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The Forgotten Air Force: French Air Doctrine in the 1930s

8 April 2016

The Forgotten Air Force: French Air Doctrine in the 1930s, Anthony Christopher Cain, 2002, ISBN 1-58834-010-4, 214 pp.

The Forgotten Air Force: French Air Doctrine in the 1930s by Anthony Christopher Cain

The Forgotten Air Force: French Air Doctrine in the 1930s by Anthony Christopher Cain

This is a serious book for the serious historian and received high marks for its academic standards by Lieutenant Colonel (LtC) Cain (USAF)—no less than 1995’s Educator of the Year by the USAF Air Education and Training Command.

LtC Cain (over 3000 hours serving in B-52s) book investigates and describes the French Air Force’s (Armée d l’air) preparations and ultimate failure during the European outset of World War II. Cain studies the political as well as military aspects of France’s air strategy in the fullest of dimensions. Training, war planning, mission types and personalities are dealt with succinctly as well as in depth—all fully annotated in the book’s notes should verification or further research be desired.

Surprisingly he observed that war planning was quite advanced though the aircraft required were not in existence in may cases. He faults the war planners for addressing too many mission types instead of the one or two mission types by other world air forces, both Allied and Axis. His analysis is thorough reviewing: offensive, defensive, recce, interdiction, strategic bombing, CAS and airborne assault duties. He faults France’s lack of political will to build sufficient air assets, as well as industrial laggardness in advancing competitive aircraft designs, failure to relocate factories away from Paris to southwestern France and continued reorganizations—ultimately piecemealed, air force units were individually under Army commands where the Army, tragically, had no air strategy thinking.

LtC Cain could have gone into more detail in the aeronautical industry and it was in itself piecemealed as it was in many countries, save Japan and Germany. The industry’s lack of initiative played a part in not having modern designs to wage modern war at the time but so did government’s lack of leadership. Here the book excels in describing the political and military leaders of the time—those who made the choice–as well as why those choices were made. This book tells the tale and is completely referenced. A professional book for the professional.

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