With WW2 slipping from living memory I aim to look at different historical aspects of the Second World War.
Each month I will interview an expert on a wide range of topics looking at the history of the war.
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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. Become a patron: patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-11/the-anzacs-who-beat-the-odds-and-escaped-from-greece/100284226 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: https://historyguild.org/australias-war-with-france/ Find me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. Patreon: patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. Patron: patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. Patreon: patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. Patron: https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ww2podcast Website: https://ww2podcast.com. . .
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. Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ww2podcast Website: https://ww2podcast.com This episode is brought to you by Tactical Tea, for your supplies use promo code WW2PODCAST. . .
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. This episode is brought to you by Tactical Tea, for your supplies use promo code WW2PODCAST Become a patron of the podcast at: https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. To find the podcast on patreon go to: https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast. . .
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. Why not support the show: http://ww2podcast.com/support/. . .
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. Like the podcast? Why not become a patron?. . .
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. Jason has made these recordings available, you can find them on Spotify and for sale with original home footage of the band at 746thfeaf.com. . .
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. It's a great episode, for patreons we've got almost another 30min of us discussing the universal tank and our opinions of Claude Auchinleck.. . .
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... Like the podcast? Why not become a Patron?. . .
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! Like the podcast? Why not become a patron?. . .
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).. . .
June 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we had a month of D-Day podcasts looking at the operation from the British, Canadian and American perspectives. The narrative of that day is the difficulty of the operation, doubts if the landings would succeed, but what if we turn the tables? How was it for the Germans? To answer that question I'm joined by WW2 podcast stalwart Jonathan Trigg. Jonathan has joined us in the past to discuss his work researching foreign recruits to the SS, you can find those in episodes 55 and 77. Earlier this year, he had a new book released titled D-Day Through German Eyes: How the Wehrmacht Lost France. With D-Day fresh in our minds I thought we best get him back to have a chat about the allied invasion of Europe from the German perspective.. . .
On the night of May 16th, 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers took off from England heading toward the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr. They carried a new bomb, designed to skip across water avoiding any torpedo nets before hitting the target and sinking into the depths; then exploding.. The bomb was codenamed ‘upkeep’, we know it today as the ‘bouncing bomb’ designed by Barnes Wallis. Those Lancaster's of 617 squadron, commanded 24 year old Guy Gibsonwould become known as the ‘Dam Busters’, the operation was CHASTISE. The mission would be a success, as in two of the targeted dams were hit and breached causing millions of tons of water to surge down into the Ruhr region, flooding mines, destroying factories and homes. The crews that survived the raid would arrive back in Britain as celebrities, swept up in the wartime propaganda; and of course memorialised in books such as Paul Brickhill’s ‘The ‘Dam Busters’, of which the well known 1955 film is based. Joining me to discuss the raid is Victoria Taylor. Victoria is a Post Graduate Researcher at the University of Hull. Her MA thesis is Redressing the Wartime and Postwar Mythologization of Operation CHASTISE in Britain. Recommended books about operation Chastise. Cooper, Alan W. The Men Who Breached the Dams. Pen & Sword Books, 2013. Holland, James. Dam Busters. Random House, 2012. Sweetman, Dr John. The Dambusters Raid(Cassell Military Paperbacks). W&N, 1999.. . .
On the 17th September 1944 Gene Metcalfe, of the 82 Airbourne, parachuted in to Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. Approaching the bridge they were to capture Gene is injured in a firefight and left for dead. He would spend the rest of the war as a POW. I talk to Gene about his wartime experiences in the Airbourne, as a POW and what happened once he was liberated. Left for Dead in Nijmegen, by Marcus Nannini, is the story of Gene's war, it is a fantastic read and well worth picking up a copy.. . .
One thing I’ve learned from producing these podcasts is the research never ends, it only leads to new avenues of interest branching off from the original topic. And this is the case for Peter Lion. If you recall in episode 33, Peter told us how elements of the US 28nd infantry division, stationed in the Luxembourg town of Wiltz put on a christmas party for the local children, and this included GI Richard Brookins dressing as St Nicholas and arriving by jeep to hand out gifts. In researching that Peter bumped into the story of George Mergenthaler, heir to the Mergenhaler Linotype Company. I’ve been trying to pin down a guest for an ‘extra’ episode for quite a while, so when Peter proposed we discuss his book MERGit I jumped at the chance. For Patrons of the podcast I make available parts of the interviews that are off topic or just never made it into the ‘final cut’. I’ve a bit more of Peter and chatting and I’ve decided to release it free to everyone as a big thank you for listening and all the support you’ve all given me. If you want to listen to it you can find it at patreon.com/ww2podcast.. . .
September 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the allied attempt to create a sixty mile corridor, and secure a crossing over the Rhine. The plan was to use the newly formed First Allied Airborne Army to seize and hold nine key bridges until relieved by the British Army’s XXX Corp. The Airborne component was known as Market, and the ground attack was Garden. Joining me to talk about the background to airborne operations and Market Garden is Dr William Buckingham. William is the author or Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation Market Garden 17-25 September 1944.. . .
Last year I got an email from Cole Gill, his grandfather had made a number of tape recordings recounting his experiences during the war serving on the Royal Navy ship HMS Exeter, then as a POW at the Fukuoka camp,where he witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Who wouldn’t be interested in that story? Cole sent them over and after listening to them they’ve been languishing in my virtual bottom draw on my computer, awaiting for me to have some inspiration. Well I’ve got them out, dusted them down and what I have for you is the story of Raymond Fitchett. It’s a big thank you to Cole Gill for sharing these recordings.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at an RAF raid in 1940 against the Dortmund-Ems canal. The canal was a vital trade route with huge amounts of supplies and raw materials passing along it daily. With the fall of France and the build up to Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain, interrupting the traffic on the canal would aid in upsetting the German timetable. But to undertake the task a level of accuracy was needed from the RAF which was hitherto unheard of… It was very much a proto-dambusters raid. Joining me to discuss the raid is Dr Mark Felton, author of The Bridge Busters. We’ve spoken to Mark before, we looked Operation Cowboy, where some elements of the Whermacht joined with the Americans to save the world famous Lipizaner horses at the close of WWII. In episode 49, we discussed British VIP POWs held by the Italians. If you’ve not heard it, dig it out. I think it’s my favorite episode of the WW2 podcast so far. You can also find Mark on YouTube here.. . .
For a long time I’ve been fascinated by movie stars who chose to join the military and saw combat in World War Two. And one star in particular has always interested me, ‘Jimmy Stewart’. A big star in the 1930’s, in 1940 he would win the Oscar for best man in The Philadelphia Story’ and was nominated for one for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, yet when war came he was insistent on not avoiding it and joined the United States Army Airforce flying combat missions over Europe. Joining me to discuss Jimmy Stewart’s military career is Robert Matzen, author of Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight For Europe.. . .
The usual narrative for WWII is that turning points of the war are in 1942 with the battles of Midway, El Alamein and Stalingrad. While these are unquestionably major victories that signalled the ‘end of the beginning’, as Churchill would put it. Friend of the podcast Andrew Nagorski has suggested that actually 1941 was the pivotal year of the war. Andrew contends that the decisions made in 1941, by the major nations, would make an allied victory not just possible but inevitable. It’s a compelling idea. As we’ve had Andrew on the podcast previously (in episode 18, when discussed Nazi war crimes), I thought it would be good to get him back for a catch up and to outline his thesis laid out in his new book ‘1941: The Year Germany Lost The War’.. . .
In the last episode we looked at the American experience of D-Day at Omaha beach, this time it’s the turn of the British and Canadians at Sword, Juno and Gold on the 6th June 1944. In this episode we’re going to concentrate on the British and Canadian landings on D-Day. I’m joined by John Sadler. Now we’ve talked to John before in episode 26, when we looked at Operation Agreement, a combined operations raid in the deserts of North Africa that included the Long Range Desert Group, the SAS and the Royal Navy. John is also a battlefield guide of the D-Day Beaches and surrounding areas and has a book out called D-Day: The British Landings.. . .
