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4.4 out of 5 stars
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
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on 2 June 2014
This haunting but great book traces the grim history of aerial bombing of civilians before and during WWII and the rapid descent towards acts of revenge intended to boost morale at home, as well as the accidental discovery of firebombing. Up to fairly late in the war Dresden had escaped attack. There is a description of the importance of its precision manufacturing base to the war effort, the city’s growing significance as a command and transport centre (including for increasing numbers of refugees) as the Russians advanced to close to 100 miles away, and the Allied decision to help the limited Russian air capability by bombing key strategic centres just ahead of their lines. Stories of local slave labour and the persecution of the Jews in Dresden add to providing a picture that the city sooner or later would have to pay a price. ‘Bomber’ Harris has historically been held responsible for the attack, but the book makes it clear that decision was made higher up, and made worse by on-the-spot decisions during the second wave. Tragically, Dresden’s air defences had largely been moved to other tasks shortly before the raid, and a combination of uniquely favourable circumstances on the night meant that the three massive raids were exceptionally effective in their terrible purpose. In columns of aircraft stretching over 100 miles, the finely-tuned killing machine that was bomber command delivered just the right cocktail of explosive and incendiary devices in a carefully orchestrated flight pattern dispersion designed to provoke a firestorm, the heat from which would even be felt by the aircrews. Accounts from dozens of survivors, including half-Jewish citizens having not yet been sent to the camps, describe the carnage, tornados and water troughs used for refuge boiled dry. There is discussion not only about the moral aspect of bombing cities but also the almost negligible effectiveness of pin-pointing targets that inevitably led to carpet bombing. Even the German hierarchy itself admitted that the Allied campaign accounted for the loss of a third of industrial capacity in 1944.
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on 13 April 2012
When a visitor to a museum I was at made a remark to me about how 'we were right to bomb the **** out of Dresden', I bit back my surprise and decided to find out more.

Taylor's book is full of detail, and could almost be compared to a journey (almost like the flight that the bomber force made) that ends - as we know it will - in the destruction of Dresden.

We start with a brief clip of what is to come and then the journey begins; a brief history of Dresden until the 1930s, its relationship with Nazism, personalities and the growth of the city and its industries with emphasis on buildings and places that you know will be significant as the story unfolds.

The focus switches to a brief history of aerial bombing, the `failure' of confining bombing to military targets, the to-ing and fro-ing of Britain and Germany as each vies to bring more destruction. Technical aspects such as the development of Pathfinder tactics, 'X -' and 'Y - Gerat', 'Gee', 'H2S' and 'Window', 'Cookies', aerial mines and incendary target markers, together with how they were used on Guernica, London, Coventry, Kasel, Cologne, the Baedeker raids and Leipzig are all described in succinct detail - enough to tell the story but also give starting points for further reading, should you wish.

We arrive next at the bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 (OPERATION GOMORRAH), the perfect firestorm as Air Marshal Arthur Harris Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command saw it. He had already overseen the first 1,000 bomber raid against Cologne in May 1942 and what follows can be seen as a logical progression. I found reference to the mix of incendiary and high explosive bombs - there to damage buildings and create channels that air could rush through and feed the resulting fires - truly horrific.

And then on to Dresden. By now we have learnt why Dresden was targeted and the tactics to be used. We also learn that Dresden was seen as a safe haven for many people fleeing from bombing elsewhere in Germany and its inadequate public air-raid shelters, the large number of children in the city, the militarisation of its industries... The story circles over the inevitable, Dresden 1945, Dresden 1940, 'Vengengence weapon'attacks on London and Antwerp.

And then the final leg of the journey... And we are only halfway through the book...

The second part of the book reads like Len Deighton's 'Bomber', detailling as it does the attack from different viewpoints.

Taylor mixes personal memories of the time those on the ground and in the air and intersperses these with facts and figures about the destruction of targets to chronicle in a compassionate manner, the destruction of yet another city.

As other reviewers have highlighted, the book is well balanced, setting out the facts as Taylor has found them.
And I too initially found the American spellings in a book by a British author, published by a British publisher in the UK distracting but in the end the accessible language (which still retains it `British voice') won through.

Thoroughly recommended and I look forward to Taylor's forthcoming companion book (according to his website) on the bombing of Coventry.
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on 2 January 2014
A very well researched book, using information from eyewitnesses and participants as we'll as German (East and Nazi), American, Russian and British sources, some only more recently available. It provides an accurate view of the rationale for the bombing of Dresden by the British and Americans and puts it in a historical context. It dispels the myths promulgated both from the propaganda by the Nazi and Communist Government and the many writers who, since the war, have sought to sensationalise the event for their own purposes.
It is nonetheless a harrowing story of a cataclysmic event in which at least 25-35,000 people died. The death toll was made worse by the neglect of the Nazi government to provide adequate bomb shelters to all but a select group of the population. The book is well written and easy to read. It also provides an overview of the British bombing campaign as a whole, the policy and why they used certain techniques
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on 28 February 2018
The best book in English about the Dresden Raid. It will challenge all your assumptions and what you think you know, and put the events of the 13/14th February 1945 into proper context so they can be understood. Those of you not interested in understanding the world should not read this book and remain in ignorant bliss. Those of you who do read it will undoubtedly want to read more about how we have been systematically brainwashed about much that happened during WWII
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on 9 January 2017
A detailed and well researched account of a difficult and divisive issue. Some of the conclusions reached are still open to discussion, and I am sure always will be. The most distracting and annoying aspect of the book is the Americanisms and and American spellings ..why do we have "gotten", immigrating " and " labor". The book is written , published and printed in the UK , so this is totally unnecessary.
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on 29 June 2012
I've read 'The Berlin Wall' by the same author, which is why I bought this. The author's style is richly informative without being formal and overbearing. Without going into detail, this book goes into the history of Dresden, the political machinations over the centuries, the human aspects, war technology and frankly anything that could possibly have a bearing. Thoroughly researched. A tour de force.
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on 6 August 2010
Dresden by Frederick Taylor is a very good book about the devastating bombing of Dresden in 1945. It is well-written, fast-paced and informative as well as opinionated. It also puts the bombing of Dresden in context as well as giving a short history of Saxony and the City of Dresden. It is also in my opinion a particularly even-handed work. All in all this is a very good book.
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on 2 November 2015
A good insight into the campaign on Dresden particularly from the point of view of how the inhabitants were affected
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on 16 April 2018
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on 16 August 2013
Excellently researched and presented as a very readable book. The various questions in respect of events leading up to the bombing are well dealt with. Most of all it shows the futility of war and of how those in power when conducting such a war would seem to lose all sense of humanity. It should be mandatory reading for all young and old alike.
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