Throw Away That History Book: Star Wars Is Proof Battleships are Truly RIP

So says the force. 

Throw Away That History Book: Star Wars Is Proof Battleships are Truly RIP

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Another debate involved the type of aircraft necessary to defeat ships. Aviators in the U.S. Army, including Mitchell and his acolytes, generally argued that the missions of bombing cities and bombing battleship required essentially the same type of aircraft; heavy bombers capable of delivering precision, high-altitude attacks at long range from their bases. Indeed, the initial tenders for the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress emphasized coastal-defense capability. American naval aviators, by contrast, argued in favor of dive and torpedo bombers: fighter-sized planes that could launch from aircraft carriers, then avoid enemy defenses to deliver attacks against critical points on enemy vessels. These debates inevitably bled into other important debates, most notably the importance of having an independent air force, and the relative value of aircraft carriers and battleships.

The experience of the war emphatically vindicated the Navy’s approach. U.S. naval aviation devastated Japanese shipping, destroying numerous capital ships through torpedo and dive-bombing attacks, while Army Air Force heavy bombers inflicted very little damage in direct attacks against enemy surface ships. Army bombers made their primary contribution through the dropping of mines (which disrupted Axis coastal shipping) and through antisubmarine duties, both of which proved exceptionally effective, but were not generally expected to be decisive in prewar airpower thinking.

In the real world, technological progress has made many of these arguments irrelevant. The gap between fighters and bombers has closed, and both can deliver the ordnance necessary to destroy surface ships. Surface vessels themselves, with the possible exception of aircraft carriers, are no longer expected to absorb significant battle damage. And carrier aircraft now pack much the same punch as their land-based brethren.

suggested that Red Tails, a chronicle of the exploits of the Tuskegee airmen, was the true sequel to Return of the Jedi). It is not surprising that the debates that animated military thinking in World War II, from bombers to fighters to battleships, should also appear in the military milieu that Star Wars is built upon.” data-reactid=”40″>But as George Lucas himself has acknowledged, Star Wars has its heart in World War II (Lucas once suggested that Red Tails, a chronicle of the exploits of the Tuskegee airmen, was the true sequel to Return of the Jedi). It is not surprising that the debates that animated military thinking in World War II, from bombers to fighters to battleships, should also appear in the military milieu that Star Wars is built upon.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.” data-reactid=”41″>Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.

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