History 144



The War Unfolds 1941-43


As we approach the first examination, I offer these questions to consider as we consider the war as it progressed from 1941 through 1943:


Based on what we have read and talked about in THIS phase of the war – ie 1941-43 -, what have we seen that really runs against the standard stereotypes of WW2? What surprises you about what I say, what Keegan says, what we read in the documents in the Hynes Reporting WW2 book, etc? What themes does that stereotype – what I rudely call the “History Channel version” – omit, or overstress?


Why were the Japanese able to win such overwhelming victories in the opening stages of the Pacific War?


What are the biggest mistakes that the Japanese make in the first year of the Pacific War? How successful were the Allies in exploiting them?


Why were the Germans able to win such overwhelming victories in the opening stages of the attack on the Soviet Union?


Why were the Soviets able to survive the German assault in 1941?


Looking at the balance of forces at the opening of the German-Soviet war, what advantages and disadvantages did the Soviet side possess?


By 1942 and 1943, how well were the Western Allies doing in winning the war of production, to make and deliver supplies and armaments?


How far is the conduct of the Second World War shaped by the need to secure oil supplies?


What difference did the Soviet entry into the war mean to the Allies? In what senses, if any, did it represent a drawback as well as a plus?


Why did the Western Allies devote so much of their military effort to campaigns of the Mediterranean? Did they have the option to do otherwise?


How and why did the Western Allies win the Battle of the Atlantic? Could things have gone the other way? What would have been the effects on the whole war effort if the Germans had won this battle?


How important was code-breaking in determining the outcome of the war? Your answer should take account of any TWO incidents that you believe were especially important.


How far did chance or misfortune determine the outcome of critical battlers of the war? Choose any TWO examples that you believe illustrate this point, or that might be used for this purpose?


Look at the readings found in the Hynes Reporting book. What do we learn about US and Western attitudes towards the Japanese and the Germans? What do we learn about the conduct of war in the Pacific Theater, as opposed to in North Africa and Europe?


Look at the readings found in the Hynes Reporting book. What do we learn about civilian attitudes and morale in various societies in the course of the war? Do you find these accounts plausible or not? Explain why. Focus especially on descriptions on any TWO of the following countries: Britain, France, Germany or the United States.


What were the military lessons of the Battle of Crete, and how far were they learned by the respective sides?


What were the military lessons of the Battle of Midway, and how far were they learned by the respective sides?


Looking at the war in the Spring of 1942, was the Axis more likely to win or lose the conflict? Why?


What were the forces pressing for American neutrality prior to Pearl Harbor?


Responding to Pearl Harbor, Robinson Jeffers wrote that

 “The men who conspired and labored

To embroil this republic in the wreck of Europe have got their bargain –

and a bushel more       ….

The war that we have carefully for years provoked

Catches us unprepared, amazed and indignant. ”.

Why does he present things in this very loaded way? Is his analysis fair?


Franklin Roosevelt apparently pushed hard to ensure US involvement in the war. Why? Were his actions justified?


What were the goals of the Allied bombing campaign against Germany? How far were they met? On balance, do you believe that the campaign advanced or hindered the Allied war effort?


What, if any, justification can be offered for the total destruction of Axis cities such as Hamburg, Dresden or Tokyo? What objections can or should be made against such actions?


How far was the outcome of the air war over Germany and Western Europe decided by technical advances?


Churchill said that the U-Boat menace was the one thing in the war that really frightened him. Why? Was he right to be alarmed?


Why did the Allies invade Italy in 1943? What did they hope to achieve? Were their hopes realistic or plausible?


Why did the Western Allies not launch a Second Front in Western Europe in 1942 or 1943?


When the US entered the war, what were the main advantages that they brought to the Allied cause?


What do we learn from the Hynes Reporting book about the attitudes of Allied flyers and air force personnel? Do you believe these accounts are realistic?


How did Italian aggressions in the Mediterranean between 1939 and 1941 affect the Axis war effort?


How did events between 1940 and 1942 transform traditional ideas of naval warfare and sea-power?


In the opening months of 1942, what are the greatest weaknesses and drawbacks facing the American war effort? How far had these been overcome by the end of the year?


How important was human intelligence and espionage in shaping the events of these years? Choose TWO events or incidents that seem to you particularly important or influential.