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Lectures of the Air Corps Tactical School and American Strategic Bombing in World War II

edited and with commentary by Phil Haun

Not Yet Publishedcloth$50.00x 978-0-8131-7678-9
Aviation & Air Power
320 pages  Pubdate: 04/09/2019  6 x 9  24 b&w photos, 2 maps, 2 charts, 27 tables

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Following the cataclysmic losses suffered in World War I, air power theorists in Europe advocated for long-range bombers to overfly the trenches and strike deep into the enemy’s heartland. The bombing of cities was seen as a means to collapse the enemy’s will to resist and bring the war to a quick end. In the United States, airmen called for an independent air force, but with the nation’s return to isolationism, there was little appetite for an offensive air power doctrine. By the 1930s, however, a cadre of officers at the US Army Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) had articulated an operational concept of high-altitude daylight precision bombing (HADPB) that would be the foundation for a uniquely American vision of strategic air attack.

In Lectures of the Air Corps Tactical School and American Strategic Bombing in World War II editor Phil Haun brings together nine ACTS lecture transcripts, which have been preserved in Air Force archives, exactly as delivered to the airmen destined to lead the US Army Air Forces in World War II. Presented is a distinctive American strategy of high-altitude daylight precision bombing as told through lectures given at the ACTS during the interwar period and how these airmen put the theory to the test. The book examines the Air Corps theory of HADPB as compared to the reality of combat in World War II by relying on recent, revisionist histories that have given scholars a deeper understanding of the impact of strategic bombing on Germany.

Phil Haun is professor and dean of Academics at the US Naval War College. He is author of Coercion, Survival, and War: Why Weak States Resist the United States and coeditor of A-10s over Kosovo.

The curriculum of the US Army Air Corps Tactical School in the 1930s developed and taught the theory that a future war with a great power could be settled by precise long range air attacks on that power’s industrial base. Phil Haun offers a guided tour through the most salient lectures of the curriculum, hi-lighting the key elements of the theory including the presumed ability of the bomber easily to penetrate enemy air defenses; the expected accuracy of bombing from high altitude, and the supposed fragility of modern economies and civilian morale. This was the only air power theory to which a generation of young US Army Air Corps officers was exposed, ensuring that these ideas would be well tested in World War Two. In an incisive closing chapter Haun reviews the strategic bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan, and demonstrates how wrong the theory proved to be in practice, critically examines claims of additional dividends, and illuminates the more plausible successes of the bomber offensives. -- Barry Posen, author of Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy

This book fills a void that has long plagued the historiography of American strategic bombing. Phil Haun has selected the most important lectures from the Air Corps Tactical School that guided the interwar development of American bombing doctrine, and his careful analysis and editing of those lectures are an enormous plus for anyone who wants to know the origins of air power theory for today’s US Air Force. -- Mark Clodfelter, author of Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917–1945

Phil Haun has rendered a major contribution to our understanding of the thinking that lay behind the American intellectual preparations for future air campaigns at the Air Corps Tactical School in the period before World War II with this selection of lectures given at the school by its faculty members. These lectures, as well as Haun’s commentary, will prove of value not only to students, but to scholars as well. Anyone interested in the history of air power should find the book of great interest and use. -- Williamson Murray, The Ohio State University

Phil Haun’s edition of pre–World War II Air Corps Tactical School lectures provides a fascinating firsthand look at planning for known unknowns. Their authors knew that a new war was coming, that airpower would play a major role in its conduct, and that the United States wouldn’t be able to avoid getting involved. How these things would happen, though, couldn’t yet be known. That made it a clear necessity to envision an unclear future. This book shows how—and how well—that was done. -- John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University

Phil Haun leverages his 29-year career in the US Air Force, including multiple combat tours as an A-10 pilot, and his broad formal education, to lay out the United States' understanding of air power and evaluate its originality, strengths, and limitations. His crystalline analysis of reprinted lectures delivered in the 1930s at the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) reveals a uniquely American approach to air power that the ACTS faculty then operationalized in World War II. The book strips away the myths about US versus British air power to show its essential but not decisive role in the war’s outcome and reveals the ACTS lectures as the origin and foundation of US theories of air power. -- SCM Paine, William S. Sims University Professor, US Naval War College 

With the publication of this volume, Phil Haun has done a great service to the study of air power strategy. He has retrieved the original set of lectures delivered at the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) in the late 1930s—lectures that have never been published before and laid the foundations for the strategy of high-altitude daylight precision bombing employed by the United States against Germany. Together with his excellent introduction and conclusion, these essays provide great insight into the evolution of air power strategy before World War II. -- Robert J. Art, author of A Grand Strategy for America