The Most Dangerous Enemy
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 21 Nov 2010
Full Title: The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain
When Germany, already dominating much of Western Europe, challenged Britain for the control of air, Britain rose to the occasion. In particular, the Royal Air Force thwarted German attempts to wipe out British air power, thus eliminating the chance of a German ground invasion. Although author Stephen Bungay established right from the start that much of the popular history about this defense was myth, and that he went on to establish that Germany had little chance of winning anyway, it did not take away from The Most Dangerous Enemy from being one of the best book on the topic that I had come across.
Bungay began all the way back from the start of the European War, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each side in terms of leadership, technology, and tactics. As the battle waged on, he narrated what seems like a day-by-day account of the battle, richly detailed and exciting; he also effectively brought in the topic of political in-fighting among the RAF Fighter Command leaders, explaining how this conflict added another dimension to the battle. As the Battle of Britain came to its end, he provided a brief analysis of the campaign, throwing in his solid reasoning on why he believed the Germans never truly had the chance to win the battle anyway. With so much information, it was not surprising that this book literally took me two or three months to go through, filling many pages in my notebook, some of which had already made their way to WW2DB's article for the Battle of Britain.
Bungay's objectivity was something I enjoyed beyond the amount of information. His respect for German pilots, for example, was very refreshing; he was able to avoid vilifying the enemy grunts, noting that the battle was lost for Germany not because of their lack of skills, placing the reason higher above. "The German pilots did as well as anyone might reasonably have expected", he wrote near the end of the book. "The difference that made the difference was the leadership", referring to the effective strategies laid out by Hugh Dowding for the RAF Fighter Command and the poor leadership of Hermann GÃ¶ring that led to much confusion among the German Luftwaffe.
The Most Dangerous Enemy would be a great addition to history enthusiasts of all types. The rich content made it a valuable source of the battle, the many photographs created a good visual storybook, and the glossy print even allowed it to be somewhat of an entertaining coffee table book. This would definitely be a book that I would keep on the shelf for ready reference.
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