Michael Korda’s WITH WINGS LIKE EAGLES: A HISTORY OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
Book review by Dennis D. 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 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.
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald