When France capitulated in 1940 and the Vichy government came to power many of the French colonial possessions remained loyal to the new regime. The same was true for the Island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
In this episode I’m joined by Russell Phillips.
Russell’s book A Strange Campaign narrates the story of the battle for Madagascar, where British troops would fight the French for possession of the island.
If you want to hear more from Russell, spool back through the WW2 Podcast feed to episode 27. We discussed Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice as a reprisal by the Germans. Not only was the village physically destroyed all the visible remains were removed.
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Everyone remembers the role of Churchill and Roosevelt throughout the war, but there was a third man key to their relationship and of the three of them the only one to remain in power at the end of the war in August 1945.
Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada, the largest British Dominion and America's closest neighbour. By the start of the war, King knew both FDR and he’d been friends with Churchill since first meeting in 1905. He would serve as a lynchpin between the great powers, yet is now often overlooked.
Joining me is Neville Thompson.
Neville is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Western Ontario, where he taught modern British and European history. He is also the author of the wonderful book The Third Man: Churchill, Roosevelt, MacKenzie King, and the Untold Friendships That Won WWII which recounts the relationship between the three men based on King’s personal diaries.
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looking at the British Army in North Africa, its tactics and training in an effort to explain the difficulties the 8th Army had fighting the Afrika Korps.
Jame’s book was released last year but I’ve only recently managed to find the time to read his book 8th Army vs Rommel. And what a cracking book it is…
It's a simple question, how do you knock out a Panther tank? When the 'boffins' in Britain got hold of a Panther it's the question they were tasked with finding an answer for.
Using official reports and documents, Craig Moore has been through the archives piecing together all the faults that the British saw in the German Panther during WWII. In this episode, I discuss with him the chinks that were found in the amour of the German tank.
Craig is the author of How to Kill a Panther Tank and How to Kill a Tiger Tank.
'In the years after World War I, the defeated and much-reduced German Army developed new clothing and personal equipment that drew upon the lessons learned in the trenches. In place of the wide variety of uniforms and insignia that had been worn by the Imperial German Army, a standardized approach was followed, culminating in the uniform items introduced in the 1930s as the Nazi Party came to shape every aspect of German national life.
The outbreak of war in 1939 prompted further adaptations and simplifications of uniforms and insignia, while the increasing use of camouflaged items and the accelerated pace of weapons development led to the appearance of new clothing and personal equipment. Medals and awards increased in number as the war went on, with grades being added for existing awards and new decorations introduced to reflect battlefield feats.
Specialists such as mountain troops, tank crews and combat engineers were issued distinctive uniform items and kit, while the ever-expanding variety of fronts on which the German Army fought - from the North African desert to the Russian steppe - prompted the rapid development of clothing and equipment for different climates and conditions. In addition, severe shortages of raw materials and the demands of clothing and equipping an army that numbered in the millions forced the simplification of many items and the increasing use of substitute materials in their manufacture.'
Joining me is Dr Stephen Bull.
Stephen is the author of Ospreys publishings sumptuous German Army Uniforms of World War II.
Since the HBO WWII miniseries Band of Brothers aired in 2001, Major Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne has garnered international acclaim. His exploits hit key moments of the North Western European campaign in 1944-45 as Winter’s took part in D-Day, Operation Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge. A modest hero, he epitomizes the notion of dignified leadership.
Winters was a fairly prolific letter writer, one person he wrote to regularly was a young lady called DeEtta Almon. After the war they lost touch but upon the release of Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers, DeEtta contacted Winters and presented him with all the letters he had written to her during the war.
In this episode I’m joined by Erik Dorr and Jared Frederick.
Erik is the owner and curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, which houses a Dick Winter Collection.
Jared Frederick is professional historian and lecturer, with Erik they have written Hang Tough a unique view of Dick Winters based round the letters to DeEtta Almon that are now housed at the Gettysburg Museum of History.
The common narrative of the war often completely overlooks Germany’s attempts to run spies in Britain. In actual fact, for more or less the whole of the war the German secret service, the Abwehr, were sending agents into Britain.
In this episode I’m joined by Bernard O’Connor, author of Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow up Britain to discuss German espionage activities.
At the start of 1944 the German army on the Eastern Front was reeling after suffering defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk. Hitler was keen to hold on to the territory occupied by the Germans, but all the while the Wehrmacht was forced to give up ground to the Red Army.
In this episode we’re going to be looking at the fighting throughout 1944 for Army Group South in the Ukraine and Romania.
I’m joined by Prit Buttar.
Prit is the author of a number of books recounting the fighting in Russia during both world wars, his latest is The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944.
In previous episodes we’ve touched upon the Spanish civil war, when the war came to an end there was a large number of displaced Spanish living in France and to a less extent other Europe countries. With the second world war looming, the French began to recruit these displaced men into their armed forces.
When France fell in 1940 a sizeable number found themselves in Britain, where they were recruited in to the British Army. But they weren’t just in Britain, in North Africa and the Middle East spaniards signed up to fight with the British.
In this episode I’m joined by military historian and hispanist Sean Scullion to explore who these men were and their stories.
During the interwar years the US army had worked to develop a light weapons carrier, but by 1940 the ‘perfect’ vehicle had not been found. The war in Europe focused minds in the American army and in June it compiled a list of requirements for a revolutionary new truck to replace the mule as the Army's primary method of moving troops and small payloads.
In this episode we discuss how the American Bantam Car Company, Willys Overland-Motors and the Ford Motor Company stepped up to the challenge and developed a new vehicle which would eventually become the Jeep.
I’m Joined by Paul R. Bruno.
Paul has spent twenty years researching, writing and studying early Jeep history. His first book was Project Management in History: The First Jeep, this led him to his next book The Original Jeeps.
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Rome, the ‘Eternal City’, had a peculiar war. With Italy an axis nation it was a target for allied bombers but in the centre is the Vatican, home of the Pope. A neutral state within the capital of a belligerent nation. In deference to the Pope allied bombing operations were curtailed, perhaps more than they might otherwise have have been.
When the Italians secretly brokered an armistice with the allies in September 1943, Rome was occupied by the Germans. With the Germans in charge, Italian men would be deported as forced labour and the Jewish population of Rome rounded up to be sent to concentration camps.
At the same time the Vatican became a magnet for escaped Prisoners of War who would seek refuge inside the walls of the holy city.
I’m joined by Victor Failmezger.
Victor is a retired US Naval Officer who served in Rome as the Assistance Naval Attaché. He is also the author of Rome City in Terror: The Nazi Occupation 1943-44.
Richard Burt was part of the the 746th Far East Air Force Band, based in the Philippines. At the end of WWII just before the band were split up, using a single microphone they recorded a final performance to magnetic wire. Richard Burt he brought these recordings home and had them transferred to 78rpm discs. Burt squirrelled away these discs and were largely forgotten until they were rediscovered after he passed away.
In this episode I’m talking to Jason Burt about his grandfather Richard Burt.
Any long protracted conflict is reliant upon the resources that can be brought bear, in which case war is not just about military success. In this episode of the WW2 podcast we’ll be looking at economics and the economists who shaped the second world war and the post war world.
This story goes beyond simply looking at treasury departments of the belligerent nations, the OSS had a department focusing on the economies of other countries, looking for weaknesses and economists used. Others used their mathematical brilliance in the development of the nuclear bomb.
I'm joined by Alan Bollard, author of Economists at War: How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars
Alan is a Professor of Economics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He formerly managed the APEC - Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - the largest regional economic integration organisation in the world, and was previously the New Zealand Reserve Bank Governor, Secretary of the New Zealand Treasury, and Chairman of the New Zealand Commerce Commission.
In previous episodes 77 and 55 we looked at foreign troops serving in the German army during WWII, in this episode we’re going to be discussing the Georgians who came over from the Russian army to fight with the Wehrmacht. A large number of these men would eventually be posted to the Dutch island of Texel to man the Atlantic war. When the war in Europe ended on the 7th May 1945 the fighting on Texel would continue...
I’m joined by Eric Lee.
