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The Bombing War The ultimate history of the Allied bombing campaigns in World War II Technology shapes the nature of all wars and the Second World War hinged on a most unpredictable weapon the bomb Day and night Britain and the United States unleashed massive fleets of bombers to kill and terrorize occupied Europe destroying its cities The grisly conseuences call into uestion how “moral” a war the Allies fought The Bombers and the Bombed radically overhauls our understanding of World War II It pairs the story of the civilian front line in the Allied air war alongside the political context that shaped their strategic bombing campaigns examining the responses to bombing and being bombed with renewed clarity The first book to examine seriously not only the well known attacks on Dresden and Hamburg but also the significance of the firebombing on other fronts including Italy where the crisis was far severe than anything experienced in Germany this is Richard Overy’s finest work yet It is a rich reminder of the terrible military technological and ethical issues that relentlessly drove all the war’s participants into an abyss

10 thoughts on “The Bombing War

  1. Dimitri Dimitri says:

    It delivers what it promises bombing throughout Europe A good two thirds is still devoted to the Blitz over England Germany Italy benefits most of Overy's pan European ambition while Western Europe or less gets attention in descending order of damage The section on Eastern Europe felt too short I am not yet ualified to judge the strategical bombing of the Soviet Union in the context of Barbarossa It's supposedly seldom separated from the tactical air war in the East The conclusion and epilogue form an excellent synopsis of the book’s main themes but they are shining through the facts throughout so that the reader has a good sense of structure The popular image of non stop swarms of untouchable airplanes soaring menacingly over burning cities is thoroughly debunked It never left the realm of 1930's SF or war games Bombers were envisioned to wreck utter an instant devastation on an almost nuclear scale and not seldom through gas or biological agents Society's morale was expected to plummet as fast as its architecture helpless in the face of a bomber that always got through Without this lengthy exposition it is impossible to grasp the mentality of decision making throughout 1940 1945 The existing bomber technology was simply incapable of delivering results in accordance with pre war expectations The impact on the enemy war economy was limited especially once dispersal programs gave the attacker a myriad of targets to choose from The chief benefit was forcing the other side to invest in massive AA defense manned by a mass of hands sorely missed in factories or at the front In relation to this the necessary air supremacy of the bomber fleet in enemy airspace was very hard to assert without an expansion of the fighter arm resulting in a large scale aerial duel that was not foreseen in the interbellum Aditionally the range of fighter escorts virtually determined the range of the bomber offensive The progress made in aircraft construction on this point is perhaps the best measurement of how the psychological impact of bombing spread until it affected entire countries Finally the unity of the people was strengthened rather than weakened in the face of aerial attack since the current powers that be were the main source of rescue and assistance Ironically pre war fears had stimulated initiatives of nationwide civil defense Britain comes off best among the democracies while there was a direct correlation among the dictatorships between the degree of totalitarian mobilization and preparedness This is best illustrated by looking at the sturdiness of the public andor private bomb shelters and their effect on morale It scales down the story to the human level better than casualty statistics can Plus both the UK and the USA spent half the war building up their bomber force It is an arm that demands a lot of industrial resources uses spacious infrastructure reuires a lot of maintenance manpower No war in history has enough to go around The imminent invasion in Normandy over threatened to direct the whole air force to tactical support In the end it helped to blur the distinction between the two levels It also obscured at the time an important fact Stalin’s much desired Second Front had been in existence since 1942 thanks to the bombers that vided for the strength of the Eastern Front Inaccuracy continued to plague all air forces until the end of the war in spite of considerable technological advancement in the field of night radar No matter how strict the assigning of targets of proven military value collatoral damage in civilian residential areas was the inevitable conseuence In a way the decimation of the enemy labour force was counted as a compensation but the population was never an official prime target of bombing for neither side The Allies did step up the numbers by perfecting the mix of high explosive incendiary to create 'firestorms' in German cities whose medieval centers were notoriously flammable One of the neat details in the book is the studies undertaken by amongst others the emigrated founder of the Bauhaus movement to determine which ordnance combination would work best on Germany and Italy respectivelyIn a weird way reality vindicated the critics of Douhet his prophesized collapse of national spirit only came true with Italians who were prone to crack easily While the British Blitz spirit is exaggerated in the mythology of WWII Italian morale did plummet faster In their defense bombing on the peninsula didn’t get heavy until after the landings at Anzio the overthrow of Mussolini By then the German occupation with its harsh reprisals had them caught between a rock and a hard place The story of bombing by Italy is interesting in a ‘what if ?’ way The Italian Air Force’s experience in smaller wars such as Spain and Abyssinia had already shown the optimism of Il dominio dell'aria to be ill grounded The country’s small industrial base prohibited an appropriate evolution in aircraft design The persistent but inadeuate bombing of Malta and the airborne assault on Crete might have been replaced with the invasion of the former and the cutting of Allied supply lines in the Mediterranean with severe conseuences for the North African front A similar possibility surfaced during the Blitz on Britain where the Few in actuality met the Many in fairly comfortable numbers and likely in a Hurricane than a Spitfire There was an active discussion of the use of both fighters and bombers in either the counteroffensive or as part of the fight to keep the island’s supply lines open in the Battle of the Atlantic This subject takes me back to the Atlantic charter and could’ve used depth The rest of the Blitz story holds few surprises except the preparedness of the British government to use gas in retaliation if necessary This would resurface with the 15th US Air Force in Italy and remains a rather curious restraint in a war where ‘retaliation’ often served as an excuse for escalation The Germans knew the Battle of Britain was a lost cause even before it officially began but kept it up to lull the USSR After 1941 their side of the story plays second fiddle to the Allies’ but as the ‘victims’ their development of countermeasures even to the infamous ‘Window’ metal strips invites a comparison with the situation on the British homeland It is never clearly made We do get good capsules of famous raids Hamburg Dresden Sweinfurt and Berlin which got raided less than you’d think There is sometimes an overemphasis on the inter Allied disputes over designated targets especially towards the end where the liberated countries of Western Europe pass the review The pendulum had irrevocably swung in favour of indiscriminate bombing by late 1942 no matter how vehemently Resistance movements and governments in exile lamented It is almost impossible to pose a moral verdict on the strategic bombing campaign over Europe and Overy thankfully arguments rather than judges Personally I tend to side with Arthur Harris because war has a momentum of its own

