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4.6 out of 5 stars98
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 25 February 2011
Not to give this 5 stars would be silly. Max H focuses on key aspects of Bomber Command--particular people, particular strategies, particular raids. But to have given full and equal coverage to everything would have taken a 3-volume 1500 page work, so please do not expect every individual raid, squadron or person, however major, to be there. He sees BC from the angle of the officers, the other ranks, the Germans and Churchill. Balance is combined with insight. The tables at the back are useful, though there is one odd one which says that the USA built fewer combat aircraft than the Germans and not many more than the British (someone should have spotted it!)
One can depend on Hastings to be humane, rational and lucid.
Excellent: the best book on the subject of its time.
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on 24 January 2010
An excellent book that tells about the lives, loves, fears and sorties of the much-maligned men of Bomber Command in WWII. It is a shame on our national psyche that there is still no official statue to these brave men whose average age was late-teens/early 20s. So many of them gave their lives to preserve our way of life today that this book should be read by everyone and there should be a national outcry for a statue.
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on 30 January 2014
It is unimagineable in today's world that a country would tolerate the incredible losses night after night, year after year that were inflicted by this man 'Bomber Harris' and his defiance of War Ministry orders. This was genocide of the highest order on both sides of the fight. With an average loss rate of between 5%-10% per night and 30 raids per 'tour', just do the maths. Chances of survival were poor and tens of thousands of Allied airmen were killed on these suicide missions. On the German side this was little more than incessant carpet bombing of civilians, hundreds of thousands of whom were killed, wounded or at very least 'de-housed'.

The book is perhaps a bit repetitive but for anyone interested in this aspect of WW2 and how the bombing raids fitted in (or not!) to the overall military strategy it is a good read.
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Max Hastings is the author of several books on WW2. To some, it was the Spitfire which was (improperly) credited with winning the War and to others it may have been Bomber Command. The Command relied heavily upon crews from many parts of the Empire (as it then was), plus a significant number from the occupied countries of Europe and smaller numbers of volunteers from elsewhere.

The motives of the Command changed from its pre-war assumption that it could accurately bomb any target to the eventual demonstration that less than 5% of overall bomb loads fell within 5 or 10km of a target. Some of its aircraft were clearly not suitable for their task but alternatives took time to design, prove and build and the most successful of the British designs were those of the Wellington and Lancaster bombers which were slow developments from lesser cousins. In addition, losses of men and machines were high, sometimes critical, but still they continued. Also changed over time was the original intention to bomb only military targets to one of strategic or area bombing. Prime victims of the later campaigns were Hamburg, Dresden and of course Berlin each of which saw extensive destruction and loss of life.

These changes in policy were controversial at the time and remain so today and the author does not attempt to minimise them. In consequence, the book is thorough, honest and sometimes uncomfortable reading. To the men who flew these missions, many of whom survived very few sorties and who knew that they were deemed expendable, we owe much to their memory. It should also be remembered that most were teenagers or under 25 years old!
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on 8 May 2009
This is truly an excellent piece of work, highly professional and well written. The whole question of whether or not Bomber Command crews should be recognised with a campaign medal has been much debated and there is no doubt that the facts tend to support the view that Bomber Command's achievements were not as worthy as those of Fighter Command. However, this book does lay the blame firmly where it belongs with the RAF and political leadership and which resulted in the most appalling crew losses. It seems unjust, therefore, that the young men who took part in those missions should bear the blame pinned on them by our political masters to-day and for which they should hang their heads in shame.

This was a highly readable and gripping book for which the author is to be congratulated. It forms a great partner book to the author's other, and equally excellent, histories of the Second World War.
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on 28 January 2013
As a budding air cadet during world war II I could identify with Max Hastings observations about aircrews generally.

