Big Week: Six Days that Changed the Course of World War II

Overview

In just six days, the United States Strategic Air Forces changed the course of military offense in World War II. During those six days, they launched the largest bombing campaign of the war, dropping roughly 10,000 tons of bombs in a rain of destruction that would take the skies back from the Nazis…

The Allies knew that if they were to invade Hitler’s Fortress Europe, they would have to wrest air superiority ...

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Big Week: Six Days that Changed the Course of World War II

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Overview

In just six days, the United States Strategic Air Forces changed the course of military offense in World War II. During those six days, they launched the largest bombing campaign of the war, dropping roughly 10,000 tons of bombs in a rain of destruction that would take the skies back from the Nazis…

The Allies knew that if they were to invade Hitler’s Fortress Europe, they would have to wrest air superiority from the mighty Luftwaffe.

The plan of the Unites States Strategic Air Forces was risky. During the week of February 20th, 1944—and joined by the RAF Bomber Command—the USAAF Eighth and Fifteenth Air Force bombers took on this vital and extremely risky mission. They ran the gauntlet of the most heavily defended air space in the world to deal a death blow to Germany’s aircraft industry, and made them pay with the planes already in the air. In the coming months, this Big Week would prove a deciding factor in the war.

Both sides were dealt losses, and whereas the Allies could recover, damage to the Luftwaffe was irreparable. Thus Big Week became one of the most important episodes of World War II, and coincidentally, one of the most overlooked—until now.

INCLUDES PHOTOS  

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1944, British and American military leaders knew that for the land invasion of Western Europe to succeed, the Allies would have to cripple both the German Luftwaffe and the country's aircraft manufacturing industry. Military historian Yenne (Aces High) uses memoirs of the pilots and commanding officers on both sides as well as official sources to document how the Allied thinking on aerial bombing campaigns evolved from tactical raids with limited aims to a strategic doctrine that included wiping out critical armament production centers in order to change the course of the war. But that evolution did not occur overnight and Yenne explores how the younger generation of military men gradually convinced their elders, who had cut their teeth in WWI, that to defeat the Third Reich, new thinking was essential. Those realizations culminated in the aerial assault on Germany during a rare week of clear weather in February that allowed the allied air forces to rain down 10,000 tons of bombs on key German factory cities. Yenne's sure prose and sharp insights on the men and aircraft that cleared the way for the Allies to launch the Normandy Invasion is a gripping account that aficionados of the era will savor.
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Kirkus Reviews
Military and aviation historian Yenne (U.S. Guided Missiles, 2012, etc.) documents the events of the week beginning February 20th, 1944, during which Nazi Germany's aircraft industry and air defenses were destroyed, contributing to the preparation for the D-Day invasion. The author provides a day-by-day account of what took place as German industrial facilities were targeted for attack. Yenne skillfully situates the action, pulling together various threads. He summarizes briefly the history of strategic bombing from its origins in Italy and Russia during World War I, and he highlights the recruitment and deployment of the intelligence teams that profiled the German economy and war machine to identify bottlenecks and target them to be destroyed. Yenne examines the creation and development of the many aircraft armadas that took to the skies that February from their bases in eastern England. This is an amazing story in which planning and organization--such as the ever-increasing flow of materiel into the U.K.--combined perfectly with ingenuity and luck (the weather in that February week was ideal but almost unprecedented). Yenne then takes up the effectiveness of the America's daytime bombing campaign as both the number of bombers and the range of their fighter escorts increased. Ultimately, the setbacks of late 1943, when losses of bombers and flight crews to German air defense forces became almost unsustainable, were reversed. Yenne also shows how the bombing campaign finally helped break the back of Hitler's war economy. Well-written and fast-paced, this will be compelling to specialists and general readers alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425255759
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 12/31/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 484,681
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Yenne is the author of many works of military fiction and nonfiction, as well as histories of America’s great aviation companies. He is a contributor to encyclopedias of both World Wars, and has appeared on the History Channel. 

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xiii

Prologue 1

1 The Birth of an Idea 9

2 The War Will Be an Air War 15

3 America Prepares for the Air War 20

4 Going to War 25

5 The House of Mystery on Berkeley Square 39

6 A Steep Learning Curve 49

7 Creating Substance from Promise 64

8 Defining the Mission 73

9 Pointblank 81

10 Going Deep at Great Cost 95

11 Black Week 110

12 Grasping for a Turning Point 125

13 Operation Argument 136

14 Before Sunday's Dawn 147

15 Sunday, February 20 154

16 A Wing and a Prayer 169

17 Monday, February 21 177

18 Tuesday, February 22 185

19 Wednesday, February 23 197

20 Thursday, February 24 204

21 Friday, February 25 218

22 All Roads Led to Overlord 227

23 Against the Wall 239

24 Total Collapse 248

Epilogue 261

Selected Acronyms 275

Bibliography 277

Index 286

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