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With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain

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“[With Wings Like Eagles is] bold and refreshing… Korda writes with great elegance and flair.”—Wall Street Journal From the New York Times bestselling author of Ike and Horse People, Michael Korda, comes With Wings Like Eagles, the harrowing story of The Battle of Britain, one of the most important battles of World War II. In the words of the Washington Post Book World, “Wi “[With Wings Like Eagles is] bold and refreshing… Korda writes with great elegance and flair.”—Wall Street Journal From the New York Times bestselling author of Ike and Horse People, Michael Korda, comes With Wings Like Eagles, the harrowing story of The Battle of Britain, one of the most important battles of World War II. In the words of the Washington Post Book World, “With Wings Like Eagles is a skillful, absorbing, often moving contribution to the popular understanding of one of the few episodes in history … to deserve the description ‘heroic.’”


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“[With Wings Like Eagles is] bold and refreshing… Korda writes with great elegance and flair.”—Wall Street Journal From the New York Times bestselling author of Ike and Horse People, Michael Korda, comes With Wings Like Eagles, the harrowing story of The Battle of Britain, one of the most important battles of World War II. In the words of the Washington Post Book World, “Wi “[With Wings Like Eagles is] bold and refreshing… Korda writes with great elegance and flair.”—Wall Street Journal From the New York Times bestselling author of Ike and Horse People, Michael Korda, comes With Wings Like Eagles, the harrowing story of The Battle of Britain, one of the most important battles of World War II. In the words of the Washington Post Book World, “With Wings Like Eagles is a skillful, absorbing, often moving contribution to the popular understanding of one of the few episodes in history … to deserve the description ‘heroic.’”

30 review for With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    I read this book ten years and and am still enthralled by this history of the beginning months of the Battle of Britain. Korda outlines, in detail, the air battle strategies of both England and Germany but that detail does not overwhelm the overall story. It is hard for our generation to imagine the destruction that rained from the skies on the military and civilian population, especially when the bombing of London began. The bravery of the RAF fighter pilots is almost beyond imagination as they I read this book ten years and and am still enthralled by this history of the beginning months of the Battle of Britain. Korda outlines, in detail, the air battle strategies of both England and Germany but that detail does not overwhelm the overall story. It is hard for our generation to imagine the destruction that rained from the skies on the military and civilian population, especially when the bombing of London began. The bravery of the RAF fighter pilots is almost beyond imagination as they took to the sky again and again to meet the enemy and drive them back. The reputation of Air Chief Dowding, who has not always been treated kindly by history, is objectively reviewed by the author and Dowding is vindicated as his strategies proved correct against a larger foe. Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the following lines immortal; "Never in the field of human combat has so much been owed by so many to so few". As a result of that speech, those who flew in the Battle of Britain will be forever remembered as "the Few". It is a statement of British patriotism which can be mentioned in the same breath with Nelson's signal before Trafalgar "England expects that every man will do his duty". I highly recommend this book......very highly recommend it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This was a wonderful short account of the air war between Germany and Great Britain in the period of July through September of 1940, one that Churchill called “their finest hour”. He had only been in the office as Prime Minister since the fateful month of May, when the Nazis had swept through France and most of the British Expeditionary Force had made a miraculous and ignominious evacuation by sea from Dunkirk in Belgium. With Hitler’s forces obscenely enjoying the fruits of victory in Paris and This was a wonderful short account of the air war between Germany and Great Britain in the period of July through September of 1940, one that Churchill called “their finest hour”. He had only been in the office as Prime Minister since the fateful month of May, when the Nazis had swept through France and most of the British Expeditionary Force had made a miraculous and ignominious evacuation by sea from Dunkirk in Belgium. With Hitler’s forces obscenely enjoying the fruits of victory in Paris and most of Europe now under Nazi occupation, Britain needed the oratorical skills of Churchill to pump up their courage to stay the course in their island fortress and not the fearful whipped dog they would appear at this point when Russia and America were not committed to fight. Hitler assumed that attacks from the glorious Luftwaffe would either convince the Brits to pursue peaceful negotiation or put their air power out of business and pave the way for invasion. Luckily for Churchill when he took office, the Royal Air Force was already an advanced state of readiness to deal with the Luftwaffe, and this status was primarily the accomplishment of one man, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. Lord Dowding and a Hawker Hurricane plane on a 1986 commemorative stamp This then is the story of how Dowding achieved an effective air defense system and the strategies deployed for using it as the air battle evolved day by day as England was attacked nearly daily for two months, at a cost of about 40,000 civilian lives lost. This included his efforts to build up a fighter force when others in power sought major investment in a bomber fleet, the push to develop an operational radar system, secure communications, anti-aircraft deployment, civil defense and volunteer monitoring networks, the invention of centralized and regional command centers to coordinate all these resources in real time. Korda credits Chamberlain and Lord Baldwin with supporting these developments and with the preparation time afforded by their policy of appeasement of Hitler after his invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, now so odious in hindsight. At Dunkirk a largely invisible war in the sky between the RAF and Luftwaffe showed the British Hurricane and Spitfire fighters to be the equal of the formidable Messerschmitt Bf 109 planes of the Germans. But without the supporting systems and the larger air force of the Nazis, the large loss of planes and pilots there convinced Dowding that the RAF couldn’t win a war of attrition without a special strategy to do more with less. London scene in aftermath of bombing. Like a 9/11 attack every night Southern England sites of Luftwaffe bomber attacks outside of London, all minutes from airfields in France Unfortunately, Dowding (nicknamed “Stuffy”) was poor at politics and diplomatic networking. In order to assure adequate strength to defend Britain, he strenuously resisted the sending of lots of planes and pilots to support the losing war in France, in the process creating many political enemies. He also resisted the diffusion of land defense by deploying planes for patrol of the Channel and shipping. With Luftwaffe air bases near the coast in France and Holland, warning times for attacks were terribly short. His strategy to scramble small numbers of squadrons as soon as possible to pick off attacking fighters left most bombers free to complete their runs. The approach was opposed by Leigh-Mallory, Bader, and others, whose concept of the “Big Wing”, or large fleet assemblies, gained much support despite being too slow to pull off. Dowding was to be ousted in May, but Churchill kept extending his command without effectively interceding to stop the humiliation, insubordination, and backstabbing he was subject to within RAF and its administrative overseers. We don’t spend a lot of time in this book with the individual pilots on their missions and sorties. Yet Korda’s samples of memoir accounts adequately convey a picture of the herculean efforts that these young men, whom Dowding affectionately called his “chicks” (their average age was 20). The fiery hell they went through when their planes were hit and the strange scenes of ones who successfully ejected to parachute down to civilian reception in a golf course or farmer’s field. We get a lot of analysis of weaknesses of Goering’s policies, Luftwaffe fighting strategies, and failures of intelligence estimates of British strength, but there is little here on their airmen’s experiences. They were more effective in recovery of pilots downed in the Channel than the British, but the permanent loss of their pilots bailing out over land by being taken prisoner was a toll of asymmetry that tolled against the Germans in the long run. Dowding’s chicks Hitler assumed the spirit of the British people would quickly be broken by the bombing campaign. But the onslaught just strengthened their resolve. Their stoic outlook and continued communal efforts to deal with the fires and casualties as presented in Korda’s narrative brought tears to my eyes. The relatively unsung heroism of the tens of thousands who served in ground crews and with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at airfields and command centers while under attack is poignantly portrayed. The focus of bombing on military and industrial targets at a certain point appeared to reveal a policy of willful targeting of civilians (e.g. inclusion of the East End of London and attacks on Buckingham Palace), so Churchill called for token revenge bombing of Berlin, which in turn triggered massive German bombings of urban sites in London. Soon they moved to massive night bombings guided by triangulated radio beacons, attacks for which the RAF had no defense. Dowding was pursuing on-board radar for night fighters, but this was not yet effective in 1940. Hitler’s plan for a sea invasion of Britain, “Sea Lion”, was ultimately defeated by the calendar. Dowding’s maintenance of about 1,000 effective fighters and the integrated command system until mid-September effectively won the Battle of Britain, for at that point the unpredictable stormy weather in the North Sea made it necessary for Hitler to cancel the invasion. By spring, Hitler turned the war focus on Russia and was unable to turn back to invading Britain. The outcome achieved by so few (with the support of some many) deserves in Korda’s mind comparison to other big turning points in British military history, such as defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Waterloo. Korda is adept in marshalling a vast amount of historical material and at balancing the technological and human aspects of this story to make an excellent read. Writing in his mid-70s after a 40-year career in publishing at Simon and Schuster, Korda obviously took this book up as a labor of love. As background for his competence for the task, he studied history at Oxford, served as an intelligence officer with the RAF during the war, and personally knew some of the key politicians and industrialists involved in the war effort through his aristocratic family. He is able to make a good case over the influence on thinking about air wars by H.G. Wells’ 1933 novel, “The Shape of Things to Come,” given that his uncle Alexander Korda produced the movie version in 1937. In that story a massive surprise bomber attack is able to defeat Britain in one fell swoop. It was just such a prospect that helped propel Dowding to succeed in developing a fighter force to prevent such a fiction to become true. In reality, the industrial capacity of Britain was too vast and London itself too big to be destroyed by aerial bombing alone. Still, with enough growth in bomber forces and technology of death and neutralization of defenses, the firebombing of Hamburgh, Dresden, and Tokyo later in the war showed that a city can be destroyed by air, killing 50-100 thousand in a night. But the underlying premise that the will of a people could be defeated by such horrific means proved false. Only the insanity of nuclear weapons can cow a nation enough for that. Judging from my good experience with this book, his biography of Lawrence of Arabia, “Hero”, and his focused memoir “Horse People,” I look forward to trying one or more of his four other books of history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    This book presents a look at how the British won the Battle of Britain under the direction of men like Dowding and Park. It's an interesting book, highlighting the intrigues in Britain and Germany, which led to decisions which made the difference. Churchill comes across as less than knowledgeable about how the air war was to be handled successfully, especially concerning the decision about sending aircraft to France before Dunkirk. Goering takes his lumps too for his arrogance and lack of unders This book presents a look at how the British won the Battle of Britain under the direction of men like Dowding and Park. It's an interesting book, highlighting the intrigues in Britain and Germany, which led to decisions which made the difference. Churchill comes across as less than knowledgeable about how the air war was to be handled successfully, especially concerning the decision about sending aircraft to France before Dunkirk. Goering takes his lumps too for his arrogance and lack of understanding of radar and what was needed for victory. September 15 is Battle of Britain Day. Long may it be remembered for the sacrifices of "the Few" and those of the civilians on the ground who were caught up in the horrors of modern war.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan Tomkins-Raney

