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Bomber Command (Zenith Military Classics)

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Bomber Command’s air offensive against the cities of Nazi Germany was one of the most epic campaigns of World War II. More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF’s attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle in the air began meekly in 1939 with only a few Whitleys, Hampdens, and Wellingtons flying blindly through Bomber Command’s air offensive against the cities of Nazi Germany was one of the most epic campaigns of World War II. More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF’s attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle in the air began meekly in 1939 with only a few Whitleys, Hampdens, and Wellingtons flying blindly through the night on their ill-conceived bombing runs. It ended six years later with 1,600 Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Mosquitoes, equipped with the best of British wartime technology, razing whole German cities in a single night. Bomber Command, through fits and starts, grew into an effective fighting force. In Bomber Command, originally published to critical acclaim in the U.K., famed British military historian Sir Max Hastings offers a captivating analysis of the strategy and decision-making behind one of World War II’s most violent episodes. With firsthand descriptions of the experiences of aircrew from 1939 to 1945—based on one hundred interviews with veterans—and a harrowing narrative of the experiences of Germans on the ground during the September 1944 bombing of Darmstadt, Bomber Command is widely recognized as a classic account of one of the bloodiest campaigns in World War II history. Now back in print in the U.S., this book is an essential addition to any history reader’s bookshelf.


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Bomber Command’s air offensive against the cities of Nazi Germany was one of the most epic campaigns of World War II. More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF’s attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle in the air began meekly in 1939 with only a few Whitleys, Hampdens, and Wellingtons flying blindly through Bomber Command’s air offensive against the cities of Nazi Germany was one of the most epic campaigns of World War II. More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF’s attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle in the air began meekly in 1939 with only a few Whitleys, Hampdens, and Wellingtons flying blindly through the night on their ill-conceived bombing runs. It ended six years later with 1,600 Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Mosquitoes, equipped with the best of British wartime technology, razing whole German cities in a single night. Bomber Command, through fits and starts, grew into an effective fighting force. In Bomber Command, originally published to critical acclaim in the U.K., famed British military historian Sir Max Hastings offers a captivating analysis of the strategy and decision-making behind one of World War II’s most violent episodes. With firsthand descriptions of the experiences of aircrew from 1939 to 1945—based on one hundred interviews with veterans—and a harrowing narrative of the experiences of Germans on the ground during the September 1944 bombing of Darmstadt, Bomber Command is widely recognized as a classic account of one of the bloodiest campaigns in World War II history. Now back in print in the U.S., this book is an essential addition to any history reader’s bookshelf.

