Pershing’s failure to approve the proposal caused Mitchell to redouble his efforts. In August 1917 he asked the aef Intelligence branch to provide information on strategic targets in Germany, and later received a list of industrial targets in the Ruhr from the French.28 He also created a staff to explore the possibilities of bombing Germany in more detail. To direct the Air Service’s Technical Section, Mitchell picked the twenty-six-year-old Gor – rell, who had just completed his work with the Bolling mission. Gorrell’s job for Mitchell would be similar to his former work for Bolling: to determine Air Service requirements, including the various types of aircraft needed. In trying to estimate the correct number of bombers, Gorrell considered the prospects of strategic bombing, and ultimately produced America’s first plan for a strategic air campaign. He developed this plan in relative splendor, for Mitchell chose the Chateau de Chamarandes, a magnificent hunting lodge built by Louis XV, as his headquarters. Located within a mile of Pershing’s headquarters at Chaumont, the chateau provided both living quarters and office space. It continued to serve as Air Service headquarters after Mitchell left in October to become Air Service Commander in the Zone of the Advance.29
Besides Mitchell, a variety of individuals helped Gorrell develop his plan. Gorrell stayed in contact with Bolling, who remarked in early September that the importance of “bombing operations with direct military ends in view” could not be overestimated.30 In addition, veteran pilots Harold Fowler and Millard F. Harmon, both Air Service majors, assisted Gorrell.31 Fowler flew with the Royal Flying Corps before America’s entry in the war, while Harmon was an Air Service pilot in the Philippines before the conflict. Gorrell also received a large measure of support from three individuals uniquely qualified to help develop an air campaign plan: Wing Commander Spencer Grey of the Royal Naval Air Service (rnas), Gianni Caproni, and Major Hardinge Goulborn Tiverton, a British Lord and, like Grey, a pilot with the rnas. Grey was a liaison officer attached to Air Service headquarters and had participated in raids against German inland targets from the rnas base at Dunkirk, plus he had helped develop a 1,650-pound bomb. Gorrell considered him the “world’s greatest authority on questions dealing with aerial bombardment” and relied heavily on his expertise.32
Caproni, whose bomber was slated for American production, met frequently with Gorrell in the autumn of 1917. Besides providing Gorrell with a list of Germany’s major industrial targets,33 Caproni also sent him an English-text copy of a new book, Let Us Kill The War; Let Us Aim at the Heart of the Enemy, by the Italian journalist Nino Salveneschi. The book was a compilation of Caproni’s major thoughts on how air warfare could achieve an independent victory, and Gorrell embraced its message enthusiastically. “I have read with great interest your book entitled ‘Let us Kill the War; Let us Aim at the Heart of the Enemy,’ which you so kindly gave me,” he wrote Caproni on 31 October. “May I ask you to let me have half a dozen copies of this book and I will guarantee to spread the gospel in all directions.”34
Salveneschi’s book—an unabashed endorsement for Caproni’s Tri-motor bomber—contained a number of perceptions that reappeared in Gorrell’s plan. The Italian argued that victory in the current conflict meant destroying the enemy’s army rather than occupying his country, and that the key to destroying his army was to take away its means to fight. The Allies could thus obtain victory in one of two ways: by exceeding the enemy’s armament production, or by wrecking the factories that built the weapons.35 Outproducing Germany’s enormous industrial capacity would be difficult, Salveneschi asserted. Air power, however, offered the means to destroy the factories, which were the “heart” of the enemy war effort. Stabbing the heart would in turn kill the war.36
Salveneschi warned that the Germans would build up their own bomber force for an offensive against Allied production centers unless the Allies first attacked German industry. He listed the major German factories as those in Essen, Munich, along the Rhine, and in Westphalia. Allied bombers did not have to destroy all of them, however, to achieve success—wrecking other factories closer to the front might produce greater results. “In this war there is, among the factories, as far as the front, a mechanism like a perfect watch-making workshop,” Salveneschi wrote. “Enough to destroy a ‘specialized’ factory to obtain, in a short time, enforced inaction of the enemy.”37 Because the Central Powers were likely to defend their key factories with fighter aircraft, the attacking air fleet needed to be as large as possible and com
