Before the outbreak of war, the US Navy and the Marines had put considerable effort into developing a doctrine to support amphibious operations from ship to shore gunfire. When the marines landed on Tarawa in November 1943, it would be the first serious test of this doctrine.
In this episode, I?m joined by Donald Mitchener to discuss the doctrine and how it developed from those initial assault landings on Tarawa through to the end of the war.
Donald is a lecturer at the University of North Texas and author of ??U.S. Naval Gunfire Support in the Pacific War.
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I?ve an incredible story for you in this episode of Shanghai born John Robin Greaves, ?Jack?, who emigrated to Australia in 1939 and volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force to serve overseas. The army would send Jack to the Middle East then to Greece, where he would be captured Germans.
Australian ABC journalist Stephen Hucheon has researched his uncle?s story and produced a fantastic article for ABC available on their website.
You can find the full article here:
This discussion is part of a project looking at Australian's in the Mediterranean during WWII. Find out more at historyguild.org.
If you enjoyed the episode with Richard James, when we discussed The Australian's fight the French in Syria and the Lebanon, Richard has written an article on the topic for the history guild. You can find it here:
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I recently read David Colley?s The Folly of Generals: How Eisenhower's Broad Front Strategy Lengthened World War II.David has analysed some of the missed opportunities the allies had in 1944-45 in Europe. He argues that had Eisenhower been more adept at taking advantage of several potential breakthroughs in the Siegfried Line in the autmun of 1944 the war in the European Theatre of Operations might have ended sooner.
It was such a fascinating read, so I thought I?d get David onto the podcast to examine Eisenhower?s broad front policy.
David P. Colley is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for many national publications, including Army, World War II, American Heritage, and The New York Times. Among his books on military history are The Road to Victory, which received the Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Book Award in 2000, Blood for Dignity, and Safely Rest. He has appeared on the History Channel and Eye on Books. Colley served in the ordnance branch of the U.S. Army.
Since starting the podcast, I?ve looked at the aspects of the war from the point of view of various countries. But, one glaring omission has been any Australian narrative of the war.
The Australians fought across the world on the land, sea and in the air air; notably in the Pacific and the Middle East, which is what we?ll be discussing in this episode.
With the fall of France, her overseas territories predominantly remained loyal to the French Vichy regime. This was true for Syria and Lebanon. To the south were the British in Egypt.
With Rommel in the Western Desert and Germans fostering an uprising in Iraq, the British feared Germany might take control over of Syria and Lebanon. From there, the Nazis could supply the rebels in Iraq and threaten Egypt from two sides. Churchill ordered General Wavell to go on the offensive and take the French territories. The British didn?t envisage the French putting up much of a fight.
The Australian 7th Division would make up the bulk of the allied attacking force.
Joining me is Richard James. Richard is the author of Australia?s War with France: The Campaign in Syria and Lebanon 1941.
I'd like to thank David Phillipson, president of the Australian-based History Guild, charity which promotes historical literacy for all. David reached out to suggest I have a chat with James. If you?re interested in finding out more about the History Guild, go to historyguild.org.
As the course of the second world war turned against the Third Reich some radical proposals and inventive designs, were put forward by armaments manufacturers, scientists, technicians, aircrew and even private individuals to the German Air Ministry for consideration as weapons to be utilised by the Luftwaffe. Some proposals were destined never to leave the drawing board, while others not only underwent trials but were issued to operational units and used in action.
In the episode I?m joined by Robert Forsyth.
Robert is an aviation historian who some of you may recall I chatted to in episode 52, when we looked at Luftwaffe units working with the U-Boats. Robert has a sumptuous new book available from Osprey Luftwaffe Special Weapons 1942?45.
Buoyed by their victories over Poland and France, on the 22 June 1941 the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, and over 3 millions men advanced over the border to attack Russia. The opening of the Eastern Front would be one of Hilter?s most momentous decisions of WWII.
Having only signed a nonaggression pact with German in 1939, Stalin was taken by surprise. The opening weeks of the offensive were wildly successful for the Germans, but as the Panzer formations rapidly advanced the infantry struggled, on foot, to keep up. At Kiev, the Germans would take over half a million Russian soldiers prisoner. Barbarossa was a campaign where one Panzer Divisional commander queried if the Germans were ?winning themselves to death?.