30 review for Bomber Command (Zenith Military Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    In Bomber Command Max Hastings provides a definitive account on the strategy and policies from Bomber Command, which in the course of 4 years was able to lay waste to many German cities. It was computed after the war that 593,000 German civilians died and 3,37 million dwellings were destroyed. It gives a good description from the initial strategy, based on the Trenchard doctrine, to precision-bomb German installations. Pinpoint attacks were directed to German targets, with heavy losses and minima In Bomber Command Max Hastings provides a definitive account on the strategy and policies from Bomber Command, which in the course of 4 years was able to lay waste to many German cities. It was computed after the war that 593,000 German civilians died and 3,37 million dwellings were destroyed. It gives a good description from the initial strategy, based on the Trenchard doctrine, to precision-bomb German installations. Pinpoint attacks were directed to German targets, with heavy losses and minimal results. After the Butt Report, which showed that a large number of bombs never hit the target, Great Britain still continued the bombing raids, for the simple fact that in the beginning phase of the war there was simply no other means of taking the war to Germany. However, with the growing number of bombers and the introduction of more and more effective bombers, the decision was taken at the end of 1941 that, since a city was the highest common factor which most crews could identify on a given night under average conditions, Bomber Command would abandon its efforts to hit precision industrial targets and address itself simply to attacking the urban areas of Germany. But how effective was the bombing? Harris points out that German production actually grew during the later war years, despite the heavy bombing attacks. According to him, the only way to hit the German armies was by focussing on the oil refineries. Only by September 1944 the Allies started focussing on the oil refineries, which should have been done much earlier. The Oil Plan will be remembered by history as one of the Allies’ great missed opportunities. How was it at the receiving end? According to Harris, the Germans should have focussed on their night-fighter capabilities. Had they done so, had they lavished a fraction of the resources devoted to futile aircraft development or even ground defences upon the night-fighters of the Reich, had Jeschonnek or Goering forcefully supported Speer and Milch in their efforts to gain priority for home-fighter defence, Bomber Command might by the winter of 1943 have suffered losses that would have brought its offensive against Germany to an abrupt conclusion. While reading the book, you might forget how it was in the ground for Germans themselves, who had to endure the bombing for so many years. Hastings gives the example of Darmstadt, a city relatively unmolested. Until 11/12 September 1944 that is, when a bombing raid destroyed large parts of the city. Hastings paints a vivid description of the horrors that fell on the population, which will haunt me forever to come. All in all, the bombers made an important, perhaps critical contribution in 1941 and 1942 to keeping alive the morale of the British people, and to deterring the Americans from a premature second front. When they possessed the strategic justification – in 1942 and 1943 – they lacked the means. By the winter of 1944, when they had gained the means, the justification was gone. How could anyone not like a book written by Max Hastings?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    Max Hastings is arguably the top British war historian working today. He has also contributed mightily to work on the histories of the 20th century’s great wars in a variety of media, for example at the Imperial War Museum in London. Bomber Command was one of his first books. I read it in preparation for an upcoming trip to Lincolnshire, where there is a museum on Bomber Command. Hastings has a particular skill at weaving together the different aspects of a war such that one can see both the broa Max Hastings is arguably the top British war historian working today. He has also contributed mightily to work on the histories of the 20th century’s great wars in a variety of media, for example at the Imperial War Museum in London. Bomber Command was one of his first books. I read it in preparation for an upcoming trip to Lincolnshire, where there is a museum on Bomber Command. Hastings has a particular skill at weaving together the different aspects of a war such that one can see both the broad strategic dimensions of the conflict as well as the particular and gritty reality for those fighting on the ground. This is a real gift that will become more important as time passes and the people with direct experience of WW2 grow old and leave the scene, as with WW1. With the bombing campaigns of WW2, there is much to cover and conflicts around strategies and results that continue today, for example in continuing debates about the role of American air power during the Vietnam War. While Slaughterhouse-Five was first published in 1969, it is still widely read today. Jorg Friedrich’s Der Brand (The Fire) presents a view of strategic bombing from the ground up and was important in Germany before it was translated. Those who paid attention in the more recent Gulf Wars will surely remember accounts of “smart bombs” and how they have improved warfare. I suspect the debates will not be resolved anytime soon. Hastings builds the story of Bomber Command and its leader, “Bomber” Harris, with these issues squarely in mind. He is exceptional at weaving in the strategic versus tactical issues of bombing with differences between British and American approaches, the evolution of technological capabilities during the war, the role of the Germans in responding to bomber operations, and the role of the bombing campaigns in the overall course of the war in Europe. Hastings adds to his account the role of organization and personalities in the evolution of the bomber war, especially the problem of getting strong leadership within the context of a complex war effort that required a team perspective. Hastings has strong and often critical perspectives on the bomber war, but he is careful to balance it with a nuanced account of the value of the bombers to the British and overall allied war effort. This struck me as an honest effort to tally up the costs and benefits of the war, although it may frustrate some readers. Hastings’ account is superb in highlighting the difficulties in figuring out just what to do with a branch of the services and what the overall objectives are upon which so many lives and resources depend. Strategy is not just lip service but is hard to conceive of and harder still to implement consistently and effectively. If anything, he could have spent more time discussing such issues of management and direction along with the issues of area versus pinpoint bombing. The latter issues are not going away anytime soon. The murkier issues of management and direction also remain with us and are likely to get more important as the stakes get higher. This is a fine book and well worth the time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Let’s acknowledge the truth, the Royal Air Force was unfairly scorned at the end of WWII for their efforts. In fact, you could say they were (view spoiler)[ ROYALLY FUCKED! (hide spoiler)] Poorly served by their leaders, the RAF was never appropriately recognized for their lonely, bloody night fight against the Third Reich, for years the only way the western allies could take the war to Germany. Bomber Command gets 5 explosive-filled “Tall Boy”Stars for this clear-eyed accounting of the RAF o Let’s acknowledge the truth, the Royal Air Force was unfairly scorned at the end of WWII for their efforts. In fact, you could say they were (view spoiler)[ ROYALLY FUCKED! (hide spoiler)] Poorly served by their leaders, the RAF was never appropriately recognized for their lonely, bloody night fight against the Third Reich, for years the only way the western allies could take the war to Germany. Bomber Command gets 5 explosive-filled “Tall Boy”Stars for this clear-eyed accounting of the RAF over Europe in WWII. A complete understanding of the air war in the ETO has to start here. In reality, the RAF was the victim of the politicians’ refrain: “I was for it before I was against it.” Everybody, from Churchill on down to the man in the street was in favor of the bombing campaign. And “Bomber” Harris, the head of Bomber Command was the perfect choice, single-mindedly committed to the destruction of German cities, regardless of any other target desired by the allied commanders. In the beginning, the Brits would take bombs home rather than have a potential miss and hit a civilian. They tried precision bombing during the day. Losses were tremendous and there was no way to continue. So they were confined to night and stayed there until almost the end of the war. Hastings jumps between telling the bomber crew stories by following various squadrons through their missions and then jumping