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Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War Two

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  340 ratings  ·  56 reviews
'James Holland is a master' BBC History

It was to be the battle to end the air war, once and for all…

In the early days of 1944, as the build-up to D-Day intensified, an audacious plan was taking shape in the form of Operation Argument – a brutal and systematic strategy to finally sledgehammer the Luftwaffe into submission and ensure the skies were clear for the Allied invas
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 16th 2018 by Bantam Press
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Barry Davidoff Holland's book is much more comprehensive and far more detailed. Holland provides a complete view of the air war and the attributes of the fighters…moreHolland's book is much more comprehensive and far more detailed. Holland provides a complete view of the air war and the attributes of the fighters and bombers. Holland makes a very valuable contribution with his nw book(less)

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With this book, James Holland explores the biggest, and mostly forgotten air battle that paved the way for total Allied air supremacy

Big Week, or Operation Argument as it was officially called, was an Allied operation intended to lure the Luftwaffe in a protracted air battle in order to destroy its capability in waging an effective air assault during the Normandy invasion.

Both conducted by the British and the Americans, the operation broke the back of the Luftwaffe. From the 20th of February to
The story of the build-up to the joint Operation Argument, the round-the-clock series of raids in mid-February 1944 that broke the back of the Luftwaffe and proved the U.S. strategy of drawing out German fighters using their bomber force for destruction.
The deficiencies in all three air arms are laid bare, with the Luftwaffe coming off worse, at the sharp end of design deficiencies, a broken supply chain and unable to effectively train new fighter crews.
The run up to the campaign is covered in
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive account of the background to and execution of "Operation Argument", which took place during the third week of February 1944, as the combined Allied air forces, working from airbases in Britain and Italy, launched their first round-the-clock bomber offensive against Nazi Germany. This operation is better known in the USA's 8th Air Force official history as "Big Week".

By means of interviews, diary extracts and official records, historian James Holland provides a wealth of historical
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A interesting and very detailed book. This book tells of the missions and the pilots and crew of both the bombers and fighter planes that flew bombing missions over Germany during World War II. These missions were dangerous and cost many lives. This book is very detailed in describing the Allied bombers and fighter planes as well as the German fighter planes as well and gives a chronology of the events of the air war over Europe and both the Allied commanders and German commanders who was in cha ...more
Doug Phillips
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good work covering the air battle over Europe. In parts, the book reads like an exciting war story told by those who were there. I appreciate the effort that Holland made to share the background leading up to the Big Week and then providing follow-up details on his focused key players.

Dick Reynolds
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Put yourself into this scenario. It’s Saturday, February 19, 1994, the first day of the Big Week. You’re at a base in England and ready to take part in your first combat mission over Germany as a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. The next day’s target is Berlin and your plane is part of a giant armada of some 400+ aircraft so you feel moderately safe. Once you’re airborne at 22,000 feet you realize the temperature inside the unpressurized aircraft is way below zero but you’re wearing a flight su ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bibliocase
While the whole word extolls the exploits of Normandy, waxes eloquent about the siege of Stalingrad and gasps collectively at the recollection of the Battle of the Bulge, there are a few battles - which even though, indispensable in influencing the final outcome of the War itself – have been relegated to the confines of obscurity. One such battle is OPERATION ARGUMENT. Popularly known as ‘Big Week’, the operation had at its cornerstone a relentless round-the-clock pummeling of German armament fa ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book, providing a history of the Allied Strategic Bombing of Nazi German in a bit different perspective than other works. Rather than concentrating on the slow demise of the Nazi state’s infrastructure and morale through the relentless bombing campaign, the author makes the strong argument that the attrition of the Luftwaffe by early 1944 was the major success of the bombing effort, allowing freedom of action in many other areas. Starting with Bomber Command’s slow beginnings and through ...more
John Purvis
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II" eBook was published in 2018 (November) and was written by James Holland. Mr. Holland is author or co-author of 13 non-fiction books and nine novels. 

I received an ARC of this novel through in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The book covers the air war in Europe from mid-1943 until mid-1944.

