Having witnessed Italy's costly and futile World War I campaigns on the Isonzo and the bitterness of land combat in the Alps, Douhet argued that strategic bombing attacks by heavily armed and armored "battleplanes" promised quick and decisive victories in future wars. Such a thrusting and offensive-minded approach conformed well to fascist beliefs. The fascist Douhet believed that civilian populations would panic under sustained attack; the seemingly inherent fragility of democracies proved a seductive chimera to him.
Disregarding the legality and morality of sneak attacks or the utility of graduated approaches to warfare, Douhet called for all-out preemptive air strikes to destroy an enemy's air force and bases, followed by concerted attacks on industry and civilians. A combination of high-explosive, incendiary, and poison-gas bombs, Douhet concluded, would generate psychological uproar and social chaos, fatally weakening the enemy's will to resist.
In arguing that airpower was inherently offensive and uniquely efficacious, Douhet dismissed friendly escort planes as superfluous, enemy interceptors as ineffectual, and interservice cooperation as unnecessary since battleplanes would render navies and armies obsolete. Results of the Allied Combined Bomber Offensive, however, proved Douhet wrong. He had exaggerated the destructive power and accuracy of bombing, the ability of bombers to fight their way unescorted to targets, and the fragility of democratic populations, who proved resilient under attack. Nevertheless, Douhet's call for independent air forces and offensive-minded strategic bombing proved influential, especially in Britain and the United States.
Douhet died in Rome on 15 February 1930.
William J. Astore
Cappelluti, Frank J. "The Life and Thought of Giulio Douhet." Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University, 1967.; Douhet, Giulio. The Command of the Air. Trans. Dino Ferrari. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983.; MacIsaac, David. "Voices from the Central Blue: The Air Power Theorists." In Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, 624–647. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.; Segrè, Claudio G. "Giulio Douhet: Strategist, Theorist, Prophet?" Journal of Strategic Studies 15 (September 1992), 351–366.