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Strike From the Sky

The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1910-1945

Written by Richard P. Hallion and introduction by Richard Mason

Publication Year: 2010

Chronicles the history of battlefield air attack from 1911, when the airplane was first used in war, to the end of World War II.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xvii

An account of the first thirty-five years of the contribution of air power to land warfare has an obvious appeal to military historians. It also has an intrinsic interest to those who are fascinated by the evolution of military aircraft and their emergence as a major influence on twentiethcentury warfare. It is easy to forget that air operations before 1945...

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pp. xviii-xx

A study of this sort cannot be completed without the support and assistance of a number of organizations and individuals. First, I thank the staff of the Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, for their unfailing courtesy and help during my year as the Harold Keith Johnson Visiting Professor of Military History. In particular, I...

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pp. 1-6

Throughout the history of warfare, new developments in technology have had a profound effect upon the conduct of military affairs. The twentieth century has witnessed many of these: the tank, the airplane, the submarine, the atomic bomb, radar and electronic communications, and the long-range guided missile, to name just a few. Traditionally, the air forces of the world have set three major missions...


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1. The Military and the Airplane

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pp. 9-17

For many years, military aviation in the First World War has been regarded as a mere sideshow to the war on land and at sea. This attitude has generated a belief that the roles and missions of modern military airpower grew out of the experiences in the Second World War, and over time has resulted in a more generalized feeling that any military airpower...

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2. Ground Attack on the Western Front, 1917-1918

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pp. 19-27

From the earliest days of combat on the Western Front, aviators felt compelled to attack opposing forces on the ground. Until 1916, such attacks were sporadic, reflecting more on the initiative of the individual than on any policy, plan, or doctrine. Such attacks proved demoralizing to troops, but also revealed the vulnerability of aircraft to ground fire...

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3. The Palestine Campaign of 1918

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pp. 29-36

Since entering the war, the Ottoman Empire had found itself increasingly on the defensive; in the Middle East, this took the form of fighting on three fronts: against Russian forces in Armenia, against British and Commonwealth forces in Mesopotamia, and against British and Commonwealth forces driving eastward from Egypt. By the end of 1917, the...

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4. Great War Air Support in Retrospect

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pp. 37-42

As with the development of the air superiority fighter and the long-range bomber, the experience of close air support and battlefield air interdiction operations in the First World War influenced not only the conduct of actual combat operations during the war itself, but thinking and planning for the future. Taken as a whole, the record of military air...

PART TWO: Small Conflicts of the Interwar Years

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5. Emergent Ground-Attack Doctrine and Technology

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pp. 45-54

The ending of the First World War did not, as many hoped, bring to a conclusion the era of human conflict. Rather, the war created great change-the rise of totalitarian regimes, the creation of new central European states, the collapse of an established European order, and a rising anticolonial consciousness-that ignited and fueled a series of...

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6. Small Wars of the 1920s and 1930s

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pp. 55-76

No sooner had shooting stopped on the Western Front than conflict erupted between the Allied powers and the emergent Bolshevik state of Soviet Russia. Then, resulting from the same revolutionary turmoil, war broke out between the Soviets and the newly revived Polish state. Meanwhile, Great Britain, France, and Spain found themselves embroiled...

PART THREE: Abyssinia, Spain, and War in Asia

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pp. 77-80

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7. The Abyssinian War

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pp. 81-88

In 1896, while trying to reassert its control over Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Italy suffered a disastrous defeat at Adowa, in which (in the words of Brigadiers Peter Young and Michael Calvert) "the dead were more fortunate than the prisoners."9 For nearly four decades, memory of that humiliating and savage defeat lingered in Rome, and finally, for that and...

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8. The Spanish Civil War

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pp. 89-108

Perhaps no conflict of the twentieth century has so polarized individuals as has the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). It became overnight virtually a political litmus test between the left and the right, and, to a large degree, it has remained such since that time. The Spanish Civil War has been characterized as a conflict between democracy and fascism, a...

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9. The Spanish Legacy

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pp. 109-115

Writing just after the outbreak of the Second World War, Spanish war veteran Ferdinand Miksche perceptively stated: The air force has become the hammer of modern warfare on land. Employed in close co-ordination with tanks, motorized infantry, and other ground forces it can bring battle to swift development. The great mobility of aircraft enables the...

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10. War in Asia

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pp. 116-126

Writing in 1940, one Army Air Corps officer assigned to the Army War College stated that "the principal lessons to be learned from the air operations in connection with the China Incident are: that Chinese towns burn briskly when bombed, and the numerous attacks launched from the air by the Japanese do not appear to have had any appreciable...


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pp. 127-130

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11. The Blitzkrieg

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pp. 131-148

On September I, 1939, Hider's forces attacked Poland, triggering the outbreak of a general European war that had smoldered since the unsatisfactory peace of Versailles twenty years before. As mentioned in Part Three, the Luftwaffe's basic prewar orientation was strategic rather than tactical, but in Poland (as in Spain) it was called upon to perform largely...

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12. The Genesis of Anglo-American Air Support: The British Experience in the Western Desert

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pp. 149-162

Despite prewar doctrinal notions, both Great Britain and the United States developed their respective air support systems based on combat experience. Further, the American system, as employed in the Normandy breakout, was a system that owed its origins to British trial and error in the Western Desert. The swift German victory on the European...

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13. The Necessary Interlude: Doctrine and the American Experience in the Pacific, Tunisian, and Italian Campaigns

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pp. 163-187

In April 1942, the u.s. War Department had issued Field Manual FM 31-35, entitled "Aviation in Support of Ground Forces." This manual attempted to create a workable ground-air support system, but, in truth, it merely generated the appearances of such a system. With its network of Air Support Parties, Air Support Control Centers, and communications...

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14. A Deadly Efficiency: Anglo-American Air Support in Western Europe

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pp. 188-227

Allied planning for the invasion of Europe occupied over two years, and in that planning, the role of air power came under profound scrutiny. In August 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff had given their approval to the general tactical plan for the invasion, dubbed Overlord. In February 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed command of the European...

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15. Battlefield Air Support in the East: The Case of Kursk

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pp. 228-260

When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he had every expectation of a quick victory. He had a honed military system benefiting from its experiences in the blitzkrieg. In contrast, the Soviets had done poorly in Finland, and Finland could be counted on to assist Nazi Germany when the invasion began. Further, Stalin's purges had devastated...

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EPILOGUE: Where We Have Come, Where We Are, Where We Are Going

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pp. 261-272

The years since 1945 have witnessed many changes in military technology, doctrine, strategy, and war-fighting. Though postwar developments affecting battlefield air support clearly merit detailed examination themselves, some general comments need to be made so that the experience up to 1945 can be placed within the broader context of subsequent...


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pp. 273-275

Source Notes

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pp. 276-298

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 299-313


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pp. 314-323

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385439
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356576

Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Air interdiction -- History.
  • Close air support -- History.
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