Joining me for this episode is now regular of the podcast Jonathan Trigg. In episode 55 and 77 Jon and I looked at foreign recruits to the SS, in 102 we looked at D Day from the German perspective and in episode 115115 ? To VE Day Through German Eyes we talked about the end of the war for Germany. Jonathan has been busy and has a new book available, Barbarossa Through German Eyes.
In Britain, after the fall of France, there was the fear that the Germans may attempt a channel crossing and invade in 1940. If the Wehrmacht got shore in the south of England, facing them would have been a series of ?Stop Lines?.
These were defensives which comprised a series of pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles. They hoped these static defences would hold up any German advance long enough for the British to bring forward a mobile reserve.
During WWII this network of fortifications was spread across the country.
Protecting Britain from an invasion in Devon and Cornwall was the Taunton Stop line in the South West of the country.
To tell me all about Stop Lines is Andrew Powell-Thomas. Andrew is a military historian specialising in the military history of the West Country. He is also the author of The West Country?s Last Line of Defence: Taunton Stop Line.
On the heavy bombers the role of the crew members was symbiotic. The pilot needed the flight engineer to fly; the navigator got the plane to the target, and it was the bomb aimer that delivered the ordinance.
Wartime films give the impression of the bomb aimer's job being simply to look through the bombsight and press the button to release the bombs at the right time. In actual fact, their job is much more sophisticated. They aided the navigator, took readings to be dialled into their computer connected bomb sight, and often they might also be expected to man a machine gun in the plane's nose.
In this episode I?m joined by Colin Pateman. If you recall in episode 76 I talked to Colin about Flight Engineers. Well, he?s been busy since then and has just completed a new book Aiming for Accuracy which focuses on bomb aimers in the RAF.
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Alan Brooke would take over as the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff in December 1941. For the rest of the war Brooke would organise and coordinate the British military effort, in such a role acted as Winston Churchill?s senior military advisor.
Brooke?s relationship with Churchill could be tempestuous. Brooke was not a ?yes man? and would stand up to Churchill. The two might argue, but Churchill never fired him and appreciated his candour.
History now often overlooks the contribution Brooke made to the war, in favour of commanders who were happy to seize the limelight. He is very much the forgotten Field Marshal.
Joining me is Andrew Sangster.
Andrew is the author of Alan Brooke: Churchill's Right-Hand Critic: A Reappraisal of Lord Alanbrooke. This is a new appraisal and biography of Brooke.
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When France capitulated in 1940 and the Vichy government came to power many of the French colonial possessions remained loyal to the new regime. The same was true for the Island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
In this episode I?m joined by Russell Phillips.
Russell?s book A Strange Campaign narrates the story of the battle for Madagascar, where British troops would fight the French for possession of the island.
If you want to hear more from Russell, spool back through the WW2 Podcast feed to episode 27. We discussed Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice as a reprisal by the Germans. Not only was the village physically destroyed all the visible remains were removed.
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Everyone remembers the role of Churchill and Roosevelt throughout the war, but there was a third man key to their relationship and of the three of them the only one to remain in power at the end of the war in August 1945.
Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada, the largest British Dominion and America's closest neighbour. By the start of the war, King knew both FDR and he?d been friends with Churchill since first meeting in 1905. He would serve as a lynchpin between the great powers, yet is now often overlooked.
Joining me is Neville Thompson.
Neville is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Western Ontario, where he taught modern British and European history. He is also the author of the wonderful book The Third Man: Churchill, Roosevelt, MacKenzie King, and the Untold Friendships That Won WWII which recounts the relationship between the three men based on King?s personal diaries.
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looking at the British Army in North Africa, its tactics and training in an effort to explain the difficulties the 8th Army had fighting the Afrika Korps.
Jame?s book was released last year but I?ve only recently managed to find the time to read his book 8th Army vs Rommel. And what a cracking book it is?
