Chapter

The Age of the World Wars, 1914–1945

in Castles, Battles, & Bombs

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226071633
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226071657 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226071657.003.0006
The Age of the World Wars, 1914–1945

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By remarking on “the morons volunteering to get hung up in the wire and shot in the stomach in the mud of Flanders,” Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who assumed command of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command in February 1942, aptly captured the incomprehensible gore of trench warfare in World War I—the war to end all wars—and thereby commented on his infinite preference, in World War II, for aerial over ground combat. This chapter is about diminishing marginal returns to strategic bombing. It first introduces the notion of a strategic bombing production function before discussing the concepts of total and incrementally rising, declining, or negative returns to bombing. It then shows how the strategic bombing of Germany during World War II generates numerous other examples and hypotheses regarding the manpower, logistics, technology, planning, and operations aspects of war when viewed in light of the six economic principles employed in this book (opportunity cost, expected marginal costs and benefits, substitution, diminishing marginal returns, asymmetric information and hidden characteristics, and hidden actions and incentive alignments).

Keywords: World War I; World War II; Germany; strategic bombing; diminishing marginal returns; production function; opportunity cost; marginal costs; marginal benefits; substitution; asymmetric information

Chapter.  17459 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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