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London, 15 September 1940. In and out of the clouds above the British capital, one of the most decisive battles of the Second World War was taking place. The Luftwaffe's massive air assault aimed to force Britain to sue for peace or, by seizing air superiority, make possible the cross-Channel invasion Hitler's generals were planning. Churchill himself watched the climactic battle unfold from the RAF operations room in Uxbridge. He asked what reserves the British had in the battle over London: 'There are none', came the reply. Every available squadron was in the air.
The air battle over Britain shaped the course of the entire war. But the fight that day was itself shaped by the duel between the two most advanced types of warring fighter planes: the British Supermarine Spitfire and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. In this remarkable new book, David Isby looks at the clash between these two fighter planes, lasting from pre-war development to decisive combat.
The Decisive Duel tells the stories of these iconic, classic aircraft and also the people who created them: Willy Messerschmitt, the German designer with a love for gliders and admiration for Hitler; RJ Mitchell, his brilliant British counterpart, who struggled against illness to complete the design of the Spitfire. In fascinating detail, Isby describes the crucial role the two opposed planes played, from the drawing boards, to Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, to the final battles over Germany.
In today's Britain, Spitfire's story is particularly resonant both for its wartime achievements and its continuing potency as a symbol. Accessibly written and impeccably researched, The Decisive Duel is both a wonderful work of aviation history, and a valuable insight into the duel between two fighters that shaped the Second World War.
David Isby has written and edited twenty-six books of military history and analysis, many on Second World War aircraft and operations. A Washington-based attorney and consultant on national security issues and a former congressional staff member, he has testified before the House Armed Services Committee on tactical airpower. He frequently appears in the media and has lectured at staff colleges and other institutions. An experienced pilot, life-long model builder, and a veteran wargamer, he can be visited at www.SpitfirevsBf109.com
A splendid work. A detailed account of two important wartime fighter aircraft enlivened by the words of those who flew them.
The epic struggle between the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt 109 upon which so much of western civilization depended in the summer of 1940 has found the ideal biographer in David Isby. I write "biographer" because, like the men who flew these remarkable fighter planes, Isby sees them in almost human terms, transcending the mere mechanical.
Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War
This is an important book on an enduring subject that should satisfy experts and newcomers to the field alike.
Nick Cook, author of The Hunt for Zero Point and former Aviation Editor, Jane's Defence Weekly