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Key Battles of American History

Key Battles of American History

War has played a key role in the history of the United States from the nation?s founding right down to the present. Wars made the U. S. independent, kept it together, increased its size, and established it as a global superpower. Understanding America?s wars is essential for understanding American history. In the Key Battles of American History, host James Early discusses American history through the lens of the most important battles of America?s wars. James is an Adjunct Professor of History at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX. He has published one book and two scholarly articles. He is also the cohost (with Scott Rank) of the Presidential Fight Club, Key Battles of the Civil War, Key Battles of the Revolutionary War, and Key Battles of World War I podcasts.

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American Bombers in the Pacific Theater

In May 1944, the US unveiled a new weapon, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber. It was bigger and faster than the B-17, it had a greater range, and it could carry a heavier bomb load (8-10 tons). Despite many early problems, by early 1945, B-29s were causing heavy damage on Japanese cities in the firebombing campaign led by General Curtis LeMay. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the controversial policy of firebombing, including its background, its execution, and its results.
2021-10-06
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American Submarines in the Pacific

In this episode, James and Scott take a break from the narrative of battles to take a deep dive (pun intended!) into the topic of American submarines in the Pacific War. Due to technical problems, early submarine torpedoes seldom destroyed their targets. By mid-1944, however, these problems had largely been solved, with devastating results for Japanese merchant vessels. From then on, US submarines destroyed 200,000 tons of Japanese shipping per month and were threatening Japan?s war industries. According to historian Max Hastings, ?No other combatant force as small as the U. S. Navy?s submarine flotillas and their 16,000 men achieved a comparable impact upon the war anywhere in the world.? Join James and Scott as they discuss the fascinating world of submarines.
2021-09-29
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Leyte Gulf (Key Battle 7), Part Two

In the last episode, we saw that the Japanese fleet, despite suffering some initial setbacks at the hands of the Americans, were still pressing hard toward the American invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf. Due to a major communication breakdown, the US Navy had left the San Bernardino Strait unguarded, so the way to the American invasion fleet was wide open. Would the Japanese fleet be able to capitalize on the American mistake? In this episode, James and Scott discuss the final stages of the battle of Leyte Gulf, as well as the American effort to recapture Leyte, Luzon, and the other Philippine Islands.
2021-09-22
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Leyte Gulf (Key Battle 7), Part One

After their overwhelming victories at the Philippine Sea and the Mariana Islands, American military leaders faced several options for their next target. Due in large part to lobbying by General MacArthur, they chose the Philippines. Japan?s leadership knew that losing the Philippines would mean the severing of the supply line from the Dutch East Indies to the home islands, so they were determined to stop the American invasion. Join James and Scott as they discuss the Japanese navy?s attempt to destroy the American invasion fleet in a ?decisive battle.?
2021-09-15
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Philippine Sea (Key Battle 6)

While the American attack on Saipan was still in progress, the Japanese Pacific fleet launched an attack on the American fleet, hoping to halt the invasion and to destroy the American fleet in a final, decisive battle. The Japanese fleet was powerful, but it was no match for Admiral Raymond Spruance?s Fifth Fleet, which destroyed so many Japanese planes and ships that the battle became known as the ?Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.? In this episode, James and Scott discuss this dramatic and epic battle, along with the subsequent American capture of the islands of Guam and Tinian.
2021-09-08
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Saipan (Key Battle 5)

In June 1944, the U. S. launched its Marianas campaign, beginning with an amphibious assault on the key island of Saipan. After more than three bloody weeks of fighting, culminating in a massive banzai charge and the horrific suicides of thousands of civilians, the Americans controlled the island. Join James and Scott as they discuss the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater up to that point, a battle which gave the U. S. an air base within bombing range of the Japanese home islands.
2021-09-01
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America Moves Closer to Japan