While the focus is on the overall strategy of both the A
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Holland describes the February, 1944, week that helped prepare for the successful Allied invasion on D-Day which led to the liberation of Europe. He begins with the air battles in the fall, 1943, and the political machinations of the British and American leaders. Most importantly, he takes us into the cockpits with the flight crews who were risking their lives for freedom.
The author gives us detailed maps, the plane designs, hierarchies, and the various personnel who influenced the flights.
Patrick Pillow
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to add what others have said already; James Holland has a writing style not too dissimilar to James Hornfischer or the legendary Max Hastings. This sweeping narrative of the bombing missions over Germany in the autumn of ‘43 through “Big Week”, covers all aspects of the battle and those who took part. This is an engrossing book on a subject that has long needed its own story to be told. Bravo Mr. Holland.
Brian DeVries
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for WWII aircraft documentaries. This one was as good as any of the other hundreds of books out there.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is a typical James Holland history. He takes a historical event during World War II, introduces us to several participants (on all sides - British, American, and German), and then follows those participants through the event while weaving in campaign narrative and analysis.

In this example, Holland covers a specific week in 1944 when the Allied Air Forces made a maximum bombing effort against the German industrial base with a goal of goading the Luftwaffe to defend and thus making them subje
Alistair Edwards
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This books was passed on to me by a friend who knows I share an interest in flying in the Second World War.

It certainly told a story that (regardless of my interest in related topics) I did not know. It also explained some things that I had not thought about. For instance, in the latter part of the War, the Luftwaffe was in a very poor shape, largely due to shortage of fuel (and Göring's incompetence, and Hitler's desperation). Defeat of the Luftwaffe was paramount so it appears that bombing rai
Peter Goodman
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it

“Big Week: The biggest air battle of World War II,” by James Holland (Atlantic Monthly, 2018). This is essentially an account of the development of the Allied strategic bombing campaign from 1942 onwards. Holland blends many first-hand accounts of what it was like to be in the planes (on both sides) with descriptions of the inter-service and inter-Allied arguments about how the air war should be conducted, and candid descriptions of the different airplanes. The Americans insisted on daylight “pr
Devin Croft
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This the fourth book by Holland I've read in the last couple of years. His research and writing are equal or better than the works of his fellow British military historians like John Keegan and Max Hastings. This one centers on the Allied attempt to wear down the Luftwaffe before the Normandy Invasion in June 1944. By 1943 the Allies were making little progress in crippling the German war effort through aerial bombing effort despite appalling losses in men and machines. The interwar air power th ...more
J. Bill
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the wonder and horror of the air war over Europe during WW II, in particular the "strategic" bombing efforts of the US's 8th air force and the night bombing of the RAF's Bomber Command. Holland's narrative is detailed and engaging, especially when he tells his tale via the words of actual combatants -- from the famous (Jimmy Stewart, bomber pilot and actor) to the every day fellow who bundled into a flight suit and soared five miles up into the sky in noisy, unheated, unpr ...more
P.e. lolo
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-war
The book is titled Big Week, but really the author takes you from first the English bombing Germany and then the United States becoming active after Pearl Harbor. He takes you through the buildup of planes and how they change and the men who fly them. He also gives you the German side which was holding their own until we introduced the Mustang, that fighter took over the skies and with the bombers slowing down production the Germans were never able to compete with the amount of planes bombers an ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed account of the joint U.K.-US bombing campaign against Germany in 1943/44, leading up to the Big Week itself. Holland highlights how important it was that the Luftwaffe was defeated before the Normandy invasions in June, so ball bearing and aircraft manufacturers were specifically targeted and allied fighter pilots were instructed to shoot down as many German planes as possible.

holland also points out the failure of Harris' bombing campaign against German cities. Harris was convinced t
Waseem Butt
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have previously read and learnt much about the science of aerial combat from this authors books on the siege of Malta and the battle of Britain and this very much continues in that vain with some incredible heart stopping episodes of combat over the skies of Germany and western Europe as bombers are set upon by German fighters and German pilots are given no respite and very little recovery time after crashes before being sent back into the sky. I doubt that anyone writes about this better. To be ...more
Wynn Netherland
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two years before being nominated for best actor for his role in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (for which the film won an Oscar for technical achievement for simulating falling snow), Major James Stewart was among the thousands of pilots and crew who flew through ice and snow to battle the German Luftwaffe.