It's a simple question, how do you knock out a Panther tank? When the 'boffins' in Britain got hold of a Panther it's the question they were tasked with finding an answer for.
Using official reports and documents, Craig Moore has been through the archives piecing together all the faults that the British saw in the German Panther during WWII. In this episode, I discuss with him the chinks that were found in the amour of the German tank.
Craig is the author of How to Kill a Panther Tank and How to Kill a Tiger Tank.
'In the years after World War I, the defeated and much-reduced German Army developed new clothing and personal equipment that drew upon the lessons learned in the trenches. In place of the wide variety of uniforms and insignia that had been worn by the Imperial German Army, a standardized approach was followed, culminating in the uniform items introduced in the 1930s as the Nazi Party came to shape every aspect of German national life.
The outbreak of war in 1939 prompted further adaptations and simplifications of uniforms and insignia, while the increasing use of camouflaged items and the accelerated pace of weapons development led to the appearance of new clothing and personal equipment. Medals and awards increased in number as the war went on, with grades being added for existing awards and new decorations introduced to reflect battlefield feats.
Specialists such as mountain troops, tank crews and combat engineers were issued distinctive uniform items and kit, while the ever-expanding variety of fronts on which the German Army fought - from the North African desert to the Russian steppe - prompted the rapid development of clothing and equipment for different climates and conditions. In addition, severe shortages of raw materials and the demands of clothing and equipping an army that numbered in the millions forced the simplification of many items and the increasing use of substitute materials in their manufacture.'
Joining me is Dr Stephen Bull.
Stephen is the author of Ospreys publishings sumptuous German Army Uniforms of World War II.
Since the HBO WWII miniseries Band of Brothers aired in 2001, Major Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne has garnered international acclaim. His exploits hit key moments of the North Western European campaign in 1944-45 as Winter?s took part in D-Day, Operation Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge. A modest hero, he epitomizes the notion of dignified leadership.
Winters was a fairly prolific letter writer, one person he wrote to regularly was a young lady called DeEtta Almon. After the war they lost touch but upon the release of Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers, DeEtta contacted Winters and presented him with all the letters he had written to her during the war.
In this episode I?m joined by Erik Dorr and Jared Frederick.
Erik is the owner and curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, which houses a Dick Winter Collection.
Jared Frederick is professional historian and lecturer, with Erik they have written Hang Tough a unique view of Dick Winters based round the letters to DeEtta Almon that are now housed at the Gettysburg Museum of History.
The common narrative of the war often completely overlooks Germany?s attempts to run spies in Britain. In actual fact, for more or less the whole of the war the German secret service, the Abwehr, were sending agents into Britain.
In this episode I?m joined by Bernard O?Connor, author of Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow up Britain to discuss German espionage activities.
At the start of 1944 the German army on the Eastern Front was reeling after suffering defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk. Hitler was keen to hold on to the territory occupied by the Germans, but all the while the Wehrmacht was forced to give up ground to the Red Army.
In this episode we?re going to be looking at the fighting throughout 1944 for Army Group South in the Ukraine and Romania.
I?m joined by Prit Buttar.
Prit is the author of a number of books recounting the fighting in Russia during both world wars, his latest is The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944.
In previous episodes we?ve touched upon the Spanish civil war, when the war came to an end there was a large number of displaced Spanish living in France and to a less extent other Europe countries. With the second world war looming, the French began to recruit these displaced men into their armed forces.
When France fell in 1940 a sizeable number found themselves in Britain, where they were recruited in to the British Army. But they weren?t just in Britain, in North Africa and the Middle East spaniards signed up to fight with the British.
In this episode I?m joined by military historian and hispanist Sean Scullion to explore who these men were and their stories.
During the interwar years the US army had worked to develop a light weapons carrier, but by 1940 the ?perfect? vehicle had not been found. The war in Europe focused minds in the American army and in June it compiled a list of requirements for a revolutionary new truck to replace the mule as the Army's primary method of moving troops and small payloads.
In this episode we discuss how the American Bantam Car Company, Willys Overland-Motors and the Ford Motor Company stepped up to the challenge and developed a new vehicle which would eventually become the Jeep.
I?m Joined by Paul R. Bruno.