  2. Emmanuel Gustin Emmanuel Gustin says:

    The title and the monumental size of this book somehow suggest a definitive comprehensive history of the strategic bombing campaigns during WWII But that is an enormously complex subject with a substantial body of literature already discussing it Among these Overy's book is a worthy contribution but not exceptional It is a thorough study of the politics and strategy of the bloody bombing campaigns of WWII as dry and unemotional as such a study could be But most of this material is not new The greatest merit of The Bombing War is its discussion of Civil Defense that is the various measures the involved states took before and during the war to protect their population infrastructure and industry from the conseuences of the enemy bombs This is a grim subject that I have not seen elsewhere described in such detail and it is Overy's major contribution to the topic It gives us a different view of the bombing campaigns as seen from the perspective of the bombed It leads Overy to a valuable insight If the proponents of the bombing of enemy morale for which to read cities and civilians expected the bombed out people to rise against their governments or at least call for an end to the war they often achieved the opposite Deprived of their homes and possessions suffering the death of friends and relatives the bombed civilians of WWII became only dependent on the state for support and survival In the heavily bombed cities of Germany the Nazi party sought to become the major provider of assistance to the needy and thus its power and grip on the German people were strengthened rather than weakened by enemy bombing Similar patterns emerged elsewhere with Italy perhaps being the one significant exceptionIt is a lesson that is still valid and important today for those who seek to enforce regime change by bombing or by less bloody meansThis is a valuable contribution to the study of air warfare during WWII It takes time to read but is informative and worth the effort even if you think that you already know a lot about this topic For those who still believe that the Allied bombing campaigns targeted military targets and civilians suffered only as the result of collateral damage it will be an eye opener

  3. D. D. says:

    This was a very detailed and well documented work yet was worded so as to be easy to read It gave a real perspective of the gigantic scope of the bombing effort put forth by the Allies in WWII The book asked the uestions Was the bombing effective and did it meet its objectives Even though I would agree to some extent with the conclusions I would say they are negated by the fact that approximately 291000 Americans died in the conflict and we didn't start the war The fact that only some 250000 German civilians died as a result of bombings is hardly a drop compared to the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Germans or the 13 million Soviets who starved or were killed by Nazis The Germans started this war and killed millions of innocent victims so it is immaterial how many of their civilians were killed in the fog of war The writer was correct is his belief that the bombing did not have the desired effect on stopping Germany however that is an indication of the lack of accurate bombing methods and euipment Notice how soon Japan surrendered when only two bombs of deadly accuracy and a horrific method of destruction were used If bombs dropped on Germany had been accurate and deadly it would certainly have made a huge change in the German war effort

  4. Tim Pendry Tim Pendry says:

    Every time I walk past the statue 'honouring' the aircrews of Bomber Command in Green Park I taste something unpleasant in my mouthI can imagine a decent German feeling much the same if Berlin had a major monument to the Eastern Front war dead of the WehrmachtYes both sets of men were courageous and died for the sins of their leaders but both sets of men were complicit in appalling atrocities under orders that specifically targeted civiliansThis remarkable well evidenced and well written book is about the use of bombing and its effects in Europe during the Second World War at least that is its primary purpose It is in fact a book about evilHalf a million Europeans were murdered from the air either indirectly as part of the prosecution of war or directly as a deliberate strategy of area or political bombing by air power advocatesThe book is dense in places Overy does not put statistics into foot notes but makes sure you have them to hand when you read of this raid or that campaign whether deaths or tonnage of bombsHe does not go into too much detail of effects just enough for us to be clear what bombing involves because his interests and ours are the policies that led to these horrorsThis is one of those books where the complexity of issues reuires that we do not try an easy summary Overy is fair minded He seeks to understand and not condemn There is no emotion hereThe final conclusions are measured and pointed He also provides a useful coda that suggested that nothing was fundamentally learned from the experienceHe rightly points out that the area bombing of Bomber Harris who must be the very epitome of the banality of evil if you have a soul was of its time and could not be repeatedHe then stops any sigh of relief at this point by pointing out that these maniacs my opinion not his did not need to repeat it because they soon had nuclear weaponry We have been lucky so far Half a million dead over five years could now become 80million Russians in a few hours The strategy of total war would dictate first strike in the forlorn hope of limiting the effect at homeOne should continue to think on this as a bunch of war loons try to convert crises in the Middle East or over local self determination in the Ukraine into confrontations with well armed nuclear powersThe point is that the area strategy was not a general one amongst the combatants but a specifically Anglo American indeed British one based on the thinking of an Italian proto fascist DouhetThe irony of this is not lost on Overy who points out that Allied bombing of Italians while their Government was an ally cost lives than the BlitzOne gets a shock to the system when one discovers just how evil the British as a war state had become in what was clearly an existential struggle of constant escalation with no uarter givenLet us start by noting something uncomfortable Although air power advocates promoted independent bombing strategies the general view in the 1930s was that civilian bombing was a horrorNeither the Soviets nor the Americans adopted civilian bombing as a policy directive and surprise it was Hitler who attempted to outlaw it and chemical and gas weapons at the beginning of the conflictOf course this does not gainsay Hitler's villainy against first the Jews and the mentally disabled and then anything that got in his