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With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the…
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With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain (2009)

by the dread pirate Michael Korda

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Very well done and fairly easy to read. This shines a lot of light on what was a pivotal period of time for Great Britain. It highlights the conflict between Hugh Dowding and most others in the high levels of command at the time. He was a maverick but his unconventional ideas (for the time) and strategy were vital in England being victorious and probably preventing a German invasion of the British Isles.I recommend this for any interested in learning more - and in depth - about the early stages of WWII ( )
  labdaddy4 | Jul 5, 2014 |
Listened to this in audio; the reader, John Lee, was enjoyable to hear. A good book for fans of British, military, or WWII history. It provided a lot of detail on the build up to the air war in the Battle of Britain (at least half the book) and almost day-by-day coverage of the skirmishes. It is rather detailed and the author is rather a name dropper but it did clarify a lot of misconceptions I had about that part of the war. ( )
  sswright46168 | Aug 29, 2013 |
Ranked among the greatest battles in British history, along with Waterloo, defeating the Spanish Armada, and Trafalgar, the Battle of Britain stands as a turning point during World War II when the Nazi juggernaut finally faced a foe that would not fall. Though few recognized it immediately, it was the turning of the tide in the war.

Fought entirely in the air, the Battle of Britain was the battle for mastery of the skies over England between the pilots of the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force. With German invasion expected during the summer of 1940, Michael Korda takes us back to a detailed look at the preparations for war, the development of new technologies on both sides of the battle--including of the all metal monoplanes, like the Spitfire and the BF-109, and radar as a detection system--as well as the key figures that had the foresight to develop the aerial defense to prepare. In vivid colors we see Neville Chamberline, long considered an appeaser but perhaps a more nuanced figure, Winston Churchill, Reichsmarschall Herman Goring, and others.

Above all, though, this is the story of the obstinate, erudite, difficult, and eccentric Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding. His strategy of bleeding the German bomber force held off the Germans through the summer until crossing the English Channel in the inclement fall weather made invasion no longer feasible.

At 336 pages, With Wings Like Eagles is a short and fast read, but never fails to delve into the characters and issues that shaped the battle. At the time, as fight pilots died in numbers higher than could be replaced, that "Never was so much owed by so many to so few." It's an apt description of a time when a nation stood on the brink, and only a few stood there and held back the tide. Korda does a wonderful job of bringing it to life, providing perspective, and producing a story that is enjoyable, fascinating, and relevant. If you enjoy histories of World War II, then you'll enjoy adding this to your collection. ( )
  publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
A pretty readable description of the preparation for and logistics behind the Battle of Britain, along with some of the main players including Winston Churchill and Hugh Dowding. Not very technical, but readable and accessible by the general public.
  pwjone1 | Nov 21, 2010 |
With Wings like Eagles by Michael Korda is a thoughtful look at what is arguable one of the greatest air battles in history – the Battle of Britain. Every time I think that there simply cannot be anything else written about this particular battle, I am taken back in the fact that every few years someone comes out with a new work, with a little different slant on things. Some of these books are great, some not so great and some are absolutely horrid. This work by Korda falls into the first category.
This account of The Battle of Britain is not one of those “shoot-em-up bang, bang books” filled with the personal narratives and recollections of the pilots who took part in this battle; rather it is an overall view of the battle and the sequence of events, really starting before the fall of France and the evacuation at Dunkirk. This work concentrates more on the planning, preparation and mechanics of the battle than some past offerings by others, and it certainly does a wonderful job of examining and assessing the tremendous egos of the leaders of all countries involved (England, Germany and France, along with the supporting cast). I found the account of infighting on the British General Staff and German High Command as fascinating as the actually physical battle.

There are always reasons for everything, and the result of this battle certainly had many factors at play, some planned, some purely opportunistic and then there was the sheer luck involved. The author has given fare nods to all. This works takes a close look at the battle from both the British and the German perspective and has done quite a nice job of it. Now I cannot make the claim as some that “this is a well researched book,” as I simply do not know if it was or was not. I will say that what I read pretty well agrees with the many other accounts of the battle, and as far as I could tell the time line was quite accurate. When the author speculates, he goes to great pains in pointing this fact out. What I am trying to say is that I am far from an expert on this particular battle, but from what I do know of it (which is actually quite a lot for a pure armature reader of history) all seemed to be in order. I am quite sure that someone who has a more extensive background in this area could probably nit-pick the book to death…but to what ends?

