Cover image for The forgotten Air Force : French air doctrine in the 1930s
The forgotten Air Force : French air doctrine in the 1930s
Cain, Anthony Christopher.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington [D.C.] : Smithsonian Institution Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 214 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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UG635.F8 C34 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Germany's 1940 defeat of the Armée de l'air, perhaps the world's preeminent air force at the close of World War I, is commonly attributed to incompetent French leadership. Drawing on primary French sources not previously available to historians, Cain argues that in the 1930s the French Air Force was intellectually and operationally constrained, owing to an insufficient interest in and understanding of aviation by the Army and Navy high commands and the French government. But there was certainly no shortage of qualified officers who understood the capabilities of a modern air force in warfare.

Through this groundbreaking and innovative analysis, Cain brings a measure of balance to European interwar history.

Author Notes

Lt. Col. Anthony Christopher Cain, USAF, was recognized by the Air Education and Training Command as Educator of the Year in 1995. He is a veteran B-52 radar navigator with more than 3,000 flying hours, and he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross while flying twenty-six combat missions during Operation Desert Storm

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cain (US Air Univ.) has tackled a much-neglected subject in this groundbreaking work. Virtually nothing else exists in English on the Armee de l'Air for the period 1918-40. Cain's approach explains the three schools of historiography that developed in France in the wake of the utter defeat of May and June 1940. After the capitulation, the French Air Force (FAF) began immediately to reexamine its failure, eventually leading to the secret "Commission G," which laid the basics under Vichy (1940-44) for its viable reemergence. Searching for how doctrine was developed, Cain examines archives from the Service Historique de l'Arme de l'Air and other sources and concludes that the early FAF, subordinate to Army commanders, had so many missions it never developed a philosophy of air power after WW I. A possibility for change occurred during the Rif War in Morocco in 1925 when local air force commanders sited their own airfields, etc., but in metropolitan France, operational, tactical, economic, and political pressures competed against stable doctrine and organization. By May 1940, the FAF had only had two years of adequate funds and was short of aircraft, men, maintenance, and morale. All levels and collections. R. Higham emeritus, Kansas State University

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
1. Introductionp. 1
2. Sources of Reactive Air Doctrinep. 9
French Airpower and the Legacy of World War Ip. 10
Airpower Contributions in the Rif Warp. 16
Other Influences on Air Doctrinep. 26
3. Writing and Publishing Reactive Air Doctrinep. 33
Types of Military Doctrinep. 34
The Armee de l'air and Fundamental Air Doctrinep. 37
The Armee de l'air and Organizational Doctrinep. 43
The Armee de l'air and Tactical Doctrinep. 53
4. A Training System for a Reactive Doctrinep. 60
The Training Systemp. 62
Managing the School Systemp. 69
Preserving the Training Systemp. 76
5. Maneuvers, Exercises, and Reactive Doctrinep. 81
Scenario Developmentp. 82
Realism in Exercises and Maneuversp. 97
Exercises, Maneuvers, and Doctrinep. 100
6. The Denouement of French Airpower Doctrine: Mobilization, Offensive Plans, and Warp. 105
A Mobilization System for Reactive Airpowerp. 106
Offensive Strategies for Operational Warfarep. 115
War--Phony and Realp. 122
7. Assessing Combat Performance and Air Doctrinep. 134
The Nature of Modern Warfarep. 136
Defining the Characteristics of Airpowerp. 142
8. Neither Decadent, nor Traitorous, nor Stupidp. 154
Notesp. 161
Bibliographyp. 197
Indexp. 211