World War II Reading Group
Welcome and thank you for your interest. I hope this group is interesting for both people that have studied the Second World War and those just getting started.
If you are new to studying World War II this is probably a good place to begin. None of the book require any special background to be interesting and profitable for the reader.
The goal of the group is to gain an overview of the war, not focus on specific theaters or events.
Our Current Book and Reading For The Week
- The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts
You will find the maps in this volume very helpful.
- Basic Map of Regions and Cities in Modern Germany
- Map of Germany in 1933 with major cities and rivers
- Map of the Pacific Theater 1941-1945
The Storm Of War Reading SchedulePrelude | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chaper 16
- Week 1 :: Prelude: The Pact
- Who were Werner von Blomberg and Paul Fritsch and how were they involved in the Nazi rise to power and militarization after 1933?
- What was "The Night Of The Long Knives" and how did it effect the balance of power in Nazi Germany?
- Describe the series of events around the military occupation of the Rhineland, the forced annexation of Austria and the dismemberment and invasion of Czechoslovakia
- What was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?
NoteQuotes for Prelude: The Pact
- Week 2 :: Chapter 1 - Four Invasions
- What were the events that led up to the invasion of Poland?
- How did the invasion of Poland unfold in the west and east?
- What did Hitler tell the international press about Warsaw during his post-invasion visit?
- What were the events that led up to the invasion of Finland?
- Describe the events of the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland?
- What events led up to the Soviet invasion of the Baltic States?
- How did the Winter War impact the thinking of Soviet and German leaders?
- What territorial changes were made in the secret pact between Hitler? What did Hitler gain? What did Stalin gain?
- Why did Germany invade Denmark and Norway and how did their invasion unfold?
- What was the SS Athenia and how was it involved in the start of the Atlantic War and the convoy system?
- Descibe the opening phases of the battle of the Atlantic
- What was the "Phoney War"?
- Week 3 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 2: Fuhrer Imperator
- Describe the evolution of "Plan Yellow" and how it was executed?
- What were relations like between the Allies and Belgium before Plan Yellow?
- How did an air crash in Belgium effect the plan for the invasion of France?
- Who was Wilhelm Keitel and what was his role in the opening of the war?
- How did Hitler's tactical knowledge about war begin to effect his self estimate of his strategic vision?
- How did Hitler compare to Churchill in how they approached the war?
- Churchill had many flaws. What are some examples of his greatness in this chapter?
- What mindset did the French people and their leaders go into the war with?
- What mindset did British people and their leaders go into the war with?
- How did communications advances effect the opening of World War II?
- Describe the controversy around the evacuation of Dunkirck
- Who were Sergeant Stanley Moore and Sergeant Major Augustus Jennings and how did they sacrifice their lives?
- Week 4 :: The Storm of the War, Chapter 3: Last Hope Island
- What was Hitler's opinion of the British Empire at the beginning of the war?
- What was Operation Sea Lion and what was its purpose? What was the Black Book?
- When the author says Hitler had a "love hate" relationship with Britain, what does he mean?
- What were the Einsatzgruppen and how would they have been deployed to Britain?
- What was the "Battle of Britain" and "the Blitz", what were the objectives and progress?
- What were the main aircraft involved in the Battle of Britain and what were their strengths and weaknesses in this situation?
- What were the main factors in the British victory in the Battle of Britain?
- In what ways did Britain and Germany misunderstand each other in terms of motivation and morale?
- What changes in British society needed to be made at the beginning of the war and how may this be related to Churchill's defeat at the end of the war?
- What role did the Swiss play in the Holocaust and what excuses did they give for refusing Jewish refugees protection?
- How did Swedish and Swiss neutrality effect the German war effort? What circumstances limited their actions?
- How was Ireland's reaction to the war different from Sweden and Switzerland and how did their neutrality effect the Allied war effort?
- Week 5 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 4: Contesting the Littoral
- What did Churchill mean when he said "After Alamein we never had a defeat"?
- Why was the North African and Mediterranean theaters important to the allies and to the axis?
- What role did Mussolini play in the North African and Mediterranean theaters?
- How did the battle for North Africa unfold?
- What were the events leading up to the invasion of Yugoslavia and the destruction of Belgrade?
- Explain the context and meaning of this quote from Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham:
"It has always been the duty of the Navy to take the Army overseas to battle and, if the Army fail, to bring them back again. If we now break with that tradition, ever afterwards when soldiers go overseas they will tend to look over their shoulders instead of relying on the Navy. You have said, General, that it will take three years to build a new fleet. I will tell you that it will take three hundred years to build a new tradition. If, gentlemen, you now order the Army in Crete to surrender, the Fleet will still go there to bring off the Marines."
- How was the German involvement in the North African and Mediterranean theaters a strategic necessity and a strategic mistake?
- What happened and why was the meeting at Placentia Bay between Churchill and Roosevelt important?
- How did the August 1941 Placentia Bay meeting commit the United States to active participation in World War II?
- How were the modern nations of Syria, Iran and Iraq involved in World War II and how was this involvement connected to the end of the Ottoman Empire and World War I?
- Week 6 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 5: Kicking in the Door
Because of the roles of ethnic groups within the Soviet Union played in the war, some people refer to Russia or Russian Empire instead of the Soviet Union. The "Soviet Union" is entirely a horrible fiction enforced on the people of the Russian Empire under the Bolshevik rule and projected to the world.
OKW stands for Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - The overall military command of German Armed forces - land, sea and air.
