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Bombs Away! The World War II Bombing Campaigns Over Europe

by John R. Bruning, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2011, $50

Almost too big to get your arms around, almost too heavy for even a cast-iron coffee table, Bombs Away! is a breathtaking compilation of photos and text exploring strategic bombing by both sides in Europe during World War II. It’s not just a picture book, but the selection of 450 photographs, many in color, makes this volume worth its price—reasonable for the book’s size and high-quality paper and binding.

Even though John Bruning relies on official archives rather than private collections, he comes up with extraordinary photographs, many of them rarely seen before. Some were taken in the rush of combat action—a Stuka dive-bomber screaming earthward on the Eastern Front, a B-17 Flying Fortress wending through black puffs of flak to unload a bay full of 500-pounders. But while Bombs Away! dazzles the eye, it also challenges the brain: Dense and thoroughly documented, Bruning’s text gives new insights into a war fought high above the surly bonds.

The narrative offers new analysis of German innovations and mistakes during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and the British and American aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. At first glance the book seems dominated by the machines of war that fascinate us so much, whether it’s a Dornier Do-217 medium bomber or a B-24 Liberator heavy. But Bruning also writes about men. He has interviewed many veterans of those great battles in the sky, the likes of which we shall never see again, and captured their individual perspectives on combat in Bombs Away!


Originally published in the January 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.