Unflinching Zeal: The Air Battles Over France and Britain, MayÐOctober 1940

Naval Institute Press
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Noted aviation historian Robin Higham examines the evolution of the Armée de l’Air and RAF during the interwar period. Although France and England shared a mutual enemy in Germany, the development of the air forces of in each nation shared few commonalities.

Higham demonstrates that the Armée de l’Terre dominated strategic and doctrinal planning in France. The resulting emphasis on traditional land warfare, combined with the volatility of French politics in 1920s, blunted the development of French air forces. By 1940, they were ill prepared, technologically inferior, and out manned when the Luftwaffe aircraft darkened the skies over the French countryside. Although the causes of the defeat of France in 1940 have been debated by historians, none have focused on the role and place of the Armée de l’Air in that defeat. Historians of France have been much more comfortable arguing about politics and the Armée de Terre. As Higham illustrates, however, it is important understand the impact of the development of the Armée de l’Air, its doctrine, equipment, personnel, and budgets.

Comparatively, the success of the Royal Air Force in the skies over Britain was due largely to the fact that the independent RAF evolved into a sophisticated, scientifically based force, supported by consistent government practices. Higham’s thorough examination, however, finds the British not without error in the two decades that followed the Treaty of Versailles. But strong government support and technological innovation during this period paved the way for success once the war began.
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About the author

Robin Higham: was born in the UK and educated there and in the US. He served in the RAF as a pilot. He is the author of numerous books and articles in the field of aviation history. He was Professor of Military History at Kansas State University for 35 years.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Naval Institute Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2012
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781612511122
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / World War II
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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According to Robin Higham and Stephen J. Harris, ÒFlight has been part of the human dream for aeons, and its military application has likely been the dark side of that dream for almost as long.Ó In the twentieth century, this dream and its dark side unfolded as the air forces of the world went to war, bringing destruction and reassessment with each failure. Why Air Forces Fail examines the complex, often deep-seated, reasons for the catastrophic failures of the air forces of various nations. Higham and Harris divide the air forces into three categories of defeat: forces that never had a chance to win, such as Poland and France; forces that started out victorious but were ultimately defeated, such as Germany and Japan; and finally, those that were defeated in their early efforts yet rose to victory, such as the air forces of Britain and the United States. The contributing authors examine the complex causes of defeats of the Russian, Polish, French, Arab, British, Italian, German, Argentine, and American air services. In all cases, the failures stemmed from deep, usually prewar factors that were shaped by the political, economic, military, and social circumstances in the countries. Defeat also stemmed from the anticipation of future wars, early wartime actions, and the precarious relationship between the doctrine of the military leadership and its execution in the field. Anthony Christopher CainÕs chapter on FranceÕs air force, lÕArmŽe de lÕAir, attributes FranceÕs loss to Germany in June 1940 to a lack of preparation and investment in the air force. One major problem was the failure to centralize planning or coordinate a strategy between land and air forces, which was compounded by aborted alliances between France and countries in eastern Europe, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia. In addition, the lack of incentives for design innovation in air technologies led to clashes between airplane manufacturers, laborers, and the government, a struggle that resulted in FranceÕs airplanesÕ being outnumbered by GermanyÕs more than three to one by 1940. Complemented by reading lists and suggestions for further research, Why Air Forces Fail provides groundbreaking studies of the causes of air force defeats.
“Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into terms we mortals can grasp.”—Tom Hanks

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In The Wall Street Journal, Victor Davis Hanson named With the Old Breed one of the top five books on epic twentieth-century battles. Studs Terkel interviewed the author for his definitive oral history, The Good War. Now E. B. Sledge’s acclaimed first-person account of fighting at Peleliu and Okinawa returns to thrill, edify, and inspire a new generation.

An Alabama boy steeped in American history and enamored of such heroes as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene B. Sledge became part of the war’s famous 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Even after intense training, he was shocked to be thrown into the battle of Peleliu, where “the world was a nightmare of flashes, explosions, and snapping bullets.” By the time Sledge hit the hell of Okinawa, he was a combat vet, still filled with fear but no longer with panic.

Based on notes Sledge secretly kept in a copy of the New Testament, With the Old Breed captures with utter simplicity and searing honesty the experience of a soldier in the fierce Pacific Theater. Here is what saved, threatened, and changed his life. Here, too, is the story of how he learned to hate and kill—and came to love—his fellow man.

“In all the literature on the Second World War, there is not a more honest, realistic or moving memoir than Eugene Sledge’s. This is the real deal, the real war: unvarnished, brutal, without a shred of sentimentality or false patriotism, a profound primer on what it actually was like to be in that war. It is a classic that will outlive all the armchair generals’ safe accounts of—not the ‘good war’—but the worst war ever.”—Ken Burns


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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