‘Before the war, Normandy’s Plage d’Or coast was best known for its sleepy villages and holiday destinations. Early in 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took one look at the gentle, sloping sands and announced ‘They will come here!’ He was referring to Omaha Beach ‒ the primary American D-Day landing site. The beach was subsequently transformed into three miles of lethal, bunker-protected arcs of fire, with chalets converted into concrete strongpoints, fringed by layers of barbed wire and mines. The Germans called it ‘the Devil's Garden’.’ In this episode I’m joined by Robert Kershaw military historian, battlefield guide and author of Fury of Battle: A D-Day landing as it happened. We discuss the American landings on D-Day at Omaha beach.. . .
In this episode I’m joined by Walter Borneman, if you cast your mind back I talked to him in episode 25 about General Macarthur. That was nearly three years ago! How time flies! Since then Walter has been busy researching the history of the sinkingof the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 194 and the fate of the crew, including a remarkable 23 sets of siblings. He has a new WWII book out called Brothers Down, so I thought we’d get him back to discuss it.. . .
On the 6th of June 1942 Japanese troops invaded the island of Attu which is part of Alaska, it was the first time since 1812 that continental America had been invaded. In this episode we’re looking at the US attack to recapture the island, the fighting was bitter in a very hostile environment, and the discovery of a diary of a Japanese army surgeon who had been trained before the war in the USA. I’m joined by Mark Obmascik, author of The Storm on our Shoreswhich traces the story of the fighting on Attu, Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi and an American GI called Dick Laird.. . .
A few months ago I got email from David Taylor asking if I’d ever considered looking at the cork industry in WWII? I'm sure like you, it had never crossed my mind. The more I looked into it the more I got enthused by the story of cork, it was a wonder product during the early 20th century, used in all manner of things - almost anything that needed a seal such as a gasket used cork, so it was crucial to the auto industry, aviation and munitions. The American government defined it a strategic industry along with coal and steel! What makes the story more intriguing is the majority of it came from neutral Portugal and Spain… I hope I’ve laid out my case on why it is such a fascinating story. I’m joined by David Taylor, who is the author of ‘Cork Wars’ which tells the stories of some of those involved in the cork business during WWII and Crown Cork and Seal one of the largest companies producing cork products during the war.. . .
In this episode we’re going to be looking at the Free French and the Division Leclerc, commanded by Philippe de Hauteclocque. Raised in the French Colonies of Africa, they fought with distinction in the deserts of Libya and with the British 8th Army. They also took part in the fighting in North West Europe after D-Day, being one of the units that liberated Paris in 1944. This is not just a story of a unit, but is very much the story of the growth of the Free French. For this episode I’m joined by M.P. Robinson. Robinson is author of a number of book, the latest published by Osprey being‘Division Leclerc: The Leclerc Column and Free French 2nd Armoured Division, 1940-46’. . .
We’ve all see the film Downfallabout the Führerbunker in Berlin, in the closing days of the war. And we all know the story of how Adolf Hitler, with his new wife Eva Braun, committed suicide and the body was destroyed. Well, how much of that story do we actually know? Since the end of the war a series of newspaper reports, books and more recently the TV series Hunting Hitler have all put forward the idea that Hitler escaped at the end of the war and the official history, for want for a better phrase is not the whole truth… In this episode I’m joined by Luke Daly-Groves. Luke is a postgraduate researcher at Leeds University and author of the new book Hitler’s Death, in which he revisits the original post war investigations by the allied powers and using all the data now available assesses how accurate they were. In doing so he also explores and debunks these Hitler conspiracy theories.. . .
The SAS made their name in the North African desert, but less well known is after that they continued to fight in the mediterranean theatre. They carried out raiding missions in advance of the invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky, and then operating behind enemy lines during the Italian Campaign. For this episode I’m joined by Malcolm Tudor. Malcolm's father actually fought in Italy during WWII, his Italian mother’s family worked with the partisans and aided escaped allied POW’s. Malcolm is also the author of SAS In Italy, 1943-1945. . .
"There are no more than a handful of Second World War Luftwaffe members alive today. Patrick Eriksson had the foresight to record these experiences first-hand before it was too late. Some witnesses ended up as senior fighter controllers. The recollections and views of the veterans are put within the context of the German aerial war history. By no means all the witnesses were from the ranks of the so-called ‘aces’." Last year I discussed the experiences of German Luftwaffe pilots fighting in the West, against the Allies, I was joined by Patrick Eriksson. Patrick has completed the second book in his trilogy looking at the Luftwaffe - Alarmstart East- this time tracking the pilots on the Eastern Front from 1941 though to the end of the war in 1945.. . .
In this episode we’re going to be looking at the story of Howard Snyder, a B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ pilot, flying with the US 8th air force from Britain. Through letters Howard wrote to his family, and exhaustive research, his son Steve Snyder has pieced together the remarkable story of his father, and what happened after he was shot down in Belgium. You can find more about Steve Snyder and his father, Howard, at stevesnyderauthor.com. . .
In 1943 allied surveillance picked up the construction of V1 and V2 rocket sites in France. Without quite knowing the extent of the threat allied planners decided to embark upon a pre-emptive campaign to deny the Germans the use of these sites, the code name was Operation Crossbow. It would be an Anglo-American Operation with ran up until the end of WWII, in 1945. I’m joined by Steven Zaloga. Steven is a prolific military historian and analyst, he has also written a book on Crossbow published by Osprey, Operation Crossbow 1944; Hunting Hitlers V-Weapons.. . .
In this episode we’re going to be looking a Japanese submarine operations in the Pacific in the early part of the war. While I’m sure we’re all familiar with the Imperial Japanese surface fleets actions during 1941-42, especially if you’ve listened to my discussions with Jeff Cox in episode #14 and #63, but there seems to be very little mention of submarines. Which is interesting because if we look at the Battle for the North Atlantic it was all about the German U-Boats. Joining me today is Mark Stille. Mark is a retired US Navy commander, alumni of the US Naval War College and author of numerous Osprey titles, mainly focusing on the war in the Pacific - his latest being USN Fleet Destroyer vs IJN Fleet Submarine.. . .
At the outbreak of WWII Britain put into motion the strategy of using the Royal Navy to blockade Germany, depriving her of essential goods. When Europe fell the blockade was widened to include all of Europe. This provided a dilemma for the British, the Ministry of Economic Warfare was in favour of depriving all occupied countries of goods, for the Foreign Office depriving occupied countries would mean negatively affecting countries that were allied with Britain. In Greece this would lead to famine, and a relief operation organised by the International Red Cross. I’m joined by Dr James Crossland of Liverpool John Moores University. James specialises in the history of international humanitarian law and the development of the Red Cross.. . .
Long standing listeners will have heard me chat to Walter Zapotoczny before, in episode 57 we looked at Ardennes offensive, and in episode 63 we looked at German penal battalions. Patrons of the podcast might recall on both occasions after I’d finished recording we got to talking about the Italians in North Africa. Well, Walter’s book on the topic was released a couple of months ago ‘The Italian Army In North Africa: A Poor Fighting Force or Doomed by Circumstance’ Hopefully we can answer the question a poor fighting force or doomed by circumstance in this podcast.. . .
