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

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  225 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The ultimate history of the Allied bombing campaigns in World War II

Technology shapes the nature of all wars, and the Second World War hinged on a most unpredictable weapon: the bomb. Day and night, Britain and the United States unleashed massive fleets of bombers to kill and terrorize occupied Europe, destroying its cities. The grisly consequences call into question how “
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published February 20th 2014 by Viking (first published 2013)
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It delivers what it promises: bombing throughout Europe. A good two-thirds is still devoted to the Blitz over England & Germany. Italy benefits most of Overy's pan-European ambition, while Western Europe more or less gets attention in descending order of damage. The section on Eastern Europe felt too short. I am not (yet) qualified to judge the strategical bombing of the Soviet Union in the context of Barbarossa. It's supposedly seldom separated from the tactical air war in the East. The con ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
Nov 02, 2014 Emmanuel Gustin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aviation_wwii
The title and the monumental size of this book somehow suggest a definitive, comprehensive history of the strategic bombing campaigns during WWII. But that is an enormously complex subject with a substantial body of literature already discussing it. Among these, Overy's book is a worthy contribution, but not exceptional. It is a thorough study of the politics and strategy of the bloody bombing campaigns of WWII, as dry and unemotional as such a study could be. But most of this material is not ne ...more
Jan 10, 2014 D. rated it really liked it
This was a very detailed and well documented work yet was worded so as to be easy to read. It gave a real perspective of the gigantic scope of the bombing effort put forth by the Allies in WWII. The book asked the questions, "Was the bombing effective, and did it meet its objectives." Even though I would agree to some extent with the conclusions, I would say they are negated by the fact that approximately 291,000 Americans died in the conflict and we didn't start the war. The fact that only some ...more
Tim Pendry

Every time I walk past the statue 'honouring' the aircrews of Bomber Command in Green Park, I taste something unpleasant in my mouth.

I can imagine a decent German feeling much the same if Berlin had a major monument to the Eastern Front war dead of the Wehrmacht.

Yes, both sets of men were courageous and died for the sins of their leaders but both sets of men were complicit in appalling atrocities under orders that specifically targeted civilians.

This remarkable, well evidenced and well written b
Sep 01, 2014 Bfisher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The version of the book that I read was the original version, published by Allen Lane (Penguin) as “The Bombing War: Europe 1939–1945”. From what I understand, the U.S. version, published by Viking as “The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945” (as indicated by the title) does not include the original version’s account of the German bombing campaigns. This is a grave weakness; in its absence, a reader of the lesser book may not fully appreciate the Allies’ political and mi ...more
An amazing book.

This exhaustive, and exhausting, history solely focusing on the bombing war in Europe from its beginnings in 1939 through to 1945 and beyond is a must have and read for anyone interested in the history of World War II. The author focuses on the three major air forces in the war, the Germans, British, and Americans, and peels away all of the misconceptions, forgotten history and heroics that have over the decades built up over the actual facts of the ultimate uselessness that the
Dec 28, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads

**Won via Goodreads First Reads Giveaway **

Bombers and Bombed is a very interesting look at both ends of the Allied bombing campaign in Europe 1940-45. I am a fan of new or little told stories from WWII and this easy read is near the top. The book is very detailed, maybe a little too detailed for the beginner history buff. You will not be disappointed with B&B and I enjoyed this book greatly. On a side note, as I read this book a bulldozer driver in Germany was killed on a construction site
victor harris
Mar 06, 2014 victor harris rated it really liked it
The quality of scholarship and analysis is excellent, but you should be advised you have to plow through mountains of statistics that belonged in an appendix. Also needed major editing, the paragraphs in many cases are intolerably lengthy, sometimes in excess of a page, and tend to lose the thread and force of the explanation.
Norman Metzger
May 28, 2014 Norman Metzger rated it it was amazing
I took a quite personal interest in this book since as a young child living in Frankfurt a/m I was one of the "bombed". I also was one of the children evacuated to a country town near the end of the war, a program that Overy touches on tangentially. Beyond the personal side, this is indeed a very good book, and makes clear in merciless detail how ineffective the bombing campaigns often were. Entire cities were missed and even if the cities were found the targets were either not found or subject ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is not an oral history or a collection of individual accounts but a study of the policy by the allies of bombing. It is a story that starts out with debates over restraint over civilian casualties and quickly escalates into area bombing during the war. The first half of the book covers the air war and bombing strategy by the allies. The tactics and the aims of the allies is covered well and the reader gets a good idea of how bombing was conducted plus tables and stats of bombers, losse ...more
David Bird
Sep 11, 2014 David Bird rated it really liked it
This book is much more for the reader looking to understand the broad picture of the offensive and defensive sides of the bombing war, than one seeking dramatic narratives of individual survival and heroism.

