A diligent, workmanlike account of the frequently overlooked (or deprecated) contributions to the Allied cause made by the UK's Bomber Command during WW II. While Richards (who will never be mistaken for a prose stylist) breaks no new ground in evaluating the aerial damage inflicted on the Nazi war economy, he does offer an exhaustive chronological briefing on the one military arm that for many months constituted Great Britain's sole offensive threat in its lonely struggle to survive Hitler's onslaught. Starting with an evenhanded audit of the RAF Bomber Command's pre-1939 order of battle, resources, and training methods, the author provides detailed human-scale rundowns on its performance during the early stages of the conflict. Among other accomplishments, Richards notes, the command helped avert an invasion of England with successful raids on the Franco-Belgian ports where Wehrmacht forces were mustering for a cross-channel thrust. He goes on to deal forthrightly with the controversial practice of area (as opposed to precision) bombing, which leveled most of the Third Reich's populous industrial centers at no small cost in civilian casualties. The author also recaps the upper-echelon disputes about target policy and tactics, and the constant doubts about the command's effectiveness, whether in close support of ground troops or in carrying out strategic bombing. Covered as well are the valorous exploits of the men who braved the flak and Luftwaffe fighters deployed to block their nightly passages to the continent. Such considerable successes as were achieved carried a high price. Citing the command's bestknown leader, Sir Arthur (a.k.a. Bomber) Harris, Richards (coauthor of The Battle of Britain, not reviewed) estimates one of every two operational crewmen suffered wounds, internment as a POW, and/or death. An almost too judicious reappraisal of a workhorse outfit, redeemed in large measure by the heartfelt tributes it pays to those who did the fighting and dying.