Paul has spent twenty years researching, writing and studying early Jeep history. His first book was Project Management in History: The First Jeep, this led him to his next book The Original Jeeps.
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Rome, the ?Eternal City?, had a peculiar war. With Italy an axis nation it was a target for allied bombers but in the centre is the Vatican, home of the Pope. A neutral state within the capital of a belligerent nation. In deference to the Pope allied bombing operations were curtailed, perhaps more than they might otherwise have have been.
When the Italians secretly brokered an armistice with the allies in September 1943, Rome was occupied by the Germans. With the Germans in charge, Italian men would be deported as forced labour and the Jewish population of Rome rounded up to be sent to concentration camps.
At the same time the Vatican became a magnet for escaped Prisoners of War who would seek refuge inside the walls of the holy city.
I?m joined by Victor Failmezger.
Victor is a retired US Naval Officer who served in Rome as the Assistance Naval Attaché. He is also the author of Rome City in Terror: The Nazi Occupation 1943-44.
Richard Burt was part of the the 746th Far East Air Force Band, based in the Philippines. At the end of WWII just before the band were split up, using a single microphone they recorded a final performance to magnetic wire. Richard Burt he brought these recordings home and had them transferred to 78rpm discs. Burt squirrelled away these discs and were largely forgotten until they were rediscovered after he passed away.
In this episode I?m talking to Jason Burt about his grandfather Richard Burt.
Any long protracted conflict is reliant upon the resources that can be brought bear, in which case war is not just about military success. In this episode of the WW2 podcast we?ll be looking at economics and the economists who shaped the second world war and the post war world.
This story goes beyond simply looking at treasury departments of the belligerent nations, the OSS had a department focusing on the economies of other countries, looking for weaknesses and economists used. Others used their mathematical brilliance in the development of the nuclear bomb.
I'm joined by Alan Bollard, author of Economists at War: How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars
Alan is a Professor of Economics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He formerly managed the APEC - Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - the largest regional economic integration organisation in the world, and was previously the New Zealand Reserve Bank Governor, Secretary of the New Zealand Treasury, and Chairman of the New Zealand Commerce Commission.
In previous episodes 77 and 55 we looked at foreign troops serving in the German army during WWII, in this episode we?re going to be discussing the Georgians who came over from the Russian army to fight with the Wehrmacht. A large number of these men would eventually be posted to the Dutch island of Texel to man the Atlantic war. When the war in Europe ended on the 7th May 1945 the fighting on Texel would continue...
I?m joined by Eric Lee.
Eric is the author of Night of the Bayonets: The Texel Uprising and Hitler?s Revenge, April-May 1945.
In episode 64 I discussed the start of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign with Jeffery Cox. We left that discussion of the campaign unfinished, the Americans were in control of the airfield on Guadalcanal but the Marines had no way secured the island. The US navy had suffered a number of serious losses, including the carrier Hornet and the carrier Enterprise had been seriously damaged forcing her to withdraw for repairs.
Jeff has now finished his second book in the series Blazing Star, Setting Sun, so I?ve got him back to talk about the end of the campaign on Guadalcanal.
The skill and bravery of the Doolittle raiders during WWII, who bombed Tokyo in 1942 captured the American public?s imagination, but not all the crews returned. Eight US flyers became Japanese prisoners of war who were tortured, put on trial for war crimes and found guilty? Not all of these men would make it home.
In this episode we?re not going to be talking directly about the Doolittle raid but rather focus on the post war, war crimes trial of a number of the Japanese officers who were connected with the treatment of the Doolittle flyers that became Prisoners of War.
Joining me is Michel Paradis, author of Last Mission to Tokyo.
Michel is a specialist in International Law and Human Rights and has worked for over a decade with the US Department of Defence. He is also a lecturer at Columbia Law School.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said there was only one campaign of the Second World War that gave him sleepless nights, that was the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Battle began on 3 September 1939 and lasted 2074 days until 8 May 1945, when Germany surrendered. With over 70,000 allied seamen killed, lost on 3,500 merchant vessels and 175 warships. This was the longest continuous campaign of the war.
