We've all seen our fair share of images from World War II, but color images from the era are a lot more rare—especially ones showing bomber crews at work on the airfield. LIFE magazine recently released a gallery of the VIII Bomber Command soldiers working on their planes, many of which were never published up until now.
The images of the B-24s and B-17s—otherwise known as the Flying Fortresses—and their crews were taken at a secret airfield by Margaret Bourke-White in 1942. "Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties," the article that appears in the October 1942 issue of LIFE reads. "To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, [Bomber Command] 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."
When she was hired in 1936, Bourke-White was the first female photojournalist at LIFE. She went on to become the first female war correspondent, and the first woman authorized to fly on a combat mission.
See more WWII photos at LIFE.com.