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In July 1943 a series of heavy bombing raids virtually destroyed the port city of Hamburg, home of the main German U-boat shipbuilding yards. In one night alone an unprecedented 40,000 people perished largely as a result of the terrible ‘firestorms’ phenomenon. To this day controversy rages as to the morality of these attacks and their consequences.
With trademark thoroughness and objectivity, Martin Middlebrook has delved deep into the archives to uncover the facts. As ever, he draws on copious eyewitnesses and participants – a total of 547 British, American and German. The harrowing testimonies of the Hamburg survivors reveal what it was like to be subjected to prolonged and intense air attack. The author does not shirk the moral dilemma.
Paradoxically, while Hamburg was arguably Bomber Command’s greatest achievement, it remains its – and Air Marshal Harris’ – most criticised. Often overlooked was the USAAF’s role and this together with the reaction of the Luftwaffe night-fighter force to Bomber Command’s new Window device are fully covered.
Firestorm Hamburg is a masterly account of the most controversial Allied bombing offensive of the Second World War that can only result in a better understanding of the background, the conduct of the operation and its outcome.
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