Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David Hounshell


The “release” of new technology to users often finds those users developing their own ways of using the technology – ones that the creators of the technology never envisioned. This process is required in technologies where the creators are so focused on the technical difficulties of how to do something that they devote little thought to why someone might want to do it or, in other words, how the new technology will be used. The airplane is one such technology. Its inventors, Orville and Wilbur Wright, gave little thought to how their technology might be used until it came time to try to sell it to someone. Even then, their proposed military applications for the airplane were vague. While the US military did buy their invention, it required much thought and experience with the new technology before a clear doctrine could emerge governing its use. Today, aviation is a vital part of the United States military forces. The United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force each use aviation in a variety of forms, serving a variety of purposes. This dissertation explores the genesis of aviation doctrine within three services (the Air Force did not exist until 1947) from the Army’s first purchase of an airplane in 1909 through the efforts in the 1920s to synthesize pre-WWI theories on the “best use” of aviation with the wartime experiences of each service and the transfer of doctrine from US allies during the war. Drawing on Actor-Network Theory, this dissertation attempts to follow the individuals, organizations, and specific artifacts that influenced the development of each service’s aviation doctrine into the post- WWI era.