12

Wiki introduces Wever this way:

Walther Wever (11 November 1887 – 3 June 1936) was a pre-World War II Luftwaffe Commander. He was an early proponent of the theory of strategic bombing as a means to wage war, opposing the theories of Giulio Douhet.

I was not able to understand in what Wever differed materially from Douhet, who is also described in Wikipedia as "a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare".

Is this just a mistake waiting to be corrected or was there a subject on which they held opposing views?

15

From reading the two wikipedia articles, they had different opinions on how the air force should be used in war theaters.

Douhet offers (emphasis mine):

Douhet believed in the morale effects of bombing. Air power could break a people's will by destroying a country's "vital centers". Armies became superfluous because aircraft could overfly them and attack these centers of the government, military and industry with impunity, a principle later called "The bomber will always get through". Targeting was central to this strategy and he believed that air commanders would prove themselves by their choice of targets. These would vary from situation to situation, but Douhet identified the five basic target types as: industry, transport infrastructure, communications, government and "the will of the people".

In contrast, Wever offers:

Wever outlined five key points to air strategy:

  1. To destroy the enemy air force by bombing its bases and aircraft factories, and defeating enemy air forces attacking German targets.
  2. To prevent the movement of large enemy ground forces to the decisive areas by destroying railways and roads, particularly bridges and tunnels**, which are indispensable for the movement and supply of forces
  3. To support the operations of the army formations, independent of railways, i.e, armored forces and motorised forces, by impeding the enemy advance and participating directly in ground operations.
  4. To support naval operations by attacking naval bases, protecting Germany's naval bases and participating directly in naval battles
  5. To paralyze the enemy armed forces by stopping production in the armaments factories.

So, in essence, where Douhet envisioned that the Air Force was the only thing that mattered, with wars ending quickly without much ground or naval operations by basically bombing the civilian population to the point where they revolt and sue for peace, Wever viewed the Air Force primarily as a means to support ground and naval troops.

Or put another way the first was a proponent of systematic carpet bombing as a strategy in its own right (and was proven wrong in WW2), while the second was more of a proponent of precision bombing of strategic targets.

  • 1
    Thanks, I was not reading closely enough. – Felix Goldberg Jul 28 '17 at 10:34
5

Just to add a bit to Denis' excellent answer. I consulted the same wiki sources as he did.

Both men realized that airpower added a new dimension (literally) to warfare. They realized that airpower could defeat an enemy army not by destroying it, but by hamstringing it. Thus, they both advocated the bombing of strategic "soft" targets such as transport, telecommunications, and industry (for resupply). But they diverged in that Wever went into greater detail about how the air force could support conventional military operations. Douhet focused on "civilian" targets.

Douhet advocated attacking the enemy "morale". In practice, this meant attacking the enemy government. This could happen in two ways:

  1. Bombing to death the opposing President, Vice-President, Cabinet etc. to disrupt the functioning of the enemy government.
  2. Terror bombing the civilian populace to get them to rise up against the government and sue for peace.

Douhet's version of the theory had some usefulness, initially. Terror bombing was a factor in the quick surrender of the Netherlands, for instance. But later experiences, e.g. in Vietnam, or even in 1945 Japan, showed that terror bombing (other than nuclear) would do little to break civilian morale, and that government officials could be protected. And bombers of the time lacked the pinpoint accuracy to make civilian bombing cost effective; "carpet" bombing was costly.

Wever's ideas were ultimately more useful and accurate because they stayed closer to "military" expertise.

  • There was also terror bombing in Britain, which failed miserably for the Germans. – J F Jul 28 '17 at 22:20
  • @JF: True enough. But the Germans never dominated the British skies like the Americans dominated the Japanese or Vietnamese skies. – Tom Au Jul 29 '17 at 1:39

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