Military History The Allied Bombardment of Occupied Europe During World War II
by
Stephen A. Bourque
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0163

Introduction

Although occupied Europe absorbed more bombs than Germany until the middle of 1944, few of the air war’s standard accounts examine details of operations against France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and post-surrender Italy. However, since the mid-1990s, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have begun to remedy this omission. In the case of the Allied bombing of France and the Low Countries, the attacks lasted five long years and targeted most of the region’s population centers, small towns, and even isolated villages. In 1944, as the Norman landings approached, the bombing intensity increased dramatically; by the end of the year, aircraft from the US Army Air Force and British Royal Air Force had killed approximately 75,000 French civilians and destroyed thousands of buildings and historic structures. Today, monuments across France attest to the effects of these attacks, often naming the individual victims in the same manner a war memorial commemorates the conflict’s military veterans. Newspapers and civic groups alert the rebuilt communities when an anniversary of an especially significant attack approaches. Finally, cemetery plots, often entombing entire families, provide tangible evidence of the grief suffered by families and communities. These were not random acts of military violence, but integral parts of Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in Europe. Directed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, air operations such as Fortitude, Pointblank, Crossbow, and the Transportation Plan ensured that ground forces would be able to land on the coast and not be thrown back into the sea by reinforced German defenders. Few English-language books have addressed this portion of the Norman landings because the bombings took place out of sight of those landing on the coast. Although French, Italian, and English historians have been busy since 2010 exploring this history, studies of operations in Belgium and the Netherlands are still in their infancy. Whereas literature on the Allied air operations is extensive, this article focuses only on those sources that elaborate on bombing operations against occupied Europe, but it is only preliminary as studies on this topic are expanding rapidly.

General References

Certain standard references are essential for any discussion of the Allied air war over the occupied states and provide the researcher with essential operational summaries and details. Most important is Leleu, et al. 2010, which provides essential details on the French situation. It is the most important one-volume reference work for the study of France during the war. Written by the best scholars in this discipline and magnificently illustrated, it provides detailed maps, charts, and descriptions of all aspects of the war. Cox, et al. 1993 introduces and annotates the Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit that evaluated the effectiveness of Allied bombing during the war. It also has important charts and information on kinds of targets attacked and bomb tonnage dropped. This report contains important information on bombing operations against French, Italian, and Belgian rail systems and vengeance weapon sites. United States Strategic Bombing Survey 1947 indexes the massive collection of reports, target information, and analysis of specific operations and targets used after the war to evaluate bombing effectiveness. Approximately half of the records concern air war in the European theater. The Index, published after the war, is a researcher’s first step in utilizing this valuable collection. Freeman, et al. 1981 is the best one-volume source on Eighth Air Force missions. Middlebrook and Everitt 1985 has compiled the same for Bomber Command. Mahoney 2013 has assembled the same information for the generally ignored US Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy. As of the mid-2010s, no details of missions by the Second and Ninth Tactical Air Forces have been published. Davis 2006 seeks to provide a one-volume summary of the overall Allied bombing effort.

  • Cox, Sebastian, Michael Beetham, and John W. Huston, eds. The Strategic Air War against Germany, 1939–1945: Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. London: Frank Cass, 1993.

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    Of special note are discussions of bombing policy, technical changes, and supposed improvements in bombing accuracy.

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  • Davis, Richard G. Bombing the European Powers: A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive, 1939–1945. Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 2006.

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    This a good one-volume reference to the entire bombing war organized by year and month. It contains a CD with non-copyrighted disk with maps and spreadsheet of bombing operations. Researchers should note that this information is incomplete and does not include all missions from the tactical air forces.

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  • Freeman, Roger A., Alan Crouchman, and Vic Maslen. Mighty Eighth War Diary. New York: Jane’s, 1981.

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    A chronological listing of missions by unit and target. Contains general information on each squadron and a solid index.

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  • Leleu, Jean-Luc, Françoise Passera, Jean Quellien, and Michel Daeffler, Guillaume Balavoine, and Jean-Pierre Azéma. La France pendant la seconde guerre mondiale. Paris: Fayard, 2010.

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    Extremely important book on all aspects of France’s participation in the war. It provides an extensive bibliography covering each aspect of the conflict.

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  • Mahoney, Kevin. Fifteenth Air Force against the Axis: Combat Missions over Europe during World War II. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2013.

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    Contains monthly narratives and a large quantity of details on tactics, weapons, and individual missions. The index lists all cities bombed by month and year. Not to be overlooked in any discussion of the bombing of occupied Europe.

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  • Middlebrook, Martin, and Chris Everitt. The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book, 1939–1945. New York: Viking, 1985.

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    An essential source for operations conducted by Bomber Command during the war. This is a chronological listing of missions, including unit, targets, and air losses, and contains general information on each squadron and a robust index.

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  • United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Index to Records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1947.

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    Although all of the individual documents are located in Record Group 243 at the National Archives, College Park, MD, many individual reports are found in federal depository libraries across the country. This is an extensive index, over 300 pages long, and worth consideration for any project regarding bombing during the war. Available online.