to the command level to see why the airwar was fought as it was. The losses, even at night, are staggering and you get a look at the German defensive side as well. Hastings tells the story of Darmstadt, one German town that suffers a strike late in the war, when the allies had a sledgehammer in the USAAF and RAF air forces, smashing cities with incredible force. In the end, the RAF does not get a campaign medal for their sacrifice and get blamed for carrying out their orders. A excellent history and highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Whether the intense bombing of Germany was crucial in advancing the allied cause and preventing wholesale slaughter as in World War I remains a controversial topic, still unresolved. The fact remains that many hundreds of thousands of Germans were killed in firestorm raids, whose sole intent, admitted by the British, was to demoralize the enemy. But at what cost. The British lost more officers to aircraft casualties than they had in all of WW I and the pitiful survival rate of a bomber crew was Whether the intense bombing of Germany was crucial in advancing the allied cause and preventing wholesale slaughter as in World War I remains a controversial topic, still unresolved. The fact remains that many hundreds of thousands of Germans were killed in firestorm raids, whose sole intent, admitted by the British, was to demoralize the enemy. But at what cost. The British lost more officers to aircraft casualties than they had in all of WW I and the pitiful survival rate of a bomber crew was matched only by German U-boat crews. Was this decisive? Or merely catastrophic as Sir Henry Tizard feared already in 1942. As early as 1920 J.F.C. Fuller, who later became an opponent of using the bomber as a strategic weapon, foresaw "Fleets of aeroplanes will attack the enemy's great industrial and governing centres. All these attacks will be made against the civil population in order to compel it to accept the will of the attacker." Despite the intense debate before the war on the value of attacking enemy cities (and publicly there was a great fear of being attacked from the air given the casualty projections of bomber attacks on English cities) the English bomber command, even two years into the war, was unable to find German cities at night in 1941, let alone bomb them. All of their preparations had been based on totally unrealistic training and false assumptions on the value of self-defending bomber formations. Prior to the start of the war, there was no understanding of how best to destroy structures using explosives. The high command had preferred using-ten 200 lb. bombs instead of one 2000 lb bomb because at least that way there was a slight chance of hitting the target. Despite their public positions, everyone knew that in reality, bombing was about destroying morale, not buildings. Attacks on civilians had been verboten for fear of German reprisals. They were even afraid to bomb anything that could be construed as private property. So at the beginning of the war, attacks had been limited to naval targets, objectives they were ill-equipped for, especially since they were directed to fly above 10,000 feet in order to avoid was was ill-conceived to be the principle danger: flak. In reality, it was German fighters who caused substantial damage, but in typical higher rank myopia, the losses were blamed on crew who did not keep tight enough formation. This, in spite of not providing self-sealing fuel tanks (a bullet hit often turned leaking fuel into an inferno) and rear turrets that failed to traverse more than eighty degrees (for fear of shooting their own tails off. Flying above 10,000 feet made the grease in the turrets so cold, thee turrets often failed to rotate, anyway. The only thing that saved Britain was probably that a decision had been made by the German High Command to invest in light bombers which could be used to support ground troops during the Blitzkrieg. They had more and better planes, but the British emphasized larger strategic bombers although planes like the Blenheim were incredible flying coffins, especially since all the resources had gone toward self-defended bombers rather than any money toward fighter escorts. The Blenheims were sent out in droves. They were shot down by the dozens, often none in a mission returned. The average lifespan of a crew was barely a couple of weeks. Mistakes were common. One crew that flew through a severe magnetic storm discovered to its horror after their return that they had mistaken the Thames estuary for that of the Rhine and had bombed “with unusual precision, one their own airfields. They were only marginally consoled to learn they had caused little damage, command staff learning more about the failures of their stick of bombs. Flying one of the early bombers was appallingly difficult. “The flew layered in silk, wool, and leather, yet still their sandwiches and coffee froze solid as they ate and drank, vital systems jammed, limbs seized, wings iced-up for lack of de-icing gear.” "Amidst the hustle of aircrew pulling on flying clothes and seizing maps and equipment, they drew flying rations of sandwiches and chocolate to be returned intact if the exercise was for any reason uncompleted." This is the kind of detail that really brings home what it was like. The idea the crews would have to return sandwiches taken on a mission is so ludicrous as to be beyond Catch-22. All for little in the way of results and at terrible cost. Reports of results went beyond hyperbole. Air Command noted after a comparison between aircrew reports and photographic results later, that, “the operation does not confirm that as a general rule, the average crews of our heavy bombers can identify targets at night, even under the best conditions, nor does it prove that the average crew can bomb industrial targets at night.” Nevertheless, communiques, completely untruthful, were issued reporting glowing successes. Some very poignant material in this book. Clearly, Hasting empathizes with the little guy, the ones doing all the fighting and dying. He quotes a letter in its entirety from John Bufton to his girlfriend talking about his fatalism, his inability to plan with the only focus being on keeping his machine running and trying to get enough sleep. He talks about what she should do if he is killed, knowing what the odds are, "go and have a perm...and carry on," and why they shouldn't get married. He died a month later. Hastings concludes that German industry was astonishingly resilient (their production of tanks almost doubled between 1943 and 1944) but that it was the defeat of the Luftwaffe, especially after the introduction of the Mustang P-51 and the attacks on German oilfields that made a greater difference. Ultimately, it came very late in the war. “It is gratifying to airmen, but historically irrelevant, that they would have destroyed the German economy granted another few months of hostilities. Many of their greatest feats of precision bombing such as the sinking of the Tirpitz -- which would have been a vital strategic achievement in 1941, 1942, even 1943--had become no more than marvelous circus-tricks by the time they were achieved in 1944 and 1945. The pace of the war had overtaken them [on the ground.]” Hastings added numerous charts and tables showing German war production compared to British throughout the war, as well as some excellent line drawings of the various aircraft involved. It’s an excellent book, filled with with pertinent anecdotes, that deserves to be widely read as a caveat against hubris and arrogance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    One of the best books yet written about Bomber Command, Hastings clearly and critically differentiates between the political manouvrings and ambitions of the upper levels of the command structure and the experiences of the men who flew over occupied Europe every night to fulfill the orders of men who had only ever flown a desk. Hastings is clearly sympathetic to the ordinary airmen, expressing his disgust that there has never been a Bomber Command campaign medal (so richly deserved by these brav One of the best books yet written about Bomber Command, Hastings clearly and critically differentiates between the political manouvrings and ambitions of the upper levels of the command structure and the experiences of the men who flew over occupied Europe every night to fulfill the orders of men who had only ever flown a desk. Hastings is clearly sympathetic to the ordinary airmen, expressing his disgust that there has never been a Bomber Command campaign medal (so richly deserved by these brave young men), and the chapters covering the operational experiences of the various squadrons and groups are the best written and most interesting in the book, as is the vivid chapter retelling the Allied bombing of the German city of Darmstadt from the perspective of the German civilians on the recieving end of this raid. This is a good introduction to the story of the bomber war, its arguable effectiveness, and the political, ethical and military wrangling surrounding it that probably cost the lives of many RAF aircrews.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Flanagan

