Command Decision: Leadership Lessons from the Strategic Air War Against Germany

Lee Lacy


The history of strategic bombing in World War II is well-documented, but is also found in the unlikeliest of places, in a theatrical production performed in the New York theater—on Broadway— in 1947. The play, Command Decision, by William Wister Haines, is an examination of the decision making process involved with the strategic bombing campaign in the European Theater of Operations.  This paper uses Command Decision to examine real events in 1943—notably the raids on industrial targets of Regensburg, Schweinfurt and Stuttgart, where the 8th USAAF sustained punishing losses. Out this terrible episode of the war, when thousands of airmen lost their lives, the lessons of the bombing campaign’s Combined Bomber Offensive are significant. The leaders, events and decisions that influenced this intense and deadly episode of World War II remain relevant. The powerful lessons of leadership and command— mixed with human failing and the suffering of mankind, make a compelling story.


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JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.