OKH stands for Oberkommando der Heeres - The command of the land forces (Heer)
German Army = Heer, Navy = Kriegsmarine, and the Air Force = Luftwaffe
The OKW oversaw the western and Mediterranean theaters, the eastern front was directly under the control of the OKH.
- What was Hitler's rationale for the invasion of the Russia (Soviet Union)
- How did geography effect the plan of Operation Barbarossa?
- What was the "plan" of Operation Barbarossa?
- What was the condition of the Russian Empire when Germany invaded?
- How was Stalin warned about German aggression and what was his reaction?
- How did the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa unfold?
- What were the major elements of Hitler's Directive 21?
- What was the "Commissar Order"?
- How was the conflict between Germany and Russia a racial struggle?
- What is the concept of "lebensraum" and how did Hitler compare it to British colonialism and American western expansion?
Primary Source: Hitler's Directive 21
Primary Source: Directives for the Treatment of Political Commissars ("Commissar Order") (June 6, 1941) (The Commissar Order)
Please note: Be very careful of faked and altered primary sources in this area.
- Week 7 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 6: Tokyo Typhoon
- Who were Lieutenant William Outerbridge and Privates Joseph Lockard and George Elliott?
- What was the Japanese rationale behind the attack on Pearl Harbor?
- What was Hitler's rationale for declaring war on the United States?
- Why did the United States place economic sanctions on Japan and what effect did this have on their ability to wage war?
- What was the "Southern Resources Area" and the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"?
- Who were Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant-General Walter C. Short and how were they negligent in their duties at Pearl Harbor and how were they used as scapegoats?
- What "reasoning" and "evidence" exists that Franklin Roosevelt knew about the planned attack on Pearl Harbor? What is the evidence that debunks this theory?
- What was Hitler's "Second Book", when was it written and how did it reveal Hitler's attitudes towards the United States? (Please note: The "translations" of the "Second Book" you find on the internet are almost all fraudulent and for most its not worth the time to find a real version)
- Why did the Nazis refer to the United States as a "Jewified nation"?
- What role did Japanese Nationals living in United States (including territories) play in the attack on Pearl Harbor?
- What role did Japanese Americans living in the United States (including territories) play in the attack on Pearl Harbor?
- What was Executive Order 9066?
- How did Executive Order 9066 violate the Constitutional Rights of American citizens?
- Attempting to justify or minimize the Japanese American Relocation and Internment is ignorant and offensive. This act was a repudiation of the values our nation aspires to.
- Someone can explain why something happened, including the aggravating and mitigating factors, without justifying what they are explaining: Explanations are different from Excuses.
- Comparing the Japanese relocation and internment to Nazi Concentration Camps is ignorant and offensive. The next chapter will make this very clear.
Thought / Response Quotes
- "Across the sea, corpses in the water, Across the mountain, corpses heaped upon the field, I shall die only for the Emperor, I shall never look back."
- "Despite the example of over ten years’ campaigning in China, Japan was not taken seriously enough by American policy-makers. It did not help that many senior politicians and soldiers genuinely believed that the slanted eyes of Japanese pilots meant they could not undertake long flights; as one historian has put it, ‘American leaders, harboring all sorts of racist stereotypes about the Japanese, did not think that they were capable of such a feat’ as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which was 3,400 miles from the Japanese homeland."
- "... if the Japanese had succeeded totally at Pearl Harbor they might indeed have bought enough time to consolidate the Southern Resources Area"
- "‘A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘‘smitten a sleeping enemy’’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack...’"
"‘The entry of the United States into the war is of no consequence at all for Germany,’ Hitler had told Molotov in Berlin on 12 November 1940, ‘the United States will not be a threat to us in decades – not in 1945 but at the earliest in 1970 or 1980.’ It was one of the greatest miscalculations of history."
- "‘I know them; I know their country. A country devoid of culture, devoid of music – above all, a country without soldiers, a people who will never be able to decide the war from the air. When has a Jewified nation like that ever become a race of fighters and flying aces?’"
- "‘The English feel about us [Americans] just the way we feel about a prosperous [racial slur referring to African Americans].’"
- "No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! . . . Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder."
- Brief Biography: General Tôjô Hideki (1884-1948)
- Video: Why I love a country that once betrayed me - George Takei
- Map of the Pearl Harbor Attack
- Map of Japanese American Internment Camps
- Pearl Harbor Newsreel “[Racial Slur] Bomb USA”
- Newsreel 1942 “Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor” (No audio)
- Transcript: Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan - 12.08.1941
- Video: Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan - 12.08.1941
- Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese
- Japanese American Internment Propaganda Film "Japanese Relocation"
- Week 8 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 7: The Everlasting Shame of Mankind
- What is the meaning of "lebensunwertes leben" and how is it related to the Holocaust?
- How did the German Jewish Ghettos form?
- What was Operation / Order 14f13 and how did it get its name?
- Who were the Einsatzgruppen and what was their role in the Holocaust?
- In what ways did the Wehrmacht cooperate with the SS led genocide actions and also independently participate in Holocaust genocides?
- What process and reasoning took place in the Nazi hierarchy transforming the "shooting" phase (or Shoah by Bullets) of the Holocaust into the "gassing" phase (or Shoah by Gas) of the Holocaust?
- What were some of the common experiences of victims undergoing the Shoah by Gas?
- What were some of the common attitudes and experiences of perpetrators and collaborators implementing the Shoah by Gas?
