Why the focus on 1940, which opened in the middle of the ""shadow war"" on the western front? The ""avalanche"" came only in May as the German army swept across the Benelux countries and France. Presumably, Collier's case rests on a negative attribute--1940 was the absolute nadir for the western democracies up to that time, and the Battle of Britain symbolizes the last-ditch effort to save them, Jumping right in, Collier follows a chronological narrative, picking up threads of stories about FDR, Churchill, Hitler, and other leaders, as well as soldiers, journalists, and ""common people,"" and weaving them together to portray history as it is happening, without looking forward. A military specialist, he stresses battles and campaigns, though without technical overload, and smoothly evokes the drama of this single year. It may loom particularly large to a Britisher like Collier, but there are others, too, who remember the tension of those precarious days.