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General Accounts of the Air War 1940–1945

The bombing of occupied Europe took place within the broader framework of a continental war. The references in this section provide the student with general accounts, which are useful in relating bombing operations against targets in occupied states with the broader array of operations taking place. Pogue 1954 is a readily available resource and essential to placing the air war within the context of Allied policy and strategy. Pogue describes the overall planning process for Neptune and beyond; of special importance is chapter 7, which describes in detail the development of the transportation plan and concern for civilian casualties. Difficult to obtain are the Draft Narratives (Air Historical Branch (RAF), Air Ministry 1946) that focus on bombing operations against targets in France and Belgium. Written shortly after the war, primarily by Denis Richards, this detailed three-volume set is essential for understanding the details behind the various operations. Meticulously referenced, it is a valuable tool for examining the debates behind each operation and is the only complete record of Trafford Leigh-Mallory’s Allied Expeditionary Air Force. Written soon after the war, Richards and Saunders 1953–1954 gives an early narrative of the British history of the air war. Richards, the official Air Ministry historian, teamed up with Saunders, the librarian for the House of Commons, and began this narrative history as the war was still in progress. It is complete with excellent color maps, charts, photographs, and details of operations important to those involved. Webster and Frankland 1961 only marginally improves on Richards and Saunders 1953–1954; its importance is its discussion of technical and policy issues. Since the war, Canadians have continued to develop their own military identity separate from the British. They also began writing historical narrative, focused on the Royal Canadian Air Force before the war in Europe ended, beginning with Historical Section of the Royal Canadian Air Force 1945. Although handicapped by an absence of the perspective of time, this account contains interesting first-person accounts of a variety of missions. A more comprehensive official history emerged toward the end of the 20th century with Greenhous, et al. 1994. Written fifty years after the war, it is a first-class scholarly production. Chapter 4 on the bomber war is most important for our purposes. It is one of the few official accounts to acknowledge the effect of bombing missions on civilian targets. Craven and Cate 1948–1951 provides the American perspective of operations with their own nationalistic bent, but this collection is essential to put the Allied bombardment in perspective. Written within a few years of the conflict’s end, it is a solid report on operations, but with the biases typical of an official history written soon after the event.

  • Air Historical Branch (RAF), Air Ministry. RAF Narrative (First Draft): The Liberation of North West Europe. 5 vols. Northolt, UK: Air Ministry, Air Historical Branch, 1946.

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    These are located in Air 41 at the UK National Archives. Currently available for purchase online.

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  • Craven, Wesley Frank, and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vols. 1–3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948–1951.

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    The American perspective produced soon after the Air Force became a separate service. Still an excellent summary of the air war, it is a good weave of operations, technology, and tactics. Available online.

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  • Greenhous, Brereton, Stephen J. Harris, William C. Johnston, and William G. P. Rawling. The Crucible of War, 1939–1945. Vol. 3, The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.

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    Incorporates post-1960s scholarship, including discussions of Ultra and Fortitude. Supported by excellent maps and photographs. Best of the official histories.

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  • Historical Section of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The R.C.A.F. Overseas. Vol. 2, The Fifth Year. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1945.

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    Contains interesting first-person accounts of a variety of missions. Available online.

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  • Pogue, Forrest C. The Supreme Command: The European Theater of Operations. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, US Department of the Army, 1954.

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    This volume from the US Army’s official history remains essential for understanding command relationships and personalities. Students should note that Pogue wrote this before the Allied governments released the details of code breaking (Ultra) and the deception plan (Fortitude).

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  • Richards, Denis, and Hilary St. George Saunders. The Royal Air Force, 1939–1945. 3 vols. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1953–1954.

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    As is the case for all works written during this period, it ignores details of deception and electronic interceptions. Still, a valuable reference for operations in France and Italy.

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  • Webster, Charles, and Noble Frankland. The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, 1939–1945. 3 vols. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1961.

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    Written only fifteen years after the war, this is an overview of the Allied air war from the British perspective. Emphasis is on heavy bombers and little discussion of operations by tactical air forces. Good maps.

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Bombing Theory and Practice

Bombing has been a controversial topic, even before Giulio Douhet published his bombardment theory in 1921 (Douhet 1998). Those who agreed with his ideas, especially in the United States and Great Britain, fought with their governmental bureaucracies to gain and maintain independence from ground commanders. Their principal argument, always seductive for policymakers, was that massed bombers would lead to victory without the deaths of thousands of soldiers, as it did in World War I. Implicit in this argument, and depending on where and when it was made, was the acknowledgment that civilians would become casualties. In fact, one of the principal goals of any bombing theory was to lower the morale of the targeted population. The controversies also centered on target selection and the relationship between bombing and national victory. Douhet 1998 provides essential insights into the mind of the World War II bomber commander. Either directly, or indirectly, Douhet’s view on taking the war to the enemy’s population eventually was accepted by most senior bomber officers. Ultimately, the massive bombing of German and Japanese cities are in accord with Douhet’s post–World War I arguments. MacIsaac 1986 provides a dated, but still relevant, summary of the theorist and most important practitioners. Biddle 2002 is important because it describes the development of bombing doctrine and the ability, or more often inability, of bomber units to deliver what they had promised to the political authorities. It exposes inconsistencies of theory and prewar bombing doctrine. Wakelam 2009 explores changes in technology that hindered or assisted effective bombing. How do planners identify and access targets? How do crews find what they want to bomb? How does the bombardier drop the munitions as close to the target as possible? Using data from the RAF Bomber Command’s Operational Research Section, Wakelam explains the increasing effectiveness of heavy bombers during the war. Overy 2013 and Overy 2014 are the most important books on the Allied air war in Europe published since the 1990s, written by the dean of World War II aviation history. It is essential for understanding the theory, mechanics, policy, and effects of bombing on the targets. Focus is on heavy bombers, and does not cover other aspects of air power. The director of the Bombing, States and Peoples project, Overy includes the fate of the bombed in his analysis. When Overy’s The Bombing War was republished as Bombers and the Bombed (New York: Viking, 2013), the publisher required the manuscript to be reduced by almost one-third; therefore, the abridged edition misses, among several issues, some of the author’s rich discussion on bombardment theory and practice. Crane 2016 is a revised version of the problems of creating bombing strategy and reflects the latest scholarship on bombing strategy and doctrine.