“'Stay low, stay on track, and stay alive' was the motto of the RAF's most secret Station, Tempsford. That's exactly what Geoffrey Rothwell did ‒ DFC & Bar, 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star with France/Germany Clasp, Defence Medal, Victory Medal, Order of Leopold II & Palme, Croix de Guerre 1940 & Palme, Bomber Command Medal, POW medal, La Légion d’honneur ‒ from Bomber Command via SOE to Stalag and back.” In episode 53 I talked to Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell about the SOE agent Diana Rowden. After we had stopped recording Gabrielle told me about her husband Geoffrey Rothwell, was the last surviving pilot for SOE during the war. At the time she was in the process of checking through a biography of Geoff’s experiences. Sadly since then Geoff has passed away, but Gabrielle has managed to complete the book recounting his life and wartime experiences and its been released, the title is ‘Last Man Standing’. In this bonus episode of the podcast I talk to Gabrielle about Geoff’s life.. . .
‘On a dark night in 1944, a beautiful stretch of the Devon coast became the scene of desperate horror. Tales began to leak out of night-time explosions and seaborne activity. This was practice for Exercise Tiger, the main rehearsal for the Utah Beach landings…’ This is very much an episode in two halves, I start by looking at the disastrous Exercise Tigerwhich took place in April 1944, at Lyme Bay and Slapton Sands in Devon. Then move on to talk about a Sherman tank! I’m joined by Dean Small. Dean’s father Ken did much to rediscover those event in April 1944, and create a memorial to those who lost their lives. He wrote the book The Forgotten Dead: The true story of Exercise Tiger, the disastrous rehearsal for D-Day You can find out more about the exercise on Dean's website Exercise Tiger Memorial.. . .
US Marine, Lt Alexander Bonnymanlanded on Tarawa in December 1942. He was mortally wounded leading an assault on a Japanese bunker, which was key to defense of the island, and act for which he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. In this episode of the podcast I talk to his grandson, Clay Bonnyman Evansabout the events surrounding his death and about how his grandfather's remains, along with hundreds of others who had been hastily buried, were lost after the war.. . .
At the beginning of WWII Germany invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway, but left neutral Sweden alone. Less than a year later citizens from all three of those Scandinavian nations were volunteering to join the Waffen-SS. By the end of the war in 1945 the number of Scandinavians who had fought in the Waffen-SS had reached the thousands. Casualties were high, but there were survivors and they returned home, often to face retribution and condemnation. In episode 55, I discussed the Flemish Waffen SS, with Jonathan Trigg. Since then he’s been busy tracking down the few surviving veterans of the SS who were from Scandinavia, for his new book Voices of the Scandinavian Waffen SS: The Final Testament of Hitler's Vikings. Being a fellow Yorkshireman, with a new book, on a very interesting topic, I thought it rude not to ask him back!. . .
Way back in episode four of the podcast, I talked to Andrew Panton about the Lancaster Bomber; Andrew is the pilot of Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ here in the UK. Whilst chatting the role of flight engineer came up, I had no clue what they actually did, I wasn’t aware they worked in tandem with the pilot to fly the plane. Ever since I’ve been on the lookout for someone to talk to about the role, if you do a search on Amazon you’ll discover how overlooked the Flight Engineer has been in the historiography. Earlier this year Colin Pateman released his latest book ‘Fuel, Fire and Fear: RAF Flight Engineers at War’, clearly he is the man to speak!. . .
September 2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the Munich agreement, where the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew to Germany to meet Hitler; in an attempt to avert war. He famously returned with an agreement which he believed would deliver ‘peace in our time’. It got me thinking about Hitler's rise to power, in 1933 he joined the government one of only three Nazi’s in it. Five years later he was dominating European foreign policy, as he pushes forward with his agenda. In this episode I thought we’d look at Hitler’s rise to power, from the end of the First World War, through to him joining in the government in 1933. Joining me today is Professor Matthew Stibbe, from Sheffield University. He has delivered an excellent chapter in the new Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reichlooking at the rise of National Socialism.. . .
The American built M3 tank was one of the first tanks purchased and supplied in large numbers to the British army in WWII, where it was known as the 'Grant' or the 'Lee'. It's the first American built tank I became aware of as a child, when I saw 'Monty's' at the Imperial War Museum. In this episode I'm joined by prolific tank writer and former employee of Bovington Tank museum, David Fletcher. With Steven Zaloga, David is the author of British Battle Tanks: American-Made World War II Tanks.. . .
Last year I talked to Mark Felton about the escape attempts of British VIP prisoners, held by the Italians. That was episode 49 Castle of Eagles, the book is possibly my favourite read of last year. Well Mark is back, with another cracking story he’s managed to turn up in the archives, that of Operation Cowboy; the book is Ghost Riders. It recounts the activities of an American unit which raced into Czechoslovakia to accept the surrender of a group of Germans, in doing so they manage to rescue a number of Allied POW’s, with the help of German POW’s they fight off a concerted attack by a SS Unit and then evacuate the mares of the famous Viennese, ‘spanish riding school’.. . .
Back in episode 7, I talked to Alexander Fitzgerald-Black about his MA thesis which focused on the allied air campaign in support of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Which if you’re interested has now been released as a book ‘Eagles over Husky: The Allied Aire Forces In The Sicilian Campaign, 14 May to 17 August 1943’. Alex and I have kept in touch and always said we should do another episode together discussing the Mediterranean campaign. I was struggling to pin down a topic, when Alex suggested I read Douglas Porch’s book ‘The Path To Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in WWII’, which focuses on the Mediterranean theatre as a whole. It was a light bulb moment for me, so we’ve decided to have a look at the Mediterranean Strategy. If you want to hear more from Alex he works for the Juno Beach Centre and hosts their podcast, you can find that at junobeach.org.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Returning from delivering the atomic bomb to Tinian, in preparation for it to be dropped, the Indianapolis was hit twice by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. She sank in less than a quarter of an hour. 800-900 men went in the shark infested waters, and no one in the US Navy was aware of the unfolding tragedy. The men floated in small groups for five nights and four days before they were finally spotted by the passing US plane. And that is just half the story. I’m joined by Sara Vladic. Sara is the director of the documentary USS Indianapolis: The Legacy, she’s also so-written a book looking at the events surrounding the sinking, the book is titled Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man. It is quite a story!. . .
In the last episode we looked at the development of the world’s navies during the interwar period. To compliment that I thought we’d do something similar with aerial warfare. It is easy to forget in 1939 aviation was still very much in its infancy, and especially aerial warfare. Theorist such as Giulio Douhethad highlighted the importance of controlling airspace, Douhet also advocated that idea that a nation could bomb its way to victory. Other countries such as Germany envisaged the plane in tactical roles, supporting the army. So at the outbreak of WWII each air force was prepared to a fight a war, just not necessarily the war their enemy was expecting to fight. Joining me today is Frank Ledwidge. Frank is a senior fellow in Air Power and International Security, at the Royal Air Force College - Cranwell. Not only does he teach this stuff, he’s written a book on the subject ‘Aerial Warfare: The Battle for the Skies’.. . .
Today what I thought we’d investigate the interwar naval treaties which aimed to prevent conflict, but at the same time, what they did was help shape the navies of the world, in the run up to WWII. In this episode I’m talking to Craig Symonds. Craig is the Enest J King Distinguished Professor of Maritime History a the US Naval War College and Professor Emeritus at the US Naval College.. . .
Hitler when he came to power, had few international connections, and he distrusted elements of his civil service. What he needed was people he could trust, who were connected to the highest echelons of power throughout Europe. These emissaries would be used to sound out opinion, and smooth over incidents when they happened. And that is what we’re looking at in this episode, those ‘back channels’, the aristocratic go betweens that Hitler employed. Joining me is Karina Urbach. Karina is currently working at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, her book Go 'Betweens for Hitler'was published in 2015.. . .
Joining me today is Max Thimmig, Max’s grandfather was the German WWII night fighter ace, Wolfgang Thimmig. Wolfgang joined the German Army, the Reichswehr, in 1934, and was one of the early pilots in Hitler’s newly created Luftwaffe, in 1935. Incredibly Wolfgang flew with the Luftwaffe throughout the second world war, from Poland right to the end in 1945. Max's book is Nattens jägare: Ett tyskt nattjaktess under andra världskriget.. . .
