Novelist Len Deighton has written a military buff's delight: a meticulous history of the men and machines of the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force in their struggle over Britain in the summer of 1940. Deighton describes the Battle in the stark, no-nonsense terms of a chess player recounting a game; the reader will not feel what it was like to be a Spitfire or Messerschmitt pilot, but he will know all the cold, hard constraints of aero-technology and strategy under which those airmen operated. In layman's terms, Deighton examines the effective range, armaments, and carrying capacities of the planes, the primitive radar systems employed by both sides, and the advantages and disadvantages of different deployments of aircraft. An extensive air war was unprecedented in 1940, and Deighton renders well the suspense of the deadly trials and errors of both air forces as they groped with logistical problems never before encountered. As in all wars, actual combat was but a small part of the war effort; Deighton thus emphasizes the mundane but vital matters of aircraft production and pilot training in Britain and Germany. Although he gives fullest play to these strategic concerns, Deighton does place them in a political context. The British Air Ministry, full of theorists who had never flown a plane, constantly hampered Air Marshal Hugh Dowding in the conduct of Britain's defense. On the other side, Hitler's preoccupation with Russia and the invincible incompetence of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering precluded a Nazi victory. Peppered with accidental heroes, hotheads, and bunglers, Deighton's history will be welcomed by all those who never weary of the world's ""last romantic battle.