Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of The Bombers and The Bombed by Richard Overy (Penguin, 2014)

Prior to the Second World War there was a believe, especially amongst the air forces of the various belligerents, that bombing could determine the outcome of wars, curtailing land campaigns. The subtitle of this book is ‘Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945’ and it focuses on the Western allies attempts to test this hypothesis, charting the bombing campaigns over Germany in particular, its Axis partners, and occupied countries such as France and the Netherlands from the perspective of the bombers and those who were bombed. To a large degree it is academic in its approach, setting out a rather dry and dispassionate account based on the historical archive of documentary evidence, presenting events at a distance and with memos and statistics rather than personalities and experiences. Overy argues that the bombing campaign not only did not achieve its aims, but cost more in lives and material than it gained in strategic and tactical advances. That is not to say that the bombing campaign had no effect – it certainly led to much destruction, lives lost, disruption, and some influence on the distribution of resources, but rather than collapsing morale it often reinforced resolve and it had little impact on industrial production until near the war’s end.  While the book provides a broad overview of the politics and practice of bombing, from both Allied and Axis perspective, it gives little sense of the key people involved who are rather one-dimensional, or the experiences of those undertaking bombing raids or being bombed. Moreover, it provides very little coverage of the Eastern front and that of the third major allied party, Russia. I was expecting the book to circle round to a wider systemic analysis of the effects and ethics of bombing at the conclusion, but that didn’t materialise. Overall, an interesting read concerning the politics and effects of a bombing campaign.

No comments: