We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Command of the Air

Written by Giulio Douhet, edited by Joseph Patrick Harahan and Richard H. Kohn,

Publication Year: 1998

The Italian General Giulio Douhet reigns as one of the twentieth century’s foremost strategic air power theorists. As such scholars as Raymond Flugel have pointed out, Douhet’s theories were crucial at a pivotal pre-World War II Army Air Force institution, the Air Corps Tactical School.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.2 KB)

read more

Editors' Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (306.7 KB)

Long before the age of powered flight, men dreamed of employing aerial craft as weapons of war. When in the late eighteenth century the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated free flight by means of a balloon near Paris, others almost immediately speculated about its application to battle. In 1794 the French government established an army balloon unit for the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (67.9 KB)
pp. 10-11

The first edition of The Command of The Air was published in 1921 under the auspices of the Ministry of War. In the years since then many of the ideas incorporated in the present edition have been put into effect. In fact, the cardinal points of the program for national defense which I proposed have been accepted and...

Book One: The Command of The Air


pdf iconDownload PDF (67.4 KB)
pp. 3

read more

CHAPTER I. The New Form of War

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.3 MB)
pp. 3-33

Aeronautics opened up to men a new field of action, the field of the air. In so doing it of necessity created a new battlefield; for wherever two men meet, conflict is inevitable. In actual fact, aeronautics was widely employed in warfare long before any civilian use was made of it.1 Still in its infancy at the outbreak of the...

read more

CHAPTER II. The Independent Air Force

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 34-48

We have defined an Independent Air Force as that complex total of aerial means which, taken as a whole, makes up an air force capable of conquering the command of the air; we have seen also that, in order to conquer the command of the air, it is necessary to destroy all the enemy's means of flying. Therefore...

read more

CHAPTER III. Aerial Warfare

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 49-68

Before we can draw up an accurate estimate of the scope of an Independent Air Force, we must first consider the following point: An Independent Air Force is an offensive force which can strike with terrific speed against enemy targets on land or sea in any direction, and can force its way through any aerial opposition from...

read more

CHAPTER IV. The Organization of Aerial Warfare

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 69-92

I believe that this statement today may meet with agreement by a consensus of opinion; and in compiling this study of the art of aerial warfare, I have been led to make it simply to point out the heights which aerial warfare may reach, and thus be given the importance it deserves, so that students of war would try to create...


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.4 KB)
pp. 93

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (199.3 KB)
pp. 93-95

When the first edition of The Command of The Air was published,1 I thought it wiser not to express all my thoughts on the problems of aeronautics because I did not want to upset too violently the prevailing ideas on the subject. My purpose then was simply to break ground for the acceptance and execution of a...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (379.6 KB)
pp. 95-99

By the term Independent Air Force–it seems to me I have made it clear since 1921–do not mean any air force capable of carrying out any military action whatever, but an air force fit to strive for conquest of the command of the air. By the expression "command of the air" I do not mean supremacy in the air nor a preponderance...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (368.6 KB)
pp. 99-103

Auxiliary aviation is defined as that mass of air power which facilitates or integrates land and sea actions, or a mass of air power delegated to render designated services to the army or navy and strictly confined to that purpose; therefore not designed for the conquest of the command of the air. Consequently...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (872.5 KB)
pp. 103-114

I have said that an Independent Air Force must meet two conditions: (1) the essential condition–namely, to possess strength enough to conquer the command of the air; (2) the integral condition–namely, to keep up that strength after command of the air has been won and exploit it in such a way as to crush the material...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (549.2 KB)
pp. 114-121

All the conclusions I have stated have been made simply to establish that (1) combat forces must be suited to combat in the air and (2) bombers must be suited for offensives against the surface. Now we can go on to more concrete ideas of what should be the characteristics for combat or bombardment which the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (219.5 KB)
pp. 121-123