The author does give us some food for thought in this work. The primary aspect of this battle is one that I had never considered. It is the author’s opinion that the appeasers, Chamberlain being the led dog in this pack, actually helped England in some rather unexpected ways. The author speculates had not these men gone through their appeasement process, England never would have had the time to ready themselves for a battle which was absolutely inevitable in one form or another. Now whether this was done on purpose (a fact I doubt), or whether it was foresight on the part of Chamberlain is indeed pure speculation.

This book of course strongly features Churchill, and rightfully so, but also includes the thoughts and actions of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the real architect of the English victory, and that of his opposite Goring. We also get an insightful look at the developers of the weapon platforms used; Williy Messerschmitt, R.J. Mitchell, Sidney Cam and the rest of the engineers involved. The author discusses the old argument that “the bomber will always get through’ verses the tactical and strategically use of the fighter type aircraft. This was of course the central augment of the time and the author has addressed this at length.

It is also gratifying to read an author who points out the fact that times were changing and that the ineptitude shown by both the British and German high commands during the First World War were starting to change somewhat even though many were still caught up in the entire Old World social class thing. Many of the fighters, junior officers and NCOs where from solid middle class stock, practical and well grounded, as well as educated, rather than the rather effete, and frankly who were completely drained, by this time, thanks to the First World War, drained upper classes.

This is a good solid piece of popular history and is a very welcome addition to my library. I do recommend it highly for those that have an interest in this area and do recommend it for those who want a nice, not too technical account of one of the more important battles in our time.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks ( )
  theancientreader | May 3, 2009 |
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Michael Korda's brilliant work of history takes the reader back to the summer of 1940, when fewer than three thousand young fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force—often no more than nine hundred on any given day—stood between Hitler and the victory that seemed almost within his grasp.

Korda re-creates the intensity of combat in "the long, delirious, burning blue" of the sky above southern England, and at the same time—perhaps for the first time—traces the entire complex web of political, diplomatic, scientific, industrial, and human decisions during the 1930s that led inexorably to the world's first, greatest, and most decisive air battle. Korda deftly interweaves the critical strands of the story—the invention of radar (the most important of Britain's military secrets); the developments by such visionary aircraft designers as R. J. Mitchell, Sidney Camm, and Willy Messerschmitt of the revolutionary, all-metal, high-speed monoplane fighters the British Spitfire and Hurricane and the German Bf 109; the rise of the theory of air bombing as the decisive weapon of modern warfare and the prevailing belief that "the bomber will always get through" (in the words of British prime minister Stanley Baldwin). As Nazi Germany rearmed swiftly after 1933, building up its bomber force, only one man, the central figure of Korda's book, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the eccentric, infuriating, obstinate, difficult, and astonishingly foresighted creator and leader of RAF Fighter Command, did not believe that the bomber would always get through and was determined to provide Britain with a weapon few people wanted to believe was needed or even possible. Dowding persevered—despite opposition, shortage of funding, and bureaucratic infighting—to perfect the British fighter force just in time to meet and defeat the German onslaught. Korda brings to life the extraordinary men and women on both sides of the conflict, from such major historical figures as Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, and Reichsmarschall Herman Göring (and his disputatious and bitterly feuding generals) to the British and German pilots, the American airmen who joined the RAF just in time for the Battle of Britain, the young airwomen of the RAF, the ground crews who refueled and rearmed the fighters in the middle of heavy German raids, and such heroic figures as Douglas Bader, Josef František, and the Luftwaffe aces Adolf Galland and his archrival Werner Mölders.

Winston Churchill memorably said about the Battle of Britain, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Here is the story of "the few," and how they prevailed against the odds, deprived Hitler of victory, and saved the world during three epic months in 1940.

(raided from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:39 -0400)

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Michael Korda takes the reader back to the summer of 1940, when fewer than 3000 young fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force--often no more than 900 on any given day--stood between Hitler and victory. Korda traces the entire complex web of political, diplomatic, scientific, industrial, and human decisions during the 1930s that led inexorably to the world's first, greatest, and most decisive air battle.… (more!)

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