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Lesson Index: [ Introduction | Lesson Objective | Overview | Strategic Bombardment | Pursuit Aviation | Air Corps Tactical School | Airpower Debates | Ascension of Bombardment | GHQ Air Force | GHQ Air Force Organization | Roles for GHQ Air Force | Response to Roles Proposal | GHQ Air Force—Pros & Cons | GHQ Air Force Stimulates Doctrine | Planning for War | AWPD-1 | AWPD-1 Objectives | Response to AWPD-1 | Field Manual 100-20 | FM 100-20 Concepts | FM 100-20 Centralized Control | Impact of FM 100-20 | Airpower Evolution | Increasing Autonomy | Doctrine Evolves | USAF as Separate Service | Summary | Quiz ]

Title: Airpower Debates

Action: Begin with a collage of various aspects of war along with a centered title Debating the Nature of War:

Voice: Students and faculty at the Air Corps Tactical School discussed and debated the very nature of war itself: “Was defeat of the enemy’s fielded forces the object in war, or was defeating the enemy’s will to resist the real object?” This question remained central to the direction that airpower was to take. Even within the Air Corps Tactical School there were two competing schools of thought. Those believing in Mitchell’s theories contended that airpower should pursue strategic objectives, while others believed that airpower must continue to support surface forces.

Action: Show the following quote from the Air Corps Tactical School at the top of the page:

“The Air component…always supports the ground forces, no matter how decisive its…operations may be, or how indirect its support.”

Letter from LtCol C C Culver, Commandant, ACTS to Chief of the Air Corps

Voice: This debate gained prominence in 1928 when the Air Corps Tactical School commandant forwarded a paper to Washington, DC titled, “The Doctrine of Air Force”, which he proposed as the basis for all school texts.

Action: Highlight the following portion of the previous text as the narration below is read:

…always supports the ground forces…

Voice: It asserted that air forces are always in support of surface forces.

Action: Show the following quote by Maj Gen James Fechet with the bold portion highlighted:

The objective of war is to overcome the enemy’s will to resist, and the defeat of his army, his fleet, or the occupation of his territory is merely a means to this end, and none of them is the true objective.”

Letter to Commandant, ACTS from Chief of the Air Corps

Voice: The response, by Maj Gen James Fechet, Chief of the Air Corps, contended that the true object in war is to overcome the enemy’s will. These differing opinions fueled the debates over the proper use of airpower that occurred not only within the War Department, but within the Air Corps itself during the interwar years.

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