Jubilant B-17 crew members pose next to their plane upon returning to England unscathed after a bombing run, 1942.
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Not published in LIFE. Jubilant B-17 crew members pose next to their plane upon returning to England unscathed after a bombing run, 1942.Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Jubilant B-17 crew members pose next to their plane upon returning to England unscathed after a bombing run, 1942.
American bombers in England, 1942.
American bomber crew in England, 1942.
American bomber crew in England, 1942.
Portrait of an American bomber crew member, England, World War II.
Portrait of an American bomber crew member, England, World War II.
Inside a B-17 Flying Fortress, September, 1942.
'Bottoms Up,' American bomber, England, 1942.
'Superman,' American bomber, England, 1942.
American bomber, England, 1942.
Two fliers of the VIII Bomber Command clad in high-altitude flying gear including sheepskin flight jackets, helmets, oxygen masks and goggles, 1942.
A B-17 Flying Fortress' ground crew bids goodbye to Fortress gunners before bomber takes off on a raid in Europe, 1942.
Not published in LIFE. Jubilant B-17 crew members pose next to their plane upon returning to England unscathed after a bombing run, 1942.
Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Imag
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Air America: U.S. Bombers and Their Crews in World War II England

Mar 06, 2014

During World War II, the now-legendary VIII Bomber Command (often referred to as the Eighth Air Force) served as the principal American force assembled to attack Germany from the air. For several critical years in the early and mid-1940s, B-24 and B-17 bombers—the Flying Fortresses—from the "The Mighty 8th," often in tandem with Royal Air Force fighters, crossed the Channel and hit strategic towns and cities in Nazi-held Europe.

In the 1940s, LIFE's Margaret Bourke-White visited and photographed the Bomber Command in southern England more than once. The bulk of the photos in this gallery were made in 1942—before the tide of war in Europe had begun to turn in the Allies' favor.

Bourke-White, one of LIFE magazine's original four staff photographers, was America's first accredited woman photographer during WWII, and the first authorized to fly on a combat mission. For decades she covered conflicts, civil wars, humanitarian crises and natural disasters. She documented segregation in the American South, was the last person to interview Gandhi before he was assassinated, was one of the first photographers to document the liberation of Nazi death camps and survived a torpedo attack while traveling by ship to North Africa in 1943. She was briefly married to the American writer Erskine Caldwell (God's Little Acre, Tobacco Road). One of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century, she died in 1971. She was 67 years old.

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