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World War II: A Military and Social History


World War II: A Military and Social History

Course Number 810-30 lectures (30 minutes/lecture)

Taught by: Professor Thomas Childers-University of Pennsylvania

Part I Lecture 1: The Origins of the Second World War
Lecture 2: Hitler's Challenge to the International System 10510p1522k , 1933-1936
Lecture 3: The Failure of the International System 10510p1522k
Lecture 4: The Coming of War
Lecture 5: Blitzkrieg
Lecture 6: The German Offensive in the West
Lecture 7: "Their Finest Hour"-Britain Alone
Lecture 8: The Battle of Britain
Lecture 9: Hitler Moves East
Lecture 10: The Germans Before Moscow

Part II

Lecture 11: The War in Asia
Lecture 12: The Japanese Gamble
Lecture 13: The Height of Japanese Power
Lecture 14: Turning the Tide in the Pacific-Midway and Guadalcanal
Lecture 15: The War in North Africa
Lecture 16: War in the Mediterranean-The Invasions of Sicily and Italy
Lecture 17: Stalingrad-The Turning Point on the Eastern Front
Lecture 18: Eisenhower and Operation Overlord
Lecture 19: D-Day to Paris
Lecture 20: Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge

Part III

Lecture 21:  Advance Across the Pacific
Lecture 22:  Turning Point in the Southwest Pacific-Leyte Gulf and the Philippines
Lecture 23:  The Final Drive for Japan-Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Fire-Bombing of Tokyo
Lecture 24:  War in the Air
Lecture 25:  Hitler's New Order in Europe
Lecture 26:  "This Man's Army"
Lecture 27:  Daily Life, Culture, and Society in Wartime
Lecture 28:  The Race for Berlin
Lecture 29:  Truman, the Bomb, and the End of the War in the Pacific
Lecture 30:  The Costs of War

Might Hitler have been stopped if the rest of the world had moved sooner? Should Roosevelt and the U.S. command have foreseen what was coming at Pearl Harbor? Could more lives have been saved in the death camps as the terrible truth of the Holocaust became known? Did Truman have a real alternative to using the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And did the Allies, in fact, come perilously closer to actually losing World War II than most of us would like to think?

More than a half century after the Axis powers surrendered, the questions still linger, haunting postscripts to what is still called the "last good war"-the most monumental and influential conflict in human history.

It was a war that eventually claimed 55 million lives and left no continent, sea, or ocean unaffected, leaving behind a geopolitical, social, and moral legacy-including the Cold War, the establishment of Israel, and the current tensions of post-Soviet Europe-that has shaped the world ever since.

Even after all these years, the sheer enormity and impact of the war continues to fascinate historians and students alike, and fresh research and insights continue to invigorate and expand the subject of Professor Thomas Childers' course-World War II: A Military and Social History.

Too often, we study World War II as an event for generals and soldiers while on fields of battle-when, in fact, the war was waged in the lives of hundreds of millions of soldiers and civilians in and out of combat.

Professor Childers uses the dual perspective of military and social history to widen our optic on this war; and with that broader vision, we can understand how the war reached from headquarters into frozen cockpits and darkened basements, and how the war's effects spanned from the late 1930s to the late 1990s.

This multiple-perspective approach is something at which Professor Childers proves particularly adept throughout the course, communicating the reality of the war not only as the commanders saw it on their operations maps, but as those fighting it on the land, at sea, and in the air experienced it. And as it was brought home to those not in uniform, as well-those working in aircraft factories back in the United States, huddled in bomb shelters during the London Blitz, or fearfully looking skyward as the drone of bombers approached Cologne or Essen or Bremen.

And you'll come to understand bombing from another vantage point much different from that of the Allied High Command. Professor Childers also takes you into the bellies, cockpits, and turrets of the bombers themselves, conveying what it was like to actually fly these missions, with flak bursting everywhere and temperatures inside the unpressurized bombers of the day often plummeting to 50 degrees below zero as frozen fingers attempted to function.

This 30-lecture survey course offers you a vigorous and richly informative introduction to a period of history that remains as addictively interesting as it is important.

As you follow the war with Professor Childers, moving almost month-by-month through every key theater of strategy and battle, you'll meet historical figures on the grandest scales of good and evil, follow the strategic and tactical decisions that changed the course of history, and encounter examples of sacrifice and heroism that still echo in the halls of memory.

You'll learn how the foundations of the war were laid in the events of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles and how the war itself unfolded in both the European and Pacific Theaters. And with your understanding enhanced at every step by Professor Childers' probing analyses of the political, strategic, and tactical issues each side had to face as the war went on, you'll see how these constantly fluctuating factors influenced decisions at command headquarters and on the battlefield.

Even if your own knowledge of World War II is already significant, Professor Childers' new course is still well worth your attention, because the insightful additions he brings to the actual facts of the conflict are almost certain to deepen the understanding of all but the most experienced students of World War II.

Moving back and forth among Europe, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean, Professor Childers is able to preserve the chronology of the war itself while still managing to explore the underlying factors of past and present that were propelling so many nations into a conflict they could never have imagined would be so ultimately catastrophic.

At every stage of the course, the depth of the research Professor Childers has devoted to this subject over the course of his career is strikingly evident. For his presentation of the facts of World War II-whether dealing with strategic decisions, specific battles, or the overnight conversion of the U.S. economy from a peacetime to a wartime footing and the social implications that ensued-is constantly amplified by a wealth of anecdotal material that translates those textbook facts into stories of extraordinary personal impact.

The result is a presentation that, while constantly keeping you aware of the impact of World War II on the era that was to follow, never lets you forget what it meant to the people of its own time, for whom the happenings of World War II were not history, but current events.

World War II was a day-to-day reality the likes of which no one had ever experienced before. In displaying the best and worst of human nature on a truly unprecedented scale, it taught lessons that none of us can ever study enough, and makes this course an exceptionally pertinent learning experience.

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