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Within weeks of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s official entry into the Second World War, Allied forces in Europe activated the now-legendary VIII Bomber Command (often referred to as the Eighth Air Force) to serve as the principal American force to attack Germany from the air. Often in tandem with planes from the Royal Air Force, American B-24s and B-17s — or Flying Fortresses — from the “The Mighty 8th” would spend the next several years bombing strategic towns and cities in Nazi-held Europe.
As a jumping off point for countless bombing runs, including many in broad daylight, the United States Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) set up bases in England during the war. In 1942, LIFE’s Margaret Bourke-White spent time with the Bomber Command — an assignment that LIFE shared with its readers in an October 1942 feature notable, although hardly surprising, all these years later for its triumphant tone:
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. Widely recognized as one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century, she died in 1971. She was 67 years old.