In the fall of 1943, top Japanese leaders decided to pull Japan?s defensive perimeter back closer to Japan, in an effort to stop the American juggernaut. American and other Allied forces continued to press forward, taking Biak in the southwestern Pacific and the Caroline Islands (including the key Japanese air/naval base of Truk) in the central Pacific. After these victories, American planners set their sights on a key target even closer to Japan: The Mariana island chain. In this episode, James and Scott discuss Japan?s ?New Operational Policy? and the allied conquests of Truk and the Caroline Islands. They conclude with a comparison of the main American and Japanese fleets that would be facing off in the next campaign.
2021-08-25
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The Solomons, the Gilberts, and the Marshalls

In June 1943, American forces kicked off Operation Cartwheel, an attack on additional islands in the Solomons chain and parts of New Britain and New Guinea, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. At the same time, Admiral Ernest King decided to launch a second major offensive under Admiral Nimitz? command that would work its way across the Central Pacific. This new invasion force would be supported by the Third Fleet, the most powerful naval force ever assembled at the time. Join James and Scott as they discuss Operation Cartwheel, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (most notably the bloody Battle of Tarawa), and the attack on the Marshall Islands.
2021-08-18
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The Tide Turns: July 1942 - August 1943

Between August 1942 and June 1944, no ?Key Battles? (at least in James? reckoning!) occurred...but that of course does not mean that nothing happened! During the time between the Guadalcanal and Saipan campaigns, the U. S. and its allies launched a series of smaller campaigns to gradually push back the Japanese. In this episode, James and Scott discuss several key Allied efforts that occurred between July 1942 and August 1943, including the Kokoda Track Campaign, the Makin Raid, and the attack on the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. Also discussed are the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and the American attempt to kill Admiral Yamamoto.
2021-08-11
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Japanese and American Sailors

The Pacific War was dominated by the navy. Without the hundreds of thousands of sailors who manned the thousands of ships on both sides, there would have been no land battles. In this episode, written mostly by Sean McIver, James and Scott discuss the life of a common sailor on both the Japanese and the American side. Pacific Theater sailors endured cramped quarters, hot temperatures, and extended periods of mind-numbing boredom, punctuated by brief periods of terror. Climb aboard a ship with your James and Scott and enjoy the ride. Anchors aweigh!
2021-08-04
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Soldiers, Marines and Aviators

In this and the next episode, James and Scott take a break from the military narrative to zoom in and take a look at the lives and experiences of common soldiers, marines, and pilots on both the Japanese and American sides. What backgrounds did they come from? What was their training like? What did they wear, carry, and eat? James and Scott discuss these and other questions to help you understand what it was like to be on the front lines and in the air over them.
2021-07-28
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Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 4

After the failed October Japanese attack on Henderson Field and the American fleet?s repeated prevention of Japanese efforts to reinforce and resupply the island, the Japanese army on Guadalcanal became increasingly hungry, disease-ridden, and depleted in numbers. After successful American attacks on the eastern part of the island (the ?Long Patrol?) and the key position of Mt. Austen in the center of the island, the Japanese commander faced two alternatives: evacuate, or be wiped out. What would he choose, and how would it work out? In this episode, James and Scott answer this question and many others as they wrap up the epic Guadalcanal campaign.
2021-07-21
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Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 3

In October and November of 1942, the Japanese fleet near Guadalcanal kept trying to bring supplies and reinforcements to the island, while the American navy tried to stop this. As a result, no fewer than three naval engagements occurred in these two months: the Battle of Cape Esperance, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the epic Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Also, in late October, two Japanese forces launched another attack on Henderson Field, the American airfield. Would the attack succeed? Listen and find out!
2021-07-14
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Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 2

In the first week after their landing, the Americans seized the Japanese airstrip and constructed a perimeter around it. But in the next month, the Japanese launched two attacks to try to regain it. The second one nearly succeeded. In this episode, James and Scott narrate these two attacks (known, respectively, as the Battle of the Tenaru and the Battle of Bloody Ridge (or Edson?s Ridge) as well as the continuing naval battle around the island, especially the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
2021-07-07
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Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 1

