In Pursuit of Decisive Action: Air Power's Impact On the Guadalcanal Campaign
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES
Pagination or Media Count:
After World War I, Giulio Douhet and William Mitchell both argued air power would be decisive in future wars. As early air power theorists, their ideas inspired generations of airmen, but due to a conceptual misunderstanding of what the term decisive entails, their message helped generate unrealistic expectations for the future. After separating the term decisive into two distinct concepts of decisiveness, meaning war-determining, and conclusiveness, meaning war-ending, this paper revisits the writings of Douhet and Mitchell to determine their intent. Both men believed air superiority was the essential condition for victory, and that an air force could be decisive if it secured and exploited the essential condition. They also believed an air force could be conclusive if it possessed sufficient force to crush the adversarys material and moral resistance. Application of these ideas to the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II reveals that air power is not universally decisive. The concepts of decisiveness and conclusiveness must be applied at each level of war. Furthermore, the essential condition varies, particularly in relation to the character of the conflict. However, when one looks at the operational and tactical levels of war within the Guadalcanal Campaign, air superiority was the essential condition for victory. Decisive action rested on the ability of the Cactus Air Force to secure and exploit the essential condition to a sufficient degree such that victory for the Allies logically followed.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics