Graphic War: The Secret Aviation Drawings and Illustrations of World War II


272 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55046-424-8
DDC 623.66'09'044




Serge Durflinger is an assistant professor of history at the University
of Ottawa. He is the author of Lest We Forget: A History of the Last
Post Fund, 1909-1999 and Fighting from Home: The Second World War in
Verdun Quebec.


This is a very handsome, well-designed book full of beautifully
reproduced illustrations of Allied and Axis aircraft cutaway drawings.
Also included are wonderful and unusual colour illustrations and posters
(many highly detailed and technical) of aircraft weaponry, including
bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes, and other onboard technical
equipment. Most were intended as training aids, as supplements to
maintenance and repair manuals, or as flight safety information. Still,
notwithstanding the title, surely very few of these illustrations were
“secret.” While they were used at military facilities and normally
accessible only to military personnel, given their often prominent
display, they should be considered merely restricted.

Graphic War is more about the art of wartime illustration than the
aircraft themselves. Each image highlights the degree to which skilled
illustrators could serve a precise military need or be employed for
general propaganda purposes. The drawings are a varied lot: there are
lovely British and German drawings of the German Me-110, Ju–87D, and
Ju–88; some fascinating Chinese posters from the 1930s; several superb
drawings of the Browning .303 machine gun and turret arrangement; and
even beautifully rendered compositions of the emergency exits for the
Halifax II. Perhaps the most fascinating series of graphics is that
showing a Lockheed Hudson launching a lifeboat for shipwreck survivors.
Other illustrations seem ludicrously simplistic, especially those
intended as helpful hints for combat pilots, which carried such obvious
messages as “clouds can help!” Flight crews undoubtedly paid these
latter no heed.

While there are some Canadian historical references, the main focus is
on British and American aircraft drawings, though the latter are
disappointingly mainly reproduced from manuals. The book is divided by
nation, with most sections offering a brief overview of the aviation
training schemes of each. It is a pity no such introduction exists for
the section on Germany, the drawings from which seem overly technical
and difficult to decipher. Most of the illustrations are accompanied by
some sidebar histories and anecdotes, though of uneven interest and
utility. Graphic War is something of a mixed bag; use it for the


Nijboer, Donald., “Graphic War: The Secret Aviation Drawings and Illustrations of World War II,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,