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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 ...
 
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show series
 
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 E…
 
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…
 
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 war…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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 …
 
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 …
 
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…
 
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 near…
 
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 Wor…
 
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 l…
 
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 …
 
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…
 
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 he…
 
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 t…
 
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 …
 
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…
 
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…
 
"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 communi…
 
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. Chr…
 
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 comme…
 
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…
 
We’re in North Africa for this episode of the podcast. In late 1942 the Allies landed in Morocco and Algeria, this was operation Torch. With them landed elements of what would become First Army, comprising of British, French and American troops. It was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Anderson a dour capable, scotsman. First Army would b…
 
In this episode we’re starting with the US 110th Infantry regiment in the Ardennes and following a small number of GI’s who became POW and sent back to Germany, to ultimately work as slave labour on ‘operation swallow’. Joining me once more is military historian Mark Felton. Mark is having a busy year, if you recall we chatted to him recently about…
 
2019 marked the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Germany and then a few weeks later, Russia. It was the event that forced Britain and France to finally declare war on Germany. In a five week campaign the Wehrmacht fought one of the largest armies in Europe to a point where it collapsed. But the Poles were not necessarily the backward f…
 
If you cast your mind back to February 2018 I discussed the experience of German fighter pilots experience in Western Europe with Patrick Eriksson, that’s episode 60. Later that same year, Patrick followed up with a second book Alarmstart East, focusing on the luftwaffe fighting over Russia (episode 85). Patrick has now finished his trilogy of Luft…
 
If you’ve ever read about the British experience in the Deserts of North Africa during WWII, one name usually gets a mention somewhere in the narrative, that of Eric Dorman-Smith, often refered to as ‘chink’. He can be a divisive character, sometimes portrayed as a far thinking military genius whose ideas were ignored or misunderstood. To others he…
 
June 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we had a month of D-Day podcasts looking at the operation from the British, Canadian and American perspectives. The narrative of that day is the difficulty of the operation, doubts if the landings would succeed, but what if we turn the tables? How was it for the Germans? To answer that question I'm jo…
 
On the night of May 16th, 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers took off from England heading toward the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr. They carried a new bomb, designed to skip across water avoiding any torpedo nets before hitting the target and sinking into the depths; then exploding.. The bomb was codenamed ‘upkeep’, we know it today as the ‘boun…
 
On the 17th September 1944 Gene Metcalfe, of the 82 Airbourne, parachuted in to Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. Approaching the bridge they were to capture Gene is injured in a firefight and left for dead. He would spend the rest of the war as a POW. I talk to Gene about his wartime experiences in the Airbourne, as a POW and what happen…
 
One thing I’ve learned from producing these podcasts is the research never ends, it only leads to new avenues of interest branching off from the original topic. And this is the case for Peter Lion. If you recall in episode 33, Peter told us how elements of the US 28nd infantry division, stationed in the Luxembourg town of Wiltz put on a christmas p…
 
September 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the allied attempt to create a sixty mile corridor, and secure a crossing over the Rhine. The plan was to use the newly formed First Allied Airborne Army to seize and hold nine key bridges until relieved by the British Army’s XXX Corp. The Airborne component was known as Market, …
 
Last year I got an email from Cole Gill, his grandfather had made a number of tape recordings recounting his experiences during the war serving on the Royal Navy ship HMS Exeter, then as a POW at the Fukuoka camp,where he witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Who wouldn’t be interested in that story? Cole sent them over and after l…
 
In this episode we’re looking at an RAF raid in 1940 against the Dortmund-Ems canal. The canal was a vital trade route with huge amounts of supplies and raw materials passing along it daily. With the fall of France and the build up to Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain, interrupting the traffic on the canal would aid in upsetting the German…
 
For a long time I’ve been fascinated by movie stars who chose to join the military and saw combat in World War Two. And one star in particular has always interested me, ‘Jimmy Stewart’. A big star in the 1930’s, in 1940 he would win the Oscar for best man in The Philadelphia Story’ and was nominated for one for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, yet whe…
 
