World War II: Battlefield Europe

World War II: Battlefield Europe
Course Trailer
The Battle of Moscow, December 1941
1: The Battle of Moscow, December 1941

Start this series with an examination of what Professor Stone sees as the critical turning point of World War II: the Battle of Moscow in December 1941. At the opening of the fight, Hitler stood on the verge of total victory; by the end, a massive Soviet counteroffensive marked the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

30 min
Anti-Semitism and the Nazis
2: Anti-Semitism and the Nazis

Hitler’s effort to exterminate the Jews of Europe is a central part of the way we think about Nazism and World War II. Here, investigate the evolution of anti-Semitism in Europe from a belief system rooted in religion to a new form of anti-Semitism that was racial and biological—an evolution that paved the way for the Holocaust.

30 min
Tearing Up the Treaty of Versailles
3: Tearing Up the Treaty of Versailles

What elements in the Treaty of Versailles made it a priority for Hitler to undermine and destroy? What factors kept other global powers from stopping Hitler’s rise to power? What made the Spanish Civil War a symptom of World War II? How did the fate of Czechoslovakia weaken Stalin’s faith in an alliance with the West?

28 min
The War Begins, 1939
4: The War Begins, 1939

With Germany’s land grab in 1939, Britain and France reluctantly concluded that Hitler was bent on European domination. Follow the story of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, the dramatic invasion of Poland in September 1939, and the rise of a new kind of German warfare called blitzkrieg (“lightning war”).

29 min
The Nazi Rise to Power, 1922–1933
5: The Nazi Rise to Power, 1922–1933

Adolf Hitler launched a catastrophic war that killed an estimated 60 million people. What brought this murderous individual—and his murderous ideology—into power in Nazi Germany? In this lecture, Professor Stone puts the rise of Nazi Germany in context of the European environment of the 1920s and 1930s.

29 min
The Fall of France, Spring 1940
6: The Fall of France, Spring 1940

Investigate how Hitler achieved such a rapid and smashing initial advance in World War II. Topics include Germany’s campaigns in Denmark and Norway, the collapse of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government, the French defeat in the Battle of the Meuse River, and the rise of the Vichy regime under Marshal Philippe Pétain.

28 min
The Battle of Britain—and the Blitz
7: The Battle of Britain—and the Blitz

Study the strategic decisions during one of the most dramatic chapters in World War II: the Battle of Britain. Why did Britain keep fighting from a seemingly hopeless position? Why did Hitler attempt to use air power to drive Britain out of the war? How did the island nation eventually deliver Hitler his first real failure?

28 min
Britain and Germany’s Standoff at Sea
8: Britain and Germany’s Standoff at Sea

Here, explore how Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and Karl Dönitz shaped Germany’s surface and U-boat fleets, how Germany and Britain faced a “whale-elephant” problem during the war at sea, and how the daring British attack on the naval base at Taranto in 1940 hinted at the attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor a year later.

28 min
Hitler, Stalin, and Operation Barbarossa
9: Hitler, Stalin, and Operation Barbarossa

By the spring and summer of 1940, the Hitler-Stalin Pact was under real strain. Go inside the strategic decision-making behind Hitler’s decision to break his non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and to ignite Operation Barbarossa in a grand (and flawed) effort to invade and conquer Stalin’s Russia.

29 min
Roosevelt, Isolationism, and Lend-Lease
10: Roosevelt, Isolationism, and Lend-Lease

Follow the transition in the United States from a period of isolationism in the 1920s to preparations for possible war with Germany in 1940. Topics include the five neutrality acts designed to prevent the United States from being drawn into war, the push for U.S. rearmament in the late 1930s, and the Plan Dog Memorandum: a classic piece of military strategy.

29 min
North Africa and the Battle of el-Alamein
11: North Africa and the Battle of el-Alamein

Trace the Mediterranean and North African campaigns through 1943, with a focus on Mussolini’s ambition to create a new Roman empire—an ambition that would collapse into ignominious failure. Also, investigate the mechanics of the climactic battle of el-Alamein and the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa code-named Operation Torch.

29 min
The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942–1943
12: The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942–1943

Turn now to the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the epic struggles of World War II—and in all of military history. Professor Stone puts the dramatic Stalingrad campaign into a broader strategic context and reveals how the German army’s losses made a possible victory in Europe impossible to imagine.

28 min
Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Europe
13: Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Europe

Take a step back from the chronology of World War II to think about how European countries occupied by Nazi Germany both collaborated with and resisted their occupiers. You’ll look at heroic examples of resistance and espionage in Norway, the French resistance against Germany, and important partisan movements in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

28 min
The Holocaust
14: The Holocaust

In the second half of 1941, Hitler decided to murder every Jew in Europe. How did the extermination camp system operate? How did one escapee manage to inform others about the horrors of Auschwitz? What could the Allies have done to stop (or even slow down) the Holocaust?

