The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals and the Untold Story of the Daring Plan that Saved D-Day

Published: March 3rd, 2013     
Cover
Cover
Author: L. Douglas Keeney
Reviewed by: Rob Benson - IPMS# 44038
ISBN #: 9781849089333
Other Publication Information: Hardback, 304 pages, including 65 B&W and sepia tone photographs
Price: $27.95
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Thank you to Bruce Herke of Osprey Publishing and the IPMS Reviewer Corps for allowing me the opportunity to review this in-depth and sobering history of the Army Air Corps' operational role in the D-Day invasion. Author L. Douglas Keeney provides compelling descriptions of the challenges, dangers, and slim survival odds of European air operations.

Keeney starts the bulk of his novel-like narrative in 1943, with thorough descriptions of dismal bombing effectiveness and tactics that were replaced with a much more effective and aggressive doctrine, the Pointblank Directive. Viewpoints from all aspects of the air war are described - the bomber crews, the fighter pilots, the maintenance crews, support staff, and others are included. Excellent background profiles of the major players in the air command structure are given, with factual discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of combat philosophies. The reasons for General Eaker's reassignment and appointment of Generals Spaatz over European air operations, with Doolittle and Quesada as a de facto team, are made quite transparent and understandable. While certainly the logic of this decision seems clear and obvious 70 years later with all the attendant historical hindsight, a major command shift at the height of a very uncertain war was indeed a very risky but calculated gamble.

Keeney takes roughly 9 months of the war, from Autumn 1943 through D-Day plus 1. The common thread of all 23 chapters is preparing for D-Day by denying any significant Luftwaffe threat to the landing forces. Perhaps a general statement that sums up this significant tactical paradigm shift is that prior to 1943, US bomber assets were cautiously and predictably deployed on missions without effective integration with fighter assets. The brutal consequences of poor coordination is well described. The new tactic paradigm was considerably more fluid, radical, and difficult for the Germans to counter effectively.

General Spaatz was apparently told that losing 600 bombers a month was acceptable - D-Day was that important. Fighter escorts were given leeway to become more independent, tasked to ground targets of opportunity beyond shepherding and protecting the all-important heavy bombers. Mission targets were chosen to destroy German aircraft production and operation space - all Luftwaffe elements anywhere and everywhere. When General Quesada was asked by Churchill during a briefing why the German Air Force wouldn't be there on D-Day, the General bluntly replied, "Mr. Prime Minister, because we won't let them be there. I am sure of it." In the last chapter, D-Day+1, late-war, on-the-ground observations suggest that the German aircraft industry was literally driven underground by the Pointblank Directive, into mines, railway tunnels, any place protected from sight and bombs. German fighters seemed to be randomly distributed about the countryside, and coordinated attacks against the bombers seemed to vanish.

There is also a wealth of anecdotes and quotes from both sides of the conflict. These pieces add considerably to the understanding of the directive and how it decimated German aircraft production and available equipment. In addition to being a great read, the text is well footnoted, has a significant reference list/bibliography, and a thorough index. All of this adds up to make The Pointblank Directive a great value and addition to the WW2 library. The availability of the book in several e-reader formats enhances the reference pluses. I certainly recommend this book highly!

Thank you again to Bruce Herke of Osprey Publishing and the IPMS Reviewer Corps! It was fun, and I hope this review provides everyone with another perspective on this valuable resource.

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