw materials. We were less successful in our analysis of German transportation, partly because of the extent of the rail and canal systems. But enough was discovered to place the transportation system high on the priority list of desirable targets.
Later in 1941, I had a chance to go to England as an observer. The express purpose of my visit was to explore British intelligence, in response to a generous invitation by the Royal Air Force, and bring home what I could. At the same time, I took a hard look at possible air base construction sites in England, since by this time British and American military leaders had met in Washington in what became known as the ABC Conferences. We knew if we should become involved in the war, we would probably be allied with Britain against Germany and that the bomber offensive, if we ever launched one, would probably be from bases in Britain.
My relations with the RAF and the Air Ministry were extremely gratifying. I spent much of my time with Gp. Capt. A. C. H. "Bobby" Sharp, and I was literally welcomed into the inner chamber of RAF intelligence. I had brought along digests of our own intelligence and was made more comfortable by the discovery that we had much to offer. On balance, we were better informed than the British on German electric power, petroleum, and synthetic products. The RAF was better informed on Germany aircraft and engine production, the German Air Force, and German transportation.
At the end of my visit I found myself happily loaded down with priceless gifts of intelligence. The burden was formidable. There was nearly a ton of it. Most of this was in the form of "target folders" rather than analysis of target systems, but it was very valuable and most gratefully received. I wondered how to get it back to the United States, since it was, for the most part, classified secret. In the end I was able to have it shipped back by air in an American bomber.
Immediately after my return to Washington in July 1941 I was transferred from the Strategic Air Intelligence Section, A-2, to the new Air War Plans Division. Thus I again came under Lt. Col Harold L. George and Lt. Col. Kenneth N. Walker. Until the division was enlarged, the task of organizing our efforts to meet the broad assignment of developing "overall plans for the control of the activities of the Army Air Forces" fell upon the three of us. In this crucial state of affairs, it was a formidable assignment embracing such questions as size, composition, equipment, disposition, and organization of the air forces. And these in turn invoked the need to adopt the optimum concept for the wartime employment of these forces. Moreover, it was axiomatic that employment must make its maximum contribution in support of overall national policy.
Planning for War
At the time, national policy was very difficult to define. Nowhere was it clearly and neatly described. It was apparent that President Franklin D. Roosevelt viewed the possibility of a Nazi victory with deep concern. For six months after the fall of France, Britain had stood alone. With the German attack on Russia in June 1941, Britain gained a breathing spell, but it seemed likely the Soviets would be defeated. If so, the whole might of the victorious German Wehrmacht would then be turned against Britain. Furthermore, the vast industrial complex of Europe would be available for the production of munitions, including the creation of massive German air forces. The prospect was ominous to say the least. President Roosevelt seemed to favor American intervention before the collapse of Britain should make it a lost venture.
The United States as a whole was nowhere near such a mood. Most Americans seemed to cling to the hope that we could save the remnants of freedom and democracy in Europe by providing material aid to Britain. They were even willing to extend such aid to Soviet Russia in the belief a surviving Communist regime was a much lesser threat than a triumphant Nazi Germany. They were willing to extend our naval screen far out into the Atlantic and to prepare for active defense of the entire Western Hemisphere. But they were not ready to take the step of active participation in the war in Europe. Roosevelt had to retreat from his semi-belligerent policies on several occasions when it was clear that most of the American people were not willing to go so far. His Far Eastern policies caused little public concern. The American people simply could not believe Japan would challenge the United States in open warfare.
Until American policy firmed considerably, the best we could do for guidance was to determine in broad terms the general characteristics of the force requirements America seemed most likely to need. For those characteristics, we naturally turned back to lengthy discussions we had had on the subject back at the Air Corps Tactical School. We had reasoned that armed forces, as instruments for the furtherance of national policy, might be called upon to perform in three ways. One was the active acquisition of foreign territory. This would place primary reliance on land armies, and this objective seemed remote. However, taking temporary military action abroad in support of our national interest seemed increasingly probable. If so, chief dependence might be on the air force, or it might rest upon land armies, with naval and air forces operating in support roles. The possibility that aggressive action by forces unfriendly to the United States might compel us to take some action to protect our national interests and to force a halt upon the aggressor seemed a distinct possibility and received careful consideration. Air power might play the dominant role here. The third possibility, national and hemispheric defense, would require primary reliance upon air power for air defense and might call upon air power to repel any invasion.