posed of sturdy aircraft (like the Tri-motor) so at least part of the bombers could hit their target. The Italian acknowledged that some bombs would miss their aim points and kill civilians, but cautioned that “one must not permit sentimentality to interfere with the destruction of factories. . . . [T]he life of every German labourer at work for the war has less value than one of our boys who is fighting for his country.”38 Yet Salveneschi did not advocate killing civilians to defeat the enemy. Rather, he moved past that question to assert, somewhat antiseptically, that Caproni’s dream of an aerial victory could “be converted into [the] reality of figures and formulae.”39
Salveneschi’s writings meshed neatly with those of rnas Major Lord Tiverton, whom Gorrell met in France during the autumn of 1917. While serving as technical liaison officer for the Royal Navy’s Air Department in Paris, Tiverton completed his own thorough study of long-range bombing in early September, and his analysis compared favorably to that provided by Salveneschi and Caproni.40 Gorrell found Tiverton’s views particularly compelling—so much so that he used Tiverton’s paper, virtually verbatim, for the body of his own plan that he finished in late November.41 Although Gorrell’s plan took into account Grey’s expertise and Caproni’s images, as well as Mitchell’s ideas, gleaned largely from Trenchard, about air power’s ability to destroy the German army’s means to fight, Tiverton’s notions had a telling impact on Gorrell’s thoughts. Gorrell added an introduction and conclusion to address strictly American concerns, but most of the remaining words came from Tiverton.42
Gorrell began by noting that three and a half years of conflict had produced a stalemate on the ground and at sea, and that only “a new policy of attacking the enemy” would affect the war’s conduct.43 That new policy was “strategical bombing,” which he defined as air attacks on commercial centers and lines of commu
nication to stop the flow of enemy supplies to the front. Much like Salveneschi, Gorrell asserted that “there are a few certain indispensable targets without which Germany cannot carry on the war.”44 The German army could be likened to a drill, whose point could continue to bore only if the shank—the German national effort—remained durable. Four target groups were essential to keeping the shank strong: the industries surrounding Dusseldorf, Cologne, Mannheim, and the Saar. If those vital factories and their transportation links were destroyed, the drill would become impotent. “German shells are being fired at Allied troops and positions over a large area of the Front,” he observed, “but the manufacture of these shells and bombs is dependent upon the output of a few specific, well-known factories turning out the chemicals for them…. If the chemical factories can be blown up, the shell and bomb output will cease, to a greater or lesser degree, dependent upon the damage done these chemical plants.”45 In addition, Germany’s main aircraft engine factory and magneto plant were both in Stuttgart, and their destruction would severely hamper Germany’s ability to sustain its air power on the Western Front.
The belief that the essence of an enemy nation’s war-making capability consisted of certain key components linking together its industrial complex was the crux of Gorrell’s proposal—and a conviction that ultimately became a central pillar of the American approach to strategic bombing.
Although destroying German war-making capability was the focus of Gorrell’s plan, his scheme presupposed that attacks on industrial targets would also break the morale of the German work force. His rationale stemmed partly from the effects of German air raids on the French factory at Pont-St. Vincent, where workers had been reluctant to return to their duties even though the bombs had missed the mark; he knew as well of the work stoppages resulting from the Gotha offensive against London.4’’ Gor – rell believed that a concentrated air attack against the four enemy target groups would persuade the German populace to demand an end to the conflict, and called for one hundred bomber squadrons to start the campaign by simultaneously attacking armament works in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen for five continuous hours. “If immediately afterwards, on the next possible day, Frankfurt were attacked in a similar way, judging from the press reports of what has already occurred in Germany,” he contended, “it is quite possible that Gologne would create such trouble that the German government might be forced to suggest terms if that town were so attacked.”47
To Gorrell, a nation’s will to fight equated to the population’s willingness to endure the conflict. A mass revolution that threatened to dislodge the enemy government—and forced its government to make peace to stay in power—would certainly indicate that bombs had broken enemy morale. Yet a popular revolt was not necessary to break German will. For Gorrell, widespread absenteeism would suffice, and would have the same impact as factories destroyed by bombs. The ultimate goal was to prevent the German army from waging war.
