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'The Few' and the Battle over Britain

Spitfires flying in formation.
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Spitfires flying in formation.

In the summer of 1940 the Germans dominated the European continent and Britain stood alone. Shortly after the fall of France, Adolph Hitler ordered his Luftwaffe to gain control of the air over the English Channel just long enough to cover an invasion, and launched the Battle of Britain. As Spitfires dueled Messerschmitts, Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his famous tribute to the pilots of the Royal Air Force: "Never in the field of human conflict, he said, "have so many owed so much, to so few."

Of course, the majority of those pilots were British, but there were substantial numbers of Poles, Canadians and Frenchmen as well. There were also a handful of Americans. Seven U.S. fliers ignored the Neutrality Act to fight for Britain more than a year before Pearl Harbor. Each had reasons of his own beyond a desire to stop Hitler, including the pure adventure of it all and the chance to fly some of the hottest planes in the world.

The American pilots gave up their families, their nationalities and their careers. All but one gave his life, as well. Their story is told in a new book by Alex Kershaw called The Few, the American Knights of the Air Who Risked Everything to Fight in the Battle Of Britain.

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