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Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917-1945 (Studies in War, Society, and the Militar) Hardcover – January 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in War, Society, and the Militar
  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Nebraska Pr (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803233981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803233980
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,428,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“This is military, intellectual history at its best.”—Colonel Gian P. Gentile, Journal of American History
(Colonel Gian P Gentile Journal of American History)

“A solid and impressive study that will enlighten those interested in the formation of bombing theory (Douhet through Warden) and especially its practice in World War II.”—Kenneth P. Werrell, Air Power History
(Kenneth P. Werrell Air Power History)

Beneficial Bombing views a somewhat familiar tale through a fresh interpretive lens, complementing other works examining air power's morality and effectiveness. . . .  Based almost entirely on new research in a wide array of primary sources, it illuminates the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings of America's air power.”—Richard R. Muller, Journal of Military History
(Richard R. Muller Journal of Military History)

“A thoughtful and well written account of a central thread in the thinking of American airpower advocates and the way its implementation in two world wars took place at the time, was seen afterwards, and has come to be enormously influential in the decision process of our country’s leaders into the twenty-first century.”—Gerhard L. Weinberg, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and winner of the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award
(Gerhard L. Weinberg 2010-01-08)

About the Author

Mark Clodfelter is a professor of military strategy at the National War College. He is the author of The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam, available in a Bison Books edition.

More About the Author

Mark Clodfelter is a Professor of Military Strategy at the National War College in Washington, DC. A former US Air Force officer, he served in radar assignments in South Carolina and Korea during a 23-year Air Force career devoted largely to teaching. He twice taught history at the US Air Force Academy, ultimately serving as the Academy's director of military history. From 1991-1994, he was part of the initial cadre of instructors at Air University's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS). He next became Professor of Aerospace Studies and Commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at the University of North Carolina--a true hardship tour for the native North Carolinian. He began teaching at National War College in 1997, first in uniform, and since 2000 as a civilian professor.

Mark has published extensively on air power topics. He has received several writing awards, and many of his publications are used in professional military education courses in the US and NATO countries. In 1996, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Ronald Fogleman placed "The Limits of Air Power" on his intermediate reading list; in 2007, the RAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, placed the paperback edition of "Limits" on his "top ten" reading list for that year.

Mark has recently completed "Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917-1945," a book analyzing how progressive ideals influenced the American approach to strategic bombing before and during World War II, and why those progressive notions have endured to the present in the US Air Force.

He has a BS in European History from the Air Force Academy (1977), an MA in Military History from the University of Nebraska (1983), and a PhD in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a die-hard fan of North Carolina basketball, Air Force Academy football, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Coffey on September 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in understanding the history of American military air strategy, this book is a must-read. Clodfelter shows that between World War I and World war II, the United States developed a doctrine of precision daylight bombing of militray targets, a doctrine based on almost no empirical evidence. During World War II, it took tremendous losses as it attempted to apply this strategy. It moved to area bombing (Dresden, Tokyo) without any acknowledgement that its strategy had changed. Even the atomic bomb drops were billed as precision attacks on military targets.

The title, "Beneficial Bombing," is misleading and unfortunate. Clodfelter ties the concept of strategic bombing to the progressive movement of the early 20th century, which attempted to improve the human lot through technology. Strategic bombing was billed as a more humane way to wage war than the frontal attacks of trench warfare in World War I.

This is a very well-written book. Clodfelter is a former Air Force officer and a well-known historian of air power.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RRR on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I strongly disagree with "Koba's" review. It seems that he took the title literally, whereas Clodfelter was being tongue-in-cheek with the term. It also seems like Koba did not read the author's last chapter--or even the last two paragraphs.

Mark Clodfelter has written a wonderful book with a unique theme, which he carries throughout the book, of the progressive idealism of the American Air Force's "founding fathers." He asserts that the guiding vision of the air power theorists and leaders, especially after World War I, centered upon using air power to decrease the horrors of war--thus linking them to the ideals of the American progressive movement of the early twentieth century. Clodfelter then demonstrates how the air power leaders in World War II in both theaters---but especially against Japan--modified their progressive concepts as the bombing campaigns resembled more a bludgeon than the scalpel they desired. The American airmen had little choice. The technology available at that time did not match the pre-war theorists hopes and designs and the leaders fought against the clock as they pressed to show air power's unique (and hopefully singular) contribution to end the war, which they hoped would lead to the ultimate goal of an independent air service.
Clodfelter's unique contribution is the guiding progressive ideal of "beneficial" air power as seen through those who brought American air power up from a few obsolete squadrons to the mightiest force on the planet within twenty years. He provides a superb summation of the bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan and he does not get lost in the details; instead he constantly highlights the progressive theme.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Koba on December 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Beneficial Bombing is a history of the theory and practice of American strategic bombing from 1917 to 1945 with a postscript covering Vietnam, Desert Storm, Allied Force and OEF/OIF. The analysis of the US strategic bombing of Germany and Japan as such is very sound, though I am not certain Clodfelter adds much to the histories that already exist (in my view, on the strategic bombing of Germany one should read Donald Miller's Masters of the Air or Alan Levine's The Strategic Bombing of Germany, and on the bombing of Japan one should read Kerr's Flames Over Tokyo or Werrell's Blankets of Fire).

The main problem with this book is that the author fails to make a convincing connection between "progressive" idealism and American airpower, and, specifically, between "progressivism" and the air war against Germany and Japan. The "progressive" movement is briefly and unsatisfactorily described on pages 1 to 5, at which point the author contends that "progressive" airmen after WW1 thought that precision bombing of industrial targets would, in the future, make the clash of ground armies obsolete and make wars short and technologically intensive instead of protracted and manpower intensive. Are we to believe, then, that every advocate of precision bombing was a "progressive" - including such reactionaries as Curtis LeMay? Were British advocates of precision bombing progressives? Was Walter Wever, the Luftwaffe advocate of precision strategic bombing, a progressive? Later in the book the author contends that ending the war rapidly through airpower was the
"progressive" war aim. What is "progressive" about wanting to end the war quickly? Every responsible leader of every service in every country wanted to end the war quickly, so it is hard to see what is especially progressive about this goal.
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