way of a civilian nature in the East or in terms of reprisalsBut facts are facts And probably because he still had a residual notion that the West Europeans were a basically civilised people Hitler seems to have thought it uncivilised to bomb people in warThere is as well multiple room for misunderstandings sometimes wilful in international relations with deeply unpleasant political warfare operatives muddying the truth at every opportunityOvery somewhat embarrassingly places Guernica Warsaw and Rotterdam in their military context and draws the critical line between what we call 'collateral damage' and deliberate terrorThis is central because we need to understand that the British not only had a strategy of terror the only nation to do so but with the Americans banked up gas bombs in Italy ready to use in the last daysBiological weapons may have been in their infancy but it seems from Overy's coda that the next total war contemplated by the air power loons included advocacy of bacteriological warfare to retain assetsSo what is going on here? Certainly Churchill was troubled by the strategy of terror though unafraid to use any resource to meet political ends As we will note we can still see his pointSimilarly not only the Germans and the Soviets but also the Americans may have been ruthless though happily held to the notion of tactical use of air power where civilians were unfortunate collateral damageThe secret of evil seems to lie in its true source the corporate mentality The RAF was a new arm of state force and competed for budgets and resources It positioned itself as the futureIts chief Bomber Harris somewhere ceased to be a human being and became the pure will of his force He had done a common thing lost himself in the task and ceased to be than the taskEdgerton has written persuasively that last century air power was associated with the technological right and he has pointed out the ideology underpinning Liberal MilitarismOvery does not go down this route but we should remind ourselves that the driver for techno war was the protection of one's own people by mustering massive power targeted at the population of the other This reversion to a Mesopotamian attitude to the cities of your enemy also held a sub text of fear that democracy actually the hold of the liberal elite could not survive another general call upThe solution tanks on the front and planes in the sky neatly converged with the institutional aspirations of the RAF to an eual or dominant role in war strategySince fighters and fighter bombers by definition were always going to be ancillary to armies fighting blow by blow across country and naval forces defending trade routes this meant bombingThe justification of bombing however was not easy Aiming was poor air crew losses were high and the euipment was very expensive To be than ancillary reuired a 'result'What these callous men offered was one or both of two possibilities one taken up reasonably by the Americans and the other fanatically by Bomber HarrisThe first was to claim that bombing raids directed at aeroengine works transportation and oil facilities and so on could degrade the economy of the other side so that his war capacity would failNaturally given the weakness of bomb aiming euipment and the constant pressure on air crews of fear this meant serious collateral damage to the civilian populationNeedless to say this is what happened not only in the Blitz which was always military in purpose in terms of economic warfare but also in many of the major raids on Germany and all those in allied statesOvery plausibly demonstrates that this sort of airpower was far less effective than the bombers claimed but he and we can give the men of the time the benefit of the doubt hereThe bombers in these cases seem to have killed a lot of people including allied citizens to the increasing frustration of the resistance but there was at least a theoretical case for actionIt could be reasonable in an escalating existential crisis to accept this massive collateral damage if it brought the hell to a faster end this is the dark justification of course for HiroshimaThis sort of bombing is just just on the right side of morality for most people we say again that which reasonably might be considered to be the lesser evil in an existential struggleStrategic area bombing of civilians to inspire terror in the dubious and unevidenced belief that this might cause panic and bring down a regime is another kettle of fish howeverThere are cases where regimes were brought down by terror bombing Italy seems to be an example but nearly all countries appear to have adapted and even seem to have seen