Bombing Nazi Germany: The Graphic History of the Allied Air Campaign that Defeated Hitler in World War II
IMAGINE FLYING INSIDE a cramped B-17 Flying Fortress, one tiny part of a formation of hundreds headed toward a German city while enemy fighters and flak try to blast the bombers from the sky. You endure subzero temperatures, crammed among men clad in thick leather suits and up to their thighs in spent .50-caliber shell casings. Just another day at the office for an Allied bomber crew trying to push the Nazis into submission.
Vansant’s grim, graphic novel covers both sides of the bombing campaign over Western Europe: Germany pummels England in the early days, hoping to invade; England launches fighters to turn the Germans back and builds up heavy-bomber forces to pound Germany right up to VE Day. With brief captions, Vansant’s illustrations are explicit: a dead copilot leaning against the pilot, a flaming B-24 Liberator dropping from the sky, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 colliding with a B-17 midair. There are heroics, but no glory.
Ultimately Vansant poses the question that still nags historians: Did strategic bombing work? Despite tons of explosives unleashed by both sides, Axis and Allied production only increases. And despite civilian casualties on both sides, resolve only hardens. In total war, Vansant says, overwhelming force in the sky succeeds only when it supports troops on the ground. Brit and American thousand-airplane raids might turn Schweinfurt and Dresden into moonscapes, but only house-to-house fighting by Allied foot soldiers could force Germany’s surrender.
PHIL SCOTT IS THE AUTHOR OF SEVEN