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The Few by Alex Kershaw
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The Few (2006)

by Alex Kershaw

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In 1940 Germany seemed unstoppable as it rolled over its neighbors. American ambassador to England Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK) was outspoken in his belief that England would not last long, and urged Churchill and seek peace terms and FDR to keep out of the conflict. But while FDR declared American neutrality, a few pilots clandestinely made their way to England to volunteer their services in Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). They risked not only the law, which made it illegal to serve in the armed forces of other nations, but also their lives in flying against accomplished German Messerschmitt pilots. And while cheating the Grim Reaper was fun while it lasted, most of them gave their lives for the cause they made their own.

This is a wonderfully inspirational history of the American pilots who flew for the RAF. But author Alex Kershaw adds depth by including not only the American experience but also the accounts of the British and German pilots. He presents the men as they were - not always brave and seldom fearless - but as heroes who helped turn the tide. Eventually the American government turned a blind eye and quietly "allowed" Americans to serve in "Eagle Squadrons," but those few who broke the law for a higher cause get the star treatment here. And Kershaw's account of the Battle of Britain is especially exciting as Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Messerschmitts tangle in the skies. I listened to the audio book, and while reader Scott Brick does an admirable job he often sounds a bit too dramatic in his reading. Additionally, I think reading the print version of this book would be a little easier to keep individuals separated in my mind. But I'm impressed with Kershaw's ability to tell a story and will certainly look for his other books (I've had The Longest Winter on my shelf unread for too long already). ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
In 1940 Germany seemed unstoppable as it rolled over its neighbors. American ambassador to England Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK) was outspoken in his belief that England would not last long, and urged Churchill and seek peace terms and FDR to keep out of the conflict. But while FDR declared American neutrality, a few pilots clandestinely made their way to England to volunteer their services in Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). They risked not only the law, which made it illegal to serve in the armed forces of other nations, but also their lives in flying against accomplished German Messerschmitt pilots. And while cheating the Grim Reaper was fun while it lasted, most of them gave their lives for the cause they made their own.

This is a wonderfully inspirational history of the American pilots who flew for the RAF. But author Alex Kershaw adds depth by including not only the American experience but also the accounts of the British and German pilots. He presents the men as they were - not always brave and seldom fearless - but as heroes who helped turn the tide. Eventually the American government turned a blind eye and quietly "allowed" Americans to serve in "Eagle Squadrons," but those few who broke the law for a higher cause get the star treatment here. And Kershaw's account of the Battle of Britain is especially exciting as Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Messerschmitts tangle in the skies. I listened to the audio book, and while reader Scott Brick does an admirable job he often sounds a bit too dramatic in his reading. Additionally, I think reading the print version of this book would be a little easier to keep individuals separated in my mind. But I'm impressed with Kershaw's ability to tell a story and will certainly look for his other books (I've had The Longest Winter on my shelf unread for too long already). ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
In 1940 Germany seemed unstoppable as it rolled over its neighbors. American ambassador to England Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK) was outspoken in his belief that England would not last long, and urged Churchill and seek peace terms and FDR to keep out of the conflict. But while FDR declared American neutrality, a few pilots clandestinely made their way to England to volunteer their services in Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). They risked not only the law, which made it illegal to serve in the armed forces of other nations, but also their lives in flying against accomplished German Messerschmitt pilots. And while cheating the Grim Reaper was fun while it lasted, most of them gave their lives for the cause they made their own.

This is a wonderfully inspirational history of the American pilots who flew for the RAF. But author Alex Kershaw adds depth by including not only the American experience but also the accounts of the British and German pilots. He presents the men as they were - not always brave and seldom fearless - but as heroes who helped turn the tide. Eventually the American government turned a blind eye and quietly "allowed" Americans to serve in "Eagle Squadrons," but those few who broke the law for a higher cause get the star treatment here. And Kershaw's account of the Battle of Britain is especially exciting as Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Messerschmitts tangle in the skies. I listened to the audio book, and while reader Scott Brick does an admirable job he often sounds a bit too dramatic in his reading. Additionally, I think reading the print version of this book would be a little easier to keep individuals separated in my mind. But I'm impressed with Kershaw's ability to tell a story and will certainly look for his other books (I've had The Longest Winter on my shelf unread for too long already). ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
Like The Longest Winter, a incredibly detailed yet highly readable story of the Americans who fought (violating the Neutrality Laws) in the Battle of Britain. The details of actual dogfights I found confusing but the times really came alive for me. The only hard part was the not suprising part, so few of the few survived. Given the mortatlity in the RAF, it 's not suprising but it was hard to hear about the end of all but one of them. Still, Kershaw seems to have a knack for making the history come alive, I should check out a few more of his books.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Excellent book, writing flows and reads like a novel. Kershaw does an excellent job of telling the struggle of not only the British but the Americans who volunteered to fly and fight with them. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 6, 2014 |
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Epigraph
HIGH FLIGHT
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Nineteen-year-old American pilot, killed December 11, 1941
Dedication
For Felix
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Winston Churchill sat in the back of a black Daimler, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, late on the afternoon of May 10, 1940.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306813033, Hardcover)

By the summer of 1940 World War II had been under way for nearly a year. Hitler was triumphant and planning an invasion of England. But the United States was still a neutral country and, as Winston Churchill later observed, "the British people held the fort alone." A few Americans, however, did not remain neutral. They joined Britain's Royal Air Force to fight Hitler's air aces and help save Britain in its darkest hour. The Few is the never-before-told story of these thrill-seeking Americans who defied their country's neutrality laws to fly side-by-side with England's finest pilots. They flew the lethal and elegant Spitfire, and became "knights of the air." With minimal training and plenty of guts they dueled the skilled pilots of Germany's Luftwaffe in the blue skies over England. They shot down several of Germany's fearsome aces, and were feted as national heroes in Britain. By October 1940, they had helped England win the greatest air battle in the history of aviation. At war's end, just one of the "Few" would be alive. The others died flying, wearing the RAF's dark blue uniform-each with a shoulder patch depicting an American eagle. As Winston Churchill said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:00 -0400)

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Tells the story of the few Americans who decided that they could not remain neutral during World War Two and joined Britain's Royal Air Force to defend the country from Hitler.

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