*The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945*

That is the excellent new book by Richard Overy, a leading historian of the Second World War.  From this book I learned that:

1. The first bombing attack on Freiburg im Breisgau killed 57 people, and it was conducted by German bombers, who thought the city was the French town of Dijon.

2. In early 1945, the main hostility of the German population was directed toward the Italians, from switching sides in 1943, and not toward the bombing Allied nations.

3. More tons of bombs were dropped on Rome than on all British cities combined.

4. Per square mile, the most bombed place on earth was…Malta.

Here is one very positive review of the book.  In the United States the book comes out February 2014 under a different title.  You also can buy the British edition for U.S. Kindle now.


The bombing of Malta in WWII was memorably fictionalized in Thomas Pynchon's "V." which has an extended Maltese plot line near the end of the book. It's pretty great.

This is coolbert:

Yet once more an extract from the David Irving book :

"THE RISE AND FALL OF THE Luftwaffe The Life of Field Marshal Erhard Milch"

"an unexpected drought: by mid-November it was recognized that the drought would be so severe that during mid-November [1943] there would be less aluminium available than ever before. This new limiting factor was disclosed by Speer to Milch in mid-November and Milch had no option but to accept it."

"The drought was the worst for ninety years in Germany. The loss of hydro-electric power would cause considerable production losses of nitrogen, high-grade steels, synthetic fuels and aluminium."

"Moreover, the Danube was so low that oil barges from Romania could carry only 300 instead of 700 tons each; in November the amount transported would be 80,000 tons compared with 144,000 tons in October, and there were 323,000 tons waiting in Romania to be shipped to Germany. Of Reich aluminium production, estimated at 40,000 tons a month for the next few months, the Luftwaffe would now be allocated 22,000 tons a month."

It can be reasonably inferred almost with absolute metaphysical certitude that drought as was the case in central Europe during the year 1943 DID MORE DAMAGE TO THE GERMAN WAR PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURING CAPACITY THAN THE COMBINED STRATEGIC AERIAL BOMBARDMENT OFFENSIVE OF THE ALLIED AIR FORCES! [American and British]

Reservoirs in the Italian Tyrol and Ruhr [?] areas not filled to capacity, those dynamos and generators not able to function at 100 % capacity 100 % of the time. Electricity as needed for war-munitions factories lacking!

That shipping channel of the Danube as needed by barge traffic transporting oil from the Romanian oil fields also at low-water level, this main "arterial route" not use-able in the ordinary sense.

Oil as pumped from the ground and available NOT reaching the refineries!

Those persons in the aftermath of the war compiling the American Strategic Bombing Survey [USSBS] were even aware of this? That is a question of which a devoted reader to the blog perhaps has the answer?

Consider this book by David Irving a biography rather than history? The original source documents the many dozens of diaries as kept by Milch during the war. Those thoughts and perceptions of the German military man NOT with hindsight most valuable to understanding how and why the war was fought as it was?


So the drought in 1943 was the worst in 90 years. And of course the Winter of 41 was a very bad winter in western Russia.

Hmmm, it looks like God hates Nazis.

And David Irving disagrees with HIM/HER.

The authors of the Ribbentrop Molotov Pact met tete a tete in Stalingrad. Thanks to an uprising in Yugoslavia and a traffic jam resulting from Hitlers military prowess, the axis armies were delayed on their march towards the Caucasus Oil Fields; that delay was enough to put the German fighting deep into the brutal Russian Winter. As our boys would have put it: Both both instigators of WWII got a "shellacking" during the five months of continuous battle that took place. Hitler, a novice lifted in pride, caved into the temptation of attacking the city named after his opponent, but pride, being the dangerous motive that it is, led to Hitler's humiliation, as he received the news of the Field Marshall Paulus' surrender on what should have been a red letter day for the leader of the Reich - the 10th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power. Such a crushing blow and the clear heal mark of the Lord of Heaven with both sides reaping as they had sown. If you are fortunate enough to know a WWII Vet, go thank him give him a hug and kiss for the last 70 years of liberty and freedom we've enjoyed thanks to his generation.

Odd, unforseeable circumstances have always had an effect on military engagements. Marlborough's victory at Ramillies in 1706 was helped by an epidemic among the French horses.

I guess the Germans did not learn their lesson about depending on "renewable energy"...

Thank goodness for yet another book about WWII. It is such a neglected subject, especially the air war in western Europe. Only a few hundred thousand new books published each year in the U.S., one can barely read ten thousand or so a year. Do Russian and Chinese book publishers know about WWII?


