The German invasion of Britain could not succeed without air superiority, and on July 10, 1940, the Luftwaffe began to attack shipping in the English Channel. A week later Hitler issued orders for “Operation Sealion,” and in August, bombers struck airfields of the R.A.F.’s (Royal Air Force) Fighter Command. Both sides consistently over-estimated the number of enemy aircraft destroyed, but the R.A.F. was never as badly weakened as the Germans supposed — and while German pilots who parachuted were captured, their British counterparts could fight on. In early September, German efforts were fatally handicapped by Luftwaffe head Herman Goering’s diversion of resources to bombing cities, and “Sealion” was postponed on September 17th.
A Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) operator in England plots targets (above). Primitive radar was heavily dependent on skilled users.
German preparations for “Operation Sealion” included experiments with amphibious tanks (below).