  • Biddle, Tami Davis. Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

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    This is a detailed study of the relationship among theory, institutions, and doctrine. Important discussion of the effect of bombing on civilian moral and an analysis of the Combined Bomber Offensive.

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  • Crane, Conrad. American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, Civilians, and Oil. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016.

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    Crane has significantly revised his 1993 publication to reflect a wealth of new sources published since the 1990s. An important discussion of doctrine, technology, and the problems of fighting modern war. Excellent bibliography.

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  • Douhet, Giulio. The Command of the Air. Translated by Dino Ferrai. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1998.

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    Originally published in 1921. Translated by Dino Ferrai in 1942. This is the fundamental theory of air bombing. Missing from these ideas are discussions of war’s reality, such as how to apply these ideas when attacking a friendly occupied state.

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  • MacIsaac, David. “Voices from the Central Blue: The Air Power Theorists.” In Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Edited by Peter Paret, 624–647. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

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    Although somewhat dated, MacIsaac provides a quick overview of bombing theory and practice. An important summary of major themes and ideas.

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  • Overy, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939–1945. London: Allen Lane, 2013.

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    This is the European version of Overy’s magnificent study of the air war in Europe. Its focus is on heavy bombers and does not cover other aspects of air power. Important discussion of the nature of experiencing bombardment.

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  • Overy, Richard. The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940–1945. New York: Viking, 2014.

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    In this American edition of the Bombing War, the publisher eliminated several of the early chapters, which weakens the reader’s overall understanding of the scope of the air offensive. However, it is still useful for the researchers and more widely available in the United States.

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  • Wakelam, Randall T. The Science of Bombing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

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    This is a good companion to Biddle 2002 and explores the details of the scientific component to the bombing operations.

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General Works on Bombing Occupied Powers

The United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council funded a comprehensive research study on the bombing of occupied states in 2007, called “Bombing, States and Peoples.” This article contains numerous references that are the result of that three-year project and is a testimony to the value of academic research. Members of this study continue to influence other scholars interested in exploring different aspects of the bombing process. Florentin and Archambault 1997 is one of the first books to re-engage with the Allied assault and is cited in almost every work on the topic. Although not the best book on the bombing of France, it is one of the most influential. The authors’ journalistic account of the Allied bombing war emphasizes sensationalism over essential facts and details, and their treatment of individual topics is often erratic and haphazard. Yet, this book is essential for any study of this topic because it touches on all of the major bombardment events. Baldoli, et al. 2011 represents the results of a multi-year research project by three British universities to examine this generally unknown aspect of the war. An early indication of the quality of work resulting from the Arts and Humanities Research study is Dodd and Knapp 2008, which remains the most important article written on the Allied bombing of France; it summarizes the nature, depth, and breadth of these operations within the context of British, and later Allied, bombing policy. Baldoli and Knapp 2012 expanded on this work and produced a comparison of the bombing war from French and Italian perspectives; it is the best work in English focused on the bombing of occupied states. Knapp 2014 further focused the results of his research in the Bombing, States and Peoples project and produced the most comprehensive one-volume history of the Allied air war against France. Individual chapters cover all aspects of the campaign, including such issues as propaganda, civil defense, and the relationship of bombing with both resistance and liberation. Battesti and Facon 2009 presents the proceedings from a conference held in Paris in 2007, a collection of papers highlighting some of the major issues in the Allied bombardment of French territory. Barzman, et al. 2016 has presented a similar collection from a Europe-wide conference.

  • Baldoli, Claudia, and Andrew Knapp. Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940–1945. New York: Continuum, 2012.

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    Based on the Bombing, States and Peoples project, this should be required reading before beginning a research project on this topic.

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  • Baldoli, Claudia, Andrew Knapp, and Richard Overy, eds. Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe 1940–1945. London: Continuum, 2011.

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    With a comprehensive introduction by Richard Overy, the book consists of seventeen essays on a wide range of topics regarding the bombing of occupied Europe. Includes an index and comprehensive bibliography.

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  • Barzman, John, Corinne Bouillot, and Andrew Knapp. Bombardements 1944: Le Havre, Normandie, France, Europe. Papers read at an International Symposium held at the University of Le Havre, 3–5 September 2014. Mont-Saint-Aignan, France: Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2016.

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    Proceedings from conference held in Le Havre in 2014. Wide range of articles by scholars from across Europe and the United States. Excellent bibliographies.

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  • Battesti, Michèle, and Patrick Facon, eds. Les bombardements alliés sur la France durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale: Stratégies, bilans matériels et humains; Journée d’études du 6 juin 2007, Vincennes. Cahiers du Centre d’Études d’Histoire de la Défense 37. Paris: Centre d’Études d’Histoire de la Défense, 2009.

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    Includes important historiographical discussions, especially the reasons why this topic has emerged so late in the French consciousness.

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  • Dodd, Lindsey, and Andrew Knapp. “‘How Many Frenchmen Did You Kill?’ British Bombing Policy towards France (1940–1945).” French History 22 (2008): 469–492.

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    An essential review for anyone investigating this aspect of the war. Explains the dilemmas faced by Allied leaders.

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  • Florentin, Eddy, and Claude Archambault. Quand les Alliés bombardaient la France. Paris: Perrin, 1997.

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    It lacks an index or comprehensive bibliography. It describes aspects elements of all aspects of the bombardments. It was the first book of this kind and still valuable since it covers so many events, however, use with caution.