The enemy’s capability and will to fight were complementary objectives, and Gorrell’s offensive aimed at both. “From both the morale point of view and also that of material damage, concentration of our aerial forces against single targets on the same day is of vital importance since it tends to hamper the defense and also to complete in a thorough manner the work which the bombardment is intended to perform,” he observed.48
Gorrell estimated that between three thousand and six thousand American bombers were necessary to carry out his plan, provided that the force received adequate logistical support and aircrew training.49 The armada would fly en masse, and concentrate on destroying a particular set of targets completely before assaulting a different target group. Hearkening to Trenchard, Gorrell stressed continuous, systematic bombing as the key to overwhelming German defenses while unnerving workers and preventing them from making repairs. Yet the Germans, Gorrell warned, also realized the potential of strategic bombing and aimed to launch a similar large-scale effort against the Allies during the next year. Thus, the sooner the American campaign began, the better. “This is not a phantom nor a dream,” he wrote to Bolling in October 1917, “but is a huge reality capable of being carried out with success if the United States will only carry on a sufficiently large campaign for next year, and manufacture the types of airplanes that lend themselves to this campaign, instead of building pursuit planes already out of date here in Europe.”50
Gorrell submitted his plan on 28 November to Brigadier General Benjamin Foulois, who had become Chief of the aef Air Service the previous day. The two had served together as pilots in the First Aero Squadron during the Mexican punitive expedition and knew each other well. Fike Mitchell, Foulois had changed his attitude on the value of independent air operations since his 1913 testimony that Army aviation belonged under Signal Corps’ control. He approved Gorrell’s plan in December and sent it to General Pershing for his endorsement. Foulois also placed Gorrell— now a lieutenant colonel—in charge of Strategical Aviation in the Zone of the Advance. Persuaded that an independent bombing force would not deprive him of air support for American ground troops, Pershing approved the plan in early January. Gorrell then transferred to Pershing’s staff as the Air Service’s G-3 (War Plans and Operations) representative to oversee the plan’s implementation, but he remained attuned to Pershing’s concern that the Air Service might neglect American armies.
To assuage this fear, Gorrell produced a written analysis of his plan’s impact on Army aviation for Pershing’s staff. Entitled “The Future Role of American Bombardment Aviation,” the study bor
rowed heavily from a report that Trenchard had presented to the British War Cabinet in December 1917, as well as from a recent French bombing plan that American staff officers had translated into English.51 Yet Gorrell made certain that his paper addressed the Army’s anxiety over air support while emphasizing the great benefits of strategic bombing. He pointedly observed in the first paragraph: “The Air Service is an integral part of a homogeneous team, no portion of which, working by itself, can alone decisively defeat the enemy.”52 Gorrell then noted that air power would continue to support ground combat operations by serving as a “long range gun” that could attack the enemy’s rear echelons beyond the range of fixed artillery, as well as by attacking the enemy’s frontline positions when necessary. Raids would also occur against important road and rail junctions near the front, which would prevent the flow of vital supplies and cause the enemy “grave results.” Attacks against enemy industries would pay dividends at the front as well. “To successfully strike at such works, is to injure the source of the current which furnished the combative energy of the enemy,” he maintained.53
Besides devoting a large amount of attention to “tactical” air power, Gorrell provided ample insights on “strategical bombing,” many of them courtesy of Hugh Trenchard. Gorrell stated that such bombing occurred mainly at long distances and was integral to the air offensive on the Western Front. It was not primarily a vehicle for retaliation. Instead, its basic purpose was “to weaken the power of the enemy both directly and indirectly; directly, by interrupting his production, transport, and organization through the infliction of damage on his industrial, railway, and military centers and by compelling him to draw back his [aerial] fighting machines to deal with the enemy’s; indirectly, by producing discontent and alarm among the industrial population. In other words, it aims at achieving both a material and a moral effect.”54
Gorrell reiterated that German war production depended on a few key links in its industrial complex and that destroying them would grind the German war effort to a halt. Pinpointing those links was the essence of successful bombing. Thus far, the lack of “proper scientific knowledge” and the failure to identify “the real object” of an air offensive had prevented bombing from achieving its potential.55 Gorrell claimed that the necessary expertise now existed, and he was determined to use it. Aircraft would attack the industrial centers earmarked in his plan, and the bombs that missed would have “the desired moral effect” by depriving the enemy of “the enormous number of man-hours that a single aerial bombardment of necessity always causes.”5* Attacks would occur throughout daylight and darkness, with day bombers flying at high altitude in tight formation to overcome enemy defenses, while night bombers flew with the impunity that he believed allowed them to conduct the most accurate bombing.