The P-61 was built in response to the Blitz on Great Britain, in 1940. The RAF were in need of a night fighter and they confirmed with their US counterparts on the specifications. The result was a twin tail plane with a crew of three, it was specifically designed to house a radar to zero the aircraft in, at night on their target. Only four now survive. Joining me is Russell Strine from the Mid Atlantic Air Museum, who are currently restoring one, the intention is to get it in the air once more. It’s thanks to Alex Lowmaster for this episode, he tipped me off to a museum local to him, in Pennsylvania, that were restoring a P-61 Black Widow night fighter.. . .
This episode, is released just after the 75th anniversary of the escape of ten American prisoners of war, and two Filipino convicts, from the Davao Penal Colony. The following year when the story broke, the US War Department would call it the ‘greatest story of the war’. The man made famous at the time for escaping, and recounting the story, was Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess. A fighter pilot who not only fought in the air, but during the defence of Bataan led and amphibious assault as an infantryman. Joining me to tell us the story of ‘Ed Dyess’ is John Lukacs, who is fighting to get Dyess awarded the Medal of Honor; and keeping his memory alive with the website 4-4-43.com. If you remember back in episode 45, I discussed the Barton Brothers with Sally Mott Freeman, Dyess’s story intersects with that as Barton was at the Davao Penal Colony and his brother Bill was in Washington aware of Dyess’s escape.. . .
One of my first guests was Jeffrey Cox, we discussed in length the Java Sea campaign in episode 14. Jeff has been busy for the last couple of years writing his follow up book Morning Star, Midnight Sun – The Early Guadalcanal-Solomons Campaign of World War Two. So I asked Jeff back to discuss the campaign. Jeff and I talked for nearly three hours, so whilst the podcast is trimmed to keep us on message if you want some more why not become a patron and have another 30min of us talking what he's unto next and torpedos!. . .
In episode 57 I talked to Walter Zapotoczny about Ardennes Offensive, chatting with him it told me had had a new book out in 2018 looking at German Penal Battalions. That sounded like a topic right up my street so I got him back to talk with us. When war broke out in 1939, Hitler created `Strafbattalion' (Penal Battalion) units to deal with incarcerated members of the Wehrmacht as well as `subversives'. His order stated that any first-time convicted soldier could return to his unit after he had served a portion of his sentence in `a special probation corps before the enemy'.. . .
In this episode we’re going to be discussing the plight of 168 Allied Airmen who found themselves imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. It’s something that even to this day governments seem unwilling to admit to. “As we got close to the camp and saw what was inside... a terrible, terrible fear and horror entered our hearts. We thought, what is this? Where are we going? Why are we here? And as you got closer to the camp and started to enter [it] and saw these human skeletons walking around; old men, young men, boys, just skin and bone, we thought, what are we getting into?” — Canadian airman Ed Carter-Edward's recollection of his arrival at Buchenwald. Joining me is Frederic Martini, his father was shot down over France in 1944 and was one of the Buchenwald airmen. His written about his father’s experiences, the book is Betrayed.. . .
If Slim’s 14th army was the ‘Forgotten Army’ the RAF bombing campaign in the Far East is even more forgotten! In this episode I'm talking to Matt Poole. Matt's mother is from Liverpool, her first husband was in the RAF serving in Burma when he was shot down over Rangoon. In trying to find out what happened that night Matt was introduced to Bill Kirkness who served in the same squadron. Bill had written a memoir of his wartime experience, though he's sadly now passed away Matt has edited the manuscript into RAF Liberators over Burma: Flying with 159 Squadron. We discuss Bill Kirkness's war, the RAF in Burma and Matt's journey of piercing the story together. . .
When I plan the podcast episodes I don’t usually sit down and look at the subject and how it relates to those episodes around it, hence we’ve often found ourselves in the pacific in quick succession. In this instance it seems serendipitous that we’re going from looking at the fall of France, in the last episode, to looking at the experiences of German fighter pilots in Europe. The two topics compliment one another rather well. Joining me is Patrick Eriksson. Patrick is the author of Alarmstart: The German Fighter Pilot’s Experience in the Second World War. Since the 1970’s Patrick has been an associate member of the German Air Force Veterans Association interviewing and corresponding with former members of the Luftwaffe.. . .
In this episode I’m looking at ‘Case Red’ the German attack on France post Dunkirk. Often when we talk about the Battle of France the history seems to stop at Dunkirk, in actual fact the fight carried on for a few more weeks. There was still British 100,000+ troops in France, Churchill was keen to keep the French fighting… Joining in me is Robert Forczyk, if you recall last year we discussed Operation Sealion with Bob. He’s been beavering away and has a new book out, ‘Case Red: The collapse of France’. Its a real eye opener…. . .
In this episode we’ll be looking at two British soldiers in occupied Burma. Major Hugh Seagrim operated for two years behind the Japanese lines, organising Karen resistance before he was eventually forced to surrender. Seagrim crosses paths with Roy Pagani, trying to make his way back to British army in India, after escaping as a POW working on the Burma railway. Pagani is a remarkable man he had already escaped from Dunkirk in 1940, and Singapore when it fell in 1942. Joining me today is Phillip Davis. Phillip is the author of Lost Warriors, Seagrim and Pagani of Burma The last great untold story of WWII.. . .
This episode is being released on the 15th of December, the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. It was the 16th of December 1944 that Hitler launched Operation Watch on the Rhine, the last great offensive in the West. Joining me today is Walter Zapotoczny, author of The 110th Hold In The Ardennes: The Blunting of Hitler’s Last Gamble and the Invasion of the Reich.The 110th Infantry Regiment were part of the 28th Division which bore the brunt of the German offensive in the first few days. The Battle of the Bulge has always held a fascination for me, I’ve very clear memories of cold wintery afternoons watching the 1965 film on the TV. Though even as a kid I thought the Telly Savalas character was nonsense!. . .
In the classic narrative, the second world war starts with the invasion of Poland in 1939, though for the Chinese it started with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. I notice wikipedia solves the start date by stating ‘relate conflicts started earlier’, and that is what we’ll be looking at today the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and those foreigners who volunteered to fight for Haile Selassie. I’m joined by Christopher Othen Christopher is the author of the Lost Lions of Judah: Haile Selassie’s Mongrel Foreign Legion.. . .
I’ve been promising you an extra episode since September... Well it never came off, I was all prepared to discuss the end of the war in the Pacific but I struggled to pin down the guest so I gave up! But good things come to those that wait! I was asked if I might be interested in having a chat with the writer of the new WW2 film Darkest Hour, Anthony McCarten. How could I say no? If you would like some background listening I looked at Churchill during this period in episode 8, Churchill's decision to fight in 1940.. . .
Within a year of Belgium falling to the Germans in 1940, Belgian citizens were volunteering to join the Waffen SS to fight communism on the newly formed Eastern Front. Thousands volunteered, and the suffered heavy casualties. I’m joined by Jonathan Trigg author of Voices of the Flemish Waffen SS. He has been gathering the stories of these men and women. What remarkable stories they are, I devoured the book in just two evenings…. . .
We’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Pacific this year, I didn’t intend to but as its a theatre of the war I’m not very familiar with I’ve been happy to be pulled down that route. One topic we’ve skirted round in a number of episodes is the Bataan Death March, its been a topic I’ve been keen to look at as we’ve mentioned it a few times. Plus it’s seems like an obvious gap in my knowledge I needed to fill. I’m joined by Jay Wertz. Jay has authored a number of books in the War Stories: World War II Firsthand series, for these he collected eyewitness accounts. He is also the author and historical consultant for World War II Comix. These are not the jingoistic “Commando” comics I grew up with in the 1970 & 80s (is there a world wide equivalent?), Word War II Comix tells the story of the war in a straight factual manner, but in comic form. They’re a great way to get kids reading about the war. The latest issue looks at the battle of Midway, previous issues tell the story of the fighting on Bataan and Pearl Harbour.. . .
