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Press - Forces Aériennes Françaises

In April 1946, the Comité d'Etudes Aéronautiques Militaires - chaired by the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force - published the first issue of "Forces Aériennes Françaises". Under the direction of General Chassin, the monthly magazine was soon to become THE reference publication in terms of air reflection and doctrine. Over the course of its 286 issues, prestigious names have followed one another, dealing with the history of French and foreign air forces, air weapon strategy and tactics, new aeronautical technologies and their consequences. In December 1971, the Minister of Defence took the decision to merge the reviews of the three arms into a single joint publication, putting an end to 25 years of a publication rich in aviation news and history.

In his last column, published at the time of his retirement, General Chassin explained in a very interesting way the positioning he had wished for 'Forces Aériennes Françaises'. We reproduce an abridged version hereunder.

The positioning of "Forces Aériennes Françaises" as seen by its founder.

"I would like, as I hand over the helm to my successor, to indicate clearly what I wanted to do with this magazine, which I created in October 1946, at the request of General Gerardot and, I can well say, more or less alone. .... There were several ways of conceiving this plan. One could, for example, take up the guiding idea of our pre-war review, emphasise technical information and give little space to original articles. We could, as others do, make the magazine an instrument of general culture, talking about philosophy, literature, theatre, history or sport without tackling the brilliant subjects that constitute questions of doctrine. Finally, one could not limit oneself to military questions and, taking as a model the Aéronautique of before 1939, deal with all the problems of the air, commercial among others, by reserving an important part to the research of theorists. After having thought about these problems, I decided without hesitation on a formula with the following characteristics. First of all, not to put in this magazine what can easily be read elsewhere. Aviation has the particularity that, given the audience it has found with the French public, many newspapers and magazines already exist, dealing - and generally very well - with commercial or sport aviation problems, and also with pure technique. Let me quote here l'Air, les Ailes, la Revue Générale de l'Air, la Technique Moderne-Aviation, la Revue du S.G.A.C.C., etc... And when I started to work there were many others, dead since, such as Décollage, Envols, Espaces, Aviation Française or Aero-Revue). So I did not see the point of giving military aviators information that they could read in these magazines. It would be, purely and simply, wasted space and I felt that I did not have too much! I therefore systematically renounced articles on purely technical matters and articles relating to civil aviation. However, as it was necessary to foresee the case of those who would only read Forces Aériennes Françaises, I created two columns relating to these major subjects. Having been fortunate enough to find two high-class specialists to deal with them, I think I have succeeded in my aims. But let us continue.

I came to the idea that the journal should focus on the doctrinal point of view. Many others agree with me: in an army in full turmoil, faced with its new responsibilities and the half-knowledge of its principles, should there not be many voices calling for debate and launching the themes of the work? And is it not the Revue which, by its tone of freedom, its absence of dogmatism and to a certain extent its irresponsibility, constitutes the ground for these meetings where the rank of the author matters little in the presence of the creative idea to be put to the test?) Yes, that is what I wanted. A free forum where everyone can express their ideas, voice their concerns, make criticisms without hesitation and propose solutions. It was necessary to choose between an organ for the expression of official doctrines and a melting pot where the High Command, precisely in order not to crystallize them, would find the ideas necessary for the evolution of its conceptions. As you can imagine, there was not a moment's hesitation in my mind. It is now time to explain how we were able to carry out this project. Forces Aériennes Françaises, as we know, is not an official magazine. It is the organ of expression of the Comité d'études aéronautiques militaires. This Committee, which was regularly founded in the form of an association, governed by the law of 1901, is currently composed of 718 members. It is directed by a Board of eight members, at the head of which, to clearly mark our link with the Air Force, we wanted to give the presidency, in his capacity, to the General Chief of Staff of the Air Force. This is our only legal link with the Air Force. It has the enormous advantage of not committing the Command in any way when heterodox articles appear. In this way we avoid the pitfall that the official reviews come up against: that of crystallisation, in a word, of the conservatism that did us so much harm before 1940.

The general principle of the revue-tribune having been accepted, as well as the central theme of doctrinal research, it was necessary to find writers. So, in October 1946, many comrades predicted that it would be impossible for me to feed a monthly review of 144 pages, for which it was necessary every thirty days - and that is very short, believe me, for a. I had to write five articles, two studies or documents and three columns every thirty days - and believe me, that's not a lot of time for a director of a review - not to mention the bibliography, which I have always done almost single-handedly, with the help of two or three of my direct reports. Of course, these fears were reasonable. No military aviation journal in the world is as important as Forces Aériennes Françaises. THE US. Air Force, the R. A. The US Air Force and the RAF publish a Quarterly three times a year, which is less important than one of our issues. The Canadian Roundel, which is monthly, has no more than 50 pages, Flugwehr und Technik has 24, the Italian Rivista Aeronautica 45, the Spanish Rivista de Aeronautica 70, Avia (from Argentina) about twenty. The latter three also deal with commercial and sports aviation. It was therefore necessary to have faith in order to meet this challenge. But, even if I had to write the 144 pages of the issue myself at night, I was determined not to give in to pessimism. So I had two big trump cards. Firstly, the trusting relationships I have with the world's leading military writers. Secondly, the particular dilection of French officers for written works, when they are allowed to talk about what interests them and when they know - as fortunately a pre-war regulation allows - that they can address themselves directly to the Review without going through the hierarchical channel, often strewn with umbrellas equipped with a paragraph-stripping pen, a channel at the end of which there are often only black pages where everything is crossed out.

So we tried to appear every month. And we succeeded! Our issues have even left the printer's with the regularity of a civilian magazine, the delay never having reached a week and several issues having appeared two days before the first of the month! But if we have solved the material question, the question arises as to whether we have solved the question of value. No one is a prophet in his own country. It is undoubtedly within the French air force that we have felt the most reluctance. This sometimes took the form of letters of criticism, which we always took into account within the limits of our resources. I would like to point out, however, that to criticise the Review is to criticise the value of its editors, and therefore that of the officers who send them to us. It is to pose the problem of culture in our army. I have appealed too often to young people not to say today that I do not side with their detractors and that I am happy to have revealed to the readers, and perhaps also to themselves, writers such as Captains Lissarague, Bertrand and Gense, Lieutenant-Colonels Bloch and Coutaud, Major Genty, Chief Warrant Officer Jollivet and Chief Sergeant Amrein. But apart from these obligatory - and often useful - reticence, what an exalting letter I received. I shall mention in no particular order General Fuller, Oliver Stewart, Captain Liddell Hart, Eddy Bauer, Admiral Castex, Camille Rougeron, General Davet, Edmond Delage, General Weygand, General G. de Chassey, Etienne Gilson, Rector Marchand, Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, Swiss Divisional Colonel Rihner, Italian General Mecozzi, Lieutenant-Colonel Cerutti, Brazilian General Muniz, Dutch General Van den Kroon, and many others! Our articles are quoted in the main specialised magazines all over the world: American Military Review, Italian Rivista Aeronautica and Rivista Marittima, Swiss Military Review, Flyg (Sweden), R. A. F. Quaterly, Rivista de la Fuerzas-armadas (Venezuela), Flug-Wehr und Technik and Interavia (Switzerland), Honved (Hungary), Rivista de Fuerza aera, and many others.

Finally, our sister journals, whatever the doctrinal differences that sometimes separate us, have always shown us the most open esteem. Let us listen to the Revue Militaire d'Information in its last issue: "The airmen will allow us to give them as an example, despite the scratches they do nothing to spare us. Forces Aériennes Françaises is a crater in full eruption. What better praise for a magazine?" "

General L.-M. Chassin