War in the air

For both parties, the air force was one of the most important weapons during WWII. They played a pivotal role in the conquest of Western Europe by the Germans. After 1940, the tides turned and the British air force began dominating the war in the air. The allied threat from the air increased. And it increased even more when the United States became actively involved in the war in Western Europe.

After 1940, the Royal Air Force began to gain the upper hand. British bombers flew over the North Sea and the Wadden area to Germany. Thanks to help from the United States, the Allied Forces had access to more and more pilots and aircraft. The threat from the sky increased over Germany. Until June 1944, the Allied Forces were only able to attack Germany from the skies, which they did often. British and American bombers attacked industries that were of great importance to the warfare. Strategic harbours and industries in the Netherlands were also often targeted. For example, the harbour of IJmuiden and the Rijkswerf in Den Helder.

The Allied Forces also bombed German cities to break civilians’ spirits. This to no great success. Justification for these actions is still questionable to this day.


At the start of the war, the Luftwaffe had the upper hand. The swift occupation of Western Europe was largely due to Germany's dominance in the air. Fighter planes and bombers supported the German tank and infantry units, allowing them to move very quickly. Cargo planes were able to drop landing forces far behind the front lines. Taking over the government centre in the Netherlands failed. The bombing of Rotterdam broke the resistance. The Netherlands surrendered and The Hague was occupied by German troops after all.

After Germany had taken over Western Europe, the Luftwaffe immediately set course for England. London was bombed on a regular basis. Between 10 and 31 October 1940, British and German pilots fought over the airspace. This fight is known as the Battle of Britain. After this battle, the German air force’s dominance came to an end yet, with 500 bombers, they still managed to completely annihilate the British industrial city of Coventry on 14 November 1940. More than 500 civilians were killed during this attack.