Barely ten years since the first flight in a heavier-than-air craft, the first major air war was being waged. In this short space of time, the technology of flight had grown to such a degree that the origins of many of the functions of modern air war had been attempted, and the RAF had been set up as an separate arm, independent from and equal in status to the other two older forces. It can, however, be questioned whether contemporaries were a little over-impressed with the development of the British air forces, and whether, as a result, the status it had attained by the end of the war was in excess of its true value.
“To speak of air power in this conflict is somewhat misleading. The fragile machines that flew to France in 1914 were not equipped to strike directly at the enemy. ” There were, however, a number of ways in which air power could assist the army without itself inflicting physical damage. One of the earliest functions devised for aeroplanes was reconnaissance, a role traditionally carried out by the cavalry, or more recently, by tethered balloons.
Aircraft were able to travel more freely than balloons, and had the great advantage of being able to see past hills and woods which would have blocked the view of cavalry. The ‘eye in the sky’ was seen as being of immeasurable value in the opening weeks of the war when the armies were still mobile, warning of where the Germans were concentrating, which direction they were moving, where the weaknesses were, and where friendly forces were located. Aircraft of the RFC showed their worth at Mons, telling General French of the isolation of the BEF and of von Kluck’s attempt to envelop the British.
French was able to escape the trap, and said of the episode, “They [i. e. the aircraft of the RFC] have furnished me with the most complete and accurate information which has been of incalculable value in the conduct of operations. ” A little later, airborne reconnaissance of the positions of the German armies helped Joffre decide to make his counter-attack at the Battle of the Marne. `In practice, of course, aerial reconnaissance in the first weeks of the war was far from perfect.
The men carrying out the reconnaissance were not particularly well-trained as observers, and were as a result more likely to forget or misinterpret what they had seen. The experiences of no. 6 Squadron illustrate the point well: “One day one of its crews mistook the darkness of long stretches of tar on a macadamised road for an enemy column. On another, when someone saw orderly ranks of shadows in what looked like a field, he thought he had found an enemy force in bivouac. But they were gravestones in a cemetery, not tents, that were set in rows.
The effects of the weather also put the RFC at a disadvantage when it came to gathering intelligence. Mist and fog made reconnaissance impossible, low cloud meant it was extremely easy to become lost (the continuous movement of the aircraft shook compasses meaning that only the vaguest bearings could be taken), and high winds could rule out any flying at all. These weaknesses have sometimes been overlooked, and even the RFC’s great ‘success’ at Mons has taken on a certain degree of myth.
Sir David Henderson and Sir Frederick Sykes, at this time first and second in command of the RFC respectively, were so impressed with the results of aerial reconnaissance that they delivered their findings personally to headquarters. General French’s decision, however, was based primarily on the reports of the cavalry, and the pair were sent away after being told, “The information you have acquired and conveyed to the Commander-in-Chief appears to be somewhat exaggerated. This might have been a result of some suspicion or jealousy of the RFC ‘upstarts’, or of unfamiliarity with the true value of aerial reconnaissance, but it demonstrates that the information gathered from the air was dispensable, and not of ‘incalculable value’ as French had said. His comment might not have been intended to take on the significance which it later did, it may have simply been made to boost morale, or it might have been a sop to RFC commanders eager for praise.
While it is not suggested that the RFC was of no use at all for reconnaissance, it was, at Mons at least, merely a supplement to the ground forces. Far from being a triumph for early air power, “The episode demonstrates almost every one of the weaknesses of air participation at that time: insufficient aircraft, inaccurate navigation, indeterminate observation, injudicious rejection on the part of the General Staff of reconnaissance results, and general failures in interpretation. ” `With the completion of the trench lines on the Western Front, the RFC had to lose much of its independence.
There was no longer any point in using aircraft to discover general German positions in order that the allies might manoeuvre in relation to them, because there was an unbroken line of contact from Switzerland to the English Channel and the infantry knew full well where the Germans were. “The Royal Flying Corps, conceived, constructed, and commanded as an extension of the cavalry, its sole aim, training and experience in the reconnaissance requirements of a war of movement, had lost its raison d’i??tre. On September 15th it had to reorganise itself to meet the necessities of a different war.
