How Effective is Strategic Bombing?

Lessons Learned From World War II to Kosovo

286 pages

December, 2000

ISBN: 9780814731352



Also available in




A former Assistant Professor of History at the United States Military Academy, West Point, Gian P. Gentile is an active duty army officer and is currently a Division Operations Planner with the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. He has served in command and staff positions in armored units in Germany, Korea, and the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University.

All books by Gian P. Gentile

In the wake of World War II, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and President Harry S. Truman established the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, to determine exactly how effectively strategic air power had been applied in the European theater and in the Pacific. The final study, consisting of over 330 separate reports and annexes, was staggering in its size and emphatic in its conclusions. As such it has for decades been used as an objective primary source and a guiding text, a veritable Bible for historians of air power.

In this aggressively revisionist volume, Gian Gentile examines afresh this influential document to reveal how it reflected to its very foundation the American conceptual approach to strategic bombing. In the process, he exposes the survey as largely tautological and thereby throwing into question many of the central tenets of American air power philosophy and strategy.

With a detailed chapter on the Gulf War and the resulting Gulf War Air Power Survey, and a concluding chapter on the lessons of the Kosovo air war, How Effective is Strategic Bombing? is the most comprehensive and important book on air power strategy in decades.


  • "Gian Gentile provides a first rate analysis of the Gulf War Air Power Survey against the backdrop World War II's U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. His well-researched critique also offers much insight about the Air Force mindset during the past half century."

    —Mark A. Clodfelter, Professor of Military History, The National War College, Washington, D.C.

  • "The most thorough and accurate analysis ever written about the conduct and results of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Gentile demonstrates that underneath its veneer of objectivity clashed a number of conflicting agendas and personalities, and in many ways the conclusions were preordained. This work shows the difficulty inherent in analyzing the results of any air campaign. Recent problems with bomb damage assessment in the Balkans reinforce his conclusions."

    —Conrad Crane, Professor of Military History, United States Military Academy, West Point

  • How Effective is Strategic Bombing is a thought provoking analysis on the subject of air power and bombing and the use of surveys to explain the effects of air power on the enemy in conflict."