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STRATEGIC BOMBING

HASAN AL-KHALIFA

August 10, 2009

Forewords
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The organization of warfare is in itself complex. Similarly, its success, whether in attack or

defense solely depends on strategic leadership throughout the war process; a fact that is greatly

evidenced by the past leaderships, especially the First World War, the Second World War, the

Cold War, and the gulf war, all of which is the world historical warfare. For instance, the role of

USAF (United States Air Force) and RAF (Royal Air Force) leaderships in the World War I & II

and the Cold War lead to the emergence and entrenchment of the strategic bombing ideology

that led to success in warfare as well as the reduction in war casualties, especially the innocent

civilians.

Ideally, Strategic bombing is an alternative to traditional terrorist bombing, in which attackers in

discriminatively killed the civilians and troops1. According to Tami, strategic bombing is a

quintessence of an idea, a concept of warfare, and an effective strategy that has been fostered and

sustained by modern technological advancements; an assertion that has also been supported by

spaatz and other leaders of USAF and RAF during and after the World War, I and II2. The

emerging strategic bombing presented an ideal approach to war and integrated technology

enabling the USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) and RAF to achieve the ideal

conceptualization of war, maintain or obtain air superiority and delivering a decisive, strategic

attack, which all but eliminates the necessity of a prolonged ground battle and reduces the

number of unnecessary casualties. The idea of strategic bombing-change of fighting tactics,

approach to war and change in use of machinery was born in World War, I, developed in the

inter war period, demonstrated in World War II, carried on during the Cold War and which has

1 Omissi, David (1990). Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force 1919-1939. Manchester
University Press,

2 Richard G Davis (1993) Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe, Center for Air Force History, 1993
3

entrenched itself in today’s military and warfare3. This paper, therefore, analyzes and assesses

the statement as to how the difference between expectations and realities caused both the RAF

and the USAAF leadership to make constant wartime adjustments to their plans, tactics, and

machinery; while paying keen interest the development and entrenchment of the strategic

bombing approach.

The role or leadership in changes in war approaches and tactics

Initially, the parties’ to the war interests and aspirations were the main impetus for going into the

warfare with a differing country or enemy. Wars were typically driven by interests on national

sovereignty and chauvinism. In fact, such were championed by imperialism craving for technical

dominance and conquest of other nations (notes) the latter of which reflected the primitive times

embrace of social Darwinism and highly competitive and inhumane form of colonial superiority4.

If a country felt that its superiority was threatened or enemy’s actions compromised its

superiority, such a country would go into war with the enemy with an objective of protecting

such sovereignty without minding about the vulnerability of the poor, innocent and harmless

civilians5. However, the changing warfare ideology, particularly from the latter days of the

World War I characterized by growing feeling of humanity in attacks led to change in attacking

3 Kennett, Lee (2001) Air Power: A History of Strategic Bombing. Lessons Learned from World War II to
Kosovo. N.Y.: New York University Press
4 Tami Davis Biddle (2003) Allied Forces against Hitler-Germany from 1939-1945. How efficient was the
Strategic Bombing Offensive and how significant was this campaign for the final victory over. Retreated
from http://www.grin.com/e-book/47999/consider-the-strategic-bombing-offensive-of-the-allied-forces-
against-hitler-germany on 23rd October 2009

5 Tami Davis Biddle (2004) Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and
American ideas bout strategic bombing 1914-1945 Princeton university press
4

methods and warring approaches as evidenced by changing war leadership over the period.

Furthermore, the ever advancing technology and its utilization in wars, especially in the World

War II and the Cold War have led to and sometimes necessitated change in approaches, tactics,

and equipment/ machinery utilized in warfare.

The dynamisms in warring environment is particularly the greatest impetus for change in

leadership in matters of war, as leaders tried to match with the approaches and tactics of the day

or differentiating such tactics from that of the enemy all with an objective of being strategic. For

instance, advances in technology and increasing expectation of the attackers to protect the life of

the civilians in attacks necessitated the shift of attacking approach from the traditional in

discriminative bombing to strategic bombing; the latter of which differs greatly with terror

bombing in which the attacker used to target the civilians and population of the enemy either to

force the attacker to conform to the will of the attacker or purely a punitive nature to such a

country for the specific reasons, mainly political actions6. As such, the increasing need and the

realization of the attackers that there is a need to protect lives of innocent populations made the

leadership during the World War, I, II and the Cold War to shift to strategic bombing7. Ideally,

the first movers in the use of strategic bombing, especially the RAF and USAAF attackers

realized its effectiveness in winning war over even the strongest enemies by incapacitating their

warring strong point while at the same time minimizing the number of casualties all together.

Mitchell, a leader of RAF during the Second World War stated that victory at war is not about

the amount of civilian you kill but rather the number of such life you protect to be victorious.

