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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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Now displaying: 2020
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!

Sep 15, 2020

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.

Sep 1, 2020

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...

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Aug 15, 2020

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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Aug 1, 2020

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.

Jul 15, 2020

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.

 

Jul 1, 2020

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...

Jun 15, 2020

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 

Jun 1, 2020

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.

May 15, 2020

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.

May 10, 2020

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.

May 1, 2020

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.

Apr 15, 2020

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.

 

Apr 1, 2020

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.

 

Mar 15, 2020

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.

Mar 1, 2020

"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…

 

Feb 15, 2020

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.

 

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Feb 1, 2020

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.

Jan 15, 2020

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.

 

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