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Lesson from Battle of Britain

Posted December. 25, 2018 07:40,   

Updated December. 25, 2018 07:40

한국어

Not every British man was a fan of Winston Churchill. When it comes to making short, however, witty axioms moving the heart of listeners, he was clearly second to none. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” the wartime speech by the former British prime minister, which was dedicated to the Royal Air Force crews, can be found everywhere from the monument celebrating the fight by the British air force to little souvenirs at the Imperial War Museum.

Led by Hermann Goering, the German Air Force made an ambitious attempt to overwhelm the British in the air. Massive aircraft traveled across the Dover Strait, hovering about the skies of major cities in Britain.

The war in the skies of the Dover Strait and Britain was such a dramatic air fight that seemed only possible in a fight against aliens in a sci-fi movie. Set against this battle, the movie “Battle of Britain” reenacts the historic air fights with the help of the fighter pilots who actually participated in the battle. The harmony between the roaring engine sound and the orchestra filled the air, adding weight to the solemn drama.

In fact, however, the epic battle in Britain was fraught with problems stemming from wrong predictions, reckless operations, rigid hierarchy, and incompetent leaders. The Germans focused on providing support for ground forces rather than bombing their strategic targets. Fighter jets were designed to outrace their British counterparts, rendering them lighter and sleeker. This naturally reduced their payloads, making it impossible for them to carry large-sized bombs.

Their attempt to raid the cities and dominate Britain with those fighter jets could be likened to catching a whale with a skinny fishing rod. To make things worse, Commander Goering made yet another crucial mistake. Even among the German soldiers, some thought the design of fighter jets was going towards the wrong direction. And Goering gave an answer: “His Excellency is more interested in the fighters’ number than their design.” Compared to mid-sized jets, it was easier to produce smaller-sized fighter jets in a bulk and at a faster pace. Is this merely an isolated case for a totalitarian country? The answer is no. Things like that are happening even in a democracy like South Korea.


Won-Joo Lee takeoff@donga.com