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WWII In Color: Rare Photos Show American VIII Bomber Command In 1942 (PHOTOS)

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WWII BOMBERS
American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942. (Margaret Bourke-White—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images) | Margaret Bourke-White/Time & Life Pictures/Getty
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Though much has been made of unmanned drone strikes lately, LIFE Magazine harkens back to a time in which the focus of America's war effort were the brave individuals who fought in it.

Rare WWII-era color images from 1942 show the VIII Bomber Command, commonly known as the Eighth Air Force, which was assembled to strategically bomb Nazi-controlled towns following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The color photos were taken by Margaret Bourke-White, one of the magazine’s original four staff photographers. Not only was Bourke-White America's first accredited female photographer during WWII, but also the first authorized to fly on a combat mission.

LIFE's feature noted the exemplary record to date of the so-called Flying Fortresses, which often flew in tandem with Britain's Royal Air Force.

From the October 1942 issue of LIFE:

The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.

Check out some of Bourke-White's photos below, and visit LIFE.com for the full collection of incredible photos of the Mighty 8th.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to the Eighth Air Force as a "squad." While a squad is a smaller military unit, the Mighty 8th consisted of hundreds of thousands of men and women.

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