Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Avella, Steven M.

Second Advisor

Marten, James

Third Advisor

Zeps, Michael J.


This work analyzes the military decision making within the Truman administration that culminated in the purchases of aircraft and the establishment of a virtual nuclear only strategy. When Harry S. Truman became President in April 1945, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was in the formative stage of a firebombing campaign that attempted to burn the Japanese out of the war by targeting the civilian population. Four months later, the use of nuclear bombs ushered in the atomic age and completely altered the military and political decision-making processes within the administration. Despite evidence to the contrary about the efficacy of strategic bombing, the military view of the atomic bomb as an ultimate arbiter of warfare whose use virtually guaranteed victory on American terms was immediately embraced across all the armed forces.

The chapters of the dissertation describe the evolution of airpower as a strategy and the fundamental differences between the branches of the armed forces regarding funding, missions, and responsibilities in the new atomic age. These substantive and structural problems manifested in arguments over Unification and the subsequent creation of the National Military Establishment. Truman attempted to provide direction to the services through the creation of the President's Air Policy Commission but unfortunately, civilian and military leadership within the Air Force and the Navy brought their strategic disputes into the public arena. These culminated in a congressional investigation over weapon systems, strategies, and the supposed "Revolt of the Admirals" in October 1949. To secure funding and a critical role in the American defense during this era, the Air Force and the Navy supported a respective series of weapons and strategies that were ill prepared to adjust to changing American policies in any war short of a global nuclear war. Funding for a single-weapon strategy remained even as other conventional weapons were being removed in the spirit of austerity that were the hallmark of the defense spending of the Truman Administration from 1945 until 1950.