Last year I talked to Greg Lewis about the female agents in the British Special Operations Executive, SOE, who Churchill had tasked with “setting Europe ablaze”. In this episode we’ll be looking specifically at Diana Rowden who was flown into France in 1943. Diana spent her early years in the South of France before being sent to Public School in England. At the outbreak of war Diana was living in Paris with her mother. When Paris fell they fled south, but once her mother was safely on a boat back to England, Diana decided to remain in France. For over a year she moved through France avoiding being picked up by the Germans, when it got to "hot" she fled back to Britain. When she finally became know to SOE she was an obvious fit for an agent to be sent to France. It was a huge risk and only a matter of time before she was picked up, which indeed she was. With four other women she was murdered at Natzweiler Concentration Camp in July 1944. She was 29 years of age. I’m joined by Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell. Gabrielle’s book Her Finest Hour: The Heroic Life of Diana Rowden, Wartime Secret Agent takes the reader through Dianna’s life”. I didn't realise when I started chatting to Gabrielle but she is married to Geoffrey Rothwell, he flew over 70 missions before being shot down. For patrons and supporters of the podcast I've made available a quick conversation I had with Gabrielle about her husband.. . .
Between 1943-45 Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5 “Atlantik” would fly missions of up to 18 hours at a time over the Atlantic. They acted as the eyes for the U-Boats. Equipped with big, four-engined Junkers Ju 290s fitted out with advanced search radar and other maritime 'ELINT' (electronic intelligence) devices, Fernaufklärungsgruppe (FAGr) 5 'Atlantik' undertook a distant, isolated campaign far out into the Atlantic and thousands of miles away from its home base in western France. I'm joined by Robert Forsyth author of Shadow over the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe and the U-boats: 1943–45. Robert is an author, editor and publisher, specialising in military aviation and military history. Born in Berkshire, England, he is the author of several books on the aircraft and units of the Luftwaffe, an interest he has held since boyhood. His articles have appeared in The Aviation Historian, Aeroplane Monthly, Aviation News and FlyPast and he is a member of the Editorial Board of The Aviation Historian. Long-term, he is working on a major biography of the Luftwaffe commander, Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen.. . .
I was reading the British Journal for Military History and an article caught my eye titled The Psychological Impact of Airborne Warfare & the British Response to the Airborne Threat by Dr Tim Jenkins. In 1940 the Germans achieved stunning successes with the use of airborne troops, the Fallschirmjäger. The first recorded attack by parachutists was in Denmark against the fortress at Masnedø. The reputed impregnable fortress at Eben Emael in Belgium would surrender to just 78 German airborne troops who had landed on top in Gliders. Traditionally Britain was safe beyond the English Channel, protected by the Royal Navy, this new threat from the air caught the public imagination. There was a clamour in the press, questions were raised in Parliament... What to do? The result would be thousands of sign posts removed to confuse enemy parachutists, golf course would be ploughed up to prevent glider landings and of course the Home Guard would be formed. It’s a brilliant article and I suggest you give it a read, you can find it here. Tim agreed to come on the podcast and have a chat.. . .
In this episode I’m looking at Operation Tonga, the British airborne element that led the way during the D-Day landings in 1944. I’m joined by Stephen Wright. Stephen is keenly interested in the operation, an operation his uncle was killed taking part in. For the last twenty years he’s been researching the airborne, and particularly the use of Gliders during the closing years of the war. His book, co-authored with Bill Shannon, Operation Tonga brings to the reader first hand accounts of that night. Stephen is also involved with a new feature film True Valour, you can follow its progress here on Facebook and for more information the website is truevalourmovie.com.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at high ranking British POWs held by the Italians and their attempts at escape. The middle east was considered an Italian theatre, rather than prisoners be shipped to Germany high ranking officers such as Generals Richard O’Connor, Phillip Neame, Adrian Carton de Wiart or Air Marshal Owen Boyd were placed into Italian custody as POWs. Neither rank or age deterred their determination to escape It’s arguably a story to rival that of the Great Escape or Colditz. Joining me is Dr Mark Felton. Mark is the author of numerous military history books one of which is Castle of Eagles: Escape from Mussolini's Colditz, which was recommended to me by a listener. What a great book it is, its not surprising that currently it’s been optioned for a feature film, with the script been worked upon now.. . .
In this episode I’m looking at the giant soviet T-35 tank with Francis Pulham. As you will discover the T-35 was a peculiar vehicle with five turrets, very few were ever produced and almost all were knocked out very early in the war. Francis is the author of Fallen Giants, The Combat Debut of the T-35a tank. "The T-35 was a Soviet multi-turreted heavy tank of the interwar period and early Second World War that saw limited production and service with the Red Army. It was the only five-turreted heavy tank in the world to reach production, but proved to be slow and mechanically unreliable. Most of the T-35 tanks still operational at the time of Operation Barbarossa were lost due to mechanical failure rather than enemy action. Outwardly, it was large; but internally, the spaces were cramped with the fighting compartments separated from each other. Some of the turrets obscured the entrance hatches." wikipedia. . .
In this episode we’re in the Western Desert in 1940-41 looking at the air campaign fought by Raymond Collishaw and his RAF crews. Collishaw was a WW1 fighter ace. When the war broke out in 1939 now Air Commodore Collishaw he commanded an RAF Group in Egypt. The fighting in the western desert in 1940 and early 41 is often overlooked yet with his army counterpart, Richard O’Connor they scored some stunning successes. Collishaws ideas on tactical air support would become the blue print for allied air operations later in the war. Joining me is Mike Bechthold. Mike is the author of Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign 1940-41.. . .
As many of you know I bang on about supporting me via Patreon at the start of each episode. These small donations pay for hosting, software and help me to find the time to dedicate to the show. After two years of plugging away I’ve finally reached my first funding goal on Patreon, $250 per month! Now I've reached this goal I’m going to upgrade my hosting package allowing me to potentially post more and longer podcasts. As a thank you to everyone for their support, and a very big thank you to all the Patrons who give a dollar or two each month, here is an extra podcast I recorded. I’ve chatted with Craig Moore before. He runs the website tank-hunter.com and contributes to tank-encyclopedia.com… Craig recently took part in a dig to recover one of the very few British Covenanter tanks which has been buried in Surry in the UK! "The Covenanter A13 Mark III Cruiser Mk V tank is regarded as one of the worst vehicles ever produced in Britain at a time when the country was desperate for tanks." more. . .
In this episode we’re going to be discussing Bill Cheall. Bill joined the Green Howard's in 1939, a regiment in the British army, and fought throughout the whole war. He was evacuated through Dunkirk, fought in the Desert, took part in the invasion of Sicily and in 1944 landed on Gold beach on D-Day… Bill wrote his memoirs which have been edited by his son Paul and publish as “Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg: A Green Howard’s Wartime Memoir”. [asa2 tplid="14" align="center" associate_id_set="WW2"]B00BM4SLO0[/asa2] For more information and pictures of Bill Cheall you can visit fightingthrough.co.uk and you can find Paul's podcast at fightingthroughpodcast.co.uk. The Green Howard's are of particular interest to me as they are my local regiment. I have two grandfathers who service in WW1 with them, and a great uncle who served in WW2. Uncle Jack. reputedly, like Bill was plucked from the beaches of Dunkirk, though he was later shipped to India and saw fighting in Burma.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at three brothers all in the US Navy at the start of the war, and their remarkable story. Today I’m joined by Sally Mott Freeman, her book “The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home” follows her father and his two brothers through the war. Bill Mott would start the war in FDR’s Whitehouse Map room, his brother Benny would be on the Carrier USS Enterprise and Barton was a supply officer based in the Philippines… Their experience brings out how difficult it must have been for families at war.. . .
