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The Importance of Britain: WWII
Battle for the Atlantic Part 2
The Battles of Britain and the Atlantic
There were many long and short term effects that came of the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. The fall of France caused success for the Allied Powers in both battles to be more than important, it was necessary. "The Battle for France nearly lost the RAF (Royal Air Force) the Battle of Britain" (Plowright, 2007, p.52) and Britain had slightly overextended their forces by helping the French, so when the French lost it was more than a little bit devastating. Hitler, excited about his victory over France, though never one of his original targets, decided to take out the weakened Britain. Victory in both of these battles was a must should Britain hope to survive and gain allied support from America.
The Battle of Britain, or 'Operation Sealion' according to Hitler and the rest of his army, occurred before the Battle of the Atlantic and it was Hitler's attempt to "cut off the people and factories of Britain from their crucial overseas sources of food and raw materials, to "strangle" them, to starve them into submission" (Heinrichs, 1990, p. 28). If he could successfully cut the British off from all of their resources he could win the battle by starving them out. One thing working in Britain's favor was that they had home field advantage, meaning they were fighting on their lands so they had better opportunities to win than Germany did. This meant that they could 'recycle' pilots faster after they had ejected from their planes. It also meant the RAF had more allowable airtime than their enemies, therefore they could fight for longer. Though these were two very important factors of Britain's success over Germany there was one main factor that really caused Britain to be the victor of this battle. "The key factor which allowed RAF Fighter Command to win the battle by economizing and focusing its efforts was the radar and signals intelligence it possessed regarding the enemy's operations" (Plowright, 2007, p. 53). When the policy of appeasement was active, however unpopular it was, Britain was able to build up their military and to improve their radar, making it possible to defend better against Germany, which was shown during this point in the battle.
[A fairly standard summary of the Battle of Britain might be that the German Luftwaffe, attacking Britain's air defenses in what it thought was overwhelming strength, was misled by their over claiming successes in combat over enemy territory. The German air force believed it was shooting down nearly five Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft for every three it had lost itself. Thus, the Germans were dismayed to find that RAF Fighter Command was fighting back in growing numbers and larger formations. Eventually, the Germans were forced to conclude that the British had been much stronger than originally estimated] (Harvey, 2012, p. 36). The reason that the British ended up being so strong was because of that small time period of buildup that they had while they were appeasing Germany after World War I.
The Battle of Britain was known as one of the turning points of the war, one of the turning points that worked in Allied Powers favor. "The Germans might have defeated Britain in 1940, and so won the war, but they did not. Instead, Britain survived, to become the cornerstone of the coalition that eventually destroyed Nazi Germany" (Bell, 2011, p. 40). It was imperative that Britain win this battle because from the point of the Fall of France, they alone fought Hitler for roughly about 12 months. This showed the World the Britain was more than capable of holding its own. "More important still was the effect of the British victory in the United States. In the short term, the Battle of Britain strengthened those who favored American intervention in the war, and changed the minds of some of those who thought that helping Britain was a waste of effort, because the British would only lose anyway" (Bell, 2011, p. 38). Clearly the British may have been slightly overwhelmed but were not losing the battle by any means. Some would argue that the British did not stop the Germans from doing anything worthwhile in this battle because this battle was just a clever ploy to turn attention away from Hitler's real target of the Soviet Union, however, the British winning this battle and invading in what was known as the Battle of the Atlantic gave the Soviet's the time to prepare for the battle that they knew they were about to have with Hitler and Germany.
The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the most important, biggest turning point, must win battles of the entire war. "The Battle of the Atlantic was to become the longest campaign of the entire war and it was at least as important as the Battle of Britain for national survival and ultimate victory" (Plowright, 2007, p.57). There were numerous benefits that came out of this battle but the one major one was the United States entrance into the war. American entry allowed the production of boats to be faster than the u-boats sinking them. It also allowed Britain to have a stronger ally against the Germans and they were no longer fighting the big fight alone.
There were many long and short term effects that came of the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic and in conclusion, the ultimate goal, was to push back Germany, while distracting them and gaining stronger allies. All of these goals were met and due to these factors the German invasion of all countries was halted. The American entrance into the war and the attack on an already defeated German army was not only inevitable, but possible because of the British victories of both the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic.
Bell, P. (2011). Twelve turning points of the second World War. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Harvey, A. D. (2012). The Battle of Britain, in 1940 and "Big Week," in 1944: A comparative perspective. Air Power History, 59(1), 34-45.
Heinrichs, W. H. (1990). Threshold of war: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American entry into World War II. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, USA. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.
Plowright, J.(2007).The causes, course and outcomes of World War Two. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
© 2015 Kelly Miller