Three dictators hostile to the United States were driving toward domination of important parts of the world. They threatened completely
to upset the balance of power and with it world peace. Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini had completed the conquest of much of Europe and the Balkans and were verging on the conquest of western Russia and North Africa. England might either fall or be forced into a humiliating accommodation. On the other side of the world the Japanese warlords were tearing China and Southeast Asia apart. Meanwhile a fourth dictator, Joseph Stalin, though hardly a friend of America, was a most valuable asset in resisting Hitler. And it seemed likely he too would be overwhelmed.
If in mid-1941 there were no firm national policies on which to structure our national defense, there were at least certain strategic guidelines. In September 1940 the Tripartite Pact had brought Japan openly into the Axis camp. At about the same time, the unexpected collapse of France, followed by the epic Battle of Britain, had opened the eyes of many American political and military leaders to the possibility of a world dominated by Hitler in the West and by Japan in the East. As a result, the President decided to offer material aid from the "arsenal of democracy" to those fighting the Axis. Also, after consultation with the Secretaries of War, Navy, and State, the President concluded that some formal military staff conversations with the British were in order. There followed a series of secret joint meetings in Washington at the end of January 1941, conferences known to history as ABC-1.2
The British personnel attending were Rear Adm. Roger M. Bellairs and Rear Adm. Victor H. Danckwerts, representing the Royal Navy; Maj. Gen. Edwin L. Morris, representing the British Army; and Air Vice Marshal John C. Slessor, representing the Royal Air Force. The United States personnel attending were Rear Adm. Robert L. Ghormley, Rear Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Capt. Alan G. Kirk, and
Capt. DeWitt C. Ramsey, all of the U.S. Navy, and Col. Omar T. Pfeiffer, U.S. Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Stanley D. Embick, Brig. Gen. Sherman Miles, and Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow represented the U.S. Army, and Col. Joseph T. McNarney, from the War Plans Division of the General Staff, represented the Army Air Corps. Although there were "rated" air officers of the United States present, there was no official representative of United States air power in a position corresponding to that of the RAF representative.
On an informal basis the Plans Division and Intelligence Division of the Office of Chief of the Air Corps cooperated very closely with Air Vice Marshal John Slessor and members of his staff and with Colonel McNarney. One of the most vital and fruitful developments of this informal relationship was a detailed exploration of the potential air base capacity of the United Kingdom, a capacity found to be several times greater than air planners in the United States had anticipated.
Our informal plans for possible deployment of the U.S. Army Air Forces to England had been predicated upon and limited by an analysis of existing airports. After making allowance for RAF requirements for air bases, it appeared the remainder would drastically restrict American air force deployment. Group Captain Sharp, who was in Washington on logistic matters at this time, produced a survey of suitable sites in England on which air bases could be built. It completely revolutionized our ideas of the potential capacity for accommodating U.S. air units. This discovery had an immense effect upon the dimensions of the air offensive that might be sustained from Britain and the potential scope of American air participation. The results that might be obtained from such an air offensive became a major aspect of combined offensive strategy.
The agreements and conclusions reached by the ABC-1 conferees were furnished to Roosevelt and Churchill in March 1941. The results of these conversations on the subsequent strategic developments of the war were profound. As a consequence, the U.S. Air Force owes an immense debt to Sir John Slessor and Colonel McNarney. The salient features of these conversations, predicated on the contingency the United States might be compelled to participate in the war, included
these points: Since the Atlantic-European area was deemed to be the decisive theater, the primary effort would be exerted there. Offensive measures in the European area would embrace a sustained air offensive against military power, supplemented by air offensives on other enemy regions contributing to that power. Italy would be eliminated early on. Raids and minor offensives would be conducted initially against the Continent. Support would be given to all neutrals and belligerents who opposed the Axis. Forces would be built up for an eventual offensive on Germany, and positions from which the offensive could be launched would be captured.