As Gorrell worked to sell his scheme at aef headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Monell took over in late January as Chief of Strategical Aviation in the Zone of the Advance. An ex-president of the International Nickel Company, Monell was assisted in his new endeavor by Gorrell’s former compatriots Fowler and Grey. Meanwhile, Gorrell helped create an Office of Air Intelligence in the G-2 (Intelligence) Section of the aef staff. This section contained a “bomb target unit,” described by historian Thomas Greer as the “prototype of the organizations which played such an important role in the strategic operations of World War II.”57 The unit produced target maps, antiaircraft defense maps, and maps of key German railroads and industries, all divided into “target folders” for specific installations.
While the Americans geared up to bomb Germany, the British had already launched the assault. In October 1917, in response to
the Gotha raids, Prime Minister David Lloyd George had promised London’s citizens: “We will give it all back to them and we will give it to them soon. We shall bomb Germany with compound interest.”58 Limited attacks began before the end of the year, and many of them were indiscriminate. Trenchard announced at a meeting with Gorrell and French representatives on 22 December that he aimed to establish a special force for bombing German industry and asked whether the French and Americans would contribute to it. Gorrell stated that the Americans planned to begin a similar effort but that he could not pledge the Air Service to a joint endeavor without Pershing’s approval.59 In contrast to the eagerness for bombing Germany that they had displayed to the Bolling mission, the French were lukewarm now that the idea had become a reality. They stressed Germany’s ease of retaliation against French cities, and indeed in January 1918 German bombers attacked Paris for the first time in two and a half years.60 The British then confined their raids to factories and rail yards, but they did not curb their plans for a separate bombing unit. On 5 June 1918, Trenchard took command of the Independent Air Force (iaf) of the newly created Royal Air Force. The need to devote half his sorties against German airfields, and the small number of aircraft available (his force varied between five and ten squadrons), limited the amount of iaf bombs dropped on Germany to 550 tons, which were spread over fifty towns and cities.61 Nonetheless, Trenchard claimed that the “moral effect” of his bombing outweighed its material impact by twenty to one.62
Because Trenchard took orders only from the British Air Ministry, the iaf effort endeared itself to neither the French nor the Americans. The French were particularly incensed, as their Marshal Ferdinand Foch was Supreme Allied Commander. Trenchard’s restricted chain-of-command also led the aef Chief of Staff, Major General James W. McAndrew, to prohibit American bombing with the iaf once Air Service bombardment units reached sufficient strength to conduct separate operations. In January 1918 Pershing had agreed that British personnel could organize, train, and equip the thirty projected American night bombing squadrons, and British flying schools also taught some American day bombing aircrews. In all, thirty-six Americans attached to the iaf flew combat “training” missions over Germany, and half of them were killed, wounded, or captured.63 Yet just as Pershing prohibited American ground combat units from amalgamating with Allied armies, he would not condone American bombers flying to achieve British objectives, especially when American ground forces needed air support. “In making arrangements with the British it must be thoroughly understood that when our [air] forces reach a certain importance the regions to be bombed will be designated by these headquarters and that the selection of targets will depend solely upon their importance with respect to the operations which we contemplate for our ground forces,” McAndrew told Major General Mason Patrick, who had replaced Foulois as aef Air Service chief.64 The issue of cooperative allied air operations was a sticky one, however, and Americans would revisit it with the British in the years to come.
