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Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II (and what happened to 2nd Lt. Robert Woolfolk?)

14 December 2014

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II (and what happened to 2nd Lt. Robert Woolfolk?)

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II, Nicholas A. Veronico, 2014, ISBN 9780811714556, 208 pp with 255 b/w photos

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico (front cover)

Bloody Skies is history revisited with images and elegant as well as concise captions, yet told by an author with deep understanding of both this history’s import and its personal impact upon untold numbers of combatants and their people back home. The expected photos are there — as in many other books — but, unusually, with captions detailing the missions, their crews as well as their fates. So many stories are told and some amazingly in only a single photo. Veronico has set this book apart using these photos as well as photos not often seen in publication but no less significant for their visual impact. This book grabs the reader in ways few history books are capable. Veronico must have dug for these images in the archives with head lamp and pick-axe to obtain these gems. Bloody Skies shows the reader incredible battle damage, dying aircraft, happy crew faces and how lives were lived in the unforgiving skies — as well as how men were mangled and lost in them, along with those on the ground.

Veronico’s captions are rich in information and so wonderfully done going beyond the obvious — telling so much more of the story than most authors or copy editors are willing to spend their time and effort to do. The 255 superbly reproduced black and white photos encapsulate the world of the 8th Air Force as experienced in World War II. Veronico‘s book is especially important in today’s world since most citizens have not experienced war — either directly or as a family member ceaselessly worrying while safe at home.

The evolution of daylight strategic bombing by the Eighth Air Force is accurately portrayed and includes the largely failed experiments in the B-40 and B-41. Veronico describes the tactics and flying challenges presented to fighter and bomber crews in a way which leaves the reader with an intuitive understanding — having the effect of having this history leap off the pages into the reader’s imagination.

This book sits apart from most history books on Veronico’s artisnal ability to interweave facts within the context of their times as well as the human dimension. The last chapter crystallizes his love for aviation’s history with visceral human emotion familiar to all of us as he describes his serendipitous learning of the last moments of a relative lost over hostile territory during a bombing mission of the 390th Bomb Group. This exemplifies the extraordinary final actions of an officer to save his crew in the doomed B-17G Flying Fortress known as “Decatur Deb” after a terrifyingly brief  duel which was marked by extreme violence.

Bloody Skies personalizes the statistics, for the reader, of the Eighth Air Force’s experiences which were shared by the hundreds of thousands who served in it over thousands of missions in Flying Fortresses, Liberators, Lightnings, Thunderbolts and Mustangs. Detailed information regarding statistics and units are also significant in Veronico’s Bloody Skies — this book belongs in the hands of historians, museum libraries, historical diorama makers and students of strategy.

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico (back cover)

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Stackpole Books loaned a digital file of this book as an opportunity for an objective review.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 December 2014 21:52

    One cannot even comprehend the horror of the happening depicted in that image on the back dustcover of the book.

    Think about each man’s fear; about his ability to even understand what is happening around him as his mind unwinds in slow motion and the adrenalin races and screams…his future lost, his perspective lost. We understand not; the courage.

    Then there is the sadness and heartache of thousands of families and loved ones of those who gave their all for the country they loved.

    Hopefully these courageous men who fell from the sky while flying these machines deserve a few extra moments of our thoughts and prayers about them and their families during this season of Love and Giving.

    david lord

  2. 15 December 2014 16:42

    I swear that I did not read your analysis of this book BEFORE writing my thoughts . When I opened your blog, I scanned down it because I was supposedly “in a hurry” to get somewhere; and in doing so, my mind and eye locked in on that image and I could not ‘turn away from it”..and just started writing what came into my mind while transfixed on that horrific image!…I almost felt like I was there…frightening…

    I just ordered the book.

    Have a wonderful holiday Joe.
    david

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      20 December 2014 12:04

      They are powerful photos and Veronico found so many that aren’t in the usual photo essay books — it is a riveting book and you will not be disappointed.

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