The emphasis of aerial reconnaissance shifted from discovering the general positions of entire armies to more local intelligence needed at corps level. Squadrons were attached to individual corps so that information which was needed about trench positions, strong points, gun emplacements and build-ups of enemy supplies could be more quickly relayed to the commanders and used in the localised advances, measured in yards, not miles as the initial movements of the war had been. `In an attempt to gather more accurate information from reconnaissance missions, aerial photography was developed.
This removed the possibility of misinterpretation by the observer in the aircraft, allowing experts to study the photographs searching for troops and guns which could be more easily hidden in their static positions, and it also more accurately showed the shape of the trench lines and the positions of strong points. Aerial photography was refined rapidly from its beginnings in 1914 to such an extent that the RFC was able to supply an accurate and constantly updated map of the front which was routinely used by the commanders of the ground forces.
During the third Battle of Ypres, for example, “The RFC… exposed 14,500 photographic plates (from which one-third of a million prints were distributed). ” `Two further forms of reconnaissance were generally of less use to the British war effort. During infantry advances, communications between units and the commanders frequently broke down, meaning that there was no adequate way in which the commanders could know whether attacks were successful or not and whether troops were where they had anticipated that they would be.
In an attempt to solve this problem, the contact patrol was introduced, where troops on the ground would signal to aircraft by means of flares, mirrors or something similar, and the pilots would then relay their position to the commanders. Two problems existed with this which made life difficult for both pilots and infantry. Firstly, in order that the soldiers could recognise the aircraft as being friendly and that the pilots could distinguish between the uniforms of the German and British infantry, the aeroplanes had to fly at low altitudes where they ran the risk of heavy fire from anti-aircraft guns and enemy infantry.
Secondly, the infantry were understandably reluctant to draw attention to themselves through their signalling which even if not seen by opposing ground forces, might be spotted by German aircraft which could direct artillery fire towards them. Contact patrols could not generally give a complete picture of the progression of a battle, and on the whole were merely a supplement to the information which a commander had, by no means essential. `The other form of reconnaissance was for the fleet.
Aircraft carriers had been developed for the First World War, and aeroplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service were occasionally used to scout ahead of the ships, reporting the position of any enemy ships before the fleets had made visual contact. The main cause behind the failure of naval aerial reconnaissance to make any real impact has to be, of course, the lack of major naval battles, but even when there was the opportunity for the RNAS to prove itself at Jutland, it failed.
No aircraft were launched until after initial contact between the fleets had been made, but the pilot of the single seaplane which was dispatched to locate the Germans’ heavy battleships reported only the light cruisers which had already been sighted, and “… had the mortification on his return of discovering that his signals had not been received in the flagship, H. M. S. Lion, Engadine’s [the seaplane carrier] attempt to make contact with Lion by searchlight having failed. `”The total result of five years’ thought, endeavour and expenditure was thus precisely nothing. “Jutland was the nadir of the naval air effort. ”
`One of the tasks performed by aircraft which was perhaps one of the most useful for the war effort was that of artillery spotting. Pilots flying over the enemy lines could locate targets for the artillery to fire on, and report back to the guns on where the shots were falling, allowing them to correct themselves under direction from the air. There was some initial hostility to this from the artillery, suggesting that the contribution from the air was not indispensable.
During the Battle of Neuve Chappelle, Trenchard visited some senior artillery officers, and was to claim, “I could not get these gentlemen to take any interest. In fact, one of them told me: ‘Don’t you see, Colonel Trenchard, that I’m far too busy fighting to have time for playing with your toys in the air? ‘” However, artillery spotting was a practice carried out throughout the war, and was undoubtedly of some value to what became the main weapons of the war. `As both sides found uses for aircraft in 1914, it was not long before each began attempts to deny the use of the air to the other.
The first appearance of air-to-air combat was when pilots began taking largely ineffective shots at each other with revolvers or rifles which they carried in the cockpits. To make an aircraft genuinely capable of shooting down another, it was necessary to arm it with a machine gun. The earliest aeroplanes of the war were incapable of carrying such weapons, because to do so would so reduce their performance that they would be unable to get close enough to an enemy to open fire.
Once aircraft had become more powerful, there was the problem that the best position for a gun was in front of the pilot to make aiming easier, but, with the exception of the slow ‘pusher’ type planes such as DH2s, firing a gun from this position would shoot off the propeller. The French pilot Roland Garros had some success with fitting metal deflector plates to his propeller, but it was the Germans who brought in the first aircraft (the Fokker Eindecker) with its gun synchronised to fire through the propeller arc without hitting the blades.
