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The Influence of Airpower upon History

Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy since 1903

edited by Robin Higham and Mark Parillo. foreword by General Richard B. Myers USAF (Ret.)

Publication Year: 2013

From early zeppelins, to the Luftwaffe and the Enola Gay, to the unmanned aerial vehicles of today, air power has long been regarded as an invaluable instrument of war. However, nations have employed aircraft for many other purposes as well; they provide security and surveillance, and they are vital to myriad diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. Air power has become a means for statesmen to advance a variety of goals, opening up new possibilities and problems in times of peace as well as war.

The Influence of Air Power upon History examines the many ways in which aviation technology has impacted policymaking since 1903. It analyzes air strategy in nations around the world and explores how a country's presumed technological capability, or lack thereof, has become a crucial aspect of diplomacy. Together, the essays in this insightful volume offer a greater understanding of the history of military force and diplomatic relations in the global community.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. 1-4

Copyright page

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pp. iv-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-ix

The rapid rise of airpower—just a little over one hundred years old—has had a profound effect on world events. As this work points out, the use of airpower frequently resulted in controversy at the highest levels of government, as national leaders and statesmen debated how airpower might contribute to their particular vital national interests and to shaping world events. Specifically, this work gives an important historical context to how...

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pp. 1-35

Even as early man gazed up at the winged creatures soaring above him and first contemplated the wonders of flight, he began to grapple with the concept of airpower. The primal warrior could imagine the advantages of towering above his enemy, not only to observe his every plan and artifice but also perhaps to humble him with thunderbolts striking down. Flight entered ancient Greek mythology as the domain of Daedalus’s genius and the fatal allure that triggered Icarus’s demise. In 328 or...

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1. States and Strategic Airpower: Continuity and Change, 1906–1939

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pp. 37-59

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s dire prediction of the future inevitability of the bomber’s ability to penetrate aerial defenses epitomized the fears of enemy aerial attacks on capital cities and civilian populations during the years between the world wars. Yet this quote merits contextualization, and not merely within the interwar years, but one that encompasses the history of strategic bombing and political attitudes...

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2. Politics and French Aviators: A Prism on the International European Crises of the 1930s

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pp. 61-84

The international crises of the 1930s are an interesting and pertinent lens through which to understand and analyze the role of airpower in the creation of policy. The crises allow close observation of the complex dialogue between military aviators and the political leadership in the early stages of airpower’s rise to prominence in decision making. In contrast to the pre–World War I period, by the 1930s aviation had in effect become a problematic factor in the highest-level government...

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3. Hitler, Airpower, and Statecraft

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pp. 85-114

As war clouds gathered over Europe in the summer of 1939, Nazi leaders and propagandists pointed to the German air force, the Luftwaffe (barely four years old at the time), as the embodiment of German power and technological superiority. They argued that the air arm was almost entirely a creation of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, that it was the most powerful in the world, and that it stood, in the words of the Luftwaffe...

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4. The Emperor and the Despot: Statesmen, Patronage, and the Strategic Bomber in Imperial and Soviet Russia, 1909–1959

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pp. 115-143

The vastness of Russia and its remoteness made it immune to grandstrategic attacks against its few targets while making its enemies’ vulnerabilities equally distant. These conditions were gradually changed by technology and in the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) by the advances of the Soviet armies. The development of Russian airpower was controlled by the small coteries of politicians at the top and supported by the enthusiasm of the masses. Russian and Soviet statesmen dealt with issues of defense...

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5. Statesmen and Airpower in Latin America, 1945-2010

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pp. 145-175

Aviation history changed when the United States began production of the F-80 in 1945. The F-80 was the first U.S. mass-produced jet fighter and not just an experimental or pilot model. This subsonic jet fighter immediately made obsolete the world’s vast fleets of propeller planes. The F-80 lifted the bar for aviation performance and forced European manufacturers to surpass or at least to match the characteristics of the...

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6. Presidential Statesmen and U.S. Airpower: Personalities and Perceptions

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pp. 177-208

The first duty the Constitution requires of a president is to swear an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Next it names the president as the “Commander in Chief ” of U.S. military and naval forces, but the thirty-four words in Article II, Section 2, granting that power provide no guidance on how to use those forces. Before the Spanish-American War, American presidents had to...

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7. Gunboat Diplomacy: Presidential Use of Aircraft Carriers and Their Embarked Air Wings

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pp. 209-236

So starts the majority of articles on U.S. carrier airpower since World War II. Yet others would disagree, citing the huge cost of the carrier, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines to screen and protect it; the men and women who crew these ships; and the expensive infrastructure and logistical apparatus necessary to support, sustain, and provide petroleum for a Carrier Strike Group at sea. The naysayers claim that sending a...

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8. Chinese Statemen and the Use of Airpower

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pp. 237-271

The development of airpower and its influence on history has been primarily a Western narrative, with American, European, and even Russian centers. Aside from Japan’s operationally brilliant but strategically unsustainable military employment in the Pacific War, no Asian power has been a significant airpower beyond its immediate region.1 China, though it has regained much of its pre-nineteenth-century economic...

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9. A Century of Airpower

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pp. 273-288

It was only a century ago that airpower became a factor of any consequence in warfare and, by extension, to statesmen. Its arrival, and its rapid rise to military utility in World War I, spawned both theories and controversy about its ultimate value. The debates have continued to the present day; they show no sign of abating. Diplomatic and military practitioners, on the other hand, have had to go...


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pp. 289-293


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pp. 295-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780813136752
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813136745

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 845249711
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Influence of Airpower upon History

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Subject Headings

  • Air power -- Case studies.
  • International relations -- Case studies.
  • Military history, Modern -- 20th century.
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