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World War II
Battle of Britain

In May of 1940 Germany invaded France. The French army and its British and Belgian allies were overpowered by the German blitzkrieg. Toward the end of May, Allied troops were backed up to the coast of France in the town of Dunkirk. In a daring rescue attempt, an armada of ships from England picked up the soldiers and brought them across the English Channel to safety. Ships of all kinds were used, ranging from Royal Navy ships to fishing boats. The Royal Air Force provided cover, protecting the troops from German planes. Over 300,000 soldiers were saved from the oncoming German army. France fell into German hands and only the English Channel separated Great Britain from the enemy.

Hitler was planning to invade Britain - Operation Seelow. But first the Luftwaffe had to destroy the RAF, to prevent it posing a threat to German troops as they landed in Britain. The battle of Britain was the first major battle fought entirely in the air. Hermann Goring's air force began its assault on England in July 1940 with more than twice the 600 aircraft available to Sir Hugh Dowding's Fighter Command.
Every day between June and October 1940 the RAF and the Luftwaffe clashed over Britain. The Luftwaffe's final effort to destroy England's air force began on Eagle Day, August 13, 1940. Hermann Göring thought his vastly superior forces could sweep the Royal Air Force from the sky in just four weeks, but poor weather and bungled communications hampered the Luftwaffe's raids. Eagle Day ended with 46 German aircraft destroyed, compared to only 14 RAF fighters.

The RAF inflicted on Germany their first defeat of the war. The Battle of Britain was one of the greatest moments in British history: although short of planes and pilots, the Royal Air Force held off the Luftwaffe and prevented a German invasion. Churchill called it Britain's "finest hour". Britain triumphed because it had the first modern air-defense network based on new technology-radar.

So Hitler turned to bombing Britain's cities, hoping for a British surrender by reducing industry to rubble and weakening the will of the British people. Although many were killed, the factories kept working while the relentless only united the British people in their determination to beat the Nazi foe.



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