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Air Power Theory and History


Professor Richard Overy’s research on key issues of air power history and theory has had considerable influence on how both UK and International air forces consider key areas of air power history and their application to current issues of air power doctrine and development. This has been achieved by contributing to the air forces continuing professional development through seminars and lectures, participation in RAF history teaching evaluation, publications on air power issues used in service academies and regular engagement with academic and non-academic audiences on air power history Professor Overy’s research has also been used since 2008 on an international scale by armed services to influence policy, methods and ideas about air power strategy.

A station in Rome destroyed by Allied bombing in the summer of 1943. Credit: The National Archives.

Professor Overy has contributed to the continuing professional development (CPD) of both UK and US air force cadets since 2008 and acts in a teaching and an advisory role and through his books The Air War and Why the Allies Won. These are core textbooks for the US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs which has over 1,000 trainees a year, and the head of the history department writes that ‘his work contributes immeasurably to education’. In addition his books are used by the US Navy War College, Newport Rhode Island with around 200-300 trainees a year, and the UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham with around 700 trainees a year. His work features on courses at the USAF Research Institute, the US Air War College, and the School of Advanced Air Power Studies, involving around 3,000 mid-career officers per year. He is also invited by the Chief of the Air Staff each year to the annual RAF Air Power Conference in London, a professional development opportunity for Royal Air Force Staff. In 2013 Professor Overy was appointed Chair of the RAF Museum Research Board in 2013, working towards raising the research profile of the Museum and integrating academic scholarship more closely with the Museum's own programme of activities and exhibitions.

Professor Overy’s research has been cited as being ‘one of the most important influences on Royal Air Force policy and doctrine since the end of the Cold War’. The publication ‘The Air War’ has been cited in The RAF Manual of Doctrine as one of its reference works. Professor Overy has also presented to audiences which have included the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and around senior airmen from Britain, the USA and Europe with ideas about the development of offensive airpower since the Second World War and to draw lessons for today's RAF, for example the opening talk on 'Lessons from the Strategic Bomber Offensive' at 'Strategic Attack: From Bomber Command through to the Present Day', a Westminster think tank event organised by the Policy Exchange organisation in 2012.

Internationally, the research has been used in military publications by service academies discussing historical air power and bombing warfare. The Royal Australian Air Force in its doctrine publication ‘Strategy, Air Strike and Small Nations’ cited Professor Overy as the source of the argument about the diversion of German resources in the Second World War. Other contributions were made to a book edited by a senior Royal Norwegian Air Force officer on A History of Air Warfare, and the introduction to the US Air Force Academy Military History Symposium on Air Power: promise and reality with an introduction on ‘Air Power and Warfare’.

A station in Rome destroyed by Allied bombing in the summer of 1943. Credit: The National Archives.

Most recently his book The Bombing War, whose central theme is civilian capacity to withstand disasters, was published in the UK and US in various formats with over 30,000 copies sold not including translations into German and French. This particular book has been described as ‘the most important book on WWII ..this century’. In addition to several seminars and keynote speeches at Sandhurst, Birkbeck and UCL, this book is also one of only six chosen by the Chief of Air Staff as his recommend books. He has also been appointed as an Advisory Board member for the Second World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum.

Gateway to Research Project Links: Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe 1940-1945 (Oct 07 - Sep 10)