This agreement was incorporated with the war plans being prepared by the War and Navy Departments, and on May 14, 1941, the Joint Army and Navy Board approved the war plan known as RAINBOW No. 5.3 It was subsequently approved by the Secretaries of War and the Navy. When the Air War Plans Division of the Air Staff came into being in July 1941, it found itself in solid accord with the ABC conversations and with RAINBOW No. 5, the overall war plan envisioning Great Britain and the United States standing against Germany, Italy, and Japan.
As Hitler's armies cut their paths of victory through Europe, a mounting wave of apprehension engulfed the Roosevelt administration in Washington. Programs for expansion of the armed forces were presented to a reluctant Congress. One such program called for expansion of the Army Air Corps to fifty-four groups. It was presented to Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, early in 1940. On conclusion of the presentation by Capt. Laurence S. Kuter, General Marshall asked a penetrating question: "Why is this a fifty- four group program? Why not fifty-six, or sixty-four?" As usual,
War in Europe
General Marshall had gone directly to the root of the problem. What purpose was to be sought? What was the objective? Did it require fifty-four groups to attain that objective? Why? What was the strategic plan?
When the next opportunity arose for presentation of a major program, General Marshall's lesson was remembered. The planners asked themselves what was expected to be achieved with the force? What was the purpose?
Concern over Hitler's aggressive acquisitions in Europe produced other reactions in America. In June 1941 Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, acting on General Marshall's recommendation, established the Army Air Forces. General Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Force, was permitted to set up a staff for the AAF resembling the War Department General Staff but at a lower level. It included Personnel, Intelligence, Operations and Training, Materiel, and Air War Plans Divisions. Lt. Col. Harold George at the time commanded the 2d Bombardment Group containing all the B-17s of the AAF (all thirteen of them). He was reassigned to Washington to organize and operate the Air War Plans Division of the Air Staff, arriving on July 14.
The next major force-structuring effort grew out of a new presidential inquiry. On July 9, 1941 -- some two weeks after Hitler had mounted his massive attack on Russia -- Roosevelt asked the Secretaries of War and Navy to prepare an estimate of "the overall production requirements required to defeat our potential enemies." There was as usual a short deadline for a reply. Because the Joint Army and Navy Board could not agree upon an operational strategy, the War and Navy Departments each put together its needs separately. The burden of writing the War Department's response fell upon the War Plans Division of the WDGS. That division proposed to estimate air requirements, coordinate them with ground requirements, and append the air details to its report as Annex 2, Air Requirements. Colonel George, Chief of the fledgling Air War Plans Division, asked that his division be allowed to prepare the Air Annex. General Arnold made the necessary arrangements.
The War Plans Group of the infant Air War Plans Division
consisted of two people: Lt. Col. Kenneth N. Walker as Chief of the Group, and myself, Chief of the European Branch -- two chiefs and no Indians at all. Harold George devoted his full time to the project, and that made three. He succeeded in having Larry Kuter, on duty with G-3 of the General Staff, temporarily assigned to the division. The four of us were faced with the task of preparing a strategic air plan for conducting war on a worldwide scale, and determining the forces to carry out such a plan. We would be constrained only by the physical capability of the United States to produce the recommended forces.
In this latter regard, we had the benefit of advice and counsel from the supply people at Dayton, with Maj. Max F. Schneider serving as a priceless liaison. By the time we got authority to proceed, there were just seven days left for submission of the plan and report. We had one definite asset going for us: We had spent years together as instructors in Bombardment and Air Force at the Air Corps Tactical School. We embraced a common concept of air warfare and we spoke a common language. Then, too, I had spent the past year as head of the Strategic Air Intelligence Section of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, amassing and analyzing economic and industrial intelligence on the Axis powers. That intelligence now proved invaluable.
Harking back to General Marshall's comments as well as to our own teachings, we realized the first requirement for our plan was a statement of purpose -- a strategic objective. What should the air force try to achieve? What was the overall purpose? That was the fundamental keystone to plans, requirements, and operations. But that purpose was not only missing from our instructions; it was exceedingly hard to define.