After overwhelmingly defeating the Japanese fleet at Midway, American military leaders decided to go on the offensive. The first major target would be a group of islands in the eastern part of the Solomon Islands, the most prominent of which was Guadalcanal. Japanese forces had begun constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal, and the Americans hoped to seize the airfield, convert it into an American one, and expel the Japanese from the island. The Japanese, however, refused to play along. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the planning and buildup toward the Guadalcanal campaign, the initial American landing, and the disastrous (for the Allies) naval Battle of Savo Island.
2021-06-30
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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT- Beyond the Big Screen

2021-06-25
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Midway (Key Battle 3)

Thanks to the American code breakers at ?Station Hypo? on Oahu, led by the brilliant and quirky Joe Rochefort, American naval leaders knew of Yamamoto?s plan to attack Midway. This knowledge turned hunter into prey and prey into hunter. When Fleet Commander Chuichi Nagumo and the Japanese attack fleet arrived, they discovered they had sailed into an ambush. The result was the crucial Battle of Midway, in which it could be argued that the direction of the Pacific War changed in just five minutes. Join James and Scott as they narrate the exciting and decisive Battle of Midway.
2021-06-23
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Yamamoto Rolls the Dice

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 inflicted great damage on the American Pacific Fleet, but it left one group of American ships untouched: the aircraft carriers. In early 1942, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto decided to finish the job that his fleet had begun the previous December. Yamamoto authored a plan to send his fleet toward Midway Island. There, he hoped to lure the American carriers to their destruction and to capture Midway, establishing a powerful Japanese air and naval base only 1100 miles from Midway. This would force the Americans to the negotiating table...or would it? In this episode, James and Scott discuss the details of Yamamoto?s bold but risky plan to project Japanese power further westward. They also discuss the major types of ships and planes used by both navies in early 1942.
2021-06-16
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The Coral Sea (Key Battle 2)

Following up on their stunning military successes of late 1941 and early 1942, Japan?s leaders decided to capture the key Allied port of Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea. They also hoped to cut off the critical American supply line from Hawaii to Australia. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, however, American codebreakers had broken enough of the Japanese naval code to realize the Imperial Navy?s plans. As a result, when the Japanese fleet arrived at the Coral Sea, an American squadron was there to meet them. Listen as James and Scott discuss the key battle that resulted: The Battle of the Coral Sea.
2021-06-09
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The Japanese Blitzkrieg

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they were just getting started. Over the next 5 months, Japan rapidly and overwhelmingly conquered several European and colonial possessions in southeast Asia, including Guam, Malaya, Wake Island, Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. At the same time, they inflicted several defeats on Allied naval forces. They were then faced with several alternatives for their next move. In this episode, James and Scott narrate this period of rapid Japanese expansion, including the famous ?Doolittle Raid? and the infamous ?Bataan Death March.?
2021-06-02
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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT - The History of the Papacy

2021-05-29
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America Gears Up for War

Between 1939 and 1941, the United States began increasing the size of its military forces while it ramped up war production. After Pearl Harbor, these processes went into overdrive, with the result that several million Americans served in uniform in the war years, while America quickly became the world?s greatest industrial and military power. In the US, unemployment nearly disappeared, while African-Americans, Latinos, and women found unprecedented employment opportunities. At the same time, the US government interned thousands of Japanese-Americans for no reason other than their ancestry. In this episode, James and Scott describe how the US went from being a relatively isolationist power to the world?s ?Arsenal of Democracy.? They also give an overview of life on the home front during the war.
2021-05-26
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Pearl Harbor (Key Battle 1)

On December 7, 1941, Japanese air and naval forces launched a surprise attack on the American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing 2400 Americans and heavily damaging the US Pacific Fleet. How did this happen? In this episode, James and Scott tell the gripping story of how Japan managed to keep the attack a secret, despite having to traverse several thousand miles of ocean. They also discuss the multiple American intelligence failures and the aftermath of the attack.
2021-05-19
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The Road to Pearl Harbor