- Who were the Prisoner Sonderkommandos and how did they experience the Holocaust?
- What was the Wannsee Protocol and how did it effect the Holocaust?
- What was the concept of Lebensraum and how was it related to Generalplan-Ost?
- What was the general intention of Nazis plans for Christians after the Jewish Genocide?
- Describe the "evacuation" genocide of the Warsaw Ghetto
- What knowledge of the Holocaust did the Western Allies possess and when and how did they learn the information?
- What knowledge of the extermination camps did the Western Allies possess and when and how did they learn the information?
- What were the options the Western Allies had as they gained knowledge of the Holocaust and what process did the Allies go through in discovering and responding to the Holocaust?
- Consider the quote from Elie Wiesel in relation to the process the Western Allies experienced in discovering the Holocaust (Stalin knew about and approved the Holocaust as his actions in 1939 - from comments during the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact adjustment negotiations and later at Warsaw demonstrate)
Thought / Response Quotes
- "In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. Today I will once more be a prophet; if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
- "The world war is here, the extermination of the Jews must be the necessary consequence."
- "it would occasionally be arranged for the victims to lie down along the trench so that they could be pushed in easily afterwards. For the later operations, the victims had to lie face down inside the trench and were then shot in the side of the head. During the shootings at Bialystok, Novgorod and Baranowice, the corpses were well covered over, more or less, with sand and chalk before the next batch was brought up. In the later shooting operations, this was only rarely done so that the next batch of victims always had to lie down on the corpses of those who had just been killed before. But even in those cases where the corpses had been covered with sand and chalk, the next victims often saw them, because body parts would frequently be jutting out of the thin layer of sand or earth."
- "a glorious page in our history that has never been written and cannot be written"
- "Auschwitz defies perceptions and imaginations, it submits only to memory. Between the dead and the rest of us there exists an abyss that no talent can comprehend."
- "The Holocaust could not have been carried out without the willing co-operation of scientists, statisticians, demographers and social scientists supporting this ‘radical experiment in social engineering’, all operating in an utter moral vacuum."
- Main Nazi Camps and Killing Sites
- Interactive map: Nazi death camps
- Nazi "Euthanasia" Centers
- Brief Biography: Houston Stewart Chamberlain
- Nazi Euthanasia Program Overview - USHMM
- "Euthanasia" Centers, Germany 1940-1945 - USHMM
- “Aktion 14f13“ – Death by Gas at Hartheim Castle
- Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units)
- Lebensraum - USHMM
A clear introduction to the Nazi T4 program, Action 14f13, Fort Seven and the connection to the use of gas vans and the Chełmno extermination camp, see Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler's First Death Camp by Patrick Montague.
Individuals with the intent to deny or distort the Holocaust will often bring up Soviet Gas Vans. There is very little verifiable information about Soviet Gas Vans. Historians know they existed, They were probably converted bread vans/trucks. The Soviets (specifically Nikolai Yezhov) did have knowledge of gassing experiments at Nevada State Prison in 1924. but the use of gas for executions in the United States was public knowledge. The Nazis were aware of NKVD killing methods. IG Farben was aware of the use of gas for executions in the United States. Every chemist and chemical company in the world was aware of this fact. There is no comparison between the use of gas for executions in the United States (however cruel) and the genocides of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia that employed gas to kill. Judicial executions in a nation ruled by normal laws (however offensive) is entirely different from Genocide. Anyone equating them is distorting or attempting to justify the Holocaust.
There is no evidence that the gas vans used in Nazi Germany were Soviet gas vans. There is no evidence that the Soviets "staged" their own gas vans to create hostility to Germany after the war. They never attempted this and no physical remains of the gas vans exists. We have testimony of collaborators and Sonderkommandos prisoners. If the Soviets had "staged" the gas vans, they would have preserved the "evidence". Further there was no need for the Soviets to invent genocides or create hostility to Germany. The Nazis left abundant evidence and no Russian could have been more hostile to Germany. Individuals claiming the gas vans are propaganda are denying or minimizing the Holocaust.
- Foundations of the Nineteenth Century - Google Books
- Historical Film Footage: Exhumations At Hadama, Germany 1945 - USHMM
- Week 9 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 8: Five Minutes at Midway
- Describe the Japanese motives and rationale for the attack on Midway
- Describe the Japanese plans for the attack on Midway
- Describe the situation of the United States before the battle of Midway
- Describe the unfolding American defense of Midway
- How did the battle of Midway unfold from the Japanese perspective and why does the author mention "Five Minutes" in the chapter title?
- What were the new Japanese and American positions / circumstances in the Pacific and how did they change as a result of the battle of Midway?
- Who was General Tôjô Hideki and how does he come to prominence around the time of Midway?
- What evidence does the author provide that would refute the historical distortion of United States military operations being the moral equivalent of the Japanese military operations?
- Describe what happened to the SS Tjisalak
- Describe the Kachanaburi death camp on the River Kwai
- Describe the activities of Unit 731
- Describe the ordeal of Korean ‘comfort’ women
- Describe the Bataan Death March
- What was the role of American Liberty Ships in the war and what happened to the Liberty ship Richard Hovey and Liberty ship Jean Nicolet?
