Big Week

The Biggest Air Battle of World War II
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (370 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

During the third week of February 1944, the combined Allied air forces based in Britain and Italy launched their first round-the-clock bomber offensive against Germany. Their goal: to smash the main factories and production centers of the Luftwaffe while also drawing German planes into an aerial battle of attrition to neutralize the Luftwaffe as a fighting force prior to the cross-channel invasion, planned for a few months later. Officially called Operation ARGUMENT, this aerial offensive quickly became known as “Big Week,” and it was one of the turning-point engagements of World War II.  

In Big Week, acclaimed World War II historian James Holland chronicles the massive air battle through the experiences of those who lived and died during it. Prior to Big Week, the air forces on both sides were in crisis. Allied raids into Germany were being decimated, but German resources - fuel and pilots - were strained to the breaking point. Ultimately new Allied aircraft - especially the American long-range P-51 Mustang - and superior tactics won out during Big Week. Through interviews, oral histories, diaries, and official records, Holland follows the fortunes of pilots, crew, and civilians on both sides, taking readers from command headquarters to fighter cockpits to anti-aircraft positions and civilian chaos on the ground, vividly recreating the campaign as it was conceived and unfolded. In the end, the six days of intense air battles largely cleared the skies of enemy aircraft when the invasion took place on June 6, 1944 - D-Day.   

Big Week is both an original contribution to WWII literature and a brilliant piece of narrative history, recapturing a largely forgotten campaign that was one of the most critically important periods of the entire war.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2018 James Holland. Recorded by arrangement with Atlantic Monthly Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The story swings from technical details about how much fuel a bomber can carry to the tactics of a dogfight. [Narrator Grover] Gardner lives up to the challenge, smoothly moving between a cool and steady delivery of narrative and tense portrayals of those in the thick of the action. Listeners hear the joy of victory and the anguish of losing a brother, literally and figuratively, through Gardner's soulful narration. Both history buffs and reluctant historians will enjoy this audio adventure." (AudioFile Magazine)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

War in the Air: Sets stage with gripping narrative

There are many good books on the WWII air war in western Europe. I have read many American and German personal accounts and some general overview books as well. This book is the best to give you a sense of what it was like to fly 25 missions with less than 5% chance of surviving. And tells you what it is like to be a German fighter pilot having to fly two or three missions a day with dwindling resources. This is all pre-D-Day when the bombers were used as bait so the Germans would lose air superiority by the time of the invasion. There are some narratives from German civilians as to what it is like to have bombs fall all around you. The story is told at many levels from Jimmy Doolittle (yes,THAT Jimmy Doolittle) down to a tail-gunner sergeant. And we go from the mad man with the mustache who wants jet fighters to be bombers.down to German "aces" ( the Germans actually didn't use that term) who watch their comrades blown out of the sky. It goes on for months and much of the book is taken up with setting the stage which is vital and informative. By the time you get to Big Week at the last fourth of the book you are a veteran and you are right there as each day brings great success and great heartbreak. You root for the various true life people whose stories are told from their diaries. It is all weaved together.very well.and is well done at all levels. Bravo!

15 people found this helpful

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Not Just About "Big Week"

This book provides a good summary of the air war in the European theater in World War II. Its title is misleading, because it is not just about "Big Week"--the great offensive before D Day. It covers the events leading up to Big Week as the climax. To that end, the title somewhat undersells the book.

The book is quite good, although there is not much here that is not covered in other books. It is well written and generally enjoyable. Definitely worth a listen, particularly if you have not already read other books about the air war in Europe.

6 people found this helpful

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Very Well Researched Book on the Air War

As with most modern histories, this book has the majority of its pages dealing with context. It’s not about one week or one battle. It burrows down into the cockpits of individual pilots on both sides and tells their stories along with engineers, strategists, chaplains, and even Jimmy Stewart. It’s not what you’d call a fast moving can’t put it down book unless you already know quite a lot about WW2 air battles and have an above average interest in it. The narrator did a great job and added an air of academic authority to the reading. Finally, a rarity for an audiobook, a pdf file for maps, charts, diagrams, etc. I can’t believe how many years I have requested the same files a printed book has and this is the first one to do it that I know of.

1 person found this helpful

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Grover delivers a powerful story

I agree with an earlier review so much more than that week a Good Story!

1 person found this helpful

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good listen, provides vision 8th Airforce 1943-44

The book makes you feel like you're in the 8th Air Force in 1944 leading up to D-day

Excellent historical and personal perspective

1 person found this helpful

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Riveting History

History told in a way that gave me perspective without knowing I received the edification

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EXCELLENT Story

I really liked this story and the of history. I really appreciated how the airman in the story were written about as real people and I felt their loss when it occurred.

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World War II HEROS AND AIRCRAFY

For those interested in World War II aircraft
and aerial battles this is the book for you.
an excellent overview of aircraft a models used
by the allies and Germany. also provides
excellent information about famous pilots

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Amazing listen

Great book, very engaging and easy to follow lots of intrigue and amazing war story's of heroism and bravery, definitly a must read if your into the history of air Combat of WW2

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Fantastic!

What a great listen! Finally a book that describes the P-47 Thunderbolts! Actually his information on the P-51 Mustang B, the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, the Avro Lancaster bomber were superb! Just to name a few. Such detail in all his descriptions of the air craft of WWII. But not too much to bog a person down. Really liked learning the difference between English bombers and American bombers. Not to be left out is the Axis aircraft to. Great description of air to air combat. I felt like I was in the cockpit of a P-47 Thunderbolt. Or you pick the ship that is your favorite. Such detail with all the aircraft of WWII. It's that good of a listen!

This is my first listen/read from James Holland. I am so impressed with his style I am looking at other books from him. He has a nice easy flow. Nothing that slows down the reading/listening. Also Grover Gardner is excellent as the narrator! I have listened to other books read by him as well. He is very good!

Finally, the information on military brass is outstanding. Jimmy Doolitte's climb up the ranks. To Hap Arnold. Even Churchill's input. Also facts on different branches of units. From the U.S. to England to Germany. How one group would get P-51 B's over another, and so on. Can't say enough of this book. It's that good!