July 10, 2011
World War II: The Battle of Britain

In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany’s Luftwaffe conducted thousands of bombing runs, attacking military and civilian targets across the United Kingdom. Hitler’s forces, in an attempt to achieve air superiority, were preparing for an invasion of Britain code-named “Operation Sea Lion.” At first, they targeted only military and industrial targets. But after the Royal Air Force hit Berlin with retaliatory strikes in September, the Germans began bombing British civilian centers. Some 23,000 British civilians were killed in the months between July and December 1940. Thousands of pilots and air crews engaged in battle in the skies above Britain, Germany, and the English Channel, each side losing more than 1,500 aircraft by the end of the year. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the British pilots in an August speech, said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The British defenses held, and Operation Sea Lion was quietly canceled in October, though bombing raids continued long after.
Above: The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (undamaged) stands out among the flames and smoke of surrounding buildings during heavy attacks of the German Luftwaffe on December 29, 1940 in London, England. (AP Photo/U.S. Office of War Information)

The fourth installment in our 20-part weekly retrospective on World War II. See more incredible photos at In Focus or check out the rest of the series so far.

World War II: The Battle of Britain

In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany’s Luftwaffe conducted thousands of bombing runs, attacking military and civilian targets across the United Kingdom. Hitler’s forces, in an attempt to achieve air superiority, were preparing for an invasion of Britain code-named “Operation Sea Lion.” At first, they targeted only military and industrial targets. But after the Royal Air Force hit Berlin with retaliatory strikes in September, the Germans began bombing British civilian centers. Some 23,000 British civilians were killed in the months between July and December 1940. Thousands of pilots and air crews engaged in battle in the skies above Britain, Germany, and the English Channel, each side losing more than 1,500 aircraft by the end of the year. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the British pilots in an August speech, said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The British defenses held, and Operation Sea Lion was quietly canceled in October, though bombing raids continued long after.

Above: The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (undamaged) stands out among the flames and smoke of surrounding buildings during heavy attacks of the German Luftwaffe on December 29, 1940 in London, England. (AP Photo/U.S. Office of War Information)

The fourth installment in our 20-part weekly retrospective on World War II. See more incredible photos at In Focus or check out the rest of the series so far.

  1. 41thirteen reblogged this from theatlantic
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    World War II: The Battle of Britain In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany’s Luftwaffe conducted thousands of bombing...
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    Reblogging for the amazing photograph, one of my favourites from the war.
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    My inner history nerd is drooling over this. I spent a summer researching WWII in London - I still miss the smell of the...
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