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Bombs Away - A Dart, the Birth of Shock and Awe, #12 of 100 Bloody Objects

65 minutes

Strike Hard Strike Sure

  1. The Great War - Birth of Aerial Bombing
  2. Never again - Between the Wars
  3. World War 2 - Strategic Bombing
  4. Post War/cold War
  5. The modern era - Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe has entered the modern lexicon as a description of the effectiveness and efficiency of modern air power. Yet the employment of air assets took a century to evolve. In the earliest days over the Western Front during the Great War, rickety biplanes often struggled to find a role both in reconnaissance and as fighters. As ground attack aircraft, the technology available was in its infancy and bombs where little more than light weight flechette darts. As the conflict progressed, it was the Germans who developed and pushed ahead with the concept of the strategic bomber and conducted raids over London and other cities. First the Zeppelin airship and then with their Gotha and Staaken bombers.

It was during the post war period that air strategists including Trenchard, Mitchell and Douchet evolved the concept of aerial bombing and air supremacy. The myth that the bomber will always get through was born. There was the belief in ‘never again’, that the bomber would allow nations to avoid the slaughter of trench warfare and break the morale of the enemy at home.

It was only later, with the use of the atomic bomb over Japan and precision weapons in later conflicts that some of the hopes of those earlier thinkers and pioneers have been shown to be partially true. As counterinsurgency from Vietnam to Afghanistan have shown, air power alone is still not enough.

So it Goes

Tom Assheton & James Jackson


Baldwin reading by David Hartley

Audio clip - Sir Arthur Harris at the Bomber Command Association 1977

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