Thought / Response Quotes
- "‘If anyone imagines that England would let India go without staking her last drop of blood, it is only a sorry sign of absolute failure to learn from the World War, and of total misapprehension and ignorance on the score of Anglo-Saxon determination.’ About this he was right, and yet only three years later the British did indeed withdraw from India without fighting for it" (Italics mine)
- "What happened to the SS Tjisalak was fairly normal practice, according to the evidence given at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal"
- Liberty Ships and Victory Ships, America's Lifeline in War
- Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya. The author is remarkably candid which is very rare for this particular type of memoir. There are things he was mistaken about but these are generally sincere memoirs. This is a respectable translation.
There are many excellent books on every detail of Midway.
- If you're interested in the "bigger picture", Ian Toll's two volumes: Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific and The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands are excellent
- If you are interested in a more detailed look at the battle itself, consider The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds and Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully.
- Week 10 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 9: Midnight in the Devil’s Gardens
- What were the "Devil's Gardens"?
- Who was Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and what was his role in the North Africa campaign?
- Who was Erwin Rommel and what was his role in the North African campaign?
- Describe the geography around El Alamein (remember Ala-me-in)
- What were the events that led up to the First Battle of El Alamein?
- Describe the First Battle of El Alamein and the situation of the Axis and Allies at the conclusion
- Describe the preparations on the British and German sides for the Second Battle of El Alamein
- Describe how the Second Battle of El Alamein and the consequences for the North African campaign
- How did the campaign in North Africa impact the Middle Eastern theater?
- What role did logistics and communications play in the North African campaign?
- Describe Operation Torch?
- How did the German's attempt to respond to their defeats in North Africa?
- Describe the Allied defeat at the Kasserine Pass
Response / Thought Quotes
- "Fortunately for our fame as soldiers, our enemy is worthy of us. The German is a war-trained veteran – confident, brave and ruthless. We are brave. We are better equipped, better fed, and in the place of his blood-glutted Woten, we have with us the God of our Fathers, Known of Old . . . If we die killing, well and good, but if we fight hard enough, viciously enough, we will kill and live. Live to return to our family and our girl as conquering heroes – men of Mars."
- Speech At The Lord Mayor's Day Luncheon, London, November 1942
- The Western Desert Battle Area, July 1942
- Second Battle of El Alamein, Deployment of Forces on October 23, 1942
- Battles of El-Alamein
- Brief Biography: Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery
- Brief Biography: Erwin Rommel
- Week 11 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 10: The Motherland Overwhelms The Fatherland
- What was the Plan and Goal of Operation Blau?
- How did the Battle of Stalingrad fit into the objectives of Operation Blau?
- How did the Battle of Stalingrad unfold?
- What was Operation Jubilee, why was it launched and what did it accomplish?
- How did the German Wehrmacht participate in the Holocaust during Operation Blau?
- What were the Factory Battles of Stalingrad?
- How did the Luftwaffe impact the Battle of Stalingrad?
- What role did Snipers play in the Battle of Stalingrad?
- What was the NKVD and what role did it play in the Battle of Stalingrad?
- Who was Franz Halder? What role did he play in the Holocaust?
- What was the OKH and OKW and what roles did they play in World War II?
- How were women involved in the Battle of Stalingrad?
- What were Operation Uranus and Operation Saturn and how did they intend to compliment each other?
- How did the Nazi leadership and German public react to the defeat at Stalingrad?
- Who was Vasily Grossman?
Response / Thought Quotes
- "On 23 July, Halder confided to his (fortunately well-hidden) war diary, about how the Führer, when faced with his realism, explodes in a fit of insane rage and hurls the gravest reproaches against the General Staff. This chronic tendency to underrate enemy capabilities is gradually assuming grotesque proportions and develops into a positive danger ... This so-called leadership is characterized by a pathological reacting to the impressions of the moment and a total lack of any understanding of the command machinery and its possibilities."
- "The general paid tribute to the activities of the Red Army outside the city, which drew off considerable German forces, writing that ‘They held Paulus back by the ears.’ As for the Wehrmacht: ‘Some inexplicable force drove the enemy to keep on attacking. It seemed as though Hitler was prepared to destroy the whole of Germany for the sake of this one city.’"
- "On Christmas Day the Germans were finally expelled from the Tractor Factory, and an ingenious method was used to get them out of the main office building of the Red October Factory, when a storming group of Lieutenant-General V. P. Sokolov’s division carried a 122mm howitzer into the factory piece by piece, which they then reassembled inside the walls. After a few rounds at point-blank range, ‘the German garrison in the factory ceased to exist.’"
- Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
- Franz Halder Diaries
- The Genocide Generals Prison Recordings
- Operation Blau - The German advance Map
- Week 12 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 11: The Waves of Air and Sea
- What does the author mean to connect with the title "The Waves of Air and Sea"?
- What were the Enigma codes and what was their significance?
- What role did Poland play in developing Allied technical intelligence?
- Who was Alan Turning and how did he impact the course of World War II?
- How did Britain recognize the contribution Alan Turning made to the war effort in the post war years? How does this compare with events in prewar Germany?
- Describe the battle of the Atlantic
- Describe the evolution of the convoy system?
- What role did Ireland play in The battle of the Atlantic?
- Who were Karl Dönitz and Erich Raeder and how did they impact the Battle of the Atlantic?
Response / Thought Quotes
- "Yet salvation was at hand. At 22.00 hours on Friday, 30 October 1942, U-559 was forced to the surface after no fewer than 288 depth-charges were dropped on her by four British destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Her captain opened her stopcocks to scuttle the vessel and the entire crew abandoned ship, but Lieutenant Francis Fasson, Able Seaman Colin Grazier and a sixteen-year-old Naafi assistant Tommy Brown (who had lied about his age to join the Navy) from HMS Petard stripped off their clothes and swam over to it. Getting into the captain’s cabin, they used a machine gun to break into a locked cabinet and retrieve the codebooks and documents."
