Another BoB book...

Discussion in 'WWII' started by kiltie, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. kiltie

    kiltie Practically Family

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    With Wings Like Eagles by Michael Korda ( Harper Perennnial - 2002 )

    I mentioned on another thread that I'd picked this book up a couple of weeks ago and subsequent posts implied no one had yet read it cover to cover. I finished it last night and figured I'd give it a quick rundown for those interested in the subject.
    ...Eagles is essentially a 300 page love letter to Hugh Dowding, and Korda's style and presentation are pretty subjective. This book is not an analysis of tactics and, in fact, doesn't really "get to fighting" 'til near halfway through.
    That makes for some fairly good reading for the uninitiated in the first half of the book. For instance, it was interesting to see Neville Chamberlain presented in a light beyond what is generally shown; that of being an appeaser. A lot of space is dedicated to his and PM Baldwin's efforts to get Fighter Command where it was before the shooting war began. Of course, this is after much hemming and hawing and Dowding is shown to be the true torch bearer.
    There is a good deal of wheeling and dealing and political duplicity and all of that good stuff, all showing Dowding as the quintessential "stiff upper lipped" Brit dealing with a buch of babes in the woods. Of course this is all written with the benefit of hindsight.
    Which brings me to the actual fighting. Korda, on the surface, almost seems to make the Germans out to be a complete bunch of bunglers, and one is left to wonder how the war was played out for so long. On the one hand, it's fun to see a serious writer constantly sticking it to the Nazis. On the other, if I hadn't just finished reading Masters of the Air prior to ...Eagles, I'd have been left with the impression that the Germans must have had a hard time even finding their planes on the airfield. All of the same problems, jam-ups, boondoggles, etc... are repeated in '42 and '43 by the Americans ( and to a lesser degree, the English ), ie, changing targets rather than hammering on a specific goal, weather, the question of fighter escorts, etc.... So, if you had no picture to compare ...Eagles to, you might be left to feel it was a foregone conclusion that the British had the whole thing wrapped up. It isn't until the last chapter or so that there is a real sense of, "this could have turned out completely different if...".
    With this book, you're kind of trapped in a historical no-man's land. The way the material is presented is better suited to someone who has a background on the subject ( the subjective, highly patriotic tone ). Conversly, I'm inclined to believe there is little in the way of new material for those who DO have a background on BoB.
    In the end, it is a very fun book for both of those reasons: it should lead the uninitiated to seek out more material* and it's almost like a comic book rendering for anyone who is familiar with the subject. What it is not is the definative story of the BoB or "The untold story of the Battle of Britain" as the cover proclaims.

    I'm back to the Americans with The Mighty Eighth right now, but contrary to some advice, I did pick up The Few ( couldn't pass up a $3 hardback in the bargain bin ). I'll make sure I look at it with an objective eye ;) .

    *Korda really likes the Len Deighton books, and he's not the first I've seen giving high marks to Deighton in the course of a historical presentation.

    EDIT: Something else of a surprise to me: Korda has little love ( in this presentation, anyway ) of Douglas Bader. A surprise to me because, heretofore, I've seen him presented only as most have; a national treasure of sorts. Also, the book being, as I said before, a Valentine to Dowding, Korda draws a fairly definative line in the sand between Churchill and Dowding and proceeds to side consistantly with Dowding. Another twist for the uneducated and more fun for it.
     

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