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Bomber Command Handbook, by Jonathan Falconer, Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1999, $49.95

This thoroughly researched and highly detailed book traces the six-year transition of Britain’s Bomber Command from a small and ill-equipped handful of squadrons in 1939 into a numerically and technologically superior weapon of war by 1945. Jonathan Falconer sets the World War II offensive against the background of the cult of the bomber in the 1930s, describes the organization and control of the Bomber Command, looks at the extensive airfield construction program that made the bomber offensive possible, examines the training of aircrews, discusses the armament used and narrates a typical night raid.

The human side of operational life is also presented, with details of uniforms and insignia, flying clothing and equipment, communications and escape and evasion matters. There are full biographical details of the leaders and short biographies of a representative selection of the men who made up the command.

Four detailed appendices include a comprehensive war diary of Bomber Command actions from 1939 to 1945, a full listing of bomber squadrons and their commanders, the airfields and orders of battle.

Bomber Command Handbook is not a book for casual reading, but it certainly draws the reader into the multifaceted thing that is a vibrant, growing, learning-from-mistakes military organization. And throughout the work there is the thread of background on how one country shaped its air offensive.