In the last episode we looked at the American experience of D-Day at Omaha beach, this time it’s the turn of the British and Canadians at Sword, Juno and Gold on the 6th June 1944. In this episode we’re going to concentrate on the British and Canadian landings on D-Day. I’m joined by John Sadler. Now we’ve talked to John before in episode 26, when …
 
‘Before the war, Normandy’s Plage d’Or coast was best known for its sleepy villages and holiday destinations. Early in 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took one look at the gentle, sloping sands and announced ‘They will come here!’ He was referring to Omaha Beach ‒ the primary American D-Day landing site. The beach was subsequently transformed into…
 
In this episode I’m joined by Walter Borneman, if you cast your mind back I talked to him in episode 25 about General Macarthur. That was nearly three years ago! How time flies! Since then Walter has been busy researching the history of the sinkingof the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 194 and the fate of the crew, includ…
 
On the 6th of June 1942 Japanese troops invaded the island of Attu which is part of Alaska, it was the first time since 1812 that continental America had been invaded. In this episode we’re looking at the US attack to recapture the island, the fighting was bitter in a very hostile environment, and the discovery of a diary of a Japanese army surgeon…
 
In this episode we’re going to be looking at the Free French and the Division Leclerc, commanded by Philippe de Hauteclocque. Raised in the French Colonies of Africa, they fought with distinction in the deserts of Libya and with the British 8th Army. They also took part in the fighting in North West Europe after D-Day, being one of the units that l…
 
We’ve all see the film Downfallabout the Führerbunker in Berlin, in the closing days of the war. And we all know the story of how Adolf Hitler, with his new wife Eva Braun, committed suicide and the body was destroyed. Well, how much of that story do we actually know? Since the end of the war a series of newspaper reports, books and more recently t…
 
The SAS made their name in the North African desert, but less well known is after that they continued to fight in the mediterranean theatre. They carried out raiding missions in advance of the invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky, and then operating behind enemy lines during the Italian Campaign. For this episode I’m joined by Malcolm Tudor. Malcolm…
 
"There are no more than a handful of Second World War Luftwaffe members alive today. Patrick Eriksson had the foresight to record these experiences first-hand before it was too late. Some witnesses ended up as senior fighter controllers. The recollections and views of the veterans are put within the context of the German aerial war history. By no m…
 
In this episode we’re going to be looking at the story of Howard Snyder, a B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ pilot, flying with the US 8th air force from Britain. Through letters Howard wrote to his family, and exhaustive research, his son Steve Snyder has pieced together the remarkable story of his father, and what happened after he was shot down in Belgium.…
 
In 1943 allied surveillance picked up the construction of V1 and V2 rocket sites in France. Without quite knowing the extent of the threat allied planners decided to embark upon a pre-emptive campaign to deny the Germans the use of these sites, the code name was Operation Crossbow. It would be an Anglo-American Operation with ran up until the end o…
 
In this episode we’re going to be looking a Japanese submarine operations in the Pacific in the early part of the war. While I’m sure we’re all familiar with the Imperial Japanese surface fleets actions during 1941-42, especially if you’ve listened to my discussions with Jeff Cox in episode #14 and #63, but there seems to be very little mention of …
 
At the outbreak of WWII Britain put into motion the strategy of using the Royal Navy to blockade Germany, depriving her of essential goods. When Europe fell the blockade was widened to include all of Europe. This provided a dilemma for the British, the Ministry of Economic Warfare was in favour of depriving all occupied countries of goods, for the …
 
Long standing listeners will have heard me chat to Walter Zapotoczny before, in episode 57 we looked at Ardennes offensive, and in episode 63 we looked at German penal battalions. Patrons of the podcast might recall on both occasions after I’d finished recording we got to talking about the Italians in North Africa. Well, Walter’s book on the topic …
 
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