Psychological Effects of U.S. Air Operations in Four Wars, 1941-1991

Lessons for U.S. Commanders

by Stephen T. Hosmer

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Abstract

The psychological effects of air operations can significantly shorten wars and reduce their costs, particularly in American lives. In some conflicts, the psychological effects of air operations may exceed the physical effects in importance. This report examines ways to maximize the psychological impact of U.S. air power in future conflicts. Drawing upon POW interrogations and other data from the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Korean wars and World War II, the author assesses the psychological effects of past U.S. air attacks against both enemy strategic targets and deployed ground forces. The author identifies the conditions that have consistently produced a catastrophic disintegration in enemy resistance and large-scale enemy surrenders and suggests how U.S. commanders might design and conduct future military operations to exploit the psychological potential of air power more fully.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    The Use of Strategic Air Attacks to Achieve Psychological Objectives

  • Chapter Two

    World War II, 1941-1945

  • Chapter Three

    Korea, 1950-1953

  • Chapter Four

    Vietnam, 1965-1972

  • Chapter Five

    Persian Gulf, 1991

  • Chapter Six

    Lessons for U.S. Commanders

  • Chapter Seven

    How Air Operations Can Influence Morale and Battlefield Behavior

  • Chapter Eight

    Korea

  • Chapter Nine

    Vietnam

  • Chapter Ten

    The Persian Gulf

  • Chapter Eleven

    Summary of the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Experiences

  • Chapter Twelve

    Lessons for U.S. Commanders

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