Matched against them was the Kreigsmarine. While German surface ships would sally out, this campaign is known for the u-boats that would prey upon allied convoys.
Joining me today is Brian Walter, a retired army officer, recipient of the Excellence in Military History Award from the US Army Center for Military History and the Association of the United States Army. Brian is the Author of The Longest Campaign: Britain?s Maritime Struggle in the Atlantic and Northwest Europe, 1939-45.
After D-Day, the spotlight on the allied fighting was focused on North West Europe, yet the fighting in Italy carried on often overlooked. In this episode we?re going to be looking at the Canadians battling across what should have been good tank country at the end of 1944.
I?m joined by Canadian military historian Mark Zuehlke, author of ?The River Battles: Canada?s Final Campaign in World War II Italy?.
If you want more of Mark and I chatting we discussed the Dieppe Raid, way back in episode 5!
In episode 107, I talked to Ian Mitchell about the Battle of the Peaks and Longstop Hill in North Africa. Ian subsequently emailed me suggesting I talk to Sam Wallace, a post graduate researcher at Leeds University, who was working on some interesting stuff; Sam's PhD is titled The Allied Sandbox: The Tunisian Campaign and the Development of Allied Warfighting Methods, 1942-43.
After chatting with Sam, we decided to look at his MA thesis which is titled Arme Blanche to Armoured Warfare: The Process of Mechanisation within the British Cavalry and the Construction of British Tank Doctrine, c.1925-45,which covers the interwar decision to mechanise the British cavalry arm, and the impacts this decision had on the resulting development of British armoured doctrine, regimental identity and the effectiveness of British armour in the Second World War.
In 1944, Ira Barnet took off from an airfield in New Guinea. Flying a B-25 Mitchell, from the 48th Tactical Fight Squadron, Ira and the crew were on a regular mission to harry any Japanese shipping they came across. Attacking a barge the Japanese managed to get some luck shots on Ira?s plane. Attempting to nurse the Mitchell back to base it became obvious the plane wasn't going to make it. Ira was forced to make an emergency landing in a jungle swamp, miles behind enemy lines.
In this episode we?re looking at the ordeal the crew went through and the rescue mission that was launched in an attempt to bring the boys back home.
I?m joined by Bas Krueger.
Bas is an aviation historian and author of Kais, which recounts the story and Bas?s own attempts to locate the B-25 over 70 years later...
Bertram Ramsey was the mastermind behind the evacuation of the BEF from France in those crucial weeks at the end of May and the start of June in 1940. It was his planning, determination and leadership which helped evacuate around 338,000 men from Dunkirk. But for this Royal Navy Officer, still officially retired, it was just one landmark operation he was involved with. Ramsey would go on to plan and take part in the invasion of North Africa, Sicily and Normandy; for Overlord he would be in overall command of the naval component of the D-Day landings, Neptune.
But, Admiral Bertram Ramsay is not now a household name, overshadowed by some of his contemporaries. Hopefully in this episode we?ll try and put the record straight.
I?m joined by Brian Izzard.
Brian?s book Mastermind of Dunkirk and D-Day: The Vision of Admiral Bertram Ramsay is the first major biography of Ramsay for 50 years!
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On 6th August 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets, flying the ?Enola Gay? a B-29 Superfortress named after Tibbets?s mother, dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The bomb, ?little-boy?, devastated the city; exploding with the energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. The explosion instantly killed thousands of people and in the next few months tens of thousands more would die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition.
On the 9th August Nagasaki would be the next city to be hit by an atomic bomb.
The effects of the atomic bombs shocked even the US military. Even before the Japanese surrender, the US government and military had begun a secret propaganda and information suppression campaign to hide the devastating nature of these experimental weapons. For nearly a year the cover-up worked?until New Yorker journalist John Hersey got into Hiroshima and managed to report the truth to the world.
Hersey?s story would shape the postwar narrative of the atomic bombs, and the US government?s response has helped frame the justification for dropping the bombs which comes down to us today.
I?m joined by Lesley Blume author of the excellent Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.
