The text flows smoothly and the illustrations are spread through the body of the book. The illustrations are many and this is a book where text and images support each other. The final stage of the bombing of Germany saw some relief for bomber crews as the German Air Force collapsed, but devastation for German cities and industrial areas. German propaganda continued to be effective and planted some false seeds in relation to the bombing of Dresden and other cities. The last phase of bombing was also the most complex, particularly in its political dimensions. This is a very good account of the last phase and every air war enthusiast will want a copy.
NAME: Bombing Germany: The Final Phase, The Destruction of Pforzheim and the Closing Months of Bomber Command’s War
AUTHOR: Tony Reading
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, Second World War, World War Two, RAF, Bomber Command, Tactical Air Force, carpet bombing, radar bombing, USAAF, RAF, German Air Force, pathfinders
DESCRIPTION: The text flows smoothly and the illustrations are spread through the body of the book. The illustrations are many and this is a book where text and images support each other. The final stage of the bombing of Germany saw some relief for bomber crews as the German Air Force collapsed, but devastation for German cities and industrial areas. German propaganda continued to be effective and planted some false seeds in relation to the bombing of Dresden and other cities. The last phase of bombing was also the most complex, particularly in its political dimensions. This is a very good account of the last phase and every air war enthusiast will want a copy.
The bombing campaign in Europe has been controversial and is likely to remain so. There is no alternative to compare it to. Had there been no bombing of German cities, would the war have been shorter or longer? We will never know for certain. From a very rocky start, the RAF gained strength and waged a relentless war against German targets. In the beginning, the RAF had the Wellington bomber, which was unique and loved by its crews, dependable and able to absorb punishment. The Sterling flew at the start of WWII but although it performed reasonably well as the first four engine heavy bomber for Bomber Command, it was very innovative and paid the price in reliability terms. It was few in numbers and the majority of the RAF bombers were already obsolescent first generation monoplanes, twin engined and light to medium bombers. They were not ideal for strategic bombing and their poor defensive armament and lack of close fighter escort made them very vulnerable.
From that first fragile stage of the RAF bombing campaign in Europe, the situation steadily improved. The Lancaster and Mosquito bombers were magnificent and the use of pathfinders to mark targets led to progressive improvements in accuracy. A flow of crews and new aircraft more than kept pace with the appalling casualties, and the USAAF bomber force came into operation with effective fighter escorts that made daylight bombing practical, if still painful in crew casualties. This middle phase of the air war in Europe saw the RAF and USAAF settling into a routine that was to increase the damage done to enemy targets and to population centres. Had the Germans been equipped with the numbers of heavy bombers, being sent against German targets by the Allies, at the beginning of WWII, they would have waged a very similar war on Britain and had already used bombing to devastating effect in the Spanish Civil War and in the invasions of Poland, the Low Countries and France. What spared Britain the destruction handed out to German targets was that the German Air Force was seen primarily as aerial artillery to support the panzers and infantry in lightning war. That resulted in the Germans lacking long range bombers and fighter escorts, and in their bombers having an ineffective defensive armament. This made the German Air Force effective as a tactical air force but inedequate for strategic bombardment. The total numbers were also inadequate to stage the size raids the Allies were eventually staging against German targets.
The use of radar for bomb aiming was a significant aid to the RAF Lancaster bombers. There was also use of ‘window’ metal foil strips dropped in clouds to confuse German defence radar. There had been a steady improvement in the range of bombs available. Where the start of WWII saw the 500 lb and 1000 lb bombs as the staple of bombing raids, the RAF began to receive specialist bombs, such as the ‘bouncing bombs’ used to attack German dams, and the size of bombs increased, leading to the 5 ton and 10 ton ‘earthquake’ bombs that were used against high value targets. The RAF was in a better position than the USAF because the Lancaster had a very large bomb bay that was not compartmented, allowing progressively larger bombs to be carried. However, there were also smaller, but terrible, bombs being introduced these incendiary and anti-personnel bombs could be dropped in large clusters.
Perhaps the greatest development was made practical by the ability of the RAF and USAF to operate around the clock. Each raid saw blast and incendiary bombs being dropped to rapidly increase temperature and suck in air to fuel the fires. This produced tornadoes in the German cities that consumed everything above ground and sucked people into the flames. The need of the fires for more oxygen also caused air to be sucked from underground shelters and many died from suffocation rather than from blast or fire.
By the final phase of the air war, the Allied bombers were displaying a terrible power, far beyond that available in 1939. There was a reducing pool of valuable targets and the situation on the German’s Eastern Front created a need to bomb targets, such as Dresden, to prevent the German soldiers from escaping the Russian assault and building new defensive lines to prolong the war. By late 1944, the Germans were facing inevitable defeat. The vaunted German wonder weapons that were starting to emerge from shattered factories were too few in number to have much effect, and the one thing that new and existing aircraft both required was fuel and ammunition. A jet fighter without fuel was as useless as an Me 109 without fuel.
The author has presented a complete and well-researched account of the final phase of the bombing war in Europe. This is a book that is well worth reading.