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The WW2 Podcast

The WW2 Podcast is a history show looking at all aspects of the Second World War; military history, social history, the battles, the campaigns, tanks, guns and other equipment, the politics and those who ran the war. In each episode of the podcast, Angus interviews a WWII expert on a subject. No topics are out of bounds. Angus Wallace is a long-time military history podcaster, he holds a Master's degree in History, has lectured at university level and is just in the process of completing his PhD.
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Now displaying: 2023
Dec 20, 2023

When President McKinley turned down Benjamin Oliver Davis for a place at West Point due to the colour of his skin, Davis joined the army as a private. Davis soon worked his way through the ranks to receive his second lieutenant commission in 1901. It would be over 30 years before another black officer would receive his commission, and that would be Benjamin Oliver Davis's son, Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr.

In theory, black troops would be barred from combat, but Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. would lead the first Black flying squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen, to success during WWII.

For this episode, I'm joined by Doug Melville, a direct relative of Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. and Sr.

When George Lucas's film 'Red Tails' (2012), celebrating the Tuskegee Airmen, was released, Doug was shocked when he realised that Ben Jr.’s name had been omitted and replaced by the fictional Colonel A. J. Bullard. And Ben’s father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., America’s first Black general who helped integrate the military, was left out too. The film inspired him to rediscover his family’s story, which spans five generations, and write Invisible Generals: Rediscovering Family Legacy, and a Quest to Honor America's First Black Generals.

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Dec 15, 2023

The convoy HG-76 sailed from Gibraltar to Britain in December 1941. The Royal Navy commander in charge was 'Johnnie' Walker, an anti-submarine expert who had developed new, aggressive U-boat hunting tactics. Accompanying the escorts was HMS Audacity, the Royal Navy's first escort carrier - a new type of warship purpose-built to defend convoys from enemy aircraft and U-boats.

Aware of the departure of HG-76, a wolfpack of U-boats was sent against it, and the Luftwaffe was heavily committed to, in a rare example of German inter-service cooperation. German intelligence agents in Gibraltar and Spain also knew every detail of HG-76 before it sailed, seemingly stacking the odds in favour of the Kriegsmarine.

Joining me on this episode is Angus Konstam.

Angus is a naval historian and author of The Convoy: HG-76: Taking the Fight to Hitler's U-boats

For patrons of the podcast, Osprey Publishing has given us a discount code to be used on their website, ospreypublishing.com. 

If you are not a patron of the show, you can sign up at patreon.com/ww2podcast. Patrons can get advert-free listening and extra WWII chat.

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Dec 1, 2023

Hot on the heels of victory in Sicily, the Allies crossed into Southern Italy in September 1943. They expected to drive the Axis forces north and be in Rome by Christmas. Although Italy surrendered, the German forces resisted fiercely, and the swift, hoped-for victory descended into one of the most brutal battles of the war.

I am joined by James Holland, author of The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943 and co-host of the We Have Ways podcast.

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Nov 21, 2023

From the middle of the 19th century, the railways had an integral role in warfare. Trains brought food, ammunition and essential supplies. They also transported troops into the combat zone, and then trains would be used to bring men home.

Hospital trains were not a new concept in WWII, but their development moved the carriages away from being ambulances for evacuating the wounded to mobile hospital units with operating theatres.

Joining me is Alexandra Kitty, author of A Different Track: Hospital Trains of the Second World War.

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Nov 15, 2023

David Stirling is the name synonymous with the wartime SAS, but the real brains behind the operation was, in fact, Bill Stirling, David’s eldest brother.

Having originally joined the SOE in March 1940, Bill Stirling sailed for Cairo in 1941 and there had the idea for a small special forces unit to be led by his mercurial brother. But despite some success, David allowed the legendary 1SAS to drift under his leadership. Following his capture, Bill re-directed 2SAS, under his personal command, to the strategy he had originally envisaged: parachuting behind enemy lines to gather intelligence.

Joining me is Gavin Mortimer.

Gavin is the author of several books focusing on the SAS, including a biography of David Sterling. His latest book is 2SAS: Bill Stirling and the forgotten special forces unit of World War II.