    Magnificent. Exciting and easy to read, this history of the Battle of Britain takes you inside the minds and events involved in this pivotal part of WW2, when Britain stood alone against a European continent under the dominion of Nazi Germany...and a mere thousand young British fighter pilots defied Hitler's and Göring's Luftwaffe to change the course of the war, saving their country and by extension the free world. Magnificent. Exciting and easy to read, this history of the Battle of Britain takes you inside the minds and events involved in this pivotal part of WW2, when Britain stood alone against a European continent under the dominion of Nazi Germany...and a mere thousand young British fighter pilots defied Hitler's and Göring's Luftwaffe to change the course of the war, saving their country and by extension the free world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    There is a great romanticism to the Battle of Britain. In the summer of 1940, at the height of Nazi power, all that stood between England and invasion were the pilots of RAF Fighter Command. Contrails traced labyrinths in the blue summer sky miles above the Earth as Spitfire and Messerschmidt tangled. The war fell from the sky on picnickers; shell casings, flaming wreckage, men, bombs. And of course, the good guys won. "This was their finest hour." Roll credits. The real story is more complicated There is a great romanticism to the Battle of Britain. In the summer of 1940, at the height of Nazi power, all that stood between England and invasion were the pilots of RAF Fighter Command. Contrails traced labyrinths in the blue summer sky miles above the Earth as Spitfire and Messerschmidt tangled. The war fell from the sky on picnickers; shell casings, flaming wreckage, men, bombs. And of course, the good guys won. "This was their finest hour." Roll credits. The real story is more complicated, of course, and Korda centers the battle as conflict between Air Marshall Hugh Dowding of the RAF, and Herman Goering for the Luftwaffe. Dowding is cast as a visionary. In the 1930s, when prevailing wisdom was that 'the bomber would always get through', Dowding pushed for the creation of the world's first integrated air defense network, a combination of radar, spotters, hardened telephones lines, centralized dispatch rooms where maps and indicator lights which enabled command of an air battle in real time, and fast and powerful monoplane fighters to do the killing. This was not going to be a random brawl, but a carefully planned battle of attrition. In the 21st century, with NASA Mission Control, the Star Trek bridge, and network-centric warfare, this is common stuff, but Dowding invented it all. The Churchill Bunker, with the big board Against this, Goering's Luftwaffe was the most powerful airforce in the world at the time. But the Bf-109 had the range to stay over England for mere minutes, the medium bombers lacked accuracy and destructive power, and the Stuka and Me-110 were sitting ducks for modern fighters. The Nazis were also hampered by terrible intelligence, that continually predicted the RAF was at the breaking point, and political problems, when a retaliatory strike on Berlin lead to bombers being pulled off of airfields and factories to punish Berlin. In one sense, the outcome was never in doubt. Dowding just had to contest control of the air through the first week of October, after which storms would make Operation Sea Lion impossible. On the other hand, RAF fighter command sacrificed immensely, taking tremendous casualties in the process of bleeding the Luftwaffe white. Dowding himself was never a political player, and had to turn over his command in November 1940. But Britain had been saved. As Churchill put it, "Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few." With Wings Like Eagles is an erudite popular history that rises above the pack through a novel, and well-founded thesis around the command of Air Marshall Dowding.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    Well told account of the Battle of Britain, with nice details on the planes, the leaders, and individual battles.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    The late 1930s and early 1940s were very harsh times. Just before this book I tackled one about the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. This book deals with how England nearly ceased to exist under a brutal siege by Hitler and the German War Machine. Before invading, the fuhrer insisted on destroying the British Air Command. The author details how the 18-year-old pilots stood fast on the foundation of years of planning, building and training before the Battle of Britain and at the time of intense The late 1930s and early 1940s were very harsh times. Just before this book I tackled one about the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. This book deals with how England nearly ceased to exist under a brutal siege by Hitler and the German War Machine. Before invading, the fuhrer insisted on destroying the British Air Command. The author details how the 18-year-old pilots stood fast on the foundation of years of planning, building and training before the Battle of Britain and at the time of intense conflict, discipline, determination, patriotism and unity. Well done Mr. Korda.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    More like 3.5 stars. So much of this book was fascinating--I was particularly interested in the account of the development of the British radar network and the author's suggestion that Neville Chamberlain was not appeasing the Nazis but rather wisely buying time until this crucial defensive element could be completed and installed--and I certainly got a sense of what it would have been like to be in the air, on the ground and in the command centers during Britain's finest hour. I did feel, howev More like 3.5 stars. So much of this book was fascinating--I was particularly interested in the account of the development of the British radar network and the author's suggestion that Neville Chamberlain was not appeasing the Nazis but rather wisely buying time until this crucial defensive element could be completed and installed--and I certainly got a sense of what it would have been like to be in the air, on the ground and in the command centers during Britain's finest hour. I did feel, however, that the author's championing of Air Chief Marshall Dowding and Air Vice-Marshall Park in their feud with Air Marshall Sholto Douglas and Air Vice-Marshall Leigh-Mallory often became repetitive and sometimes bogged down the narrative. Still, an interesting and well-researched book about a pivotal battle and the men (on both sides) who fought it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    Before Roosevelt, Marshall and Eisenhower there was Churchill and Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Dowding was the architect of victory in what has come to be known as the "Battle of Britain" and this book is a valuable account of that battle. Britain braced virtually alone for two years and heroically withstood the Nazi onslaught. As a free nation we must ever be thankful. Churchill paid tribute to the men and women heroes of the battle who turned the tide of eventual world war. Before the H Before Roosevelt, Marshall and Eisenhower there was Churchill and Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Dowding was the architect of victory in what has come to be known as the "Battle of Britain" and this book is a valuable account of that battle. Britain braced virtually alone for two years and heroically withstood the Nazi onslaught. As a free nation we must ever be thankful. Churchill paid tribute to the men and women heroes of the battle who turned the tide of eventual world war. Before the House of Commons in August of 1940 he said: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

