The Few by Alex Kershaw

thefew.jpgThe Few by Alex Kershaw is an engrossing history of the first American pilots who volunteered to fight for the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Kershaw highlights seven Americans, scattered in ones and twos in different squadrons, who choose to fight for freedom against Nazi Germany in the Battle.

Kershaw brings his normal narrative style to tell the stories of the handful of Americans who fought against Nazi Germany for the British even as their own government turned its back on the beleaguered country. These Americans chose to join the British even though the U.S. government threatened them with imprisonment, large fines, and loss of citizenship for breaking neutrality laws.

Kershaw does a superb job highlighting a piece of American history that very few Americans know much about. The first American to be killed in World War II was not at Pearl Harbor, but in the skies over England – his name was Billy Fiske. Kershaw intertwines the stories of the Americans, like Fiske, with the story of the brave RAF flyers who defended Britain against the German Luftwaffe.

I also like how Kershaw discusses the exploits of the leading German aces who fought in the Battle of Britain. Similar to many British and American flyers who fought in the Battle of Britain, two of the three leading aces did not live to see the end of World War II. The sad fact is that at one point, new pilots were not expected to live more than two weeks because of the intense fighting between the RAF and the Luftwaffe.

Anyone interested in the air war during World War II would find The Few very entertaining and enlightening.

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