Episode 3: Giulio Douhet: Targeting Civilians from the Air

Following World War I, air power promised a revolutionary transformation of war, and Italian General Giulio Douhet (1869-1930) was its first prophet.

After the carnage of the First World War, strategists throughout Europe sought to devise new strategies and technologies that would prevent a repetition of the drawn-out trench warfare on the Western Front. Air power would be harnessed to this aim, and Douhet opined that “the purpose of an Independent air force is to inflict upon the enemy the greatest possible damage in the shortest possible time.” Only that this time the victims of such air attacks would be mainly civilians, but Douhet – and for that matter, JFC Fuller, Liddell Hart and others – expected such a war to be much shorter. They would be horribly mistaken, as the subsequent world war proved.

Colonel Dr Stephen Renner, who holds the Chair of the Strategy Department of the US Air War College in Maxwell, Alabama joins Beatrice and Paul for this episode. A student of Sir Hew Strachan’s, he holds his DPhil from the University of Oxford. His career has encompassed being a pilot in the US Air Force and commanding a fighter wing.

The views or statements expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by RUSI employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of RUSI.


Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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