    Max Hasting delivers yet another well researched and insightful book. In this offering he looks at Britains Bomber Command and follows it through it's conception to the end of the war. The writing is just the right mix, giving a great overview of Bomber Command. As well as allowing the reader to get a feel for what it was like for those who flew the missions and those who were on the receiving end of it. Hasting does not shy away from the difficult questions raised by the tactics used by Bomber Max Hasting delivers yet another well researched and insightful book. In this offering he looks at Britains Bomber Command and follows it through it's conception to the end of the war. The writing is just the right mix, giving a great overview of Bomber Command. As well as allowing the reader to get a feel for what it was like for those who flew the missions and those who were on the receiving end of it. Hasting does not shy away from the difficult questions raised by the tactics used by Bomber Command and delivers a insightful look at the reasoning behind them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Max Hastings' Bomber Command is a rare achievement. This book explores a broad, complex subject with depth and balance, all within a relatively brief number of pages. On top of that, it's very readable and entertaining. Hastings explores the history of the RAF's Bomber Command in World War II, beginning with it's origins, tracing it's evolution throughout the conflict, and concluding with it's legacy. The narrative alternates between focusing on command and political discussions, and historical Max Hastings' Bomber Command is a rare achievement. This book explores a broad, complex subject with depth and balance, all within a relatively brief number of pages. On top of that, it's very readable and entertaining. Hastings explores the history of the RAF's Bomber Command in World War II, beginning with it's origins, tracing it's evolution throughout the conflict, and concluding with it's legacy. The narrative alternates between focusing on command and political discussions, and historical vignettes of particular squadrons at particular times of the war. In this manner, Hastings gives us a pretty complete picture of Bomber Command's war without getting drawn out into a lengthy, repetitive account. Hastings analysis of the achievements of Bomber Command is tough, but fair and evidence based. While they contributed considerably to Britain's morale at key points, and provided important support for the Allied invasion of Normandy, their overall strategic goals were largely a failure. This comes down partly to a lag in technological capability, partly to lack of reliable intelligence analysis of bombing results, and partly from poor decisions by the upper leadership of Bomber Command and the Air Ministry. My only complaint about this book, and the only reason I docked it a star, is that some of it's information is a little dated. Hastings buys into some of the mythology surrounding the German economy and Albert Speer that has been challenge by more recent works, such as Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction. This isn't enough to hurt the overall quality of Hastings' arguments and analysis in this book, but it's something of which the reader should be aware.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lipman