WWII, as with most wars, remains a poorly understood subject by civilian leadership. As evidenced by Tyler's reference to Malta. Americans do not really appreciate the North African campaign. It gets brushed over in favor of the Air War and DDay. Do you think Obama and his Cabinet staff can place the Battle of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk in the correct order, let alone their significance on the war or the reasons for victory? Probably some vague reference to "winter."

As interesting as those three battles are, they don't have much relevance to US military doctrine today. WE won't be invading any major industrial powers (and likewise will not be invaded by them). The war against Japan has more to teach current strategists... We won't be emulating the Soviet strategy: push ill-trained recruits ever forward against tactically superior but outnumbered troops, with the reminder that they will keep pushing forward or they will be shot from behind.

Even if you assume that we won't ever face a situation like that of the German invasion of Russia, and you assume that the lessons of that invasion (and the defense of same) are only applicable to identical engagements- both of which are not particularly sound assumptions for a military to have- your comment is still wrong. Throughout the world military and political leaders (or the people who hold their strings) study the lessons of WWII. And those lessons- whatever they may be- are then applied to the conflicts that said leaders deal with and prepare for today.

While its generally the case that additional- and unnecessary- ignorance is a bad thing, in this case, given that the ignorance would be of a cornerstone of modern military understanding in a multitude of areas, the ignorance would be appalling.

More importantly, if you don't mind the question, on what basis do you presume to know what is relevant to US military planning? Do you have a professional background in this area? Some academic experience? Given the confidence you seem to have in this area, I presume it's exhaustive. Am I in error in that assumption?

Correct, we won't face a German / Russian situation, at least not in the next 30 years. We will neither launch a large land war against a modern industrial nation (a la Germans) or have one launched against us (as the Russians) - because we aren't about to attack or be attacked by our neighbors. We also won't be involved somewhere that we don't have air superiority (at least for the next 15 years or so).
Stalingrad is a classic encirclement battle,so it would have some utility at the tactical level of study - but it doesn't matter if the Cabinet isn't that familiar (the folks at Leavenworth are still studying them today - it's ok if the politicians know less about military history than the officer corps). But even on the Korean peninsula, the ROK is well equipped and will be taking primary responsibility for any military action by the north in 2 years. If that fight is conventional, any offense by the north will collapse quickly. If nuclear...certainly a different ball game.
Also, I have both professional and academic experience - if you'd like to see an interesting comparison on the evolution of soviet tactics in the face of German tank corps, Col. Glantz's study on "Soviet Defensive Tactics at Kursk" is a good read.

Ah, but was that the Soviet strategy? A human wave? The Red Army, despite being outmatched man-to-man by the Germans, was still a fine organization throughout much of its history. For instance, it bloodied the Japanese so badly that Japan never again threatened war against the USSR. This meant that the US could ship goods to the USSR....half of everything we sent them was by way of Pacific.
Japanese navy against the Soviet transports, and it is not so clear the USSR wins.
Also, while the Germans may have been TACTICALLY superior, their STRATEGY was crap, particularly their logistics. By the time the Germans reached Moscow, they were operating primarily with Soviet trucks, because who cares about trucks when you can have tanks? The Soviets eventually had American trucks, which enabled effective cross-country travel with heavy loads. Without that, the advance is slowed enough to allow Germany to rearm effectively and deploy more aggressively, which they could no longer do after Kursk, because they had lost too much armor.
And Kursk was a win largely because the Allies knew EXACTLY where the Germans would attack, and even when the Germans saw the Soviets buildiing the thickest anti-tank defenses of all time, the Germans shrugged their shoulders and attack anyways because proper German strategy is ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!

"Also, while the Germans may have been TACTICALLY superior, their STRATEGY was crap, particularly their logistics."

Well generally speaking logistics would be Operations, not Tactics or Strategy. But yes, I'd agree that the German strategy was crap, but really so was the Russian strategy. If you want to look at a good example of Operations, particularly Logistics, then the American army was the best by far. As to who had the best Strategy, that's a pretty debatable point. Is it fair to say that the winners had the best Strategy? I think it's true in this case, but not solely due to the fact that they won.