The ‘Fokker Scourge’ gave aerial supremacy for a while to Germany, but, as happened throughout the war, it was only a matter of time before the pendulum of technology swung back towards the Allies. `The general pattern in the battle for aerial dominance of the Western Front was one of stalemate. The Germans twice gained superiority in aircraft quality (once with the Eindeckers in the winter of 1915-16, and again in the first half of 1917, when Trenchard wrote to London, “You are asking me to fight the battle this year with the same machines as I fought it last year.
We shall be hopelessly outclassed, and something must be done… “) but on the whole the quality and tactics of both sides achieved a balance. This stalemate was reached in spite of the Allies’ overwhelming superiority in numbers because, unlike the Allies, the Germans were prepared to concede command of the air in many sections of the front, concentrating their forces on those which they saw as being important.
It is, however, some measure of the peripheral nature of the air war, that even when one side had total aerial dominance, such as the Allies had in the early part of the Battle of the Somme, this in no way ensured success on the ground. `Away from the front, there was the battle over Britain and the sea between attacking bombers and airships, and the home defence force of the RNAS. After the RFC had departed for France taking with it most of the aeroplanes available to Britain, the home defence role fell to the Royal Navy, equipped with a totally inadequate air force.
Although this situation improved somewhat, the needs of the front line RFC always tended to take precedence with regard to supplies of aircraft. Added to this shortfall in numbers, interception of attacking aircraft over such a wide area as the RNAS was defending was very much a matter of chance, and throughout the war, air defences did little to hamper German bombers. `The First World War also saw the advent of many forms of ground attack from the air.
From humble beginnings, with pilots dropping grenades, petrol bombs and steel darts by hand, and a total absence of proper bomb aiming, there developed bombs designed specifically for aircraft, bomb racks, bomb sights and specialist bomber aeroplanes. Most of the basic bombing roles performed in the Second World War were devised at this time, but in many ways, the hopes which air enthusiasts held for direct attacks from the air were unfulfilled by the end of 1918. Tactical bombing of supplies, communications and aerodromes was the obvious way in which the RFC could give direct help to the ground forces. This was first tried in 1915 at Neuve Chappelle but proved indecisive.
Bombing of railways, for example, was no doubt a hindrance to the German army, but, “If a railway was damaged before the battle it could be repaired in time for the passage of reinforcements; and, unless repairs were hindered by continuous bombing, supplies and ammunition would reach the enemy troops before they began to run short. Continuous bombing was generally not carried out because the necessary aircraft were in short supply and were needed to perform other tasks. Even in 1918, interdiction bombing produced frequently disappointing results. At the Battle of Amiens in August, efforts were made to cut off the Germans’ line of retreat and reinforcement by bombing the bridges over the Somme.
“The heaviest bombs available were, however, only 112lb in weight, and even with a direct hit this was nothing like the capacity necessary to bring down a bridge. ” Strategic bombing of cities and industry was also a novel feature of the First World War. The first true strategic raid by aeroplanes was carried out by the RNAS operating from Antwerp. On September 22nd 1914, four aircraft took off to bomb the airship sheds at Dusseldorf and Cologne. Mist made the raid a failure, only one pilot finding the target, and although his bombs hit the shed, they failed to explode. A second attempt was made on October 8th, and on this occasion, the Dusseldorf sheds were damaged, destroying a Zeppelin, as was the secondary target in Cologne, the railway station.
On the whole, though, strategic bombing was extremely difficult, both by bomber aeroplane and by airship, and the damage which could be inflicted upon a city was slight, more often than not costing the raiders more (in lost machines and crews) than the city being targeted. On July 31st 1918, twelve DH9s set off to raid Mainz. “Three DH9s left the formation early with engine troubles. The remaining nine then ran the gauntlet of at least 40 German fighters. The bomber leader decided to attack Saarbrucken instead of the primary target, but four DH9s were shot down before reaching this objective.
The remaining five pressed on and bombed, then lost three to the fighters on the return leg of their perilous journey. ” Two aircraft returned. `The reason for the lack of success in bombing was that the equipment was simply not good enough to achieve the aims the air war theorists believed were possible. While bomber aircraft made great advances during the war, they were still unable to carry bombs large enough to cause serious damage, nor were they able to reliably find their targets and hit them, and the numbers of aircraft necessary to make up for these shortcomings were never likely to be produced.
