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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 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 nowOne 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

characters Ì PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ✓ Richard Overy

The Bombing War

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 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

Richard Overy ✓ 4 review

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 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


10 thoughts on “The Bombing War

  1. 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 f

  2. 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

  3. 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 effect

  4. 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

  5. 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 the

  6. 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

  7. 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 origin

  8. 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 decad

  9. 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 wi

  10. says:

    The uality of scholarship and analysis is excellent but you should be advised you have to plow through mountains of statistics that b