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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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Sep 15, 2021

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.

Sep 1, 2021

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

Aug 15, 2021

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

Aug 1, 2021

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

Jul 15, 2021

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.

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Jul 1, 2021

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
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This episode is brought to you by Tactical Tea, for your supplies use promo code WW2PODCAST

Jun 15, 2021

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

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Jun 1, 2021

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:
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May 15, 2021

Everyone remembers the role of Churchill and Roosevelt throughout the war, but there was a third man key to their relationship and of the three of them the only one to remain in power at the end of the war in August 1945.

Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada, the largest British Dominion and America's closest neighbour. By the start of the war, King knew both FDR and he’d been friends with Churchill since first meeting in 1905. He would serve as a lynchpin between the great powers, yet is now often overlooked.

Joining me is Neville Thompson.

Neville is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Western Ontario, where he taught modern British and European history. He is also the author of the wonderful book The Third Man: Churchill, Roosevelt, MacKenzie King, and the Untold Friendships That Won WWII which recounts the relationship between the three men based on King’s personal diaries.

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May 1, 2021

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… 

Apr 15, 2021

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.

https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast

Apr 1, 2021

'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.

Mar 15, 2021

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.

https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast

Mar 1, 2021

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.

https://www.patreon.com/ww2podcast

Feb 15, 2021

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.

Feb 1, 2021

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.

Jan 15, 2021

During the interwar years the US army had worked to develop a light weapons carrier, but by 1940 the ‘perfect’ vehicle had not been found. The war in Europe focused minds in the American army and in June it compiled a list of requirements for a revolutionary new truck to replace the mule as the Army's primary method of moving troops and small payloads.

In this episode we discuss how the American Bantam Car Company, Willys Overland-Motors and the Ford Motor Company stepped up to the challenge and developed a new vehicle which would eventually become the Jeep.

I’m Joined by Paul R. Bruno.

Paul has spent twenty years researching, writing and studying early Jeep history. His first book was Project Management in History: The First Jeep, this led him to his next book The Original Jeeps.

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Jan 1, 2021

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.

Dec 20, 2020

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

 

Dec 15, 2020

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.

 

 

Dec 1, 2020

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.

Nov 15, 2020

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.

Nov 1, 2020

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.

Oct 15, 2020

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.

Oct 1, 2020

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!

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