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Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden Hardcover – November 28, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679435344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679435341
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

De Bruhl puts his experience as a book editor to good use in this narrative of the still-controversial bombing of Dresden in 1945. Making comprehensive, sophisticated use of archival records and published sources, De Bruhl reminds readers that although Dresden's museums, churches and porcelain factories made it one of Germany's loveliest cities, there was still a war on when Allied bombers targeted the manufacturing and communications center for the Nazi war machine. Recognizing what he calls "the fatal escalation" of the air war against German civilians, De Bruhl also demonstrates the time, effort and blood it cost to establish air superiority over Germany. He establishes the determination of the Third Reich's leaders to continue the war at all costs—a demand the German people accepted. He also examines the often-overlooked V-Weapons campaign mounted against Britain in June 1944, which silenced those Britons who questioned mass bombing of civilians. Certainly neither the British nor the American air forces had any compunction at mounting the raid De Bruhl describes as "theory put into flawless practice." When the last bombers left, Dresden was no longer a major producer of armaments. In a war begun by Germany, that was—and is—the bottom line. (Dec. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A comparison of Frederick Taylor's Dresden (2004) to this new history reveals the benefits of acquiring both titles. Dresden, Taylor makes plain, the city synonymous with -baroque music and architecture, was also a city of ardent Nazis and arms factories. Taylor, a specialist on the Nazi period, is better at depicting the city's political and military attributes, which defenders of the air raids seize upon. De Bruhl proves to be strong on the Anglo-American strategy of strategic bombing in World War II, personified by Arthur "Bomber" Harris, commander of the British effort. Harris did not have scruples about solving the inaccuracy of their airpower by bombing the whole area. De Bruhl underscores that Harris was not a loose cannon, and casts the actual Dresden attack as a culmination of the air war. One of WWII's most controversial military actions, Dresden and the debate about it can't be grasped without considering the arguments of both titles. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Marshall De Bruhl was for many years an editor and executive with several major publishing houses, specializing in history and biography, most notably as editor of and contributor to the "Dictionary of American History" and the "Dictionary of American Biography." He is the author of "The River Sea: The Amazon in History, Myth, and Legend" (Counterpoint): "Firestorm: Allied Air Power and the Destruction of Dresden" (Random House); "Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston" (Random House); and the co-compiler of "The International Thesaurus of Quotations" (HarperCollins. He lives in Asheville, N. C.

Customer Reviews

I admit I am only half way through the book but I know I will enjoy it to the last page.
Stephen V. Morrison
"Don't get me wrong; it was horrifying and the most awful thing to do, but it was legitimate."
Stephen Frater
Much hue and cry is made about whether Dresden was a valid target for allied bombing raids.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joe Minnock on March 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Although the title suggests the book focuses on Dresden, this is a more complete story of air power in the European Theater of Operations. The work focuses on the strategy behind the bombing and treats the criticism of area bombing on Dresden and other cities in a fairly balanced way. Perhaps I've been ignorant or the issue has escaped full treatment, but the political firestorm arising in 1945, even within the United States, from the area bombing of cities and, in particular, the American follow-up attack on Dresden, was previously unknown to me. Unlike Ambrose's book about George McGovern and other air war books, Firestorm does not focus on the day to day lives of the pilots but is more focused with larger geopolitical issues.

My sole criticism of the work is that it is written from topic to topic rather than chronologically. As a result, it is difficult to keep in mind the timetable of which country, the Americans or British, are bombing who when and this detracts somewhat from an understanding of the course of the air war. With this one reservation, a good work about a controversial topic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book summarizes the history of Dresden and recounts its role during WWII. Besides describing the February 1945 bombing, it includes survivors' accounts. The reader may be surprised to learn that Dresden was much more than a cultural city. There were no less than 110 military targets in Dresden. (p. 281). Finally, unlike most other books on this subject, this one provides details on the decades-long rebuilding of this city, including the reconstruction of historic buildings that had taken place only since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

De Bruhl seems to be a little inconsistent in his citing of casualty figures. Thus, he cites 600,000 German civilians killed by Allied bombing in total (p. 47), which is an upper limit. On the other hand, he endorses the 35,000 figure--a minimum estimate--for the number of Dresden civilians killed in the February 1945 raids. (p. 273).

There has been a long debate on the efficacy of strategic bombing versus that of area bombing. (p. 151). The author makes it clear just how ineffective strategic bombing really was. British Bomber command estimated that 50-75% of bombs were not even hitting the intended city! American strategic bombers, in 1943, dropped their bombs within 1,000 feet of the intended target only 14% of the time. At war's end, this improved to about 44%, while 73% fell within 2,000 feet of the desired aiming point. (p. 143).

Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris was essentially copying German methods of bombing when he chose to use area bombing as his main strategy. (p. 40). [The author could have mentioned the fact that the Germans were already using massive high-explosive and incendiary bombing of civilian areas in their 1939 conquest of Poland. As for the accusations of Allied bombers strafing German civilians (p.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dallas Rider on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long wondered why he icy of Dresden was bombed so extensively as it was especially so close to the end of the war . Unfortunately they did build more than good porcelain & paid a very heavy price for that. The seller provided in record time & in excellent condition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Triband on July 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very fine review of the events leading to the destruction of Dresden. The book gives a good background on the air crafts and crews of the British and American bombers which took the war to the Nazis. It gave a very detail agony on the allies' attitude toward retaliatory bombing of civilian targets in Germany which lead to the horrors suffered by the countless women and children of this war torn city.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on June 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is often discussed in argument as if it were a deeply researched major contribution to the discussion about Allied terror bombing in WWII. It isn't. It is a very popular book that uses the subject of Dresden to draw the reader through discussions about bombing strategy among American and British military leaders in the leadup to WWII and during the war itself and Germans responses to them.

Nothing new is added compared to more serious discussions of bombing and Dresden such as Frederick Taylor's _Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945_ or the great study of the impact of the boming politically, culturally, and in human terms _The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945_ by Jörg Friedrich. These two books are where anyone seeking a serious study of the meaning of the bombing and the history should start, with Friedrich's book being a literary masterpiece as well.

Yet, this book is well written as an easy quick read. I finished it in a day. His interest seems to be on the cynicism and hypocrisy of Churchill and leaders of the USAAF in their later denial of terror bombing. He spends very little time discussing the impact of the bombing on Dresden and the world, although he does include a few good eye witness memories from German sources. His coverage of the post-war controversy is completely abbreviated except insofar as he documents how Irving's extravagent claim have been exposed as fraud.

Probably the most interesting and repeated contribution this book makes to the discussion that it argues that the bombing was a part of the normal political-military strategy of the USSR, Britain, and the US and justified by military strategy rather than some special act aimed at the USSR.
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