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Badly shot up they we're withdrawn and sent to a small town in Luxembourg called Wiltz.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.
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.