Command of the Air [Giulio Douhet, Charles a. Gabriel] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Reprint of the translation by staff of the. The Command of the Air is the greatest military treatise on air war ever written – a dogmatic manifesto promising victory through strategic. Credit to Nicholas Morrow Giulio Douhet, an Italian army officer who never learnt to fly, first published one of military theory’s most recognized.

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But in fact aviation falls into two major categories, lighter- than-air and heavier-than-air ships, or dirigibles and commqnd. These pursuit squadrons I shall call “units of combat. The radius of action of a warplane is the greatest distance it can travel from its own airfield and return under its own power. Active materials fall into three major categories: The guiding principle of bombing actions should be this: Translation of II dominio dell’aria.

Born in Caserta in and commissioned into the Italian Army in Artillery inDouhet in began thinking seriously about the impact of air- craft. Bellanger Maxwell Field, Ala. Once the area of such a surface is determined by empirical criteria, or the number of targets on it, the next step is to determine the quantity of active material— explosives, incendiaries, and poison gases— necessary to demolish everything exposed on that surface. Today there are airplanes which can easily carry 2 tons of bombs in addition to their crews; so 10 such planes could carry all the bombs necessary to destroy everything within this circle of meters diameter.

They must act accordingly, but independently of each other. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Now, 2 however, this idea has emerged again and seems to be impressing itself strongly on the national authorities most con- cerned with these matters.

The Command of the Air by Giulio Douhet : a Military Times Classic – Military History Monthly

It is imperative, therefore, that the plane be supplied with small- caliber rapid-fire guns for its own defense, even though conscious of the fact that aerial combat should be left to combat units. For the rest, their usefulness was as limited as their operations were scattered; and aerial combat became merely a series of duels in which the skill and courage of the individual aces were displayed in all their bril- liance.

It was only toward the end of the war that the idea commnad, in some of the belligerent nations, that it might be not only feasible but wise to entrust the air force with independent offensive missions. For this reason clinging to the past will teach us nothing useful for the future, for that future will be radically The Command of The Air giilio different from anything that has gone before.


Very few possibilities of this new instrument of war were recognized when it first appeared. Every giluio an aerial offensive was carried out resolutely, it accomplished its purpose. When the Italian army became locked in a bloody stalemate with Austria, Douhet proposed just such an attack against Austrian cities by an independent bomber force of aircraft. Next, its obvious advantages over surface means led to its being used to attack the enemy on and behind his own lines, but no great importance was attached to this function because it was thought that the airplane was incapable of transporting any heavy load of offensive materiel.

It is air power which makes this possible. His calculations for the amount of bombs and poison gas required to destroy a city were ludicrously optimistic. Antiaircraft fire can certainly put out of action some planes in a bombing unit —a limited loss; but no one can hope to fight a war without taking some risks, especially when those risks can be reduced to a mini- mum.

Airpower theories, a key proponent of strategic bombing. If reason, common sense, and the facts themselves tell us that the army and navy are declining in importance as compared with air power, we are doing a disservice to our own defense preparations when we in- sist upon crediting the army and navy with fictitious values which have no basis in actual fact.

Today, however, the sky is of far greater interest to man, living on the surface of the earth, than is the sea; and nothing, therefore, can a priori prevent him from reaching the conclusion that the air constitutes a battlefield of equal importance. In other projects Wikimedia Commons. As a matter of fact, it is not the business of a combat unit either to seek out an aerial foe or to flee from him. An aerial fleet capable of dumping hundreds of tons of such bombs can easily be organized; therefore, the striking force and magnitude of aerial offensives, considered from the standpoint of either material or moral significance, is far more effective than those of The Command of The Air 25 any other offensive yet known.

At the slightest chafing of the yoke imposed upon her by the Allies, the inner drive to be free will surely push Germany along the new road. Hence man has had either to move along the lines of least resistance, or by long and arduous labor surmount the obstacles encountered in the more difficult zones. And we have noted that neither the army nor the navy can help in any way in this work of de- struction.

I argued that the dirigible and other lighter-than-air ships would give way before the superiority of the plane. In actual fact, during the World War the enormous increase in the power of small-caliber arms made it possible for the de- fensive to let waves of attacking infantry come close to its own prepared positions and then stop them dead in their tracks; or the defensive could force the offensive, if desperately bent on reaching its objective, to shift its infantry attacks on men in pre- pared positions and lay down costly artillery barrages of all cali- bers which literally churned up the very ground, burying its defenders along with it.


We may think from all this that a unit of bombardment estab- lished according to this principle represents a somewhat indefinite offensive power which might be capable of inflicting a certain amount of damage upon an opponent.

The assumptions upon which this computation is based are not pure speculation; they are derived from existing condi- tions. The fact of the matter is that, in spite of its claim to offensive characteristics, the pursuit plane was used almost entirely as a de- fensive means.

The British developed an early warning system linked with a command-and-control network that allowed their fighters to intercept bomber squadrons. Any diversion from this primary purpose is an error. Pursuit squadrons were a loose agglomeration of knights- errant of the air, rather than an effectively organized cavalry of the air.

More speed and greater maneuverability than the enemy, was the cry— for planes capable of performing aerial “acrobatics,” by which, in case a pilot found his speed inferior, he could dodge the fight and flee to safety.

Project MUSE – The Command of the Air

To make one dependent on the other would restrict the freedom of action of the one or the other, and thus diminish their total effectiveness. As an illustration of the magnitude of aerial power, let us assume that kilograms of active material is capable of de- stroying the area of a circle 25 meters in radius.

In the preparations for national de- fense we have to follow an entirely new course because the char- acter of future wars is going to be entirely different from the character of past wars. According to some military leaders at the time, his 2 For studies of Douhet’s life and thinking, consult Edward Warner, “Douhet, Mitchell, Seversky: We must also bear in mind this fact: Of prime impor- tance is the fact that the adoption of such tactics makes the bomber a definite and precise offensive power, no longer a vague, inde- terminate one.

Giulio Douhet

For Douhet, aircraft were only useful as instruments of the offense. Crowl Annapolis, Maryland Gen.

Instead, a million ordinary Londoners, mobilised in a plethora of volunteer roles, kept the city alive and breathing. Since they were the fastest planes and designed for aerial acrobatics, hence the most difficult to handle, they were assigned to the most daring of the pilots.