The President's letter had called for defeat of our potential enemies. This was important guidance. Although he did not specify who our potential enemies were, there could be little doubt they were the Axis powers. His call for defeat cleared the air of any compromise objective, such as containment or deterrence. And we had two other significant guidelines. In passing the air requirement responsibility to the Air Staff, Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, Chief of the War Plans Division, had stipulated that the provisions of joint British-American conversations (ABC-1) and the U.S. current war plan (RAINBOW No. 5) should be
followed. The ABC-1 report called for strategic offensive operations against the European Axis powers as a maximum effort and strategic defensive operations in the Far East, with minimum diversion of forces from the main effort. It said: Offensive measures in the European area will include a sustained air offensive against German military power, supplemented by air offensives against other regions under enemy control which contribute to that power.
But what should be the relationship of air power to the achievement of the national purpose and to land and naval forces? Air forces were flexible, but special types of aircraft were best suited to specific roles, and the selection and provision of aircraft would depend upon the major role to be assumed by air power. Even in defeating the European Axis powers there was a wide range of strategic air purposes to be weighed:
a. Should the "sustained air offensive against German military power" seek to crush the war-making capability of the Third Reich by air warfare alone? If so, it would be necessary to destroy not only the industrial structure supporting the German armed forces, but the industrial and economic structure upholding the state itself.
b. Or should the "sustained air offensive" seek to undermine the war-making capability of Germany and pave the way for invasion of the Continent, with subsequent strategic air operations weakening Germany's willingness and capability to fight, in a continuing strategic air effort coordinated with the land campaign?
c. Or should the sustained air offensive seek only to guarantee the success of the invasion, and devote its entire strength to the support and success of the land operations, which would become the sole reliance for final victory?
d. And what were the requirements for home defense?
The targets, the types and number of aircraft, and the organization of the air forces would vary with each of these options. Selection of a basic overall strategy was the sine qua non of air planning. And the problem was further compounded by the knowledge that the plan would have to pass through the gauntlet of the War Department General Staff, culminating in a presentation to General Marshall. If he did not approve, the whole scheme would simply be discarded.
Marshall was himself a farsighted, broad-minded leader who had shown strong support for air power. But many Army officers still adhered to the official statement of Army doctrine: the sole mission of the Army Air Forces was the furtherance of the mission of the mobile army.
We knew a strategy oriented solely to invasion and air support of ground warfare in Europe involved troublesome prospects, including long and perhaps disastrous delays. We knew the War Plans Division had concluded it would take two years to build a merchant marine capable of transporting and supplying the necessary ground forces. And it would take another six months to prepare them for invasion. An air offensive could be launched in half the time. Furthermore, the War Plans Division was frank in admitting that Hitler's seasoned war machine would have to be seriously weakened before we could hope to defeat the German Wehrmacht on the ground. In any event, the German air forces would have to be defeated before an invasion could be undertaken. There was general agreement that a successful air offensive, which would include defeat of the Luftwaffe, must precede any invasion. There was less unanimity as to what other purposes the air offensive should try to accomplish.
We wrestled as a group with this fundamental problem. The final solution was a statement of objective and a plan leaning heavily toward victory through air power. But it provided for air support of an invasion, and afterwards combined operations on the Continent if the air offensive should prove inconclusive. If the air offensive succeeded in destroying the German ability to support the war or in bringing about capitulation, so much the better. The closer the air offensive came to finality, the greater the ease and less the cost of invasion.
In the Air Plan we described the overall objective of the air mission in essentially these terms:
a. To wage a sustained air offensive against German military power, supplemented by air offensives against other regions under enemy control which contribute toward that power (ABC-1).
b. To support a final offensive, if it becomes necessary to invade the Continent.
c. In addition, to conduct effective air operations in connection with hemisphere defense and a strategic defensive in the Far East.
d. The basic concept on which this plan is based lies in the application of air power for the breakdown of the industrial and economic structure of Germany. This conception involves the selection of a system of objectives vital to the continued German war effort and to the means of livelihood of the German people, and tenaciously concentrating all bombing toward the destruction of those objectives. The most effective manner of conducting such a decisive offensive is by the destruction of precise objectives, at least initially. As German morale begins to crack, area bombing of civil concentrations may be effective.
e. It is improbable that a land invasion can be carried out against Germany proper within the next three years. If the air offensive is successful, a land offensive may not be necessary.
