The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe, 1940–1945

Richard Overy. Viking, $36 (550p) ISBN 978-0-670-02515-2

WWII scholar Overy (The Twilight Years) brings his expertise in aerial operations to this first comprehensive analysis of the Allied strategic bombing offensive in Europe. He addresses the subject from three interrelated perspectives: the planning and execution of the air campaign; the Axis responses; and the oft-overlooked experiences of those under Axis occupation who were “bombed into freedom.” Overy acknowledges that until mid-1944, an air offensive was the Western Allies’ only feasible way of attacking Germany directly, yet the raids’ limited success initially led some to question whether “bombing by itself” could be decisive in the war. Insistence that it “would shorten the war,” combined with the belief that daylight precision bombardment would “completely... dislocate German industry and communications,” led to an attrition campaign against the world’s most sophisticated defenses. It produced marginal results until the Americans concentrated on the aircraft industry, and on oil production and delivery. Overy’s model analysis of “German Society under the Bombs” reveals how the Reich’s economy and morale withstood the bomber offensive, though elsewhere in Germany’s New Order, as military considerations obscured political ones, bombing became “more vigorous and less discriminate.” Postwar reconstruction correspondingly resembled “recovery from a natural disaster”—which the bomber offensive closely resembled. Agent: Gill Coleridge; Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Mar.)