  10. 5 out of 5

    James S

    Battle of Britain at the operational level A good history of how the technology and the communication structure of the early warning air attack system were developed and put in place. Then an overview of the Battle of Britain, BoB, which is an informed overview with enough details to get a flavor of the campaign but without the dreary large amount of details that would weigh the story down. Some tactical insights are included and a good amount of the strategic situation is explained also. The comm Battle of Britain at the operational level A good history of how the technology and the communication structure of the early warning air attack system were developed and put in place. Then an overview of the Battle of Britain, BoB, which is an informed overview with enough details to get a flavor of the campaign but without the dreary large amount of details that would weigh the story down. Some tactical insights are included and a good amount of the strategic situation is explained also. The common thread running through all of the above is Air Marshall Hugh Dowding was the chief architect who had an accurate vision about how England must be defended from air attacks and how to get the job done. Enjoyable read, great overview of the BoB. Because this is an ebook there is an atrocious lack of maps, illustration and pictures. Thus the 4 star rating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    In this history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda deftly plucks both the harp strings of emotion as he folds images of his grandfather’s (Alexander Korda’s) film version of H. G. Well’s Things to Come with the pedal work of solid facts (demythologizing kill/damage estimates) and careful research. Having read Churchill’s Their Finest House (Volume II of his Second World War series), I thought I knew quite a bit about the events. With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain mad In this history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda deftly plucks both the harp strings of emotion as he folds images of his grandfather’s (Alexander Korda’s) film version of H. G. Well’s Things to Come with the pedal work of solid facts (demythologizing kill/damage estimates) and careful research. Having read Churchill’s Their Finest House (Volume II of his Second World War series), I thought I knew quite a bit about the events. With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain made me feel like a neophyte once again. Korda’s style and insights provide a clear and concise picture of the war. At times, I found myself shaking my head and, at times, I found myself chuckling. I was hooked from the very beginning when Korda made a marvelous observation about history and history writing. “Given time, all historical events become controversial. That is the nature of things—we question and rewrite the past, glamorizing it or diminishing it according to our own inclinations, or the social and political views of the present.” (pp. 2-3) And, as an unabashed wargamer (though the Pacifist science-fiction writer H. G. Wells was also a gamer), I liked the statement, “Still, all war is chance.” (p. 7) Korda’s rather straightforward work builds upon our understanding of the conflict in the air as driven by technology, weather, logistics, and lives lost as much as by strategy, tactics, and force of personality. To be sure, personalities play a role, but Korda seems more even-handed than other chroniclers of this conflict. We certainly see Goring’s resistance to change in Luftwaffe fighter design causing that program to fall slightly behind the curve (pp. 40-41) and Goring’s insistence of believing Beppo Schmidt’s estimates of Fighter Command’s strength certainly kept the Germans from reassessing their targets earlier. He doesn’t ignore Goring’s grandiloquent order to initiate Adlerangriff Day: “Reichsmarschall Goring to all units. Adlerangriff! You will proceed to smash the British Air Force out of the sky. Heil Hitler!” (p. 161) He makes no bones about how often Goring was on his “pleasure train” when he should have been at the command center. In terms of personality, Korda doesn’t hesitate to undermine Winston Churchill’s account of certain situations, even though he was personal friends with Churchill’s grandson (who passed away within a year of the book’s publication). He recounts how Churchill asserted in his own memoirs that Dowding (commander-in-chief of Fighter Command) had assured him that he could defend Britain with a mere 25 air squadrons, even though Dowding had drafted a specific document stating that he needed 52 squadrons or more (pp. 113-118). He also couldn’t help but describe the chaos involved with Churchill’s personal baby, the UP weapons. The UPs were rockets that fired projectiles 600 feet in the air and released parachutes that would suspend 480-foot-long wire cables. These were supposed to either tear off wings of diving Stukas or pull them into the ground (p. 220). This was a wild idea which created some confusion at one of the few airfields at which they were tried (p. 225). After talking admiringly of Dowding’s understanding of the way to win the war by attrition (pp. 124-5, 128), he later dealt with a brash pilot named Douglas Bader (there was a movie about him) who was impatient with Dowding’s approach to an attrition war and argued (and, at times, acted treasonously) for a “big wing” that would really “bloody the nose” of the Germans. I loved Korda’s description of Bader as “…Iago to Leigh-Mallory’s Othello” in the rivalry between Leigh-Mallory and Dowding (p. 182). That’s just how vivid this volume can be. For me, it was surprising to discover what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that the Germans had largely used images of the HE 113 for propaganda purposes and that British claims to have shot them down in the Battle of Britain demonstrated the effectiveness of that propaganda since no HE 113s flew in any of those missions (p. 71n). I didn’t know that Packard had built the engine for the P-51D Mustang because of Henry Ford’s personal problems with the makers of the Rolls Royce engine (Packard built some engines under RR auspices—p. 134). I didn’t know that the British made a point of shooting down German rescue planes over the channel in spite of their white paint jobs and red cross markings (p. 148). I always thought it was a fictional touch that bookies took bets on the number of German planes killed each day, but Korda verifies it (p. 202). I didn’t know that the RAF deliberately spread the rumor that raw carrots improved eyesight and emphasized it with photographs of raw carrots on pilot mess tables in order that when the AI (airborne interceptors) came into play, they would claim superior eyesight instead of a new technology (p. 238n). I didn’t realize how altitude errors were compounded by radar operators adding altitude to their calculations and pilots adding even more (pp. 259-60). I don’t remember reading anywhere else of German Ace Adolf Galland’s (104 confirmed kills) comment to Goring that he needed an outfit of Spitfires to win the war (p. 269). In summary, this is a fascinating book. Space doesn’t permit sharing about the evolution of British machine gun convergence (as Korda does on p. 83), Korda’s accounts of the organization of Fighter Command and a typical Geschwader organization (p. 165n), or the political machinations faced by Dowding (pp. 289-297). Suffice it to say that the book was continually enlightening and stimulating. I certainly plan to read other books by this author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    William Brown