Although I didn`t achieve recruitment to the R.A.F. because I was too young to volunteer, all our training was aimed at making us suitable candidates for the service we thought the best in the world. Having lost a few colleagues, who were great guys,
I was aggrieved at the way their actions were perceived in some quarters, by leading military commanders, who should have known better. I believe M.H`s book provides a balanced, enlightening, exciting, and for anyone interested in recent history, a thoroughly enjoyable book.
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on 16 December 2004
This a truly excellent book written by a man with that rare combination of historian and writer. So many historians just cannot bring a story to life but Max Hastings is an exception. I found the book more of a page turner than the thriller 'Da Vinci Code' which is written by someone who is neither writer nor historian. Bomber Command is a dispassionate appraisal of its value to the Allied victory in WW2.
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on 29 August 2013
This is a carefully-researched, well-argued history which sets out a convincing picture of what Bomber Command achieved - and failed to achieve - in WWII. It's readable, covers a wealth of personal (often harrowing) experiences and summarises key areas of strategic and tactical decision-making in a way that will make sense to someone like myself who has many gaps in knowledge and awareness of that period. Max Hastings makes his own views clear but avoids appearing dogmatic or prejudiced; he comes down fairly on all sides of the controversies that continue to blur recognition of what the war in the air meant to those involved.
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on 31 July 2015
This is a very good account of.Bomber Command in the war, and as with all.Max Hastings' books you learn a whole load that you didn't know, even if you thought you knew the period.well. Catastrophe was superb in that regard.

I withhold one star because I thought the book concentrated overly on the mass of heavy bombers and on the moral question of area bombing. I.would have liked to hear about possible.alternatives. e.g. a massive expansion of the mosquito program or.the elite bomber units.

Hastings' thesis is that the heavy bomber campaign was an.incredibly expensive war of.attrition which did not hurt the Germans mortally. But at that it was preferable.to other campaigns of.attrition which would have cost much more.in lives. Whatever Churchill had decided to.pour his industrial and technical effort into, the Germans would have responded and some kind of attrition would have ensued. They weren't going to give in.

As for.the moral.element, the question answers itself. The Japanese on Chungking and then the Germans began the war of area.bombing. The Americans finished it, killing 84000 in.a single raid.on.Tokyo, before.we.consider.the A bombs. One of.the unspoken reasons for the area bombing campaign against Germany was that the Brits knew the Blitz had pushed civilian.morale to.the brink. After 71 consecutive nights of.raids on london, in 1940/41 and absolutely barbaric behaviour of the Germans in Occupied Europe, why on earth should London forbear to "dish it out"?

Another I interesting point of.Hastings is that rationing and the way of.life in Germany was relatively normal compared.to the uk. The UK aS at full stretch while.the Germans.had it easy. Why? Hastings does.not answer.this, but the truth is that the Nazis were a plundering force,looting from all those countries and importing millions as slave workers. This makes a difference. Were the RAF to hit every productive factory in Europe? Or were.they to.punish the complacent Germans, all of.whose wArs since 1870 had been fought at the expense of.other nations, on other people's fields and towns.and cities?

This.is.a greAt book though. I heartily recommend.
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on 4 July 2014
Max Hastings has a high reputation so I was disappointed with this version of WWII Bomber Command. Hastings starts out with a very biased view of the rights and wrongs of a bombing campaign and a dislike of the class system that was the way of life in Britain before he was born. Seen with modern eyes, both bombing and class can be seen as wrong and Hastings set out to prove his bias is correct. This he does to the detriment of the many thousands of bomber command personnel who gave their lives in what was a war between right and wrong and between nations, not between armies. Hindsight is a very powerful tool. Hastings uses hindsight to condemn. I agree that many operations that took place to the end of the war were overkill but that is with the view of hindsight. However, at the time, those directing operations or taking part did not know the war was coming to an end. They might have hoped that was the case but with an enemy still fighting and friends still dying, the war still needed to be fought.
The facts reported in the book are backed by evidence so that makes the book a good record. However, the views that are those of Hastings are squeezed in as though they are also backed by evidence. They are not and it is this that makes the conclusions of this book to be suspect. By all means, read this book as a record of events but balance it by reading other Bomber Command records.
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