L. Douglas Keeney is a military historian and researcher - and it shows. His is not the usual blood and guts, look-how-clever-we-were epistle. evidenced by the 21 pages of notes and 6 pages of select bibliography. Rather, it is a thorough investigation and explanation of the Allied plan to use the combined Air Forces to obstruct the Germans in every possible way prior to the invasion on the D-Day landing. Perhaps a Luftwaffe ME109 squadron leader explained it best when he said,
"Every corner of the Reich was ablaze. It became a playground for Allied fighters and bombers. They attacked by day and by night giving the nation no rest. Spitfires, Lightings, Thunderbolts and other aircraft kept a constant watch over our airfields and we were unable to take off".
The genesis of the Directive was the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. There it was determined that the Allied goal was ...
"The progressive destruction and dislocation of the moral of the German military, industrial and economic system and the undermining of the moral of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance was totally weakened".
Simply put, the job of the Pointblank Directive was to eliminate the Luftwaffe as a threat on D-Day. In 272 pages, Keeney exposes the good, the less good and the downright depressing story of the decision making by General officers and the tragic consequences of those decisions. We learn of the sacrifices and suffering of the men of the 8Th, 9th and 15th USAAF supported by UK's Bomber Command. The stark statistics of 51% killed in action, 9% killed in crashes and 3% seriously injured are given a human dimension in measured terms unadorned by sensational prose.
I was shocked to learn that General Carl Spaatz (officer commanding the 8th Air Force), considered the loss of 600 bombers a month (6000 men), acceptable in the pursuit of victory. As I read on Keeney's revelations became more astonishing.
There are many parts of this work that one could identify as spectacular, his description of the Luftwaffe's fighting technique deserves particular praise.
This is an excellent book (save for too many typos), and for the most part, Keeney is brutally honest when he distributes brickbats and bouquets in equal measure. When I reached the end of the book, I had the feeling that an editor read the final MS and criticized it for being too even handed. More spice was needed, and this came in the form of the suggestion that Gen Hap Arnold occupied the higher moral ground over the Brits with his reluctance to bomb German cities. What happened to the moral ground a few months later when he acquiesced at the firebombing of Japanese civilians? It couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that his grandparents first language was German, could it? This mystery editor also reminded Keeney that the book was intended for an American readership, so some caustic comments about the Brits wouldn't come amiss. Keeney obliged by condemning the Brits for forcing us to make too many aircraft (the bounders), and sin of all sins, not developing their aircraft as quickly as we did. Left to his own devises, Mr Keeney might have mentioned that we did rob them of their atomic development and jet engine technology (but we wouldn't share our Norden bombsight with them even though it was developed from the RAF's 'Course Setting Bombsight'), and we had bled then dry 'helping' their war effort.
Of all the alarming information found in this work, what has lingered, is the result of post-war analysis that found that of all the bombs dropped in the ETO during the second World War, only 20% landed within 1000 feet of their intended target.
Notwithstanding the above, The Pointblank Directive is an excellent book and well worth reading. As Dr. Johnson said, "If a books worth reading, it's worth buying".