Evolution of Airpower Assignment

Evolution of Airpower Assignment Words: 2430

The Wright’s always intended that the airplane be a contribution to international communications, trade and goodwill, but in their first attempt to sell a plane, they looked to the US War Department (Futures 15). From 1905 to 1907, not a lot of headway was made with the US War Department but, in 1907, due to the interest in aviation by President Theodore Roosevelt, a foothold was gained with the establishment of an Aeronautical Division within the Signal Corps (16). After much skepticism from Brig General James Allen, the Army’s chief signal officer, the Wright Brothers received acceptance of the

Flyer from the US government on February 8, 1908. World War I In August of 1914, the major European powers went to war with rudimentary air services and embryonic aviation industries (Olsen 1). The role of the airplane was viewed to have a primary mission of reconnaissance and communications in support of the land and naval forces. Starting with the Battle of the Manner in September 1914, French aircraft were used for reconnaissance and played a key role in detecting the German army’s turn to the northeast of Paris, which enabled the British and French to strike the German’s flank (Morrow Jar. ). Also, in August and September of 1914, Germany looked toward their ridged airships, the Zeppelins, for aerial bombardment missions and reconnaissance. This became a costly venture for them with the loss of four ships to enemy action (7). As the war trudged on in Europe, little progress was being made toward the development of a fighting air force in the of ground or naval forces. By the time U. S. Entered the war in April 1917, we were a bit behind in the power curve.

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With the help of our allies, who were much farther advanced in military aviation, we set out to drawing up plans for an air service that loud include fighting and bombing airplanes as well as observation planes and balloons (Manure v”). Their contribution not only included technical data on new developments in aircraft and equipment, but also in how to use aviation in battle. The lessons learned from war included detailed tactics, techniques and procedures as well as concepts on the role of aviation in warfare and its use from a tactical and strategic perspective (v”).

By the war’s end in November 1918, aviation in the U. S. Military and its Air Expeditionary Force (PEA) looked a lot different than it had four years earlier. Between the wars Upon the end of the “War to end all wars”, the United States withdrew into its previous posture of isolationism. However, this did not stop the debate on how to use the aviation arm of the military. One camp, led by General John J. Perishing, Commander in Chief of the PEA, held the position that aviation was to assist the ground forces.

The other camp, led by Brig. General William “Billy’ Mitchell, the top ranking air commander in the PEA, agreed that some aviation had to be assigned to support ground forces, but the main focus should be on a strategic role of attacking military and industrial targets behind enemy lines. Although the two camps did agree on some conceptual ideas such as Perishing supporting to some degree, strategic missions, he strongly disagreed with Mitchell desire to create an air force independent of the ground forces (ix).

Not agreeing with your boss is not a new concept, especially in the military, but Billy Mitchell seemed to want to make an art form of it. Being a bit outspoken, he attacked the War and Navy Department for being insufficiently farsighted regarding airport (Malinger). He believed that surface fleets were obsolete and proved the point, to at least him, with the sinking of overall battleships during bombing test held in 1921 and 1923.

His flamboyant actions, like his disregard for the rule of engagement in the sinking of the German battleship Stationeries (and the dropping of a bomb on the still churning spot were the ship slipped beneath the waves to add injury to insult) brought attention to his ultimate goal of an independent air force, but his inability to keep his mouth shut finally lead to his undoing. In September 1925, the US Navy dirigible Shenandoah (ZERO-I) crashed in a storm in Ohio, killing 14 of the crew. This event, on the heels of another aviation disaster when US Navy flying boat PIN No. Was lost at sea in the Pacific Ocean, incensed Mitchell and leads him to accuse senior leaders in the Navy and War Departments of “incompetence, criminal negligence and almost treasonable administration of the National Defense. ” (Passion). For the War Department, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and in October 1925 they began proceedings to court martial Mitchell, who was convicted but chose to resign his commission (Passion). From the perspective of some military historians, Mitchell was viewed not so such as a theorist, but as a prophet, promoter and martyr (Passion).

One glaring example of this comes from Burke Davis, in his book, The Billy Mitchell Affair (New York: Random House, 1967) were he goes into some detail about Mitchell report of his visit to Hawaii in 1924 in which he predicts a future war with Japan that opened In looking at World War II, it is very easy to get deep into the weeds if you are not careful when discussing the evolution of airport. In the opening salvo, Adolph Hitler and Germany introduced the world to the concept and tactic of the Blitzkrieg or Lightning War” when he invaded Poland in September 1939.

This was a simple tactic that obeyed all of the principles of war while employing the following: armor concentrations, massive precise air support, paratroopers, radio, flexibility, initiative and surprise, simplicity, air superiority, and logistics (rollway). By taking advantage of the advances in technology and the complacency of its opponents, primarily the French who were ready to fight World War I again in a defensive conflict, the Germans were able to sweep through the continent of Europe leaving only Great Britain standing in the way of completing the conquest of their enemies to the west.

Being that Great Britain is an island, Hitter’s next task was to get his forces over there to complete the Job and then he could give his undivided attention to the Russians in the east. Dodo this he would have to make an amphibious assault on the British Isles (code name Sea-lion) and this could not be done without the control of the English Channel and the naturalization of the Royal Navy. In order to complete this task, the Luftwaffe would have to maintain air superiority over the Channel and abstinently the skies over Great Britain.

