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Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany 1942--1945 [Hardcover]

Randall Hansen
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 14 2008 0385664036 978-0385664035
National Bestseller

An enlightening and utterly convincing re-examination of the allied aerial bombing campaign and of civilian German suffering during World War II–an essential addition to our understanding of world history.

During the Second World War, Allied air forces dropped nearly two million tons of bombs on Germany, destroying some 60 cities, killing more than half a million German citizens, and leaving 80,000 pilots dead. Much of the bombing was carried out against the expressed demands of the Allied military leadership. Hundreds of thousands of people died needlessly.

Focusing on the crucial period from 1942 to 1945, and using a compelling narrative approach, Fire and Fury tells the story of the American and British bombing campaign through the eyes of those involved: military and civilian command in America, Britain, and Germany, aircrew in the sky, and civilians on the ground.

Acclaimed historian Randall Hansen shows that the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, was wedded to an outdated strategy whose success had never been proven; how area bombing not only failed to win the war, it probably prolonged it; and that the US campaign, which was driven by a particularly American fusion of optimism and morality, played an important and largely unrecognized role in delivering Allied victory.

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Review

“This outstanding book will ensure that no one can ever again be in doubt about why there is still a controversy over the effectiveness and the morality of the mass destruction of German towns and cities.”
— Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919

“Riveting…. A stellar sense of authenticity…. Hansen offers a point of view that few will have heard before and many may choose to disagree with.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“[A] careful, principled probing of the historical record.”
Vancouver Sun

About the Author

Randall Hansen is Professor of Politics and holds a Research Chair at the University of Toronto. He was born in Canada and has lived in the UK, US, France, Ireland, and Germany. He has a doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he was a Commonwealth scholar. His work has been translated into French, German, and Italian. He has given public lectures throughout Europe and North America, and regularly speaks on local, national, and international radio.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and Bad Dec 2 2013
There is good and bad about this book. There are the issues that are raised, but in my view not resolved in any decisive way because of an over bearing bias.
The good is some of the facts and details that are revealed along with poignant accounts from the victims of the bombing as well as from aircrew trapped in burning aircraft.
The bad is an unjustifiable completely biased portrayal of allied air command and a complete failure to mention some facts that are relevant. The US Army Air Force (USAAF) leaders are bold, brash, brilliant humanitarians (As are those British who tend to support them.) Bomber Command (RAF) are stodgy, often boring, ruthless baby-killers, lacking any morality. This is right out of Hollywood. This bias reaches its peak when the author describes Curtis Le May as a humanitarian (whilst his British counter parts are not.) For those who need reminding: Le May was the general who planned the single worst bombing raid in terms of loss of civilians in history: the deliberate Fire bombing of Tokyo in which 150,000 people burned in one night (roughly equivalent to the 2 atomic bombs put together.)
(As well as this the lack of ability to bomb accurately from high altitude is what lead to the fire bombings of Japanese cities, by Le May and this is a relevant fact when talking about the European theatre as this book is.)
In attempting to claim that the Americans were more moralistic and focused on military industrial targets through precision strategic bombing he fails to mention that precision bombing only existed in ww2 with (generally) low level specially trained crews, and not with massive bomber streams that he is discussing. Thus although a target might be industrial, the spread of bombs got everyone in the area.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, readable and well researched Jan. 23 2012
By Lynne
Format:Paperback
Very readable, comprehensive book. Reads like a novel, but it's historically relevant and well researched. I bought this book for a research project and referred to parts of it for that academic work, but it was so well written and interesting I ended up reading the whole thing from cover to cover. Highly recommend for history buffs and anyone interested in WWII, leadership, the horrors of war and the context surrounding it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very worthwhile and important book July 4 2010
By Al
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this very good and important contribution to the history of British and American terror bombing of German civilians during World War Two, author Hansen makes several important points:

-the decision to mass murder civilians and destroy their homes, as opposed to targeting military installations was made by Arthur Harris. The Americans weren't nearly as involved in bombing civilians. Many in the British high command were opposed to it, and Churchill was mostly lukewarm, even expressing some reservations.