- "In June 1944, just in time for the Normandy landings, Turing’s greatest invention of all, the Colossus II, came on stream. The world’s first digital electronic computer, it was able to decode Fish as well as Enigma messages in real time, and also decrypted the correspondence between OKW and the Commander-in-Chief West. As one who worked on Colossus, Donald Michie, has recalled: ‘At the end of hostilities 9 new-design Colossi were operational and 63 million characters of high-grade German messages had been decrypted.’ Turing’s reputation for eccentricity seemed confirmed by his practices of bicycling around wearing a gas mask, and chaining his coffee mug to a radiator, but one of those who worked at Bletchley, WAAF Sergeant Gwen Watkins, later explained that ‘If you had a china mug and it was ‘‘borrowed’’, you could replace it only by an enamel one, which made tea taste horrid. And cycling to work in your gas mask, if you had hay fever, was a good idea.’ Eccentric or not, Turing’s contribution to victory was enormous, making his obe a paltry reward and his cyanide-by-apple suicide in 1954 correspondingly tragic."
- "No longer did Germany see the Atlantic as a potential means of strangling Britain; now it was somewhere to hold off the coming invasion of north-west Europe."
Articles and Resources
- Brief Biography: Alan Turing
- Image: U-Boat Pens
- Week 13 :: The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts
Chapter 12: Up the Wasp-Waist Peninsula: July 1943–May 1945
Response / Thought Quotes
- "‘The fight against the partisans must be carried out with all means at our disposal and with utmost severity. I will protect any commander who exceeds our usual restraint in the choice of methods . . . Wherever there is evidence of a considerable number of partisan groups a proportion of the male population of the area will be arrested, and in the event of an act of violence being committed these men will be shot.’"
- ‘Shells were flashing in the water,’ recalled an American journalist, Jack Belden, ‘flames were yellowing the sky, and bullets were slapping into the boat. They snapped over our heads, rattled against the boat sides like hail and beat at the ramp door . . . The boat shuddered and the ramp creaked open . . . I stepped down . . . At last I was on the continent of Europe.’
- "We picked our way through fields ripped by mortars and shells and the still bodies of doughboys [GIs] who fell in the bloody, savage fighting . . . [in] this gray little town overlooking the valley approaches to Cassino. The soldiers call it Death Valley because death was on the rampage . . . as they stormed this enemy fortress ringed by fortifications, dug into terraced slopes commanding the Liri valley."
- "that goats would find difficult to negotiate"
- ‘The bombing had the opposite effect of what was intended. Now we would occupy the abbey without scruple, especially as ruins are better for defense than intact buildings . . . Now Germany had a mighty, commanding strong point, which paid for itself in the subsequent fighting.’
- "We do not want Germans or Americans, Let us weep in peace."
- "an American private later recalled, ‘I could see a pair of fleshy white buttocks wobbling in the opposite direction and I shouted ‘‘Halt!’’ as loud as I could. The man stopped, raised his hands and walked towards us . . . His thin legs were shivering below a great pot belly. It was my first encounter with the Master Race.’"
- Describe the importance of Operation Husky and the relation to the Italian campaign?
- What was the significance of the Quadrant Conference in Quebec during August 1943?
- Who was Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin and what was his responsibility during the Italian campaign?
- What responsibility did Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin have for the war crimes committed against the Italians by retreating German forces?
- How is the myth of the "good" Nazi applied to Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin and what evidence is there to disproved the myth?
- Who was General Sir Harold Alexander and what was his role in the Italian campaign?
- Who was General Mark W. Clark and what was his role in the Italian campaign?
- Describe the Salerno operation / landings?
- How was Mussolini overthrown? How did Germany react to the overthrow?
- Who was Albert Kesselring what what role did he play in the Italian campaign?
- Describe the role Canadian forces played in the Italian campaign
- What was the significance of the Teheran Conference? How did it impact post war Germany?
- What was the race to Rome? How did it foreshadow the Russian race to Berlin
- Describe the four battles of Monte Cassino
- What was the role of Pius XII in the Second World War and why was it highly controversial?
- Describe the amphibious attacks at Anzio and Nettuno and the reasoning behind them
- What was Operation Fischfang and Operation Diadem?
- In what ways was the Catholic Church involved with the Holocaust? How were Catholics victims of the Holocaust? How were Catholics collaborators in the Holocaust?
Articles and Resources
- The Quadrant Conference in Quebec during 1943
- Brief Biography: General Sir Harold Alexander
- Brief Biography: General Mark W. Clark
- Brief Biography: Albert Kesselring
- Abbey at Mount Cassino
- The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson
- Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-45 by James Holland
- Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 by R. J. B. Bosworth
- The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965 by Michael Phayer
- Week 14 :: The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts
Chapter 13: A Salient Reversal: March–August 1943
Response / Thought Quotes
- "We have severely underestimated the Russians, the extent of the country and the treachery of the climate. This is the revenge of reality."
- "‘He was arrogant and intolerant at times, and something of a martinet,’ wrote the British field marshal Michael Carver, ‘but he was highly intelligent, with a clear, quick brain. Beneath a cold, reserved exterior, he was an emotional man, who kept his feelings under strict control . . . He was respected for the speed and sharpness with which he analysed the essentials of a problem, for the brevity and clarity of his orders, and for the calm, cool calculation by which he arrived at his decisions.’"
