Reaching for the Stars: A New History of Bomber Command in World War II – Net Assessment

Reaching for the Stars: A New History of Bomber Command in World War II – Net Assessment – Book Review

Jay Hemphill

Reaching for the Stars: A New History of Bomber Command in World War II by Mark Connelly. I. B. Tauris Publishers (, I. B. Tauris and Co. Ltd., 6 Salem Road, London W2 4BU, 2000, 206 pages, $35.00 (hardcover).

Mark Connelly’s Reaching for the Stars is a well-written history of the necessity, development, and contributions of Sir Arthur Harris’s Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force in World War II; it also addresses the wartime coverage of that command and the postwar controversy surrounding it. The author uses his thorough research to clarify the role of the long-range bomber in Britain’s assault of German-occupied Europe.

The book begins with an account of the advent of the bomber and early doctrine for its strategic use. As German bombers blitzed London, Coventry, and the Midlands, the British people and government sought ways to carry the fight back to the home of their attackers. The long-range bomber proved to be the only weapon suitable for projecting power beyond Britain’s traditional sea realm and into the heart of Germany. Although the bomber received high praise from news outlets and popular film during the war, the book reveals how postwar coverage of the command sprouted resistance, dissension, and even shame in the minds of some people regarding the implementation of this strategic weapon’s awesome power as it laid waste to Dresden in 1945.

Readers interested in the contributions of American forces during daylight raids or in the ways American and British bombers worked as a unit should look elsewhere. The author’s coverage of US forces is limited to those situations of blame sharing for alleged atrocities in Dresden and other places. However, for readers interested in how Bomber Command made things go bump in the night in Germany’s industrial heartland, Connelly’s work is an outstanding choice. Easily read in a single weekend, the book provides a timely example of wartime media coverage and issues of proportionality and distinction, as addressed by the Law of Armed Conflict, among military, civilian, and industrial targets. I especially recommend Reaching for the Stars to students of World War II and airpower.

COPYRIGHT 2002 U.S. Air Force

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