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Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945 Paperback – July 6, 2010
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Very briefly, the British bombing plan was to carpet bomb entire German cities into rubble, causing as much destruction and death as possible. The announced intention was to destroy the morale of the German people.
The American Strategic Air Forces plan was one of daylight precision bombing attacks on military targets such as aircraft factories, manufacturing facilities, oil installations and transportation hubs, all in order to eliminate the German ability to continue the war.
I will not presume to re-tell Mr. Hansen's story here. That would not do justice to the research he did into his subject or to the masterful presentation of the facts leading to his conclusion. That conclusion seemed evident to me, but it may be controversial to some.
There is not a dull page in this book; it is fascinating for any fan of WWII history. Facts are clearly presented, and conclusions clearly drawn. In the 297 pages ( photos, also) great battles are fought over Germany, and between the Allies, indeed, within the British command structure itself.
I bought the book a few years ago, but I am sorry I waited so long to read it. If you are at all interested in the air war in Europe, read it.
Fascinating, worthwhile, recommended.
Argues fairly forcefully that the American campaign, which emphasized daytime , more precision bombing, was on the whole both more effective and more "moral" than the British campaigns , which emphasized night time bombings and more civilian targets than the Americans.
At this time, radar was just developed and couldn't produce the results of the gps guided smart bombs of today, so day time bombing would be expected to be more precise, which is what the Americans argued. However, it also made them more visible to German fighter pilots , and casualties were higher, with sometimes 50% or even higher casualty rates among US bomber crews on some missions. British sorties were preimarily at night , and didn't suffer the same casualty rates as the Americans, but there results as far as achieving target destruction weren't as good either.
So by the end, the author concludes that overall, the American campaigns of daylight, precision targeting of primarily military targets had more effect on destroying German fighting capability than the British emphasis on night time, civilian targeted campaign.
The author also makes the observation that when it came to Japan, the Americans threw out what they had learned in Europe, and regularly bombed Japanese civilian targets, led by Gen Curtis LeMay. The complete annihilation of over 60 Japanese cities by conventional and, more notably, by fire bombing, resulted in almost 1,000,000 civilian dead, not including the nearly 230,000 deaths by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Tokyo fire bombing raids of March 1945 killed over 140,000 civilians alone.Curtis LeMay himself remarked after the war that if the US had lost the war, he would be found guilty of war crimes. This kind of scorched earth bombing strategy marked a notable difference between the American campaigns in Europe and Japan, and was continued as the primary military strategy through the Korean war and later, Vietnam.
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There was actually little precision bombing in World War Two; it wasn't actually developed until the 1980s. Dropping 100 bombs on oil and rail targets often meant one did damage and ninty-nine did collateral. To argue that American bombing was clean because they did not intend to kill civilians when knowing that many thousand innocents were killed as side-effect is misleading. To be truly moral, every effort should be made to increase accuracy with new techniques and equipment or perhaps bombing from lower attitudes and accepting increased casualties. It was the British special duties squadrons which pioneered the most accurate bombing. Max Hastings argued that Harris should have been replaced with Cochrane in 1944. It was Cochrane's 5 Group which should have been the model for both air forces. To portray the Americans as off-white and the British as near black is misleading when really the Americans were mid-grey and the British somewhat darker.
Hansen is right in attributing the defeat of the German fighter force to the 8th Air Force - perhaps he could have mentioned this was only possible because the Mustang was expeditously re-engined with the RR Merlin. A British air marshal had a lot to do with that.
I am doubtful about Hansen's claim that during the war Harris and his aircrew were psychologically close. It is true that on the few occassions that Harris visited the frontline, there is evidence of positive responses; but my research indicates that during the war Harris's image was the focus of complaint and cynicism. It was said then that he luxuriated in a posh London hotel and picked targets by throwing darts at a map. Aircrew generally thought very little about elite personalities; they perhaps thought more about flight and squadron commanders, even more about Glen Miller, but also can be seen as inner-directed, obeying battle orders pinned on the ops noticeboard. I would argue that bonds between Harris and organised bomber veterans developed after the war, when both were on the defensive over criticism of city bombing.
Hansen does a good job in presenting the case for the prosecution against Harris and Churchill. Putting responsibility for deaths of innocents as 75% British and 25% American is an estimate but fair comment. For a better overall and deeply considered understanding of the bomber war in Europe we need Richard Overy's long book The Bombing War. He concluded that it became easier and easier as the war developed to justify killing civilians; and that includes the Americans with their Operation Thunderclap and Operation Clarion activities in 1945; and we should be very aware that many non-German civilians were killed by allied bombs. Overy put his final estimate civilian deaths as nearer 400,000, compared to Hansen;s 600,000, but drew attention to the 55,000 French civilian deaths for instance. Bombing was nearly always expensive, crude and ugly. The strategic bomber, British and American, was a poor investment.
Gut zu lesen, viele Anekdoten aus deutscher und alliierter Seite. Hat mir sehr gefallen. Die Fotos sind allerdings alle altbekannt, Karten und Tabelen etc sind ebenso wenig vorhanden wie genaue Zahlenwerke.
I was borne in 1949 in east Germany, my family escaped to west Berlin around 1952 and then immigrated to Canada in 1954. I do remember the burnt out buildings and destruction but at that age I never understood it.
I do remember starting school in Calgary and at times feeling hated and at the same time feeling ashamed because I was German. I did change my name from Heinz to Seann when I was 27.
I am not ashamed to be a German today.
Die Gegenüberstellung der Ansichten der Engländer und Amerikaner über den Sinn ihrer verschiedenen Sichtweisen wird sehr objektiv dargestellt.
Das Buch ist, auch was die Vorgänge in Deutschland betrifft, sehr detail- und kenntnisreich geschrieben.
Wie der Angriff auf uns im April 1945 noch nachwirkte, merkte ich vor ein paar Monaten, als im Traum wieder Bomber anflogen und ich hoffte, sie würden sich ein anderes Ziel suchen.
Auf das Buch mit diesem Titel bin ich natürlich gestoßen, weil ich das Buch von Wolff gleichen Titels erwerben wollte.
Bitte dieses Buch nicht verwechseln mit dem Buch gleichen Titels, das sich mit den Eskapaden Donald Trumps beschäftigt.
Für den interessierten Laien ist "Fire and Fury" ein ausgesprochen guter Überblick über den Luftkrieg im zweiten Weltkrieg über Europa. Randall Hansen versteht es hervorragend, die strategische Perspektive und ihre Protagonisten mit Einzelschicksalen, sowohl von Bomberbesatzungen als auch von Zivilisten am Boden zu verknüpfen, so dass sich ein guter Lesefluss durch das gesamte Buch ergibt. Langeweile, die man bei Historikern eventuell befürchtet, kam hier nicht auf.
Spannend ist v.a. der Einblick in den inneralliierten Konflikt zwischen Amerikanern und Briten, ob Präzisionsangriffen auf militärisch/wirtschaftlich relevante Ziele am Tag oder aber Nachtangriffen auf Städte der Vorzug gegeben werden sollte. Hansen bezieht bei seiner Beurteilung dieser Strategien mit aus meiner Perspektive schlüssigen Begründungen recht eindeutig Position, so dass Fire and Fury gleichzeitig auch eine mächtige Kritik an Arthur "Bomber" Harris darstellt.