The bomber forces were probably the greatest instance of technology driving policy. Bombers were built based on the presumption that they would deliver knockout blows; having been built, they were used, and continued to be used even after it was clear that they were not delivering on their o
Rich Taylor
So it took me a year to read this book - a little at a time. Obviously it is no page turner. It is, as you would expect from Overy, painstakingly researched and an extremely thorough account. The focus is on the less told tales - the civilians under the bombs, the strategies for civil defense and to a lesser extent the grand strategies of the offensive forces. Whilst an impressive and worthwhile historical text it just wasn't that interesting to read...
Omar Ali
Jun 07, 2014 Omar Ali rated it really liked it
It looks like enough time has passed for someone serious to write a book about the bombing of Europe. Very thorough. Very balanced. Well worth a read if you are a world war two buff...
Peter Goodman
May 01, 2014 Peter Goodman rated it liked it
“The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe, 1940-1945,” by Richard Overy (Viking, 2013). Overy wrote “Why the Allies Won,” a far better---or at least, more interesting---book. Here he examines in great detail the origins of British and American thinking about how to conduct a war in the air, how it evolved, and whether it worked at all. After WWI, most strategic thinkers felt that future wars would be decided by devastating bombing, which would destroy cities, kill civilians, and te ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Annette rated it it was amazing
Source: Free copy from Viking in exchange for a review.

During World War II (1939-1945) "600,000 European civilians were killed by bomb attack and well over a million more were seriously injured, in some cases physically or mentally disabled for life." Page xi
It is with these sobering statistics, Richard Overy, begins a detailed overview of the bombers who bombed in order to destroy the Axis powers of World War II.
The main thrust of the book is on the bombers of the Allied forces: the Bom
Dec 07, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
Richard Overy, THE BOMBERS AND THE BOMBED, Allied Air War over Europe, 1940-1945. Viking, 2013. Xxviii, 562.

The author begins with a chapter on “Bombing Bulgaria” as a summary of his major theses.

13. The political element of the bombing war was partly dictated by the direct involvement of politicians in decision making about bombing. The bombing of Bulgaria was Churchill’s idea, and he remained the driving force behind the argument that air raids would provide a quick and relatively cheap way of
Matthew Barlow
May 09, 2015 Matthew Barlow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a long read, but very well written. Overy's assessment of the bombing of Europe by the allies is dead on in its analysis and scope. He skillfully shows that many of the European targets were legitimate military targets, and that civilian casualties were often the result of poor conditions, inaccurate intelligence, or the ineffectiveness of high altitude bombing. However, this is not to say that the the Allies never intentionally target civilians. When bombing enemy cities, particularly ...more
P.e. lolo
May 06, 2014 P.e. lolo rated it really liked it
In this book there are parts of it that are very interesting and there are other parts for me that were difficult to get through. There is so much information that at times you feel like there is too much. Most of the information is about the towns or cities that were bombed in Europe during WWII. There is also information about the blitz on Britain by Germany. Britain then set out and bomb Bulgaria multiple times for their alliance with Germany like they had in WWI. Thinking that bombing towns ...more
May 20, 2014 Ilya rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
A few months ago I read Bomber by Len Deighton, a novel about an RAF bombing raid on Germany in 1943 told from the point of view of all the parties involved: British bomber pilots, German fighter pilots, German civilians on the ground, and so on. This is a scholarly study of the subject. Bombing was definitely a front in the war: instead of attacking a tank in the field or an airplane in the air, it is easier to destroy the factory that makes them, or the refinery that makes fuel for them, or to ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
Reviews for Richard Overy's "The Bombers and the Bombed" have been deservedly strong. This is an outstanding work.