- "His left hand trembled, his back was bent, his gaze was fixed, his eyes protruded but had lost their former lustre, his cheeks were flecked with red. He was more excitable, easily lost his composure and was prone to angry outbursts and ill-considered decisions."
- "That was the plan the Stavka adopted, and it was substantially what was to happen"
- "Independence Day for America and the beginning of the end for Germany"
- Describe the events between the surrender at Stalingrad and the start of the battles around Kursk
- What was the strategic disposition of forces for the Russians and Germans after the battles of Kharkov?
- Describe the battles around the Kursk salient in terms of phases during July and August 1943
- Describe the relevant geography and topography of the battlefields around Kursk, both before and after the battles.
- Describe the goals and execution of Operation Citadel
- Describe the goals and execution of Operation Kutuzov
- Who were the primary field commanders of the battles of Kharkov?
- In military terms, what is a "Salient"?
- What is the significance of the quote: "That was the plan the Stavka adopted, and it was substantially what was to happen" and how is it related to the quote below?
- What is the significance of the quote: "Independence Day for America and the beginning of the end for Germany" and how is it connected to the quote referenced above?
- Describe the events around the German capture of Kursk in 1941
- Describe the events around the "Salient Reversal"
- Who were the primary field commanders of the battles around Kursk?
- How do the events around the battles of Kharkov and Kursk disprove the myth of Erich von Manstein as a "good" Nazi fellow traveler?
- What was siege of Sevastopol and describe Erich von Manstein's treatment of civilians and prisoners after the defeat of Sevastopol?
- What was Operation Zitadelle? Why did it fail?
- What was the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) and OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) and how did they function together and separately?
- What was the Stavka and how did it function?
- What was the general balance of power and disposition of forces between the Russians and Germans in the battles around the Kursk salient?
- What were the international implications of the German defeat in the battles around Kursk?
- Compare and Contrast how Russian and German commanders, officers and rank and file participated in war crimes.
- How do the actions of Germans and Russians compare to the generally accepted military morality and codes of conduct of their generation? (not the "legal" conventions, but the actual state of affairs in war zones)
- Compare and Contrast the military conduct of Russians and Germans with their peers in World War I (pre-revolutionary)
- Compare and Contrast the military conduct of Russians and Germans with the general conduct of the British and French military towards colonial peoples during wartime
- Compare and Contrast the military conduct of Russians and Germans with the general conduct of United States forces during Native American wars
- In what ways does the end of the battles around Kursk begin the period of the Red Army terror? (There is always a terror when Stalin around)
- Remember: Ro-kos-sov-sky :: Rokos - Sovsky :: Rokossovsky (I don't think you could find more Russian sounding names than Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovsky and Nikolay Fyodorovich Vatutin unless their was a Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky somewhere)
Articles and Resources
- Brief Biography: Erich von Manstein
- Brief Biography: Wilhelm von Leeb
- Brief Biography: Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovsky
- Brief Biography: Nikolay Fyodorovich Vatutin
- Brief Biography: Heinz Guderian
- The OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres)
- The OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)
- Map: European Soviet Union Rivers
- Map: The Battle of Kursk
- Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II by Dennis E. Showalter
- When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler by David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House
- The Battle for Belorussia: The Red Army's Forgotten Campaign of October 1943 - April 1944 by David M. Glantz and Mary Elizabeth Glantz
- The American West and the Nazi East: A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective by Carol Kakel
- Hitler's Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars: Comparing Genocide and Conquest by Edward B. Westermann
- Hitler's Geographies: The Spatialities of the Third Reich by Paolo Giaccaria (Editor), Claudio Minca (Editor)
- Week 15 :: The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts
Chapter 14: The Cruel Reality: 1939–1945
Response / Thought Quotes
- "The RAF carried out precision attacks on area targets, while the USAAF carried out area attacks on precision targets."
- "They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind. There are a lot of people who say that bombing can never win a war. Well, my answer to that is that it has never been tried yet, and we shall see."
- "I regret indeed occasions on which I have been crotchety and impatient. I was the closest to the urgencies of my command, and, frankly, borne down by the frightful inhumanities of war."
- "In 1942 fewer than half of all heavy-bomber crews survived the thirty sorties required of their first tour of duty, and only one in five of those made it through their second. By 1943 the odds had shortened yet further: only one in six survived the first tour, and one in forty a second."
- "The report from your police commissioner is a stinking lie! I tell you as the Reichsmarschall that the figures cited are simply too high. How can you dare report such fantasies to the Führer!’ He insisted that the number of incendiary bombs reported was ‘many times too high. All wrong!"
- "Hamburg had put the fear of God in me,’ admitted Speer, who predicted to Hitler that ‘a series of attacks of this sort, extended to six more major cities, would bring Germany’s armaments production to a total halt"
- "most serious consequences both for the civilian population and for armaments production. This attack definitely shatters the illusions that many have had about the continuation of air operations by the enemy. Unfortunately we shot down very few planes–twelve, all told . . . It is a real catastrophe . . . It is believed that new quarters must be found for about 150,000 to 200,000.I don’t know at this time of writing how we are going to solve that problem. "
- "‘I officially assert that the American fighter planes did not reach Aachen.’ Galland’s reply was simply: ‘Orders are orders, sir!'"