    Some new insight on an old, pivotal battle Korda's book gives some interesting new information on the aircraft, the tactics, the politics and personalities, and the evolution of the battle itself. A very interesting read. Some new insight on an old, pivotal battle Korda's book gives some interesting new information on the aircraft, the tactics, the politics and personalities, and the evolution of the battle itself. A very interesting read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    With Wings Like Eagles - A History of the Battle of Britain Michael Korda Read it in paperback, a short read at 352 pages. I really enjoy reading about the golden age of aerial combat, more specifically what is known as the Dog Fight. As someone who owns a dog that likes to fight, this is the perfect terminology. The fundamentals are simple, the biggest-baddest dog in the pack picks a target and then it becomes a swirling aerial melee of carnage as each dog attempts to use speed, altitude, and posi With Wings Like Eagles - A History of the Battle of Britain Michael Korda Read it in paperback, a short read at 352 pages. I really enjoy reading about the golden age of aerial combat, more specifically what is known as the Dog Fight. As someone who owns a dog that likes to fight, this is the perfect terminology. The fundamentals are simple, the biggest-baddest dog in the pack picks a target and then it becomes a swirling aerial melee of carnage as each dog attempts to use speed, altitude, and positioning to rend an opponent from the sky. The limitations of aerial technology in the 1930's pushed the envelope in a realm that was still being hastily flushed out, especially aerial combat, in war time conditions. It's interesting to read because flying these things took courage, real courage and nerves of steel. When your own aircraft could simply stop working (engine malfunction, gun jam, landing gear failure, etc.) when you needed it the most or be turned into a molten ball of burning wreckage, streaking down from the heavens in an instant, all because you didn't see the enemy racing in above you using the sun as cover at 648 km/h, and all he had to do was flip the trigger for two seconds. But where to begin? WW2 was frantic with aerial combat. Personally the European Theater is the most interesting to me. At the time in which The Battle of Britain would commence, Germany had swept west with such efficiency and speed that they controlled most of the European continent with little loss, effectively rendering the general populace to their control while beginning to fortify their positions. The only point of opposition still standing being the British. Hitler, who was holding out for what he believed was imminent surrender from the British was apprehensive about committing to a land invasion over the channel and left it to his air force to pummel the British into this surrender. As the months from the disaster at Dunkirk ticked on, one man, was tasked with formulating the defense of Britain. This man's name was Hugh Dowding and this is widely the story of his efforts leading up to and during the Battle of Britain from a technical perspective. The book itself covers, generically, the efforts of Dowding to formulate an ingenious plan for defense of Britain in the face of opposition within his country and from the obvious impending external monster camped on the beaches of France and Norway followed by the execution of that defense during the highest frenzy of aerial combat. It details out the plan, the execution, the players (both politically and militarily during the time), as well as the aircraft and pilots that would take part. I thoroughly enjoyed it despite Mr. Kurdas' use of fact repetition, often covering content he had just captured in the chapter before. It happens with some frequency but really isn't that much of a big deal. Full of references and some pretty pictures this is a good read if you want some more detailed information about the Battle of Britain. It most certainly not an account from the pilots point of view however. 3.5 rounding down for GoodReads but would give it a 4 for anyone with an interest in the subject matter. Most definitely a good place to start at any rate.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jarrod

    Quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The book seems to mirror the career of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding while discussing the Battle of Britain. I learned a great deal about the British advantages and heart of how and why they won the battle and how they deflected the German bombardment. Why technological advances for battle were important for victory. You get a feel from the author of what it was like to live through the experience of being bombed day on end and not knowing when it was g Quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The book seems to mirror the career of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding while discussing the Battle of Britain. I learned a great deal about the British advantages and heart of how and why they won the battle and how they deflected the German bombardment. Why technological advances for battle were important for victory. You get a feel from the author of what it was like to live through the experience of being bombed day on end and not knowing when it was going to end. The book was also honest about the politics behind the battle and in England in general. Several books and conventional wisdom bend over backwards to praise Churchill in everything he did. This book touches on some of his less admirable qualities and actually goes through efforts to praise his predecessors for how they prepared the country for battle. It also showed how regardless of their differences, they didn't fight each other afterward. They were all on the same team fighting the Germans. I've been more prone to read the early stages of the war as they set the stage for the downfall of Germany. I am gaining a new-found respect for what England did in the early stages being the sole "Ally" power in the war prior to operation Barbarossa ('41) and Pearl Harbor ('44). They took the best that Germany could throw at them and fended them off with little help from other countries.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jane Thompson

    I have been reading books on the Battle of Britain for 58 years. This one, by Michael Korda, was far and away the best I have ever read. Instead of just discussing the battle, he tells how the system was set up, the radar, the WAAFs, the building of the Spitfires and the Hurricanes. I knew nothing about the preparation for the war. Then he goes into the battle and describes not only war, but also how politics was involved. He talks bout the interactions among Dowding, Churchill, and Leigh-Mallory I have been reading books on the Battle of Britain for 58 years. This one, by Michael Korda, was far and away the best I have ever read. Instead of just discussing the battle, he tells how the system was set up, the radar, the WAAFs, the building of the Spitfires and the Hurricanes. I knew nothing about the preparation for the war. Then he goes into the battle and describes not only war, but also how politics was involved. He talks bout the interactions among Dowding, Churchill, and Leigh-Mallory and how they worked (and didn't) together. This is a wonderful history and I enjoyed it completely.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Great book for anybody with even a passing interest in World War II history. Everybody has heard of the Battle of Britain, but, for me at least, this book really filled in a lot of details I was not aware of.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    With Wings Like Eagles is a fascinating history of the Battle of Britain and its airplanes. It is a well-written, page-turner of a military history. Michael Korda makes a hero of the lackluster General Dowding and his fighter planes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Rabasco

