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Lesson Index: [ Introduction | Lesson Objective | Overview | Early Perspective of War | Rise of Total War | WWI Perspective | Context for Airpower | Aircraft as a Military Tool | Aircraft for Strategic Effects | Early Airpower Theorists | Aipower Theorists—Douhet | Douhet’s Theory | Implications of Douhet’s Theory | Douhet’s Impact | Aipower Theorists—Trenchard | Trenchard’s Theory | Implications of Trenchard’s Theory | Trenchard’s Impact | Aipower Theorists—Mitchell | Mitchell’s Theory | Implications of Mitchell’s Theory | Mitchell’s Impact | Mitchell’s Legacy | Summary | Quiz ]

Title: Early Airpower Theorists

Voice: To most military officers, the airplane seemed to offer a useful tool to supplement the traditional forms and manner of warfare. Thus, it was employed for observation, reconnaissance, and aiming of artillery. Later, it found value as an attack platform operating close to the troops or a short distance to the enemy rear. In a move toward more strategic targeting, aircraft were used to attack vital centers such as headquarters, supply depots, railheads, troops moving to the front, and similar military targets. A few early aviation theorists, however, had grander visions for airpower. These theorists envisioned aircraft operations that were independent of surface armies or navies. To these few, the aim of war was not the attrition of surface forces, but the destruction of vital elements of the enemy capability to wage war. Airmen realized that by striking the enemy’s vital centers, airpower held the key to victory. The question loomed, however, as to what constituted a key vital center. To early airpower theorists, vital centers included factories, transportation hubs, centers of government, and war material production capabilities. Several early theorists saw the potential of airpower, but only a few articulated it well enough to cause change and to affect the manner in which airpower would develop. Among those significant early theorists were Guilio Douhet of Italy, Hugh Trenchard of England, and William “Billy” Mitchell from the United States. Let’s review their contributions to airpower theory.

Action: A background image of two WWI era fighters in a dogfight appears. Text bullets overlay the image to reinforce the narration:

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