Last year I talked to Irish Historian Bernard Kelly about his book “Military Internees, Prisoners of War and the Irish State during the Second World War”, thats episode 23 for those who haven’t listened. We discussed how the Republic of Ireland walked the tightrope of neutrality and how it treated troops of belligerent nations who found themselves within its borders.. Chatting with Bernard after that recording I discovered his MA thesis looked at the Russia’s Winter War with Finland. Yet another interesting WW2 topic and that's what we’ll be discussing in this episode. In November 1939 Russia attacked Finland, Britain and France were already at war with Germany and were not keen on declaring war on Russia in the defence of Finland. More importantly a total collapse of Finland might mean a Russian threaten Sweden and Norway? Also throw into the mix that Swedish iron was vital to the German war effort it meant the Allies needed to do something, but what?. . .
The role of the International Committee of the Red Cross during WWII is complicated. Closely bound to Switzerland the ICRC tried to remain neutral whilst at the same time operating with in the boundaries of the Geneva Conventions. Criticised for its failure to speak out during the holocaust as the war came to a close it went into overdrive to remain relevant in a post war world. I'm joined by Gerald Steinacher. Gerald is Associate Professor of History and Hymen Rosenberg Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, his latest book is Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust.. . .
In January I had an email from Bob Drury, if that name sounds familiar it’s because I chatted to Bob in episode 30 talking about Old 666. He wondered what I had planned for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. As it happens I’d not actually thought about the Battle of the Coral Sea! Bob suggested that he and his writing partner of Lucky 666 Tom Calvin come on the podcast and have a chat. The naval clash at in the Coral sea was pivotal in the war against Japan. Since the attack on Pearl Harbor nothing had stood in the way of the Japanese typhoon that had swept across the pacific. Fortress Singapore, the Dutch East Indies there was nothing seemingly the Royal Navy or Americans could do to stop them. At the Coral Sea three Japanese Aircraft Carriers would face two US Carriers, this would be the first time a naval battle would take place without any belligerent ships seeing one another, it was a new war of carrier launched aircraft. Was it a draw? Both sides withdrew. History shows us it would be a tactical victory for the Japanese and a strategic victory for the Americans. Perhaps more importantly it was the first time the Japanese were stopped.. . .
We’re looking at amphibious operations during the war in this episode. Until I started researching I hadn’t realised how many there were. We’re all pretty familiar with the handful in the European Theatre but in the Pacific the list is long… In this episode I’m talking to Mike Walling. Mikes is the author of Bloodstained Sands, US amphibious operations in WWII, he is a veteran of the US navy coast guard and has spent the last forty years collecting stories from veterans.. . .
I’ve been planning to look at some individual soldiers stories for some time, the first was going to be the story of a Green Howard who fought through from D-Day until the end of the war. As his story is similar to my great uncles everyone in my family was interested and the book has gone on it’s travels passed from my mother to my sister to my brother… As of typing I haven't got it back... In the meantime when I was given the opportunity to talk to Frank Lavin about his father's war time experience I jumped at the chance. Frank has gathered together and organised his father letters he posted home during the war. Carl Lavin was a high school senior in Canton, Ohio, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The Canton, Ohio, native was eighteen when he enlisted, a decision that would take him with the US Army from training across the United States and Britain to combat with the 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of the Bulge and through to the occupation of Germany. The book is Homefront to Battlefront: An Ohio Teenage in World War II there is a link on the website.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at a topic we touched up on in way back in episode 06 when we looked at the OSS. We’re looking at the OSS station chief in Bern, Switzerland, Allen Dulles and his connections with the German resistance during the WWII. Dulles incredibly was approached by a number of Germans unhappy with the Nazi regime who fed him information from 1943 onward. I’m joined by Scott Miller. Scott’s book Agent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWII, looks at Dulles operation in Switzerland and pieces together his connections with the German resistance.. . .
Once the Allies had crossed the English Channel on D-Day the next large natural barrier would be the crossing of the Rhine into Germany. Toward the end of 1944 the fighting had been hard, the Americans had slogged through the Hürtgen Forest, everyone had reeled against the German counter attack in the Ardennes. The Rhine is a perfect natural border, the crossing of which would be symbolically crossing the last line of defence in to Germany from the West. The task was given to Montgomery's 21st Army. As ever Monty put together an enormous set piece battle (Plunder), he knew the war was close to the end, many of the Allied troops in his command had fought for years. He couldn’t afford for the crossing to fail. 4,000 guns opened up on the 23rd March, in the American sector they fired 65,000 shells in one hour! Varsity, the airborne arm of the operation was the largest airborne operation in history, with over 16,000 troops flown in. To discuss this, and the crossings that beat Monty to it, I’m joined by Marc DeSantis. If that name sounds familiar that is because Marc is also regular guest on the Ancient Warfare Magazine Podcast. He is also a regular contributor to many history magazines on WWII topics.. . .
In 1943 the Allies made their first mass use of Airborne troops in support of the landings on Sicily. By this time the Germans had already ruled out any further mass use of the airborne Fallschirmjäger after Crete, though a huge success the price paid was costly. I’m joined by Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino of the 82nd Airborne, to discuss how those initial landings went. Joe is a currently serving officer and can be heard on the excellent All American Legacy Podcast.. . .
In this episode we’ll looking at how Britain found the manpower to fight the war. By the end at least four and a half million had served from Britain, if we add to that figure Empire and Commonwealth forces we’re looking it perhaps upwards of ten million. Its an astounding figure…. I’m joined by Roger Broad. Rogers New book Volunteers and Pressed Men looks at recruitment during both the First and second World War in both Britain and its Empire.. . .
In this episode I’m talking to Edward Hooton and we’re looking at the air war over the Eastern Front, a topic I’m not familiar with. From my own point of view it's always been overshadowed by the ground war. Edward has written a number of books on aviation history during WWII. His latest book “War over the Steppes: The air campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941-45” is a fascinating look at the air operations carried out by both the Russians and Germans during the war.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at the plight of those Jews fleeing Poland who headed east into Russia after the German invasion of 1939. It’s a story I wasn’t at all familiar with. I’m joined by Annette Libeskind Berkovits. Annettes father Nachman fled the Polish City of Lodz, he had an incredible life… She tells his story in the most remarkable book I think I’ve read in a long time, “In the Unlikeliest of Places”. . .
With the holiday season upon us I've a festive episode for you. The US 28th Infantry Division landed in France in July of 1944. After fighting through the Bocage and taking part in the parade through Paris to mark its liberation they were sent to the Hürtgen Forest. Badly shot up they we're withdrawn and sent to a small town in Luxembourg called Wiltz. To tell the story of the American St Nick I'm joined by Peter Lion whose book "The American St Nick" tells the story.. . .
We're looking at the Operation Sea Lion, the German invasion plan for Britain in the latest podcast. I'm joined by Robert Forczyk. Robert is a prolific author and military historian. His latest book “We march against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940/41” is a fresh look at the German plans to invade Britain and what they might have faced.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at women in the secret services, SOE and OSS during WWII. Women played a crucial role a number operating in the field as agents. In occupied countries it was easier for them to blend in than young men of military age. I’m joined by Greg Lewis. With Gordon Thomas he is the author of Shadow Warriors: Daring Missions of World War II by Women of the OSS and SOE. Don't forget you can support the show on patreon.. . .
In 1943 a lone B-17 Bomber set off on a solo reconnaissance mission, it was to be a 1200 mile round trip. Passing within range of Japanese airbases they were swarmed by Zero fighters... It would be only plane of the war where two of the personal would win the Medal of Honor. I'm joined by Bob Drury, co-author of Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission.. . .
