History 144



Endgame 1943-45


1.Take any ONE of the authors represented in the Hynes book, Reporting World War II. Write an essay on the writings by them included in that book, and assess their value as historical sources. What do they tell us about the experience of war? What sort of impression do you believe such writings would have had on the people who read them back in the USA? Do you find their writings and observations convincing?


2.In 1941, the Soviet Union suffered defeats so devastating that most commentators believed the country was on the verge of utter destruction, yet from 1943 onwards, the country managed a spectacular military recovery. Explain that recovery. How did the Soviets manage not just to survive, but to win such overwhelming victories against the Third Reich? What does this recovery tell us about the nature of Soviet society?


3.Why did so many non-Germans choose to support the Nazis so enthusiastically, many to the point of serving in the German armed forces? What does this fact tell us about the appeal of fascist and Nazi ideologies in the Europe of the 1930s and 1940s?


4.Compare and contrast the relative contributions of the US and the British/Canadian forces to the campaigns in Western Europe in 1944-45.


5.By now, you should all have read most or all of John KeeganŐs book The Second World War, and you will see that he makes some surprising decisions about the attention he gives to campaigns or other aspects of the war - he says much more about some things than you might expect, and much less about others. What are the matters to which he devotes (a) more and (b) less attention than you might expect? How do you explain these oddities of emphasis? Do they detract from the value of the book?


6.Looking at the conduct of the European war between 1942 and 1945, how far can GermanyŐs defeat be attributed to mistakes made by Hitler personally? Identify THREE critical blunders of his that contributed most substantially to the overall German failure. What do these blunders tell us about HitlerŐs leadership?


7.Between 1943 and 1945, the Western Allies carried out air attacks on urban areas in both Germany and Japan that killed very large numbers of civilians. Describe the criticisms that have been made of these attacks. In your view, were the attacks justified and/or necessary?


8. In 1944, Dwight Eisenhower composed the following memorandum, which (thankfully) he never had to use: ŇOur landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the Air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.Ó Assume for the sake of argument that D-Day had failed. Speculate about the consequences of this failure for the conduct of the war, and for the subsequent history of the various participants.


9.In 1939-41, the Germans were the uncontested masters of armored warfare, but by 1944-45, they were often outclassed by both the Soviets and the Western Allies. Describe how the Allies came to gain the upper hand in armored warfare. Did this result from improved tactics, from superior equipment, or from what other factors?


10.To what extent did the Second World War constitute a domestic social revolution for the participating nations? Your answer should focus on any ONE of the following nations: Britain, France or the United States.


11.In September 1944, Germany appeared on the verge of collapse on both Eastern and Western fronts, yet as we know, the war lasted until the following May. How did Germany manage to survive these extra months? What does this story tell us about the nature of German society and the German military?


12.What does the war in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945 tell us about the relative strengths and weaknesses of US and Japanese societies and military cultures?


13.What were the greatest contributions of intelligence and espionage to the conduct of the war? Identify ONE event or campaign in which intelligence gathering made the greatest contribution to victory; and also ONE event or campaign that represented the worst failure or misuse of intelligence.


14.What role did access to food supplies play in the success or failure of each side during the war? How far was food and access to food used as a weapon, either in international conflicts, or in domestic control?


15.After the Summer of 1944, Japanese strategy relied on making the US pay too dearly for every victory in terms of lives and resources. Do you believe this was a realistic strategy? Could it have succeeded?