True, I was not being fair to the Soviets. Zhukov was a good general (as shown at Kahlkin Gol). And after the hard lessons of 1941 they did pick themselves up (and Stalin stopped meddling so much, actually allowing defensive actions and strategic withdrawls). Although Zhukov did have to persuade Stalin to start things on the defensive, and then mount a counter-offensive (rather than vice-versa). But the Soviet version of ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK led to millions of casualties and many armies destroyed by encirclement.
As for strategy, the Germans lost by the end of '41; they thought they could kick in the door and the entire rotten regime would collapse. They didn't think Uncle Joe had that much resilience...when St. Petersburg and Moscow were still standing and even pushing the Germans back that winter, that was going to be it. Stalingrad confirmed it, and Kursk was the beginning of the end. Hitler didn't even put the German armament industry on a full wartime economy footing until the war was already lost (due to the Soviets holding on and the US entry)

Good points. Horses carried much of the German supplies to the Russian front, thus the severe impact of winter on the supply lines. Mud and muck on unpaved Russian roads slowed down the offensive even before the onset of winter.

The "attack, attack, attack" strategy was motivated by the severe shortage of resources in Nazi Germany. This is why the Wehrmacht generals designed a plan that would quickly drive to Moscow; they wanted to avoid a war of attrition.The invasion plan was tested with 4 months of war games, but Hitler changed it at the last minute to Operation Barbarossa, which emphasized the encirclement and destruction of Red Army forces. This slowed things down considerably. The German invasion fell short 23 miles of Moscow, so tl;dr Hitler probably screwed up.

However, the common narrative that Hitler was a poor general does not, I think, account for the entire reality of the situation. I don't think it's obvious what the Germans should had differently. Looking at things from a broad strategic perspective, the Soviet Union was rapidly industrializing and preparing their army for a war they believed was two years off the eve of the actual invasion. So Hitler's choices were 1. invade now while we have the advantage and the element of surprise 2. do something else and hope we can secure enough land and resources to keep up with the Soviets and then invade 3. Don't invade Russia at all (two militarized states run by ideologues who hate each other...wasn't going to happen).

Perhaps the Germans should had gone down through Greece and into Turkey and beyond to capture the oil wells in the Middle East, before taking on the Soviets. Either that, or driven straight to Moscow. Hitler kind of went halfway between the "get resources" strategy and the "mess up Russia" strategy by diverting the Southern prong of the invasion force toward the oil fields in the Caucuses, and we know this didn't work.

Good short video on Operation Barbarossa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E78fmuGxPqQ

Did you know all of those factoids? I didn't. And they seem mighty interesting.

@radford9 + 1 = perfect ten comment. I too think WWII is too non-neglected, along with the American Civil War. As for R. Overy, I recall in a chapter from his book "Why the Allies Won", that US strategic bombing air power was rated as a plus not a minus, so I'm glad to hear he finally agrees with the mountain of evidence that came out before this latest book of his that stated strategic bombing was not a factor in winning WWII for the Allies. I will pass on reading this book by Overy.

I've read “Why the Allies Won” also, and I agree with his analysis that the strategic bombing was a net plus. Most of the argument for it being a net negative was that the Allies could have used the resources in other areas. But honestly, while you might be able to make that case for the UK, it's hard to imagine what else the US could have produced in larger quantities that would have been significantly useful.

It's also too easy to fall in the trap of adding up the damage done, and counter balancing it with the cost of the strategic bombing campaign. However, that ignores the very significant costs the Germans and Japanese invested in defenses and dispersion that were a direct result of the air campaign. Not to mention the losses in efficiency due to an unreliable electrical and transportation grid.

> it’s hard to imagine what else the US could have produced in larger quantities that would have been significantly
> useful.

This is a good point that should be made more often. How exactly were the Americans supposed to bring their power to bear? A land invasion of Europe has a minimal-necessary-scale problem.

> It’s also too easy to fall in the trap of adding up the damage done, and counter balancing it...

Even if it's accounted for correctly, it's also not important that the exchange be one-for-one. As the richer party in that conflict, our exchanging $2 in cost for $1 in cost imposed on the axis may have been a good trade for us. At the end of the war they don't add up the dollars spent, they just have a winner and a loser. In a modern analogue, America spending $10 to impose costs of $1 on Al Qaeda would surely be a good trade, as the former has much more to spend than the latter.

Given the objective of winning the war at the shortest time possible, the US could have conscripted part of the labor force working on the aircraft industry (a total of over 2 million workers) and put them on the trenches and the rest could be used to make ships to supply the invasion force (helping to reduce the time it took to invade Europe). Strategically they would have made a larger difference than the air campaign. The "problem" is that the US government was also thinking about minimizing the number of dead. The 300,000 US soldiers killed in combat were a quite small number given the strategic impact of the US on the war (compared to the number of soldiers lost in combat by the USSR or even the UK).

I'd respectfully disagree.

