The support provided by the Allied air armies to the preparations for the invasion of France and the Normandy campaign is overshadowed by the dramatic and protracted fighting on the ground. Yet the air campaign played a key role in blinding and isolating German forces in northern France in the months preceding the D-Day landings. These Allied air forces then supported the Allied armies as they pushed inland, most notably by hampering the march of Hitler’s panzer divisions and controversially bombing the ancient Norman cities of Caen and Rouen.
Anthony Tucker-Jones’s photographic history is a vivid introduction to this enormous Allied air offensive and illustrates the many famous types of aircraft employed by the RAF, USAAF and Luftwaffe. Shots of the Allied bombers – Halifax, Lancaster, Fortress, Liberator, Havoc and Marauder – and the fighters and fighter-bombers – Lightning, Thunderbolt, Mustang, Spitfire and Typhoon – dominate the selection. Shots of the German warplanes are rarer because the Luftwaffe was overwhelmed by Allied air superiority.
These images of the air war over northern France bring home in a graphic way the nature and conditions of combat flying over seventy years ago, and they emphasize the contribution of air power to the campaign.
GUEST REVIEW FROM MARK MAGUIRE
Today I am delighted to hand my blog over to my husband Mark, so he can share with you his review of The Normandy Air War 1944: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives!
The Images of War format is renowned for its concise narration and thought – provoking imagery. This title follows in this tradition and considers the men; the machines, and the material in operation within the Allied and Axis spheres at this crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War.
Within the introduction, the Author states that the book has been written “to provide a visual introduction to the enormous Allied air offensive which preceded and supported Operation Overlord”. To this end, each chapter can be broken down into the following formula: strategic overview and key personnel; a performance review of the aircraft in use at that time, all of which is then followed by a series of archival photographs of men, materiel and the associated aftermath.
The writing style is succinct and accessible. Given the vastness of the subject matter at hand, the Author is to be commended for having distilled the voluminous D-Day Meta narrative into short and easy to read chapters. The narrative assumes no previous knowledge, and the introductory chapter amply sets the scene covering the Allied transition from round the clock area bombing through to strategic bombing in support of Overlord. Consideration is also given to the reinvigoration of the devastatingly effective close support role within Normandy, (exemplified by the Hawker Typhoon) and how all of this was countered, (or not) by the tenacious but fatally weakened Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht.
As with other Images of War titles, the accompanying photographs are generally of a high quality and the captions beneath them are informative and illuminating. Indeed, the assembled photographs of destroyed infrastructure; knocked-out tanks, and destroyed aircraft amply demonstrate the destructive power of the Allied air war. The bravery of associated aircrews forms a central thread which runs throughout this work, but consideration is also given to the associated physical and psychological trauma that these operations thrust upon combatant and civilian alike. In this sense, the narrative strikes the right balance between articulating the effectiveness of the Allied strategy in advancing the overall strategic aim whilst acknowledging the all-pervasive repercussions these operations had.
In conclusion, this book is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Normandy air war. This text is easy to read and yet remains informative throughout. As with other titles within the Images of War series, it is a work which can be used as either a standalone work, or as a springboard for further studies.