    Complete and sometimes gripping - but this account suffers by comparison to Bungay's on the fighter squadrons by being desultory within and by chapter. Still, the conclusion is clear and cogent: Bomber Command did go too far. Irrespective of whether or not you consider the Germans deserved it - continued indiscriminate area bombing of German cities did not contribute much to winning, or hastening the end of, the War. Complete and sometimes gripping - but this account suffers by comparison to Bungay's on the fighter squadrons by being desultory within and by chapter. Still, the conclusion is clear and cogent: Bomber Command did go too far. Irrespective of whether or not you consider the Germans deserved it - continued indiscriminate area bombing of German cities did not contribute much to winning, or hastening the end of, the War.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Makinson

    Surely the definitive history of Bomber Command. Though written and first published many years ago (1970s), it an incredibly detailed piece of work worthy of a place on any History shelf.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This is Max Hastings first WWII book, published in 1979. Now a classic, it was controversial at the outset because it disputed the claims of Bomber Command and of the U. S. Army Air Force about the efficacy and costs of the bombing of Germany and Japan. Since then, Hastings has placed his stamp on other theaters of that war. Only a few more recent examples: An overview of the war with emphasis on the Eastern Front (“Inferno: the World at War, 1939-45”, see review), Operation Overlord and the mar This is Max Hastings first WWII book, published in 1979. Now a classic, it was controversial at the outset because it disputed the claims of Bomber Command and of the U. S. Army Air Force about the efficacy and costs of the bombing of Germany and Japan. Since then, Hastings has placed his stamp on other theaters of that war. Only a few more recent examples: An overview of the war with emphasis on the Eastern Front (“Inferno: the World at War, 1939-45”, see review), Operation Overlord and the march to Germany (“Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-45”, see review), the Pacific Air War over Japan (“Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45”, see review). Over the years he has continued to master the historical records and has improved both his organization and presentation. “Bomber Command” is a very good book but it is clearly a training exercise for the outstanding military historian Hastings has become. If you read Bomber Command and find it unappealing, try Hastings’ later books! British air power was an area of hot controversy in the interwar period. In WWI the airplane was essentially a tactical scouting device and the emergence of a strategic air doctrine was extremely slow, with vicious battles raging between those who saw air power—particularly the bomber—as the way to win the war, and those who saw air power as, at best, a support for ground and naval forces. Into this cauldron was dropped an intense debate among the air power devotees—should the bomber’s role be precision bombing of military targets, or should it be used to inflict high civilian casualties in the hope that the enemy would sue for peace? Should fighters be given more emphasis in the next war? What role should fighters play—mere escorts for bombers? defense? weapons to control air space? In addition to the quandary over air strategy, the Britain of 1940 was little suited to either precision bombing or urban damage. For example, the single-engine three-man Battle, a light bomber, was so slow, had such a tiny payload, was so poorly defended, and was so clumsy that it did little more than absorb the bullets of German fighters. Later bombers like the medium bombers (the Blenheims, Stirlings, etc.) were still no match for the Germans. Not until 1943 was there a heavy bomber akin to the B-17: the British Lancaster had the speed, payload, self-defense, and range required to bomb Germany. Not only did the RAF of 1940 have no suitable bombers and no air strategy, it also had no experience akin to the Lufwaffe’s experience from the Spanish Civil War. That the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain was due to a most unexpected source—the RAF’s under-resourced fighter command, used in a defensive role rather than the offensive weapons (bombers) that were the RAF’s darlings. Over time an air strategy did emerge. The bomber was at its core, first as a precision weapon, until abundant evidence showed that even when bombers did navigate to their designated targets (many didn’t) and passed through the curtain of flak and fighters (many didn’t), their bombs typically fell miles from the target. In fact, the evidence indicated that precision bombing had neither strategic nor morale value (except perhaps at the English home front). And, to boot, it was extremely expensive in blood and resources. Had that evidence been made public it would have cut the floor from under the “Bomb Germany” policy; but it was not—and did not. Thus, other alternatives, like using bombers in theaters like the Battle of the Atlantic to protect convoys, and the Meditteranean/Middle East, were neglected. Instead, the “Bomb Germany” policy continued with a shift to area bombing, intended to destroy the German will to fight. The success of bad policy in the face of counterevidence is laid largely at the doorstep of Churchill (backed by Professor Linneman, his duplicitous science advisor) and of a vigorous Bomber Command lobby: area bombing was the de facto policy while precision bombing continued as the de jure policy. In short, the government lied often and loudly about its air goals. Leadership of the area bombing effort was lodged with Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris, a man who, when chided by a policeman that his chronic speeding might kill someone, replied, “I kill hundreds every night.” A man of extremes, Harris believed that Germany could be defeated by bombing alone, and his publicity machine trumpeted that “fact.” Britain had the wrong strategy ("Bomb Germany"), the wrong resources (too many bombers and too few fighters capable of matching the Germans) and too little of everything. But the entry of the U. S. Air Forces into the European war changed the balance after 1942. The USAAF’s 8th Air Force supplemented the urban bombing campaign while American fighters—-particularly the new and very fast P51 Mustang—-took control of the skies. (In fact, an advantage of continued area bombing was that it attracted German fighters for the kill by P51s). And the 15th Air Force in Italy engaged in bombing the Balkan oil fields, to great effect. Finally the resources and the strategy were sufficient for the task. Perhaps the best lesson from Bomber Command is the difficulty of eliminating or modifying a bad policy after its adherents have become entrenched. This lesson applies, of course, to all policy issues at every level. Reviewed Books by Max Hastings: Catastrophe, 1914: Europe Goes to War Bomber Command Inferno: The World at War, 1939-45 Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-45 Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen

    Sober-minded military history as it's meant to be; this WW2-long overview of one of the Allied forces' most controversial methods of attack benefits from Hastings having interviewed many surviving RAF aircrew, who largely appear to have understood they were being sent out to slaughter by high command. The description of the aftermath of the 1944 bombing of Darmstadt brings to life the devastation of raids on the German citizens affected, and one is largely left with the impression, noble as the Sober-minded military history as it's meant to be; this WW2-long overview of one of the Allied forces' most controversial methods of attack benefits from Hastings having interviewed many surviving RAF aircrew, who largely appear to have understood they were being sent out to slaughter by high command. The description of the aftermath of the 1944 bombing of Darmstadt brings to life the devastation of raids on the German citizens affected, and one is largely left with the impression, noble as the battle against fascism was, that in Bomber Command's case the means overtook the ends (in Hastings' own words).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jesper Jorgensen

    This book will not leave you indifferent about the subject. And I strongly believe that anyone who reads it will look at the bombing of Germany with a new set of eyes, agreeing with mr. Hastings or not

  13. 5 out of 5

    Isca Silurum

    Immense bravery, weasel politicians and C in C. Churchill and Harris deserve the same level of critical thought regarding their full range of actions. Aircrew deserve nothing less than gratitude and admiration.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A gifted writer writes an evocative account of a misguided campaign. Hastings makes a convincing arugment that the British terror bombing of German cities for much of World War was more than criminal, it was bad strategy and may have prolonged the war. Bertrand "Bomber" Harris was the British general who pushed the area bombing concept even when ordered to do otherwise. This book is his indictment. Highly recommended - providing both a solid understanding of what happened and why, and a good dep A gifted writer writes an evocative account of a misguided campaign. Hastings makes a convincing arugment that the British terror bombing of German cities for much of World War was more than criminal, it was bad strategy and may have prolonged the war. Bertrand "Bomber" Harris was the British general who pushed the area bombing concept even when ordered to do otherwise. This book is his indictment. Highly recommended - providing both a solid understanding of what happened and why, and a good depiction of what life was like for the members of Bomber Command, which suffered appalling casualties.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave Parry

    This is an epic book chronicling the strategic bombing offensive from Britain during the 2nd World War; I was reading it on my Kindle a couple of years ago but this book just doesn’t suit that format & so this weekend I resumed where I’d left off with a great value hardback copy I just picked up. Here, the political & tactical decision making of Bomber Command is told with full reference to the experience of the aircrew at the sharp end; it’s extensively researched & decisions, missions & outcome This is an epic book chronicling the strategic bombing offensive from Britain during the 2nd World War; I was reading it on my Kindle a couple of years ago but this book just doesn’t suit that format & so this weekend I resumed where I’d left off with a great value hardback copy I just picked up. Here, the political & tactical decision making of Bomber Command is told with full reference to the experience of the aircrew at the sharp end; it’s extensively researched & decisions, missions & outcomes are interpreted intelligently & with proper perspective; it’s a serious book which speaks with authority. There’s a shocking account of the destruction of the ancient city of Darmstadt; a fairly straightforward, successful operation with few losses from the RAF’s point of view & a harrowing taste of hell for the ill-prepared inhabitants who suffered & died in their thousands as the city went up in a firestorm which shocked even returning German troops on leave from the fighting. I defend & talk up the commitment, capability & courage of the bomber crews whose contribution to the war has consistently been ignored & even condemned because of the nature of what they did in cities like Dresden (& Darmstadt). People sent to war who did their duty can’t really be judged for the war’s existence in the first place or the decisions of their superiors. They deserve recognition & thanks for their bravery, skill, dedication & sacrifice. This book showcases their role with extensive, graphic & sensitive descriptions of their experiences obtained from 1st hand accounts. I’ve not thought so much about the senior leadership who sent them though & this book makes it clear that although they were often convinced of a particular strategy, they disagreed with one another, were actually stumbling along in the dark, particularly in the early stages of the war & made countless mistakes, especially towards the end. The area bombing campaign went on far too long, was more costly than effective and had no moral justification in any case. That it was pursued in defiance of express orders eg to divert efforts to destroy oil supply & production & then doggedly defended at the end of, & well after the war by senior RAF commanders, undoubtedly intensified & prolonged the criticism they would likely have had coming anyway. This book is cohesive, measured, objective & well evidenced & I feel confident it’s ‘filled out’ my awareness of the issues surrounding Bomber Command & given greater balance to my otherwise often one-sided perspective.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Because I had been reading non-fiction for far too long and wanted instead to lose myself in novels I have had this book on my "to read" list for quite some time. It really is a very well-researched and well written book. I have always been intrigued about World War II and in particular aircraft, and this book covers all the major features and reasons about the myriad events that the RAF bombers were responsible for. This book reveals very much about the internal politics of the decision-making Because I had been reading non-fiction for far too long and wanted instead to lose myself in novels I have had this book on my "to read" list for quite some time. It really is a very well-researched and well written book. I have always been intrigued about World War II and in particular aircraft, and this book covers all the major features and reasons about the myriad events that the RAF bombers were responsible for. This book reveals very much about the internal politics of the decision-making and the conflicts between the major players (Army, Navy, RAF Fighter squadrons and eventually the USA as they were drawn into the war). To bomb only military targets and avoid all citizens, or to destroy cities, irrespective of the military/industrial complexes that may or may not be nearby suburbs, became the dilemma for the politicians. The life of the men who were flying (this encompasses all the crew members of a bomber) were not considered particularly important by those in authority - it was all about trying to hit targets in Germany, which for the first three years of WW2 were abysmal. Despite the poor outcomes, the British public were fed plenty of publicity and propaganda enhancing Bomber Command and and the operational squadrons. It is often said, "The first thing to be destroyed in war is truth". More than 75.000 of the bomber aircrew were killed. Until 1942 the RAF had no technology that enabled accurate bombing of targets and no real navigational assistance to locate the targets. The aircraft initially were of old design and unsuitable for the tasks involved which actually required the ability to carry effective weights over a long distance, at high altitudes and speed, plus protection for the crew with enough guns and turrets to defend the aircraft. It was not until the Lancaster bomber came into service that success was eventually achieved. A very well described history of the Bomber Command, the resultant bombing and the controversies that evolved over the duration of World War ll.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Patterson