Significant proportions of raiding groups were often forced to turn back due to engine trouble, while bomb loads were generally too small to terrorise a city’s people effectively, and finding specific targets in a city from the air in order to carry out a precision raid was extremely difficult. It was for these reasons (and not due to an improvement in air defences) that German raids on London were discontinued. Both Churchill (an air enthusiast) and Trenchard took issue with the support for bombing given by the Smuts Report.
Churchill recorded that, “It is disputed whether air attack can ever really shatter communications, bases or aerodromes. It is contended that aerodromes are difficult to discover and still more difficult to hit; that tons of bombs have been discharged on particular aerodromes without denying their use to the enemy; that railway junctions and communications have been repeatedly bombed without preventing appreciably the immense and continuous movement of men and material to the fighting armies. Haig, putting forward the views of Trenchard, wrote, “As a result of that study [the Smuts Report] I may say at once that some of the views put forward as to future possibilities [of bombing] go far beyond anything that can be justified in my experience. ”
`There were, however, two ways in which bombing, particularly of cities, brought benefit to the attackers. Firstly, because bombing was totally new, the public never fully appreciated that they themselves might be killed. There was seen to be something uniquely horrible about these great black craft [Zeppelins in this case, but it could apply equally well to the long-range bombers] cruising almost silently over the countryside, causing random death and destruction, and they had a very powerful psychological effect. ” This effect, however, did not break morale and cause the people to demand surrender, but made them question the efforts being made by their government to protect them with air defences.
This brought the second positive result of bombing, that of over-reaction on the part of the defenders who diverted disproportionate resources to air defences which might have been better employed elsewhere. `One form of bombing which has been largely under-valued was carried out by the RNAS against submarines. From May to the end of September 1917, six submarines were sunk by aeroplanes, forcing changes in German U-boat doctrine. Forced from the surface during daylight, the submarines had to accept reductions in speed and endurance as a consequence, meaning that time spent in target areas during a voyage was cut from seven days to five.
During 7,010 sorties flown by the RNAS in escort of convoys, only three vessels were attacked. `Bombing was not the only form of ground attack available to the British air forces in the First World War. Often working closely with ground forces, aircraft could strafe exposed targets, notably infantry on the move either advancing or in retreat. Such attacks were applied with some care at Cambrai, although they were of little importance to the outcome of the battle.
During the Ludendorff Offensive of March 1918, Allied pilots were given the desperate order to “… bomb and shoot up everything… Very low flying is essential. All risks to be taken. Urgent! ” There was certainly no shortage of targets to ‘shoot up’ with infantry, guns and supplies taking to the roads, but (although this point is debated) it is unlikely that air attacks played a major part in the offensive’s failure, and the heavy casualties from small-arms fire calls into question the worth of strafing from fragile First World War aircraft.
With regard to the performance of British aircraft in the First World War, it must be asked not only whether an independent air force was justified, but whether any large air force was worth the amount of money spent on it (operational costs had reached i??1,000,000 per day by November 1918). Aerial reconnaissance was of undoubted value to the ground forces (although some of the more exotic types such as contact patrols were far from perfect).
Photographic maps of the front played a routine and extremely important part in attacks by ground forces, and even with the primitive aircraft and training of 1914, the air force’s observation of the German army had shown potential should war revert to mobility (although at the time, the experience of four years of trench warfare suggested that this was unlikely). Reconnaissance aircraft were certainly worth having, but were more suited to remain as they had been during the war, an adjunct to the ground forces.
An independent force of aeroplanes to provide a continually updated general photographic map of the whole front might have been feasible, but reconnaissance in itself does not kill Germans. Aerial reconnaissance was a service performed for the benefit of the ground forces, and as such it would make more sense to keep reconnaissance aircraft subordinated as corps observers to be directed to focus their attention on areas of significance for that particular corps. `Much the same things can be said of the use of aeroplanes for artillery spotting.
These flights were of benefit to the artillery, making the most effective weapon of the war appreciably more accurate. Here again, however, and to a greater extent than reconnaissance, this role was tied to the ground forces, and there was no room for an independent force to carry out this task. The aircraft themselves were not hurting the German forces, and so were incapable of waging a campaign against them independent of the ground forces. `There is greater cause to see fighter aircraft as being able to wage an independent campaign, since no ground forces were needed to enable them to inflict damage on the German air force.
