No new things in this article, but I think it's worth of mention:http://online.wsj.co...3460547864.html
[quote]BOOKS AUGUST 27, 2010 Contemplating Death From Above
By Robert Messenger[
Randall Jarrell's "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is one of the few poems of World War II to have achieved wide renown. It reads in its entirety: "From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, / And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. / Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, / I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. / When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."
As we are reminded in "Bomber County," Daniel Swift's eclectic account of World War II in the air and the poetry it inspired, Jarrell was moved by the fetal image of a machine gunner hunched in the belly of a B-17. With brute concision he captured one of the two great ironies of airpower: Airmen don't fight in a war-scarred battleground but in an untouched cloudscape, and the lucky ones return to home base after each sortie. The remains of the gunner in Jarrell's poem are washed away by ground personnel—who likely have never heard a shot fired in anger—no doubt while the dead man's crewmates are off dressing for a meal. The interludes of comfort are incongruous with a combat airman's life expectancy: a mere six weeks in the European theater during World War II.
By Daniel Swift
Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
269 pages, $26
Read an excerpt of 'Bomber County' The other irony is harsher: that warriors engaged in advanced and skilled air combat were pummeling a helpless (and mostly noncombatant) enemy many miles beneath them. Strategic bombing—aimed at civilian targets more than military ones—is a form of justified massacre. In June 1943, Winston Churchill was shown films of the five-month bombing campaign known as the Battle of the Ruhr, and, in his official biographer's words, he "suddenly sat bolt upright and said to his neighbour, 'Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?' "
It is a question that Mr. Swift asks repeatedly in "Bomber County." The U.S. and Britain dropped 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany, causing civilian casualties of more than one million and rendering as many as 7.5 million people homeless. The seven-month B-29 firebombing campaign against Japan organized by Curtis LeMay is estimated to have killed a half-million people and to have left five million more homeless. It was so successful that the Air Force had trouble finding suitable targets for the atomic bombings at the end of the war. The Japanese, it should be noted, had used strategic bombing as early as 1938 in China, and Germany launched its own vast air assault on England in 1940.
Whether World War II's strategic-bombing campaigns were justified remains a source of profound disagreement. In 1997, the German novelist W.G. Sebald delivered a series of lectures—published in English as "On the Natural History of Destruction" (2002)—about the absence of the Allied blitz from postwar literature and, as he saw it, the absence of a much-needed moral debate. His lectures caused a furor in Germany and elsewhere. While few take the extreme position of Eric Markusen and David Kopf in their 1995 book, "The Holocaust and Strategic Bombing"—that the Allied bombing campaign amounted to genocide—most commentators these days come down against the Allies.
In "Bomber County," Mr. Swift tries not to takes sides. He is more interested in conveying the influence of airpower—the most glamorous and technologically advanced action of the war—on poetry. Remembering how important verse was to our understanding of World War I, he surveys the ways in which bombing and flying played out in contemporary poetry, both British and American.
Not every "war poet" was himself a soldier or airman. C. Day Lewis, Mr. Swift notes, viewed himself as heir to the trench poets of World War I, yet he did not fight—serving instead in Britain's ministry of information—and his perception of the bomber war as a new version of World War I's trenches was not based on personal experience. This is true of Jarrell, too, who served in only marginal roles on stateside bases, inventing the images and events of his bomber poems.
T.S. Eliot, too old for service, was a fire-watcher during the Blitz, scanning from a London rooftop for bomb damage that might spread. What he saw invigorated his last great work: the final of the "Four Quartets." ("Dust inbreathed was a house— / The walls, the wainscot and the mouse, / The death of hope and despair, / This is the death of air.") Stephen Spender was in the National Fire Service, having failed his medical exam when he tried to enlist at 35. His war poems focus on the destruction of bombing, seeing both poet and bomber similarly bound up together as creator and destroyer.
The American poet John Ciardi, by contrast, was a gunner on B-29s hitting Japan and worried in his diary that he would never reach the 35 missions that made a tour. Three missions before his plane would be shot down, he was reassigned to write official condolence letters—"We need somebody with combat experience who can write," an officer told him. And so literature saved one life at the expense of another.
James Dickey saw aerial bombing up-close as a pilot. His great (if not well-known) war poem, "Firebombing," imagines a middle-age suburban householder wondering if he can really be the same man who spread destruction and saw the terrible beauty of napalm igniting beneath him. ("Reflections of houses catch; / Fire shuttles from pond to pond / In every direction, till hundreds flash with one death.")
Though the aerial war and its poetic legacy are Mr. Swift's central concern, he adds yet another theme to "Bomber County." The author's grandfather, who worked in a rubber brokerage before the war, died flying a Lancaster bomber after a raid on Dusseldorf on June 12, 1943. Each of the book's chapters has episodes of Mr. Swift and his father visiting the sites associated with the dead man's life and attending reunions where former airmen look back on their experience with a mixture of sadness and longing.
The book's multiple parts do not to fit together neatly. Mr. Swift's grandfather was not a poet, and the author's memoir episodes seem far removed from his passages about poets and their attraction to the aerial war. Yet "Bomber County" is never less than interesting.
Mr. Swift gives W.H. Auden the final word. He was skeptical of the special value of war experience to a poet. In "Memorial for a City"—a poem inspired by a 1945 visit to the bombed out cities of Bavaria—Auden noted how little the modern technology of killing changed the inherent facts of battle: "Plum-blossom falls on the dead, the roar of the waterfall covers / The cries of the whipped and the sighs of the lovers / And the hard bright light composes / A meaningless moment into an eternal fact." Auden was struck less by the destructiveness of modern war than by the eternal ordinariness of its barbarism. But then he never saw combat.
—Mr. Messenger is a senior editor of the Weekly Standard.