The first century of airpower has ended, yet few critics have addressed the literature that chronicles its human toll. Airpower in Literature: Interrogating the Clean War, 1915-2015 offers fresh insight into this airpower century by placing literature of five major wars in conversation with the clean war discourse. Kimberly Dougherty examines the paradoxical representation of aerial warfare that has allowed extensive airstrikes on cities and civilians while promising a “cleaner” method of waging war. First suggested by early military theorists, the notion of a clean air war—one that would save lives through its speed and precision— proved seductive in the twentieth century and continues to shape the rhetoric of airpower today. The air war is perceived as clean, the author argues, when we see neither the aviator nor the targeted populations in the bombing dynamic. Through analysis of fiction, poetry, drama, and journalism, from the ruins of World War I to the technologies of post-modern war, the author identifies counternarratives that make visible both aviators and bombed societies, and present aerial warfare that is not clean, but messy, prolonged, and imprecise. This exploration encourages readers, and writers, to approach the next century of airpower with greater wisdom and empathy.
Kimberly Krampitz Dougherty is a decorated U.S. Air Force veteran and former adjunct professor at Granite State College.
Chapter One: Cather and Faulkner Expose the Myth of Aerial Chivalry in One of Ours and Soldiers’ Pay
Chapter Two: Periphery to Metropole: Malraux, Hemingway, and Gellhorn Write Bomber and Bombed in the Spanish Civil War
Chapter Three: Exposing the Invisible Aviator: Countering Spatial and Discursive Distancing in World War II Literature
Chapter Four: Writing the Bombed City for “Unbombed America”: Dickey’s “The Firebombing” and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
Chapter Five: Discursive Distancing on the Vague Frontier: Aviators and Populations in Vietnam War Literature
Chapter Six: Continued Exposure: Twenty-first Century Bombed and Bomber in Mockingjay and Grounded
Conclusion: Writing the Second Airpower Century
About the Author
Scholar, teacher, decorated military aviator, Kimberly Dougherty knows whereof she speaks. If you had imagined that air power somehow makes war more rational, efficient, and humane, read this deeply researched and informative book.
Kimberly Dougherty brings the keen eye and deep understanding of an Air Force veteran to bear on 20th- and 21st-century literature of air warfare, taking the reader from Cather and Faulkner's challenges to the myth of the chivalric aviator up to contemporary representations of drone pilots. Given the vast changes of the last century and Dougherty's deft handling of historical and artistic material, this is an invaluable study.