Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War Two

Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War Two

It was to be the battle to end the air war once and for all …

During the third week of February 1944, the combined Allied air forces launched their firstever round-the-clock bomber offensive against Germany. The aim was to smash the main factories and production centres of the Luftwaffe and at the same time draw the German fighter force up into the air and into battle. Officially called Operation ARGUMENT, this monumental air assault very quickly became known simply as Big Week.

In the six months before its launch, the bomber war was not turning out as the Allies had planned. Raids deep into Germany were falling short of their purpose and losses were severe. Air attacks needed clear skies, but the weather was atrocious. With D-Day drawing ever closer, these problems needed to be solved urgently.

Yet the Luftwaffe was also in crisis. Short of resources, fuel and properly trained pilots, the strain on those still flying was immense and the number of casualties catastrophic.

Big Week is the knife-edge story of bomber against flak gun and fighter, but also, crucially, fighter against fighter, as the stakes rose higher and higher. Following the fortunes of pilots and aircrew from both sides, this is a blistering narrative of one of the most critical periods of the entire war, one that culminated in the largest air battle ever witnessed. It is also one that has been largely forgotten, but which has been brilliantly brought back to life by award-winning historian James Holland.

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