BATTLE OF BRITAIN, an air battle between
the German Luftwaffe and the British Royal Air Force (July 10, 1940-May
10, 1941), in which the RAF saved Britain from invasion and dealt Germany
its first major defeat in WORLD WAR II .
The battle began with the Germans' committing
2,790 aircraft to destroy the RAF and gain air superiority for the invasion.
There was a stout defense by 620 RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires. As the
British planes withdrew to bases in the interior the Luftwaffe was forced
to fly into the Midlands (August 19-September 6) to destroy RAF bases
and fighter production centers.
This German offensive showed promise, but
his air strength to massed attacks on London (September 7-October 5) in
retaliation for the RAF raid on the Berlin area on August 25. Because
of aircraft and personnel losses almost double those of the RAF, the Luftwaffe
on October 6 shifted to night attacks on London. By October 31, Hitler
had canceled the invasion. Britain had won a great victory, but the battle
continued, with large-scale attacks on London, Birmingham, Sheffield,
Coventry, and other cities, until May 10, when Germany withdrew most of
its air forces for use against Russia.
The Luftwaffe was defeated because of overconfidence,
faulty tactics, inadequate bombers, and underestimation of RAF radar and
fighter-control systems, but chiefly because of failure to persevere in
the original objective of destroying the RAF. Britain, with a defiant
will to resist, coordinated military and civil agencies, gave priority
to fighter construction, and prepared a sound air-defense network. These
gave Britain the margin for victory.
John W. Carpenter, III
Lt. Gen., USAF, Commander