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In the summer of 1940, World War II had been in progress for nearly a year. Adolf Hitler was victorious and planning an invasion of England to seal Europe’s fate. Everyone in the United States of America knew it. The Germans were too powerful. Hitler's Luftwaffe had too many planes, too many pilots and too many bombs and since Hitler was Europe's problem, the United States claimed to be a neutral country (Neutrality Act of 1939). Seven Americans, however, did not remain neutral and that’s what this book is about. They joined Britain's Royal Air Force to help save Britain in its darkest hour to fight off the skilled pilots of Germany's Luftwaffe in the blue skies over England, the English Channel, and North Europe. By October 1940, they had helped England succeed in one of the greatest air battles in the history of aviation, the Battle of Britain. This book helps to show the impact of the few Americans who joined the Battle of Britain to fight off an evil that the United States didn’t acknowledge at the time. The name of Kershaw’s book was inspired from the quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to sow few,” which was said by British Officer and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Alex Kershaw’s “The Few The American ‘Knights Of The Air’ Who Risked Everything To Fight In The Battle Of Britain” doesn’t just tell the story of the seven American aviators who flew for the British as but also their enemies, the Luftwaffe’s point of view. This book is told through this group of Americans and from the viewpoint of the Royal Air Force pilots they fought with but also the perspective of the Luftwaffe fliers that they fought against during the battle. For example, in one part of the book, there was this one German lookout who had commented on how much of an advantage the British had because of their radars that could locate enemy planes while they crossed the English Channel; the lookout considered the radar an “unfair” tool.
The Few was mainly written to shows why people all over the world should feel grateful towards the men of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. By the time in the summer of 1940, Adolf Hitler had already overtaken most of Europe and was attempting to conquer Great Britain which led into the battle of Britain.
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Even though the Royal Air Force fliers were vastly outnumbered, their effort changed the tide of the battle. Thus, Kershaw has strongly supported his thesis. Many of these volunteered aviators had given up their citizenship to fight in the Battle of Britain. With the life expectancy of a quick two weeks, this was practically suicide! The ironic part was that a lot of these fighters at first just saw it as an opportunity to fly a Spitfire or just to finally get some action out of flying but after being aware that the kill/loss ratio was decreasing in kills and increasing in losses, these young men became serious of what they had to get done. The sweat and tears put into the battle by these young, brave aviators was just unprecedented.
“The Few” contains four of the six Advanced Placement (AP) themes that are essential to World History. The included themes are: patterns and effects of interaction among societies and regions, systems of social and gender structure, the effect of technology, economics, and demography on people and the environment, and cultural, intellectual, and religious developments, including interactions among and within societies. The first two listed themes are clearly supported by Hitler himself. Hitler obviously interacted with other societies (or countries) through the violence of war. He wanted nothing more but to rule the world and complete genocide for he and his forced were the “supreme” race. The effects of the environment played an important role during this battle. The English Channel had aided against the German infantry because the channel acted as a moat which prevented them from marching into Great Britain’s border. If the German’s were to approach by sea, the British were armed and ready by their shores and if anything paratroopers were probably their only chance for ground support. The Royal Air Force was composed of all different cultures because the volunteers all came from different parts of the world for example: Poland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, Belgium, Ireland, France, Jamaica, Palestine, Rhodesia, and of course, the United States of America. These men not only had to learn how to fight together but also live and interact with each other on a daily basis.
Alex Kershaw did argue his work successfully because of the structural support from his sources. Kershaw balanced his book out by not just showing Great Britain’s view of the battle but also the Luftwaffe’s prospective of the battle. I, personally, think the book was awesome! The thing that struck me was the research and factual information used to complete his book. His bibliography is extensive. I mean when you first start reading “The Few”, there are citations from left to write! Kershaw did include pictures in the “The Few” but they seemed to be more for delivering a taste of what it was like over in Britain but not actually supportive towards his argument. The book was completely readable and the only confusing part was the vocabulary which that would be my fault. “The Few” deserves great value over books of history because there is simply nothing fictional about it but not only that, it tells the events of the Battle of Britain through the eyes of the victims not the overview of a World History book. I advise anyone who is reading this review to stop and go read Alex Kershaw’s epic for it is the greatest book ever about the Battle of Britain and the pilots who risked everything.