The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe, 1940-1945. By Richard Overy. New York: Viking Penguin, 2013. Maps. Tables. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxviii, 562. $36.00. ISBN: 978-0-670-02515-2
With this book, Dr. Overy has guaranteed his standing as one of the top historians of the Second World War. A huge array of books has been written on the Allied bombing campaign over Europe during that conflict, but if I were forced to name only one book to go to for the story, The Bombers and the Bombed would probably have to be it.
Overy's research effort was immense. While the book contains 590 pages, the text stops on page 437. There are seventy-seven pages of notes followed by twenty-five pages of bibliography and sources and an excellent index. The text is filled with tables and figures. At times, the sheer volume of numbers seems overwhelming and a bit much. But, as I thought about that, I'm not sure how one can tell the story of the campaign without using bomb tonnages, CEPs, deaths, casualties, and destruction areas. These are how one measures results--both economic and human.
I have been a big fan of Davis' Carl A. Spaatz and the Air War in Europe for years. For an understanding of the organization of the strategic air forces in Europe and the Mediterranean areas during the war, and the bureaucratic maneuverings that took place within those organizations, that book is still tops. Overy covers the same operations, obviously, but goes further by getting into more detail on some of the lesser operations in the Balkans and the Low Countries. Where he really plows new ground is in integrating the story of bombing operations with what was happening on the receiving end of that bombing. The book jacket claims, "This is a unique history of the bombing war from below as well as from above." That, for a change, is a 100-percent-accurate assessment. This book is unique.
Of the bombing campaign itself, I don't believe there is anything terribly new to a reader who has studied it at some length. In the years between the world wars--and...