Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Few


Tomorrow I am lecturing about World War 2.  We'll start with the Munich Pact and end with the Battle of Britain if all goes according to plan.  One of the items that I try to stress with my students is that many of the British pilots who flew during the battle were in the 18-22 age range, the same as them.  They often flew as many as 6 sorties day.  There are accounts of pilots returning from missions and being so exhausted that they couldn't even climb out of their cockpits without assistance.  They came from all over the British Empire and also Europe.  A handful of Americans joined in as well.

They stood alone against Hitler.  Now, I'm no fan of the British Empire being a staunch Irish-American, but you have to give the devil his due.  It is difficult for me to really make my students understand exactly how important the Battle of Britain was for the future.  I know that I can say it, but simply saying something in class and getting your students to fully appreciate it are two entirely different things.  That just about sums up my daily struggle.  I would imagine that any history teacher could say the same thing.  I call myself a teacher rather than a professor because I teach.  I do not profess!

We can debate whether or not Hitler could have successfully invaded England even if the Luftwaffe had won the Battle of Britain.  There are plenty of arguments that could go either way.  One thing that cannot be debated however is the fact that England holding out during the Summer and Fall of 1940 was vastly important to the future of Europe and by extension the United States.  Had England surrendered, there really isn't any doubt that Hitler would not have invaded the United States.  However, he have used his position as the master of Europe to dominate us economically.  Truth is, we'd be forced to trade with him.  Especially if he had successfully pulled off Operation Barbarossa.

So just as the English people owe a debt of gratitude to "the few" who turned back the Luftwaffe in 1940, so too do those of us living in the United States.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.


  1. While I certainly don't wish to diminish what the RAF did during the Battle of Britain, I think there is another factor that must be taken into account. By Britain's own admission, she likely would not have survived the Battle of Britain had the Luftwaffe not stopped targeting fighter bases and switched to bombing cities. If Goering had been able to continue targeting fighter bases, they likely would not have been able to hold on for more than a few more weeks, The losses in aircraft, and in particular trained pilots, were simply to large to overcome.

    As in most "heroic" stories, there is also a certain amount of luck involved that usually gets lost in the re-telling.