In the plan we acknowledged that the German Air Force, especially the German fighter force, would have to be defeated before an invasion could be contemplated. And such a defeat might also be necessary to the prosecution of the air offensive itself. Hence defeat of the German Air Force was accorded first priority among air objectives ("an intermediate objective of overriding importance"), to take precedence over the primary air objectives themselves.
As for primary objectives, the plan called for destruction and disruption of:
- Electric power. Disruption of a major portion of the German electric power system.
- Nearly all industry -- civil as well as military -- finds its roots in electric power. The German electric power system, the second largest in the world, was greatly expanded for this war. Even so, it is operating at a fifty-percent greater rate than that of Great Britain. It is vital to the German war effort and is highly important to civil life.
- The electric power system might be likened to the neuromuscular system of the human body. Disruption would vitiate controlled action. It is estimated that destruction of fifty targets would bring about collapse.
- Transportation. The German transportation system is carrying
an extremely heavy load, divided about as follows: seventy-two percent of German transportation is carried out by the railroads, twenty-five percent by canals and waterways, and three percent by long-haul truckage. The transportation system bears the same relationship to the German corporate body as the bloodstream to the human body. Without a free flow of transportation, raw materials could not reach processing plants, manufactured parts and supplies could not reach factories and assembly plants, and finished products could not reach consumers, whether they be armed forces or civilian institutions. Forty-one targets, consisting of marshaling yards, bridges, canal locks, and inland harbors are set up for the accomplishment of this objective.
- Petroleum and synthetic oil.
- German military vehicles and transportation, the German Air Force, the German Navy, and (a large block of) German industry are dependent upon petroleum products.
- The blockade has cut off external sources, other than Rumania, leaving the Reich heavily dependent upon a group of synthetic oil plants. Twenty-seven synthetic plants plus the refineries at Ploesti in Rumania are set up to accomplish this objective.
In summary, the plan called for destruction of these target systems and targets:
German Air Force 18 airplane assembly plants
6 aluminum plants
6 magnesium plants
Electric power 50 generating plants and switching systems Transportation 47 marshaling yards, bridges, and locks Synthetic petroleum 27 synthetic plants Total 154 targets Bombing requirements for the destruction of each target, including repeat attacks to prevent restoration, were computed, using target dimensions and characteristics and tables of bombing probability. Force requirements were based on providing ninety-percent probability
How many planes? -- How many people?
of obtaining the number of hits to destroy each target. Accuracy was degraded by a factor of two and one-fourth to take care of bombing accuracy under combat conditions. Allowances were made for aborts and losses. Based on weather records, the monthly rate of operations from British bases was taken at five. Finally, the total of bomber sorties was computed, and the number of bombers needed to accomplish the entire task in six months at the rate of five missions a month was determined. The key element in the entire plan was the proviso that the full bomber force should devote its entire strength to these targets for six months after it had reached maturity. Invasion would follow if necessary. Requirements for hemispheric defense were also estimated. The allowances for the defensive measures needed in the Far East were skimpy, to say the least. It was presumed the U.S. Navy would be the primary agency for this requirement.