In the end, America’s bombing contribution to the Great War consisted of day bombers raiding targets in France, and that contribution was meager. Eight antiquated Breguet-14 b-2 biplanes of the Ninety-sixth Aero Squadron flew in the first American bombing raid, a 12 June 1918 attack on the rail yard and warehouses in Dommary-Baroncourt. Two planes returned to base with engine problems, while three others ran out of gas after dropping their bombs. Because of the Breguets’ feeble engines, it took several minutes for the tiny formation to climb to its bombing altitude of four thousand feet. Still, some of the aircraft hit the target, and they survived attacks by three enemy fighters on the way home. This first attack typified those occurring for the remainder of the war. In August the Ninety-sixth flew twenty missions and dropped forty-three thousand pounds of bombs against transportation and supply targets; in September and October it teamed with the Eleventh and Twentieth Aero Squadrons to support the American ground offensives at St. Mihiel and the Argonne.65
Colonel Billy Mitchell, who directed almost 1,500 allied aircraft at St. Mihiel as Chief of Air Service, First Army, now stressed air power’s auxiliary mission rather than its independent one. In February 1918, as Chief of Air Service, First Corps, he had argued that the first mission of offensive air power must be the destruction of the enemy’s air force. Thereafter, bombing operations “should be essentially tactical in their nature and directed against active enemy units in the field which will have a direct bearing on operations during this Spring and Summer, rather than a piecemeal attack against large factory sites and things of that nature. The factories, if completely destroyed, would undoubtedly have a very far-reaching effect, but to completely demolish them is a tremendously difficult thing, and, furthermore, even if they were ruined, their effect would not be felt for a long period of time (possibly a year) upon the fighting of their army.”66
Although after the war Mitchell berated Pershing’s staff for “trying to handle aviation as an auxiliary of some of the other branches, instead of an independent fighting arm,”67 such criticisms during the conflict were infrequent. All his duties after leaving the Chateau de Chamarandes—Air Service Commander in the Zone of the Advance; Chief of Air Service, First Army; Chief of Air Service, First Corps; Chief of Air Service, First Brigade; once again Chief of Air Service, First Army; and finally, Chief of Air Service, Army Group—directly supported American troops at the front. As a result, his focus changed. “The Air Service of an army is one of its offensive arms,” he stated after taking command in the Zone of the Advance. “Alone it cannot bring about a decision. It therefore helps the other arms in their appointed missions.”68
Late in the war, knowing that the Germans could not stop the continued American ground advance, Mitchell’s focus returned to the possibilities of strategic bombing. Yet as long as the Army’s progress remained uncertain, he devoted his full energies to providing it with immediate air support. Of course, Mitchell’s ego had much to do with his pragmatic approach to air power—he craved a combat command, and the only combat air commands available were those attached to Army headquarters. Still, by the summer of 19 r 8, he realized that America’s major contribution to the Allied advance would be made by aef ground echelons, and that air support would enhance their impact.
McAndrew and Pershing agreed with Mitchell’s emphasis on supporting the ground battle. Besides limiting air operations with the British, in mid-June Pershing’s chief of staff had admonished Patrick that his officers who stressed an “independent” air campaign must realize that their views were contrary to the needs of the service. “It is therefore directed that these officers be warned against any idea of independence and that they be taught from the beginning that their efforts must be closely coordinated with those of the remainder of the Air Service and those of the ground army,” McAndrew stated.69 Recent savage fighting by the American Second and Third Divisions at Chateau-Thierry had helped stop the German drive on Paris, and further bloodshed was imminent as Pershing readied his troops to support Foch’s counteroffensive. When the assault began, the American commander wanted his soldiers to have maximum backing from their Air Service. The June name-change of the Strategical Aviation branch to the General Headquarters (ghq) Air Service Reserve reflected this continuing concern.
By the summer of 1918 Gorrell’s scheme for a massive American air offensive had atrophied. Colonel Monell had, in Gor- rell’s words, worked on developing a strategic air force for only “a month or so,”70 and Major Fowler left Air Service headquarters to command the American air units operating with the British. Discouraged by production deficiencies and convinced that an American strategic bombing campaign would never materialize, Wing Commander Grey returned to a British assignment. Monell succeeded during his tenure as Chief of the Strategical Sec – tion/GHQ Reserve only in selecting prospective airfields for his phantom force.71
After the war, Gorrell wrote that a major reason American strategic bombing never materialized was that his plans “were not synchronized properly, especially from a mental point of view” with the Army’s General Headquarters.72 General Foulois concurred, declaring in October 1919: “The General Staff of the Army, either through lack of vision, lack of practical knowledge, or deliberate intention to subordinate the Air Service needs to the needs of other combat arms, has utterly failed to appreciate the full military value of this new military weapon, and, in my opinion, has failed to accord it its just place in our military family.”73 Even Mitchell, who had worked tirelessly to support the ground forces with air power, agreed that Army officers—with the sole exception of Major General Hunter Liggett, who had commanded the First Army— did not know what “air power” meant.74 In July 1918, Mitchell had insisted that the Chief of the Air Service, rather than the Army’s General Staff, should direct the Air Service’s ghq Reserve. He based his argument on the need for unity of command, which would allow the Air Service chief to concentrate all available air power in a critical area for maximum impact.75 His plea went unheeded, even though the ghq Reserve existed in name only—an American squadron of night bombers did not arrive at the front until 9 November Г918.
