Dawn Patrol opens in the present day, with Eric’s wife Edith telling their great grandson Billy about Order of the Dragonfly and the Battle of Britain, and how Edith came to know Eric. Edith was a ferry pilot in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and flew Spitfires from the manufacturing plant to airfields. The rest of the novel follows the arc of the actual events of the Battle of Britain, as England made its stand against Hitler.
The Summer of 1940 begins with Eric’s father and other courageous merchant seamen joining the Royal Navy to escort soldiers from France, in the Miracle of Dunkirk. Hermann Goering becomes a central character, the leader of the German Air Force, ruthlessly subjugating Europe. He is hungry to see the Royal Air Force destroyed, but he is overconfident, and high on morphine, from an injury in 1923. Edith delivers a Spitfire to Eric, and he is smitten by the feisty ferry pilot, even as he is eager to fly a Spitfire for the first time. He is afraid of dying but goes up in the sky nonetheless. Eric also fears becoming distracted by affection on the ground, in case it should make him too cautious in combat.
Eric and the Royal Air Force face the German Air Force (the Luftwaffe) who have four times the number of planes. But Eric and the RAF pilots are fighting for their lives, to defend their families and the ones they love. President Roosevelt wants to help, but faces an election, and the Americans do not want another war. However, some Americans, such as the young Rudy Mitchell, come to England to join the Royal Air Force and do what they can to help. Winston Churchill leads the English people in a defiant stand, as England is surrounded, and the people of England send their young pilots in the air, in the hope of defending the skies.