Terror from the Sky
The Bombing of German Cities in World War II
Igor Primoratz (editor)
New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010. 240 p. Hardcover, $90.00 / £53.00. ISBN 9781845456870
Reviewed by Gerhard L. Weinberg
University of North Carolina
This is a collection of pieces by philosophers, sociologists, and historians attacking the Allied bombing campaign of World War II. A lengthy introduction by the editor sets the stage by careful omission of the German introduction of bombing of cities remote from the front in World War I and the initiation of city bombing in Poland by Germany as the opening move of World War II. In this piece as elsewhere in most of the contributions, the key relevant literature by such authors as Tami Biddle and Edward Westermann is ignored. A survey of British bombing policy by Stephen A. Garrett carefully skirts the way in which that policy evolved in response to German actions. The subsequent chapter by philosophy professor Douglas P. Lackey on American bombing policy consists primarily of arguments without the slightest signs of analysis or knowledge of why Adolf Hitler went to war in the first place. There follow reprints of chapters from previously published books by Earl Beck and Martin Middlebrook.
Three chapters follow to show how nothing could justify what happened. Professor Lackey weighs in again to explain why President Harry Truman was a mass murderer. Since the Japanese authorities had agreed that twenty million Japanese casualties was an acceptable cost of resisting invasion, it is evidently Lackey’s view that this would have exonerated Truman from such strictures. Some familiarity with the relevant literature like the works of Richard Frank, D.M. Giangreco, John Ray Skates, Edward Drea, and Thomas Allen & Norman Polmar might have helped here.
The final two chapters are the only ones this reviewer found worth reading. The British scholar Mark Connelly provides a summary of the debate about bombing in England that is helpful even if it contains nothing new. The German scholar Lothar Kettenacker offers an excellent survey of the debate in Germany. The Berghahn imprint generally assures prospective readers that a book meets high standards of scholarship. Something went badly wrong in this case. The subject is one of great importance and surely deserves better.
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