A thoroughgoing, detailed account of the RAF in WW II, in standard military-history regalia: the leadership; the planes and equipment, technology and techniques; the theaters-of-war, the course of combat; the internal conflicts and crucial decisions. Terraine, a veteran WW II historian, mounts what is in effect a defense of Bomber Command: even though they were wrong in thinking that heavy bombing of German cities would break German morale, or that bombing alone could deliver a decisive blow, they ""did huge damage to the German war machine."" This will not convince skeptics (cf. Max Hastings' Bomber Command) or still moral qualms about the cost. Neither does Terraine's description of the Battle of Britain have the dramatic power of Len Deighton's Fighter. But insofar as his purpose is rather to record and dissect, Terraine metes out judgments, and supplies correctives, at every hand: the initial folly in thinking that Britain would not be heavily engaged on the Continent, or that ""air power should be developed independently of land or sea requirements""; the shock of Rotterdam's destruction--with in fact 980 fatalities, not the 30,000 believed; the false impression of Fighter Command chief Dowling's shabby dismissal, after the Battle of Britain victory (""for which he himself is responsible""); the unsung success of Coastal Command in the Battle of the Atlantic, against German subs--after Churchill rejected the arguments of ""his old friend and admired colleague"" Beaverbrook that Coastal Command be moved from the RAF to the Royal Navy; and so on. All this is minutely and methodically developed, sub-section by sub-section (""36: Four thousand bombers; Euphoria and despondency; the Butt Report; Air policy dispute""), so as to constitute, in its entirety, a sedulous, service-attuned autopsy. At 700 pp., it's the single-volume source that the airwar-minded will be checking, if not a chronicle for those with broader interests or larger concerns.