6 Tami Davis Biddle (2004) Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American
ideas bout strategic bombing 1914-1945 Princeton university press

7 Spaight James M (2005) "Bombing Vindicated" G. Bles, 1944. ASIN: B0007IVW7K (Spaight was
Principal Assistant Secretary of the Air Ministry) (U.K)
5

Furthermore, technological improvements and innovations, the latter of which were very steady

and dynamic massively influenced the changing warfare strategy by respective leadership. While

some of those advancements in technology would lead to leaders altering their warring approach

out of their own conscience, curiosity in their use and personal interests, some technological

developments called for such a change. Furthermore, international common war policies such as

position of the G8 nations on the use of a nuclear weapon I attack can necessitate a change in

warfare approach and equipment. Although such directives and equipments were vividly absent

during the two world wars, negotiations and international agreements and regulations limiting

the extent and approaches to attacks were characteristically present during the cold war and

during the modern US attacks on Iraq under the president Bush leadership.

During the Second World War, a strategic counter air attack was for the first time implemented

under the leadership of Churchill with an objective of preventing or restraining the zeppelin

attacks on the United Kingdom8. During the zeppelin attacks, Winston Churchill favored use of

defensive attacks against the enemy. In a different strategy, the regard, a primary theory was

used as the fundamental by both the RAF and the USAAF as the bomber’s centric thought. In the

primary theory centric was for the idea that by taking and maintenance of the offensive in the air

had the objective of defeating the enemy for material dominance as well as the moral aspect of

warfare. Under this leadership therefore, the aero plane was seen as used as an offensive rather

than an offensive weapon9. Prior to adoption of strategic bombing Mitchell’s main focus was

8 Tami Davis Biddle (2004) Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American
ideas bout strategic bombing 1914-1945 Princeton university press

9 Richard G Davis (1993) Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe, Center for Air Force History, 1993
6

intensification and strengthening of the army with a belief that increasing the concentration of

the army (the USAAF) would outdo the American enemies and thwart the latter’s intension to

attack America. However, the Pete Quesada idea that the traditions warfare approaches and

tactics had taken the issue of warfare too far. He felt that war was no longer a matter between the

fighting armies but between the people of the conflict nation’s leading to unnecessary killing and

wounding innocent populations.

Considering the views of Pete Quesada, Mitchell shifted from the idea of army concentration to

embrace of technology in strategic bombing. The input of Pete Quesada in development and

change of warfare techniques, tactics, and approaches especially during the World War II and

cold war is unmatched. Being the founder and the leader of the famous Ninth Tactical Air

Command, he is celebrated for having come up with the greatest air-ground team in the

European theater. Other achievements of this leader included pioneering the utilization of radar

in close air support operations as well as introducing weapons systems particularly designed for

tactical and strategic air operations. Furthermore, found and developed new flying methods

calculated for level of accuracy and strategic bombing that matched the need of the European

battlefield10. One of the most significant contributions that Pete Quesada made during the inter

war periods was pioneering the efforts to model air and ground officers into a one fighting unit11.

Other leaders whose contributions in terms of ideas, philosophies, and actions had far been

reaching effects in tactics, approaches, strategies and equipment in warfare included Hugh

Trenchard, Hap Arnold and Hugh Dowding, spaatz particularly in the Second World War12.
10 Omissi, David (1990). Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force 1919-1939. Manchester
University Press
11 Kennett, Lee (2001) Air Power: A History of Strategic Bombing. Lessons Learned from World War II to
Kosovo. N.Y.: New York University Press,

12 Richard G Davis (1993) Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe, Center for Air Force History, 1993
7

Their contributions ranged from simple instructions of the armies, serving as examples/ role

model organization, championing ideas to technological inventions.

Bibliography

Kennett, Lee (2001) Air Power: A History of Strategic Bombing. Lessons Learned from World

War II to Kosovo. N.Y.: New York University Press,

Omissi, David (1990). Air Power and Colonial Control: The RAF 1919-1939. Manchester

University Press,

Richard G Davis (1993) Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe, Center for Air Force History,

1993

Spaight James M (2005) Bombing Vindicated G. Bles, 1944. ASIN: B0007IVW7K (Spaight was

Principal Assistant Secretary of the Air Ministry) (U.K)

Tami Davis Biddle (2004) Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and

American ideas bout strategic bombing 1914-1945 Princeton university press

Tami Davis Biddle (2003) Allied Forces against Hitler-Germany from 1939-1945. How efficient

was the Strategic Bombing Offensive and how significant was this campaign for the final

victory over. Retreated from http://www.grin.com/e-book/47999/consider-the-strategic-

bombing-offensive-of-the-allied-forces-against-hitler-germany on 23rd October 2009