By Professor Daniel Moran
Last updated 2011-02-17
The history of air power has been shaped to an unusual degree by such expectations. Broadly speaking, theorists and practitioners of war in the air have fallen into two schools. Some have seen air war as a lubricant for combined arms operations, a means of averting the kind of tactical stalemate that prevailed throughout most of World War One, by attacking enemy communications, logistics, reserves, and so on. Others have preferred to employ aerial weapons as an independent strategic force, striking directly at an adversary's civil society and economic infrastructure.
Most air forces have been unwilling to choose categorically between these two approaches. The aircraft shown here, an American B-25B Mitchell bomber, was a characteristic compromise from World War Two: ideal for nothing, but good enough for anything.
The Mitchell was designed for level bombing of cities and other strategic targets, a role in which it quickly proved inferior to larger, four-engine aircraft. But its modest size also allowed it to operate at tree-top level in support of ground forces, and to attack enemy ships. These were missions for which its five 50-calibre machine guns, intended to fend off fighters, were also useful.
On one occasion - Jimmy Doolittle's famous raid on Tokyo in April, 1942 - B-25s flew from aircraft carriers. The one shown here has just bombed a rail yard in support of Allied ground operations in Italy in 1944.