Eric is the author of Night of the Bayonets: The Texel Uprising and Hitler’s Revenge, April-May 1945.
In episode 64 I discussed the start of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign with Jeffery Cox. We left that discussion of the campaign unfinished, the Americans were in control of the airfield on Guadalcanal but the Marines had no way secured the island. The US navy had suffered a number of serious losses, including the carrier Hornet and the carrier Enterprise had been seriously damaged forcing her to withdraw for repairs.
Jeff has now finished his second book in the series Blazing Star, Setting Sun, so I’ve got him back to talk about the end of the campaign on Guadalcanal.
The skill and bravery of the Doolittle raiders during WWII, who bombed Tokyo in 1942 captured the American public’s imagination, but not all the crews returned. Eight US flyers became Japanese prisoners of war who were tortured, put on trial for war crimes and found guilty… Not all of these men would make it home.
In this episode we’re not going to be talking directly about the Doolittle raid but rather focus on the post war, war crimes trial of a number of the Japanese officers who were connected with the treatment of the Doolittle flyers that became Prisoners of War.
Joining me is Michel Paradis, author of Last Mission to Tokyo.
Michel is a specialist in International Law and Human Rights and has worked for over a decade with the US Department of Defence. He is also a lecturer at Columbia Law School.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said there was only one campaign of the Second World War that gave him sleepless nights, that was the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Battle began on 3 September 1939 and lasted 2074 days until 8 May 1945, when Germany surrendered. With over 70,000 allied seamen killed, lost on 3,500 merchant vessels and 175 warships. This was the longest continuous campaign of the war.
Matched against them was the Kreigsmarine. While German surface ships would sally out, this campaign is known for the u-boats that would prey upon allied convoys.
Joining me today is Brian Walter, a retired army officer, recipient of the Excellence in Military History Award from the US Army Center for Military History and the Association of the United States Army. Brian is the Author of The Longest Campaign: Britain’s Maritime Struggle in the Atlantic and Northwest Europe, 1939-45.
After D-Day, the spotlight on the allied fighting was focused on North West Europe, yet the fighting in Italy carried on often overlooked. In this episode we’re going to be looking at the Canadians battling across what should have been good tank country at the end of 1944.
I’m joined by Canadian military historian Mark Zuehlke, author of ‘The River Battles: Canada’s Final Campaign in World War II Italy’.
If you want more of Mark and I chatting we discussed the Dieppe Raid, way back in episode 5!
In episode 107, I talked to Ian Mitchell about the Battle of the Peaks and Longstop Hill in North Africa. Ian subsequently emailed me suggesting I talk to Sam Wallace, a post graduate researcher at Leeds University, who was working on some interesting stuff; Sam's PhD is titled The Allied Sandbox: The Tunisian Campaign and the Development of Allied Warfighting Methods, 1942-43.
After chatting with Sam, we decided to look at his MA thesis which is titled Arme Blanche to Armoured Warfare: The Process of Mechanisation within the British Cavalry and the Construction of British Tank Doctrine, c.1925-45,which covers the interwar decision to mechanise the British cavalry arm, and the impacts this decision had on the resulting development of British armoured doctrine, regimental identity and the effectiveness of British armour in the Second World War.
In 1944, Ira Barnet took off from an airfield in New Guinea. Flying a B-25 Mitchell, from the 48th Tactical Fight Squadron, Ira and the crew were on a regular mission to harry any Japanese shipping they came across. Attacking a barge the Japanese managed to get some luck shots on Ira’s plane. Attempting to nurse the Mitchell back to base it became obvious the plane wasn't going to make it. Ira was forced to make an emergency landing in a jungle swamp, miles behind enemy lines.
In this episode we’re looking at the ordeal the crew went through and the rescue mission that was launched in an attempt to bring the boys back home.
I’m joined by Bas Krueger.
Bas is an aviation historian and author of Kais, which recounts the story and Bas’s own attempts to locate the B-25 over 70 years later...
