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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.
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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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.Read more ›
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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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This book is indeed a good read. One gets a fairly detailed overview of the philosophy of the people behind the bombing of Dresden. As someone new to the ideas of the Air commanders in World War II, this book provided an important primer for my interests. De Bruhl demonstrates the idea that the "bomber will always go through" as the first of the fanciful thought envisioned by the air commanders of the Great War. Men like Arthur Harris, Carl Spaatz, and Charles Portal attempted to make the bomber the force that would win the next war. Indeed, they felt that they could win the war in Europe by making the German cities into rubble. Of course, they never took into consideration the fact that the British never buckled under the bombs of the Nazis. Indeed the Germans did not capitulate to the Allies as a result of the bombing campaign, and the war was probably only shortened by the effects of Allied strategic bombing.
Much hue and cry is made about whether Dresden was a valid target for allied bombing raids. De Bruhl concludes that indeed the city was a valid target. Indeed the city was an important communications hub for the ever shrinking Reich. Communications and rail hubs are indeed valid targets, and the effect of bombing on those targets is moot, because they had a limited effect all the way through to the end of the war in all cities. The complaint is not useful to say that Dresden was not an important military target, indeed by 1945 it was one of the most important German cities. The cities of Germany had all nearly been destroyed in detail by the Reich. The question is to the severity of the raid. I think Harris and the others involved thought that by making one big push at that date, they could stop the Germans from fighting.Read more ›