A TURNING POINT? Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain had important ramifications for the course of World War II. The most immediate of those that aided the Allied cause were the dividends that accrued from the fact that Germany had suffered its first major defeat in the war. The British triumph gave hope to the peoples of occupied countries in Europe and helped feed partisan resistance against German occupation forces. More important, this battle helped convince many in the neutral United States to favor offering greater assistance to Britain. Increasing popular support assisted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in securing passage of the March 1941 Lend-Lease Act, which provided vital war supplies to Britain and to other countries fighting the Axis powers.
In military terms, the Battle of Britain had a tremendous impact on Germany’s war effort. The Luftwaffe never fully recovered from its losses in the battle, as Britain then surpassed Germany in aircraft production. Also, because Britain remained in the war, Germany now had to spread its military resources even more thinly, including assisting Italy in combatting British forces in the Mediterranean. Rather than the quick conclusion of the war that German leader Adolf Hitler and commander of the Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall (Reich Marshal) Hermann Göring had believed was inevitable, the Germans faced a protracted conflict that placed great strain on their limited military resources.
This situation became far worse for Germany with the June 1941 commencement of Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Battle of Britain played a role even before the opening of hostilities between the Germans and the Soviets. Hitler’s decision to conquer the Soviet Union was based on his long-held belief in the need to secure Lebensraum (living space) for the German people, but he also expressed the opinion that a German defeat of the Soviet Union would in turn force Great Britain to surrender. Ultimately, BARBAROSSA resulted in a protracted two-front war in Europe. Following the entry of the United States into the conflict as an Allied power, U.S. military might, as well as substantial American material and military resources provided to Britain and the Soviet Union, presented the Germans with a war that they could not win, for Allied resources far surpassed those available to Germany. The June 1944 Allied landing in Normandy was the final proof of the importance of the Battle of Britain. This amphibious assault on Hitler’s Europe was made possible only because Britain remained a secure base for the assembly of the vast armada needed for the operation. In many respects, the 1940 struggle for mastery of the skies over Britain had changed the entire outcome of World War II in Europe.