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Big Week

The Biggest Air Battle of World War II
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (214 ratings)

Regular price: $29.95

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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)

What members say

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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!

11 of 11 people found this review 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.

4 of 4 people found this review 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book

Loved it.
Story great and the narration is by one of the best.
My listen to it again.

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  • LJ
  • 04-04-19

Must read for ETO air war

Big Week is a fantastic book- I just finished listening to for the second time.

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great work on a lesser known topic

It was nicely done including lots of 1st person accounts in with the overall history

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detailed coverage of pre-D-Day air war in Europe

Interesting and informative. More detail than I could absorb listening while driving. The point of view rotates between British, American and German forces and between bomber and fighter forces, but there are no pauses to indicate such transitions. It routinely took a couple or more sentences for me to grasp the new context. This probably would not have been a problem if I were reading the book instead of listening to it.

I didn't love Gardner's reading, perhaps because I am familiar with his reading of the Vorkosigan science-fiction saga, to which this history bears little resemblance.

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Very Detaile

If you are into history, WWII and the air war in Europe. You will like this book. Very detailed. Nothing really new here.

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Marvelous!

For some it may be a bit plodding with all the airplane descriptions. But not for me. And when it comes to the air battles it is scintillating!

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Battle for the Skies

We will forever owe a debt to the brave men of the 8th Air Force.