1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
As a military history enthusiast I read this book with a real pleasure and I recommend it to anybody interested in WWII.
Author made a very thourough research on the topic and wrote the book in a very accessible and pleasant to read but still very rigourous and professional style. The story of creation of Peenemunde research center, of its internal organisation and of the progress on V-1 and V-2 programs until 1943 is described in detail, as is the intelligence gathering by the British (some of it provided by Polish underground Home Army) and the planification of this very long range and difficult bombing operation. This raid was even more daring, when one considers that many of the bombers were still the relatively old Halifaxes and Stirlings! The description of the raid itself is EXCELLENT! By moments I almost felt as if I was in the cockpit of one of RAF bombers! Luftwaffe's reaction is also described in detail and it is a very surprising story which you desserve to discover yourself...
Once the book started to describe the effects of the bombardment as perceived by those who were at the receiving end, the reading became for me very personnal, because my maternal grandfather was one of Polish slave laborers rounded by the Nazis in 1942 and he found himself deported to the concentration camp desserving Peenemunde - and he saw the raid up close and personally... As you are maybe aware, because of an error of targeting (quite frequent in night operations in those times) RAF bombers flattened not only the research center itself, but also the adjacent camp of slave laborers (mostly Polish deportees). Hundreds of the latter were killed, as the camp, for obvious reasons, didn't have any bomb shelters for the prisoners... My grandfather was amongst the lucky survivors (and he ultimately also survived the war), but as long as he lived he never forgot that night.
Author describes in great detail the results of the raid, which were ultimately lesser than expected. The controversial issues of numbers of civilian victims (mostly Polish slave laborers) and of the supposed strafing of fleeing German women by gunners in British bombers are not avoided - to the contrary.
In conclusion, from the first to the last page, I found this book extremely well written, very honest in its description and analysis of events and I believe it is the best position on the market on this important operation.
Martin Middlebrook is an excellent military historian. His Bomber Command War Diaries is a must-have for anyone serious about researching Bomber Command operations in World War II.
This book details the history of the only precision bombing mission carried out by Bomber Command en masse. There were precision raids before and after this one, notably the ones involving Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs, like the raid on the Tirpitz, but those involved a few squadrons at the most. This raid was much more extensive.
Middlebrook wrote this book 30 years ago and makes reference to Irving's 'Mares Nest' which was the previous standard work on the topic, although the latter's book had a wider scope and was more political. In 1981, there were plenty of survivors of the raid, as the bombers and the bombed were mainly in their 20s, so Middlebrook benefits from living witnesses. The site itself, being in communist East Germany, was inaccessible/ The first-hand accounts and technical detail of the raid complement each other well.
The raid itself was a partial success. It delayed deployment of the V2 until after the Germans were kicked out of France instead of having this new form of artillery available when the Battle of Normandy was in the balance. This meant that it could not be used to attack the major ports of Southern England which were being used to supply the invasion. It was also the tipping point for another of Goering's subordinates, Hans Jeshonnek, who shot himself rather than face his boss's wrath.
If you want to know more about the raid than you find in the Wikipedia article, this book is for you.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2000
Making heavy use of original interview material, Middlebrook's style in the telling of this story will be familiar to those who have read his other books, e.g. The Nuremburg Raid, or those on WWI by Lyn Macdonald. I found I wanted more from the book than the wordy, unironic narrative style allowed and came to regard the author as something of a 'trainspotting' historian, the word 'interesting' appearing a little too often. Nonetheless, the book paints a vivid and grim picture of a single raid to destroy the German rocket development plant. For a modern analysis of RAF Bomber Command's actions and development in WWII I recommend 'Bomber Command' by Max Hastings.