The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940 / Edition 1

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At the end of World War I, the German military machine lay devastated, forbidden any attempt to rebuild. But by the dawn of World War II, its army and air forces had both been rejuvenated to sufficient vigor to conquer most of Europe. As James Corum shows, the Luftwaffe's dramatic resurrection underscored the remarkable success of Germany's visionary interwar planning.

A superb example of both military and intellectual history, Corum's study provides a complete and accurate account of the evolution of German military aviation theory, doctrine, war games, and operations between the two world wars. It reveals how the Germans, in defiance of Versailles, thoroughly studied and tested the lessons of World War I, analyzed the emerging air doctrines of other nations, and experimented with innovative aviation technology to create the world's most powerful air force by 1940.

Drawing heavily upon archival sources, Corum discloses the debates within the General Staff—led by the likes of Hans van Seeckt, Helmuth Wilberg, Wolfram von Richthofen, and Walter Wever—about the future role of airpower and the problems of aligning aviation technology with air doctrine. He challenges previous accounts and demolishes a number of myths, for example demonstrating that Germany did not dismiss the potential of strategic bombing or embrace terror bombing of civilian populations, and was not heavily influenced by its popular culture's romance with aviation.

Corum also illuminates Germany's comprehensive approach to highly mobile combined-arms warfare, its secret research and training in the Soviet Union, and its remarkable successes during the Spanish Civil War. While focusing primarily on the interwar period, he extends his analysis into the early years of World War II to examine the Luftwaffe's effectiveness in Poland and France, and expose its flaws in the Battle of Britain.

As a companion to Corum's acclaimed study of the German army between the wars, The Luftwaffe reminds us how operational doctrine, combined with one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, indelibly altered the fate of nations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Military planners learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and borrow from their successes. Because of prohibitions forced on it by the victorious Allies, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) reformed itself internally (and secretly) after World War I and then in 1935 burst on the world scene virtually overnight as an effective military arm. Through lessons learned from its participation in the Spanish Civil War, the Luftwaffe developed tactics and matriel that enabled it to produce a stunning series of conquests when World War II began in 1939. Corum (The Roots of Blizkrieg, LJ 11/1/92) has meticulously researched this metamorphosis and produced a scholarly treatise on the personalities, forces, and psychological makeup of one of history's most successful military rebirths. A necessary addition to military and history collections emphasizing World War II and the evolution of warfare.Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.
Kirkus Reviews
A scholar's eye-opening appraisal of Germany's air forces from the postWW I era through the early stages of WW II.

Wryly noting that the victors in any conflict get to write its history, Corum (Comparative Military Studies/Maxwell Air Force Base's School of Advanced Airpower) offers a persuasive, against- the-grain briefing on the Luftwaffe, long dismissed by mainstream annalists as an essentially tactical force geared to support Wehrmacht ground operations. In fact, he observes, archival sources disclose that the Luftwaffe drew resourcefully upon the lessons of WW I and the Spanish Civil War to create a coherent and practicable doctrine of aerial warfare. Nor, the author shows, were the Luftwaffe's strengths or weaknesses attributable in any great measure to its nominal leader, Hermann Göring ("a man who actually knew very little about air power"). The greatest contributions to what in 1939 ranked as the world's most combat-effective air force, Corum documents, were made by General Walter Wever, Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen, and other of the air staff's unsung theorists. Corum goes on to address the ways in which the Luftwaffe evaluated innovations in aircraft technology, developed the infrastructure required to sustain farflung aerial units, endlessly debated the future role of air power, and generally steered clear of the Third Reich's political ideologues. Covered as well are the Luftwaffe's alleged dismissal of strategic bombing, lack of long- distance escort fighters, and bent for terror raids. While the Luftwaffe had lost the production battle by 1942 and fought outnumbered on all fronts, the author points out that it remained a formidable foe through 1944. As for its defeat in the 1940 Battle of Britain, Corum argues that the Luftwaffe was damaged by poor intelligence.

Revisionist military history of a high order.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700609628
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents



1. The Lessons of World War I

2. The Response to Disarmament: Von Seeckt and Wilberg

3. Preparation for Aerial Rearmament

4. Theory and Air Doctrine in the Wever Era, 1933-1936

5. Air Organization and Technology in the Wever Era, 1933-1936

6. The Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

7. The Luftwaffe Prepares for War: Problems with Leadership and Organization





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