In this episode I’m talking to Nicholas O'Shaughnessy. Nicholas is is currently Visiting Professor in the Centre for Strategic Communication at King's College London. His new book Selling Hitler examines the Nazi’s use of propaganda and argues Hitler was one of the few politicians who understood that persuasion was everything and was the central to creating an all encompassing strategy.... . .
In this episode I'm joined by Matt Dearden and we're looking at the iconic WWII Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boat. We look at both the history of he plane, and how it flies! Matt is a co-ownder of Miss Pick Up and a qualified pilot. You can find more information on the plane here.. . .
I’d seen the 1975 film Operation Daybreak and was aware of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, but what I wasn't aware of was the utter destruction of the village of Lidice as an act of vengeance and how the Staffordshire miners helped with the rebuilding of the village after the war. That was until Russell Phillips shot me an email. Russell's book is A Ray of Light: Reinhard Heydrich, Lidice and the North Staffordshire Miners. Its not a long read but is a book that everyone should read!. . .
We’re in North Africa in this episode of the podcast. The War in the desert was full of ups and downs for both Axis and Allies. In January 1941 Tobruk fell to the Allies. With the arrival of Rommel the Allies were forced back and Tobruk held out under siege for seven months, depriving the Axis of a vital supply port, before being relieved as the Allies once more swept forward. Only for it to fall in June 1942 to Rommel. Though the British Army had expected to sacrifice Tobruk to the public at home it was a huge shock. The war had not been going well, not helped with entry of the Japanese and the fall of Singapore. It was now Churchill wanted action, he wanted good news to report to Parliament, the British people and their new Allies the USA who had entered the war. Operation Agreement was a daring raid on Tobruk in September 1942. Taking part were the Long Range Desert Group, the SAS, the Special Interrogation Group, the Royal Navy, the RAF… Everyone was in the act… I’m joined by John Sadler. Johns book “Operation Agreement: Jewish Commandos and the raid on Tobruk” tells the story of the operation.. . .
In this episode I'm looking at Douglas MacArthur with Walter Borneman. MacArthur is one of those personalities that war throws up which I find hard to pin down. They have a big personalities and seemingly a huge confidence within themselves that overrides everything else (another two examples for me would be Monty and Patton). The media generated about them at the time seems to put them on a pedestal, its hard to see through that hype to figure out how good they actually were. Since I started the podcast MacArthur was in my top ten of topics to cover, so I was thrilled to see a new book on him “MacArthur at War: WWII in the Pacific” by Walter Borneman. I highly recommend you give it a read, its a balance look which at times has you disbelieving he was allowed to continue in command, at other times you see his ability shine through. He undoubtedly was a very complex man.. . .
I’ve a bit of a different episode for you. In our look at the Stug I talked to Jon Phillips who was close to completing his two year restoration of his Stug III. The deadline for getting the engine in and running was the Yorkshire Wartime Experience where he’d committed to bringing the Stug along. Knowing Jon was going to be there I took myself down to see how he’d got on. After speaking to Jon I bumped into an old friend Paul Fricker. Paul re-enacts the Russian 13th Guards Rifle Division, Poltavaskaya. On the Facebook page recently a question had been asked about what the blanket/canvas sausage you see Russian troops wearing draped over their shoulder was? So I took the opportunity to ask him. Its a bit of a short episode as I messed up recording a piece of Russian transport, I will revisit that. But in the process I was introduced to a chap who owns a Russian T34, so expect an episode on that in the near future.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at the peculiar situation the Republic of Ireland, Eire, found itself during the second world war. Along with countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, Eire trod the difficult path of remaining neutral. With all that entailed one question that needed to be dealt with was what to do with those servicemen from the belligerent nations who found themselves in Ireland by way of crashed planes or naval personnel rescued from the sunk shipping. I’m joined by Bernard Kelly. Bernard is a Irish historian whose book “Military Internees, Prisoners of War and the Irish State during the Second World War” looks at these issues.. . .
In december last year we looked at how Churchill in 1940 kept Britain in the war. In this episode we’re crossing the pond to look at Roosevelt and America in 1940/41. At the outbreak of war in Europe the majority of the American people did not want to commit troops to another European war. When much of continental Europe fell under Nazi tyranny and Britain looked over the white cliffs at Dover to see the German Army looking back and the Battle of Britain started in earnest, American public opinion started to waver allowing FDR to push through measures in support of the British and Allied war effort. I’m joined by Marc Wortman, he is the author of 1941: Fighting the shadow war. Which the Wall Street Journal described as “Engrossing… [1941 is] an absorbing world-wide epic set in that pivotal year. … ”. . .
Have you ever wondered where to find surviving WWII tanks? Craig Moore's tank-hunter.com is a invaluable resource in tracking them down. What could be better than a summer holiday roaming Europe ticking tanks off your tank-spotter list! Craig also writes for tanks-encyclopedia.com.. . .
In this episode we’re in the Pacific in 1943 looking at the exploits of Lieutenant Hugh Miller. After his ship the USS Strong is sunk he washes up on a Pacific island terribly injured. It’s is a remarkable story of survival, and a one man war against the Japanese after being sunk I’m joined by Stephen Harding. Stephen is long time journalist specialising in military affairs, he’s written a number of books including the New York Times bestseller “The Last Battle”... His latest book is “The Castaway’s War" tells the story of Hugh Miller and the subsequent events of him after the sinking of the USS Strong.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at the attempts to disrupt and destroy Germany's access to heavy water, which was essential for their atomic research. If that sounds familiar that could be because you’ve seen the film “The Heroes of Telemark” or watched one of the many documentaries on the operations against the Norsk Hydro plant at Vemork. I talk to Neal Bascomb, his new book “Winter Fortress” is painstaking researched, with access to the diaries of some of the men involved. It sheds light on a remarkable series of operations in Norway where the weather was as big a threat as the Nazi's. . .
In this episode we’re look at Nazi war criminals and those that tracked them down. I’m joined by Andrew Nagorski. Andrew is an award winning journalist who for three decades served as a foreign correspondent, and editor for Newsweek. He has written a number of books focusing on the Second World War and his latest is The Nazi Hunters (if you're in the UK the title is In Pursuit). As the war closed many lower ranking Nazi’s escaped capture, scattering across the world, blending in with the millions of displaced people. In the following decades a small band of individuals would devote themselves to tracking down and highlighting these former Nazi’s. The search would see Adolf Eichmann being discovered in Argentina and snatched by Mossad, though to uncovering former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim’s attempt to cover up his wartime history.. . .
It’s a little known fact that during the second world war drugs were issued to those men on active service on a monumental scale, hundreds of millions of pills were produced. The drug of choice was amphetamines, stimulants used to help push troops beyond there not made endurance and keeping pilots alert on long missions. In this episode of the show I’m talking to Lukasz Kamienski. Lukasz is Associate Professor at the Faculty of International and Political Studies, at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland His new book “shooting up” investigates the long history of intoxicants and drug use within the military.. . .
In today’s episode we’re looking at the De Havilland Mosquito. It was fast, extremely versatile and made from wood, affectionately referred to as the “Mossie”. Over 7,000 were built, yet only two remain flying today. I’m joined by John Lilly, Ross Sharp and Nick Horrox. They are from the People’s Mosquito, a project aiming to get another "Mossie" flying. John is the Chairman and Managing Director, Ross is Director of Engineering and Nick is communications.. . .
By the end of June 1940 the Battle of France was over, the British Army had been plucked from the Beaches of Dunkirk, but much of its heavy equipment had been abandoned in France. It looked like Britain would be the next target for the Nazi war machine… Having witnessed the debacle in France a betting man might have put his money on the Germans when it came to invading England. On the 14th of May 1940 Anthony Eden had called on men between 17 and 65 in Britain who were not in military service but wished to defend their country to enrol in the Local Defence Volunteers. By July over 1.5million Britons has volunteered… Another group was also created, a clandestine army that in the event of invasion would be called upon. Britain would be the first nation to have a pre-planed resistance network, the went under the unassuming name of Auxiliary, or Aux Units. I’m joined by Tom Sykes from the ColesHill Auxiliary Research Team.. . .
