chapter  17
Introduction to A Guide to the Reports of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey
Pages 16

FROM THE YEARS of their technical infancy airships and aircraft suggested the extension of modern warfare from battlefields to civilian society. By the First World War the range, height and speed of these new weapons inspired theories and tactics which already went far beyond reconnaissance and frontline bombardment. In 1915 German Zeppelins made ragged attacks on the English midlands. Two years later fleets of bombers raided London, and soon fighters, balloons, observers and anti-aircraft batteries were deployed in defence of Britain’s capital. Aircraft were few and bomb loads light, but public concern was rising and the pattern of future conflict was clearly established. Yet far more important than these immediate realities of combat were the strategies and organizations which stemmed from this first wartime experience. In 1917 the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Flying Corps, Major General Trenchard, asserted that aircraft should strike offensively behind the German lines. Soon after General Smuts advocated a large strategic bomber force within an independent air service.1 The Royal Air Force was created and the widening dimensions of bombing were increasingly accepted in British military thinking.