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Stefan Possony; Pioneered Air War Strategy in WWII

May 03, 1995| From Associated Press

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — Stefan Thomas Possony, the philosophical architect of many of the Allies' strategic successes of World War II, has died at the age of 82.

Possony died at his home in Los Altos on April 26 after a protracted illness brought on by a massive stroke, his wife said.

Born in Vienna in 1913, Possony earned his doctorate in history and economics there in 1930.

He left Austria for Paris just before Adolf Hitler's occupation.

Possony worked in Paris for the French Foreign Office and the French Air Ministry. There he wrote radio scripts for use against the Nazi occupiers of Austria and helped the French military compile a list of bombing targets in Germany.

His work in the field of strategic targeting was pioneering. Before that, almost all targeting in air warfare was considered a tactical function.

When the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940, Possony immigrated to the United States. He became a Carnegie Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University, where he analyzed modern war and strategy.

In 1942, he moved to New York, where he worked for the shortwave radio division of CBS and broadcast to Austria under the motto, "The Allies will win the war and Austria will be free again."

In 1943, Possony joined the U.S. government's "M" project, conducting research on population and manpower problems in various European countries. Later that year he became a civilian intelligence officer at the Pentagon.

Because of his expertise in psychological strategy, he was called upon to work on the formulation of the declaration of surrender that was sent to the Japanese emperor.

In 1946, Possony moved to the Department of the Air Force, where he worked for the air intelligence specialist with the Special Study Group. In 1959, he was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Possony also taught international politics at Georgetown University and was a member of the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1961, he left the Pentagon to join the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as a senior fellow. Among his writings was the 1964 book "Lenin: The Compulsive Revolutionary."

Possony first developed the concept of the space-based, energy-derived weapon that could be used as a shield against the launching of heavy ballistic missiles. The concept was picked up by then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who later developed it during his presidency as the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars."

Possony is survived by his wife, Regina Possony, a daughter, a sister and two granddaughters.

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