Seventy-five years ago, before D-Day and the Allied invasion of France, there was Big Week, an aerial offensive like no other. An all-out effort to cripple the air defenses of the Third Reich in pre
Allan Macdonald
For some reason that I struggle to put my finger on, this book failed to gel with me. The subject is one I am interested in, and was curious to learn more about an area of WW2 which, for me at least, was previously unexplored.

I think I struggled somewhat with the way the story was most often (or at least very often) told from the perspective of the pilots and aircrew. The idea of this I think is good, and in fact I greatly enjoyed the postscript where we learn how many of these people faired af
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
This is a well-written and researched piece of narrative military history. The way Holland manages to weave the stories of individuals into the broader explanations of how 'Big Week' came to be is the kind of writing that makes me look at my own feeble efforts and think I should give up and stick to the day job.

If there was a literary genre that called be called docudrama then this would be a fine example of it. There are moments when you are as on the edge of your seat as you would be reading a
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable and well-researched, with a good mix of the strategy and evolving tactics of both sides as well as the personal stories of many of the participants. During this period, the Luftwaffe honed its night fighter tactics as both sides introduced the beginnings of electronic warfare. The P-51 Mustang began to dominate the skies as it finally gave the Americans a long range escort much better than German fighters.

The Big Week was the end of February missions that essentially broke down t
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is the second Holland book I've read, the other is his history of the Battle of Britain. I heartily recommend both - he is an excellent writer with a deep knowledge of his subject and a fine eye for the telling detail. He looks at the airmens' battle from the top - strategy, logistics and materiel - and from the point of view of the pilots, navigators and gunners. I had no idea how difficult the winter of 1944 was for flying. Ultimately what saved the strategic bombing campaign, in Holland' ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have only read a handful of books on WW2, so I do not have a lot to compare James Holland’s new book to. This story is about a highly critical but largely forgotten part of the war, in which Allied air success actually made D-Day possible. The amount of detail in this book is incredible, and takes you in to the service lives of a number of both US and German pilots. Each mission was incredibly dangerous, and every pilot knew that there was little chance they would survive the 25 missions that ...more
Michael Samerdyke
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very compelling look at the key phase of the Combined Bombing Offensive against Nazi Germany.

Holland sets the events of Big Week in their context, showing how the USAAF was gaining strength, how the Luftwaffe was being pushed to the breaking point, and how something like Big Week had to happen in order for Operation Overlord to go forward.

He does a fine job in sketching in the Allied generals and the problems facing them. He also does a fine job of showing the stresses of being in the planes,
Barry Davidoff
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before there could be a D-Day, Big week had to succeed. The battle for air superiority over Europe is vividly told in this book. James Holland combines the stories of the pilots on both sides with the strategic decisions to tell story of the epic battle.
Holland correctly states that Big Week has been not received the attention of the land battles but that determining air superiority was critical. Long range fighters and especially the P-51 Mustang engaged the German Air Force with devastating re
Simon Clayton
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of the air war over Europe, which provided me with real insight into the strategic decision making, the constraints in materials and resources suffered by the Germans as a result of their confused command structure and disastrous leadership.

I gained a proper understanding of the impact of American fighters and the attrition of the bombing regimes.

Very well written, structured to maintain the reader's interest with stimulating switches between both the nations at war and the
The air war is a part of WWII that barely gets any recognition so thank you to James Holland for bringing it to the forefront and telling us how it was won. The details that go into it are fantastic. I find it so well written that when he puts in Jimmy Stewart and his squadron into the mix you have to be reminded it's that Jimmy Stewart. we're talking about. Big Week does great service by telling us the German side of the battle. If the book has one great flaw its that it is drowning in to many ...more
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James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. He has worked for several London publishing houses and has also written for a number of national newspapers and magazines. Married with a son, he lives near Salisbury.