Lewis Lapham: Nazis Failed to Smash Unique British Radar

During the early days of World War II, the Germans tried to dominate the skies. On Aug. 14, 1940, the Luftwaffe’s No. 3 fleet from Norway attacked Newcastle.

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During the 1930s, the English had set up a unique air-tracking radar system developed by Sir Robert Watson-Watt along the east and south coasts. It could detect objects in the sky from 100 miles away, and relay the data to a defense network.

The German planes were intercepted and 15 bombers were shot down, with no RAF losses. By the beginning of September, the Luftwaffe had lost more than 800 aircraft with many more seriously damaged.

German intelligence never appreciated the importance of the radar, and Goering’s failure to attack the clearly vulnerable stations amazed the British command.

I spoke with Paul Kennedy, author of “Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War,” on the following topics:

1. Wartime Challenges

2. Encouraging Innovation

3. Hitler’s Priorities

4. Auditor of Institutions

5. Battle of the Atlantic

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend Best and Lance Esplund on art.

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