Targeting the Third Reich: Air Intelligence and the Allied Bombing Campaign
Robert S Ehlers

Each year we are bombarded with a plethora of publications concerning all aspects of WW2, including the bombing campaign undertaken by the Allies over the skies of Germany and the occupied countries. Very few of the plethora stand out or bring new fruits to the table of knowledge, but I’m happy to state that Ehlers book ticks both of those observations.

Ehlers (an USAF Colonel and Professor at the School of Advanced Air & Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama) has written a book that is a must for any serious student of the Allied bombing campaign. For those students, the stories of individual raids and the wider strategy is well worn path, but Ehlers book on the role of Air Intelligence is not so well told, until now.

Air intelligence was a vital tool in the planning, execution and assessment of the Bombing offensive from the outsight, but more so when the RAF’s solo bombing campaign became a Combined Bombing offensive with the introduction of the USAAF into the fray.

The RAF learnt its Air Intelligence trade initially during the WW1, though this was more of a tactical asset, which was rather hit and miss in the results it achieved. However even these minor achievements were for the most part lost as the RAF entered the inter-war year period, and the budget constraints. Naturally whatever scarce resources were around were channelled into more tangible assets, rather than the invisible world of Air Intelligence. Thus at the beginning of the war, the Air Intelligence arm started on steep learning curve bought by the lives of its countrymen & aircraft. The Americans equally had a steep learning curve but this was lessened by the lessons learnt by its more experienced bombing partner.

The British & Americans set up many agencies that helped develop a cohesive bombing strategy, which culminated in the establishment of the British Ministry of Economic Warfare and the Enemy Objectives Unit for the Americans, to co-ordinate all the information it had. Through these two agencies they were able on the whole to meet the Casablanca Conferences directive: "Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a part where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened”.

To showcase the effectiveness of this combined multi-faceted air intelligence effort, Ehlers focuses on the air offences launched against the German forces in France 1944 and the attacks upon the oil refineries, transportation nodes (rail & water) inside Germany, to the final crushing defeat of Germany in 1945.

Ehlers does not shy away from the differences espoused by the various strong characters within the remit of this book and the role they played in determining what targets to attack. However Ehlers argues that it was the sheer effect of attacking all these various targets, which effectively crippled the German war machine. This book enables the reader to understand with clarity the crucial role air intelligence played in Germany’s ultimate defeat

The book is neatly split into 12 chapters, some 440 pages in length, heavily notated, with bibliography and well furnished with BW photographs throughout.

As stated earlier this is a must buy for those interested in understanding the Bombing campaign.

(Reviewed by Andy H)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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