Sample text for Shooting the front : allied aerial reconnaissance and photographic interpretation on the Western Front--World War I / Terrence J. Finnegan.

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World War I marked the beginning of the era of modern warfare. It was a conflict vast in scope, loss of life, and devastation. It was a conflict that forced human adaptation to changing technology, and demanded the incorporation of revolutionary technology. As recorded in this remarkable work, Shooting the Front, it was a conflict that saw the development and use of aerial photography, aerial reconnaissance, and the introduction of a vital new dimension of intelligence – that has both continued and evolved and is more vital than ever to the operational commander in the 21st Century. Terry Finnegan’s examination of U.S., British, and French aerial reconnaissance on the Western Front is the result of superb research and makes an extremely valuable contribution to the documented history of the conflict as we approach the centennial of the Great War.
This book focuses on the development of ideas in aerial reconnaissance and photo interpretation, and how some of those ideas came to be accepted during the war. Finnegan identifies the key thinkers and developers, the artists and scientists who, working together, developed fledgling aerial reconnaissance specialties. He shows how they were able to gain acceptance, and how they changed forever the way wars would be fought. Exceptional personalities figure prominently in this study, among them, Edward Steichen, one of America’s leading photographers in the twentieth century. In Finnegan’s work we find the seeds of photographic science and imagery interpretation as they are practiced today. The requirements and challenges have changed little – gather the best information available, analyze it quickly, and get it to units in the field and to headquarters immediately. We learn that even in World War I, the observer could shoot a photograph, land, have the crew on the ground develop it, make pictures, quickly assess the situation, and deliver the product to its destination, all in less than half an hour.
Analysts on the Western Front had the challenge of dealing with the other sources of intelligence – the French led in the development of all-source collaboration. They brought together information from radio intercepts, from tapped phone lines, from the sound of artillery, and from visual flashes, and the image of the aerial photograph, which could confirm those sources. Aerial reconnaissance made it possible to put together a battlefield map that could be updated daily, a “plan directeur.” From the bits and pieces of intelligence, and from this map, commanders were able, albeit imperfectly, to improve their understanding of the enemy’s intent. This book’s fresh information on the French contribution to and leadership in aerial reconnaissance may be the most surprising aspect of the scholarship.
Shooting the Front will have wide appeal. The volume serves to showcase the incredibly important research on intelligence and intelligence-related issues that is a core part of the mission of the Joint Military Intelligence College. The college is to be commended for its publication.
General, U.S. Army (Retired)
Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Arlington, Virginia
3 January 2006

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