Any review of Wayne Vansant’s Bombing Nazi Germany: The Graphic History of the Allied Air Campaign that Defeated Hitler in World War II must begin and end with the artwork. Bookshelves have been filled with histories of the World War II air war over Europe, but Bombing Nazi Germany brings a unique and refreshing take to the subject through its use of artwork to depict the air war over Europe during World War II.
Bombing Nazi Germany brings a unique and refreshing take to the subject through its use of artwork to depict the air war over Europe during World War II.
The very idea of a graphic novel taking on a serious topic may seem strange, until you consider that the critical and commercial success of Maus, which is about the Holocaust, and our own Dwight Jon Zimmerman’s The Vietnam War: A Graphic History (illustrated by Vansant), has demonstrated what can be achieved by a graphic novel. Vansant is no stranger to the genre of historical graphic novels. In addition to Bombing Nazi Germany, he has written and illustrated graphic histories on the Korean War, World War II, and the Civil War.
Bombing Nazi Germany is broad in scope. A reader will see many of the iconic planes of the World War II air war over Europe jump to life on its pages. The Avro Lancaster, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-26 Marauder, Me 110, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, Me 262, they’re all here. Lesser-known planes are also rendered, such as the Me 163 Komet and He 219 Uhu.
It’s not all about all the art, though. For a relatively short book, at 104 pages, it packs in a lot of history, from the serious – Operation Chastise and Operation Gomorah – to the silly – the supposed UFO sighting by 8th Air Force pilots. For a reader expecting a breezy book, this came as a surprise. Depending on the education level, this book could be used in the classroom to convey an important historical subject in a novel way.
The book also doesn’t limit itself to the U.S. or even Allied story, but incorporates the German perspective. The stories of German civilians and pilots are also added to the narrative, to good effect. This is rare among 600-plus page tomes, let alone a slender book like Bombing Nazi Germany.
Vansant also displays a keen eye for the historical actors that took part in the World War II air war. While the major players such as Spaatz, Bomber Harris, Doolittle, and Galland get their due, others also receive a mention. Medal of Honor recipients such as Brig. Gen. Frank Castle and Brig. Gen. James Howard are also singled out.
One area where Bombing Nazi Germany suffers is that it doesn’t read like a traditional graphic novel. Instead of having the characters give voice to the dialogue, the book uses the illustrations to provide a picture for the words on the page. This can make for a jarring read if you are expecting a true graphic novel, and leaves the impressive illustrations underutilized.
By depicting the air war through illustrations, Vansant has done something truly new. This book serves as an effective primer for those who want to learn more. The breadth also ensures that a reader with a good grasp of the European air war is likely to walk away with something new. Anyone who reads Bombing Nazi Germany and lingers on the artwork will walk away with a renewed respect and appreciation for the desperate struggle between pilots of Great Britain, the United States, and Germany over the skies of Europe in World War II.