Especially given the weight of numbers the Allies could bring to bear against the Germans, a general, wide-ranging campaign of air superiority could be (and was) conducted. The efficacy of air fighting justified its continuation, because unlike bombing, for example, performance was in relation to the enemy’s performance, and as long as the British fighters maintained technological parity with those of the German air force, they would always get a good measure of positive results.
The freedom with which fighters best operated in the First World War saw their establishment in squadrons separate from the original mixed ones, and the removal of the authority of individual corps over them, the fighter squadrons being put into wings under the command of armies. Despite this independence, however, fighters could not wage an independent campaign of any great value, because, “The fighters, it needs to be insisted, were not performing the central function of air war.
Air superiority could give an army the advantage of use of the air for things like reconnaissance, but such an advantage during the First World War was only useful, not decisive. In order to make air superiority an important part of an independent air campaign, it was necessary to have, in parallel to effective fighters, effective ground attack aircraft to exploit the advantages which fighters could bring. It was only through an effective bomber force that the air force could ever hope to be an independent force, since only through bombers could air forces actually inflict significant physical damage on enemy countries.
An effective bomber force, though, was almost entirely lacking at this time. Insufficient airframe strength and engine power meant that the bomb loads which could be carried when compared to later aircraft were tiny: “Over the five months of its existence (June 6th-November 10th ) it [the Independent Air Force of bombers] dropped altogether 543 tons of bombs… over the almost illimitable strategic target of Germany. Comparisons with World War II are perhaps inappropriate, but in March, 1945, an average of 4,300 tons of bombs was dropped on Germany every twenty-four hours.
The destructive capacity of aircraft on the battlefield was as nothing compared to the vast firepower of the artillery and the infantry, but tactical bombing, for the benefit of the ground forces as it was, was rightly under the command of the army, and therefore its failure to produce significant results would not have been a failing of any independent air force. A truly independent force with parity with the Army and the Navy, though, would be nothing without effective strategic bombers, and it is the lack of these which means that purely from a performance point of view, the RFC and RNAS were not in 1918 ready to become such a force.
As was recognised at the time, an independent air force could only justify its independence by being able to wage war alone, and the only way to do this was, in the words of the Smuts memorandum of August 17th 1917, through the “… devastation of enemy lands and destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale… ” Victory by such means was not even possible with the weight of bombs unloaded over Germany in the Second World War. The chances of bombing Germany into submission with the aircraft of 1918 were non-existent.
There was, however, one area not connected so directly with the performance aerial combat which not only justified some form of centralised air force, but virtually cried out for unification. This was in the field of supply and administration. Like the rest of the British economy, the aero-engine industry was slow to adapt to the onset of war, and lack of early direct central action meant a shortfall in production. Shortages persisted throughout the war, but as the economy was slowly mobilised, an initial dependence on French engine supplies disappeared.
A lack of early demand for any aircraft type other than reconnaissance contributed to the ‘Fokker Scourge’ when the lack of fighter aeroplanes that resulted from this became crucial. This situation which was made the more likely by the RFC’s refusal to use aircraft not designed at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, an insistence which while ensuring greater standardisation, did much to block innovation which could have produced aircraft to rival the Fokkers at an earlier date. The administration of manpower was also a little chaotic.
Lack of an effective central body controlling the air forces meant that the demand for new pilots went to a large extent unchecked, and the RFC was permitted to draft in new pilots with inadequate training to replace losses in the front line, in turn creating higher losses and greater demand for new pilots. There was also an inadequate supply of trained mechanics at first, and it was only after the army and labour force had been combed for available mechanics that it was realised that the air forces needed to train their own apprentices.
An effective central body dealing with the administration of air power would probably have been able to direct resources to the necessary places before these crises arose, a need which was slowly realised during the course of the war, and which was provided for by a series of boards with varying levels of power. `The main administrative weakness was that a lack of a strong central organisation led to damaging conflicts between the RFC and the RNAS for supplies. The competition was such that resources might be directed not to the area where they were most needed, but to the service which argued most strongly.
