World War II From Above – An Aerial View of the Global Conflict

Published: July 2nd, 2014     
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Author: Jeremy Harwood
Reviewed by: Bill O'Malley - IPMS# 46473
Company: Zenith Press
ISBN #: 9780760345733
Other Publication Information: Hardcover, 208 Pages, over 200 B&W photos, colored maps & diagrams
Price: $30.00

This fascinating book tells how the Allies and Axis powers developed aerial reconnaissance systems to gather accurate aerial intelligence, primarily during World War II. The book combines history with photography and provides a unique and different perspective of World War II - from above! The photographs are excellent, with descriptive captions for each photo. The text provides good descriptions of the aircraft used for reconnaissance, and the maps & diagrams illustrate many of the actions.

The book is divided into five sections:

  • Beginnings
  • Blitzkrieg
  • End of the Beginning
  • Turning the Tide
  • The End of the War

The book also includes a Bibliography/Further Reading, Index of Topics, and Photo Credits, all of which are handy for further research.

The Beginnings section discusses some of the very earliest uses of aerial vehicles for reconnaissance including balloons, blimps and very early planes in World War I. The development of photographic techniques is also described and illustrates how they were used to photograph trenches during the First World War. The section also describes the increased development of photographic surveying and mapping, and airplane development between the world wars. The book briefly describes some of the social issues that led up to World War II.

The second section, Blitzkrieg, describes how Germany effectively dominated the air wars with its Luftwaffe, and how both the Allies and Germany used photography in their campaigns. There is considerable discussion about the development of various aircraft and how they were used in World War II aerial reconnaissance. The book describes the Blitz used by Germany in the Battle of Britain and the British RAF attempts to limit Germany's ability to bomb and invade. This section also describes early reconnaissance and bombing efforts in the Mediterranean theater between British and Italian forces, and eventually into North Africa.

The End of the Beginning section discusses the further development of aerial reconnaissance and interpretation methods, development of maps and models using aerial photography, and how decoys were used to throw off aerial reconnaissance. The section describes how aircraft was used to track Germany's Kriegsmarine, and the German invasion of Russia. The section also goes on to discuss Pearl Harbor showing the Japanese attack and Japanese aircraft used.

The next section, Turning the Tide, describes America's entry into the war in Europe, the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, the use of aircraft in the battle of Midway to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, the Thousand Plane Raid which destroyed Cologne, Germany, and an interesting section on the Ruhr dam busters with before and after photographs of the dams.

The last section, The End of the War, describes the D-Day invasion of Europe through aerial photographs and descriptive text. The section describes a Germany's use of V-weapons including the V1 flying bomb and the V2 rocket. Aerial photographs show reconnaissance and bombing damage to curtail Germany's ability to launch the rockets. The last part of the section deals with bombing of Japan and ends with aerial photography of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before and after the atomic bombs were dropped.

This fascinating book is a unique combination of aerial photography and descriptive text to describe the use of aircraft and aerial reconnaissance. The text provides a good account of the battles, the aerial photography is fantastic, and there are nice descriptions of the aircraft used for reconnaissance and bombing.

This book is highly recommended for those interested in the use of photography for reconnaissance and the use of aircraft during WW2 for reconnaissance and bombing. Many thanks to the Zenith Press for producing a remarkable collection of photographic images and descriptions of aircraft used for reconnaissance in World War II.

Thanks also to the IPMS review crew for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful book.

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