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'Command of the Air': Alfred T. Mahan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston S. Churchill and an Anglo-American Personal Diplomacy of Air Power

Cross, Graham (2020) 'Command of the Air': Alfred T. Mahan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston S. Churchill and an Anglo-American Personal Diplomacy of Air Power. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 18 (4). ISSN 1479-4012 (In Press)

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Abstract

Explanations of the importance of Allied air power during World War II often look to the supporting military theorists such as Gen. William L. Mitchell and Marshal Hugh Trenchard to explain the rhetoric, if not the reality, of the air campaign. These theorists and their military acolytes undoubtedly had a significant impact on the deployment of air power, but they had much less to say on its use as a diplomatic tool. Study of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill demonstrates that they had a sophisticated appreciation of how to use air power to achieve their foreign policy goals within the realm of personal diplomacy. For both Roosevelt and Churchill, the origin of this appreciation lay in their early experiences of political office and particularly in their exposure to the work of naval strategist Capt. Alfred T. Mahan. As wartime national leaders, both came to share a discourse of personal air power diplomacy acting to simultaneously refine, challenge and reinforce each other’s conceptions. Viewed in this light, clear Anglo-American fields of cooperation in deterrence, coercion, persuasion and moral diplomacy emerge. Closer examination of this Anglo-American discourse and exchange adds to our understanding of the role of personal air power diplomacy at the national level in this era. It also brings into relief both the consensus and tensions surrounding air power within the Anglo-American wartime alliance. Ultimately, it suggests that there was a good deal of continuity in the personal air power diplomacy of both leaders as they strove to integrate atomic weapons into their calculations and confronted the developing Cold War.

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