The characteristics of battle and reconnaissance planes defined so far are valid for any Independent Air Force. But we are essentially interested here in our own Independent Air Force, so we must take into account two other conditions particularly applicable to us. Our eventual enemies will be found either beyond the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (228.1 KB)
pp. 123-125

The type of battleplane suitable for our Independent Air Force–that is, a plane with a wide radius of action, a high enough ceiling to navigate the Alps, sufficient speed, and a carrying capacity large enough to allow a safe margin of armament and armor protection–is similar to a commercial transport plane...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 125-142

In all the foregoing my purpose has been to demonstrate that an Independent Air Force, once it has conquered the command of the air, can also meet the needs of all auxiliary services required by the exigencies of war. I have made my demonstrations in abundance because I am convinced that, even after conquering...

Book Two: The Probable Aspects of The War of The Future

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (157.7 KB)
pp. 145-147

The study of war, particularly the war of the future, presents some very interesting features. First is the vastness of the phenomenon which makes whole peoples hurl themselves against one another, forgetting for a time that they all wear the aspect of human beings, that they belong to the same family of humanity...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 148-166

In this first chapter we shall glance briefly at the World War and trace its essential features. This is an event in which we have taken part, a war which we have won–won as allies, and thrice won as Italians: the first time by breaking our bonds to the Triple Alliance and permitting France to win the Battle of the Marne...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (733.9 KB)
pp. 167-177

In the last chapter we briefly examined the land aspect of the World War, its outstanding characteristics and the consequences of an error in evaluating a technical factor. In this chapter we shall consider the sea aspect of the war, and there we shall find that another technical factor, this one peculiar to the sea, was...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (575.0 KB)
pp. 178-186

But that will not be the case, because, even if no new developments have taken place on land, on the sea, or under the sea, there has been a new development in the air–one which, because the air is over land and sea alike, tends to change war as a whole and also those of its aspects peculiar to land and sea warfare. This...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 187-207

I come now to the most interesting problem, the problem of the future. This may seem difficult to the reader, but that is appearance rather than reality. We have already well established our starting point–we have seen the events which have been maturing. Now all we have to do is to deduce from them the effects which...

Book Three: Recapitulation

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (285.2 KB)
pp. 211-214

The editor of this review has opportunely intervened to make peace between the contestants. Like war on land, the discussion had become stabilized. The attackers repeated the same attacks, and the defender was forced in retaliation to repeat the same defensive arguments. The result was monotonous repetition which...

read more

CHAPTER I. Auxiliary Aviation

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 215-234

In opposition to my assertion that auxiliary aviation is useless, superfluous, and harmful, my opponents have been content to emphasize the importance of these auxiliary forces during land and sea operations, and therefore the paramount necessity of keeping and even increasing them. In a recent article, "For the Naval...

read more

CHAPTER II. Aerial Defense

pdf iconDownload PDF (577.1 KB)
pp. 235-243

He begins by complimenting me so much I blush. He repeats several times that he is not one of my opponents, but ... By the contents of his article he always ends by pointing out that, at least practically and realistically, I am sunk in error up to my neck. In fact, he supports the absolute necessity of auxiliary aviation...

read more

CHAPTER III. The Aerial Battle

pdf iconDownload PDF (433.5 KB)
pp. 244-250

Unlike Engineer Attal, who at least recognizes that my writing is coherent, General Bastico has filled several pages of this review with an attempt to prove that I am guilty of flagrant contradiction in my evaluation of the aerial battle. Certainly not to prove that I am coherent on this theme, but to clear up misunderstandings...

read more

CHAPTER IV. The Aerial Field As the Decisive Field

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.9 MB)
pp. 251-292

Let us come now to the decisive field of action, concerning which the debate has so far developed brilliantly. I have maintained, and continue to do so, that in the wars to come the decisive field of action will be the aerial field; and therefore it is necessary to base the preparation for and direction of the war on the principle...