    A quick read I enjoyed this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Furnison

    9/10. Much better then I anticipated. I learned alot I didn't know, such as the extremely important role of Dowding. 9/10. Much better then I anticipated. I learned alot I didn't know, such as the extremely important role of Dowding.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richard Buro

    The short version first . . . Due to my training as a historian (my first Texas Teaching Field). I read quite a bit of good historical works during my college years, and after I graduated, I still read history. Now I am able to read historical works with the discerning eye that has developed for the past 40 odd years or so that since my undergraduate matriculation from Baylor University. I have several things I look for when I consider a book to be “exceptional history.” My benchmarks are: notes The short version first . . . Due to my training as a historian (my first Texas Teaching Field). I read quite a bit of good historical works during my college years, and after I graduated, I still read history. Now I am able to read historical works with the discerning eye that has developed for the past 40 odd years or so that since my undergraduate matriculation from Baylor University. I have several things I look for when I consider a book to be “exceptional history.” My benchmarks are: notes (either footnotes, chapter endnotes, or end of book endnotes; and, in electronic books, notes that are hyperlinked between the note location regardless of author/publisher location preference and in-text link, and, preferably that work all the time regardless of platform doing the “looking.” Second is a comprehensive bibliography of all sources consulted in completing the work, including books cited in the text as being essential study for more information. Third, a comprehensive index to key information, presented in alphabetical form, again with links which work between index location and text being referenced. Attention to detail particularly in the electronic editions of text or research volumes should be considered essential for the modern readers of the newest electronic media available using the most complete suite of tools available for the research and reading of same. Finally, a bibliographical acknowledgement for the principal locations and sources that provided useful assistance in handling the research requests associated with the volume in question. Finally a cogent story about surrounding a specific place, event, or person in time which the story develops to its fullest. In With Wings Like Eagles, Michael Korda [does a masterful job of pulling together a wide range of information from both sides of the English Channel that was the place where many aspects of the topic at hand occurred in the late summer of 1940. This temporal nexus is called the Battle of Britain. In [book:With Wings Like Eagles|6545498], Mr. Korda recounts the events leading up to the actual Battle of Britain looking at the development of three separate developments in technology that were to prove absolutely vital to the outcome of the events that are the focal point for the book. The three technical achievements were the deployment and fine tuning of the new technology of radio detection and ranging, or radar. The technique was an outgrowth of the development of radio, but its purpose was to detect and indicate the distance to an object or objects which were moving around the radar transmitter. The devices used in the story involved the use of large fixed towers that were placed near the location where the signals presented could be interpreted into useful information. The selection of women to be used as operators and interpreters was a means of using a human resource that might have been disregarded by others, but the British saw women as a vital part of the war effort. In fact several women were awarded medals and awards for their bravery and disciplined action in the face of enemy fire and imminent destruction. They were tenacious, determined, and seriously contributed to the larger war effort by their duties performed in the radar facilities. The women were also found to be conspicuously adept at providing the support and technical personnel for the second invention that was the direct result of the radar breakthrough. This involved the detailed reporting and presentation to decision makers by use of physical maps with markers for various units both British and German, in effect building an everchanging map of each event in a given point in time. These locations were the operations centers which were linked to the Royal Air Force (RAF) bases as well as the centers where the decision makers in their own operations centers monitored and shared information so that all operations centers kept their “maps” updated with the latest information. These were the first, truly connected operations centers ever developed, and they would become the harbinger of operations centers in the future with modern electronic technology and information coming from all over the planet and beyond. Women were also a contributing force involved in manufacturing and homeland defense. The third technical development was the development of all-aluminum, monoplane (one wingset rather than two, as was the case in World War I with the biplanes that were mostly covered with doped fabric over a mixed medium set of spars and stringers). The planes the British built were the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane. Light, fast, carrying upwards of 8 machine guns firing from wings mostly, and both were powered by Rolls Royce Merlin engines, soon to be the mainstay of Allied fighter powerplants for many aircraft from many countries of the Allied forces. Both of these fighters had their own unique characteristics and optimum operating environments. The Spitfires were ideal for mixing with Messerschmitt fighters whereas the Hurricanes were the workhorse to be used against any type of German bomber. Both the Hurricane and the Spitfire would be built in various equipment and ordnance loadout variants for given situations or theaters of operation. Both were world class fighters which could hold their own against the best the Axis forces could bring to bear. With three technological developments and a force of hardworking committed men and women, the required components were in place, but the leadership that could marshal these resources and use them to the best advantage of each took intrepid leaders. Mr. Korda spends most of his book looking at the various leaders both military and political involved in the proper management and utilization of the equipment and personnel at his command. The Commander in Chief of Fighter Command, Sir Hugh Dowding, was perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned commander of any Air Arm in history. His plan to provide what was in effect a collapsing box of fighters provided the Germans a merry chase, resulting in more of the enemy aircraft and crews being lost than Allied. This was the case, day after day, week after week until a command decision was made that would effectively change the course of the battle and eventually the course of the war in Europe. It was a measured use of resources, with planned replacements for planes lost and training programs for pilots who were killed. Dowding’s master plan was to fight a collapsing war of attrition. The idea was to remove more German planes and pilots, proving day in and day out, that the British Islands were too valued to the British people to sacrifice them to the dictatorial rule of the Axis. The result of all this is part of history, and Mr. Korda reflects on the things preserved by the outcome of the Battle of Britain. The unique set of technical breakthroughs and mastery, the intrepid fearlessness of the British people, and the poor intelligence gathering by the Axis forces led them to overestimate their abilities to cripple the fighters of the RAF. They overestimated the number of planes shot down, crews lost, and airfields put out of service. What happened in the end was a battered country, a resilient people, and a country with the ability to build the aircraft and provide the air crews to fly them that would take the bombing campaign into the home cities of the Axis powers, the industrial plants of the Axis military, and the transportation centers and infrastructure that supported the transportation systems in the Axis held areas of Germany and its neighboring countries that had been captured to be come Axis-held areas. Recommendations: This work is clearly a 5 out of 5 stars for its accuracy of content, clarity of the inside operations of the British military, particularly the RAF and the Air Ministry, and the cool-headed, intrepid acts that Sir Hugh Dowding performed that kept the Germans guessing and encouraging them to come up to participate in the slow death of the invasion forces of Operation Sea Lion and the pride of the German Luftwaffe in the Axis-controlled countries of the Low Countries and France during the early months of the War in the European Theatre of Operations, before World War II became a reality involving the original Colonies of the Crown in the Western Hemisphere, namely the United States of America. Mr. Korda provides a factual account with excellent sources, diligent and clear research, and tremendous amount of research in the both German and British records which provided a balanced look at the effects of each engagement in the Battle of Britain. With Wings Like Eagles has lessons to tell anyone who is interested in the topic and can handle the vocabulary, which is clearly readable at the middle grades, middle school and above. The clarity and candor with which Mr. Korda writes is in striking contrast to some of the other works I have read recently and, frankly, it was a refreshing read after so much that I found objectionable as my recent reviews have discussed. I highly recommend this work; it is good history well researched and impeccably written. Review of Michael Korda's With Wings Like Eagles by Richard Buro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6545498-with-wings-like-eagles. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Send e-mail to: [email protected]