After the fall of France, Germany turned its attention to Britain. The Battle of Britain is the story of the hard pressed RAF struggling against an enemy, which up to that point hadn?t been stopped. Immortalised on celluloid in the 1969 film, with a star studded cast, Guy Hamilton?s Battle of Britain is very much an anglo centric view and even nearly 30 years after the war the narrative leans heavily on the wartime propaganda. The story of the Battle of Britain is much more complicated, that is not taking anything away from those men Churchill referred to as ?the ?few?, in fact in many instances it makes their story more remarkable.
This may well be a topic we come back to from time to time, but to start us off we?re going to look at those crucial summer months in 1940 from the German perspective, asking how did they view it and what was their experience?
Joining me today is Douglas Dildy and Paul Crickmore authors of To Defeat the Few: The Luftwaffe?s campaign to destroy RAF Fighter Command, August?September 1940.
Doug is a retired US Air Force colonel who spent nine of his 26-year career in Western Europe and retired with approximately 3,200 hours of fast jet time, almost half of that as an F-15 Eagle pilot.
He attended the US Armed Forces Staff College and USAF Air War College and holds a Masters Degree in Political Science. Doug has authored several campaign studies as well as several articles covering the Dutch, Danish and Norwegian air arms' defence against the German invasions of 1940.
Paul is an aviation historian and former air traffic controller, he?s penned numerous books including a number on the SR-71 Blackbird and F-15.
The Spanish civil war has been highlighted as an important prelude to WWII with Germany, Italy and Russia providing men and materiel for the Republican and Nationalist forces. Augmenting this were other foreign fighters forming the international Brigades. In this episode we?ll explore this conflict to see how much influence it had on the Second World War.
I?m joined by Alex Clifford, author of The People?s Army In the Spanish Civil War and co-host of the podcast History's Most, a podcast that delves into interesting, under-reported and controversial topics in history. In each episode they take a 'most' or 'worst' in history and investigate it, from History's Most Guilty man, to most Unlikely victory to worst democracy. From Erich Ludendorff to the First Crusade... You should be able to find it on your podcast software of choice...
As you know I like to seek out lesser known topics of the Second World War. In this episode we?ll be looking at the British army?s Middle-East Anti-locust Unit (MEALU). Due to locust threatening local food crops in the middle east, and to prevent valuable shipping space being used to import food the unit was created, and tasked with waging war on locust.
Joining me is Athol Yates.
Athol is Assistant Professor at Institute for International and Civil Security, at the Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates. He has recently published the paper The British Military and the Anti-Locust Campaign across the Arab Peninsula including the Emirates, 1942-45
In this episode we?re looking at the British decryption efforts centred around Bletchley Park. I?m sure to some extent you?re all aware of the German cypher machine Enigma which proved so challenging to crack, but how much more do you know of British Government Code and Cypher School, which was housed at Bletchley Park during World War II.
Joining me is Dermot Turing, if the name sounds familiar he is the nephew of the now well known Alan Turing whose name is now synonymous with the cracking of the enigma code. Dermot has served as a trustee of Bletchley Park and the Turing Trust, he is author of a number of books looking at Alan Turing and codebreaking, his latest being The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park.
The old adage is ?information is power?, and in this episode we?re going to be looking at the US operations to initially obtain information that was in the public domain. Post D-Day the mission changed to both seizing books, documents and papers as the Allies advanced; then after the close of hostilities in May 1945 the operations morphed once more to collecting, seizing and sorting books. The men tasked with this job were an unlikely band of librarians, archivists, and scholars.
It?s a particularly less well known corner of the war that historian Kathy Peiss throws the spotlight on in her book Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe.
Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has examined the history of working women; working-class and interracial sexuality; leisure, style, and popular culture; the beauty industry in the U.S. and abroad; and libraries, information, and American cultural policy during World War II.
Clementine Churchill supported her husband Winston through the ups and downs of his long career. She was his most trusted confidant, counsellor and companion. Indeed it could be arguable that without his wife Clementine, Winston might never have become Prime Minister. By his own admission, the Second World War would have been ?impossible without her?.
I'm joined by Marie Benedict.
Marie is the author of Lady Clementine: A Novel.
