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Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team

3.13  ·  Rating Details ·  198 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A magnificent volume of short novels and an essential World War II report from one of America's great twentieth-century writersOn the heels of the enormous success of his masterwork The Grapes of Wrath-and at the height of the American war effort-John Steinbeck, one of the most prolific and influential literary figures of his generation, wrote Bombs Away, a nonfiction acco ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published July 8th 2009 by Penguin Books (first published 1942)
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Feb 11, 2015 Brian rated it did not like it
Hemingway said he would willingly cut three fingers off his throwing hand rather than write a book like this one. I think he was being generous.
I didn't really expect to like Bombs Away--it's a propaganda novel, and I'm not American, I'm not in the middle of a war, and I know that the details described are so outdated that they must have very little modern relevance. However, despite all this, the book turned out to be fascinating. I liked the blow-by-blow descriptions of how each member of the team is selected and trained. I like the hint of Steinbeck you see in the novel, even though he is trying to keep his opinions to himself and pl ...more
Paul Haspel
Apr 07, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
Be advised, if you read Bombs Away, that you will not find it to be the "typical" John Steinbeck book -- if indeed there is such a thing. It is not an epic novel like The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, nor is it a short tale on the order of Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, or The Pearl. Rather, Bombs Away is a nonfiction work chronicling, as its subtitle indicates, the story of a bomber team from World War II. Steinbeck wrote the book in 1942 on behalf of what were then called the U.S. Army Air F ...more
Charles Moore
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team by John Steinbeck. (Penguin Classic, 156 pages, paper, 1942) Never heard of Bombs Away by Steinbeck? (Neither had I. I found this at the Johnson City Public Library book sale.) Probably because you never thought Steinbeck would write such a bias pro-military book. Which this is. Bombs Away is hardly a masterpiece on the order of Canary Row or The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck wrote this for the military to help bolster support for the Air Force in 1942. Steinb ...more
David Patrick
The common review of this book is that it is plain propaganda for the U.S. department of war and for recruiting. I'd like to comment on its narrative quality. Claiming the need for secrecy, it's stated somewhere in the book that the men he profiles are amalgamations of people he met. I don't know if he actually met the men in the Army Air Corps training or not, but there is something weak about the writing that makes me think he may not have. Or that his heart wasn't in the project. He never rea ...more
Steven Hull
Mar 20, 2015 Steven Hull rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book by chance at a local bookstore skimming the stacks. In Dubious Battle was my introduction to Steinbeck forty-five years ago. I liked it. Over the years others followed—The Moon is Down, East of Eden, and the timeless Grapes of Wrath. I read Ayn Rand too. Steinbeck was an antidote to Rand.

Bombs Away is unique—a historical treasure, freezing for all time a prominent American writer’s perspective on the cutting edge World War II bomber war, and the training for the American warr
Kent Winward
This was interesting as a World War II propaganda piece by an amazing writer. Seeing how Steinbeck pandered to the ideas of American exceptionalism at the time of war is why you would read this book. The relentless advance of technology is also abundantly clear when comparing the bomber crew with foot pedals, skylights for navigation, and wires as bomb tripping mechanisms to today's drones.

The book should probably be read in conjunction with Slaughterhouse-Five and Islands in the Stream (Heming
Jan 20, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First I should say that I would read a book which narrated paint drying if it were written by John Steinbeck. The man was a genius, narrative magician, and American master. There are very few things I know with absolute certainty, but Steinbeck's awesomeness is one of them.

That being said, OF COURSE this story is a little dry. Published in 1942, the year after the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entrance into World War II, Bombs Away is propaganda written by the writer of the American peopl
Joe Frankie
Mar 03, 2016 Joe Frankie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is key and interesting in this book?

It is John Steinbeck's, one of America's Nobel Laureates for Literature, view of what made America great from a people perspective. He relates why America was going to prevail in World War II. We should all take note, given our current times, of the kind of leadership and individual responsibility prevailed in the pre-World War II years.

John Steinbeck wrote this work in 1942 with America embroiled in World War II. It is a plainspoken description of what a
Steinbeck, John. BOMBS AWAY: THE STORY OF A BOMBER TEAM. (1942). ***.
A few months after America entered WW II, the United States Army Air Force asked Steinbeck to aid the war effort by writing a report to help recruit airmen. Published in 1942, “Bombs Away” the result of this endeavor, is much more than typical army recruiting propaganda. Instead, Steinbeck produced a chronicle documenting the real life of a bomber crew based on a conglomerate of all the men he talked to during his research. Th
Dec 05, 2012 Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the purpose this book was written for, it was extremely insightful. My father served in WWII as an aerial tail gunner in a bombardier group and it was extremely fascinating to get a glimpse into what he went through in terms of selection and training. The book was considered propaganda when it came out, before the term had such a negative connotation. The definition of propaganda is information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause. There had been much talk about the mortali ...more
Jul 22, 2008 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago I saw an exhibit and lecture on war photography at the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Included were aerial combat photographs by John Swope. Swope's photographs also illustrated a book called "Bombs Away" by John Steinbeck.

