Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Last Stand of Democracy in Europe

People tend to believe that the past happened because it was supposed to.  They aren't aware of things that happened because they don't need it to add to the functioning of their daily existence.  But the truth is, history matters because we can see the answers to what ifs, and we can understand the value of what was done.  If in 451 at the Battle of Châlons Rome's Flavius Aetius and Visigoth King Theodoric I had not united forces, the forces of the Mongols would have flowed across Europe unabated.   If Charles Martel had not defeated the Moors in 732 much of Europe might not have remained Christian.  The sacrifices of the past do not become erased due to time, even if they are forgotten, they happened.  Democracy and western civilization remained as we know it due to the sacrifices made by various people at grave moments. The Battle of Britain was one of those moments.

The world of early 1940 saw Europe at war, and the world watching it burn.  After the terrible costs of World War One so many people had tried to avoid war again that it seemed to encourage dictators to make threats, commit to war, and in particular, fascism to become a way of rule that was also meant to be shared and if not accepted, forced upon others.

After neutralizing or occupying every country in mainland Europa, Hitler believed he needed to defeat and neutralize Great Britain. He did not have an abiding hatred for the British as he had for the French, who he blamed for World War One, nor the Russians, who he believed were racially inferior.  But if he was going to invade the Soviet Union, he could not afford a two front war.

The first goal was attain air supremacy over the English Channel, so that the invasion of Great Britain would be safe.  The plans for this invasion, Operation Seelowe would never come into play, unless control over the sky could be reached.  Fat Herman Goering promised that the Luftwaffe could do this.  From July 1940 to June 1941 the German air force tried to destroy first the air force of Great Britain, the RAF, secondly the great cities of Great Britain, and lastly to destroy the morale of Great Britain.

Many remarkable things happened during the battle.  While the RAF was outnumbered the Luftwaffe made countless errors in tactics, but more importantly in strategy.  Attacks upon airfields and airplane factories were a great way to limit the ability of the RAF to restore their losses.  The Luftwaffe shifted to bombing London instead days before the airfield and factory attacks would have proven worthy.  Some authors suggest that had Hitler begun the Battle of Britain and quickly launched Seelowe that the British might not have been able to respond, and eventually fall.

But the RAF and Great Britain won.  The Nazis got bored of just bombing cities and demoralizing folks, and turned to savaging the Soviet Union.  Which was not about to fall.  Didn't work for the Swedes.  Didn't work for Napoleon.  Didn't work for Hitler.

Here are some books for your further investigation:

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