- "the Germans had themselves designated it ‘a military defensive area’."
- "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land. We shall not, for instance, be able to get housing materials out of Germany for our own needs because some temporary provisions would have to be made for the Germans themselves. The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing . . . I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives . . . rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive. "
- What was the British Bomber Command and Fighter Command?
- Who was Sir Arthur Harris?
- Compare and Contrast the different philosophies and practices of the RAF and USAAF
- What roles did the USAAF 8th Air Force, 12th Air Force and 15th Air Force play in the defeat of Germany?
- How did the air offensive demoralize the German war industry?
- What were the principle targets of the air war against Germany?
- Compare and Contrast the Allied Bombing of Germany with the German bombing of Warsaw, Belgrade, and Rotterdam?
- What role did railroad infrastructure play in the Allied bombing campaign?
- In what ways did the western bombing campaign impact the Russian front?
- Describe the casualty figures for the RAF and USAAF
- Describe Operation Pointblank and the objectives it was designed to achieve?
- What was the significance of the Trident Conference in Washington?
- Describe the impact the Allied Bombing Campaign had on the rate of increase in military production as opposed to lessening actual German armaments production
- Describe Operation Gomorrah and its impact on the German war effort and morale
- What role did the defeat of Italy play in the bombing campaign against Germany?
- What was the purpose of the attack on Dresden and how did it impact the Soviet war effort?
- Why did the Germans declare Dresden ‘a military defensive area’?
- Describe the experience of Victor Klemperer in the air raid on Dresden
- Describe the experience of Kurt Vonnegut Jr in the air raid on Dresden
- In what ways was the Combined Bomber Offensive was justified?
- In what ways was the Combined Bomber Offensive was unjustified?
- If the Western Allies had refrained from conducting the Combined Bomber Offensive, what would the impact have been on the German war effort?
Articles and Resources
- Brief Biography: Sir Arthur Harris
- The RAF Short Stirling Bomber
- The RAF Avro Manchester
- The RAF Vickers Wellington
- The RAF Handley Page Halifax
- The RAF Avro Lancaster
- The USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses
- The USAAF P-51B Mustang
- The Messerschmitt Me-262
- The Junkers Ju 87 Sturzkampfflugzeug (Stuka)
- Brief Biography: Kurt Vonnegut Jr
- "I am German, the Others Are Un-German" : Victor Klemperer
- The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 by Richard Overy
- The Collapse of the German War Economy, 1944-1945: Allied Air Power and the German National Railway by Alfred C. Mierzejewski
- Bomber Command by Max Hastings
- Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut
- Week 16 :: The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts
Chapter 15: Norman Conquest :: June–August 1944
Response / Thought Quotes
- "‘What’s your most valuable possession?’ General Montgomery asked a soldier just before D-Day. ‘My rifle, sir,’ came the reply. ‘No, it isn’t,’ Monty replied; ‘it’s your life, and I’m going to save it for you.’"
- "The danger in the East remains, but a greater threatens to the West – the Anglo-Saxon landings. In the East, in the worst scenario, the vast size of the territory allows a loss of ground even on the large scale without delivering us a mortal blow. But it is different in the West!...It is there that the enemy has to attack, there – if we are not deceived – that the decisive landing battles will be fought."
- ‘The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.’"
- "‘I am very uneasy about the whole operation. At the best it will fall so very very short of the expectation of the bulk of the people, namely all those who know nothing of its difficulties. At the worst it may well be the most ghastly disaster of the whole war. I wish to God it were safely over.’"
- ‘Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning, 20,000 men may have been killed?’
- "‘The scene in the Channel was quite amazing,’ recalled Lieutenant-Commander Cromwell Lloyd-Davies of HMS Glasgow. ‘It was almost like Piccadilly Circus – there were so many ships there and it was incredible to us that all this could be going on without the Germans knowing anything about it. But we never saw a German aircraft the whole time.’"
- "‘exchanging reminiscences, taking pleasure in the many fine days and weeks we have had together’, recorded Goebbels; ‘the mood is like the good old times’"
- "Ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man’s head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine gun fire from both ends of the beach . . . The first men out . . . are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the water-logging of their overloaded packs . . . Already the sea runs red . . . A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upwards, so that their nostrils are out of the water, they creep towards the land at the same rate as the tide. This is how most of the survivors make it . . . Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. "
- Compare and Contrast the leadership attitude towards military casualties in the Anglo-American, Russian and Axis nations
- Why were the British haunted by Gallipoli? Why was this especially true for Churchill?
- Describe the major allied military leaders at Normandy
- Describe Operation Torch
- Describe Operation Neptune
- Describe Operation Overlord
- Compare and Contrast the leadership and character of General Eisenhower with Field Marshall Montgomery and Charles de Gaulle
- React and Respond: ‘All warfare is based on deception.’ to Normandy particularly and to World War II generally
- What was the German Abwehr and what role did they play in the Normandy invasion?
- How did Allied disinformation and psychological warfare impact Normandy?
- What were Mulberry Harbours and how did they function at Normandy?
- Describe the logistics and infrastructure that was used for the Normandy invasion
- Describe the gear and equipment of infantry landing in Normandy?
- What role did gliders and airborne forces play in the Normandy invasion?
- Compare and Contrast French civilians / irregulars with the French military in the liberation of France
- What role did the United States Coast Guard fill in the Normandy invasion?
- How did the French resistance assist in the Normandy invasion and how did the Allies communicate with them?
