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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Boy
This is by any standards a big book, and would still be big if we ignored the many many pages of notes and sources. It is never therefore going to appeal to the casual reader. However, as a non-propeller head I found it excellent at setting the position for the various parties. The bombing war brings out strong opinions and Overy's book reinforces Wedgwood's view that...
Published 8 months ago by Charles Vasey

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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going but informative
A very thorough analysis of the bombing war in world war 2. Really shows the actual horrors, benefits and impact of what a bombing campaign can do.

Not light reading at all, if you have any interest in this sort of thing you can look no further.
Published 9 months ago by khisanth


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Boy, 27 Nov 2013
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This is by any standards a big book, and would still be big if we ignored the many many pages of notes and sources. It is never therefore going to appeal to the casual reader. However, as a non-propeller head I found it excellent at setting the position for the various parties. The bombing war brings out strong opinions and Overy's book reinforces Wedgwood's view that "History is lived forwards but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we can consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was to know the beginning only.". One soon grasps that so much in war consists of guessing. The Germans guessed wrongly in the Battle of Britain and the Allies did so during the bombing; all based on worthy attempts at getting the correct data of course. Only when the war was over could we peek behind the curtain and see the views of the Germans as to what did or did not work. One makes war as one can, not as one should as Kitchener used to say to me.

This is a long book but it argues its case closely and I enjoyed it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 20 Nov 2013
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John M "JM" (Cardiff, Wales UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945 (Kindle Edition)
This is an excellent account of the bombing carried out by all players in WW2, covering much more than the raids and the damage. Balanced, thorough, comprehensive, and a fascinating and compelling read. Highly recommended.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding survey of the WWII bombing campaigns, 5 Oct 2013
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I've read some other histories by Overy, so had high expectations of this. Overy has created an extensive, although highly readable, account of bombing during the second world war. It opens with how bombing became a tool of war and the fears expressed in the interwar years. Many believed that the bombing of civilians would lead inexorably to the collapse of society. We know this didn't happen and, it's possible that even *with* the information they had at the time, people were scaremongering a little. All that notwithstanding, strategic bombing rightly still held terror for civilian populations.

After this, the book focuses on the effects on civilian populations in Britain, Germany France and, gratifyingly, the Soviet Union. Not wishing to diminish the experience of people in this country, but the effect of the war on the people of the USSR was huge and is a story I don't feel we hear often enough.

There's much to unpack in this book. For example, he discusses how strategic bombing wasn't all that effective and is too damaging to people's lives. There is also the fact that - especially at that time - it was very difficult to properly aim bombs, making the chances of even meeting the stated objectives.

There are hundreds of pages here, so the survey is comprehensive. It is also well referenced and noted (a significant portion of this intimidating book is the notes at the end!)

This is a highly recommended book. If you have any interest in the subject, this is worth looking at.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars get ready for a long haul!, 28 Nov 2013
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D. Thurgood "dan.tee" (Liverpool Uk) - See all my reviews
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This is a heavyweight book, no doubt about it. It's long. Very long. Is it worth it? Definitely. Superbly researched and written, this will become the final word on the bombing of Europe in the Second World War. Covering the politics of both the Allies and the Axis, in great detail, it leaves no stone unturned. Overy has not only done his own homework, he's done enough to keep several PhDs happy too. An incredible effort that is to be commended. If war history is your thing, this is the book for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Right on Target, 31 Dec 2013
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I doubt if there has been a more detailed insight into this aspect of World War II. Details of civil defence measures are perhaps a touch overplayed but interesting nonetheless. The chapters on the offensive against Italy are particularly interesting
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars understanding the bombing war, 2 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945 (Kindle Edition)
Richard Overy answers two key questions: what were the strategic effects of bombing; and was it moral?

Overy says answers to these questions have generated much heat but have relied on a shallow base of evidence. He sets out to give the first full account of the bombing war in Europe 1939 to 1945 (not just in the UK and Germany). His research is impeccable, and he is able, as a result of detailed evidence, to come up with a fresh picture.

Bombing in Europe, he says, was never a war-winning strategy and the other services knew it. British Bomber Command wanted to prove its worth as an independent force, but lacking the technology for accurate bombing fell to area-bombing of cities in the belief that given sufficient damage to structures and people Germany would surrender without the need for an army invasion. This aim failed.

Overy also explores how the concept of 'total war' gradually gave acceptance to the deliberate large-scale killing of civilians who were now seen as in the 'front line'.

As a young child I can recall sitting in an Anderson shelter at night hearing the drone of bombers overhead who (it turned out) were on their way to bomb Coventry. We saw the sky lit up with fires. Later, I can recall how the BBC radio news reported the launching of RAF '1000-bomber' raids, with a degree of satisfaction it seemed to me. My young friend's brother was killed - he was a rear gunner in a Lancaster.

This book has allowed me to see the bombing war in a balanced light. Bombing aside, if you have any interest in the Second World War you must read this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb history, 29 July 2013
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S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I can't pretend to expertise in this area, but I found this book a really interesting read, despite its potentially intimidating dimensions. (For me, the greatest problem with the book was that like most proof copies, this lacked the index and, more importantly from my perspective, maps to clarify geographical issues and some detail reflecting patterns of bombing: these will obviously be in place in the first full printing.)