the regime strengthenedThe fact of bombing and disruption exposed weak and poor regimes like Mussolini's but it enabled a narrative of resistance and a politically led popular organisation to emerge elsewhereJust as general tactical asset bombing oddly tended to increase production through reorganisation substitution and determination so area bombing tended to strengthen political legitimacyIn the first case it might be very reasonable for strategists not to have understood that this would be the case but in the second we are faced by two new factorsThe Blitz itself should have provided sufficient evidence that regimes strengthened on existential threat while what we have here is something different the deliberate targeting of workersAh I seem to have slipped into the unforgivable here the values driven business of morality The point is that Bomber Harris was no different from Himmler in this the destruction of persons deliberately because of their nature in this case as German workers in Himmler's as JewsThe argument that the Jews were 'innocent' and the German workers were 'guilty' is specious To Nazis the Jews were as 'guilty as hell' as origins of the war yes absurd but believed culturallyGerman workers many of whom voted social democratically in the 1932 and previous elections and who were led no less than workers anywhere by malign elites were suffering here from collective punishmentThe deliberate firestorming of Hamburg and other cities was a war crime that the Allies knew to be so when they decided not to prosecute the Nazis at Nuremburg for their bombing atrocitiesThe most notorious case Dresden ironically probably falls into the milder category of tactical warfare bombing in support of the Soviet push to the East Overy is good at revising our preconceptionsThe lessons of all this are largely academic on the old mafia saying that 'that was then and this is now' The conditions were peculiar and unrepeatable new atrocities entirely are for our timeHowever we can draw some lessons about the human condition about the blind and unaccountable nature of institutional forms operating in unevidenced ways and doing bad things under unrestrained leadersTo be fair Churchill was a man under severe pressure to whom bombing remained a tool at hand and a sideshow and though committed absolutely to success he was neither stupid nor psychopathicWhat is worrying is that under conditions of existential crisis power to do great evil can be delegated so easily This story raises very uncomfortable thoughts about other war leadersAnd not just Stalin and Hitler but Cameron and Obama The post war Presidents for example appear to have had some reasonable grip over their forces through acceptance of their authority Are we so sure now?One uestion is what happens when the 'fuhrerprinzip' sends down the line vague generalities alongside instructions that can be interpreted brutally because they were stated brutally the HitlerStalin modelBut another uestion is what happens when a Leader is not working on full information and makes false or 'bad' judgements on the claims of the institutional pressure groups who claim to serve himThere are signs on several occasions in this story that Bomber Command lost the ability to do two things under Bomber Harris think beyond the interests of itself; and have reasonable moral boundariesThe British were far from alone the Soviets were restrained only because they were fighting a different sort of war and the Americans soon descended into hell themselves with the Tokyo firebombingBut bombing itself was over egged as tool strategic bombing in the battlefield could lead to the 'friendly fire' errors that we saw in Ira and Afghanistan as well and often did harm than goodIt may given existential struggle and acceptance of the 'just war' ho hum have had some important function in degrading the flow of materiel to the enemy front and redirecting productionWhat strikes me as unconscionable especially with political motives of pure populist revenge is to continue with a campaign of total war against civilians long after it is clear that it is just murderAlmost every civilian death could be justified by some rational explanation based on the struggle for existence by the end but by that time everyone has lost the moral plot The great lesson of all this is that war has its own remorseless logic in which as Overy wisely notes political conditions eventually block the chance to do the right thingHowever you can make up your own mind Overy is detached and clinical The facts are all there in his book I urge you to read it and ask where you think the boundaries of death dealing should lie

