The Luftwaffe

Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

James S. Corum

At the end of World War I, the German military machine lay devastated, forbidden any attempt to rebuild. But by the dawn of World War II, its army and air forces had both been rejuvenated to sufficient vigor to conquer most of Europe. As James Corum shows, the Luftwaffe's dramatic resurrection underscored the remarkable success of Germany's visionary interwar planning.

A superb example of both military and intellectual history, Corum's study provides a complete and accurate account of the evolution of German military aviation theory, doctrine, war games, and operations between the two world wars. It reveals how the Germans, in defiance of Versailles, thoroughly studied and tested the lessons of World War I, analyzed the emerging air doctrines of other nations, and experimented with innovative aviation technology to create the world's most powerful air force by 1940.

“Belongs on the shelf of every serious student of German air power between the wars.

—Journal of Military History

“This superb work marks Corum as one of the premier scholars of German military history in the United States.

—New York Military Affairs Symposium Newsletter
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Drawing heavily upon archival sources, Corum discloses the debates within the General Staff—led by the likes of Hans van Seeckt, Helmuth Wilberg, Wolfram von Richthofen, and Walter Wever—about the future role of airpower and the problems of aligning aviation technology with air doctrine. He challenges previous accounts and demolishes a number of myths, for example demonstrating that Germany did not dismiss the potential of strategic bombing or embrace terror bombing of civilian populations, and was not heavily influenced by its popular culture's romance with aviation.

Corum also illuminates Germany's comprehensive approach to highly mobile combined-arms warfare, its secret research and training in the Soviet Union, and its remarkable successes during the Spanish Civil War. While focusing primarily on the interwar period, he extends his analysis into the early years of World War II to examine the Luftwaffe's effectiveness in Poland and France, and expose its flaws in the Battle of Britain.

As a companion to Corum's acclaimed study of the German army between the wars, The Luftwaffe reminds us how operational doctrine, combined with one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, indelibly altered the fate of nations.

About the Author

James S. Corum is professor of Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Salford, United Kingdom and the author of The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series