Unsung Heroes of World War II: Europe

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Read “Citizens of London” & wanted to hear more. Good presentation, but un-synced audio in several episodes is disappointing
Date published: 2020-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unsung Heroes of World War II: Europe I am a long time Great Course viewer, and this, to date is my favorite course. Having viewed World War 2 from many angles, this course could be summarized as "And now you know the rest of the story".
Date published: 2020-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course This course is amazing - I started watching and I could not stop - the material is exciting and the professor really make it come alive - I really hope that there will be a second follow-up course
Date published: 2020-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved every minute of this course. I love to read about people who are not well known. Lynne olson presented the material with a lot of passion for the subjects. I also learned a lot more about WWII history. I plan to watch them again.
Date published: 2020-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Stories These lectures about the heroic actions of different people during WWII, whether they were military personnel or a normal citizen, are absolutely wonderful. The incredible details create vivid scenes of what life was like during the war. The bravery shown in these stories have been especially inspirational during these covid times.
Date published: 2020-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable These stories are entertaining and inspiring. I wish there were more than 12!
Date published: 2020-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Forget Loved this course! Ms. Olson is a wonderful speaker and her enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. These people should be household names. Thanks Ms. Olson for introducing them to us so their contribution will not be forgotten.
Date published: 2020-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More Please! This is one of my favorite courses. I am all for unsung hero's and underdogs. Great lectures by a great communicator. Thank you so much for this.
Date published: 2020-11-15
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Unsung Heroes of World War II: Europe
Course Trailer
Andrée de Jongh and the Resistance
1: Andrée de Jongh and the Resistance

When the Germans began their lightning-quick invasions across Europe, many ordinary citizens were stunned. Others, however, stood up to fight back. In this first lecture, meet Dedee de Jongh, a 23-year-old nurse who built an escape line through Belgium and France to rescue stranded British airmen. Witness her courage and ingenuity.

26 min
The Tory Rebels Who Helped Save England
2: The Tory Rebels Who Helped Save England

In hindsight, it may appear inevitable that Winston Churchill would take command of the British and lead them into victory. At the time, however, it seemed unthinkable that the powerful Neville Chamberlain would step down. See how a few brave politicians orchestrated one of the most striking political transitions in history.

30 min
Victor de Laveleye and V for Victory
3: Victor de Laveleye and V for Victory

History is filled with ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. As an Olympic athlete, Victor de Laveleye was not your ordinary man, yet there was no reason to think he would come up with one of the most popular symbols in the war, helping to buoy spirits and wage psychological warfare against the Germans. Uncover the story of the V for Victory campaign.

30 min
Wilhelmina and Haakon: Royalty Fight Back
4: Wilhelmina and Haakon: Royalty Fight Back

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Norway, Adolph Hitler wanted to secure not only the land, but also the leadership of these nations. In this lecture, Professor Olson shows you the wrenching decisions and harrowing escapes of Queen Wilhelmina and King Haakon—and how these royal figures fought the war from Britain.

30 min
Polish Pilots and the Battle of Britain
5: Polish Pilots and the Battle of Britain

The RAF’s air battle to defend Britain from Germany in 1940 is one of the most iconic—and dangerous—periods in the war. Few people know that roughly 20% of the RAF was comprised of non-British pilots. Here, witness the stunning courage and successful maneuvers of Polish fighter pilots who saved the day.

31 min
Wendell Willkie: “A Godsend to This Country”
6: Wendell Willkie: “A Godsend to This Country”

It might seem impossible, today, to discover a politician willing to sabotage his own presidential campaign for the good of the country, but that is exactly what Wendell Willkie did in his 1940 run against President Roosevelt. See why he went against his own party and supported FDR’s plans to help Britain.

32 min
The Earl of Suffolk and Heavy Water
7: The Earl of Suffolk and Heavy Water

Despite his comically aristocratic name, Charles Henry George Howard, the 20th Earl of Suffolk, was a swashbuckling, unshaven, dark-haired Englishman who seemed unlikely to be responsible for the future of the free world. See how he smuggled French scientists to England and foiled Nazi efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb.

32 min
Marie-Madeleine Fourcade: Spymaster
8: Marie-Madeleine Fourcade: Spymaster

For years, the official history books suggested there were no women leaders of the Resistance in France, and even today the role of women is often underplayed. The story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade blows this theory out of the water. Meet this extraordinary woman and see how she led a massive spy ring throughout France.

30 min
John Winant and the Special Relationship
9: John Winant and the Special Relationship

Winston Churchill allegedly once said that you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have exhausted every other option. Until John Winant became the Ambassador to Great Britain in March 1941, the British were distraught by the Americans’ lack of support. Trace the beginning of the special relationship between these two countries.

31 min
Marian Rejewski and Breaking Enigma
10: Marian Rejewski and Breaking Enigma

The story behind the story is often more interesting than the dominant narrative. You likely have heard of the British codebreakers at Bletchley Park, whose Enigma machine helped win the war. Here, meet several Polish mathematicians who developed a prototype Enigma machine and broke much of the German code years before Bletchley Park.

29 min
Tommy Hitchcock and the P-51 Mustang
11: Tommy Hitchcock and the P-51 Mustang

After being turned down to be a fighter in the Army Air Force, Tommy Hitchcock—a famous American polo player—was recruited by Ambassador Winant to support the British RAF. There, he worked on designs for the P-51 Mustang, a fighter plane that went on to become one of the most important weapons of the war effort.

30 min
The Dutch Sisters Who Saved a General
12: The Dutch Sisters Who Saved a General

In September 1944, while France and Belgium were celebrating their liberation, Holland was filled with desolation and death. When Brigadier General John Hackett was trapped behind enemy lines, he found salvation in the home of a trio of middle-aged Dutch sisters who nursed him back to health.

29 min
Lynne Olson


American University

About Lynne Olson

Lynne Olson is a historian and New York Times best-selling author of eight books, most of which focus on World War II. She earned degrees in Political Science and Journalism at the University of Arizona (with Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude honors), followed by a master’s degree in Literature at American University.


After graduation, Professor Olson worked as a journalist for 10 years. She worked with the Associated Press as a national feature writer in New York, a foreign correspondent in the Moscow bureau, and a political reporter in Washington DC. She then joined the Washington bureau of The Baltimore Sun, where she covered national politics and eventually the White House. She later taught for six years at American University.


Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright has called Professor Olson “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.” Her books include Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network against Hitler; Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War; Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight over World War II, 1939–1941; and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

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