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Copyright (c) 1996 United States Air Force Academy Journal of Legal Studies 
USAFA Journal of Legal Studies

ARTICLE: The Development of US Strategic Bombing Doctrine in the Interwar Years: Moral and Legal?

1996 / 1997

USAFA Journal of Legal Studies

7 USAFA J. Leg. Stud. 111


Lt Col Peter R. Faber *


In 1927, G. F. Bridge asked a rhetorical question -- what should we teach about war? His answer reflected the bias of an overwhelming number of American airmen who served before and during the Second World War. In war, Bridge opined, reverence for human life could be carried to "immoral idolatry." 1 The true evils of war were not human suffering or death but wrongful behavior and injustice. Since most faculty members of the U.S. Army's Air Corp Tactical School (ACTS) during the interwar years agreed with Bridge's premise, they tried to minimize the "frictions" of improper or illegal behavior by developing a unique way of strategic air warfare -- unescorted high altitude precision daylight bombardment (HAPDB) against the key nodes of a nation's economic-industrial heartland. Further, members of the ACTS "Bomber Mafia" 2 indoctrinated countless students with their vision. Of the 1,091 graduates of the ACTS from 1921-1940, 65 percent of them attended the school from 1936-1940, and therefore were exposed to a mature form of what critics described as "Bombus Fervidus." 3

The 261 students of ACTS who then became Air Force generals in World War II (including among them the leaders of the War Plans Division of the War Department), spread this "disease" further. 4 Yet, regardless of HAPDB doctrine's elevation to doctrinal orthodoxy, it is appropriate to ask if unescorted HAPDB was both moral and legal. This article will attempt to show that the American way of strategic air war in World War II, ...
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