The Dream of Civilized Warfare: World War I Flying Aces

Overview

Linda R. Robertson argues that the development of the United States as a global military power arose from the influence of an image of air combat carefully constructed during World War I to mask the sordid realities of modern ground warfare. The Dream of Civilized Warfare carries this trajectory to its logical end, tracing the long history of the American desire to exert the nation's will throughout the world without having to risk the lives of ground soldiers-a theme that continues to reverberate in public ...
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Overview

Linda R. Robertson argues that the development of the United States as a global military power arose from the influence of an image of air combat carefully constructed during World War I to mask the sordid realities of modern ground warfare. The Dream of Civilized Warfare carries this trajectory to its logical end, tracing the long history of the American desire to exert the nation's will throughout the world without having to risk the lives of ground soldiers-a theme that continues to reverberate in public discussions, media portrayals, and policy decisions today.Histories of American air power usually focus on World War II, when the air force became the foundation for the military strength of the United States. The equally fascinating story of World War I air combat is often relegated to a footnote, but it was the earlier war that first inspired the vision of the United States attaining dominance in world affairs through a massive air force. In The Dream of Civilized Warfare, Robertson presents the compelling story of the creation of the first American air force-and how, through the propaganda of the flying ace, a vision of "clean" or civilized combat was sold to politicians and the public. During World War I, air combat came to epitomize American ingenuity, technological superiority, adventure, leadership, and teamwork. Robertson reveals how the romantic and chivalric imagery associated with flying aces was a product of intentional propaganda and popular culture. Examining aviation history, military battles, films, literature, and political events, she looks at how the American public's imagination was shaped-how flying aces offered not only a symbol of warfare in stark contrast to the muddy, brutal world of the trenches, but also a distraction to an American public resistant to both intervention in a European conflict and the new practice of conscription. Linda R. Robertson is professor and director of the Media and Society program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this extraordinary study, Robertson (director, Media & Society Program, Hobart & William Smith Coll.) traces the American air service from its inception during World War I through the second Gulf conflict and reveals how through the romanticized myth of the flying ace the vision of "clean" or civilized combat was sold to receptive politicians and a gullible public. Citing aviation texts, military battles, pilots' contemporary accounts and self-serving memoirs, films, legitimate and pulp writings, and political events, she demonstrates how this fabricated collective imagination not only served as an uplifting symbol of refined warfare but also operated as a convenient mask for the sinister machinations of an international military-industrial complex, a sometimes rash officer corps, and the impetuous action of imperial-minded commanders in chief bent on global crusades. The author laments that the mythos surrounding these aerial adventurers has been adopted by the current Bush administration, which has readily accepted massive strategic bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq as the only option to military stalemate, culminating in President Bush's decision to land on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln dressed as a combat pilot. A highly controversial yet stimulating book that demands to be read, this is recommended for all libraries.-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816642700
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 "We Were Dealing with a Miracle": The Fantasy of Air Power 3
2 "Did You Ever Buy a Pig in a Poke?": Promoting the Military Aviation Appropriation Bill 27
3 A Matter of Class 51
4 "They Made Grand Copy": Origins of the Images of the Ace 87
5 Casus Belli: War as Melodrama 115
6 Civilized Warfare and the Gentleman-Knight 155
7 Mechanized Warfare and the Man 195
8 "The Man Is Alone": Free Lance and Lone Wolf 231
9 The Sporting Life 267
10 "As Swimmers into Cleanness Leaping": Primitive Instinct, Civilized Character, and the Hero's Fate 305
11 American Pilots as Symbols of American Democracy 339
12 Death Wears a Romantic Mask 361
Epilogue: Democratizing War 401
Notes 437
References 459
Index 473
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