Book Review - Bombs Away!: The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe by John R. Bruning
After coming back from London last month and seeing the Imperial War Museum, this book at the library seemed like an interesting choice... Bombs Away!: The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe by John R. Bruning. As I stood in a number of places in London, I tried to imagine what it must have been like, bombs raining out of the sky, day after day, night after night. Bombs Away added more color to that imagining from the perspective of those who flew the planes and fought on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis for their country and their lives.
The Empty Sky; A Panacea for Generational Destruction; Theory into Practice; The Summer of the Few; Response in Kind; The Americans Arrive; Pointblank Begins; The Get Rich Quick Scheme; The Wheels Come Off; The Mortal Ones; The Hybrid Stallion; Relentless Pursuit - Big Week; Tipping Point; Destruction and Distraction; Clutching Straws; Judgments; Acknowledgments; Bibliographical Notes; Index
As a coffee table book (it's REALLY heavy!), it's interesting. The mix of color and black and white photos during the span of World War II give you a sense of what it was like to be strapped into a bomber turret for hours on end, punctuated by periods of sheer terror when fighters and flak tried to remove you from the sky. The photos from actual bombing runs are chilling, when you see the hellish destruction on the ground as well as the carnage in the sky, often ending in mission survival rates of less than half of those who took off just hours earlier.
Where I thought the book really stood out was in drawing the comparison between World War I and II, and what strategists thought that an aerial war campaign would accomplish. In WW I, trench warfare was the norm, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed or maimed trying to take relatively small amounts of ground from the enemy. The horror of that outcome, coupled with the advent of the airplane, led planners to believe that superiority in the air could bring a quick end to a war with limited casualties. If one side could deliver a single blow to key industrial sites, the other side would be unable to continue and the war would be over.
Obviously, such is not the case. Bruning makes the point that fighters and bombers became the "trenches" of WW II, and the body count was again incredibly high. In addition, strategic bombing missions gave way to carpet bombing of military, industrial, and civilian areas, again leading to massive death and destruction on a scale never seen before. Cities like Dresden and Hiroshima give testimony as to the failure of strategic bombing to save lives and bring war to a quick end.
Bombs Away is a sobering read that is a good complement to other books you might have read about World War II. It evoked a strange mix of emotions... despair that we were able to destroy people and places so effectively, and amazement over how people will face nearly certain death in defense of life and liberty. This is definitely not a book to read lightly...
Obtained From: Library