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  • Knapp, Andrew. Les Français sous les bombes Alliés, 1940–1945. Paris: Tallandier, 2014.

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    A well-constructed index and bibliography will assist in exploring the topic in depth.

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Allied Biographies and Memoirs

The Allied fight against the German empire was an industrial war as thousands of combat aircraft filled the sky over France, Italy, and the Low Countries every day. Yet, the decisions on where and what to bomb were made by the coalition’s political and military leaders. The bombing raids were not simply haphazard events, but all were linked to Eisenhower’s master plan of operations. The selected texts in this section will help provide information that researchers can use to understand these decisions. Many of Eisenhower’s papers are available in Chandler, et al. 1970, a five-volume reference that is essential background to strategy and operations. Based primarily on papers in the Eisenhower Presidential Library, the volumes are an essential primary reference for those studying the war in Europe and North Africa. Churchill 1948 presents his side of the war, and it is essential in understanding the bombing of France. Unlike President Roosevelt who allowed General George C. Marshall and Eisenhower to run the war in Europe, Prime Minister Churchill routinely involved himself in all aspects of the campaign’s activities. It was worse, for all concerned, because he was physically so close to all the planning headquarters. Davis 1993, a biography of General Carl Spaatz, helps us understand the US commander of Strategic Air Forces who directed much of the bombing effort across France, much against his will. Saward 1985, the authorized biography of Marshall of the Royal Air Force Arthur Harris, helps us understand why he, like the American strategic airmen, did not want to bomb targets in France. Believing the best course of action was to take the war to Germany, Harris resisted all attempts to employ Bomber Command on other tasks. In the end, the military and political leaders forced his hand, and he attacked targets with a certain amount of enthusiasm. Tedder 1966 is the autobiography of Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, the overall air commander, which presents his story in one of the best autobiographies of the war. In detail, Tedder discusses the debates and personalities involved in planning and executing the invasion of June 1944. In some detail, he discusses his concerns and analysis of the effect of bombing on civilians; he was one of the few Allied military leaders to emphasize how these calculations affected bombing operations. Tedder’s principal civilian advisor, Solly Zuckerman, contributes his insights to the process in Zuckerman 1978. Although the Allies would probably have bombed most of France and Belgium’s rail centers, Zuckerman provided the intellectual framework for such action. In addition to defending his solutions, Zuckerman provides a civilian’s perspective on the warlords with whom he worked.

Occupied France

Any discussion of French military targets must address the occupied state’s society, economy, culture, and political situation. The references in this section, written from different perspectives, provide a window into a complex world of men and women seeking to cope in a shifting environment of military fortunes and degrees of collaboration with either the Allies or Germans. Amouroux 1976–1993 is a ten-volume history of France under German occupation and is a standard, lively account of the French experience. A journalist, rather than a trained historian, Amouroux’s work has been somewhat provocative in France and presents the standard Gaullist perspective on the war, essentially that the French were waiting for the Allies to land and help the Resistance evict the Germans. Paxton 1972 challenged that view more than forty years after the war; this book on the war’s French government remains one of the most important and controversial accounts of the occupation. Paxton challenged the conventional postwar wisdom that General Philippe Pétain was protecting the French from the Nazis but was, in fact, an active participant. This work is central to breaking though postwar government narratives and social myths. Gildea 2003 supported Paxton’s challenge in this regional history of the Loire area during the war. Gildea challenged the conventional wisdom of suffering French by illuminating how many prospered, or at least survived, because they cooperated with the German occupation authorities. Gildea’s view also was that, depending on the phase of the occupation, French authorities were more than happy to assist the Vichy and Nazi regimes. Jackson 2001 has more sympathy for the French experience and explores the problems faced by average citizens. He provides an excellent overview of the fate of the French during the conflict. His work is important because it highlights the contradictions and ambiguities faced by those who lived through this period. As of the mid-2010s, Alary, et al. 2006 is the most comprehensive study of French daily life during the World War II. As its title implies, the authors cover the years leading up to the war, the trauma of the invasion, and the French experience during the conflict. An essential source for any research on this topic.

The Transportation Plan

It is somewhat ironic that one of the most extensive, destructive, and contentious operations of the European war—the Transportation Plan—never received an official code name from Allied planners. Controversial from the beginning, elements are discussed in almost every book listed in this article. The references in this section add texture and context to the discussion found in the more general descriptions. Essentially, this operation targeted rail centers in France, Belgium, and the German border area. The destruction of bridges on the Seine and Loire Rivers have generally been considered as part of this effort, although it had different origins. Rostow 1981 should be consulted because the author was a participant in the debates surrounding the development of the Transportation Plan, provides a firsthand discussion of the debates and rich supporting information, and examines Eisenhower in his role as a decision maker. Rostow later became a distinguished academic professor and presidential advisor. Kingston-McCloughry 1958, the chief air planner, developed the plan for Leigh-Mallory, commander in the Royal Air Force. This memoir describes the Transportation Plan’s development from the inside, as well as interesting commentary on many of the participants. Ehlers 2009 examines the problems of identifying and evaluating targets. Intelligence and information issues frame the Transportation Plan and all other Allied air operations. The ability to identify appropriate bombardment targets in advance, and later evaluate the effectiveness of each operation, was a relatively primitive art during this war. Ehlers does an effective job in identifying the concerns and problems with the important bombing operations. Darlow 2004 puts a human face on the participants involved in this operation, both those who flew and those on the ground. Differs from most books in this genre that discusses the aircrews but ignores those under the bombs. Lecup 1979 describes the repetitive bombing of the rail yard at Arras, in the Pas-de-Calais region, one of the many targets identified for destruction as part of the Transportation Plan. Le Trevier and Rose 2004 examines the effects of these missions from the French perspective. Describing one of the earliest transportation missions, the authors break down the assault by Bomber Command into its obvious phases and display the results.

