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Unflinching Zeal: The Air Battles Over France and Britain, May-October 1940 [Hardcover]

Robin Higham

Price: CDN$ 43.94 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 15 2012
The main purpose and theme of The Air Battles of 1940 Over France and Britain is to show how realistic assessments of strengths and losses of both sides are an absolute necessity for commanders in addition to their understanding of the principles of war, the assets and limitations of air power, and their comprehension of production, supply, and sustainability.

This consequential work by a pioneer aviation historian fills a significant lacuna in the story of the defeat of France in May-June 1940 and more fully explains the Battle of Britain of July-October of that year and the influence it had on the Luftwaffe in the 1941 invasion of the USSR.

Robin Higham approaches the subject by sketching the story and status of the three air forces?the Armée de l'Air, the Luftwaffe, and the Royal Air Force?their organization and preparation for their battles. He then dissects the the campaigns, their losses and replacement policies and abilities. He paints the struggles of France and Britain from both the background provided by his recent Two Roads to War: From Versailles to Dunkirk (NIP, 2012) and from the details of losses tabulated by After the Battle's The Battle of Britain (1982, 2nd ed.) and Peter Cornwell's The Battle of France Then and Now (2007), as well as in Paul Martin's Invisible Vainqueurs (1990) and from the Luftwaffe summaries in the British National Archives Cabinet papers.

One important finding is that the consumption and wastage was not nearly as high as claimed. The three air forces actually shot down only 19 percent of the number claimed. In the RAF case, in the summer of 1940, 44 percent of those shot down were readily repairable thanks to the salvage and repair organizations. This contrasted with the much lower 8 percent for the Germans and zero for the French.

Brave as the aircrews may have been, the inescapable conclusion is that awareness of consumption, wastage, and sustainability were intimately connected to survival.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (Sept. 15 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612511112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612511115
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 975 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #582,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Two Roads to War is immensely readable, but it is also incredibly dense with fact. Robin Higham's firsthand knowledge of the history of the period helps make this book an enduring masterpiece. Buy it; read it!

-- Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis

Unflinching Zeal is very much recommended [book for those] who seek in-depth history surrounding early World War II."

-- The Midwest Book Review, November 2012

"Two Roads to War is simply magnificent--just riveting, and I really have enjoyed it. It is a singular contribution to the literature of interwar military aviation, and a work that establishes a new standard for historians studying that period."

-- Richard P. Hallion, Aerospace Historian

Higham, a doyen of air power history (100 Years of Air Power and Aviation), makes another significant contribution with this comparative analysis of French and British policies and developments between the world wars."

-- Publishers Weekly

"Robin Higham's comparative study of British and French aviation during the interwar period offers a comprehensive and thoughtful portrait of the efforts of two countries to meet the political, military, and industrial challenges posed by a young and rapidly developing technology. Filled with fascinating details, Two Roads to War does not shrink from drawing larger and provocative conclusions about the effectiveness of Britain and France. It is an impressive achievement."

--Talbot Imlay, Université Laval (Québec, Canada), author of Facing the Second World War: Strategy, Politics, and Economics in Britain and France, 1938-1940

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 a professor of military history at Kansas State University for 50 years. He lives in Manhattan, KS.

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Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Statistics, analysis and percentages Nov. 29 2012
By Writing Historian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I procrastinated writing this review for a month or more because I really liked Higham's first book on this topic. But this book left me feeling much differently about what I just read. First, you have to realize that the author's style tends to be a bit heavy on factual information and analysis while placing less emphasis on smoothly flowing prose, e.g. a stereotypical academic approach to a topic. But this book took the academic approach one step further in that key points were repeated over and over again (as if repetition in itself were that convincing) and there were so many charts/graphs/tables that I started to feel that RAND, not the Naval Institute Press, had published this book. As a pure reference source I would give Unflinching Zeal a minimum of 4-1/2 stars. As a narrative account of how the Luftwaffe, Royal Air Force, and Armee de l'Air performed during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain, I reluctantly would only give him two stars. Three stars splits the difference. I think it could have been much more accessible book had the publisher employed a more assertive editor with some knowledge of the subject matter.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good subject, good points, poor delivery July 25 2013
By William A. Thayer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great subject to write about. It is hard to find anything on the French Air Force in WWII. It didn't last too long. The book is on the British, German and French Air Forces in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. The strong point is the data gathered in tables showing the losses. The author is also sensitive to the fact that losses come from many causes: air combat, accidents, lack of maintenance. There are plenty of tables but none on the relative performance of aircraft (speed, turning ability, diving ability, climbing ability, firepower, engines etc.). The author paints a better picture of what the French Air Force did than what I suspect really happened. I don't think any of the French planes could measure up to a Me 109. I don't think the French Army troops thought the French Air Force did much of a job as they got pounded. I think the Germans commanded the air in the critical spots at the critical time (this was not really discussed -- air was separate from ground actions).

The author is repetitious and goes over essentially the same ground many times in the same chapter. The book could use better focus and less repetition and probably get the points across easier and in a more understandable manner. The book does present a lot of data that I have never seen before, and I have read a lot of books on airpower in WWII. I think the book is worth reading for this alone.
12 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing book Nov. 2 2012
By mr katcup - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book itle is mis-leading. It implies it's a straight story of the air war from May to October 1940. Really it's a compilation of statistics on the forces involved andd how to interperate them. If I were writing this subject, I'd tell them story and them show the charts as an appendage.
3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unflinching Zeal Dec 27 2012
By Thomas R. Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
(Lack of photographs of individuals)
(lack of photographs of the aircraft flown by different Allied units)
(Ditto, German units)
(Lack of both large scale and small scale maps)

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