A page from the book was on display in a vitrine and I was immediately struck by Steinbeck's simple, direct prose. His words were like rivits holding pieces of metal together: perfectly positioned, aggressively applied, just large enough and just numerous
Nov 15, 2009 sdw rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Ernest Hemingway once said he 'would rather have cut three fingers off his throwing hand' than to have written such a book as Bombs Away (Baker 371)" (xi).

Written in 1942, Bombs Away is a promotional piece for the airforce. It idealizes and glamorizes the work of the bombing squadron, in part as a recruitment effort. The insightful introduction by James H. Meredith contrasts Steinbeck's glorification of American teamwork and the collective man (a familiar trope in Steinbeck) to Hemingway's
Brandon O'Neill
This is a non-fiction Steinbeck book, but one in which he is not a character. Originally written as a propaganda piece for the Air Force during WW II, it is an interesting glimpse at the positions that make up a bomber crew. While Steinbeck's voice is there, I wonder if an editor really looked over his words. He is very repetitive at times (ex. - The gunner needs to be a smaller guy. He goes on and on about the little guy having a complex and how he can be respected as a gunner. I get it - he i ...more
Adam Burnett
Jul 01, 2015 Adam Burnett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
John Steinbeck is my favourite author of all time and I have read all his books save two (Log from the Sea of Cortez and The Acts of King Arthur) and I can say with absolute confidence that this is his worst book by far. There is absolutely NOTHING redeeming in it. As others have said, pretty much reads like an extended pamphlet of propaganda. Save yourself some time and go back and read East of Eden again instead.
Tyson Call
Nov 30, 2012 Tyson Call rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In order to enjoy this book, one must have a strong interest in the history of aviation and the U.S. Air Force, as well as a love for Steinbeck's writing. There is not much story beyond the general "men enlist and go to war, here is where they are from and what they are like" theme.

It is a very detailed account of the training process for all the members of a bomber team, including pilot, crew chief, gunners, bombardier, and navigator. This information is of course dated to the early 1940's, so
Brian Willis
An authoritative study of the bombers of World War II, Steinbeck examines the various roles and crew members that go into a bombing mission. It certainly is thorough and it paints a vivid portrait of these important missions. It may be a bit dry for some, but it is generously full of photographs that detail the technical side. An accomplished report.

A magnificent volume of short novels and an essential World War II report from one of America's great twentieth-century writersOn the heels of the enormous success of his masterwork The Grapes of Wrath-and at the height of the American war effort-John Steinbeck, one of the most prolific and influential literary figures of his generation, wrote Bombs Away, a nonfiction account of his experiences with U.S. Army Air Force bomber crews during World War II. Now, for the first time since its original

Tom Leonhardt
Jul 05, 2011 Tom Leonhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful piece of journalism and shows Steinbeck's versatility and understanding of the American psyche in the early 1940s. I am not sure that anyone could write about military training today and certainly not as well. Besides, we are a different country now, one that would likely make Steinbeck uncomfortable.
Bombs Away is also propaganda but is it intentionally misleading or simply extended hyperbole intended to help Americans understand what it took to use the Flying Fortresses (B-1
I really didn't enjoy this book. It is propaganda, though I think Steinbeck openly acknowledges this. Steinbeck's love for the American 'everyman' and for Smallltown USA seem grossly out of place when talking about WW2, and his constant celebrations of US soldiers as the finest people on the planet get old after the second page. Also, the constant comparisons of military units to sports teams get quite repetitive.
Mar 12, 2013 Pote rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Curious Lines:

"Because they are healthy young men they will like girls very well indeed. Because their co-ordination and sense of timing and rhythm is acute, they will generally be good dancers and will like to dance."

- From the chapter 'The Bomber'

I instantly am disgusted at the introduction of our bombardier. His depiction of the wholesome and assumed correctness of his upbringing is vomit inducing.

I enjoyed the descriptions of what the men had to go through, but not the descriptions of thes
Long Williams
Not a novel. Good insight into make up of an aircrew and the motivations of said persons. Well written propaganda of the times. I love Steinbeck even if it is non-fiction.
Feb 20, 2016 Xdw rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
non fiction account of training a bomber crew. written during WW2 (yes, that john steinbeck!)
Jul 14, 2015 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. Steinbeck never ceases to amaze me
Abdelaziz Maldisa
May 25, 2015 Abdelaziz Maldisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An absolute bore.
Sep 26, 2016 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peace-corps
A little repetitive at times
Apr 22, 2015 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A propaganda piece written with a view to recruitment to the US Army Air Force in 1942. But still a captivating narrative illustrating the tone of the era.
Jun 18, 2012 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This may not be the typical Steinbeck read, but I knew that going in. It was fascinating exploration of the training required for each man of a WWII heavy bomber crew. Although it lacks the characterization and other things I love about Steinbeck, it is tightly written and is never dull.
Martin Matous
Reading this book I immediately recalled Catch 22 and maybe also the gunner Garp from World according to Garp. Steinbeck is beating the patriotic drum writing this book for the US government before/during WW2 and providing material for comedy writers for next decades...
Definitely dated and probably seen as less than PC in today's world, Steinbeck's essay is a fantastic homage to teamwork and understanding the strengths and diversity that help make successful teams function at the highest level.
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...

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