  • Darlow, Stephen. D-Day Bombers: The Veterans’ Story; RAF Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force Support to the Normandy Invasion 1944. London: Grub Street, 2004.

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    Most important is Darlow’s description of a Bomber Command crew’s mission over a French rail yard, the effect of the attack on a local family, and the ultimate meeting of the pilot and the family survivors forty years later.

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  • Ehlers, Robert S., Jr. Targeting the Third Reich: Air Intelligence and the Allied Bombing Campaigns. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2009.

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    Although the title implies the book is focused on Germany, France and Italy actually take center stage in Ehlers’s analysis. An important book for understanding the targeting process.

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  • Kingston-McCloughry, Edgar James. The Direction of War. New York: Praeger, 1958.

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    A biased, but compelling, argument on the development of this most important operation.

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  • Le Trevier, Paul, and Daniel Rose. Ce qui s’est vraiment passé le 19 avril 1944. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France: Comever, 2004.

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    Superb maps and photographs that show how inaccurate the bombers were on this particular mission.

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  • Lecup, Albert. Arras sous les bombardements de 1944. Arras, France: Imprimerie Centrale de l’Artois, 1979.

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    The author, who became a member of the city’s municipal council after the war, provides a first-person testimony of the bombardment from the citizen’s perspective.

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  • Rostow, Walt W. Pre-Invasion Bombing Strategy: General Eisenhower’s Decision of March 25, 1944. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

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    Supported by several important appendixes, most importantly an analysis of the bombardment’s effectiveness prepared in June 1944. With the inclusion of insightful and lively endnotes, this book is mandatory reading for those working on this topic.

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Industrial Targets

France had a sophisticated and highly developed industrial base in 1940. Following its 1940 defeat, these factories produced, among many other products, railroad engines, trucks, aircraft, and clothing essential for the German war machine. These factories, usually in northern cities such as Lille, Abbeville, and Arras, were obvious targets from the beginning of the war. Of course, as in the case of the rail yards, the workers and their families lived near these establishments and faced death or injury whether on the job or at home when the bombers arrived. As pointed out by other authors cited in this article, French workers and factory owners often willingly cooperated with the German economic authorities. In the postwar years, discussing such collaboration was not something most French industrialists wished to do. Jean Caniot lived in a suburb of Lille and witnessed the occupation and the bombardment as a young man. Caniot 1987–1991 provides a good chronicle of events, including discussing Allied bombardments, from a personal perspective. Caniot 2009, a continuation of his work, presents a series of personal testimony from those who survived the war in Lille, France’s most important industrial city. Détrez 1945 also concerns Lille and was published by a local priest on the first anniversary of the liberation. It is a raw study of the occupation and bombardment of the factory city of Lille. Legrand 1990, by a Frenchman who lived through the bombardments of Abbeville, provides a firsthand account of the city experience throughout the war. Uziel 2012 demonstrates that some factories in France were major contributors to the German aviation industry, discussing in detail what these factories were producing and where. In addition to basic aircraft, engines, and other components, these factories helped maintain the German air force for much of the war, which helps to explain why these facilities became targets for the Allied bomber force. Horn and Imlay 2014 has provided recent studies of the nature of factory work, the people who worked there, and the effects of the bombardment, which goes to the heart of the collaboration controversy. These authors dive into the inner workings of one French factory system supporting the German war effort, a company that built trucks for the German military well into 1944. Lacroix-Riz 2013 provides the most substantial evidence of French industrial collaboration with the German military.

Casualty Studies

Although historians and governments have been discussing casualties for years, these numbers generally have been estimates. Therefore, one of the most important projects in determining the scope of civilian casualties during the war is being supervised by the Center de Recherché d’Histoire Quantitative at the University of Caen, in cooperation with the Caen Memorial, the impressive antiwar museum and research library on the northern part of the city. The project’s goal is to refine the numerical information that continues to shift over the years as information continues to be developed. Although the victims of Allied bombardment were the original focus, casualties resulting from other forms of warfare are included. These collaborative efforts often share authors and expertise. Boivin and Garnier 1994 produced the study measuring losses for the department of La Manche, encompassing the Cotentin Peninsula, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. Landings on Utah Beach, the seizure of Cherbourg, the breakout at St. Lô, and the defense at Mortain are all part of the lore of the ground war. However, French citizens took a heavy beating from the sky, with St. Lô especially devastated on June 6. Bourdin and Garnier 1994 examined the civilian casualties in l’Orne, Although overlooked by most writers of the Normandy invasion, the citizens of this department, located south of Caen, took a beating during the invasion and subsequent fighting. Small cities, such as Vire and Falaise, took heavy bombardment during the first ten days of June 1944. Quellien and Garnier 1995 did the same for the Calvados region, which contained four out of five major beaches. This work examines civilian victims killed by air attack during the invasion and lodgment phase. The initial bombardment resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, but the province’s agony was extended by the prolonged siege, accompanied by several bombardments, of the area around Caen. Dandel, et al. 1997 expanded the discussion area to the region of Le Havre and Rouen. Long before the fighting began on the south side of the Seine River near Caen, upper Normandy had been receiving blows from the Allied bomber force. The region suffered terribly in 1944 as the Allied bombers essentially destroyed the heart of Rouen before the landings and Le Havre after the breakout.