  5. Marcus Marcus says:

    Let me start by pointing out that this review is for the American edition from Viking Press which apparently is “missing” several chapters mainly those concerning German use of bombers against Great Britain in 1940 41On with the review then“The Bombers and the Bombed” is supposed to be according to the author the most detailed analysis of use of aerial bombing during World War 2 Its uniueness is based on the fact that it covers in great detail both the Allied and German side of the bombing campaign against Germany itself something the author claims hadn’t been done before Further the author also covers the bombing campaign against Italian peninsula which with the exception of the notorious decision to bomb monastery at Monte Cassino is indeed barely ever discussed Final section of the book is dedicated to bombing operations against countries occupied by Germany; here in well established Anglo saxon historian’s tradition the focus lies suarely on the Western Europe with France getting the lion’s share of allotted spaceWhile the author inserts throughout the book an occasional story or uote regarding the effects of the bombing operations on real people this book is not about the personal experiences or ‘human story’ of neither the ‘bombers’ nor the ‘bombed’ The focus is set suarely on study of politics decision processes statistics and economics associated with Allied bombing operations between 1940 and 1945 and their impact on Germany’s ability to conduct military operations As result this book is filled with statistics of bomb tonnage dropped in individual raids numbers of casualties effects on industry output transport capabilities morale and work effectiveness of workers and so on Remainder of the book is dedicated to an overview of political aspects of the campaign military strategy decisions and expectations and detailed but rather broad discussion about the actual effects on population afflicted by the bombings All this is at least on the surface discussed in cold factual manner The factual material provided by the author in this volume is of absolute top uality and detail The perhaps less wished for side effect of this meticulousness combined with the ‘academic’ writing style of the author is that this will be a very hard book to absorb for casual reader Those expecting a narrative of the kind provided by for example Beevor or Atkinson will be sorely disappointed On the other hand for those who are ‘initiated’ the content of this book is a veritable treasure trove of valuable information presented in a format that is indeed uite uniue and thought provoking Further the sections dedicated to the actions directed against Italy and countries occupied by Germany do indeed provide new and valuable informationI must however remark that on couple of ocassions I've got the distinct impression that there are certain limits to the validity of author's analysis As long as his narrative concerns itself with dissection of pure statistics and socialpoliticaleconomical aspects of the bombing offensive it is hard to find any flaws in his train of though even though one may not necessarily agree with the conclusions he arrives to But as soon as professor Overy moves over to a discussion about realities of combat over skies of Germany then at least in my opinion he's outside his comfort zone and is no longer one hundred procent reliable One small example of what I'm talking about is a statement he makes at one point about advantages of automatic cannons used by German fighters vs defensive armament of American bombers His claim is that cannons had longer range than heavy machine guns of the bombers thus giving German fighters obvious advantages in combat While I understand why he arrives to this conclusion it is unfortunately without a shadow of a doubt absolutely wrong Combination of three factors different trajectory of heavy cannon shells very low amount of ammunition that could be carried by German airplanes for their cannons and much lower rate of fire of the cannons made it absolutely essential for German fighters to get very close to their targets if they were to have any chance to be effective Also nature of contemporary fighter airplane as a firing platform made it practically impossible to hit not only the barn's door but the entire barn at ranges longer than 400 meters The entire issue may be a small detail in broad content of this book indeed the remark I react against is a whole of two sentences long but it is indicative to where author's true competence really liesAuthor's comparison of defensive tactics employed by RAF during 1940 and Luftwaffe against daytime operations of Allied bombers is another maybe serious indication of author's limitations In this far detailed discussion the author makes the claim that Luftwaffe made grave mistake in employing large formations of fighter airplanes in attacks against American bombers He points out to the effectivness of Dowding's tactics of using small 'packs' of airplanes in hit and run attacks and states that same approach would serve Luftwaffe much better To be perfectly honest on this occasion I fail to see how the author arrives to this conclusion and would go as far as saying that it's complete rubbish First and foremost the author fails to recognize the fact that Dowding's tactics weren't a choice of convenience they were forced on him by single factor available response time Unlike commanders of Luftwaffe in later years of war he had literally minutes to get his fighters into position where interception of bombers was possible before they arrived over their target German controllers on the other hand had several hours at their disposal to recognize possible targets of American bombers get individual tactical units in the air and group them according to the situation Indeed German fighters often had the luxury of gathering near American bomber formations wait until the escort fighters had to leave then get in front of bomber formations and attack them from optimal direction Individual attacks on bombers were indeed done by smaller segments of fighters often from different directions at the same time but the concentration of 'big wings' against one or two American 'boxes' at a time made very much sense indeed and often caused dramatic loses rendering entire formations unfit for further combat operations Further as the war progressed the tactical situation in the air also changed