Japan?s complicated relationship with the United States stretches back much further than 1940. The relationship, which began nearly a century prior to World War II, was often fraught with tension. Things reached a breaking point in 1941, when the US began to push back against Japanese expansion. In this episode, James and Scott give a brief history of Japanese-American relations from 1853 to 1941, and they chronicle the Japanese decision to launch a surprise attack on the American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
2021-05-12
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Japan?s Strategy; Relations with the US

In order to meet the needs of its expanding population and empire, Japan?s leaders began looking hungrily to the south and east. Three years after invading China, Japanese military forces occupied French Indochina. This, combined with American support for China, put Japan on a collision course with the US. Would the two powers be able to avoid war? In this episode, James and Scott tell the story of the dangerous ?dance? between imperial Japan and the United States in 1940 and 1941.
2021-05-05
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The Rise of Imperial Japan

As late as the 1860s, Japan was a semi-feudal nation, largely cut off from the rest of the world. But within a few decades, the nation had transformed itself into a major industrial power with one of the world?s most well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led militaries. Between 1905 and 1941, Japan defeated Russia, gained several former German colonies in the Pacific, seized Manchuria, and invaded and conquered much of coastal China. How did Japan accomplish all this? In this episode, James and Scott explain Japan?s meteoric rise to world power status.
2021-04-28
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Intro to Key Battles of the Pacific War

In this episode, James introduces the second season of Key Battles of American History. The topic will be Key Battles of the Pacific Theater (WW2). Returning as James' co-host is Scott Rank. Enjoy!
2021-04-21
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The Lost Battalion

James and Sean discuss the 2001 made-for-television movie The Lost Battalion, in which an American battalion becomes isolated and surrounded by German forces during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918.
2021-04-07
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Lawrence of Arabia

James and Sean discuss the epic, multi award-winning 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, based on British Colonel T. E. Lawrence?s autobiographical book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence assists a group of Arab tribesmen in their effort to break free of Ottoman rule.
2021-03-31
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War Horse

James and Sean discuss the 2011 film War Horse, in which a young Englishman struggles to be reunited with his beloved horse, who has been sent to the Western Front and has experienced several trying experiences there.
2021-03-24
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James Patreon Announcement

2021-03-22
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Sergeant York

James and Sean discuss the classic 1941 film Sergeant York, which tells the fascinating story of Alvin York, one of the most decorated American soldiers of the First World War.
2021-03-17
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1917

James and Sean discuss the award-winning 2019 film 1917, in which two British soldiers are sent on a dangerous mission to save another unit from disaster.
2021-03-10
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Beneath Hill 60

James and Sean discuss the 2010 Australian film Beneath Hill 60, which tells the fascinating story of an Australian tunneling company trying to undermine the German position at the Ypres Salient in the Western Front.
2021-03-03
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They Shall Not Grow Old

James and Sean discuss the outstanding 2018 Peter Jackson documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, which combines interviews with British World War I veterans with colorized and slowed-down footage from the war.
2021-02-24
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Paths of Glory

James and Sean discuss the classic 1957 anti-war film Paths of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas. In this film, a French colonel tries to save three of his men who are sentenced to be executed for cowardice.
2021-02-17
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Gallipoli

James and Sean discuss the 1981 Australian film Gallipoli, which tells the story of a group of Australian young men who are introduced to the horrors of war at the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli.
2021-02-17
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All Quiet on the Western Front

In this episode, James and special guest Sean McIver discuss the classic 1930 anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front. Based on the novel of the same name, All Quiet on the Western Front set the standard for all future war movies, especially those which present war in a negative light.
2021-02-17
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Season 1 Introduction

In Season 1 of "Key Battles of American History," James is joined with special guest Sean McIver to discuss their favorite WW1 films.
2021-02-17
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Intro to Key Battles of American History

In this episode, host James Early introduces the series, discussing the format, the topics to be discussed in future episodes, and everything else you need to know.
2021-02-08
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