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An Interesting Account Of The Air War Over Germany
on March 14, 2014
Author Richard Overy has written an extremely thorough and detailed work about the Allied bombing effort over Europe in World War II. Although I hear that this edition is somewhat shorter than the one published in the U.K., I still found "The Bombers And The Bombed" to be an informative source about the air war in Europe.
Rather than focusing on accounts of individual raids, Overy's approach was to look at the bombing campaign as a whole and focus on the effects to industry, the Axis war effort, and civilians. At the beginning of the war, both sides tried to be scrupulous in their bombing, avoiding civilians at all costs. This proved to be almost impossible. As the war progressed, both sides quickly abandoned this strategy, first at the Battle of Britain, and then as the Americans and British began their attacks on Germany and the occupied countries.
The British favored the concept of "area bombing", which showed little regard for civilians, while the American 8th air force concentrated on daylight precision bombing of military targets. However, the American tactics still resulted in civilian casualties due to bad weather, poor aiming, and other factors.
The occupied countries of France, Italy, and the Low Countries suffered greatly as well as the Allied bombers strove to destroy German industry being used in these areas. Civilians suffered greatly as "friendly" bombs fell on their homes and places of work.
Overy's work does a fine job of explaining the concept of strategic bombing along with the concept of humanity. Was it "humane" to bomb cities in the hopes of destroying enemy factories, or was it inhuman due to the large number of civilian casualties? Some call the civilian casualties the cost of total war, while others have seen them as unnecessary. Overy describes both points of view in his book.
I highly recommend "The Bombers And The Bombed". Granted, this edition may be shorter than the original, but it still does a fine job of tackling the concept of strategic bombing and civilian casualties.