There are no shortage of issues in the aerial bombing of World War 2. Is the bombing intended to affect political will or strategic capability? What argument exists for bombing civilian urban areas as opposed to industrial areas? Did it work? Was it worth the cost in lives? Overy deals with each of these questions, but more importantly follows the evolution of the question and the an
Feb 22, 2014 Jody rated it liked it
I received this book for free from Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

The author has done a lot of fact gathering for this book and he is very happy to share it with you. The time he spent digging through other works, historical documents and maps would be more than some people get to live. This book is very interesting in the way it opens up the war room dialogue as to when and where and why we should use planes and bombs in a war. All of this time I had foolishly assumed that
Mar 28, 2014 John rated it liked it
This novel’s style was aggravating, with full pages or more of a single paragraph. I wouldn’t describe this style as enjoyable or easily readable at all. I was glad that the real length of the novel was 200 pages less than the 636 pages that were in the e-book. The rest was footnotes.

The Americans and the British were obsessed with bombers in WWII. On the American side, that was evident in just one instance, which was the production of the B-24 Liberator (a somewhat ironic term after reading thi
Oct 23, 2014 Charlie rated it liked it
Although full of interesting (and often dry) facts, stats and strategy, the revelations contained within are actually quite disturbing. Our history has taught us how the Nazi's were about bombing cities to create civilian deaths and demoralization while our allied air forces were about precision bombing of industrial targets to cripple the enemy war machine. The really disturbing part was how the allies were also deliberating targeting the civilian housing areas of German cities while publicly l ...more
Feb 10, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it
Years ago,when I was about 12, I got hold of my dad's Compact History of the United States Air Force and managed to read it from the beginning with the Wright Flyers to the end of the Korean War and developments to 1960. A large portion of that book dealt with the bombing of Germany and other locations in Europe and Asia during WWII. So when I started reading The Bombers and The Bombed, I was entering semi-familiar ground.

While Richard Overy does not write a justification for the Allied/German
Aug 18, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent look at the Anglo-American air war during World War II because Overy has done something I have never seen another author do. He covers not just the bombing of Germany but also the Allied bombing of Italy and German-occupied and German-allied countries.

Overy makes three points about the bombing of Germany I hadn't really seen before. 1) The Germans always expected to be bombed and began preparing their "civil defense" from the mid-1930s. 2) Women played a major role in German
Feb 03, 2014 Calvin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in historical war information
Recommended to Calvin by: Goodreads
This book took me some time to read, because I had a hard time reading all the details and to just skip through for the sake of reading it, seemed a futile effort overall. So I took my time and read lighter material in between.
The Bombers and Bombed is an in depth study of the physical challenges, and political will of the Allies effort to stop the 3rd Reich from keeping its strangle hold on Europe. The in depth documentary focused on the British and American combined effort, using bombers to tr
Harry A
Apr 11, 2014 Harry A rated it really liked it
This is a very detailed, and very readable, history of the Allied bombing of Europe in WWII, and the German response. He covers bombing outside of Germany (which was more extensive than I had realized), along with the better-known bombing of Germany (including the fire-bombings of Hamburg and Dresden). He simply assumes that deliberately targeting civilians was immoral, and is more interested in how the Allies came to do it than in explaining why it was immoral. (He does provide evidence that it ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
I think objectively this book is very well done. The author includes a lot of very detailed statistics but mixes them in with fun facts, first-hand anecdotes, and fascinating stories. However, for me, this was just more detail than I needed on the topic. I felt the story got bogged down by details of exact numbers and dates. There were a number of people mentioned, but I couldn't keep them straight because we were never given any personal information about any them and they all blurred together. ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Deodand rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, europe, wwii
This was a tough read, it wasn't as reader-friendly as I hoped it would be. I am approaching this book as an utter layperson so it was a bit of a learning curve.

I did learn a lot of things I didn't know before about the effectiveness of the area bombing campaigns in Europe. This book steps away from the horror on the ground (except in a few compelling portions about firestorms that will give the most hardened reader pause) and focuses on whether the campaign achieved its objectives. Technology w
Feb 26, 2014 Tanya rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This scholarly work is good solid history filled with facts, statistics, and scattered human perspectives, but it is not particularly readable. Time and again I found myself plowing through long technical paragraphs with so many details that my head blurred before I finished the page. The best section by far (and really the only part of the book that I would recommend reading unless you're really interested in war materiel) was the middle section on the bombed in Germany's cities. The biggest co ...more
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Richard James Overy is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and the Third Reich.
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