80 years ago this month (thats May 2020, if you're reading this from the future) the Germans finally surrendered to the Allies. While there were a number different surrender ceremonies the 8 May 1945 was declared by the Western Allies to be Victory in Europe Day, VE Day (the Russians celebrate it on the 9th May).
In this episode we take a look at the closing period of the war, from September 1944 though to VE Day from the perspective of the Germans.
Regular listeners will recall last year I talked to Jonathan Trigg about D-Day and the Normandy Campaign from the German side of the lines. Well we?re going to pick up the story and discuss from September to the end of the war in May 1945, which co-incidently is the the topic of his latest book To VE-Day Through German Eyes: The Final Defeat of Nazi Germany.
In this episode we?re exploring the work of army Chaplains assigned to British Airborne units during the war. These men landed with the troops by parachute or glider, often behind enemy lines sharing the dangers and challenges of front line operations through North Africa, Sicily, Italy, D-Day and Arnhem to the crossing of the Rhine.
I?m joined by Linda Parker.
Linda has written a number of books exploring the work of British Army Chaplains, her latest is Nearer my God to Thee: Airborne Chaplains in the Second World War.
We've neglected the Battle of the Atlantic, so in this episode of the podcast we look at the how the US Navy tackled the U-Boat threat during WWII. To start with, flying long missions with just a pair of binoculars to spy an enemy sub, by the 1944 new technology was being applied to track, trace and destroy U-Boats.
Joining me is Alan Cary.
Alan is a historian specializing in military aviation and has written Sighted Sub, Sank Same: The United States Navy Air Campaign against the U-Boat.
On the 24th of March 1945, 75 years ago this year, the largest ever airborne operation swung into action. Operation Varsity involved over 16,000 paratroopers and thousands of planes, the objective was to secure the west bank of the Rhine and the bridges over the Issel. Behind them was the Monty?s 21st Army Group which was crossing the Rhine as part of Operation Plunder.
A successful crossing of the Rhine would allow the allies access to the North German Plain and ultimately to advance upon Berlin.
Joining me today is James Fenelon.
James served in the US Airborne before turning his hand to writing, he is the author of Four Hours of Fury which looks at Varsity. It?s a good read and does an excellent job of getting across the confusion of the situation for those men, once they hit the ground on that day in 1945.
"Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility. A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist - and the Soviet Union's most formidable spy."
Joining me to discuss Sorge is Owen Matthews.
Owen is the former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek Magazine and has just has just released a biography of Richard Sorge, An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin?s Master Agent. It?s a cracking read! I thoroughly enjoyed it?
In this episode we?re going to be looking at the P-47 Thunderbolt and the US 362nd Fighter Group. The P-47 was a fighter bomber and very much suited to a ground attack role, with it's eight .50 cal machine guns and it could carry a bomb load of 2,500lbs or rockets. On top of that, it could take a lot of punishment.
I?m joined by Chris Bucholtz.
Chris is an aviation historian with a number of books under his belt including Thunderbolts Triumphant: The 362nd Fighter Group vs Germany's Wehrmacht.
At the end of last year aviation historian Mathew Chapman sent me over his MA thesis, which is titled The Evolution of Professional Aviation Culture in Canada, 1939-45. In it he outlines the development of the British Commonwealth Air Training program in Canada, but the thesis goes on to discuss how veteran WWII pilots would dominate post war commercial airlines.
If you were an air passenger in the 50?s, 60?s, 70s, and into the 1980s, there was a good chance your pilot was a WWII veteran. Take Concorde, the most famous passenger plane. The first man to fly it, Brian Trubshaw, he was in Bomber Command and flew Lancasters and transports during the war. If that is not interesting enough, the retirement of these veteran pilots led to a re-evaluation of the relationships between aircrew, the effects of which (as my wife pointed out) were so fundamental they have been introduced into the health service here in the UK.