On July 10, 1940 the Luftwaffe plan was to gain control of the Straits of Dover by luring out the RAFF into a full scale battle, thus beginning the Battle of Britain. Ultimately, this plan was destined to fail primarily for the following reasons: (1) The Germans fought too far away from their bases so that refueling and rearming were impossible. The German fighters had a very limited time which they could spend over Britain before their fuel got too low; (2) British fighters could land, refuel and rearm and be in the air again very quickly; (3) The change of targets was crucial.

It is now believed that Fighter Command was perhaps only 24 hours away from defeat when the attack on the cities occurred. The breathing space this gave Fighter Command was crucial; (4) The Hurricane and Spitfire were exceptional planes – capable of taking on the might of the Luftwaffe (historiographers). The factors provided above combined with a bit too much bravado on Herman Goring’s part, believing that air power alone could blast England out of the war, forced Hitler to postpone indefinitely the invasion of Britain though the night time raids continued Bobolinks 84).

Up until this point, the United States had not been “officially’ involved in World War II but all of that was about to change. On December 7, 1941, a Japanese naval task force launched a surprise aerial assault on the U. S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor and on AAU in the Hawaiian Islands. From a one standpoint this was a rather bold and risky move. Japan successfully moved its task force composed of six aircraft carriers and their support vessels, 3,400 miles across the northern Pacific without discovery or major loss (Chambers).

The main idea of this attack was to perform a preemptive strike against the US Fleet, thus vying Japan time to fortify their newly conquered territories. Many military experts believed that an aerial attack on naval forces moored in Pearl Harbor was a non- issue. They believed that the shallow depth of the harbor would prevent a successful torpedo attack and that their primary concern for the forces located on AAU should be focused on sabotage. The experts failed to realize what a little ingenuity could do. Torpedoes thus causing them to run shallower and reach their targets.

Tactically, for Japan, the attack was a complete success, but it ultimately failed in its goal of estranging the US Navy in the Pacific. Although the battleships were damaged, failure to destroy the repair yards, the fuel reserves and the submarine bases enabled the remainder of the fleet, which included the aircraft carriers that were out to sea at the time of the attack, to continue to operate and play a major role in the Pacific theater. As you continue to look at World War II in general, it can be said that this was the world’s introduction to strategic air warfare.

In the past, civilians had the “luxury’ of viewing war from a distance if they didn’t find themselves in the path of the combatants. During World War l, Germany was spared the repercussions of mass bombings due to the Armistice being signed before the concept was truly grasped. In World War II, this was not the case. To quote Gene Carl Sparta, who commanded the US Strategic Air Forces (STAFF) in Europe and the US Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, “one may argue the exact degree of contribution made by strategic bombing to the final decision; … He war against Germany was fundamentally an infantry war supported by air power, much as the war against Japan was fundamentally a naval war supported by air (Futures 147). With that being said, you still cannot discount the contribution of airport and the implementation of its theories in the realm of warfare. In the time frame that encompassed World War II, we saw a monumental shift in the way future wars would be conducted to include the use of strategic bombardment, the introduction of Jet powered aircraft and ballistic rockets and the beginning of the atomic age. Basically, the Genie was out of the bottle. Old war With the Allied victory in World War II came a brand new series of problems that needed to be dealt with. We first had to figure out how we were going to dealing with our former enemies and rebuilding Europe and Japan. This was not going to be done without a great deal of planning and compromise. The problem here is you can’t always be sure of the ulterior motives of the folks you’re working with (even if it was really obvious to some, I. E. General George Patton). Post-war Germany, was divided into four parts, one sector or zone for each of the major partners (United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union).

This also included the same division of the German capital of Berlin even though it was located in the Soviet sector. All of this was spelled out in the Marshal Plan, the road map to European recovery. The problem here was the ulterior motives I mentioned earlier. For the French, they wanted assurances that they would be able to retain their territories in French Indochina (Vietnam) in order for them to approve the plan. This compromise was made, even though we alienated an ally in Ho Chi Min, who helped us in our fight against Japan.

As for the Soviet Union, they had no intention of giving back territory they acquired when they pushed German forces back to Berlin. Two times of note hat Russia had been invaded from the west (Napoleon and Hitler) and they were well aware of the strategic advantage that a buffer zone and the Russian winter gave them against invading armies. At the wars end, popular opinion was not going to support a new war against the Soviet Union to get them out of Eastern Europe and thus began the Cold War and the development of a new policy of “Containment” to implementation of the United States policy of Containment.

On September 18, 1947 the National Security Act of 1947 created the United States Air Force as its own branch of the United States Department of Defense. From 1948 with the Soviet blockade of Berlin to 1989 with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall which marked the end of the Warsaw Pact and set the stage for the breakup of the Soviet Union itself a few years later, our country will has been tested many times (Korea, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Grenade, Panama Just to name a few).

The technological advancements in aircraft during the Cold War were vital to our success against a foe whose strategy, in our opinion, was that of quantity of quality. I know that I am skipping over the nuclear capabilities, but with our policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), for the purpose here, that is a wash. This now brings us to the Air War in the Persian Gulf. In many ways “Desert Storm” was a pivotal moment in the application of air power.

Our forces were used in multiple ways, sometimes like a scalpel with precision strikes using precision guided munitions (pegs) to like a sledge hammer with the standard “dumb’ bombs dropped on aircraft hangers and runways. In addition, with the introduction of stealth aircraft made it a less daunting task to infiltrate the Iraqi air defenses, leaving them “deaf, dumb and blind. ” “The paid collapse of the Iraqi army before Coalition ground forces was in great part due to the collapse of its morale in the face of the massive bombing of its units”(Murray 1).

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