The Quest Haywood Hansell and American Strategic Bombing in World War II

Major General Haywood Hansell

Major General Haywood Hansell

Haywood Hansell is arguably the most important proponent and practitioner of high-altitude, daylight precision bombing in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II.  Even though his name is not as immediately recognized as the names of Chennault, Spaatz, Doolittle, LeMay, Eaker, or Arnold, Hansell’s accomplishments are significant and impressive.  He flew as a stunt pilot in the barnstorming days of Claire Chennault.  He later attended and taught at the Air Corps Tactical School, where he helped formulate America’s prewar air doctrine.  he then took a leading role in preparing the three great air war plans (AWPD-1, AWPD-42, and the plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive) for the strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.  He commanded the only operational B-17 wing in England from January to June 1943 and had thus directed the first American bombing missions over Germany.  Then, at the request of General Arnold, he returned to Washington to create the world’s first global striking force, the Twentieth Air Force.  As chief of staff of the Twentieth Air Force, Hansell was given virtually a free hand to oversee the early missions of the XX Bomber Command in distant China.  Then as commander of the XXI Bomber Command in the Marianas, Hansell overcame many operational difficulties to direct the first B-29 raids over Tokyo and successfully established the basis for the sustained strategic bombing campaign against Japan, which ultimately contributed greatly to the collapse of the Japanese Empire.

… Hansell has been criticized as being one of the leaders in the “Bomber Mafia” and for being inflexible concerning his belief in the war-winning capability of strategic bombing.  It is perhaps true that Hansell failed to distinguish the difference between doctrine and dogma and that this cost him his career.

… Hansell retired  after his dismissal as commander of the XXI Bomber Command.  His contemporaries such as Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, Gen. Lauris Norstad, and Gen. Laurence S. Kuter became much more famous and each attained high rank in the new United States Air Force.  Hansell passed from the scene, his achievements and ideas largely ignored.  Yet Hansell clearly played a crucial role in the development of strategic air warfare.  He may well have been, as Barry Watts argues, “the guiding conceptual thinker” among that small group of generals who made major contributions to America’s air war doctrine during World War II and beyond.

The Loneliness of Command article

Family information on Life in Seguin and Other Aimless Musings.


About hopeseguin

Who am I? I'm still discovering just who I am, I suppose. A. Powell Davis writes that "Life is just a chance to grow a soul."

Posted on June 9, 2009, in Books and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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