  • Boivin, Michel, and Bernard Garnier. Les victimes civiles de la Manche dans la bataille de normandie: 1er avril–30 septembre 1944. Caen, France: Centre de Recherche d’Histoire Quantitative, 1994.

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    Provides details on the results of fighting in this zone from April through September and includes results from the bombing as well as those caught in the way of the ground combat. Excellent collection of charts, maps, and casualty lists.

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  • Bourdin, Gérald, and Bernard Garnier. Les victimes civiles de l’Orne dans la bataille de Normandie: 1er avril–30 septembre 1944. Caen, France: Éditions-Diffusion du Lys, 1994.

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    In addition to the original bombing, this study examines the department of l’Orne during the breakout that came to an end in August. These casualties often ignored.

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  • Dandel, M., G. Duboc, A. Kitts, et al. Les victimes civiles des bombardements en Haute-Normandie: 1er janvier 1944–12 septembre 1944. Cormelles-le-Royal, France: Mandragore, 1997.

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    Heaviest bombings in this region took place before and after the invasion. Contains detailed charts, maps, and casualty lists, which make this an important resource.

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  • Quellien, Jean, and Bernard Garnier. Les victimes civiles du Calvados dans la bataille de Normandie: 1er mars 1944–31 décembre 1945. Caen, France: Éditions-Diffusion du Lys, 1995.

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    Important resource that provides the details needed to understand the civilian perspective of the invasion. Includes detailed charts and lists of victims.

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Population Control and Civil Defense

Looking through pictures of French cities and villages after bombing attacks, one is assured of seeing three different aspects of the post-attack experience: people looking for survivors, firefighters struggling to contain the blaze, and citizens fleeing the burning rubble. Although these topics are discussed in other references in this article, the following studies examine these issues in more detail. Hardy 2006 provides the details of one city’s defense passive (civil defense) organization. Included in this work are details about France’s planning for the protection of its citizens, the operation of the defense program during the German occupation, and details of its operation during the Allied bombing war. Chion 2013 provides a recent study of firefighters, again for Rouen, trying to save the city from the flames. Chion describes the operation of one city’s fire department and traces its history from the German invasion in 1940 through the bombardment and eventually liberation. Torrie 2010 tackles the many causes and effects of mass evacuations and how these were managed, or mismanaged, by government officials. This important book examines one generally ignored aspect of the war—the forced evacuation of civilians. During the initial invasion, as many as eight million French citizens left their homes to avoid the battle. During the occupation, others were evicted from their homes or prevented from returning.

Normandy and the Invasion

Lower Normandy, especially the departments of Calvados, centered on Caen, and La Manche, with the cities of St. Lô, Cherbourg, and Avranches, bore the brunt of most of the fighting from June until the end of August 1944. The presence of the landing beaches, several cemeteries, dozens of small museums, hundreds of monuments, and a world-class museum and research center have ensured a wealth of books, academic monographs, and articles on the invasion. This section includes those books and articles that directly address the issue of aerial bombardment and the resulting civilian casualties. Gosset and Lecomte 1974, originally published a year after the invasion, includes numerous stories and testimony from those who lived through the bombing and fighting. Boivin, et al. 1994 provides observations from those who lived through the experience during the summer of 1944. These scholars, whose names appear in other portions of this bibliography, have provided a collection of twenty-eight personal stories from survivors of the aerial war in Normandy. Beaudufe 2004 is an entertaining and well-resourced book by a French journalist who describes the experience of the Normans during the landings. Hitchcock 2009 describes the scale of the bombing of Normandy’s small cities as part of the overall invasion, an excellent introductory article to the nature of the war from the French perspective. Bourque 2010 includes the military aspects of the bombardment and focuses on the experience of two of the more than a dozen towns that the Allies bombed in the aftermath of the D-Day landings.

Ports

France’s large number of ports and natural harbors were a zone of contention between Germans and Allied airmen. Occupied at the beginning of the war, some were not liberated until the final German surrender in 1945. The Allies bombed and mined these areas from the beginning of the war, first to stop invasion, later to stop submarines as part of the battle of the Atlantic, and finally to prevent German small torpedo boats from interfering with the actual invasion. In addition, Hitler designated some as fortresses, which increased the intensity and prolonged the agony of existence for those civilians who remained until the end. Finally, in the case of those in the Pas-de-Calais, that portion of the Atlantic Wall received special attention from Allied bombers in the weeks before the June invasion. Desquesnes 2011 explains how, these ports (now fortresses) remained defended until either the Allies captured them or the Germans totally surrendered in 1945. Each of these seven pockets of resistance had its own story of siege and capture, often requiring aerial bombardment; Desquenes examines each of these forgotten actions. Capillier 2005 includes the testimony of six of Boulogne’s citizens, which provides a rich counter to the bland narratives of Allied crew members who bombed the city with little comment in their logs and reports. Oddone and Lesage 2010 describes life in one of these fortress cities through the eyes of citizens who survived the experience. Certainly, Dunkerque is in the running for one of the most bombed cities on earth. The German defenders did not surrender until after the main Nazi surrender in May, and those civilians who survived experienced the occupation longer than anyone else in the west. Chazette, et al. 2007 goes into extreme detail to explain the scope of the German defenses at Boulogne and the reasons why they survived the bombing while the surrounding buildings were destroyed. Lormier 2008 is a well-written book with excellent maps that describes the capture of several of France’s southern ports, a topic often ignored. Zinn 2010 adds a personal observation of the bombing of Royan late in the war, which reflects the author’s antiwar views and strong moral compass. Chapter on the bombing of Royan, a small port that dominates the Gironde and is on the way to Bordeaux, is a good explanation of the confusing nature of aerial combat and its effect on the ground.