    War history is always not easy to time -too early and you get caught up in all the bravado or despair of the result and too late and you lose the stories and experience of those who were involved. In researching and writing this book in the late 1970's, over 30 years from the event, Max Hastings probably got it just right. The personal accounts and memories of the airmen, leaders and civilians both in this country and Germany make this a very readable book and it takes account of the post-war de War history is always not easy to time -too early and you get caught up in all the bravado or despair of the result and too late and you lose the stories and experience of those who were involved. In researching and writing this book in the late 1970's, over 30 years from the event, Max Hastings probably got it just right. The personal accounts and memories of the airmen, leaders and civilians both in this country and Germany make this a very readable book and it takes account of the post-war debate about the practice of bombing residentially populated areas. Civilians of whatever nationality have always been the unfortunate innocents of wars but to deliberately target them was and still is a crime -however air commanders every since the Spanish Civil War to more recently in Iraq and Yemen have tried to justify these attacks either to damage the morale of the population or to route out the enemy who hide in built-up areas. History often reveals that all the so-called justification leads to the fact that innocents are killed because they are too easy a target. The fact that Britain (I hate the use of England which is only one part of this country) suffered such heavy losses in maintaining city bombing for most of the second world war showed that at the end of day we are no better at holding our ethics together than those we fight. Although as the writer makes it plain the those that carried it out are not the ones that can be blamed for the strategy that was followed. The fact that Bomber Command was underprepared in the capability to fight a war as were the other services at the start of the war shows how you can easily seep walk into serious conflict. The detail and personalties that have been captured make this a solid and well-written account of a leading part of this country fight for survival and seeing through the conflict however horrid the mess it left behind.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Dove

    Bomber Command looks at the strategic bombiing offensive of World War II. To this day, the policy of bombing German cities is controversial and many people consider it morally wrong. In this book, Hastings makes it clear that even duting wartime there were people who took this view. However, he also shows that up until the middle of 1944, the RAF simply did not have the technology to enable them to bomb specific targets accurately. In practice, area bombing was the only way that that Britain cou Bomber Command looks at the strategic bombiing offensive of World War II. To this day, the policy of bombing German cities is controversial and many people consider it morally wrong. In this book, Hastings makes it clear that even duting wartime there were people who took this view. However, he also shows that up until the middle of 1944, the RAF simply did not have the technology to enable them to bomb specific targets accurately. In practice, area bombing was the only way that that Britain could hit back against Nazi Germany. This book is exhaustively researched and while it emphasises the bravery of the aircrew that took part, it is also at times critical of the overall strategy and particular decisions that were made. As well as looking at the leadership of Bomber Command during the war, it also has chapters devoted to bomber squadrons and the individuals who flew with them. In one particularly memorable chapter looking at the raid on Darmstadt, Hastings also tells the stories of those Germans on the receiving end of a particularly devastating attack. An excellent book - highly recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steven Dundas