In this episode we’re looking at the Java Sea Campaign, with Jeffrey Cox. Jeff’s book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II from Osprey publishing, examines the events following Pearl Harbor. In their own lighting offensive the Japanese attacked Singapore, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. The Allies reeled against the well planned assaults, struggling to hit back with any useful resistance in the first major sea battles of the war in the Pacific.. . .
In this episode I’m looking at the use of Gliders during the war and I’m joined by Matt Yates. Matt is a member of Chalk a living history group in the north of England who specialise in the British Glider Regiment and its activities from 1942 to 1945.. . .
The StuG started development before the war and was in full production by 1940. Designated an Assault Gun it was designed round a Panzer III chassis but no turret, this gave it an extremely low profile. It's role was to support infantry as they followed close behind the panzer assaults. But the Assault gun soon proved to be very versatile, in Russia they were often called upon to provide an anti-tank role. The StuG would be produced throughout the war. The bombing of the factory in 1943 forced a change in design to a Panzer IV Chassis as production was moved to a different facility. To deal with the better armour that the Germans were now facing it was found the StuG with its larger crew compartment could accommodate the 75mm Pak40 allowing it to pack enough punch to knock out the new Soviet T34s. The StuG became the most produced armoured fighting vehicle of the war! In this episode I’m talking to John Phillips and we’re talking StuG, Jon owns one and currently in the process of restoring it.. . .
At a time when Britain stood alone there was one shining light in North Africa. Richard O'Conner's Operation Compass was on the cusp of capturing the whole of North Africa, before his troops were diverted to Greece. His stunning victories in 1940/41 are now rarely remembered. Mark Buehner and I discuss O'Conner's career.. . .
Parcels delivered by the International Red Cross proved to be a lifeline for many Prisoners of War. These were guaranteed by the Geneva Convention of 1929 providing PoWs with tobacco, food and some hygiene products. For many they supplemented the meagre rations provided by their captors. Remarkably these parcels were shipped all round the world, they crossed war zones and a complex operation that ensured they got through. In this episode I'm joined by Mark Webster. Mark has written two books on the subject from the perspective of New Zealand, a country who had 1 in 200 of its population held as PoWs. As a result New Zealand would pack, by hand one parcel for every 1.7 of its population and ship them halfway round the world mainly to European camps. Parcels From Home and Parcels From Home: Trainspotter Edition by Mark Webster and Paul Luker are available from the Apple iBook Store.. . .
In this episode I'm joined by Professor Theresa Kaminski. We look at the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and the extraordinary stories of those women who escaped internment and help American POWs and those interned. Theresa’s speciality is American women’s history at the University of Wisconsin. Her new book Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II tells the story of four American women who avoided being captured by the Japanese in Manila and were part of a little-known resistance movement.. . .
By the end of 1940 Britain defiantly stood alone against Nazi tyranny. Appeasement of the late 1930s was a reaction against the slaughter of the First World War, even after the fall of France some in power advocated a peace with Germany. In this episode of the podcast I talk to John Kelly. We discuss why Britain chose to fight with the odds stacked against her following the fiasco in Norway, the fall of Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. We examine how the public mood changed and Churchill's rise to Prime Minister. John is the author of "Never Surrender'.. . .
The invasion of Sicily would be the largest Allied amphibious landing at that time undertaken. After just 38 days of bitter fighting the Allies conquered the Island, but thousands of Germans had escaped capture, evacuated over the Straits of Messina. The Allied Air force had a crucial role to play, but it wasn’t just over Sicily they operated in support of the operation… In this episode I'm joined by Alexander Fitzgerald-Black. Alex gained his MA at the University of New Brunswick. His thesis “Eagles over Husky: The Allied Air Forces and the Sicilian Campaign” investigates the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.. . .
In this episode I talk to Douglas Waller about the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS. The US entered the Second World War with no foreign intelligence service. Roosevelt selected William Donovan, WW1 Medal of Honor recipient, to create an agency based on the British MI6 and SOE. A task he did with gusto. Douglas is a veteran journalist and has work for Time Magazine and Newsweek. For twenty years as a Washington correspondent he has covered the Pentagon, Congress, the State Department, the White House and the CIA. He has written two books looking at the American Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, which was America’s Intelligence service during WWII. His first book on the subject “Wild” Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage is a biography of William Donovan who ran the organisation up until it was disbanded in 1945. His new book Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan takes a closer look at the activities of the OSS, through the careers of four future CIA directors who were active during the war.. . .
In this episode I talk to Canadian historian Mark Zuehlke, and we look at Operation Jubilee, the Raid on Dieppe. In August of 1942 a force of 6,000, predominantly Canadians, including the Calgary Tank Regiment, mounted a raid on the French port of Dieppe, now occupied by the Germans. This would be the largest allied raid yet launched. Almost all the objectives of the main raid failed to be met. Most of those troops who made it ashore struggled to get off the beach, and for hours were pinned down under withering fire. At the same time the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force mounted a huge operation to provide the troops on shore and the fleet, support and cover for the duration of the Raid. Casualties were high for the Allies, the mission judged a failure, yet it has since been justified as a vital precursor with lessons been learnt for D-Day, in 1944.. . .
In this episode I talk to Andrew Panton of the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage centre. Andrew is lucky enough to be one of the pilots for their Lancaster Bomber “Just Jane”. The Lancaster is arguably, one of the most well known planes designed and built in Britain during the Second World War. When it went into production it quickly became the mainstay of Bomber Command, with 7,377 being made, of which 3,249 would be lost. 125,000 aircrew served with bomber command, and 55,573 would be killed. Thats a 44% kill rate, higher than any other service during the war. A large proportion of which, would have been in Lancaster's. This is perhaps one reason why the Lancaster is close to people’s hearts. For more information on NX611 "Just Jane" and to book a taxi ride in her have a look at the Lincolnshire Aviation website lincsaviation.co.uk.. . .
Omar Bradley commanded more Americans in combat than any other General before or since, at its peak his 12th Army Group numbered 1.7 million men! In the pantheon of World War II leaders he is over shadowed by bigger characters such as Patton or MacArthur. Yet in 1943 Patton was his commander, but by 1944 he commanded Patton. The war reported Ernie Pyle dubbed him the "GI's General" and wrote: "If I could pick any two men in the world for my father except my own dad, I would pick General Omar Bradley or General Ike Eisenhower.” I'm joined by Jeffery Lavoie, his new book The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley investigates the legend. Jeffrey is a PhD researcher at the University of Exeter (UK) where his studies concentrate on Modern Religious Movements and Victorian Studies. He is also a minister, lecturer, editor and a WW2 researcher .. . .
The USS Neosho was a fleet oiler during WW2. She was delivering fuel at Pearl Harbour when it was attacked in December 1941. Laiden with fuel, if hit she would have caused and an enormous explosion. The quick thinking Captain saved her on that day. Dispatched with Task Force 17 to the Coral Sea, she was the only big oil tanker serving the fleet until the battle began, when she was ordered to leave the fleet for her own safety. I'm joined by Don Keith to discuss the USS Neosho. His book The Ship That Wouldn't Die is the story of the attack on the oiler by 78 Japanese planes, three quarters of the planes available to their Carriers. Its an incurable story of duty, determination and survival. To find Don's other books have a look at his website donkeith.com.. . .
This is a test transmission for the new WW2 Podcast launching on 1st of May 2015. This monthly podcast will look at all aspects of the Second World War. The first episode will look at the German Halftrack, the Sd.Kfz. 251, when I talk to Paul Hilditch of the Northern WWII Association.. . .
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