Pas-de-Calais, Crossbow, and Fortitude

Allied aircraft attacked the three departments at the narrowest point between France and England (Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and the Somme) more than any other region of France. Most of France’s heavy industry was in this region as were its ports, airfields, factories, and rail yards, which were natural targets for the growing Allied air fleets. It was the region in which Organization Todt constructed most of the V1 and V2 rocket launcher sites as well as the most fortified portion of the Atlantic Wall. Finally, as Operation Overlord’s planners sought to deceive the Germans on the actual invasion zone, the Allies purposely dropped a large percentage of their bombs in this region simply as a ruse as part of Operation Fortitude. The sections Ports and Industrial Targets also discuss some of the targets from this region and should also be consulted. Local historians have produced an excellent array of products to explain the complexity of the region’s experience. Any research on topics in this region should begin with Dejonghe and Le Maner 1999, which describes the scope of the war effort in this region and is an excellent local history that covers all aspects of the 1940 campaign, the German occupation, the bombardment, and liberation. Bataille 1984 provides a thoughtful overview of the war in one of the most important cities. Although published forty years after the war, this work is, in many ways, a personal narrative of life during the war. A local author and prominent citizen of the region, Bataille writes with clarity and passion. Bailleul 2000 is an excellent investigation by a local historian on the massive construction in northern France. Chevalier 2009 reinforces Bailleul 2000 and provides an extremely detailed account of the construction and location of vengeance weapon sites from the Somme River to the Belgian border. Chevalier gives detailed information on launch locations, the German organization, and individual bombing raids. Darlow 2002 discusses the British effort to destroy those launchers. Most accounts of the V1 and V2 rockets are from the perspective of attacks on England. Darlow changes that focus and looks at the many missions that Bomber Command flew against the installations in France. Wilt 1975 describes the construction of the Atlantic Wall, which was the focus of extensive bombing before and during the invasion. Although many local and popular studies have been done on the Atlantic Wall, Wilt 1975 is the most scholarly study of the fortresses and places them in context of other operations. Aulich 2007 hints at another aspect of the region—the presence of many thousands of slave laborers who built these massive installations. This important article is a reminder that the Nazis used forced labor of various types to build both their vengeance weapons launchers and the massive gun emplacements along the Atlantic Wall. Circumstantial evidence and some incomplete accounts indicate that thousands of these unfortunates may have perished as result of the Allied bombing raids. As of the mid-2010s, this evidence is inconclusive but worthy of further research.

  • Aulich, James. “Memory, What Is It Good For? Forced Labor, Blockhouses and Museums in Nord-Pas De Calais, Northern France.” In Contested Spaces: Sites, Representations and Histories of Conflict. Edited by Louise Purbrick, James Aulich, and Graham Dawson. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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    The author’s father was a slave laborer at the V2 rocket base at D’Éperlecques, known as the Blockhaus because of its appearance. An interesting report that hints at the scale of the unknown workforce.

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  • Bailleul, Laurent. Les sites V1: En Flandres et en Artois. Hazebrouck: S. A. Presse Flamande, 2000.

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    Contains excellent maps and charts. Provides details on many of the bombing raids, including some prefect report summaries with details.

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  • Bataille, Guy. Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1939–1945. Dunkerque, France: Westhoek, 1984.

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    Includes a good, detailed discussion of the bombardments and their results.

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  • Chevalier, Hugues. Bombes et V1 sur le Pas-de-Calais, 1944: Raids Alliés, Crashs, Destructions. Herbelles, France: H. Chevalier, 2009.

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    Identifies many of the victims by name and date of death. A good bibliography that includes local publications.

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  • Darlow, Stephen. Sledgehammers for Tintacks: Bomber Command Combats the V-1 Menace, 1943–1944. London: Grubb Street, 2002.

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    Hints at the waste of valuable bombers against diversionary targets. Unfortunately, it does not cover American missions against these targets, but is still useful for researchers.

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  • Dejonghe, Étienne, and Yves Le Maner. Le Nord-Pas-de-Calais dans la main allemande. Lille, France: Voix du Nord, 1999.

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    Detailed description of Allied attacks on launcher sites, airfields, rail facilities, and industrial targets. Includes excellent maps, photographs, charts, and a bibliography.

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  • Wilt, Alan. The Atlantic Wall: Hitler’s Defenses in the West, 1941–1944. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1975.

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    Includes all regions, but concentrates in the Pas-de-Calais. Although the author does not linger on the bombing effects, his overview is excellent. More importantly, he provides an excellent bibliography for students of the topic.

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Rouen and the Seine River Crossings

