World War II: The Battle of Britain


In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany's Luftwaffe conducted thousands of bombing runs, attacking military and civilian targets across the United Kingdom. Hitler's forces, in an attempt to achieve air superiority, were preparing for an invasion of Britain code-named "Operation Sea Lion." At first, they bombed only military and industrial targets. But after the Royal Air Force hit Berlin with retaliatory strikes in September, the Germans began bombing British civilian centers. Some 23,000 British civilians were killed between July and December 1940. Thousands of pilots and air crews engaged in battle in the skies above Britain, Germany, and the English Channel, each side losing more than 1,500 aircraft by the end of the year. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the British pilots in an August speech, said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." The British defenses held, and Hitler quietly canceled Operation Sea Lion in October, though bombing raids continued long after. (This entry is Part 4 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 6/27-7/3

    A European heat wave, lightning over California, a building made of 8,500 beer bottles, shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium, the first-ever White House Campout, mine detection rats in Cambodia, and much more.

  • Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty

    All-Request Photos: Sharks, Intoxication, Guacamole, Soccer, Scalia...

    Reader requested images, including playful raccoons, Soviet armies leaving Lithuania in the 1990s, Donald Trump’s hair, a Fennec fox, and much more.

  • Lewis Hine / Library of Congress

    Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago

    In 1908, photographer Lewis Hine traveled across the U.S. to document child laborers and their workplaces. His portraits were used by reformers to drive legislation that would protect young workers or prohibit their employment.

  • Noah Berger / Reuters

    Tinder Dry: An Early Start to Wildfire Season in the West

    Wildfires have already burned more than 1.6 million acres in Alaska this season, and blazes in Washington, Oregon, and bone-dry California have scorched thousands more.

Join the Discussion