Personal rivalry added to the chaos, and it is to a large extent these divisions which account for the short life-span of the various non-executive Air Boards which were set up with the intention of evolving into more powerful bodies. A central organisation, independent of both the Army and the Navy, and with genuine powers was needed to bring order to the existing ‘free market’ of air force administration. `The Smuts Report which recommended the creation of an independent Royal Air Force was submitted at a time of considerable crisis in government circles following the two large raids on London by Gotha heavy bombers.
The understandable result of these raids was a great deal of concern about the possibility that strategic bombing was coming of age and that Germany was taking the lead in this field. The report rested essentially on three premises: “First, that aircraft had become weapons of strategic importance; second, that this was appreciated by the Germans, who had by then started an air campaign to bomb the British into capitulation; and third, that the home air industry had by now developed to a stage at which it could not only continue to give full support to the Army and the Navy, but also support a British bombing campaign against Germany. In all of these assumptions, the Smuts Committee was wrong.
`The bomber was not yet remotely near the stage where it could cause serious strategic damage, and it only produced so much concern because it was a new situation which most people had not yet become accustomed to. Winston Churchill believed that once the initial shock of bombing had worn off, “Familiarity with bombardment, a good system of dug-outs or shelters, a strong control by police and military authorities, should be sufficient to preserve the national fighting power unimpaired. Haig’s diary shows Trenchard’s attitude to be somewhat blunter: “T. [Trenchard] stated that the Air Board are quite off their heads as to the future possibilities of aeronautics for ending the war. ” The Germans may have believed in the possibility of effective strategic bombing at one stage, but by the time of the Smuts Report, they were realising the problems associated with long-range air raids. German raids on Britain were first switched to night, and then phased out completely, having proved difficult to perform, costly, and of little strategic value.
Thirdly, the British air industry did not produce enough engines to provide a surplus air fleet to form an independent bomber arm in addition to maintaining the air requirements of the Army and Navy. Not only was there not the anticipated surplus, but production actually fell short of the numbers which the Army and Navy had forecast that they would need. While the Smuts Committee did recognise the need to end the competition between the RFC and the RNAS, the report was to a large extent based upon theories of bombing which went beyond practical possibility. “Its origins rest, patently, in the irrational and unbalanced state of the Cabinet mind immediately following the Gotha raid of July 7th on London.
The justification for it was based on the competition for supply between the RFC and the RNAS. The imperative need for it was founded upon the judgements of the potential of an Independent Air Force operating strategically into the heart of the German homeland. `”Contemporary evidence and Churchill’s considered analysis of the state of the national morale suggest that the condition of the Cabinet mind was wholly unjustified. `In the event, the creation of the RAF had very little effect. The necessities of war demanded that the air force at the front carried on operating as it had done as the RFC. There was no obsession with bombing, partly because of the demands on the RAF to continue with the old tactical support roles, and partly because of the inability of British industry to supply the air needs of the Army, Navy and the new Independent Air Force at the same time.
The Independent Air Force, weak in numbers and lacking the technology to do its job effectively, carried out strategic and interdiction raids to very little effect, and although squabbles between the RFC and RNAS had ended, the new organisation failed to put an end to disagreements at the top levels: “As the war moved to its most desperate climax the administration was treated to the juvenile spectacle of the Minister and the Chief of Staff in violent dispute as to whether it was possible to tell the type of an aircraft at night by sound alone. `While some form of powerful central body was needed in order to administer military aviation more effectively, an independent Royal Air Force was not justified by the performance of the RFC and RNAS in the First World War. This is not to say that air power was not of use to the British war effort. As a weapon to be used by the army to improve its fighting ability, an air force was valuable.
However, in order to separate aircraft from other weapons of the army, for example tanks or artillery, an air force needed to be capable of waging an effective campaign alone, and for this it needed the power of effective ground attack. By 1918, no ground attack aircraft existed with the necessary destructive power, and the Smuts Report failed to recognise this. Aircraft were merely auxiliary weapons in the First World War, and acting alone, they could inflict nowhere near the amount of damage being done by the ground forces. Owing to inclement weather flying was severely curtailed in the last days of the conflict. The air war, rather than coming to a great finale, somewhat petered out. Perhaps this was appropriate. It served to indicate that the war of the skies remained to the end an ancillary to the struggle on the ground. A climactic air battle was no prerequisite of an Allied victory. “