Airpower: Myths and Facts

by Colonel, USAF, Retired, Phillip S. Meilinger

Book cover for Airpower: Myths and Facts

Airpower, especially strategic bombing, frequently generates controversy. Ever since the US Army bought its first “aeroplane” in 1909, debates have raged over the utility, effectiveness, efficiency, legality, and even the morality of airpower. These debates continue despite (or perhaps because of) the hundreds of books that have been written on the subject and the scores of examples witnessed. As the saying goes, certain topics tend to produce more heat than they do light. In some cases, the questions regarding airpower, strategic bombing, and their roles in war remain unanswerable—or at least people fail to agree on the answers. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen approach war from different viewpoints and with differing service-cultural perspectives, which similarly influence others who write and speak about war. This is natural and perhaps advantageous—fresh ideas are always useful. Unfortunately, much of the debate regarding airpower and strategic bombing has been colored by accusations, misconceptions, inaccuracies, myths, and simple untruths. If airpower needs criticizing—and certainly there are times when criticism is appropriate—it must be based on accurate information. What follows are points and counterpoints that attempt to clear away some of the detritus that obscures the subject, thus allowing more informed debate on the real issues concerning airpower and strategic bombing. This in turn, hopefully, will give our political and military leaders a better basis on which to form decisions in future conflicts.

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