Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized by Stephen Budiansky


By Stephen Budiansky

No unmarried human invention has reworked battle greater than the airplane—not even the atomic bomb. Even ahead of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, predictions abounded of the devastating and poor effects this new invention might have as an engine of warfare. hovering over the battlefield, the aircraft grew to become an unstoppable strength that left no spot in the world secure from assault. Drawing on wrestle memoirs, letters, diaries, archival documents, museum collections, and eyewitness debts by way of the boys who fought—and the boys who constructed the step forward innovations and concepts—acclaimed writer Stephen Budiansky weaves a brilliant and dramatic account of the airplane’s innovative transformation of recent warfare.

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As early as July 1940 he had clutched at the bomber as the means to hit back; he wrote to Lord Beaverbrook, then Minister of Aircraft Production: We have no Continental Army which can defeat the German military power. The blockade is broken and Hitler has Asia and probably Africa to draw from. Should he be repulsed here or not try invasion, he will probably recoil eastward, and we have nothing to stop him. But there is one thing that will bring him back and bring him down, and that is an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland.

The Ministry was reminded of how dangerous it was to overstate successes for it caused others to question the validity of British propaganda and information. The BBC representatives felt that Peirse sympathised with the critics, which put his own propaganda and information officers on the defensive. But Peirse was not prepared to concede too much for he told the meeting that he was about to launch a far more intensive raiding campaign against Germany. 57 They all agreed that particular care had to be taken with the case of Berlin.

With extreme force the storm in the west broke on May 10 1940. The allies were on the backfoot from the start. The Advanced Air Striking Force Fairey Battles and Blenheims did not stand much chance of playing a useful role when left to fend for themselves against the much faster and more manoeuvrable German fighters. As the Germans streamed forward the slow British light bombers did their best to create bottlenecks by attacking bridges and lines of communication, often with suicidal bravery. It was also a shock to see what the Luftwaffe was capable of doing to its enemies.

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