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." This was an exciting story that I could not put down. All the extra facts never detracted from the speed of this narrative. This very pro-British and pro-Dowding account was still a very real telling of this legendary battle, that ranks with The Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, and Waterloo. There are many what-if's mentioned in this book. The intelligence reports during WWII were very inaccurate, incomplete, and untrustworth "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." This was an exciting story that I could not put down. All the extra facts never detracted from the speed of this narrative. This very pro-British and pro-Dowding account was still a very real telling of this legendary battle, that ranks with The Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, and Waterloo. There are many what-if's mentioned in this book. The intelligence reports during WWII were very inaccurate, incomplete, and untrustworthy. This was compounded by the fact that Göring wanted all the glory for himself, and would disregard even good intelligence reports. He over-promised at Dunkirk in June 1940 (while basking in the defeat of France) and over-promised once again from July to September of 1940 (thinking England would not put up a fight, and had meager number of aircraft). By Sept 15 (Battle of Britain Day), Germany had given up trying to take over air-space of the English Channel and scrapped Operation Sea Lion (the amphibious invasion of southern England). The bombing of London, the largest city in the world at 8 million, continued after the Battle of Britain, through the autumn of 1940 and winter/spring 1941. But Hitler had already paid the penalty for thinking this would be too easy of a victory, and trusting Göring too much. Hitler then took his armies and focused eastward to Russia, abandoning the invasion of England in favor of continued night bombing of London. This was met by retaliatory bombing of German large cities. This incredible waste of civilian life with the thought that demoralized people would put an end to it all, was thoroughly disproved by the necessity of Hitler to commit suicide (and worse - with an atomic bomb in Japan) to get this all to stop. Göring's ineptitude of giving key positions to people that supported himself reminds me of someone else in recent history. Göring did not listen to his experts either. He wanted his fast Bf-109's to fly wing-to-wing with the bombers to protect them. This is NOT how you protect bombers. Fighter support should fly higher to have position and then speed on their attack. When some German pilots accidentally dropped bombs per navigation problems on areas of London, Churchill gave the go-ahead for bombs on Berlin. While these were ineffective, they embarrassed Göring who had promised no bombs in Berlin on his watch. Göring changed his strategy to wipe out air command and went after London. This was the precise break the dwindling air force of Britain needed. The big slow German bombers became easy targets for the British fighters, and the Battle of Britain became the brightest point for Britain in WWII. This book's details of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Bf-109, and the many other British and German airplanes were greatly appreciated by me. I liked hearing of their designs. They had their own political battles. It was thought that the new air war would be dominated by bombers, and this 'next war' would have cities obliterated by bombs in the first few days. This is the reason that families quickly started sending their children out of the the city (even to other countries) for fear of city-saturated bombing. This did not occur, but it highly favored bomber manufacturing by the public. The making of the Spitfire is an inspiring sub-story early in this book. I love seeing this airplane at the occasional airshow that I attend. The elliptical wing design is so incredibly distinctive. The pilots of these aircraft were very much romanticized by the public. But these boys of age 19-21 flying at 400 mph sometimes had not even unpacked their suitcase at their airfield, before they had to jump into a plane and then be shot down. Often they are seen wearing their May-West life preservers while relaxing, since these were hard to put on and time was precious if the signal required them to scramble into the air. It took 11' for a Spitfire to reach 25,000 feet altitude. Sadly, they may have floated well after landing in the English Channel, but they were hard to spot and many died of hypothermia. German pilots had inflatable life rafts, colored dyes for the water, and bright yellow helmets. Dowding prophesized exactly what was needed to win this battle: radar (very new), the single engine monoplane fighter (not just big bombers), the centralized operations room (the heart and arteries of coordinating the attacks). He was helped by Germany's poor intelligence work, a fatal tendency to bomb the wrong target, and a severe underestimation of the importance to fighter command of the radar stations and the interlocking series of operations rooms to which radars fed information. Solid 5*. The audiobook I listened to was extremely well read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    CT Lin