The book comprises three main sections: 1 Germany's Bombing War; 2 "The Greatest Battle": Allied Bombers over Europe; 3 "The Greatest Miscalculation?"

Overy explores all aspects of the issue from the logistical, tactical, political to the moral, philosophical and effectiveness points of view, the latter throwing up some particularly striking surprises. Chapter 7, 'The Logic of Total War: German Society under the Bombs', shows just how effectively German society weathered the years' long aerial onslaught until the latter weeks of the war when Allied troops were on the soil of Germany: we Brits understandably hug ourselves proudly regarding indomitable spirit, but this chapter shows that quality not to have been our monopoly, though admittedly German society had the iron grip of a totalitarian state to encourage resilience. He also teases out the erosion of moral principals in the face of practical necessity and an increasing belief in the overwhelming effectiveness of bombing: this in even the most liberal of democracies.

The final section is, for me, perhaps the most interesting, which is as it should be in a well-written and constructed book: the threads are drawn together and conclusions explored. Nonetheless, it remains chastening, within the context of national mythology and my own childhood in the early fifties with its extended memory of our finest hours, to read that "'strategic bombing had not won the war'. On the most favourable account it had simply eased the path of the ground troops," and that "German statistics showed that war output grew dramatically under the pressure of Germany's many military commitments, even while the bombing became heavier and heavier". (However, it has struck me that we have no statistics to show what German output might have been without the bombing campaign!)

Recommended to the general reader very strongly: academic historians may, of course, have a different perspective!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly overview of bombing in Europe during WW2, 10 Sep 2013
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Tim62 "history buff" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Richard Overy is to be congratulated on producing a work that is sure to become the standard overview of bombing in WW2. For too long studies of bombing in English have largely been limited to the impact of the Luftwaffe on Britain, or the bombing of German cities by RAF's Bomber Command and the USAAF.

For instance, The bombing of Italy and France both saw roughly the same number of civilians killed as were killed by the Luftwaffe in their bombing of Britain, but only recently have we had a study on this in English - Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945 by Claudia Baldoli and Andrew Knapp. Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945

I did not know until now that Italy received some 370,000 tons of bombs, nearly five times the total dropped on Britain by the Luftwaffe, while France received over 570,000, nearly eight times the British figure. In each country, over 55,000 civilians died.

And as for trying to find anything on the bombing of Soviet cities by the Luftwaffe, or the bombing of other European countries during WW2 - there has been almost nothing in English.

There is of course nothing wrong in looking at the above topics in isolation - but if one truly wants to grasp why European states undertook to bomb each other in the way they did between 1939-45, what air defence precautions states took in the 1930s, and how the bombed societies survived - then this is the book for you.

What is fascinating is how societies, even liberal democracies which had signed up to various pledges to place some limits the impact of bombing, quickly overcame their moral scruples in the furnace of total war, and moved to a position of moral expediency where the end justified the means. A truly important study.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive, 29 Mar 2014
Richard Overy's book is the definitive account of the various bombing campaigns of the Second World War and is likely to remain so for a long time.
It's a serious academic book (although very well written) and some of the detail of the bombing of the Balkans, for example, may encourage the casual reader to skip; but that would be a shame. The book is firmly based on documentary sources (the author seems to have read everything) and its account of the various campaigns, as well as its judgements, seem hard to do better.
Two conclusions stand out from the mass of carefully-marshalled detail. One is that bombing uniformly failed in what it was intended to do, whether that was economic dislocation or simply killing and terrorizing the population. The anticipated effects of bombing were always faith-based, flowing largely from political desperation and the lack of alternatives. Secondly, the kind of battle between "air fleets" predicted by prophets of air power like Douhet in the 1920s, did, in a sense, happen, though not in the way, or in the timescale, that they ever envisaged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive survey, 26 Jan 2014
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Richard Overy is a respected academic historian in the field of air history. This large book is best described as a comprehensive overview and consolidation of many monographs and journal articles, diaries, contemporary views and official records concerning bombing in Europe in the Second World War.

Overy has not produced either an encyclopedia or a dictionary and this well-written work introduces the reader to strategic bombing theory, practice, its consequences and aftermath at political, moral, technological and socio-economic levels. The British and US bombing of Germany looms large as one would expect but the German bombing of the Soviet Union, the Allied bombing of Italy and other Axis nations and friendly countries such as France are also discussed.

Overy ranges across the subject and succeeds in making this a story of people as well as a study of the theoretical and organisational development of the respective air forces. At times I thought I was reading a work by Juliet Gardiner (a historian of the home front). This is not a criticism though the extent to which Overy goes into the measures taken by the civilian authorities and their citizens was not what I expected.

I didn't feel I had read new arguments to explain the reasons for strategic bombing in the Second World War in Europe though I learned much. However, this a consolidation of current learning by an expert in his subject. This book, though long, is a good introduction, combining a chronological and thematic approach which makes it easier to identify areas of particular interest. Those who wish to pursue individual topics in greater depth will find an excellent bibliography with which to continue their reading.
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