The Battle of Britain: The Months That Changed History, May–October 1940

James Holland, St. Martin's, $40 (704p) ISBN 978-0-312-67500-4
This work enhances Holland's (Italy's Sorrow) developing reputation as a writer of popular military history with a solid scholarly dimension. He shifts effortlessly from a cockpit perspective to the planning systems of the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe, and the political decisions that determined the pattern of air combat over Britain in the summer and fall of 1940. Holland ascribes Germany's defeat to a comprehensive unpreparedness for war that, in particular, required the Luftwaffe to do too much with too little. The advantage the Messerschmitt Bf 109 possessed over the Spitfire I in a dogfight (easily Holland's most controversial assertion) came nowhere near compensating for "a catalogue of mistakes," ranging from poor intelligence to incompetent handling of the fighter force. The Luftwaffe's defects were highlighted by the RAF's qualities: Holland pays tribute at every turn to the heroism, the spirit, and the endurance of the fighter pilots and affirms the skill of their "inspired and brilliant leaders." But this book appropriately reserves its final praise for the British people and their collective defiance during five crucial months. 16 pages of b&w photos; maps. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/06/2010
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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