It was to be the battle to end the air war once and for all . . .
During the third week of February 1944, the combined Allied air forces based in Britain and Italy launched their first-ever round-the-clock bomber offensive against Germany. The aim was to smash the main factories and production centres of the Luftwaffe and at the same time draw the German fighter force up into the air and into battle. Officially called Operation ARGUMENT, this monumental air assault was very quickly became known simply as Big Week.
In the six months up to its launch, for the Allies, the bomber war was not turning out as planned. Raids by the US Eighth Air Force and the RAF deep into Germany were being decimated and falling far short of its purpose. With D-Day drawing ever-closer, that was a massive problem. The Allies needed clear skies to invade. The clock was ticking inexorably.
Yet the Luftwaffe was also in crisis. Short of resources, of fuel, and on properly trained pilots, the strain on those still flying was immense, their losses severe. And despite the chaos of their leadership, they were achieving far more than should have been reasonably expected against the superior numbers of the Allied planes.
Big Week is the knife-edged story of bomber against flak gun and fighter, but also, crucially, fighter against fighter, as the stakes rose higher and higher. Following the fortunes of pilots, aircrew and civilians from both sides, this is a blistering narrative of one of the most critical periods of the entire war, one that culminated in the largest air battle ever witnessed. It is also one that has been largely forgotten, but which has been brilliantly brought back to life by award-winning historian, James Holland.