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4.6 out of 5 stars89
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 July 2015
Could n't put it down and read it at a sitting. Chapters alternate between strategy and well researched history , and more personal stories of the crews involved in the second world war. Until reading this I did not really appreciate just how dangerous the life of a bomber crew in WW2 was, and how poor the odds were of completing a tour of 20 missions. The courage it took to fly these missions with a good idea of the poor odds was huge. I suspect now that WW2 is 70 year old history few young people are aware the huge debt they, and probably the whole of the free world, owes to these heroes along with those of fighter command. Nazism was in my opinion the blackest episode of human history but eventually our airmen together with our other forces and the huge sacrifices made by the Russian people (after a poor start).plus American capability meant that it was defeated ,but it was a close run thing and without our airmen would have been closer still. Strategically and morally Bomber Harris does not come out of the story that well but considered in the knowledge and atmosphere of the time I would not criticise him that harshly. His crews , the majority of which died before 25, come out very very well by any standards.A fascinating story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2010
As usual Max Hastings provides a superb explanation of the role of Bomber Command during WWII. Highly recommended read as are all his other similar books. Have recently also read 'Overlord' about the D-Day invasion. He tells it warts and all, there were many failings in battles and by RAF commanders. He also explains why 'Bomber Harris' acted the way he did. If you are interested in this period of history do read this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2012
After Dresden, the story of Bomber Command slipped into the shadows. In hindsight, it is clear that Air Marshal Harris was wrong in his strategic analysis. He failed to understand the need to win the Battle of the Atlantic and nourished an absurd hostility to the Navy that needed long range aircraft to deal with the U-boats. The relentless bombing of Germany did not break Germany. What this book does, among other things, is to contrast the incredible courage of the young men who flew the aircraft, more than 55 thousand of whom never came back, with the obstinacy of a commander who preferred not see beyond his own narrow field of vision. Not a comfortable book to read, but one which needed to be written - and read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2012
Well balanced and enjoyable.
Hastings highlights the detachment of those of the High Command from the effects of their decisions both on crews and the enemy.
'Bomber Harris' is shown to be a driven and single-minded, if slightly flawed character who is driven to beat the opposition by the best means at his disposal when the country had very little else it could do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2015
An incredible read, with accounts from people of the time - airmen and other combatants, as well as civilians, from both sides of the conflict bring the whole sorry saga of war to life for the reader. The death and destruction inflicted on all sides is catastrophic, but the bravery and sacrifice of our airmen is also very well depicted. A great read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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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on 10 August 2014
Excellent on the British top brass and how the war developed for BC. He is unequivocal in his criticism of Bomber Harris and the higher commands who tolerated his single minded disobedience-sad that the one major blemish of the Allies' conduct of the war was effectively the result of one man's intransigence.
There is very little, or rather not enough, about the USAAF contribution (though that is not the subject of the book) or about the German hardware and aircraft, or even much detailed description of how the electronic aids to navigation actually worked. You need to read other authors to get the full picture.
There is also little on the gung-ho stuff like the Dam Busters and tallboy bombs-but the book is much the better for that. It shows the grinding reality and the sheer waste of life and effort, by both protagonists, rather than the stiff upper lip heroism of postwar fiction.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2001
Max Hastings has delivered both a factual and moving account of what the war did to the RAF as well as what the RAF did to the war. The anecodotes are well placed and well observed eg the bomber crew which got lost in an electrical storm and bombed London by mistake. The bravery of the men involved in the whole bomber war is too often forgotten. I disagree with some of his doubts about what they/we did. That does not detract from the achievement of Max Hastings book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2012
Compulsive reading, gives an excellant review of the hidden strategies that made that made the headlines, unpalatable though many of them were when reviewed historically.
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on 9 January 2014
I grew up with the "official" history of the bomber war, and the feeling that Bomber Harris had been badly treated. This exhaustive analysis of the campaign I found to be very balanced, while it didn't destroy Harris' reputation, it painted him, and his political and military colleagues as human, fallible, and with very few realistic choices available to them. I have not yet finished reading the book, but I have enjoyed every page so far. It is a definite "thinking machine"!
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