read more

Book Four: The War of 19—

"The subject was to be a description of a hypothetical conflict among the great powers in the near future. A difficult subject in any case, and more so when I considered that it was not a question of idle imaginings or flights of fancy. Rather, I must submit to the tight rein of logic and the strait jacket of reason, since I was to...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (47.0 KB)
pp. 295

In the great war which blazed up in the summer of 19—, formidable air forces took part in warfare for the first time, and it was this which gave the conflict its special characteristics. To trace the development of that conflict, and principally the aerial part in it, is the purpose of this work, compiled from the Official...


pdf iconDownload PDF (56.8 KB)
pp. 296

read more

CHAPTER I. The Causes of the Conflict

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.3 KB)
pp. 296

The Kellogg Pact: This incident made war inevitable. As our brief narrative shows, events had been rushing pell-mell to a dizzy climax. Inside of a few days the horizon had been darkened by menacing clouds to such an extent that all hope of a peaceful solution had to be abandoned. The tragedy reached a climax so...

read more

CHAPTER II. The Moral Preparation

pdf iconDownload PDF (35.1 KB)
pp. 297

Although the war began suddenly, the populations of the nations involved were ready to face it manfully. In spite of the many pacifist and humanitarian theories bandied about during the preceding decade, the people, in their profound common sense, had not gone soft under the influence of these utopian dreams...

read more

CHAPTER III. The Intellectual Preparation

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 298-312

Because these two powers were victorious in the World War, they were led to perfect the armaments and systems of war which gave them the victory then, systems and armaments which experience had proved satisfactory. Consequently, the war doctrine they held to, which was reflected in the organization, instruction...

read more

CHAPTER IV. The Material Preparation–France and Belgium

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 313-336

Auxiliary Aviation for the Army: The Franco-Belgian war concept had assigned the army the most essential task of the war, and therefore considerable aerial forces had been allocated to the large ground units. These aerial auxiliaries were made up of the following specialties...

read more

CHAPTER V. The Material Preparation–Germany

pdf iconDownload PDF (851.1 KB)
pp. 337-348

When hostilities began, the German Independent Air Force consisted of 15 aerial groups, each composed of 10 battle divisions and 1 explorer squadron. All aerial groups were homogeneous; and there were 8 2,000-horsepower groups, 6 3,000-horsepower, and 1 6,000-horsepower. Every battle division was made up...


pdf iconDownload PDF (42.9 KB)
pp. 349

read more

CHAPTER VI. The Allies' Plan of Operation

pdf iconDownload PDF (336.1 KB)
pp. 349-354

1. The Northern Group: This group included the Belgian Army and 2 French armies under one command. The Belgian army was composed of 5 army corps, 2 motorized divisions, and 3 cavalry divisions; the 2 French armies of 8 army corps, 5 motorized divisions, and 6 cavalry divisions. In total the Northern...

read more

CHAPTER VII. Germany's Plan of Operation

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 355-370

The German plan of operation has already been outlined in its general lines. In brief, it was to beat the enemy in the air, meanwhile holding him on land, thereby being able to inflict such severe losses on the enemy country as to make it stop fighting. The Independent Air Force plan of operation envisaged a series...

read more

CHAPTER VIII. The Battle of June 16

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 371-389

To give a brief but correct idea of the formidable clash which went down in history under the title of the Battle of June 16, is a difficult task, but I shall attempt it, basing my account on official documents recently published and personal testimony from witnesses and actors in the great tragedy...

read more

CHAPTER IX. Operations of June 17

pdf iconDownload PDF (445.3 KB)
pp. 390-394

About 1 A.M. of the seventeenth, the cities of Köln, Mainz, Koblenz, and Frankfurt were bombed by the 4 night-bombing brigades of the French Independent Air Force. During the sixteenth, these brigades had completed their mobilization and come up to their regular war strength (12 squadrons, 72 planes in each...

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356088

Page Count: 406
Publication Year: 1998