Sunday, March 30, 2008

The First Day of the Blitz (Book #33)

The First Day of the Blitz (Peter Stansky, 2007) focuses on September 7, 1940, the first day the Germans bombed civilian targets in London. I thought I knew a lot about the Blitz, but I learned new things from this book--e.g. the government was caught off guard because they expected bombing on that scale to be much more lethal, so all their preparations were for dealing with massive mortality, disposing of bodies, and the like, rather than finding shelter for living people whose homes had been destroyed.

Stansky tries to draw comparisons to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, but neither quite worked for me. Dreadful as 9/11 was, it was one day, one attack. It just doesn't compare with the Blitz for sheer scale. And his Katrina parallel is that the government hadn't made adequate provisions for housing survivors rendered homeless by the bombs, and how the bombings, which more heavily impacted working-class areas, highlighted poverty and class differences. As for the first part, I can cut the British government a lot more slack for guessing wrong on the impact of major bombing raids than our government for not being prepared for a hurricane devastating New Orleans. Also, I really, really can't imagine Winston Churchill praising an incompetent subordinate for doing "a heckuva job." And the British government, to its credit, adjusted on the fly while nightly bombing was still going on.

As for the class issues, the Blitz at least brought lasting changes in the form of a vastly improved social safety net. Katrina...NSM.

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