We?re all familiar with the events on that day of ?infamy?, the 7th December 1941. The Japanese launch their typhoon in the pacific with the attack on Pearl Harbour. Hours later they would invade Malaya; an operation that would outflank the British 'fortress? singapore. Japanese units would land on the Philippines and the conquest of the Dutch-East Indies (modern day indonesia) would begin. Less well known is the Japanese attack on the British territory of Hong Kong
The island had been ceded to the British in 1841, it served as a valuable harbour for ships trading with the Chinese port of Canton (now Guangzhou). Since then the colony had grown to include the Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories on the mainland, giving Hong Kong a land border with China.
We?ve looked at various early attacks made by the Japanese in December 1941, but I?ve often wondered what happened to Hong Kong? Well to answer that I?m joined by Phillip Cracknell. Phillip is a battlefield tour guide in Hong Kong as well as being the author of The Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941.
We?re in North Africa for this episode of the podcast. In late 1942 the Allies landed in Morocco and Algeria, this was operation Torch. With them landed elements of what would become First Army, comprising of British, French and American troops. It was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Anderson a dour capable, scotsman.
First Army would be tasked with moving east pushing the Germans back into Tunisia, with the goal of capturing Tunis. After a 500 mile advance, the allies reached what would become known as Long Stop Hill with its surrounding peaks, a natural upland barrier.
To guide us through the battle I?m joined by WWII historian Ian Mitchell. Ian has been piecing together the battle over the last nine years, and layed it all out in his book The Battle of the Peaks and Long Stop Hill. It is a crucial battle of the campaign which until now has been overlooked.
In this episode we?re starting with the US 110th Infantry regiment in the Ardennes and following a small number of GI?s who became POW and sent back to Germany, to ultimately work as slave labour on ?operation swallow?.
Joining me once more is military historian Mark Felton. Mark is having a busy year, if you recall we chatted to him recently about the Bridge Busters, a raid on the Dortmund-Ems canal in episode 96. In episode 73 we discussed US troops undertaking Operation Cowboy as a rescue mission to save the world famous ?spanish riding school?, and one of my favourite episodes 49 we talked about VIP POWs held by the Italians - that is a fantastic episode! And if you?ve listened to all that, don?t forget Mark is prolific on youtube with his short pieces on military history, you can find him at Mark Felton Productions.
2019 marked the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Germany and then a few weeks later, Russia. It was the event that forced Britain and France to finally declare war on Germany.
In a five week campaign the Wehrmacht fought one of the largest armies in Europe to a point where it collapsed. But the Poles were not necessarily the backward force commiting cavalry to attack tanks as often the narrative of the campaign suggests. In 1939 the Polish army could put more tanks in the field than the US military, she was exporting arms, including the Bofors gun favoured by the British.
Joining me is Robert Forczyk.
I?ve talked to Robert before when we looked at Operation Sea Lion in episode 32, and Case Red: The collapse of France in episode 59. Well, he?s back with his new book Case White: The Invasion of Poland 1939, from Osprey.
If you cast your mind back to February 2018 I discussed the experience of German fighter pilots experience in Western Europe with Patrick Eriksson, that?s episode 60. Later that same year, Patrick followed up with a second book Alarmstart East, focusing on the luftwaffe fighting over Russia (episode 85).
Patrick has now finished his trilogy of Luftwaffe books with Alarmstart South and the final defeat, closing with the German experience flying in and around the Mediterean; so North Africa, Sicily, Malta etc and through to the end of the war.
So I asked Patrick back for a chat?
If you?ve ever read about the British experience in the Deserts of North Africa during WWII, one name usually gets a mention somewhere in the narrative, that of Eric Dorman-Smith, often refered to as ?chink?.
He can be a divisive character, sometimes portrayed as a far thinking military genius whose ideas were ignored or misunderstood. To others he represents what was problematic with both the senior British commanders Wavell and Auchinleck, whose fortunes rose and fell; he was symptomatic of retreat, reorganisation, confusion and poor leadership.
The curious thing about Dorman-Smith is so little is directly written about him, he is a footnote in the books of other desert leaders and often only gets a brief mention in histories of the North Africa Campaign.
So hopefully in this episode we?ll shed some light on ?chink?. Joining me today is James Colvin.
James is currently working on a history of the 8th army pre the battle of Alamein, which will be published by Helion next year (I?ll keep you all posted when it?s released).