Wednesday 14 May 2003

From Dresden to Tokyo

Book covers: four books about the bombing of Nazi Germany

I’m immersed in the firebombing of Dresden. On Saturday night SBS showed the BBC Timewatch program, Bombing Germany. Waiting for me at the post office today was a copy of David Irving’s The Destruction of Dresden. Last week, Alexander McKee’s Dresden 1945: The Devil’s Tinderbox arrived in the mail. Both of these books are out of print, though easy enough to find via Abebooks. The Destruction of Dresden is by the David Irving, the notorious Holocaust denier. (Had I checked his website I could have downloaded a PDF of the 1995 reprint, instead of shelling out for a 1963 first edition.)

Yesterday, at Kinokuniya, I picked up Robin Neillands’ The Bomber War: The Allied Air Offensive Against Nazi Germany. Tomorrow I’ll see if I can locate a local copy of Denis Richards’ The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War.

Since the Neillands and Richards books deal with the bombing of Nazi Germany in general terms, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five might be the only book still in print whose main focus is the firebombing of Dresden.

After reading a dozen or more books about the firebombing of Tokyo—almost all of which are out of print—it occurred to me that if I was to understand what happened in Tokyo I needed to know more about how the Allied bombing campaign against Germany was conducted. So, over the past six months, I read Martin Middlebrook’s The Nuremberg Raid, The Battle of Hamburg, The Scheweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, and The Berlin Raids. But, when dealing with the bombing of Germany, all roads lead to Dresden.

Five volume history of the Tokyo firebombingI’ve come to realize that General Curtis LeMay’s decision to abandon the precision bombing tactics the USAAF had used against military targets in Germany and, instead, to attack Japanese civilians must have been based on his observation of the RAF’s area bombing methods, which were directed almost exclusively against civilians. When I know enough about how Dresden was destroyed, I can re-read the books in English about the Tokyo firebombing. At the same time, I’m steadily improving my Japanese reading skills so that eventually I hope to tackle the five volume 東京大空襲・戦災誌 (Tokyo daikushu sensaishi - The Tokyo Air Raids: A Record of War Damage).

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A Guardian review of the (sadly late) WG Sebald's "Amnesia about the Allied bombing: On the Natural History of Destruction" may be of interest, if you haven't seen it already. (The book itself, too, also, as well.),12674,908083,00.html

Posted by des on 14 May 2003 (Comment Permalink)

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