Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Trailing Edge of Airpower: Operation COBRA's Legacy in the Development of AirLand Battle Doctrine
by Russell, Nicolas Jean-David, M.A., The George Washington University, 2020, 130; 27664903
Abstract (Summary)

D-Day is an event that has seated itself in collective memory, particularly America, as a seminal moment of the Second World War, and of the 20th century. Often the Allied landings in Upper Normandy are conceptualized as a watershed moment of the Second World War, signaling the eventual, unavoidable defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Yet, the reality of the situation was far more complicated, as the success of OVERLORD was followed by months of grueling fighting in the Norman bocage. Weeks after the successful landings, the war began to resemble the slow, attritional warfare that had defined the First World War. While the Allies possessed a monumental advantage both in terms of manpower and material, the Germans managed to contain them to a small geographic area, preventing the Allies from bring this advantage to bear. As such, D-Day—though certainly the most well-known aspect of the Normandy campaign—was not the only vitally important operation. In fact, Operation COBRA, the Allied breakout operation, proved to be an inflection point of operations in Normandy. Though it is largely overshadowed by OVERLORD, COBRA proved to be one of the most important military operations in western Europe, allowing the Allies to exploit their massive advantages in material and manpower through a war of maneuver.

Operation COBRA is the focus of this analysis, but not in a traditional sense. While COBRA has been largely marginalized, receiving scant attention in general histories of the Second World War, a small but comprehensive historiography on the subject does exists. This body of historical work constitutes a discourse, detailing a changing understanding of COBRA within the Second World War. The focus of this analysis seeks to shift the current paradigm about Operation COBRA, analyzing its legacy in military thought following the Second World War—namely COBRA’s legacy and role in the development of the U.S. Army’s Cold War-era AirLand Battle doctrine.

The primary objective of this study is to develop a link between Operation COBRA’s legacy and the development of AirLand Battle doctrine, demonstrating its place in modern military thought. The analysis is developed through four major components. The first section provides a brief overview of Operation COBRA, itself, and seeks to impart readers with a sense of why COBRA was, at the time, mostly unprecedented. The second section, a historiography of COBRA, provides insight to historians’ changing understanding and framing of Operation COBRA. The third section provides a broad overview of AirLand Battle doctrine while also analogizing Operation COBRA and the U.S. Army’s Cold War doctrine. In this way the third section proposes a link between COBRA and AirLand Battle doctrine. Finally, the fourth section attempts to solidify this link by analyzing several decades of papers written at the Army Command and General Staff College, demonstrating a reoccurring discourse that continually linked COBRA to AirLand Battle doctrine. Ultimately, this analysis seeks to bridge the discursive space that exists between historical and modern military thought, as both are necessary for the formation of innovative military doctrine.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Long, Charles Thomas, Brunsman, Denver
School: The George Washington University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 81/6(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Military history, Military studies, World History
Keywords: AirLand Battle, Airpower, Military thought, Operation COBRA, United States Army, World War II
Publication Number: 27664903
ISBN: 9781392435380
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