The air plan specified that the offensive be conducted chiefly from bases in England, using B-17s and B-24s, and from bases in Northern Ireland and the vicinity of Cairo, Egypt, using future long-range bombers (B-29s). But the plan covered a contingency that bordered on disaster. Hitler's armies were slashing into Russia and would soon approach the gates of Moscow. If Russia should be defeated, Hitler could rebuild his air forces using all the resources of Europe. He could then mass his forces for a final assault on Britain, and Britain might also succumb. If so, the British air bases would no longer be available. To meet this contingency, the plan envisioned the development and production of 44 groups of 4,000-mile bombers (B-36s) -- to press the war from bases in the Western Hemisphere. Still the strategic plan presumed British bases would in fact continue to be available. If these air operations against industrial targets were not conclusive, the plan suggested direct attack on cities as a last resort. But we never accepted attack on civilian populations as the main method of air warfare. We provided for air support of an invasion of France if the air offensive should not be conclusive after 6 months of undiluted effort. The air plan afforded massive additional tactical air forces for air support of an invasion and for subsequent combined operations on the Continent. Actually the Tactical and Air Defense Air Forces and Strategic Air
Forces were approximately equal in numbers: 12,000 first-line and unit reserve aircraft in each.
To pursue this strategy, the plan (Air War Plans Division I, or AWPD-1) called for some 61,800 aircraft (including 37,000 trainers), as well as 180,000 officers and 1,985,000 enlisted personnel -- a total of 2,165,000 men and women. The scope of the air proposal was simply staggering. The personnel strength of the Army Air Forces in 1940 stood at about 51,000. The plan proposed an expansion to 2,165,000 in 3 years, a 42-fold increase. The aircraft inventory in 1940 was about 6,000, about half of these were obsolescent combat aircraft and the rest trainers. The plan proposed a 10-fold increase in 3 years. Furthermore, it called for production capacity to replace the combat elements of the force (about 26,000 combat aircraft) every 5 months. The heavy bomber component called for nearly 11,000 4-engine bombers. Combat replacements would require 770 4-engine bombers per month for the air offensive against Germany alone, and 416 fighters. The Army Air Forces had received 61 4-engine bombers in 1940. Shortly before that, the War Department had told the Congress that the Army needed no 4-engine bombers at all.
Although strategic air operations could begin on a limited scale about twelve months after the outbreak of war, it was not expected that the air offensive would be in place at full strength in England until about eighteen months after M-day. Thus, the full six months of strategic air warfare would end about twenty-four months after the outbreak of war. The invasion force should be positioned by that time. There would ensue a period of two or three months during which the strategic air forces could be applied in direct assault preparatory for invasion, and the ground forces could make final preparations for amphibious invasion, if by that time it were still necessary to storm the coast of France. (See charts on page 117.) Even if effective German resistance were broken by the air offensive, an occupying force would be needed. It would keep order, support an interim government, and ensure adherence to peace terms. The opposition to such an occupying force might be considerable, but the enemy capacity for massive, organized resistance should be broken by that time.
The plan was completed and submitted to the War Plans Division, WDGS, before General Arnold returned from Argentia, Newfoundland, where he had gone with President Roosevelt and General Marshall to meet with Prime Minister Churchill and his staff. The plan had been checked with Robert A. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air, at literally the eleventh hour. As a document it was not impressive-looking -- pages typed and mimeographed; pen-and-ink corrections; charts black and white, hastily prepared and crudely pasted together. Finally, the entire War Plans document (including AWPD-1) was bundled off to the Government Printing Office.
The Air War Plans Division Plan No. 1 (AWPD-1) stipulated these total force requirements:
TOTAL AIR FORCE GROUPS REQUIRED
Heavy bombers (B-17, B-24) 47 Very heavy bombers (B-29, B-32) 24 Very long-range bombers (B-36)4 44 Fighters 54 Others (Primarily for support of ground forces) 82 TOTAL 251
TOTAL MILITARY AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION REQUIRED
(Including unit equipment and initial reserves)
Strategic Forces Bombers, Heavy 9,775 Heavy (B-17/24) 3,995 Very heavy (B-29/32) 2,040 Very long-range (B-36) 3,740 Fighters (escort) 2,000 TOTAL 11,775 Tactical and Air Defense Forces Bombers Medium, Light, and Dive 3,244 Fighters 6,748 Reconnaissance Aircraft 1,917 TOTAL 11,909 Transports 1,064 TOTAL 1,064
TOTAL COMBAT AND OPERATIONAL AIRCRAFT 24,748
Trainers 37,051 TOTAL 37,051
TOTAL MILITARY AIRCRAFT 61,799
TOTAL MILITARY PERSONNEL REQUIRED 2,118,625
Once war had begun, it would be necessary to replace the combat units (Total Combat and Operational Aircraft 24,748) every 5 months to account for combat attrition. This would require production of approximately 59,400 combat aircraft per year.