With the westernmost bridges on the Seine, a large rail yard, a good harbor, and the short flying distance from England, Rouen was a natural aerial target from the beginning of the war. Its rail center at nearby Sotteville was a major hub for trains coming to Normandy from the directions of both Lille and Paris. Its bridges across the Seine River were the most direct route for German reinforcements from the north and had to be destroyed to protect the invasion. Its harbor was a German naval base for surface raiders that could hit the invasion. The Allied air forces visited it often, and this bombing has prompted a rich collection of sources describing the city’s experience. Nobécourt 1948 is one of the earliest books to emerge after the war describing Rouen’s story and is still an essential source. Written with the emotion of one who has just witnessed a great tragedy, Nobécourt, a local journalist, provides important details of the city’s experience. Maurois 1948, by a popular French biographer and resident of Elbeuf, not far from Rouen, is a powerful, short narrative of the destruction of the city. Pailhès 1948, by a citizen of Rouen, provides a month-by-month commentary on the war. Le Trevier 2005 gives an extremely detailed account of the first American bombing mission of the war, which was celebrated by the American leaders as a success and proof that new air weapons would win the war in Europe; however, missing from the discussion was the effect of the raid on those on the ground. Bourque 2012 examines the intense week of bombardments just prior to the June 6 invasion. Most French beyond the Norman beaches do not remember the June 6 landings the same as those in England, Canada, and the United States. For the citizens of Rouen, the landings were secondary to the terrorizing week that preceded them. For over a week, Allied aircraft had attacked the city almost daily in order to destroy the bridges over the Seine River. Coiffier 2004 is a good discussion of Rouen’s occupation with a detailed chapter on the Allied bombardment. Pessiot 2004 is a superb photo essay of Rouen from the beginning of the war until reconstruction. With excellent photographs (the quality of these is superb), bibliography, and appropriate annotations, Pessiot documents the effects of the Allied bombing.

Other Occupied States

Although France has been the focus of much of the scholarship in the last few decades, scholars in other occupied states have begun to examine the nature of their societies under friendly bombardment. In some cases, their works are included in the collections found in the section General Accounts of the Air War 1940–1945. This is a growing field as more historians investigate the details of their states. Two European military officers have begun to study this problem from the bomber’s perspective. Corrado 2015 examines the Italian perspective. Van Esch 2014 uniquely investigates the role of the Dutch government in the bombing war. Van Esch 2011 is a shorter, English version, which is valuable for understanding the bombing of the small state of the Netherlands. Gioannini and Massobrio 2007 is the most important Italian source and essential for any study of the Italian perspective. The field is in need of works on bombing targets in Belgium.

  • Corrado, Giovanni. “Tactical Enthusiasm and Operational Blindness: Civilian Casualties during the Allied Air Campaign in Italy in 1940–1945.” MA diss. Fort Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College, 2015.

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    Examines the process and results of the Allied bombing of Italian targets before and after Italy’s surrender. Excellent collection of Italian sources and references.

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  • Gioannini, Marco, and Giulio Massobrio. Bombardate l’Italia: Storia della guerra di distruzione aerea, 1940–1945. Milan: Rizzoli, 2007.

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    Focuses on the period between 1944 and 1945 when Italy suffered greatly, but the costs not recognized. Examines these events from the role of multiple perspectives, such as planners, workers, politicians, and refugees. Book is constantly updated and revised. Essential source for understanding the Italian perspective.

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  • van Esch, Joris. “Restrained Policy and Careless Execution: Allied Strategic Bombing on the Netherlands in the Second World War.” MA diss. Fort Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College, 2011.

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    In English, this thesis formed the foundation for the author’s full-length book on the topic of governmental participation (see van Esch 2014). Essential work to begin an investigation of bombing in the Netherlands.

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  • van Esch, Joris. A Finger in the Pie? De Nederlandse regering in ballingschap en geallieerde luchtaanvallen op Nederland in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Nijmegen, The Netherlands: Gildeprint, 2014.

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    Written in Dutch, this work investigates the role of the government in exile in approving and supporting Allied bombing missions over the Netherlands and concludes it had a small part in the overall process. Superb chronology and bibliography.

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Reconstruction and Legacy

Often forgotten as the armies sweep past the battlefield is the social and environmental destruction left in their wake. Because Americans fight wars and then leave, the reconstruction effort and rebuilding is far from the mind of the average civilian, or even historian. Yet, it is an essential part of the narrative of those who lived there. The scale of destruction and recovery, both in the battle zone and in places far from the Norman beaches, such as the Pas-de-Calais region and Brittany, deserve to be part of any discussion of the Allied bombing. In addition, the mental scars do not go away, and, as the survivors of these events noted forty and fifty years later, these scars profoundly affected the remainder of their lives. Lambourne 2001 describes the “big picture” of damage across Western Europe, especially areas bombed by the Allies. Although the Germans contributed to the physical destruction of treasures from the past, Allied airpower was the primary agent of destruction in the west. Lambourne conducts a preliminary survey of the causes and results of this historic tragedy and discusses efforts at reconstructing historic treasures. Voldman 1997 describes the reconstruction process across France in this important book that evaluates the degree of destruction as well as the even less well known story of the rebuilding. Clout 1999 and Clout 2008 evaluate the post-battlefield recovery events in Normandy, the scene of much destruction from the air and ground combat. He describes the problems that civilians and their local governments had in restoring a semblance of stability to their land and infrastructure. Huston 1963 is an interesting perspective on destruction in France from an American who served as an infantry officer during the campaign. After the war, Huston became a historian for the US Army and a university professor. Decades after the war, he revisited the battlefields and provides commentary on the bombardment of St. Lô and the restoration process (Huston 1963). Mourier 2004 is an example of the fine local histories produced by French scholars. It is a microhistory of one event, the bombing of St. Lô’s central city, L’Enclos, on June 6, 1944, and the subsequent actions to rebuild it while still remembering the events. Dodd 2013 provides an important investigation of the long-term psychological damage to the French who lived through the bombing as children. Based on interviews with now elderly survivors, Dodd discovers the unspoken indications of the trauma that affected them for the remainder of their lives. Finally, the powerful article by Knapp 2007 completes this section. Written by the foremost expert on the bombardment of occupied states, Knapp takes the story of the military activity in Le Havre past the typical military explanation and into the reality of the post-liberation era. Drama, politics, and reconstruction all help to illuminate one of many narratives that still exist across France in the wake of the Allied bombardment.

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