- Describe the role Charles de Gaulle played in the liberation of Paris and France
- Why did Charles de Gaulle lead a "victory" parade in Paris?
- React and Respond: "‘You think I am interested in England winning the war,’ he once told Spears. ‘I am not. I am only interested in French victory.’ When Spears made the logical remark: ‘They are the same,’ de Gaulle replied: ‘Not at all; not at all in my view.’ To a Canadian officer who just before D-Day had asked him whether he could join the Free French, but declared himself pro-British, de Gaulle shouted: ‘I detest the English and the Americans, you understand, I detest the English and the Americans. Get out!’"
- How did meteorology play a role in the Normandy invasion?
- Describe the Normandy invasion force, how it was structured and its leaders
- What was Operation Bolero?
- Describe the role Allied and German air power played in the Normandy invasion
- Describe the Airspeed Horsa Towed Glider Transport and the role it played in Normandy
- In what ways did the Battle of the Atlantic impact the Normandy invasion?
- What were E-Boats, U-Boats and S-Boats?
- What was Hitler doing the morning of the Normandy invasion?
- What were "Hobart’s funnies"?
- React and Respond: "‘I came home from shopping on 9 June 1944 to find my husband and my son hanging from the balcony of our house,’ recalled a woman from the town. ‘They were just two of a hundred men seized at random and killed in cold blood by the SS. The children and wives were forced to watch while they strung them up to the lamp-posts and balconies outside their own homes. What is there for me to say?’"
- Who was Claus von Stauffenberg and what what the July 20th plot?
- In what ways did the July 20th plot contribute to the Nazi belief in a "stab in the back" myth?
- Describe the V-1 "Flying Bomb" and V-2 "Flying Rocket"
- React and Respond: "Better communications – and indeed better personal relations – might have led to a greater victory at the Gap even than the one gained by Montgomery, Bradley and Patton between 13 and 19 August."
- Crusade in Europe by General Dwight Eisenhower
- 21 Army Group: Normandy To The Baltic (Memoirs Of Field Marshal Montgomery)
Articles, References and Resources
- Brief Biography: General Dwight Eisenhower
- Brief Biography: Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery
- Brief Biography: General Omar Bradley
- Brief Biography: General George Patton
- Brief Biography: Charles de Gaulle
- Brief Biography: Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt
- Brief Biography: Erwin Rommel
- The Normandy Landing Beaches Map
- Video: Saving Private Ryan - Omaha Beach
- Operation Torch
- Normandy Invasion
- Airspeed Horsa Towed Glider Transport
- Hobart’s funnies
- Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig L. Symonds
- Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy by Max Hastings
World War II Surveys Reading List
- The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts
- The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans
- Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War by Chris Bellamy
- Hirohito's War: The Pacific War, 1941-1945 by Francis Pike
- A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II by Maury Klein
- The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941: The War in the West by James Holland
- Britain's War: Volume 1: Into Battle, 1937-1941 by Daniel Todman
- Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 by Catherine Merridale
- Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll
- Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
- The Allies Strike Back, 1941-1943: The War in the West by James Holland
- Britain's War, Volume 2: A New World, 1942-1947 by Daniel Todman (2017)
- The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll
- Eisenhower's Armies: The American-British Alliance during World War II by Niall Barr
- The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 by Nicholas Stargardt
- Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson
- The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 by James D. Hornfischer
- An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson
- The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945 by Richard Overy
- The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson
- The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War by Jonathan Dimbleby
- Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945 by Richard Overy
- Japan's Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall by Edward J. Drea
- From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States by Sadao Asada
- The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson
- Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945 by Barrett Tillman
- To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 by Ian Kershaw
- Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson
- Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe
- Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh
- Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
- The Second World War by Antony Beeves
- Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower
- Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker
- Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 by Rana Mitter
About Our Group and How To Participate
This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about World War I and World War II including the background and interwar periods. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of your previous experience in studying history. The goal is to read, learn and enjoy something meaningful. We read about a chapter each week in the book(s) you choose to read.
Each week there will be a new Facebook post on our page for that week’s reading where the group can interact.
Everyone is encouraged to post their favorite or most meaningful quote from the chapter (about a paragraph with page number/location) in the comments for the Facebook post covering the chapter. This is an easy, no pressure and meaningful way to express your thoughts on a chapter and is also a great way for individuals to go back and look at what others found meaningful. It keeps the focus on the authors works rather than an opinion.
Comments about the chapter or book are welcome as long as they are polite, respectful, relevant, non-partisan and constructive and focused on the author's work not someone else’s comment. A helpful guideline is that you are always addressing the group, not just a single individual when you write. If you enjoy or agree with a post, liking their comment is a meaningful way of engaging the group.
Of course if you don't want to post a quote or comment, you're still welcome to read along with us.
Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be used with caution (you, your, you’ve) and used in a sparing and respectful way in replies. Everyone is expected to interact with others like they would in a normal classroom or business setting among colleagues and friends. The antisocial behavior common on the internet is not tolerated here. Regardless of the intent, politically partisan or inflammatory comments are not permitted. This is a group about World War II History, not 21st century current events. I am very serious about this point.
Individuals who understand English as a secondary language are welcome to participate. Please do not worry if your English is flawed, you are among friends who want you to be here. It’s wonderful you are interested in learning about history with us.
The books come in at least one accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Many will be available in Audible and all have Kindle Text to Speech enabled (on Kindle Fire Tablets). The books are available through the National Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).
Thank you for participating