In his memoirs, Pershing articulated his views regarding the subordination of air power to ground combat. He remarked in his discussion of the Argonne offensive: “The tendency of our air force at first was to attach too much significance to flights beyond the enemy’s lines in an endeavor to interrupt his communications. However, this was of secondary importance during the battle, as aviators were then expected to protect and assist our ground troops.”76 To him, the main functions of an air force were to drive off hostile aircraft and provide the infantry and artillery with information on enemy troop movements. Many Army officers agreed. One week before the Armistice, a General Staff analysis noted that the meager number of American bombers at the front (the Air Service had six squadrons of day bombers at the end of the war) and the small number of bombs they carried made their destructive potential “practically the same as long-range artillery.” Ignoring the issue of range, the study’s authors concluded that it took “two squadrons of bombing planes to equal the work of one 15 5mm. gun.”77
In the final analysis, the key reason that the United States never mounted a bomber offensive was indeed the failure to build bombers for it. “Aircraft production [was] the greatest American air headache of World War I,” recalled Hap Arnold, who tracked the building of warplanes as a thirty-year-old colonel and assistant to the director of the Signal Corps’ Aeronautical Division.78 Arnold bemoaned the inefficient organization that divided responsibility for developing aircraft between the civilian Bureau of Aircraft Production and the Signal Corps’ Production Division. The Bureau, led by the former chief of Hudson Automobiles, Howard Coffin, supervised engineering, supply, and testing, while the Production Division oversaw procurement. Neither organization had an aviator assigned to it on a full-time basis. Arnold remembered that after Coffin boasted forty thousand aircraft would be 
built by June 1918, he asked the industrialist how many spare parts he had ordered. “What do you need spare parts for?” was Coffin’s reply.7* Competing guidance from Americans in Europe matched the overlapping authority of production agencies in the United States. After the Bolling mission recommended building the Caproni bomber, General Pershing claimed final authority to determine aircraft types, and in November 1917 he recommended production of the British two-engine Handley-Page.80 Incredibly, despite the difficulties that would stem from building two types of bombers, the Joint Army-Navy Technical Board suggested producing both—and the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy approved the recommendation!81
European designs compounded American production problems. Most of the materials provided by the French, British, and Italian builders to serve as guidelines for Coffin’s manufacturers were incomplete or delayed. American production centered on the machine tools and detailed blueprints of the assembly line, whereas European production stressed skilled craftsmen and individual workmanship.82 Not until 16 January 1918—almost six months after the Bolling mission’s initial selection—did Caproni’s representatives arrive in the United States. British designers for the Handley-Page had arrived only two weeks earlier.83 The combination of differing production philosophies, delayed arrivals, and overlapping authority produced construction programs with wildly fluctuating numbers of projected aircraft. The planned number of Caproni bombers went from 500 on 9 August 1917 to 9,000 a week later, to 2,000 on 24 August, to 50 on 19 February 1918, and to 250 on 3 May.84 In actuality, the United States built only one Caproni before the Armistice. As for the Handley-Page, plans to assemble 300 bombers in Britain resulted in only the shipment of parts for 101 before the war’s end, and none were assembled in time to fight.85 General Patrick’s July 1918 proposal of an Air
Service of 202 total squadrons, of which 41 would be bombers, compared to his proposal six weeks earlier for 261 squadrons, of which 101 would be bombers, reflected no loss of faith in the bomber’s ability to change the war. Rather, it displayed a realistic appraisal of America’s dismal production capability.86
That the war ended before American bombers had the chance to bomb German soil proved significant. Production deficiencies had prevented Gorrell’s dream of defeating Germany through strategic bombing from becoming a reality, yet the dream endured. Gorrell, Mitchell, and other Air Service officers could speculate about the probable effect that an American bomber offensive might have had on the outcome of the war, and blame the lack of aircraft as a reason why the offensive never materialized. Such difficulties could be overcome. Now air officers were aware of Gorrell’s postwar admonition that “money and men could not make an air program over night,”87 and they would make amends.