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Nov 1, 2023

If you cast your mind back to episode 187, I discussed the war in the North African desert in 1940-41 with Robert Forczyk. The war in the North African desert was pure mechanised warfare and, in many respects, the most technologically advanced theatre of World War II. It was also the only theatre where, for three years, British and Commonwealth, and later US, troops were in constant contact with Axis forces.

Robert’s follow-up book has just been released, 'Desert Armour: Tank Warfare in North Africa: Gazala to Tunisia, 1942-43’. In this episode of the show, Robert joins me once more. This time, we discuss the fighting in the desert in 1942 through to Mongomery’s victory at El Alamein.

Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the US Army Reserves, having served 18 years as an armour officer and is the author of numerous books focusing on WWII.

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Oct 15, 2023

Journalist Wallace Carroll had a career that spanned 45 years as a journalist. His first foreign posting, in 1929, was to London with the United Press newswire service. Throughout the 1930s, he covered the major events in Europe and witnessed the Spanish Civil War first-hand. Posted back to London, he dictated his early reports of the Blitz from his office rood top. Carroll had a knack for being in places at the right time.

His talents and connections got him noticed, and he finished the war working for the US government with the Office of War Information. Here, he was tasked with counteracting German propaganda and conducting 'physiological warfare'.

Joining me is Mary Llewellyn McNeil.

Mary has written the biography of Carroll, Century's Witness: The Extraordinary Life of Journalist Wallace Carroll.

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Oct 1, 2023

As some of you may know, I am also a First World War historian, and the academic history of the war can be very different from the public perspective, which dwells on the first two years of the war. 

Forgetting the victories of 1917 and 1918 is not new; it is something the British army did during the inter-war period. Added to this corporate amnesia, there was very little discussion in Britain on who the army might be expected to fight. All this culminated in 1939 with a British army unprepared for war and the defeat in France in 1940.

Joining me once more is Robert Lyman, who, with Richard Dannatt, has written Victory to Defeat: The British Army 1939-40. The book is a compelling account of the mismanagement of the British army from the end of the First World War to the start of the next war.

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Sep 25, 2023

We do not think of armour being widely used in the Pacific campaign, and compared to other theatres, that is a reasonable assumption. However, it was utilised by both the Japanese and Americans from the island campaigns, such as Tarawa and Guadalcanal, through to the Philippines.

Joining me today is Mike Guardia, who is the author of American Armor in the Pacific and The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II.

 

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Sep 15, 2023

In this episode, I’m joined by Patrick Eriksson. If you cast your memory back, Patrick has previously joined us to talk about the Luftwaffe and his Alarmstart trilogy of books (episodes 60, 85 and 104).

This time, he is back to discuss the opening few weeks of the Battle of Britain, covered in his book Tally-Ho: RAF Tactical Leadership in the Battle of Britain, July 1940.

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Sep 1, 2023

From September 1941, the Germans surrounded Leningrad, laying siege to the city for 900 days. Over 2 million Russians were trapped, and thousands would die through starvation. As the winter closed in, Lake Ladoga froze, allowing trucks to cross the ice. Dubbed ‘Road of Life’, it would bring vital supplies and eventually evacuate over a million civilians from the besieged city. While all the time, the Russian army struggled to try and lift the siege.

I am happy to welcome back to the podcast Prit Buttar.

Pritt’s latest book is To Besiege a City: Leningrad 1941–42, and we will discuss the first year of the siege.

 

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Aug 15, 2023

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, over 125,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States were incarcerated in prison camps. The majority of these were born in America and US citizens. This was authorised by an Executive Order from President Roosevelt.

The Japanese Americans complied and spent years in the camps. Even though incarcerated, they remained loyal Americans. When the call came for volunteers for the Army first the 100th Infantry Battalion was formed and then the 442 Regimental Combat Team - in which thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered to serve. These two units were awarded over 4,000 Purple Hearts, and 21 men received the Medal of Honor.

In post-war America, the narrative of the treatment of Japanese Americans shifted. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which officially apologised for the incarceration on behalf of the U.S. government.

Joining me today is Mitchell Maki.

