The Battle Of Britain Was The First Confrontation In History To Do This

In the 20th century, the planet was rocked by two devastating world wars. During both conflicts, humankind again demonstrated its cruel, creative capacity to develop monstrous weapons. One of these was the dreaded tank, which first appeared in a variety of rudimentary forms in World War I.

When the Second World War broke out, just over two decades after the end of the first, technology had come a long way. As a result, one particular conflict, the Battle of Britain, marked an incredible world first: it was waged almost entirely in the air. The Roman army may have been innovative, efficient, and mechanically brilliant, but we didn't see them flying.

In July 1940, Germany intended to invade Great Britain. Prior to this, according to Britannica, Adolf Hitler had hoped the island nation would surrender peacefully after his forces occupied much of France (thus isolating Britain from the Allies). With surrender famously not being an option Winston Churchill would consider, though, Germany began to draw up plans for an invasion (dubbed Operation Sea Lion). Success, after all, would have granted the German army an excellent base in the British Isles.

The Luftwaffe moves in

Hitler's forces were stretched thin and unprepared for such an endeavor, but the confidence of Luftwaffe (the German air force) head Hermann Göring seemed to win the day. The stage was set, then, for the Battle of Britain, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Luftwaffe squared off for that crucial control of the skies (there could be no landing on British soil without air supremacy).

As History reports, Göring fully expected to wipe out British resistance swiftly and decisively. As it was, though, his Luftwaffe struggled vainly to wrest control of the skies from the RAF for months, losing over 1,700 planes (around twice as many as the British forces) in the attempt. The protracted conflict consisted almost exclusively of airborne warfare and dogfighting between some very iconic aircraft: bombers, the British Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes against the Messerschmitt Bf109s the German pilots brought to battle.

As per War History Online, the Battle of Britain did not mark the first use of fighter planes in warfare. They were deployed in World War I and actually first used before that, during the Mexican Civil War. This campaign (which ended in German defeat in October of that year and things gradually beginning to go pear-shaped for Hitler's forces elsewhere), however, was a world first for being almost entirely air-based.