    The Summa Of the Bombing Campaign I have had this book on the shelf for years but finally decided to read it. My prejudice against the tactics employed by “Bomber Harris” through my study of the war were shown to be more correct than I could have ever dreamed or wanted them to be. The book is a must read because of how it treats the Bomber crews who suffered so much for most of the war being employed on missions that actually did little to defeat Germany, with the exception of giving Churchill a The Summa Of the Bombing Campaign I have had this book on the shelf for years but finally decided to read it. My prejudice against the tactics employed by “Bomber Harris” through my study of the war were shown to be more correct than I could have ever dreamed or wanted them to be. The book is a must read because of how it treats the Bomber crews who suffered so much for most of the war being employed on missions that actually did little to defeat Germany, with the exception of giving Churchill a good reason to resist an early ground invasion of Europe against a Wehrmacht that the Red Army had not bled white. Hastings provides a reasonable, and balanced view of the actions of Harris and Bomber Command throughout the war. It is a good book for military theorists, historians, and policy makers, and ethicists to look at today.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Romo

    A brilliant study of the RAF's Bomber Command and their campaign in World War II. Noteworthy are the intelligence failures of both Bomber Command and the U.S. Eighth Air Force. For example, the Germans could have been dealt a crushing blow had the Schwinefurt (ball-bearing) raid with another immediate raid. The British "de-housing" aspect of the bomber campaign was particularly brutal. Foe example, a map of the Darmstadt raid shows the aiming point in the middle of the residential area of the to A brilliant study of the RAF's Bomber Command and their campaign in World War II. Noteworthy are the intelligence failures of both Bomber Command and the U.S. Eighth Air Force. For example, the Germans could have been dealt a crushing blow had the Schwinefurt (ball-bearing) raid with another immediate raid. The British "de-housing" aspect of the bomber campaign was particularly brutal. Foe example, a map of the Darmstadt raid shows the aiming point in the middle of the residential area of the town! Being bombed was a horrible way to die but against the Germans it did not break their will or ability to continue the war. Comments about the American contribution and the lack of the "breaking of the enemy's morale" just further bring home this point.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    The area bombing campaign against Germany in WWII remains controversial to this day. Hastings does an excellent job of blending the stories of the aircrews with the political arguments in the UK, plus the economic and morale effect on Germany. The book also covers the development of technology, from the early days of the war when bombers struggled to even find their targets, let alone hit them, to the latter stages when bombing became a formidable and effective weapon. It's a sobering read and doe The area bombing campaign against Germany in WWII remains controversial to this day. Hastings does an excellent job of blending the stories of the aircrews with the political arguments in the UK, plus the economic and morale effect on Germany. The book also covers the development of technology, from the early days of the war when bombers struggled to even find their targets, let alone hit them, to the latter stages when bombing became a formidable and effective weapon. It's a sobering read and doesn't shy away from the harsh realities, but also recognises that the courage of those who took part is undeniable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Just finished on Audible. Very readable and quite balanced account of bomber command in WW2. It includes some excellent narrative descriptions of bombing raids from both sides viewpoints. Max Hastings argues successfully about the weakness of British bombing policy, especially the indecisiveness of area bombing. Much of this was blind faith and the arrogance of Arthur Harris, whom the detractors failed to ditch when area bombing had palpably failed. I have slightly more sympathy for those in pow Just finished on Audible. Very readable and quite balanced account of bomber command in WW2. It includes some excellent narrative descriptions of bombing raids from both sides viewpoints. Max Hastings argues successfully about the weakness of British bombing policy, especially the indecisiveness of area bombing. Much of this was blind faith and the arrogance of Arthur Harris, whom the detractors failed to ditch when area bombing had palpably failed. I have slightly more sympathy for those in power, because this had never been done before and finding evidence of effectiveness or the reverse was very difficult. But only slightly more sympathy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Adam Yoshida

    A Mixed Piece of Work I learned a fair bit from reading this, but my view is mixed overall. The portions of the book on the high direction of the campaign are interesting, but the interludes about the lives and missions of ordinary airmen are far less so. Additionally, a comprehensive history of Bomber Command should have devoted more time to technical and logistical detail as well as to considering the limitations and opportunities of strategic intelligence.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    One of Hasting's earlier books, so it lacks the wonderful balance of his later books. Here you get a bit too much quoting of original sources for my liking. Still, he paints a grim picture of the air war, and its impact on the strategic choices of the Allies. One of Hasting's earlier books, so it lacks the wonderful balance of his later books. Here you get a bit too much quoting of original sources for my liking. Still, he paints a grim picture of the air war, and its impact on the strategic choices of the Allies.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Morrison

    Having read a few books by Max Hastings now I think the thing the all have in common is that he tells the overall narrative in an understandable way, intersperses first hand account at all levels to add illustration and still presents his own analysis of the subject.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    A bit dated, but a fascinating insight. If you want to put your life into perspective - the crews had a 1:20 chance of dying and had to fly 20 missions to complete a tour...

  27. 4 out of 5

    CavyNomes

    The book started out a bit slow, but then again so did the war.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Interesting book looking not only at the operational details of the various bomber offences but also the strategic guesswork that preceded the war the moral questioning that followed it

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jake Collingwood

    A broad single-volume history that covers almost every aspect of the bomber campaign. Hastings balances the two equally important factors of historical context and contemporary hindsight superbly.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    Brilliant history!

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