Mitchell is the President and CEO of the Go For Broke National Education Center, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the legacy and lessons of the Nisei World War II veterans. And he is the author of Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress.

 

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Aug 10, 2023

Few wives of prominent men are more than a footnote in many histories, but they were often central to their husbands' lives. The classic well-known example is the relationship between the wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine (see episode 116).

For months I've been sitting on Stefanie van Steelandt's biography of Mrs Patton, Lady of the Army: The Life of Mrs George S Patton. Following my look at George Patton in the last episode, I thought it was the opportune time to look at his wife Beatrice.

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Aug 1, 2023

If you cast your memory back to episode 157, Kevin Hymel joined me. We discussed General Patton from the campaigns in Mediteranean in 1942 to just before his activation as commander of third army in 1944.

Kevin is back. This time we will discuss Patton’s arrival in France through to the Battle of the Bulge.

Kevin has worked as a historian for the US Army and is currently doing work for the Arlington National Cemetery. He is also a tour guide for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. He is the author of Patton’s Photographs: War as He Saw It, and his second book in what is to be a trilogy, is Patton's War: An American General's Combat Leadership, Volume II: August to December 1944.

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Jul 15, 2023

In episode 144, I chatted to Andrew Sangster about Alanbrooke. Earlier this year, I noticed Andrew had a new book, Flawed Commanders and Strategy in the Battle for Italy, 1943-45. With his co-author Pier Paolo Battistelli, the book looks at Montgomery, Mark Clark, Patton, Harold Alexander, Albert Kesselring and the fighting in Sicily and Italy. There is too much to cover in a single episode of the podcast, but I’ve asked Andrew back to discuss the fighting in the Mediterranean from the perspective of Kesselring.

Andrew Sangster has six degrees, in Law, Theology and four in history including his doctorate. An ordained priest, he has trespassed away from the Church to teaching and the study of history. He has taught in grammar schools and at Eton College, was a headmaster for some nine years and has assisted post-graduate students of history. He has some twenty published history books to his credit both in the United Kingdom and overseas with some co-authored with Pier Paolo Battistelli, the well-known Italian historian. When not called for Church duties he studies the lesser-known aspects of modern history and plays chess for relaxation.

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Jul 1, 2023

Fought between 8 March and 18 July 1944, the battles of Imphal and Kohima were the turning point of one of the most gruelling campaigns of the Second World War (1939-45). The decisive Japanese defeat in north-east India became the springboard for the Fourteenth Army’s subsequent re-conquest of Burma.

Joining me for this episode is Robert Lyman, author of the excellent A War of Empires; Japan, India, Burma and Britain 1941-45.

The book covers the defeat of the British and Indian armies in 1941-42, the change of commanders, the restructuring, training of the army and new tactics, and the extraordinary victories culminating in Mandalay in May 1945 and the collapse of all Japanese forces in Burma.

But that is a big topic to cover. So I thought we would focus on the battle of Kohima and, to some extent, Imphal. In 2013, a British National Army Museum poll voted the Battles of Kohima and Imphal as ‘Britain's Greatest Battle’.

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Jun 15, 2023

In public life, Canadian Dr Winthrop Bell was a Harvard philosophy professor and wealthy businessman. As MI6 secret agent A12, he evaded gunfire and shook off pursuers to break open the emerging Nazi conspiracy in 1919 Berlin. His reports provided the first warnings of right-wing conspiracies in the German establishment, eventually leading to Hitler and the National Socialists.

In the 1930s, after reading Hitler's speeches and books, Bell was warning of the Holocaust. But his warnings fell on deaf ears until the outbreak of war.

For this episode, I am joined by Jason Bell.

Jason is a professor of philosophy at the University of New Brunswick. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in Germany and was the first scholar granted exclusive access to Winthrop Bell’s classified espionage papers. Jason is also the author of Cracking the Nazi Code: The Untold Story of Canada's Greatest Spy, which recounts Bell’s story.

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Jun 7, 2023

With the Second World War slipping from living memory, the University of Oxford has launched Their Finest Hour. The project aims to empower local communities to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity. 