American escort formations took full advantage of their superior numbers and covered tens of kilometers in all directions from bomber boxes German fighters had to literally fight their way through that space before they even reached the bombers; flying in large formations under those circumstances made once again perfect sense and indeed was the only way to even get to the bombers Author's failure to recognize changes in tactical realities of 1942 45 when compared with 1940 is to me at least somewhat perpelexing So is it those observations that cause me to give this book a rating of 'only' three stars then? No even though I feel it is important to recognize the fact that when it comes to evaluation of actual combat operations operational doctrines and tactics employed by both sides there are much better books out there than this volume At the same time it has to be recognized that these topics are only of secondary importance to professor Overy's analysis and therefore not the deciding factor in regard of its uality or veracityThe real reason why my reception of this volume is lukewarm is that I regard ‘Bombers and the Bombed’ to be flying under false flag Professor Overy claims for his volume to be an objective analysis of Allied bombing operations during World War II But the final and perhaps the most important component of this book indeed the red thread that binds the ‘cold’ analysis into coherent whole consists of the discussion about actual effectiveness as well as the morality of Allied bombing operations This discussion of whether the effects of Allied bombing campaign were worth the horrible price paid in form of civilian casualties and destruction in urban areas is spread throughout the book and is in my opinion the actual causus vivendi for this volume In simple terms the real uestion that the author is trying to answer with this book is simply 'Was it worth it?' And it is in this discussion that the author delivers his absolute and unreserved condemnation of Allied bombing campaign As far as I understand it the author bases his standpoint on following conclusions• Allied operations were conducted in haphazard manner and without any real coordination between British and American counterparts • Initial expectations on technical capabilities of bombers were vastly exaggerated and when their ineffectiveness was slowly realized the facts were simply ignored • Despite the fact that the buildup of both British and American bomber force reuired enormous material production and manpower resources the intent for their use was never very clear Therefore the objectives of their operations were based on incorrect assumptions and expectations and as a conseuence vaguely defined often contradictory and most of the time unrealistic • As a result of technical limitations and faulty strategy the individual raids seldom had real impact on German capability to conduct the war and on few occasions when it did happen the results were very limited Impact om industrial output could most of the time be reconstituted or handled by alternative resources• Despite lack of any real impact the Allied insisted on continuation of the bombing operations causing unnecessarily up to half a million of civilian casualties additional suffering on millions of innocent civilian population as well as massive and often wanton material destruction of significant portion of continental Europe’s urban areas • The barbarism of unrestricted Allied bombing practices caused the coalescence of German civilian population’s morale and will to resist as well as a lot of negative feelings toward Allied countries among populations of occupied countries The bombing campaign was therefore having the exact opposite result to the one pursued by the Allies• Despite allied efforts industrial output of Germany rose steadily throughout the period of the offensive often by several hundreds percent• Based on all of the above the bombing operations were a gigantic mistake reuired enormous resources that would have much larger effect if used in other ways and cast very deep shadow on morality of Allied conduct of the war against Nazi GermanyHere’s the thing – the debate regarding different aspects of Allied bombing offensive of 1940 45 both in Europe and against Japan and especially its effects and morality has been raging among historians philosophers military theorists and politicians pretty much since the day World War 2 ended The topic is extremely complicated multi faceted booby trapped with emotions and infected with very real human suffering of enormous proportions If a single book is to be regarded as the definitive study of these events what caused them and what their effect really was it should be written by a person who really is objective This volume aspires to be exactly that book and indeed in many respects the conclusions of the author need to be accepted as correct ones But in the discussion about validity of Allied approach and perhaps even importantly when the morality of these operations is scrutinized if the person conducting is to be perceived as credible he or she must be impartial to begin with It is in this respect that Richard Overy fails to impress me Admittedly he never expresses clearly his standpoint but the manner in which he presents and comments the factual data the way he uses the vocabulary and indeed the occasional snide remarks that sneak through in his narrative are to me at least indications that he uses the facts to support a clearly preconceived condemnation instead of possibly arriving to it in an impartial processI have other problems with author’s reasoning his dismissal of Germany’s conduct in the war as a contributing factor to the escalation of Allied bombing operations and his downplaying of the very real effects on Germany’s capability to conduct military operations being perhaps the two most persistent grievances of mine But first and foremost I cannot help but be discouraged with my impression that the author’s starting position in the vital ‘moral discussion’ is that the events he discusses were wrong on the most elementary level The way I see it he uses this book to argue this stand point and at the same time claiming impartiality This stand strikes me simply as dishonest That’s why I’m choosing to regard this book as a very valuable collection of factual data but refuse to accept its ‘philosophical’ input in the debate about this infected subject matter

