Blogs > Cliopatria > The Fire

Mar 22, 2007 10:35 am

The Fire

The phenomenon of publishers sending unsolicited review copies to history bloggers has reached the Second World War. At the end of last year, several of us received copies of Jorg Friedrich's book The Fire, about the Allied bombing of Germany, from Columbia.
Receiving books for review poses some potential ethical problems for the blogger. One way to keep us honest (and to make full use of the medium) is to rely on the collaborative power of the web. Brett Holman, (of Airminded and Revise and Dissent) and I have written a joint review, in the form of a conversation. It's up now at Trench Fever and Airminded. Let us know what you think, both of the review and of the approach.

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Ralph M. Hitchens - 3/26/2007

Thanks Brett. I undoubtedly got those quotes originally from you, and knew not//realized not to whom I was speaking. What do you do with a guy like Harris, who speaks such blunt truth?

Brett Holman - 3/22/2007

Thank-you, Ralph. This is a good place for me to point out that the format was Dan's idea, so all the credit for that should go to him.

I do agree that area/morale bombing and air control are intertwined, at least in the British context; though I would say they derive from common (WWI and earlier) roots, rather than one from the other. By the way, I like those quotes too - see a post I wrote last year. Harris was such a blunt speaker, he's great for cutting through mountains of official waffle.

Ralph M. Hitchens - 3/22/2007

I think your methodology is excellent, albeit most applicable to books likely to attract serious interest and discussion (ergo, not every book). I got a pretty clear picture of the books strengths and weaknesses, which correlate with what I read in other reviews.

Substantively speaking, more than one historian has drawn a direct line between the UK's "air control" doctrine implemented in the Mideast between the world wars, and Bomber Command's "terror" campaign. I think it most instructive to quote "Bomber" Harris, who participated in both: "[To the Air Ministry] The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive and the part which Bomber Command is required by agreed British-US strategy to play in it, should be unambiguously and publicly stated. That aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilised community life throughout Germany. It should be emphasised that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.

[To Ira Eaker] You destroy a factory and they rebuild it. In six weeks they are in operation again. I kill all their workmen, and it takes twenty-one years to provide new ones

Good review.

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