Had the war continued into 1919, Mitchell, certain that the German Army could not stop the American ground advance, planned an aerial assault against Germany’s interior. “I was sure that if the war lasted, air power would decide it,” he wrote after the Armistice.88 According to his diary, he intended to combine incendiary attacks with poison gas to destroy crops, forests, and livestock. This air offensive, he mused, “would have caused untold sufferings and forced a German surrender.”89 Yet the likelihood of Mitchell’s vision becoming reality was remote. President Wilson told Congress in his war message: “We shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and fair play we profess to be fighting for.”90 Secretary of War Baker reflected those sentiments, telling Army Chief of Staff General Peyton March to notify the Air Service that the United States would not conduct any bombing that “has as its objective, promiscuous bombing upon industry, commerce, or population, in enemy countries disassociated from obvious military needs to be served by such action.”91 Moreover, in early January 1919, Mitchell revealed that his notion of strategic bombing had come to resemble GorrelPs. In a treatise entitled “Tactical Application of Military Aeronautics,” he argued that the main value of bombardment would come from “hitting an enemy’s great nerve centers at the very beginning of the war so as to paralyze them to the greatest extent possible.”92
Gorrell’s plan, which initially had won Pershing’s approval, borrowed heavily from Caproni and Tiverton in stressing attacks against key industrial centers rather than the German populace and its livelihood. By destroying those elements of Germany’s industrial complex that were essential components of the army’s means to fight, Gorrell aimed to render enemy forces impotent. For him, the key to applying air power successfully was identifying those industries that made the German army tick and then wrecking them through accurate bombing. Such bombing would also terrify the German work force and keep it away from the target factories. “Precision” bombing had proved far from precise, though.93 Night raids were notoriously inaccurate, despite Gorrell’s belief that accuracy increased because of immunity from enemy defenses. American day raids, which relied on formation bombing aided by a primitive bombsight in the lead aircraft,94 also offered less than pinpoint accuracy. Still, the problem of bombing precisely appeared to be a mechanical one that could be solved through improved equipment, much like production problems could be eliminated through efficient organization.
For both Mitchell and Gorrell, scientifically applied air power offered the prospect of ending a war without the horrendous slaughter of trench warfare. If bombing achieved that objective, the Army’s air units might merit status as an independent service—and armies would perhaps become obsolete.
In the aftermath of the Great War, the clamor for air independence would become a roar, with Mitchell howling loudest of all. The Air Service had achieved an enduring measure of autonomy at the end of May 1918, when the Overman Act removed it from Signal Corps’ control and created a “Director of Military Aeronautics” directly under the Army’s Chief of Staff. Three months later Congress named Jack D. Ryan, who had succeeded Howard Coffin as chief of Aircraft Production, as Second Assistant Secretary of War and Director of Air Service. Yet for Mitchell these steps were not enough. As his cry became increasingly shrill, it welded the bond between air power’s independent application and service autonomy until the link was impossible to break.
In October 1918, the twenty-seven-year-old Gorrell became the youngest American colonel since the Civil War. He served as Assistant Chief of the Air Service until the Armistice, and then began writing the Air Service’s combat history. In March 1920 he left the military to try his hand as a corporate executive, ultimately becoming director and president of the Stutz Motor Car Company and president of the American Air Transport Association. In the meantime, his plan for bombing Germany, and his 1918 analysis of it, inspired lectures for a future generation of air strategists at Maxwell Field’s Air Corps Tactical School. Three days after he died in March 1945, a single Army Air Forces airplane scattered Gorrell’s ashes across the plain at West Point, where he had sprinted almost thirty-five years before to catch a glimpse of Glenn Curtiss’s flying machine. The tribute befitted the man who laid the cornerstone for vast air campaigns then underway in Europe and the Pacific.