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The Few: The American "Knights of the Air" Who Risked Everything to Save Britain in the Summer of 1940

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  788 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The Few tells the dramatic and unforgettable story of eight young Americans who joined Britain's Royal Air Force, defying their country's neutrality laws and risking their U.S. citizenship to fight side-by-side with England's finest pilots in the summer of 1940-over a year before America entered the war. Flying the lethal and elegant Spitfire, they became "knights of the a ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Da Capo Press (first published October 3rd 2006)
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Everyone knows Churchill's famous quote from the Battle of Britain. But of the "few", 20% were not British but were from other nations. And within that small group was an even smaller group, a Few Americans, officially 7 but actually 8 (you'll just have to read the book to find out). These few pilots were breaking the law, the Neutrality Act, and had to sneak out of the US and into the UK. There are some amazing adventures just getting there. Mr Kershaw seems to bring the skills of a novelist to ...more
There are three groups of Americans who went to World War II long before the U.S. entered the war. First there was a group of Chinese American pilots from Eugene, Oregon who travelled to China and flew against the Japanese. Almost nothing has been written about these brave Americans. Then there was the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, whose exploits are almost mythic. Then there were those Americans who, in violation of American neutrality, travelled to England and flew for England a ...more
'Aussie Rick'

I picked up a copy of this book at the airport in Singapore a few years back and read it cover to cover by the time my plane had landed at Sydney airport in Australia. A pretty good book covering the exploits of a number of American pilots who joined the Royal Air Force and its fighter squadrons during the Battle of Britain. The story is well told and the book was a joy to read, covering an aspect not normally found in many history books, again, highly recommended reading!
Jill Hutchinson
The title of this book really has two meanings......first, the Few refers to the RAF in the Battle of Britain as mentioned in one of Churchill's most famous speeches; second, it also refers to the "few" Americans who came to England while the United States was still neutral, to fly and fight with their English brother airmen in the RAF. We seldom hear of those original seven Americans who risked their citizenship to join the fight against the Nazis. And what a group they were, a two-time Olympic ...more
If you are into WWII aviation, this book will capture your attention. The author tells the personal stories of the first Americans to fight in WWII on the side of the British; they broke many laws to do so, but knew the coming storm of war would not abate once Europe fell to Adolph Hitler and his military; Britain was in a time of dire need, and unlike many Americans and their comfortable, isolationist lives, these young men risked everything (and in most cases, ultimately paid with their lives) ...more
This is an excellent study of the Few Americans that initally risked their citinzenship to fight for Great Britian against the Luftwaffe onslaught.

Mr. Kershaw writes a quick moving narrative where you the reader become attached to the pilots that served.

I'm not an expert on the Battle of Britian, so learned some new facts about the air battle and what odds these dedicated pilots were up against.

These pilots of the RAF had guts to go on multiple sorties a day not knowing in the next minute whet
Really fun book focusing on the few Americans to join the British air force as Germany attempted to invade. Most of my reading on WWII has focused on the US involvement so my knowledge of the war in 1940 wasn't the best but the author paints the big picture really well even while focusing on individual pilots. There are even some snippets looking at the more famous German pilots of the time. Dogfights, tragedy, triumph, and courage at individual and national levels. This had everything I want in ...more
Mike Lanski
An amazing and sad story of the brave Americans who went to Britain despite their country being neutral at that time and flew with the RAF.
If you are interested in World War II history this is a great read. It is the story of the Americans who, secretly and illegally, went to England in World War II in order to fight the Nazis during the famous Battle of Britain. Although the story is focused on the Americans who were there, it also gives a good insight into what the Battle of Britain was like and how desperate it actually was. I'm a history buff so it had automatic appeal to me, but it is not a dry read and you don't need to know ...more
As the Nazi juggernaut swept across Europe in the early days of W.W. II, many of the pilots from conquered countries made their way to England to join the ranks of the R.A.F. Defying the U.S.A.'s neutrality laws, a handful of American fliers also joined the conflict. Lured by the desire to fly fast planes, to test their mettle against the Luftwaffe, or the more noble cause of defending Great Britain from tyranny and denying Hitler this last prize in the west.

These young men, more full of brav
Ian Divertie
Excellent book! Not only have I read it, I've recommended it to many and given it as a gift to the unsuspecting. This early part of WW II has become something of a fascination for me lately, not just the Battle of Britain, which hopefully every body should read about and understand the significance of. If you have not dipped into The Battle of Britain this is a good one to start to come to grips with it. America's relation to WW II at this point also makes this a worthwhile read.
In the early years of WWII (Sept, 1939 through December 7, 1941), before the US entered the war, several American non-military flyers traveled to England to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) to fight the Germans. They did this in violation of US law (the Neutrality Act). They were a fearless and flamboyant group. Their courage in the skies over England and the Channel did much to turn the tide against Germany's intended invasion of England by sea and land. In his book, "The Few", author Alex K ...more
Barbara Mader
This book follows the course of eight Americans who joined the RAF prior to The Battle of Britain. The narrative is a bit chaotic at times as it skips about in time and place--the pilots arrived by varying routes and were scattered about in various squadrons--but as I enjoy books which emphasize the individual experience in war, I liked the book. I appreciate that Kershaw did not pretend all these young men joined initially to fight tyranny, save Britain, etc.; most of them were just looking for ...more
Stephen Dennis
Kershaw has a series of books that look, at a very personal level, at the exploits of individuals that fought during World War II. This is another excellent example of that genre.