-German armament minister Albert Speer was afraid the British would target military installations such as factories, as opposed to civilians, because he thought then Germany's was effort would be hurt more. In other words, if Harris and the British had channeled the resources and brave men to bomb factories, instead of non-combatant people, they would have won the war faster. Bombing civilians was self-defeating. I think Hansen's point is made by the Americans in Viet Nam: despite dropping more bombs on Hanoi than were dropped on Berlin in WW2, the Americans still lost.

Hansen gives several very gripping and upsetting accounts of what it was like to experience the bombings as a civilian. He interviewed dozens and dozens of people and has produced a very thoroughly researched and engagingly written book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We'll Bomb them into the Stone Age Nov. 30 2008
By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It's one of the big philosophical questions of the twentieth century given the totality of destruction WWII had on humanity. In "Fire and Fury," scholar and professor Randall Hansen explores the ethical dimension of the use of area bombing by both the axis and the allies during the war.

Throughout the body of the book, Hansen explores the rather ambiguous objectives of area bombing. While superficially stated, the purpose was to destroy the German industry, implicitly many Generals interpreted the purpose to destroy public morale. Hansen concludes that Generals such as Curtis LeMay of the US and Sir Arthur Harris of the RAF felt they had carte blanche to "bomb them into the stone age."

Overall, I think the book is a decent exploration into one of the larger moral implications of bombing and its use in war, specifically in WWII. I would have to say that a basic background in the war is necessary, otherwise you won't understand the basic sequence of events. Despite a few minor flaws, I recommend "Fire and Fury" for anyone wanting to learn more about WWII.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Randall Hansen crafts an impeccible and engaging narrative of the Allied bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany from 1942 to 1945. I am an avid reader of WWII aviation literature and count Hansen's contribution to said literature among the most insightful and well-written accounts available.

Hansen's book not only offers a wealth of research into the actions of Carl Spaatz, Arthur Harris, Albert Speer and other key figures, but it weaves historical facts into a series of compelling and beautifully articulated storylines.

Finally, Hansen's questions about the ethics of aerial bombing campaigns remain salient even in contemporary conflics.

An excellent book; one well-worthy the praise it's received in the media.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good price, came in good time
God quality, good price, came in good time.
Published 1 day ago by Ramon
1.0 out of 5 stars History revised
This book is an attempt to rewrite history and make it politically correct. Its not worth the paper its written on, nor the time to read it.
Published 20 months ago by Dr. B
1.0 out of 5 stars Moral Relativism in Fire and Fury
Moral Relativism on Allied Bombing, October 5, 2009
By Jeffrey Noah "Jeffrey Noah" - See all my reviews
Review by Jeffrey Asher of "Fire and Fury" by Randall Hansen... Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2009 by Jeffrey Noah
5.0 out of 5 stars The Horrors of Mass Bombing
If this book is anything to go by, the academic world is still out on whether the Allies were right in extensively bombing German cities during WW II, both from moral and... Read more
Published on July 22 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Writen and Researched; One Excellent Viewpoint. Question: Was...
Professor Randall writes in a popular style for a lay readership about a very complex history that spans a relatively long period of time. Read more
Published on June 12 2009 by Bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely readable and balanced
Randall Hansen provides a masterful analysis of the allied bombing of Germany. This book is incredibly readable. I could not put it down. Read more
Published on April 28 2009 by Blue
1.0 out of 5 stars Fire and Fury - The book had neither
After reading a book on the Hamburg firestorm (Inferno-highly recommended)I was drawn to this book to give a wider perspective to the allied bomber offensive. Read more
Published on March 16 2009 by Pathfinder
3.0 out of 5 stars the horrifying bombing war
German cities suffered immensely during Word War II. This book documents how Bomber Command of the RAF pursued its objective of destroying all German cities at the expense of... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2009 by J. C. Mareschal
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