  6. Rob Kitchin Rob Kitchin says:

    Prior to the Second World War there was a believe especially amongst the air forces of the various belligerents that bombing could determine the outcome of wars curtailing land campaigns The subtitle of this book is ‘Allied Air War Over Europe 1940 1945’ and it focuses on the Western allies attempts to test this hypothesis charting the bombing campaigns over Germany in particular its Axis partners and occupied countries such as France and the Netherlands from the perspective of the bombers and those who were bombed To a large degree it is academic in its approach setting out a rather dry and dispassionate account based on the historical archive of documentary evidence presenting events at a distance and with memos and statistics rather than personalities and experiences Overy argues that the bombing campaign not only did not achieve its aims but cost in lives and material than it gained in strategic and tactical advances That is not to say that the bombing campaign had no effect – it certainly led to much destruction lives lost disruption and some influence on the distribution of resources but rather than collapsing morale it often reinforced resolve and it had little impact on industrial production until near the war’s end While the book provides a broad overview of the politics and practice of bombing from both Allied and Axis perspective it gives little sense of the key people involved who are rather one dimensional or the experiences of those undertaking bombing raids or being bombed Moreover it provides very little coverage of the Eastern front and that of the third major allied party Russia I was expecting the book to circle round to a wider systemic analysis of the effects and ethics of bombing at the conclusion but that didn’t materialise Overall an interesting read concerning the politics and effects of a bombing campaign

  7. Bfisher Bfisher says:

    The version of the book that I read was the original version published by Allen Lane Penguin as “The Bombing War Europe 1939–1945” From what I understand the US version published by Viking as “The Bombers and the Bombed Allied Air War Over Europe 1940 1945” as indicated by the title does not include the original version’s account of the German bombing campaigns This is a grave weakness; in its absence a reader of the lesser book may not fully appreciate the Allies’ political and military leadership failures as the Allied bombing campaigns developedIt took me a very long time to read this book It is a well written book but the subject matter is grim I started to read this book in September 2014 but I could not force myself to read much of it until making a concerted effort this week which was not coincidently the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and shortly after the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings Feb 1945 Coincidentally it was the same week as the passing of the last Dambusters pilot Les MunroThose events are significant to this book Only with the passing of time and of the participants in the struggle of WW2 was it possible to produce and publish an objective history of the bombing war in Europe 1939 1945 I believe that this book is that objective history and that there are great lessons to be re learned from it

  8. Kent Kent says:

    An amazing book This exhaustive and exhausting history solely focusing on the bombing war in Europe from its beginnings in 1939 through to 1945 and beyond is a must have and read for anyone interested in the history of World War II The author focuses on the three major air forces in the war the Germans British and Americans and peels away all of the misconceptions forgotten history and heroics that have over the decades built up over the actual facts of the ultimate uselessness that the bombing by all of combatants provided to the outcome of the war Highly recommendedThe Bombing War Europe 1939 1945 is the British edition; avoid the American edition titled The Bombers and the Bombed

  9. Paul Paul says:

    Won via Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Bombers and Bombed is a very interesting look at both ends of the Allied bombing campaign in Europe 1940 45 I am a fan of new or little told stories from WWII and this easy read is near the top The book is very detailed maybe a little too detailed for the beginner history buff You will not be disappointed with BB and I enjoyed this book greatly On a side note as I read this book a bulldozer driver in Germany was killed on a construction site by an unexploded allied bomb from WWII on 1 3 2014 apparently this is not uncommon

  10. victor harris victor harris says:

    The uality of scholarship and analysis is excellent but you should be advised you have to plow through mountains of statistics that belonged in an appendix Also needed major editing the paragraphs in many cases are intolerably lengthy sometimes in excess of a page and tend to lose the thread and force of the explanation

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