For this episode, I am joined by Dr Joseph Quinn to explain how the project works and how you can get involved.

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Jun 1, 2023

The battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of WWII, it consisted of four separate actions near the Philippines between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Japanese plan was to disrupt the American landings on the island of Leyte. In one respect, the plan was a success, the Japanese did draw off Admiral Halsey’s 3rd Fleet. But ultimately, it was a disaster for the Japanese Imperial Navy, which suffered one of the most decisive defeats of the war.

Joining me is Mark Stille. Mark was last with us discussing Pearl Harbor in episode 155. He has a new book published by Osprey titled - Leyte Gulf: A New History of the World's Largest Sea Battle.

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May 15, 2023

As attacks on London by the Luftwaffe became a reality in the summer of 1940, Londoners needed somewhere to shelter from the air raids. And so during the Blitz and through to the end of the war, deep-level Tube stations of London underground were utilised, sheltering thousands every night.

But the role of the underground is much more complicated, in 1939, the station platforms were never expected to see civilians sleeping there, but rather they were to be kept clear for emergency transportation use.

In this episode I am joined by Niall Devitt.

Niall is the author of Underground Railway: A New History, which is due to be published by Pen & Sword.

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May 1, 2023

When we think of airborne operations in WWII, the historiography is dominated by operations in the European Theatre. Parachute drops on Sicily, the Normandy coast for D-Day and into the Netherlands for Market Garden. 

But, in the Pacific, Joseph Swing's 11th Airborne Division - nicknamed the Angels - were making combat drops. They fought in some of the war’s most dramatic campaigns, from bloody skirmishes in Leyte’s unforgiving rainforests to the ferocious battles on Luzon, including the hellish urban combat of Manila.   

Joining me is James Fenelon.

Long-time listeners might remember I chatted with James about the US 17th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine. This time we are discussing James' new book Angels Against the Sun: A WWII Saga of Grunts, Grit, and Brotherhood.

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Apr 15, 2023

The US glider pilots in WWII were all volunteers. Playing a pivotal role in delivering thousands of troops, including logistical support, these pilots landed their gliders ahead of the ground forces in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Yet, 80 years later, their story is virtually unknown.

For this episode, I am joined by  Scott McGaugh.

Scott is the author of The Brotherhood of the Flying Coffin: The Glider Pilots of World War II.

If this has piqued your interest in Glider pilots, in episode 13, I discuss the experiences of British glider pilots with Matt Yates.

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Apr 1, 2023

In April 1945, with the Allies closing in, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, with his German bodyguards, decided to flee Milan. The convoy was later joined by a Luftwaffe column retreating toward Germany, making a powerful force.

In this episode, we're going to be looking at Mussolini's last days and the race between the OSS, the SOE and the Italian partisans to kill or capture him.

I am joined by Malcolm Tudor.

Malcolm is an Anglo-Italian author specialising in Italy during WWII. He was last with us in episode 86, discussing the SAS in Italy. His new book is Mussolini, The Last 10 Days, A New Investigation.

 

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Mar 15, 2023

Stalingrad ranks as one of the most infamous, savage and emotive battles of the 20th century. To supply the trapped and exhausted German Sixth Army, the Luftwaffe mounted an airlift in the winter of 1942/43. The weather conditions faced by the flying crews, mechanics, and soldiers on the ground were appalling, but against all odds, and a resurgent and active Soviet air force, the transports maintained a determined presence over the ravaged city on the Volga, even when the last airfields in the Stalingrad pocket had been lost.

I'm joined by Robert Forsyth, whose new book is To Save An Army: The Stalingrad Airlift.

Robert has been with us before discussing Luftwaffe special weapons and, before that, the Luftwaffe's attempt to support U-Boat operations in the Atlantic.

 

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Mar 7, 2023

Following episode 187, when I talk to Forczyk about the war in North Africa, I thought it might be interesting to see how that fighting is interpreted and simulated as a computer game. And look at the choices game designers make when juggling authenticity and entertainment.

I’m joined by David Milne from Relic Entertainment. David is one of the senior designers who worked on Company of Heroes 3, a computer game which focuses on WWII in North Africa and Italy.

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