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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: Mitchell’s Theory

Action: Another portrait of Mitchell appears to screen left while the major premise of his theory appears to the right:

Major Premise of Thesis:

Airpower, organized into a separate, equal (to Army and Navy) and an autonomous air force under a unified department of defense, could serve as the most effective an economical means of defending the continental U.S.

Voice: Mitchell’s theories on airpower have had a profound and lasting effect on airpower doctrine and the employment of airpower. He is often referred to as the “father of the modern Air Force.” The major premise of his theories was his belief that an independent and equal air force serving under a unified department of defense was the most efficient means of defending the United States.

Action: The text is replaced by the following links to pop-up boxes. The text of the pop-up boxes follows:

Key Aspects of Mitchell’s Theories:

Expanded Thesis:

Airpower, organized into a separate, equal (to Army and Navy) and autonomous air force under a unified department of defense, could serve as the most effective and economical means of defending the continental U.S. Even if it came to fighting an overseas enemy, airpower could decisively attack enemy vital centers without first defeating enemy armies and navies. Airpower is best generated by nations with populations that are “airminded,” and the U.S. has great potential but it needs to be developed.

Major Assumptions:

Thoughts on Targeting:

Mitchell favored breaking civilian morale through the destruction of vital centers, like industry, infrastructure, and even agriculture. Mitchell’s intellectual heirs at the Air Corps Tactical School refined and synthesized his ideas by using the industrial triangle of the U.S. as the model for the development of precision bombing theory and doctrine.

Thoughts on Air Superiority:

Mitchell believed that air superiority was a prerequisite for all other military operations. He argued that this would be achieved largely by air battles; however, attacks on enemy airpower on the ground were also in his repertoire. He disdained the effectiveness of anti-aircraft artillery. Interestingly, Mitchell’s doctrinal descendants at the Air Corps Tactical School in the 1930’s may have tended to downplay the achievement of air superiority thorough air battles, which many say led to a neglect of pursuit and attack aviation in favor of strategic bombing.

Thoughts on Air Exploitation:

Once air superiority is established, it can be exploited at will in varied operations against vital centers. Sometimes vaguely described, vital centers were usually seen as industry, infrastructure, and agriculture which, when destroyed, would lead to the collapse of civilian morale.

Voice: Other key aspects of Mitchell’s theories are presented below and can be viewed by passing your mouse cursor over the bullets.

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