29 min
U-Boats and the Battle of the Atlantic
15: U-Boats and the Battle of the Atlantic

First, explore the development of submarine warfare and the typical stages of a submarine encounter in the Atlantic. Then, examine how German U-boats caught the United States off guard and how British intelligence helped ships avoid German “wolf packs.” Lastly, take a closer look at the strategy of the Battle of the Atlantic, where the Allied struggle was finally won.

29 min
The Allies Invade Italy: Sicily to Anzio
16: The Allies Invade Italy: Sicily to Anzio

Was the Allied invasion of Italy a strategic necessity or, as many at the time suggested, a sideshow? Consider both sides in this lecture on Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, and two key battles—at Monte Cassino and Anzio—that illustrate the incredible tenacity of Allied soldiers, but also the uninspired generalship that led to an enormous waste of lives.

30 min
Strategic Bombing over Germany
17: Strategic Bombing over Germany

While precise figures are difficult to determine, it’s estimated that some 500,000 lives in Germany were lost to Allied bombing. In this lecture, ponder the costs and rewards of strategic bombing during World War II in terms of dollars and human lives. Should Britain and the United States have invested their resources in something else?

29 min
Allied Industry, Spying, and Wonder Weapons
18: Allied Industry, Spying, and Wonder Weapons

Discover the ways that intelligence (from spying to espionage to assassination) contributed to the Allies’ ultimate battlefield success. Follow Germany’s desperate search for miracle weapons like the V-2 rocket. Explore why the real miracle weapon of World War II wasn’t a weapon at all, but mass industrial production.

26 min
Soviets, Germans, and the Eastern Front
19: Soviets, Germans, and the Eastern Front

Learn how military events on the Eastern Front from 1943 to 1945 drove political deal-making between the Germans and the Soviets. Focus on Operation Citadel, the German counteroffensive at Kursk; how Germany’s smaller allies, including Hungary and Romania, got off Hitler’s sinking ship; and the largest operation of World War II (which followed 17 days after D-Day), the Soviet offensive in Belorussia that resulted in the biggest defeat in German military history.

27 min
D-Day, June 1944
20: D-Day, June 1944

Go behind the scenes of the most iconic military operation of the war: the D-Day invasion of mainland Europe. Focus on Germany’s strategy for defense against the coming invasion (including debates over fighting before or after the Allies arrived ashore) and the Slapton Sands landing exercise, where hundreds of Allied soldiers died after an attack by small German attack craft known as E-boats.

28 min
Hitler Runs Out of Options, Fall 1944
21: Hitler Runs Out of Options, Fall 1944

Follow the progress of Allied forces as they steadily ground down German formations, reinforcements, and supplies. Finally, reach the last major German offensive of the Western Front at the Battle of the Bulge, which carved a hole 60 miles deep and 30 miles wide in the American line.

27 min
Soviet Push to Berlin and Yalta Power Play
22: Soviet Push to Berlin and Yalta Power Play

With overwhelming advantages in men, tanks, and artillery, the Soviets smashed through German lines in Poland and made their way toward Berlin. Learn how this push set the stage for the momentous agenda at the Allied leadership conference in Yalta, where plans were made to stop a future Germany from starting another global war.

29 min
Eisenhower’s Endgame in Europe
23: Eisenhower’s Endgame in Europe

Why did Hitler keep fighting even when he knew all hope was lost? Why did his generals and their armies stick with him? How did the Allies finally bring an end to German resistance? How did Eisenhower and the Soviets debate the terms of surrender? Find out in this penultimate lecture.

24 min
War’s End: Picking Up the Pieces
24: War’s End: Picking Up the Pieces

From the fate of everyday Germans and captured German leadership to the creation of NATO and the European Union, take stock of the global situation at the end of World War II. It was a time that would see a system of cooperation for the Allies—as well as the dawn of a lengthy Cold War with the Soviet Union.

30 min
David Stone

The world today is a product of the second world war in too many ways to count.

ALMA MATER

Yale University

INSTITUTION

U.S. Naval War College

About David Stone

David R. Stone is a Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, where he began teaching in 2015 and became chair of its Strategy and Policy Department in 2018. He received a B.A. in History and Mathematics from Wabash College and a Ph.D. in History from Yale University, and he taught at Hamilton College and Kansas State University.
Professor Stone’s book Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926–1933 won the ASEEES Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize and the Historical Society Best First Book Prize. He also published A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya and The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. He edited The Soviet Union at War 1941–1945 and is the author of several dozen articles on Russian military history and foreign policy.

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