"the US could have conscripted part of the labor force working on the aircraft industry (a total of over 2 million workers) and put them on the trenches"

So, you'd change highly skilled mechanics and factory workers into basic infantry? And furthermore there were no trenches, this is WW2 we are talking about not WW1. Indeed there wasn't even a significant front line until 1944. The US had plenty of man power for the Pacific, North Africa and Italian fronts.

Opening up a Western European front in 1943 was considered, but every analysis I've seen indicated it would have been a quagmire. We didn't have the logistical infrastructure built up in the UK and we didn't manage to "beat" the German U-boat fleet until mid-1943. Additionally, large supplies of P51D's weren't deployed until early 1944. If we'd tried to support a massive invasion, without decent supply depots, wolf packs roaming the North Atlantic and lack of long range fighter support, we'd currently be discussing the disastrous American strategy of the war.

Another long term plus of the bombing campaign, from the US/UK point of view, was the effect it had on the civilian population long term. When Germans and Austrians talk about the "horror of war", for most people who lived through the war that meant the years of living in constant terror that death could rain down from the sky any night. I suspect this has had long term effects on the culture that help explain how much more anti-war Germany and Austria (and Japan) became compared to defeated powers in the past.

I can assure you the Russians do. Every single square in the entire country has a monument to some battle, hero or martyr of "The Great War". It was the USSR's one great triumph. Every single subway station in Moscow is a shrine to the war. The US obsesses about WW2 largely because it is the only uncomplicated war, morally. We obsess about the Civil War because it was the most complicated, for us anyway. Most other nations do similar things.

Chinese don't even know about the ballsiest China Man the West has ever heard of: The Chinese Tank Man.

The Guardian paints a great summary. While aircraft had been introduced in WWI, a lot of theory and science-fiction behind its role had been untested. in the end, air power proved absolutly instrumental, but not in a strategic bombing role. Cities and production networks were more durable than expected and bombers far less destructive and inaccurate than expected.

One of the important lessons, of course, is not overestimate the importance of your technological strength and keep an eye on the weaknesses in your strategic dogma. Had the Soviet Union decided to rely on 1,000 bomber raids instead of Deep Trench, well.....

I've been reading Albert Speer's bio. He says the bombing wasn't as effective as it could have been because the allies overestimated Hitler's dictatorial powers. Hitler could not order production to change location as easily as the allies thought. The allies would have been better off to continue bombing sites which they thought were already evacuated after earlier bombing.

Ok, but he also said this:

"The Allied air campaign was not successful in knocking Germany out of the war by itself, but it contributed significantly to the German defeat, by forcing the Germans to focus valuable resources on the battle over Germany, which were then missed on other fronts. Albert Speer said that if the 1944 campaign against the Romanian oil fields had been continued for another month, the entire Wehrmacht would have been crippled. According to Speer, 98% of Germany's aircraft fuel plants were out of production. The production of aviation fuel fell from 180,000 tons to 20,000 tons between March and November 1944."

How the heck does one bomb Frieberg thinking it is Dijon? They are almost 200 miles apart.

Well, because this occurred before the American entry into the war, the Germans were able to obtain some of the early American GPS systems. At that stage of the war those units were simply not that reliable (especially those calvin & hobbes 'DAD' units). The USAAF had the same problems later on - they frequently bombed their own soldiers and allies. The highest ranking American to be killed in WW2 was killed by a bomb dropped by the USAAF.

I thought Patton got bazookaed... : )

That factoid is incomplete. The bomb squadron's initial target was Djion, but they quickly lost orientation due to navigation errors. They basically had no idea where they were exactly, but for some reason were convinced they were flying over France, and thus simply bombed the nearest city.

'More tons of bombs were dropped on Rome than on all British cities combined.'

This phrasing sounded very strange, so let us try to make it either a bit more consistent - 'more bombs were dropped on Rome by the Allies, than bombs dropped by the Allies on all British cities combined.' or a bit more informed - 'More tons of bombs were dropped on Rome by the Allies, who possessed the war's only heavy strategic bomber forces, than on all British cities bombed by Axis short range and medium weight bombers combined.'

