World War II

BATTLE FOR THE SKIES

BRITISH AUTHOR JAMES HOLLAND excels at writing engaging, accessible books, weaving the latest scholarship in with personal accounts gleaned from diaries, archives, and interviews. Here he turns his narrative talents to the struggle for air superiority over occupied Europe in 1943–44, culminating with Operation Argument, the February 1944 assault on the German aircraft industry better known as “Big Week.”

This is far more than a simple battle study. Holland spends nearly two-thirds of the book setting the stage. He covers prewar thinking about air power, the slow buildup of the Combined Bomber Offensive, and the gradual realization that defeating the German air force was an absolute prerequisite for an invasion of the Continent and for Allied victory. His treatment of the battle’s issues and controversies—the late 1943 command shakeup at the U.S. Eighth Air Force, the debate about U.S. Army Air Forces’ fighter escort tactics, and the development of technology—is judicious. And the author’s coverage of the Luftwaffe’s air defense effort is more accurate than that found in many accounts. The German defeat stemmed from many long- and short-term causes, not just Nazi bungling (though there was plenty of that).

At bottom, though, is a story about people. Many of

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