The book chronicles the exploits of a small group of Americans who, against U.S. neutrality laws, made their way to England to fight and, in most cases, die flying for the RAF during the 1940 Battle of Britain. It was a desperate time in British history when flyers were losing their lives at a prodigious rate and each n
With the Nazi Germany Blitzkreig smashing through nearly all of Europe, the chances of the British in surviving against the nearly unstoppable juggernaut that are the Nazis seems like a snowball's chance in hell. However that doesn't stop a handful of daring American pilots from risking everything they have to defy the orders of their own country to secretly cross the Atlantic to answer the call to arms. In the constant face of death, the joint force of British, American, and leftover French pil ...more
The Few is a very detailed account of the American pilots who volunteered to go fly British planes against the Germans in 1940, a year before the US was drawn into WWII. The book reads somewhat like a novel, but is very thoroughly referenced, covering the Battle of Britain from the British and the German perspectives. I took a risk reading this book because I didn't particularly care for Kershaw's first book, The Bedford Boys. But the story of the Battle of Britain intrigues me, and in the end I ...more
Jeni Enjaian
This is an amazing book. I did not expect to like it as much as I did. (I like it so much I'm putting it on my amazon wishlist.)

Kershaw manages to create a factual narrative that reads almost like fiction. His detail is absolutely incredible. The book covers a scant few months of the war yet backs in so much information it's almost overwhelming especially towards the end of the book. This is where he relates the unfortunate reality of the war, death.

I highly recommend this book.
This was a very good read. Great behind the scenes type of story to WW2. Very well written, solid character build (without going too overboard) and well told. If you like little known stories behind WW2, American pride, and solid detail around the war in the air, you will like this book.

Abou the 609 squadron of RAF during the Battle of Brittain. The original seige. Story of the American Pilots who went awol from the US to fly and fight.
What a good story! It's interesting to start with the politics of isolationism and how much at risk young Americans were when they were trying to risk their lives for England. Whether they were there for the fight for freedom, or just the fight period, the story if the few and the eventual Eagle Squadrons is a good one and I thought this book a great read to explain how a few Americans helped keep England from being just another Nazi conquest.
Great way to learn about the Battle of Britain, particularly for American readers. Learning the full story of Billy Fiske's life and death was fascinating as well. Highly recommend.
A well-written study of the small collection of Americans who defied U.S. neutrality laws and joined the RAF in time to participate in the Battle of Britain. Kershaw is especially good in describing aerial combat, and in bringing out details of the personal lives of the American pilots, their British comrades, and German foes.
Warren Benton
This was an excellent read about "The Few" Americans that joined Great Britain to fly and fight against the Nazi's before america joined the war. Each of the Few had their own reasons for wanting to defeat Germany, and they risked getting arrested by the FBI and had to sneak into Britain to sign up to fight.
Jeff Wombold
I've seen movies about Americans fighting as part of the RAF, but never until I read this book did I realize the extent of the brave pilots that risked so much for another country. This book will keep you yearning to find out more with every chapter you read and is a very easy read.
I love reading Alex's books. They remind me when I was little and listening to Grandpa telling his stories in the pacific.

The book was awesome and shed a lot more light on the Battle of Britain and the American component. Learned a lot and love the personal voice it brings with it.
Steve Bernich
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Really highlights those "few" who flew for Britain during their most trying times. Makes me ask if I'd have the courage and gumption to do what these men did. Puts you in the cockpit alongside them.
An excellent history of the Battle for Britain and several American fliers who rejected the country's strict neutrality laws and joined the RAF. This is the second book I've read by Alex Kershaw, and I think I'll read them all.
Excellent book, writing flows and reads like a novel. Kershaw does an excellent job of telling the struggle of not only the British but the Americans who volunteered to fly and fight with them.
Really excellent book on a fascinating subject. This was my second Kershaw book and I'm just as impressed with his authorship this time around. Well-researched and easy to read.
G Hodges
If you are at all interested in the Battle of Britain, and especially if you are an American, you should read this book.
Didn't have high expectations for the book because it was a history read. I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it!
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Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg and Robert Capa. His latest book is Avenue of Spies. He lives in Massachusetts.
More about Alex Kershaw...
The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II's Most Decorated Platoon The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau Escape from the Deep: The Epic Story of a  Legendary Submarine and her Courageous Crew The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II

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“Like his other books, Kershaw has written a rousing tale of little-known heroes . . . The Few marks Kershaw as a master storyteller." — Booklist” 3 likes
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