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The WW2 Podcast

A history podcast looking at all aspects of WWII, military history, social history, the battles, the campaigns, tanks, gun and other equipment, the politics and those who ran the war. I look at it all. With WW2 slipping from living memory I aim to look at different historical aspects of the Second World War. In each episode of the WWII Podcast I interview an expert on a subject. No topics are out of bounds (as yet), and I cover the military history side of the war as well as looking the home front. Hopefully the format allows for close examination of a topic, and makes for absorbing listening.
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The WW2 Podcast
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Apr 15, 2018

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.

Apr 1, 2018

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!

Mar 15, 2018

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'.

Mar 1, 2018

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.

Feb 15, 2018

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

Feb 1, 2018

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.

Jan 15, 2018

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…

Jan 1, 2018

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.

Dec 15, 2017

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!

Dec 1, 2017

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.

Nov 22, 2017

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.

Nov 15, 2017

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…

Nov 1, 2017

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.

 

Oct 15, 2017

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.

 

 

Oct 1, 2017

Between 1943-45 Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5Atlantik” 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.

Sep 15, 2017

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.

 

Sep 1, 2017

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.

Aug 15, 2017

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.
 
 
Aug 1, 2017

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

Jul 15, 2017

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.

 

Jul 6, 2017

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

Jul 1, 2017

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”.

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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.

 

Jun 15, 2017

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.

Jun 1, 2017

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?

May 15, 2017

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.

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