Bertram Ramsey was the mastermind behind the evacuation of the BEF from France in those crucial weeks at the end of May and the start of June in 1940. It was his planning, determination and leadership which helped evacuate around 338,000 men from Dunkirk. But for this Royal Navy Officer, still officially retired, it was just one landmark operation he was involved with. Ramsey would go on to plan and take part in the invasion of North Africa, Sicily and Normandy; for Overlord he would be in overall command of the naval component of the D-Day landings, Neptune.
But, Admiral Bertram Ramsay is not now a household name, overshadowed by some of his contemporaries. Hopefully in this episode we’ll try and put the record straight.
I’m joined by Brian Izzard.
Brian’s book Mastermind of Dunkirk and D-Day: The Vision of Admiral Bertram Ramsay is the first major biography of Ramsay for 50 years!
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On 6th August 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets, flying the ‘Enola Gay’ a B-29 Superfortress named after Tibbets’s mother, dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The bomb, ‘little-boy’, devastated the city; exploding with the energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. The explosion instantly killed thousands of people and in the next few months tens of thousands more would die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition.
On the 9th August Nagasaki would be the next city to be hit by an atomic bomb.
The effects of the atomic bombs shocked even the US military. Even before the Japanese surrender, the US government and military had begun a secret propaganda and information suppression campaign to hide the devastating nature of these experimental weapons. For nearly a year the cover-up worked—until New Yorker journalist John Hersey got into Hiroshima and managed to report the truth to the world.
Hersey’s story would shape the postwar narrative of the atomic bombs, and the US government’s response has helped frame the justification for dropping the bombs which comes down to us today.
I’m joined by Lesley Blume author of the excellent Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.
After the fall of France, Germany turned its attention to Britain. The Battle of Britain is the story of the hard pressed RAF struggling against an enemy, which up to that point hadn’t been stopped. Immortalised on celluloid in the 1969 film, with a star studded cast, Guy Hamilton’s Battle of Britain is very much an anglo centric view and even nearly 30 years after the war the narrative leans heavily on the wartime propaganda. The story of the Battle of Britain is much more complicated, that is not taking anything away from those men Churchill referred to as ‘the ‘few’, in fact in many instances it makes their story more remarkable.
This may well be a topic we come back to from time to time, but to start us off we’re going to look at those crucial summer months in 1940 from the German perspective, asking how did they view it and what was their experience?
Joining me today is Douglas Dildy and Paul Crickmore authors of To Defeat the Few: The Luftwaffe’s campaign to destroy RAF Fighter Command, August–September 1940.
Doug is a retired US Air Force colonel who spent nine of his 26-year career in Western Europe and retired with approximately 3,200 hours of fast jet time, almost half of that as an F-15 Eagle pilot.
He attended the US Armed Forces Staff College and USAF Air War College and holds a Masters Degree in Political Science. Doug has authored several campaign studies as well as several articles covering the Dutch, Danish and Norwegian air arms' defence against the German invasions of 1940.
Paul is an aviation historian and former air traffic controller, he’s penned numerous books including a number on the SR-71 Blackbird and F-15.
The Spanish civil war has been highlighted as an important prelude to WWII with Germany, Italy and Russia providing men and materiel for the Republican and Nationalist forces. Augmenting this were other foreign fighters forming the international Brigades. In this episode we’ll explore this conflict to see how much influence it had on the Second World War.
I’m joined by Alex Clifford, author of The People’s Army In the Spanish Civil War and co-host of the podcast History's Most, a podcast that delves into interesting, under-reported and controversial topics in history. In each episode they take a 'most' or 'worst' in history and investigate it, from History's Most Guilty man, to most Unlikely victory to worst democracy. From Erich Ludendorff to the First Crusade... You should be able to find it on your podcast software of choice...
As you know I like to seek out lesser known topics of the Second World War. In this episode we’ll be looking at the British army’s Middle-East Anti-locust Unit (MEALU). Due to locust threatening local food crops in the middle east, and to prevent valuable shipping space being used to import food the unit was created, and tasked with waging war on locust.
Joining me is Athol Yates.
Athol is Assistant Professor at Institute for International and Civil Security, at the Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates. He has recently published the paper The British Military and the Anti-Locust Campaign across the Arab Peninsula including the Emirates, 1942-45