The plan became Annex 2, Air Requirements, of the War Department report, which became "The Victory Program." But the Joint Army and Navy Board, in forwarding the full report, took scant notice of the air plan. The board said: "Naval and air forces may prevent wars from being lost, and by weakening enemy strength may contribute greatly to victory.... It should be recognized as an almost invariable rule that only land armies can finally win wars."
Finally on August 30 we faced the crucial test. General Marshall; W. Averell Harriman, the President's representative to Russia; General Arnold; Lt. Col. Muir S. Fairchild; several members of the General Staff; William S. Knudsen of General Motors, Inc., and other officials from war production listened to the presentation. There were questions and some expressions of dissent. Reserving his comment until all others had been heard, General Marshall said: "I think the plan has merit. I should like the Secretary and Assistant Secretaries to hear it." That statement by General Marshall to General Arnold marked a crucial turning point in the evolution of American air power. This was the moment of conception of the United States Air Force. General Marshall was its godfather. He could so easily have said: "The proposal is totally out of keeping with the program for the rest of the Army. Cut it in half!" Instead he said: "I think the plan has merit." It was a magnificent decision and a typical example of his towering character.
Briefed on September 1 with General Marshall present, Secretary of War Stimson showed a gratifying appreciation of the strategic concept. General Marshall offered encouraging comments. At last Stimson turned to Colonel George and said: "General Marshall and I like the plan. I want you gentlemen to be prepared to present it to the President." A tentative date for the meeting and intensive preparations for the presentation were under way, when Pearl Harbor threw all arrangements into disarray. Loss of the opportunity to brief the President on the detailed plans for strategic air warfare was a cruel disappointment. It is quite likely Roosevelt's quick intelligence would have prompted him to make detailed inquiries, and perhaps he would
have embraced the scheme with the same comprehension that characterized the reactions of Marshall and Stimson. Missing that presentation, the President never fully grasped the war-winning potential of air power.
Nonetheless, AWPD-1 became the basic blueprint for the creation of the Army Air Forces and the conduct of the air war. As part of The Victory Program it was approved for production. Since the production quantities were derived expressly from the plan of operations, approval for production clearly implied approval of the scheme of operations. In the absence of other guidance, AWPD-1 became the accepted and authoritative statement of air strategy until issuance of AWPD-42 a year later. Still, AWPD-1 was never formally endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Air War Plans Division hastened to amend AWPD-1. One principal change was more air forces for the Pacific to help compensate for the loss of U.S. capital ships. Another was to add a large number of air transports, since it was apparent a heavy burden of overseas communications would have to be met by air. The new estimate was called AWPD-4, but it was not much different from AWPD-1.
BOMB DAMAGE TO THE BALL BEARING FACTORIES at Schweinfurt, Germany. In attacking this vital industry, the AAF attempted to slow down the wheels of the German war machine.
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1. For a more detailed account of the origin and development of U.S. strategic air doctrine, see my The Air Plan That Defeated Hitler (Atlanta, Ga., 1972).
2. ABC-1 is the short title for the report of these British-American joint meetings. Starting on January 29 and ending on March 29, 1941, representatives of the two staffs held fourteen sessions and discussed military and naval strategy, joint operations, geographical responsibilities, force structure, command arrangements, and limited operational plans.
3. In 1939 American war planners adopted the term RAINBOW to describe a series of plans outlining the broad national strategic goals of the United States. They called the plans RAINBOW because earlier war plans, written in the 1920s and 1930s, had been labeled with colors "orange," "red," etc. The single-color plans had anticipated wars against a single nation. By 1941 the conquests by Germany, Japan, and Italy had altered the assumptions of all previous American war planning.
4. The B-36s were required in case Britain would collapse.