( 'The bombing of Rome in World War II took place on several occasions in 1943 and 1944, primarily by Allied and to a smaller degree by Axis aircraft, before the city was invaded by the Allies on June 4, 1944. Pope Pius XII was initially unsuccessful in attempting to have Rome declared an open city, through negotiations with President Roosevelt via Cardinal Francis Spellman. Rome was eventually declared an open city on August 14, 1943—a day after the last Allied bombing—by the defending forces.[1]

In the 110,000 sorties that comprised the Allied Rome air campaign, 600 aircraft were lost and 3,600 air crew members died; 60,000 tons of bombs were dropped in the 78 days prior to Rome's capture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Rome_in_World_War_II )

Sounds like the sort of book that one should be careful to learn from, especially since heavy strategic bombing was something beyond Nazi Germany, much less long range strategic bombing. And a significant amount of what the Germans tried to bomb, attack with cruise missiles (around 10,000 1 ton warheaded ones), and launch rockets against (ca. 2,000 1 ton warheaded ones) (do the last two count as 'bombing?') were not cities. Just like the 10,000 tons of bombs dropped in 24 hours on the London docks may not have been technically dropped on a city.

And then there was this - 'Still hoping that the British would negotiate for peace, Hitler explicitly prohibited attacks on London and against civilians.[96] Any airmen who, deliberately or unintentionally, violated this order were punished.[96] Hitler's No. 17 Directive, issued 1 August 1940, established the conduct of war against Britain and specifically forbade the Luftwaffe from conducting terror raids. The Führer declared that terror attacks could only be a means of reprisal, as ordered by him.[110] Hitler's instructions were echoed in Hermann Göring's general order, issued on 30 June 1940:

The war against England is to be restricted to destructive attacks against industry and air force targets which have weak defensive forces. ... The most thorough study of the target concerned, that is vital points of the target, is a pre-requisite for success. It is also stressed that every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary loss of life amongst the civilian population.
—Hermann Göring' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_bombing_during_World_War_II#The_Battle_of_Britain_and_the_Blitz

Read the rest - fascinating stuff. And sadly, it makes the British look worse than the Nazis in terms of intentional terror bombing.

how many people died in the Rome attacks vs. London and the other british cities?

"More tons of bombs were dropped on Rome than on all British cities combined." One bombing raid that occurred near where I grew up killed 28 people: in a village. I'll take it that "British cities" doesn't exclude British villages?

"especially since heavy strategic bombing was something beyond Nazi Germany"

That's a pretty ignorant statement.

In early 1945, the main hostility of the German population was directed toward the Italians

How do we know? Were Germans unfriending the Italian facebook page at a greater rate then Russia? Germany had robust polling in 1945?

I somehow have a feeling that even in 1945, the main hostility of the Germans was still directed at Jews and increasingly at the Bolsheviks of the Red Army.

Thank you for calling attention to that. It's a an absurd statement and Tyler should know better than to repeat it.

Even in 1945 the main hostility of most Germans was probably still directed at the English, just as it had been for most of the war. The Nazis had trained Germans to feel contempt and fear towards Jews and Russians, and contempt is not the same as hostility. Jews and Slavs were "natural" enemies of Germany, after all, while England, a "natural" ally populated by fair-skinned blue-eyed Anglo-Saxons with a King who had purer German bloodlines than Hitler, had turned its back on Germany in two wars running. I think a lot of Germans truly hated England, the way a desperate guy hates the beautiful girl who humiliates and rejects him.

Jews=Bolsheviks in the minds of Hitler, the Nazis, and many Germans and Europeans.

It's sort of a weird stereotype, because while many of the original Bolsheviks were Jews, Stalin got rid of most them with the Great Purge.

The more interesting question is why the different US title?

Rest of World title: The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945

US title: The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945

The publisher has a ZMP worker somewhere in the organisation.

Probably because it specifically mentions the Allies in the title, and the date is shifted closer to the point where the US entered the war.

Without those changes, it's just another book about Europeans slaughtering each other. Which is about as cliched a topic as you can get.

Europe: 18 years without a genocide! Woo-hoo!

It may be good, but it will certainly not be "the most important book on the second world war published this century" as the Reviewer would have it. The most important book published on the Second World War this century has to be The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze. I suspect Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder will also be more important and lasting long term, as it challenges a lot of Western pre-conceptions about the Holocaust, while not diminishing any of the tragedy. Overy's book sounds well researched but not ground breaking, in particular there is not much new there for people who have read German literature on the subject.

I liked Snyder's book but its main contribution was its overall (controversial) narrative placing the Holocaust in the context of other campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Eastern Europe and in introducing English speakers to the details of Soviet atrocities. The Holocaust is a very well-worn subject and there aren't many surprises in the book even for anyone who has browsed a few Wikipedia articles and read a few classic books on the subject (by, say, Bauer or Browning). There probably aren't any surprises with respect to the Soviet atrocities either but those are at least less covered in books written in English.

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