    Okay, this is a Costco book. I’m a sucker for that big table in the entryway of Costco. I sometimes will walk through just to see if there’s an interesting book to pick up; with the precondition that its a good deal on an inexpensive book, as they all are, by definition, at Costco. So what do you get for your $8.99? I really enjoyed Michael Korda’s broad brush strokes of the Battle of Britain. He starts with the fall of France, briefly touching on Dunkirk and the evacation of the British Expedit Okay, this is a Costco book. I’m a sucker for that big table in the entryway of Costco. I sometimes will walk through just to see if there’s an interesting book to pick up; with the precondition that its a good deal on an inexpensive book, as they all are, by definition, at Costco. So what do you get for your $8.99? I really enjoyed Michael Korda’s broad brush strokes of the Battle of Britain. He starts with the fall of France, briefly touching on Dunkirk and the evacation of the British Expeditionary Force, and the relative ineffectiveness of British fighters tangling with the mighty German Luftwaffe overhead. Then he really gets going, diving into the just-in-time developments of radar, the Bentley Priori where all the signals came together, the buried telephone lines hardened by concrete, the segmented and disciplined use of British fighter squadrons. Each element could not have succeeded without the other. Furthermore, Korda delves into the minds of the German leadership; the tragic underestimates of British fighter strength, the underestimate of the power of radar, the underestimates of civilian resilience to bombing, and finally, the shift in strategy to bombing London. And then, the role of serendipity in the war: if it were not for a mistaken bombing attack on the outskirts of London, Churchill may not have insisted on a bombing run at Berlin, which in turn enraged the Fuhrer who insisted then on obliterating London. This move gave a last minute reprieve to the Spitfire factories and airbases that were at breaking point, since bombing London meant bypassing the real military targets nearby. Finally, the Channel and the weather were the final brackets around this drama: the closing of the weather window put an invasion out of reach for the rest of the year, as the Channel was too dangerous for a mass crossing after September. I read this book, after reading The Myths of War, and wanted to hate it, with my new appreciation for the mistaken belief that War is the ultimate arbiter, that civilians are not harmed, that military struggles are just too messy and disrupt too many lives to be worth it. 
And yet, this book sings to me: the political intrigue and the faults of leaders, the management and mismanagement of those in hierarchies, the unappreciated insight of one man in a position to make a difference, the nail-biting mano-a-mano of mono-wing fighters, a brand new technology, the innovative use of radar, the difficulty of guessing what your opponent is about to do, the strategy of setting the RIGHT goal for a situation (playing a delaying tactic and defense since the weather will help, versus playing an aggressive tactic). As Churchill famously said in August 1940: “Never has so much been owed by so many, to so few.” Air Marshall Dowding, who unceremoniously left the service only a few months after this Battle had his faults, but also his great insights and successes. The world would be a very different place without him. 
CMIO’s take? There are leadership lessons everywhere. Insightful use of technology, combined with innovative people and process, can tip the balance of history. The backstory on this thrilling chapter is not to be missed. And then of course, British Spitfires have been the coolest thing ever, since I was 5 years old, anyway.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    I really enjoyed With Wings Like Eagles: The Untold Story of the Battle of Britain by Michael Korda. This book is less focused on specific aerial battles (though some are recounted) but rather the complete air war. There is so much to like about this book, but the one area I’d like to touch on that is covered, is Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. He was the chief architect in coming up with a plan to defend the entire country. While many of his peers held on too strongly to lessons learned in WWI, I really enjoyed With Wings Like Eagles: The Untold Story of the Battle of Britain by Michael Korda. This book is less focused on specific aerial battles (though some are recounted) but rather the complete air war. There is so much to like about this book, but the one area I’d like to touch on that is covered, is Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. He was the chief architect in coming up with a plan to defend the entire country. While many of his peers held on too strongly to lessons learned in WWI, Dowding could see that things would need to change in this new conflict. - No longer could cockpits be open so pilots could use their arms to signal each other. The new technology he pushed made the planes travel too fast for that. Radio needed to be incorporated for communication! - He pushed for a gestalt. Radar stations to monitor incoming plans. Process to allow the British to be up in the air at the right time to give them the longest duration to fight. Organizing all the various needed groups. Watchers on the coast, emergency services to react to coming air battles. Getting downed planes repaired quickly. Designated air bases to cover that section of the country or to provide backup for a neighboring base. Etc… - Little things like trying to avoid fighting over the channel. A plane brought down there was a plane that was lost and a pilot that would most likely drown. Fighting over land allowed a plane to be retrieved and repaired. A pilot that landed safely could be back at his airfield by the end of the day to fight again. - Communications lines buried between sites in concrete to protect them from bombing. - Training to focus the pilots to take down the German bombers and attempt to avoid the more desired glory of dog fights with the German fighters. He put it all into creating a cohesive whole that would protect his country and stave off an invasion by Hitler’s army. He knew that if they could clear the skies of British fighters, the way was open for them to invade. The book nicely covers the growing pains of this endeavor and all the infighting among his peers. He nicely covers what was going on in the German air force too and their view at the time of what they were up against. He touches on Hitler’s and his command staff’s thoughts of what they thought they needed to accomplish. It makes for a fascinating read as we now have all the needed hindsight. I know there are many books written on this subject and I’m in no way an expert in this part of history. But this is a great book and if you want a place to start. Sit down with this volume, ramp up your reading engines and take off into your imaginary sky with this book. I promise you will return with stories to tell…

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Michael Korda has written a focused introduction to one of the most celebrated battles in WW2. He backgrounds this battle with well-chosen analysis of the stakes and players in both Britain and Germany. Korda presents the silver-lining thesis that the appeasers, despite their terrible decisions, actually helped Britain by giving the nation the time and resources it needed to build its air defense. No matter which stage of the battle is at hand, Korda has a real flair for exciting passages. He al Michael Korda has written a focused introduction to one of the most celebrated battles in WW2. He backgrounds this battle with well-chosen analysis of the stakes and players in both Britain and Germany. Korda presents the silver-lining thesis that the appeasers, despite their terrible decisions, actually helped Britain by giving the nation the time and resources it needed to build its air defense. No matter which stage of the battle is at hand, Korda has a real flair for exciting passages. He also adds colorful primary-source excerpts to give extra lift to his story. But, because this book spans only 299 pages, there's not much space for all the story I'd like to hear. I'd quibble with Korda on what he chose to include. To wit: 1. Too many macho quotes like "If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle" and "Handle your controls gently: like a woman." Instead, I wish we had some quotes from the WAAFs. The WAAFs were the enlisted women who ran the radar stations, often with bombs crashing overhead. That said, I didn't know anything about the role of the WAAFs beforehand; so thanks for that, Mr. Korda. 2. Way too much detail about the fab outfits worn by the pilots. Not enough about the gritty logistics of flying. How long did the pilots typically stay in the air during each sortie? Was it thirty minutes? Three hours? What if they needed to eat -- or relieve themselves? Small details, but ones that would have made the story less flashy and more human. On the whole, though, quite good work. Here are a few passages that sounded particularly good on audiobook: 1. "General von Brauschitsch's breezy characterization of Sea Lion as a grossen Flussueberganges, a "giant river crossing," while comforting to his fellow generals who knew all there was to know about river crossings, created dismay among the German admirals, who had a more realistic view of what the English Channel was like even in good weather, and was no doubt taken with a grain of salt by the Fuhrer." Only in German can an idea like "grossen Flussueberganges" sound breezy! 2. Fact: Britain welcomed folks from all over the world to join the RAF (as long as they were white). Another fact: RAF pilots who jumped out of their burning planes sometimes got confused for Germans. Korda explains: "One consequence was that throughout the day RAF fighter pilots who were shot down and landed by parachute found themselves being held at gunpoint by the Home Guard or a farmer armed with a shotgun. Usually, a burst of angry swearing was sufficient proof of British identity, but this did not help the Poles, Czechs, or in one case, an enraged New Zealander." Very British humor indeed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adam Keith

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Overview: Korda breaks down the Battle of Britain piece by piece, starting at the political level, and eventually even commenting about the tactical execution of the RAF fighters. However, instead of being enticed by the individual stories of heroism and tactical brilliance, Korda stays at the strategic and operational levels of war, arguing that Dowding’s foresight and leadership positioned the British to win the Battle of Britain, despite much pushback and tension from both military and politi Overview: Korda breaks down the Battle of Britain piece by piece, starting at the political level, and eventually even commenting about the tactical execution of the RAF fighters. However, instead of being enticed by the individual stories of heroism and tactical brilliance, Korda stays at the strategic and operational levels of war, arguing that Dowding’s foresight and leadership positioned the British to win the Battle of Britain, despite much pushback and tension from both military and political leaders alike. He was uniquely positioned to lead fighter command to victory, not only due to his vast knowledge of the RAF, but his political clout, stubborn attitude, complete devotion to duty, and willingness to put his duty to his country ahead of any personal career prospects, or possible wounds to his ego. Dowding alone understood the strategic situation better than any, and was the only man who could have made the moves necessary to bring about Britian’s “finest hour.” Reflection: An amazing feat by Korda of highlighting the discourse between the politicians, their unique interests, Air Chief Marshall Lord Hugh Dowding, and the other strategic RAF leadership. Outstanding research reveals the foresight of Dowding in designing the appropriate types of fighters to match the rising German threat and coupling them with an operationally sound plan incorporating observation posts, surveillance radars in their infancy, and a centrally-commanded communications center with the flexibility to direct the responses by Fighter command squadrons placed throughout the country. Dowding’s ability to see though the bureaucratic and political noise and make sound strategic decisions is a model for any future combatant commander to emulate.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dennis McDonald

    A popular view of 1940’s “Battle of Britain” is of daring young men in Merlin-powered Spitfires and Hurricanes “duking it out” with invading German aircraft high over London in a successful effort to prevent a threatened German invasion. That much is true but there is much more to the story. As short as this book is, the author wisely and skillfully selects what are, in his view, the most significant technical, political, and military events leading up to and through the Battle of Britain. We get A popular view of 1940’s “Battle of Britain” is of daring young men in Merlin-powered Spitfires and Hurricanes “duking it out” with invading German aircraft high over London in a successful effort to prevent a threatened German invasion. That much is true but there is much more to the story. As short as this book is, the author wisely and skillfully selects what are, in his view, the most significant technical, political, and military events leading up to and through the Battle of Britain. We get to know the key players on both sides of the English Channel. Korda also drives home how lucky England was to survive the attacks to stave off the real threat of an invasion. The book touches on and explores a wide range of events and situations that influenced the outcome including political rivalries, technological and engineering breakthroughs, personalities, and imagination. Most importantly, he details how a few key individuals had the foresight to create an integrated and technologically advanced air defense system that was centrally controlled and operated in real-time. Even politicians normally viewed with disdain today are given their due based on their willingness – albeit grudging -- to fund development of a fighter based air defense system that was available “just in time.” The author also recognizes the contribution of young women to this singular war effort with attention to their roles in managing the coastal radar systems and real-time radio communication with airborne pilots. If you want to read one book about what really happened in the summer of 1940 in the skies over England, this book should probably be on your short list.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

    With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain gives an excellent account of the bombing and aerial combat over Britain after the Nazis had taken control of the European continent and the remaining allies had evacuated at Dunkirk. Hitler's plan was for his Luftwaffe (air force) under Herman Goering was to overwhelm and destroy the British air defenses and soften up the island for an eventual cross channel invasion by the German armies. The nazis had not counted on the resilience of t With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain gives an excellent account of the bombing and aerial combat over Britain after the Nazis had taken control of the European continent and the remaining allies had evacuated at Dunkirk. Hitler's plan was for his Luftwaffe (air force) under Herman Goering was to overwhelm and destroy the British air defenses and soften up the island for an eventual cross channel invasion by the German armies. The nazis had not counted on the resilience of the British pilots and their skill. They also were not aware of actually how many planes and pilots England had, how they were spread around to smaller airfields, or the technology at their disposal to get early warnings of approaching German bombers. As the fighting dragged on it became aware there was a lot more fight in the British pilots than anticipated and a seemingly endless supply of more planes that as the summer proceeded Hitler kept moving back the invasion date planned. Eventually the poorer weather of the fall made invasion unlikely and then Hitler moved his attention to the east and invasion of the Soviet Union. The author gives a detailed account of the planning and operation of the British and German air forces as well as many personal stories that made this book hard to put down. It's a piece of wartime history that is its own self contained battle of desperation during a crucial time period that could have had monumental (and disastrous) results! Great read for those interested in WWII, air warfare, strategy, and major implications for civilization!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Campbell

    Book is well written, focuses on British strategy and British air command leadership with adequate mention of industrial leadership involved in aircraft production. Probably less than 10 pages dealt directly with pilots in air combat although citations of other works about the pilot air combat experience were given. The funding for Fighter Command secured by Prime Ministers prior to Churchill was described along with the Fighter Command infrastructure that allowed integration of radar reports, h Book is well written, focuses on British strategy and British air command leadership with adequate mention of industrial leadership involved in aircraft production. Probably less than 10 pages dealt directly with pilots in air combat although citations of other works about the pilot air combat experience were given. The funding for Fighter Command secured by Prime Ministers prior to Churchill was described along with the Fighter Command infrastructure that allowed integration of radar reports, human observer reports with centralized Fighter Command dispatching of air squadrons. Fairly large parts of the book were about air command squabbles which led to the relatively short term of Dowding as Air Chief Marshall of Fighter Command. Basically he prepared Fighter Command for the Battle of Britain, successfully led it and was sacked as soon as Germany shifted tactics from daytime to nighttime raids. Daytime raids basically occurred August 5 - September 15, 1940. Dowding retired on November 15, 1940 after 4 years leading Fighter Command. The British primary strategy was to keep squadrons on widely dispersed airfields, send squadrons up one by one as the raid progressed so that the squadron only had to follow ground control messages about the position of attackers directly to the attack. This avoided down time waiting to be joined by other squadrons, saved fuel for attack and prevented Germans from seeing the full number of British planes. I am pleased that the author described Dowding's retirement years in approx. 6 pages.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Christensen

    I got this book and author recommendation from a friend (Paul), and was not disappointed. It’s a quick read, 300 pages, and it covers a favorite topic and theme ... the Churchill years and the struggle of the underdog in historic conflict. After reading this I know understand better the difference between the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 and the following autumn/winter. The author, Michael Korda, has a tendency to write in absolute factual form (i.e. all the daily plane and casualty c I got this book and author recommendation from a friend (Paul), and was not disappointed. It’s a quick read, 300 pages, and it covers a favorite topic and theme ... the Churchill years and the struggle of the underdog in historic conflict. After reading this I know understand better the difference between the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 and the following autumn/winter. The author, Michael Korda, has a tendency to write in absolute factual form (i.e. all the daily plane and casualty counts) because he’s trying to cut through all the inflated propaganda figures of the time. I loved the way Korda got into the actual motives of all the leaders and statesmen - it helped me understand the tensions and the decisions of each weekly twist and turn in the conflict ( and this goes for both the Allied and for the German side ). I also thought Korda dealt very well with the technical explanations of the differences in machinery, technology (radar), and production philosophies between the Allies and Germany. A good book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This book had so much info I would need to read and re-listen. Lord Dowding impressed me the most…if it wasn’t for him the world might have been a different place. Thank heavens for his persistence with radar and other innovations. I can’t imagine how pilots managed to do any kind of fighting without them. Too bad his personality rubbed his colleagues the wrong way and he was ousted before the war really began. There is lots of historical, technical info and enough personal aspects that wrap thi This book had so much info I would need to read and re-listen. Lord Dowding impressed me the most…if it wasn’t for him the world might have been a different place. Thank heavens for his persistence with radar and other innovations. I can’t imagine how pilots managed to do any kind of fighting without them. Too bad his personality rubbed his colleagues the wrong way and he was ousted before the war really began. There is lots of historical, technical info and enough personal aspects that wrap this book all up and provide the intrigue that keeps me interested. I did have a bit of trouble with technical aspects. I did need to look for images on the web. Germany’s missteps were analyzed as well as battle tactics on both sides. This all fascinated me. Not that I desire to study war strategies, but it sure is interesting.

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